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Finishing the last of my watermelon fruit shake, I lay listening to Sade play softly over the speakers as I relax poolside at the Beach Club Resort in sunny Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Nearby Ochheuteal Beach, only a five-minute walk from here, feels miles away.
Beach Club is styled like an American motel, with 34 rooms in three buildings surrounding the hotel’s central feature, the pool. Some might argue about semantics, that this Danish-owned Cambodian hotel isn’t a traditional resort, but considering the amenities and the relaxing feeling, it’s hard to put my finger on why not. There is excellent service, an outdoor restaurant with a full bar and a pool table, a full breakfast buffet, great cocktails with a 2 for 1 Happy Hour, and a massage center. The range of guests who stay here is interesting, from older retiree types and large families to wide-eyed 20 year old backpackers who just can’t help splurging for a night or three. The one thing they all have in common is a nose for a great value for money. Room rates at Beach Club start at $29 for a basic double room in the low season and reach up to $44 for a deluxe room in the height of Cambodia’s tourist season (November-February).
We are staying in one of the the deluxe rooms on the ground floor, just off the pool. More spacious than those on the second and third floors, our deluxe has an extra couch, a table and two chairs, a flat screen TV (with roughly 30 international channels) and a kettle with coffee/tea. We sleep more soundly during our five nights here than we have in ages. The rooms all have large tinted windows which provide plenty of natural light during the day without people in the pool and restaurant able to peek inside your room.
There is no doubt that in terms of style, the rooms are clean, neat and basic but there is a discreet level of class in the rooms that we really picked up on. We often complain that certain hotels seem to have no idea what it is like to actually have to stay in the room for days at a time. The Beach Club rooms have all the extras that we tend to miss, even in hotels offering a higher level of luxury.
Here, rooms come equipped with two garbage bins and a laundry basket, bedside tables and lamps, ten plugs throughout the room to charge our all devices, a coat/towel rack with eight hooks, an entire closet to store clothes a super helpful info booklet about the various beaches describing in great detail what each is like. Truly convenient is the cell phone we are given for use while staying at the Beach Club. The way Sihanoukville is laid out, some beaches, like our favorite Otres beach, is a ten minute tuk-tuk ride away, so having the cell phone means being able to quickly communicate with drivers (who all have business cards) to come pick us up after a day at the beach.
Unlike at large, faceless resorts, there is no question who is in charge at Beach Club. The spunky, helpful owner, Luna, is entirely accessible. In fact, her office is right outside at one of the round tables in the restaurant, which she refers to as her own ‘oval office’. Issues here are sorted out quickly, quick questions easily answered and we glean quite a few tips on what to see and do around town from Luna as well. It is fun to watch her mingle with guests, many of whom she has developed strong friendships with after they continue to come back year after year.
We spend a good amount of time in the open-air restaurant, having drinks or snacks. It is refreshing to see a hotel restaurant menu with prices and options that are entirely competitive to restaurants in town: traditional Sihanoukville BBQ, burgers, salads, snacks, traditional Khmer (Cambodian) food and pizza, all of which can be delivered to you at the pool or right to your room for free. Most of our time is spent here in the mornings at the breakfast buffet. On from 6:45-11:00am, the all-you-can-eat buffet costs $4.50 and includes an omelet station, fresh fruit (both slices and little fruit salads in a cup, potatoes, roasted tomatoes, bacon and ham, big, thick slices of Texas toast, jam, cheese, fresh veg for sandwiches, plus bottomless coffee and water.
It is at breakfast on my last day that I realize exactly what makes Beach Club so special and why, after five days, this pair of nomads is actually sad to leave. Everything we love about the Beach Club radiates out from the friendly, professional staff.
Our last day, we have to catch an early ferry, and so I peek out in the restaurant at 6:42am to see how much of the buffet is ready. Just as the sign promises, every single bit of the buffet is as ready and warm at 6:42 as it is at 10:59. The staff, all organized, smiling and ready to go, even seem a bit surprised when I meekly ask if breakfast is ready, replying with an enthusiastic ‘Of course’. They don’t realize the number of times we hear the semi-apologetic but mostly apathetic ‘oh, no sorry, no have’ or ‘oh, no, sorry, finish’ when ordering at restaurants, because here at Beach Club, when they promise something, they also follow through. The young, boisterous staff members also speak fantastic English. Not just a pidgin form to take a restaurant order or make a drink, but a level of conversational and functional English which allows us to feel comfortable to ask questions or for recommendations. We trust them, and feel safe leaving for the day without ever worrying about our belongings, and much can be said for that great gift of peace of mind.
We always list ‘digital nomad friendly’ as a category at the end of all our hotel reviews, but this is the first time we have ever included this as a Stand Out feature. One of the priorities at Beach Club is to make it comfortable for people on a working vacation (or nomads) and it shows. For one, the Wi-Fi is deliciously fast and works everywhere equally well (including the pool). Second, the bar and restaurant are wired with loads of places to plug in, making it a breeze to anchor down and work anywhere. For five days we are able to maintain the perfect schedule, the one that attracted us to this digi-nomad lifestyle in the first place. Long, working breakfasts at the buffet, lazy afternoons at the beach or pool and evenings working into the night at the table in the room or at the restaurant again. Dreaming of staying a bit longer we inquired and it turns out that reasonable monthly rates are available as well.
Room for Improvement: Bathroom update
There is nothing wrong with the bathrooms, per se, and Dani didn’t even feel entirely comfortable with the inclusion in this section, but…the bathrooms could use an overhaul. Everything is functional – hot water, good water pressure, toilets don’t back up, towels are plenty, clean and smell nice. For $29, the bathrooms are basic and adequate. However, for the rooms at higher rates, the facilities (faucets, sinks, shower) could use some modernization. Maybe rain shower heads, a proper tub, better toiletries and more style overall.
The Beach Club Resort is thoughtfully conceived, realistically priced and gracefully executed. The Value for Money factor is incredibly high, with a level of affordable luxury that makes it the type of hotel we would feel comfortable recommending for a family’s entire two-week ‘sun and sand’ vacation or a digital nomad’s month-long stay.
As is the nature of the experience, all hotel stays must come to an end. So, with heavy hearts, we hop into a tuk-tuk to leave for our ferry. But Dani and I both know that, like so many of Luna’s guests, we’ll be back.
Location: 23 Tola Street, Ochheutal Beach, Sihanoukville, Cambodia
Price: Starting at $29 per double room
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly: Absolutely (see Stand Out Feature)
Amenities: Swimming pool, free (super fast) wi-fi, cable TV, tea & coffee making facilities, mini bar, fridge, air-conditioning, restaurant, daily drinking water, massage center