Jun 26 2012
Going to the beach during rainy season may seem like an odd recommendation, but Otres Beach is a favourite getaway from Phnom Penh that deserves a visit any month of the year. And if you’re looking for sandy solitude, you’re more likely to get lucky when there’s some rainclouds in the sky.
Otres is the shy little brother of Sihanoukville’s teenaged bad boy Ochheuteal Beach with its drinking, unsuitable friends and unwillingness to clean up after itself. But while most tourist focus has been closer to town, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for Otres — ambitious development plans led to the bulldozing of many beach bars and bunk-houses two years ago. More have sprung up in their place and it’s likely you won’t see any signs of the construction area if you don’t wander too far down the road.
And to be honest, Otres Beach isn’t really about overly exerting yourself. It’s more for relaxing, smiling at the sea and finding out how many consecutive hours can be spent in the same spot without moving. Massages are available at your lounger from unpushy local women. An hour of pummelling for US$5 means you may find yourself looking for something to get uptight about to justify another one. Food vendors will come to you, and knock up a fruit salad or barbecue some squid while you watch. Close to the start of the beach, Everything Is Everything serves up massive tacos out of their geodesic dome, and next door, Bamboo Shack is an old hand at serving up Khmer and Western food, with plenty of fruits de mer, that hits the spot.
When you finally feel atrophy setting in, it’s a short hop to the sea — it’s worth noting that the beach is narrow and you’ll need to hold off on that volleyball game until the tide goes out. Instead, rent a sea kayak or a body board to enjoy riding the waves, which can get strong. Otres Nautica at the far end of the beach has sailing boats for $8 an hour and Ibiza Lounge, at the beginning of the beach strip, also hires out windsurfing gear.
The best entertainment of all at Otres is the sunsets. Cocktail in hand, settle by the shore with nature’s grand finale playing out for your viewing pleasure. And that’s where the clouds can really come into their own — because every sunset looks better when it has a canvas of the fluffy stuff to reflect off and shine through, right? As long as the clouds don’t get uppity and try to steal the show completely. In which case, you’ll just have to stay another day and catch tomorrow’s encore. Oh, the hardship!
Where to stay
During the quieter season, it’s easy enough to turn up and wander down the road until you find where you’re going to lay your hat. Here are a few places that might suit: Mushroom Point has a theme and isn’t afraid to use it! Stay in a mushroom-shaped bungalow or share a dorm. For those who like things Done Right ecologically, this funky-cool place has fan bungalows and plenty of space to hang out. If you prefer walls made of bricks and the option of hot water and air-con, Mien Mien‘s rooms start at $15.
How to get there
Buses leave Phnom Penh regularly throughout the day and arrive about five hours later at the new Sihanoukville bus station, 10 minutes out of town. If you’re in a group, then a private taxi or minibus from Phnom Penh is affordable. Be sure to let the driver know you are going to Otres, though, so you don’t get dropped off in town.
The motodops and tuk tuks of Sihanoukville are sadly renowned for being overpriced and difficult, so you’ll need to use all your best negotiating powers and be sure to agree the price in advance. The journey to Otres is much shorter by moto — pay anything from $2 upwards and hang onto your bag as you make the beachside shortcut. If you prefer to go by tuk tuk, the access road from Golden Lions roundabout is much improved, but still a bit of a bumpy ride. It is difficult to get return transport to Sihanoukville town after dark, so stay the night or leave after that amazing sunset to be on the safe side.
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