If you count the number of gay bars and gay hotels in Sihanoukville it would be easy to come to the conclusion that this is not a gay-friendly town.
Located in a vibrant and beautiful seaside town with a population of nearly 200,000 people, Sihanoukville’s only gay bar seems a bit lonely when compared to similar-sized cities in Thailand. However, with the help of a gay friend who lives in and loves Sihanoukville, I decided to dig a little deeper than just a simple bar count.
The first step of my investigation was a series of conversations which confirmed that what is true for gay culture in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is also true in Sihanoukville: the ultra-accepting and friendly Khmer culture extends equally to homosexuals and heterosexuals.
After plenty of insightful conversations with both straight and gay Cambodians and expats, I was convinced that Cambodia is like any other progressive country. They still have some traditional families and rural communities where it is difficult to be LGBT, but for the most part sexual orientation does not play a role in how you will be judged.
The second step of my mission to find out if Sihanoukville is gay friendly took me to OGA Bar, the lone gay bar in town and the heart of the gay community, and I emphasize heart!
I actually ended up spending several hours there talking with the manager, Khmer staff, and some of the regular patrons. The place has a great vibe from the moment you walk through the beautifully gardened atrium and into the strobe lights and good tunes.
Everyone I talked to admitted that the gay scene in the city was a bit lacking, but they were sure that in a few years that would all change. The nearly Utopian potential of kilometers of perfect beach combined with Khmer culture, food, and prices is too great to remain a secret for long.
I have to say, that I agree. Already the town’s murkier side that gave it a variety of unpleasant nicknames is being cleaned up, the love-seeking elderly expats and partying teenagers are being joined by digital nomads, extreme sports seekers, foodies, and virtually every other type of traveler.
All you have to do is move a few kilometers down the road to Otres Beach and already you can find two gay-friendly guest houses.
The Secret Garden is reputed among gay travel websites as being gay friendly and lesbian owned. They host 10 private bungalows and a beach bar at the far end of Otres Beach Two. Bungalows start at between $60 and $105, and can be booked on Agoda or Booking.com (prices vary widely between the two sites).
Eolia Beach Resort, located at the beginning of Otres 1, is also gay owned. The owners were on vacation in France when I dropped by, but the housekeeping staff was happy to give me a tour of their facilities. Rooms start at $25 to $45 and can be booked on Agoda and Booking.com. Check both because prices can vary.
The owners of Eolia are also opening a new club in Otres Village called the Kub Club. It will be gay friendly but open to all. I was not able to get inside, but the pictures and videos on their Facebook Page make it look like it could overtake the LV Club as Sihanoukville’s premier dance venue.
The result of my mission to find out if Sihanoukville is gay friendly could be summed up in the most common response I received, “Sihanoukville is friendly to everyone.” However, if you are looking for a town with a large and established gay community you may need to wait for a couple more years.
Open daily, 8 p. m. to 2 a.m.
276B Ekreach Road, Sihanoukville
T: 071 561 2468
Otres 2, Otres Beach Rd, Sihanoukville
T: 097 649 5131
Eolia Beach Resort
Otres 1, Otres Beach Rd, Sihanoukville
T: 034 455 5333