For the Khmer, a visit to Sihanoukville is an excuse for an eating and drinking binge, with a dip in the sea as a fringe benefit. Their conservative nature, coupled with a concern – verging on paranoia for the women – about maintaining whiteness, means that shade is everything. Accordingly, the most popular beaches have a plethora of beach parasols and deck chairs for rent at a nominal sum, and men, women and even young people take to the sea fully clothed. Consequently, many will stare in amazement at foreigners stripped off and baking in the blazing sun. For women, bikinis are just about acceptable, but going topless is a definite no-no.
You may find yourself almost bullied into buying massages, manicures and leg-hair threading from the women who patrol Ochheuteal Beach, telling you that your nails are dreadful and must be tended to – men are targeted just as much as women and it takes nerves of steel not to buckle under their relentless attention. A $5 massage is not bad value, and usually turns out to be a relaxing experience, but buying bracelets and trinkets from the children only encourages them to stay out of school or work late into the evening, so maintain a firm resolve if you can.