What could have been Cambodia's second jewel in its tourism crown (next to Angkor Wat) is now degenerating into a place where respectable tourists, particularly those with children, could now have some concern about visiting.
Yes, it's Sihanoukville! Victory Hill is now becoming a breeding ground for prostitutes, sex-pats, pedophiles and alcoholics. The area is now taking on the garishness and decadence of a miniature replica of Pattaya's Walking Street.The town is now overrun with foreigners of questionable character that own businesses there...Neon lights now illuminate the area. Concrete buildings housing foreign owned bars filled with taxi girls are growing in numbers.Children are now exposed to the danger of inconsiderate western thinking.What once was a place to raise children in peace and quiet is now a place that breeds the seedy side of life.
The International Organization of Migration says the problem was first noted in April 2005. Since that time the conditions have deteriorated.
Is Sihanoukville then worth a visit?
Children are now exposed to the danger of inconsiderate western thinking.
Dana, I think that is a huge generalization.
I think thats quite a harsh criticism. Cambodia has it's own responsibilities as to how it allows towns to develop. They could clamp down on who owns businesses, or what kind of businesses there are, or they could develop the area as you say into another mecca for tourists. Clearly at this point they have not done so.
I would never defend sex tourism (it's appalling), but sex drives a lot of economies including the growth of the internet, and clearly the Cambodian government at this point has not decided to turn away these businesses. If anything it's greed that is to blame, not western ideas. If it was true western ideals you'd have a McDonalds, Walmart, Starbucks and whatever franchise that seems intent on homogenizing the world, not flesh marketers. Those exist the world over, not just in the west.
That being said it's a worldwide issue and even the nicest places in the world often have "Red Light" districts sometimes on the edge of historic or trendy areas. Bangkok has probably one of the most notorious reputations for that in the world, but that doesn't mean the city isn't worth visiting. I haven't made it to Sihanoukville yet (I'll be there before the year is out), but I can choose to avoid those areas which are uncomfortable and still go to see the worthwhile areas of the city - as can you.
Condemning anyone but the Cambodian government and local government for allowing businesses like this to flourish is very short sighted.
That's my two cents.
I was in Sihanoukville in Feb. Victory Hill does have a few more bars with ladies out front than my last visit. Was it 'garish'? Not really. It has still has plenty of backpackers enjoying the cheap rooms and hitting the beach. Most of the rooms, restaurants & businesses are still geared for budget crowd. There has always been a sex scene in Sihanoukville, at least since '95 when I first went there. What is different now is that some of the ladies are more visable; ie. in front of bar doing the; 'handsome man, come inside please'. It is a very far cry from even a 'miniature' Walking St. and will not reach parity with Pattaya in my lifetime.
Yes, Sihanoukville is worth a visit. Rent a motorbike and visit the waterfalls, go to the offshore islands, snorkel or go SCUBA diving. If the 'taxi girls' at Victory Hill upset you, stay at Ochheuteal Beach and avoid the whole sex scene. My 2 cents.