Songkran Escape Part 4: Sihanoukville – The Bar Crawl

It was clear after the first day in Sihanoukville that if I wanted to fully enjoy my planned week in Cambodia’s beach resort, then I’d have to switch into conventional-tourist mode, at least part of the time. Clearly, the nightlife alone wasn’t going to be worth it.

So, during the days, I did my best soak up the beach, go snorkeling and scuba diving, hit the local market, eat, sleep, watch too much TV and try to relax after a stressful, uninterrupted four months of work. But when night fell on my second night, I set out on an aggressive plan to see what fun I could find off the beach.

According to the scarce amount of information about Snooky’s naughtly nightlife available online, most the action was around the Golden Lions roundabout, in the small downtown strip and on Victory Hill, on the other side of Sihanoukville from where I was staying on Serendipity Beach. While there were apparently a number of beer bars near the traffic circle, the one that seemed to get the most hype was a hostess club/disco called Pocoloco. The bar’s website showed a nice selection of about 25 hostesses, a big air-conditioned disco and a front pool-bar area. The reality was much different, however.

If It’s on the Web, It Must Be True, Right?

The first warning bell was sounded by my moto driver, who questioned my decision to go there and tried to persuade me I’d be much better off going to some dark alley for servicing by some undoubtedly too young Vietnamese girls. I insisted and when he dropped me off at Pocoloco’s door, I knew I’d made a mistake.

Inside the large bar were two service girls, two freelancers, three customers, no hostesses, a closed disco and a very depressed pair of bar owners. Gary, who started Pocoloco after previously owning the unfortunately-named Tsunami Bar in Pattaya in 2005, said the whole hostess concept was dropped due both to a lack of customers and a lack of willingness of the hostesses to get off their fat butts to service the few customers they did have. The next plan was to have it be a freelance joint, but the beach bars and Freedom Bar near the bus station covered that market. The new plan was to close for low season, as it was cheaper than staying open.

Gary was good enough, however, to ring a moto driver he trusted to show me around town, thus avoiding the motos-on-commission scams. Taa pulled up about 10 minutes later and, in between dropping off yaba to customers and picking up money from yaba dealers who worked for him, did a fine job of doing just that.

Victory Hill

The obvious next stop was Victory Hill, a section of Snooky near the port. Once we arrived I realized that, again, one should never believe bar websites.

We pulled off the paved road onto a small rocky side street that instantly transported me back to Soi 6, only with more mud. Small groups of old, fat and badly made up bargirls streamed out from their open-front drinking holes to surround the taxi before I even got off. I saw the signs for the bars I read about on the website, but their online personas were much more refined than what I found in person.

The Tropicana Bar website, for example, says:

The Tropicana Bar on Victory Hill in Sihanoukville has a long reputation for great service and is a place to meet good friends and listen to a big selection of music until the sun comes up. Our friendly hostess girls care for all your needs all night long.

What I found was an empty bar, Khmer music and two fat hostesses who, when swinging by 30 minutes later, also had departed leaving the bar entirely empty.

Faced with dire and desperate options, I made the best choice I could and had a drink in Safari Bar, whose website claimed was “one of the most popular girl bars on Victory Hill.” I was the only customer inside. I was escorted inside by a hostess who then promptly left and had to be beckoned back in to sit in a chair next to mine. (No sofas, sorry.)

My hostess confirmed what I’d suspected: Most of the girls had gone home for Khmer New Year. The girl seemed pleasant enough and was certainly the best-looking of the staff on hand, but seemed utterly uninterested in doing anything else than drinking $3 lady drinks. She got one. I had two $1.50 draft beers and fled to find something with a pulse.

Snakes and Freedom

Now around 11 p.m., that was not going to happen. I called Taa to come rescue me and off we went to the newest, and supposedly best, spot, The Snake Pit.

The bar attached to the Snake House hotel, the closest thing Snooky has to a go-go bar is located only about a five-minute drive from the other bars, but is down a long, dark jungle road that, according to legend, will cost you an absolute fortune to go to if you just pick up any moto. I’m told it’s best to have the moto take you to the top of the road if he wants to charge any more than $1 to take you to the bar’s door.

When Taa dropped me at the door, I quickly turned and told him to stay put. This was undoubtedly going to be a short trip. I walked in and found no women and no customers; only three bored Khmer guys who told me all the women had, you guessed it, gone home for New Year’s.

That was it. I give up on exploring and adventure. Taa, I said, take me to the only sure thing this town has: The Freedom Bar.

Freedom is to Sihanoukville what Walkabout is to Phnom Penh. Big, hot and filled with broken-down expats and hardcore whores, it’s the place long-time working girls spend their evenings before happy hour kicks in at Dolphin Shack. But the beer is cheap: I ordered a 75-cent Angkor draft and sat back to check out the scene.

There’s a big center bar, big-screen playing dinosaur-rock videos and three pool tables, worked almost exclusively by the working girls. At the bar I saw some familiar faces, including Mr. Infatuation from last night, guys missing limbs and some too large to fit on one stool.

As with most freelance pool halls, you can quickly figure out the social hierarchy and one particular girl – the one who’s every move was being watched by Mr. Infatuation – was clearly The Queen. Tall, thin and in what seemed to be her uniform of white levis, mid-drift top and a Clara Bow flapper hat, she fluttered around the bar playing pretty much wherever she wanted, flirting with all the guys and collecting or handing out the odd dollar to other girls. She was more interesting than sexy and had a presence that rewarded her with at least one customer a night.

The pretender to the throne was a shorter, more shapely girl with long blonde hair, short, tight and revealing dress and high heels who was cordial to The Queen but was not really a friend. She spent more time scowling than flirting, but was considerably better at pool. Very hot, actually, but if you took her, you could never have The Queen, and vice versa.

Truthfully, by this point, I was more interested in people watching and drinking than pulling. The Queen soon left a young buck, Mr. Infatuation looked even more glum, the bar was emptying and I called Taa to take me to the place everyone was heading: The Dolphin Shack on the beach.

Last Dance

Well intoxicated on cheap local draft by this point I continued to embalm myself on the same bar bench as last night. The bar was busier at the midnight hour than last night with a higher percentage of Khmer girls. The Aussie couples were still throwing powder and water around (to the point that, twice, the DJ had to stop the music and the idiots to knock it off inside the bar) and the Khmer girls were on the hunt.

One particular shark in this dolphin tank ended up making short work of me. Obviously celebrating her New Year hard, she walked up, placed her tongue down my mouth and her hand on my crotch and said “let’s go.” With such a sales pitch, who was I to argue?

As expected, the tryst didn’t last long and, $10 later, she was out of the room again, probably back to Dolphin Shack. I never did get her name, but I saw her do the same thing to a guy sitting next to me two nights later.

Hitting the sack alone, I realized I’d failed miserably in my quest to improve upon the previous night. New Year’s was proving a daunting obstacle to fun. The Victory Hill slut houses were almost empty, the Snake Pit was entirely empty and Freedom Bar was down to a handful of the hardest-core girls. And if you wanted to get laid, you needed to work the beach bars after 1 a.m.

It was at this point I began questioning whether I’d stick to my planned one week in Snooky. Tomorrow would be the make-or-break day. That, and final thoughts and notes on Sihanoukville, are in the final Part 5.

20 thoughts on “Songkran Escape Part 4: Sihanoukville – The Bar Crawl

  1. hmmmm

    I sense u are let down?

    Seem like a nice place to have fun but not to monger or it s just cleaned out at NYs?

    I have heard some serious takes of partying there – like beach raves that used to take place in thailand back in the days. any sense of that?

  2. wow.

    a week in sianoukville.

    what did u do to get that sentence ?

    (and did i miss or or have u not mentioned blue mountain yet?)

  3. listen like the two posts above , my sympathies. but hey when u like in Bkk and u decide to go elsewhere for p4p , come on!!! u know where im goign with this. still awaiting the next installments

  4. I’ve been 4 or 5 times and it isn’t Thailand, that’s for sure, but you hit all the places that had talent on offer and it was simply shit timing! I like to stay at the Snake house, wake up at 6ish have dinner and on my way out check in to there little lounge. They rent motos for 10 or 12 bucks a day and it’s a very short ride up to Victory hill. The other cool thing about the Snake house was the electricity was never interrupted as was every night for me while staying at the beach side bungalows of Serendipity. Worked for me but no contest vrs. Bangkok or Patts…

  5. So PG, i’m guessing that next Songkran you won’t be going to Snooky? Any thoughts where you might go if that’s the case?

    Looking forward to the 5th Episode by the way.

  6. PG, it seems like a place not checking out during NY’s. Would you risk it an head back for some more recon again when its in full swing.

    But have you heard what time of the year is it in full swing? Sucks that you went all that way to escape SK and your get this bummer of a trip.

    From what i gather… its going to be a balance of mixed reviews cause you didn’t get to c it, in its glory.

    waitin’ on 5.

  7. Hey guys, Part 5 really sums up the trip, but here’s the short version: Songkran / New Year’s is definitely not the time to go to Cambodia. And Snooky is not good to go to alone. I think if a couple of mates had been traveling with me, it would have been much improved, as drinking the 17-baht draft would have played a larger role (although some nights it was pretty prominent.)

    Will I go back to Phnom Penh for holiday? For sure. Go back to Snooky? Not alone. In fact, it might be very enjoyable if I brought my own sand to the beach.

    Jack — I ended up staying 5 nights. And Blue Mountain was not deemed worthy of a visit, according to the locals. Even at times that were not the Khmer New Year, it was said to have few girls and the ones there not worith the few bucks in your pocket. Likewise, the newish Airport Club disco was said to be dead and destined for closure.

    Nurse — Yeah, Snake looks like a nice place and the lounge looked well-appointed.

    Eddie — Not sure.

    RonBalt — The Chicken Ranch is not gone, but is a faint shadown of its former self. Word is that many of tenants were offering chickens that had not hatched yet. What’s left is not fit for KFC.

    Canadianboy — High season is Snooky runs October through March with a last hurrah of “normal” tourists for Songkran. So my guess is its best same time as Thailand, around Christmas/New Year’s

  8. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. This series needs a bottle rocket up the ass to get any better.

    Tell us you stepped on a scorpion. Tell us you shat a Picasso look-a-like type shat. Tell us you pissed in a trashcan or something. Tell us you didn’t do everything you did do…. That would be more interesting….

  9. Why did you go, PG? It sounds no better than Penang. And at least in Penang you know it’s going to be boring beforehand and you get a speedy visa into the bargain.

    I last went to Cambodia in late 2007 and haven’t been back since. In 2001 and 2002 it was really good. But it was the Viet girls (and lack of fat NGOs) that made it. Take those away and there’s just something lacklustre and non-sexy about the Khmers. They’re just not into it. You can see it in the general population too. You don’t get the same looks or flirting that you get in Thailand.

  10. I may not be as hardcore as some of you mob, but I love Sihanoukville. I have been there a few times now.

    Certainly not for the P4P, but to break up my SE asia sojourns. Fly into Bangkok, go hard for 3 or 4 days, then across to snooky for a week. Relaxing and recuperating on the beach, going to the beach parties and general chilling, then back to Bangkok for the round two before home.

    Couldnt afford to, or keep going for full trip in Bangkok, but this way get two hits at BKK with relaxing beach break in the middle to recover.

    Maybe I am just getting old…

  11. @Dingoh – Thailand just introduced a brand new beach vacation…. it’s called Phuket. Check it out sometime. No reason to fly out of the country anymore.

  12. Thanks for the info on Snooky, I was thinking of taking a little trip there but those thoughts have disappeared. It would have been better to stay in PP. I hope they have resolved the Vietnamese thing, I have an eye for those that are 20 to 29. The Cambos for some reason don’t do it for me.

  13. Agreed with most here…Khmers do absolutely nothing for me. Nor do I find them particularily attractive…which seems to be re-inforced by PG’s experiences. Proves once again what an absolute wonderland Thailand is.

  14. Same feelings I’m getting ,I’m now in Serendipity (May 2012).Cambodian girls are not same same thai girls.Everything is worst with an exception ,bigger tits ,probably because they get fat more easy.
    This place is never going to be a new Pattaya ,lack of main elements ,especially the way girls (and cambodians in general) behave.

  15. With all due respect, you’re talking utter crap. Sihanoukville is fantastic, all your comments seem to be derrogatory based on your “bar crawl” and the lack of hostesses. As you mention in each and every paragraph, no girls/khmer new year, no girls/khmer new year. If you want girls in Sihanoukville… yeah you guessed it… DON’T GO ON THE KHMER NEW YEAR!!!

  16. Snooky (Sihanoukville) is more layed back than Phnom Penh or Pattaya. Having been in Pattaya 31 years ago (also Hui Hin, Ko Samui), I can say that there are a lot of the same things I saw then, now in Snooky. Snooky is Hui Hin, Ko Samui and Pattaya, 31 years ago all in one town (Been traveling in Thailand for 31 years.) Its not for everyone, but I fell in love with the place.
    Word has it that there will be a 15,000 man US Navy base near by soon, so see Snooky before it becomes a new Angeles City or Subic Bay.

  17. Have to say, Sihanoukville will never become another Pattaya. Then again, Pattaya will never be the same as it was 15 years ago.

    I lived there for a while before relocating to Sihanoukville and I have to say I prefer it here, much slower pace, but still as much fun to be had … well, unless you describe fun as being showered with kisses whilst ringing bells in every bar. If that’s you, stay in Pattaya.

    It takes time to get into the ‘vibe’ though, coming and judging after 1 or 2 nights is going to leave you with the wrong impression. You missed out.

    Currently, i’d say the best bars (for girls) are The Upstairs Bar, V-Lounge and Heartbreak Bar, all Victory Hill. Freelance Bar (ex Freedom Bar) in downtown and The Dolphin Shack on Ochheuteal Beach.

    Don’t come here after Thailand and expect things to work the same though, most girls will give you inflated prices or bad service if they don’t particularly like you. If they do, you’ll get an affectionate and responsive partner.

    Be nice, and don’t expect them to understand Thai. It just pisses them off.

    If anyone is actually planning a trip here, call into Charlie Harper’s Bar in downtown, it’s an expat favourite and i’ll be more than happy to buy you the first beer.

  18. Hi Sokna, i been to you bar Heartbreak in Sihanoukville Cambodia in May 2012 visiting from Thailand through Koh Kong on visa run. At the time writing this, the Heartbreak Bar is probably one of the top bars in the street – many other places did not appeal to me. The photos taken in 2009 here are so outdated. I don’t remember you but thanks to you and your girls in the bar for making my trip fantastic. I will come back in 6 months and make sure i meet you. dave.W.

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