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Sihanoukville

A couple of years ago, when visiting Sihanoukville, I got the feeling it had become like a town in the wild west – money could buy you anything and opportunities abounded for investors flashing cash. Russian tourists and Russian money (of dubious origin) poured in. Big plans were hatched and entire islands were snapped up (e.g., www.morakotisland.com) by investors with deep pockets.
Now, the situation is quite different. Some of the Russian money men stepped on the wrong toes and their projects subsequently went nowhere. The bridge to Koh Phous (Morakot Island) was opened with great fanfare on January 1, 2012, but then closed almost immediately thereafter.

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Russian tourists stopped flocked to the beaches around Sihanoukville, so several hotel projects were put on hold in 2012. For a guy like me, that’s great because I don’t like crowds and the beaches near Sihanoukville are absolutely superb. 

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One side effect the “Russian boom” (although now bust) had is that Internet chat rooms got filled with warnings that the Cambodian islands all were about to be turned into playgrounds for the ultra-rich. Among back-packers, this created a rush to visit these islands before they disappeared. To stay on one or more Cambodian islands became an almost mandatory activity for back-packers passing through Sihanoukville. 
As a consequence, the few rustic resorts that were on the islands could not cope with the demand and they aggressively expanded capacity during 2013. Moreover, entrepreneurs rushed to sign lease agreements and build new resorts in order to meet the demand. Still today, occupancy rates on the islands remain high, so more and more bungalows are being built on the islands.

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In other words, the big bad Russian plans are no longer a threat to the Cambodian islands, but the demand created by back-packers is gradually resulting in that the Cambodian islands soon will be Paradise Lost.

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Anyway, even if you are not a beach freak, there is also a quite nice waterfall to visit while in Sihanoukville. That is, if you can find the dusty road that will take you there. 
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