The last thing we saw in Sihanoukville was the Independence Hotel. Built before the Khmer Rouge were in power, it was a luxury hotel for Cambodia’s jet set, designed by a French architect. Locals told us that, later, Khmer Rouge massacred many people in the lobby, and kept prisoners in the kidney shaped pool, covering it with bamboo. Now, it seems a Thai company is renovating the hotel. Locals are superstitious about the place and say it’s haunted. Staying there seems unpleasant no matter what one believes. The folks at Ochheuteal told us we should see the place, so we hired some moto drivers to take us — that’s the most popular way to get around here.

As we approached, the tall, white modernist building jutted from of the hillside — it’s an imposing structure, and probably the tallest in town. The motos climbed the forested hill, and we hoped to see monkeys. When we got to the gate, a Khmer sign forbade entry. We went anyway, and the workers didn’t seem to care. The hotel is truly striking and quite elegant. It’s tall and thin, with straight lines and circles. The lobby is mostly glass; there isn’t much to it and you can see straight through to the other side.

They’re building ugly new pavilions in front of the hotel — incongruous with the original architectural style. But it doesn’t look like they invade the old structure at all.

Walking around the side of the building, you can see down the steep wooded hill, and to the ocean. It’s a great view.

They’ve built a new pool. The old kidney-shaped one is still there, and has lots of muddy water in the bottom. I always think there’s something simultaneously glamorous and tragic about kidney-shaped pools that reminds one of old Hollywood. This one takes the cake.


After looking at the old pool, we asked our drivers to take us back to the bungalows.