Living in a Monastery | Wat Tam Wua Forest Monastery in Thailand

“Meditation – because not all answers can be answered by Google.”

I heard about Wat Tam Wua Forest monastery from Kristina, a girl I met in Cambodia. She spent there few days and told me that she would like to come back.  After my Vipassana 10 days silence meditation experience in Bali I became more and more interested in working with and learning to control our mind.  I still had bright memories of my inner peace and state of happiness, after Vipassana meditation, and I   after listening Kristina’s stories about the life in monastery, I knew immediately that I want to visit this place.Wat Tam Wua forest monastery, Thailand

The Vipassana mediation practised in Wat Tam Wua monastery is not the same as Goenca’s techique. Here Vipassana is practiced in walking meditation, sitting meditation and laying down meditation.  And you are allowed to talk and interact with others.

Wat Tam  Wua is a home for shorter or longer time for many travellers. To go there, one doesn’t need to apply in advance. You can just appear in front of the entrance of the monastery (mind your clothes, please!) and you will be welcomed by monastery monks and nuns, you will be given a room, white clothes (the dress code there is all white), informed about the daily schedule and welcomed to participate in the activity that comes next.

As you live in a monastery, you are expected to participate in daily work there – gardening, cleaning, cooking, doing dishes, in short – taking care of surroundings as much as of your soul.   Basically, you are living a monastery life – a mindful, beautiful  life.

[Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by,mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.]



Wat Tam Wua forest monastery, ThailandI recall, how during my first evening chanting I was looking on people and monks in front of me and listening to goosebumps-giving melody and vibrations in the air: “Omg, I’m in Thailand, in a monastery, meditating next to Buddhist monks and hundreds of people from all corners of the world..” 
I’d never dreamed about something like that, but it felt like some dream had come true for me.

I was looking on all these people – how much we all are alike and different in the same time. We all have different past, stories, things that happened to us and reasons that made us to come here. But, in the mean time, we all are seeking for the same thing – for a peaceful and equanemous mind, for the comfort inside ourselves. (Yes, even those who came there “just for sake of experience”). And it’s beautiful, when you realize, that all we really want is to be happy. Every. Single. One. Of. Us.Wat Tam Wua forest monastery, Thailand

Every morning, shortly before 7 am we all gathered in  main hall and prepared for morning alms giving.  Each of us put a bit of rice in the bowls of monks while receiving blessings from them. The ceremony is very special and beautiful, – one of my favorite moments in a monastery.

The monastery has a big library where you can find books about Buddhism, Dalai Lama, mindfulness, chanting books, books about meditation and Vipassana. I spent there a lot of time reading.

Around the monastery’s area you can find papaya and mango trees. One afternoon we’d picked papaya from the trees and the day after we had green papaya salad for lunch.  :)

There is also a dog. Everyone tells that he was a monk in his previous life. :) He participates in ever activity – in walking meditation, in alms giving, in chanting.. – yes he was chanting with us. In his doggy manner. And all accepted it and just let it be.Wat Tam Wua Monastery, Thailand
In the morning when I was leaving, he walked me till the highway (approx 1km from the monastery). There he sat with me and another girl and was waiting with us for a bus. When the bus finally came, he stood up and walked a little to the direction of the monastery, then stopped and looked back. He was standing there and looking on us untill we both boarded the bus. From the window of the running bus I saw him heading back to the monastery. He actually walked us out and said his doggy good byes.
That was literally one of  the sweetest things I’ve ever experienced! Animals never stop to touch my heart!


The Schedule of Wat Tam Wua forest monastery

5:00 am:      Waking up. Practice individual meditation.
7:00 am:      Offering alms to monks in the shala (main hall), followed by breakfast
8:30 am:      Group meditation (Vipassana)
10:30 am:    Lunch (before offering the meal for the monks)
1:00 pm:      Group meditation
4:00 pm:   Practice mindfulness while working: cleaning surroundings, sweeping floors, helping in the kitchen
5:00 pm:     Relax time, afternoon tea (no eating)
6:00 pm:     Evening Chanting and meditation
8.30 pm:     Lights off
10:00 pm:   Sleeping

At first it may sem weird not eating after midday, but our bodies are very easy to be programmed and re-programmed, and after few days you get used to such a schedule. In case you still want to have a meal after midday, you can have it in your room or ir a small cafe shop near the monastery.  (sometimes I had crackers in the afternoon.)


Getting there: Wat Tam Wua monastery is located 35 km from Mae Hung Son in Northern Thailand.

  • From Chiang Mai: Board a bus to Mae Hung Son and ask the driver to stop at the monastery. Drivers see people going to monastery almost every day, they are used to people like us. :)
  • From Pai: Take a minibus or bus to Mae Hung Son and ask a driver to stop at the monastery.
  • From Mae Hung Son: Take any bus/minibus going to Pai/Chiang Mai direction and get off at the monastery! Driver will know!

Staying there: There is no minimum or maximum time how long you can stay there. It’s up to you, as far as you respect the rules and follow the daily schedule of the monastery. (Kristina, the girl I mentioned before, returned to the monastery and spent there 2 months.)

Fee: Monastery runs solely on donations. When you leave, you can put money in a big box next to Buddha statue as your thank you note. All donations are anonymous.

Dress-code: White. Shoulders and knees must be covered. If you don’t have white clothes, you will be given them at the monastery free of charge.

Meals: Simple, delicious Thai vegetarian food

Wat Tam Wua forest monasteryThe sign of Wat Tam Wua forst monastery (This is where bus gonna stop)


“Here is certainly very peaceful,
but this is meaningless if our minds are not calm. All places are peaceful. That some may seem distracting is because of our minds.”

Wat Tam Wua forest monastery, ThailandWat Tam Wua forest monastery, ThailandWat Tam Wua forest monastery, Thailand
Wat Tam Wua forest monastery, ThailandWat Tam Wua forest monastery, ThailandWat Tam Wua forest monastery, ThailandWat Tam Wua forest monastery, Thailand


Love & Merry!

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CAMBODIA | Visit to Killing Fields and Toul Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh

As Lonelyplanet states it “The good, the bad and the ugly is a simple way to sum up Cambodian history. Things were good in the early years, culminating in the vast Angkor empire, unrivalled in the region during four centuries of dominance. Then the bad set in, from the 13th century, as ascendant neighbours steadily chipped away at Cambodian territory. In the 20th century it turned downright ugly, as a brutal civil war culminated in the genocidal rule of the Khmer Rouge (1975–79), from which Cambodia is still recovering.”

Any country who had gone through wars, occupation, famine, mas deportation or genocide will have memorials, museums and places that shows this ugly and painful part of country’s history.

Honestly, as I am coming from Latvia ( “The history of Latvia is best described as a troubled whirlwind of fierce struggle and downright rebellion”) and have Ukrainian roots (the country that suffered from Holodomor – Stalin’s forced famine 1932-33) I really don’t like to visit war and genocide museums, when I am abroad. I tend to take it all too personally, remember history of my father and mother lands and end up being sad and wiping tears off my face most of the  times. (Btw, if you are in Latvia – visit Museum of the Occupation in Old Riga to learn more about history of Latvia).
For this reason, I was hesitating should or should I not  visit two most famous places for tourists in Phnom Penh:

  • Killing Fields
  • Toul Sleng Genocide Museum

After a visit of Genocide Museum, I felt so bad inside and decided not to go to Killing Fields. But few days later, when I came back from Sihanoukville, I went there as well. I have to admit, that Genocide Museum was more shocking and was emotionally harder to handle than Killing Fields. Probably, because in Genocid Museum you can read the stories (memories) from survivors. And things they share are terrifying!

If you are in Cambodia, in Phnom Penh, I think, you should visit both places to learn more about the history of the country. Getting familiar with a history, helps to understand people’s mentality and behaviour. I think.

It’s quite hard to imagine that there were times when somebody could  do something to horrible to millions of people. And that till today some countries country is still denying the facts of history and forbid to put in history books certain information. And this time, I’m not talking  about SE Asia, but about Eastern Europe.

May we all live in peace.


Killing Fields, Cambodia Killing Fields, CambodiaKilling Fields, Cambodia Killing Fields, Cambodia


Getting to Killing Fields: You can take a shared tuk-tuk or go there by bicycle. The road is straight and flat. It took me around 30 min on a bicycle.


CAMBODIA | Things To Do In Siem Reap

I bet you are heading to  SIem Reap to see Angkor Wat, as we all do. But besides Angkor Wat temples there are plenty of other things to do, what makes it worth to stay in a city for few days. The town itself is quite lovely and won’t keep you bored. Here are few things I did and enjoyed while in Siem Reap:


Get a traditional Khmer massage

After the temple-hopping your body will be thankful! There are many places around the town for feet and full body massage. I opted for Khmer style full body massage (similar ar Thai one). Traditional Khmer full body massage is 2 hrs longs and will cost you US$ 10.
Check out Master Feet massage saloon. The prices are super friendly and massage is strong and pleasant! I loved it!

Massage in Siem Reap, CambodiaGuest reviews on the wall in a massage saloon


Try famous Fish Amok

Fish  amok is classic Khmer (Cambodian) dish – a yellow fish curry. But it is not a simple curry – it is.. – you know famous sweets “Rafaello”or “Bounty”? So imagine somethings like this, but from fish. The taste is soft and mild, like a fairytale!

Amok is made with filleted freshwater fish, covered in a thick coconut sauce with eggs, fish sauce and palm sugar and seasoned with kroeung – a curry paste concoction of freshly pounded spices: lemongrass, turmeric, galangal, kaffir, lime zest, garlic, shallots and chilles.

I tried it in Khmer Kitchen Restaurant and I absolutely recommend it! (Price is US$ 4 and the portion is enough for two!)

Fish AmokFish Amok!


Go shopping at the Night Market

Yes, I do love markets! :) The Night Market in Siem Reap offers you plenty of choices of food for 1 – 2 bucks and many choices on where to spend the rest of your money! I bought there a big, colourful painting of Buddha for US$ 5 and now it is framed and hanging on the wall in my room. I can’t stop looking on it how beautiful it is!

Night Market, Siem ReapGet some suvenirs from the Night Market for your home!


Watch Khmer dance performance at the Temple Bar

Every evening at 7:30 pm  Temple Bar (on the Pub Street) hosts beautiful Khmer traditional dance performance for its customers (for free). Of course, as you are in a bar, you should order some food or drinks. Food there is a bit pricy, but, I remember, for a pitcher we paid US$ 5.  Come there a bit early, so you can get a table, as it gets really crowded..

Apsara dance performance in Siem ReapTradtional dances at Temple bar.


Have a night out at the Pub Street

After seeing temples all day long, you deserve a bit of chill, right? Angkor What? bar and Temple bar located just in front of each other are the most famous places to hang out. Usually party starts at Angkor What? with chap buckets and continues in Temple Bar with  crazy dancing! And while going from a bar to bar, you can join people dancing in a middle of the street.  The night at Pub Street was one of the funniest nights in my SE Asia trip!
The next day morning you can have some detox smoothie for 1 dollar on the same street.


Go to see Phare Circus performance

Phare circus is my highlight of Cambodia! It definitely the must do! read more about it on my blog post Highlight of Cambodia – Phare Circus


Volunteering in Siem Reap Cambodia

read any guidebook about Siem Reap and all of them will advice you to volunteer at one of many NGOs there. It appeared to me that so-called ‘NGOs’ have made a good business with volunteering offers for foreigners. I went to meet some of them and was shocked by amounts ( three digit numbers) one has to pay just to be able to participate in one or other programme (accommodation and food is never provided). I mean – if you are rich Canadian in your 70-ties or Angelina Jolie, why not!  But it you are just a backpacker who wants to do something good in this world it’s insane! I left with an impression that all these NGS (most of them owned by expats) are just big, shady scams!

If you want to volunteer in Cambodia, I suggest you to check out CPOC Fundations.  My friend, a girl I met in Sihanoukville, stayed there for a while and was teaching children different subjects.  As a volunteer you actually live and eat  together with children. To cover basic expenses (accommodation, electricity and food) volunteer is asked to give US$ 5 donation per day, which I think, is very reasonable.  Btw, the website is made by a volunteer who stayed with them.  I heard so many good words from Kristina, a girl who spent there few weeks, that I highly believe it is one of the best (sincere) places in Cambodia for offering your help.


Have you been to Siem Reap? What is the most memorable thing you did there?

Highlight of CAMBODIA| Phare – The Cambodian Circus

For many Cambodia is idyllic Koh Rong island or surreal ruins of Angkor Wat. For me the highlight of Cambodia was Phare Circus in Siem Reap. Don’t take me wrong, – I loved life on Koh Rong and I enjoyed exploring ruins of Angkor Wat, but non of them made me as excited as kids and their acrobatic and artistic abilities of Cambodian circus.

Becci, the girl  from UK I met in Siem Reap, told me  about her plans to go to circus. I’d never heard of it before and wasn’t eager to spend US$ 20 on it. But after reading reviews about it and watching some videos, I  knew that this is exactly what I want to do in my last evening in Cambodia. To attend the circus performance was the best idea!

With dances, acrobatics, paintings, music and performances they lead the audience through the painful history of Cambodia. Similar as in Ballet, without saying a world they performers told a story to their audience.

Skills of these kids are beyond impressive!Handstands, splits, extreme backbends and acrobat skills accompanied by live music made my heart wow countless times. Sweat on their foreheads, smile on their lips and look of concentration and determination on their faces while colleague performing impressive acrobatic element, made me believe in “possible”.

I tried to cath some pictures on my camera, but they don’t represent not even a half of what was there in reality. You have to see it yourself!

Phare - The Cambodian circus in Siem Reap Phare - The Cambodian circus in Siem Reap Phare - The Cambodian circus in Siem Reap Phare - The Cambodian circus in Siem Reap Phare - The Cambodian circus in Siem Reap


But the most heart – touching  part is the story behind this circus (pharecircus.org)

“Young people from the streets, orphanages and struggling families in the community come to PPS to learn, express and heal themselves through the arts.
PPS formed 20 years ago by 9 children and their art teacher when they returned home from a refugee camp after the fall of the Khmer Rouge. As survivors of the war, empowered by the creative self-expression learned through their art-making, the group wanted to share this gift of the arts with the underprivileged children of Battambang.

In February 2013, Phare the Cambodian Circus presented its first outdoor show to visitors from around the world coming to Siem Reap for their visit to the Angkor Wat World Heritage Site.
Since then, we have grown to be the number one non-temple attraction in Siem Reap, with nightly indoor performances in our own red big-top tent.

Within our first year of operation, we have made great strides towards our social mission and are continuing to build upon the foundation we have laid.
Our Uniquely Cambodian performances are thematically infused with Cambodian history and culture. “


I absolutely recommend to everyone to visit Phare circus performance in Siem Reap! These guys are brilliant!

CAMBODIA | Sunrise at Angkor Wat

It would be weird to be in Cambodia, but don’t visit Angkor Wat, right? As I arrived to Siem Reap I met s British girl Becci in my hostel and we both agreed to cycle to Angkor Wat  the early morning next day.  We arranged 2 bicycles from our hostel and told the reception guy that we will be leaving early morning.

With a ring of an alarm, I woke up at 4 am. We got ready and took off for famous Angkor Wat sunrise. The road was very dark and a little bit scary, tuk-tuk by tuk-tuk was passing us by, as it turned out not so many people chose to do it on a bicycle! At one point we noticed that some of tuk-tuks are turning right into the side road and some are going straight. We had a fast look on google maps and decided that we have to go straight (Wrong!!)
We reached a crossroad before Angkor Wat and were stopped by security and asked to present our tickets. When we told that we want to buy tickets here, he responded that it is possible only at the ticket counter, which is 30 min ride away (back!). “Holly shit!” was the only thing that we could say. What to do, what to do.. – we accepted the fact that there won’t be a sunrise for us and headed back to the ticket counter.

With tickets in our hands pockets we rode back towards Angkor Wat. When we reached the river we were rewarded by marvelous sunrise.. just for us! Yes, we missed overcrowded sunrise at Angkor Wat, bet got something much better instead. We stopped at one of many cafes and asked for coffee – there was no need to hurry anymore. “Good morning, world!”

Sunrise by the Angkor Wat, CambodiaSunrise jus for us!

We spent the whole day wandering around temples and streets from a temple to temple. Despite getting lost several times and unbearable heat we stayed positive and happy!

Angkor Wat temples, CambodiaLady in red at the entrance of Angkor Wat!
Angkor Wat temples, CambodiaFamous Angkor Wat! Angkor Wat temples, CambodiaThe bridge to Bayon!
Angkor Wat temples, Cambodia
” I see faces!” The Bayon!Angkor Wat temples, CambodiaDetails
Angkor Wat temples, CambodiaCrazy trees at Ta Prohm (Tom Rider!)

Our idea was to go to see the sunset at Phnom Bakheng temple. When we arrived there, it was buzzing from people. I was stopped before the entrance because my t-shirt didn’t have sleeves. It was possible to buy a three dollar t-shirt just in front of the entrance, but we decided we don’t want to be a part of such a big crowd and agreed on riding  home instead. Also our cameras had empty batteries (how stupid is forget to charge your camera the night before?)

On the way back we stopped to pump up the tires of our bikes. Turned out we were struggling all day long with half – empty tires, haha. (And I was wondering, why cycling is so hard, suddenly).


I will always remember this day as a day when everything went wrong. But with all this “wrong” we both were happy and couldn’t stop laughing. And these laughs mean so much more to me than any sunrise or sunset at some specific place. would ever do. It’s all about the attitude! Cheers to troubles! :)

Me and Becci after our Angkor Wat tourMe and Becci after our Angkor Wat expedition!


Tickets and passes:
There are different tickets available:

  • 1 day pass (US$ 20)
  • 3 days pass (US$ 45)
  • Sunset pass

Is one day enough? If you are not doing some scientific research (and you are on a budget), I say it’s enough. I mean – how many temples you can handle? After 5th one they all start to look the same. Especially when it’s +40*C outside. :)

For getting around you can rent a tuk-tuk for the whole day or take a bicycle and cycle around as we did. I think, by cycling you can see and experience more.

To get around  Angkor temples is pretty easy – follow the road, the map and ask people for directions. You will get lost at least once, so no worries. There are many temples and there is no way you can visit all of them (or maybe you can?), so the main ones to consider are:

  • Angkor Wat ( sunrise spot)
  • The Bayon (my favorite! With 200 massive stone face carved in the sides of its towers)
  • The Baphuon
  • Angkor Thom and Elephants terrace
  • Phimeanakas
  • Thommanon
  • Chau Say Teroda
  • Ta Keo
  • Ta Prohm (Tomb Rider)
  • Ban teay Kdei
  • Phnom Bakheng (sunset spot)

angkor-wat-mapThe map of Angkor Wat Heritage Site


Have you been to Angkor Wat? What is your favorite temple there and why?

CAMBODIA |Dreamy Paradise – KOH RONG Island

There is something special about living on an island. Feeling of freedom? Feeling of belonging to universe? Feeling of being in a present moment? Feeling of sands between your toes? Feeling of salty water on your skin? Feeling of not looking in a mirror for days? Feeling of love? Feeling of life? The life? There is something special about messy hair, sun – touched skin and no plans. About sunrise and sunsets. About people you meet. Stories you tell and hear.  About the feeling that the nearest ATM and Hospital is hours away. There is something special about living the life simply. Don’t you agree?

Koh Rong, CambodiaIsland’s life!

Koh Rong is Cambodia’s the most famous island and its beaches are named as one of the best beaches in SE Asia. The island attracts many tourists each year, but comparing to touristy Thailand’s islands it is still pretty untouched – yet.

When you arrive to Koh Rong you are welcomed by foreign volunteers who give you a short intro about the island – things to do, things to be aware of,  parties going on and how to avoid being bitten by sandflies (use coconut oil!).  Welcome on the island!

Koh Rong, Cambodia

In Koh Rong you won’t be overwhelmed by people offering you trips and tours. To be honest, nobody really bothers to offer you anything at all, – it’s all up to you what you do with your day! It’s easy to find fun and it’s easy to escape from everyone and have the whole white sanded beach just for you!


Boat trip to Long beach

There are many boats doing daily trips to one of the most beautiful beaches of Koh Rong – Long beach – 7km of white sands and turquoise blue water. There is no accommodation available on the Long beach and to get there one rather has to take a boat or hike.

I went on a day trip for US$ 10 what included snorkeling, fishing, fish and chicken BBQ on the Long beach and swimming with plankton after dark. The day of my trip wasn’t sunny and it was raining, a pity, of course, but nevertheless we had plenty of fun!

Koh Rong, Cambodia Koh Rong, Cambodia Koh Rong, Cambodia

Koh Rong, Cambodia


Kayaking around the island

Me and Kiwi guy I met in a hostel rented a kayak and went to a small island in front of Koh Rong pier. Koh Rong, Cambodia
After chilling there, we paddled to some other beaches (not even a single soul was there!), made a little hike through a jungle in search for a bar and cold beer and when we finally found it (it took us awhile) we chilled there for some time. When we were kayaking back, a little before sunset, the current was quite strong and waves quite big, making kayaking a challenge. I was glad I’m not alone in the kayak!

Other day I did SUP. It was beautiful to paddle along the coast – to be there and on the mean time – to be away from everything.


Nightlife

I remember sitting in cozy chair with other guys from my hostel, finishing our dinner and starting with happy – hour drinks. We were looking on the lightning far-far away in the sea and listening to the music in the background, what time to time was interrupted by a thunder.At this moment I didn’t want to be anywhere else but there. I was looking on cloudy night sky and a big, yellow moon and thinking of how freakin’ amazing my life is! I think, it was the first moment in my whole SE Asia trip when I couldn’t believe it’s really happening. With me. Now.
As I told, – there is something special about island’s life!

If you are looking for more like “rave” party not just chilling out, then go to Police beach. Every Wednesday, if I’m not mistaken they are having a party there. The  tour ticket (boat there and back) will cost you US$ 7.


Hiking trails

There are few hiking trails through island’s jungle. It is advisable not to go there alone. I hurt my foot quite badly on our kayaking trip ( walking through the jungle bare feet!) and had trouble walking, so no hiking for me. But as I’ve been told – it’s quite fun! As staff working on the island (foreigners or locals) about more info and directions. You can rent a hammock and a mosquito net and stay in opposite side of the beach overnight. (That was our plan before I cut my feet)


Work opportunities

Many island’s bars are offering work opportunities for bed, food and  some cash. If you like the island and want to stay there longer it is a good choice to consider. It is fairly easy to find a job there, you will see.

Koh Rong, Cambodia


Staying on the island

Accommodation: There is no need to book anything in advance, especially because most of the places are not on booking websites. You can get a bed in dorms for as low as US$ 3. I stayed in Bunna’s Place for US$ 4. It is very simple accommodation and if you are a light sleeper, it might be too loud for you, as on the first floor is bar.  Private double rooms you can get for US$ 7-10.

Prices:

  • Dinner: Noddle soup or fried noddles will cost you US$ 1, seafood/chicken/ barbequ US$ 3,5. Definitely try local speciality lok lak and fish amok
  • Drinks: A can of beer is US$ 1,  cocktails are for 2 – 3 bucks, fresh smooties US$ 1
  • Kayak: US$ 10 for a day

ATM: There is NO ATM on the island. Take cash with you!

Safety:  If your dorms don’t offer lockers, you can rent it at some of the bars for a small fee. Ask the staff working there, they will guide you.

Getting there:Take a ferrie from Sihanoukville (could be arranged through your hostel). The slow boat will cost you US$ 10 go and back and takes 2 hrs. The speed boat takes 40 min and will cost you US$ 20 go aand back.

Koh Rong, Cambodia


Welcome to the happy life! Have fuuuuuun!

CAMBODIA | Beach Days in Sihanoukville

Sihanoukville on coastal Cambodia is a pit-stop for many backpackers heading on to Koh Rong, Battambang, Kampot or Vietnam. Rarely anyone going there with a purpose to visit Sihanoukville itself. Independently where are you heading to, probably, you will have to spend a day or two on one of Sihanoukville beaches.

I came there to escape from big city life of Phnom Penh. I applied for visa in  Indian Embassy in Phnom Penh and didn’t want to spend 3 days in the city while waiting for my passport.

In Sihanoukville Istayed close to bus station and a city center (definitely not the best area!), as I hadn’t done my research.  But as I always say, – you are exactly where you need to be, whatever happens. In my hostel I met some of the coolest people and we shared our days, evenings, wine and travel stories with each other. :)

In a center area of Sihanoukville you can hear mostly Russian language – many Russian speaking people live there,for unknown to me reason. Central area has many overpriced cafes own by expats and hotels that don’t belong there at all. It also has Embassy of Vietnam, where one can obtain Vietnam visa in couple of hours (HCMC is just 7 hrs bus drive away.).

There are two main backpackers’ beaches known for its hippie vibe – Otres beach and Serendipity beach. One can easy find accommodation for as less as US$ 3 and enjoy one dollar noddle soup with Angkor beer in one of many cafes. There are some parties happening after the sunset, but better don’t expect to meet there Thailand’s party vibe! Cambodia is a whole different story! Remember that it is a still developing country and people there are not as open, beaches are not as clean, poverty is very present and can be felt.


Me and a German – Russian girl I met in a hostel  decided to rent a scooter and go to discover famous Sihanoukville beaches:

Getting around Sihanoukville, CambodiaExploring coastal Cambodia on wheels!

Occheuteal and Serendipity Beach

This without doubts is the backpackers hub of Sihanoukville. There you will find narrow, white sanded beaches full with sun-beds, beach towels, hammocks and beach cafes. It is much more “alive” than Otres beach during the sunlight and evenings. There are plenty of accommodation options for US$ 3-5 and laid- back ackpackers’ vibe.

Otres Beach

To get to the Otres beach, you have to pass sandy rural road, that gives you a felling of being in “real Cambodia”. Otres beach is comparing quiet and empty. There are some cafes, but if you walk a little bit further ahead, you will have an empty and silent beach just for yourself. Various accommodation options are available there and with few cafes and beach bars you won’t be left hungry or thirsty.

Otresbeach, Sihanoukville, CambodiaThe whole beach for just us!

Victory Beach

Beach is located close to bus station. I’ve heard that it used to be a peaceful and beautiful beach, but nowadays it is dirty, with some loud and cheap parties going on, many prostitutes and beautiful sunsets. You can see plastic bags and beer cans in a water and it is not very tempting to take a bath there. If you happens to be around, go there for a sunset – it’s beautiful, indeed. Otherwise – chose some other beach to hang out.

Victory beach, Sihanoukville, CambodiaSunset at Victory beach!


Where to stay

Serendipity beach has a true backpackers vibe with many cheap bungalows and huts right on the beach. Many beach cafes and bars are offering fresh sea food barbeques and happy hour drinks.

Otres, on the other hand, has many beach-front bungalows for  US$ 10 – 20, but I have seen there advertisements for US$ 3 rooms, as well.  Note, that Otres is much more quiet, and if you are travelling solo and want to meet other backpackers, Serendipity would be a better choice.

In case you want to stay near the bus station and near the Embassy of Vietnam (city center), stop at Backpackers Heaven. It is a nice hostel, with a pool and live music in the evenings, and dorms there are just US$ 5 per night. It is located 5 min walk from Victory beach.

What to do

Beach out: The most popular activity is simply being lazy and melting under the sun, before heading to one of Cambodia’s islands, mainly Koh Rong, or other destination.

Scuba diving: Second popular activity is scuba diving. It is cheaper than in Thailand, but underwater world is not as impressive. Nevertheless, if you are diving enthusiast or want to obtain the PADI open – water certification, you will find many options for it.

Safety

As rumors say, Sihanoukville is not very safe and for girls it’s better to avoid to be alone on the streets after dark. There’d been reports of robbery, rape and abuse. Stay near your hostel and try not to walk alone at night.


My suggestion is don’t be stuck in Sihanoukville, better head on to one of many Cambodia’s islands!