Sep 29 2012
Now that the road to Otres Beach has been paved and a feverish-for-Sihanoukville building spree has been going on, the 2012-2013 Sihanoukville high season is likely to make it the most popular beach in town. If you’ve been there before and loved it for its funky, laidback atmosphere, don’t panic. Thanks to low-rise zoning restrictions and some creative architecture, Otres Beach is as chilled out as ever.
If you liked the no-frills grass shack bars and restaurants of the old Otres Beach, many of them are still there, but they’ve got competition now. Names like Moorea Beach and Ibiza offer clues to what you’ll likely find along Otres Beach in coming years. It’s gone from funky to funky chic and there’s a place for everyone to hang out now, whether you’re a backpacker, a flashpacker or a middle class family of four.
Moorea Beach is a perfect example of the “new look” Otres Beach. When you walk into the bar/restaurant from the road, the first thing you’ll see is a bust of a Buddha and the first thing you’ll hear is some mellow Buddha Bar-style music. If you’re lucky, they may have a vacancy in one of their circular grass shacks and you can stumble directly from bed to a day bed in the restaurant for breakfast every morning.
If Moorea Beach’s red and white colour scheme doesn’t appeal to you, maybe the colours at the aptly named Indigo on Otres will. On the other hand, if your fantasies run somewhere along the lines of Alex Garland’s novel, The Beach, you can go a few doors up and hang out at the — also aptly named — The Beach. As of this writing, they are still putting the finishing touches on The Beach and about half a dozen other Otres Beach hangouts; everyone knows the high season is coming soon and they’re preparing for the onslaught.
If a mainland beach isn’t close enough to Garland’s island paradise lost/found for you, take a longtail boat out to a nearby island or even windsurf or paddle over. Hurricane Windsurfing, sandwiched between Indigo and Ibiza, rents out sailboards, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and even bodyboards and surfboards for those rare days when rideable waves actually break off Otres Beach.
So far, our exploration of Otres Beach hangouts has been limited to the relatively developed end of the beach — the end you come to when you arrive. That comes to an abrupt end when you reach a big billboard displaying the Otres Beach development scheme. Don’t let the 1.5 kilometre stretch of empty beach stop you from exploring further though, because just out of sight at the end of this designated open beach are more hangouts to choose from.
I’ve mentioned the Secret Garden before but failed to mention their beachfront bar/restaurant. Although the plots of land on either side of the bar are up for grabs, for the moment there’s plenty of elbow room if you like the idea of hanging out some place where there’s no competing music from your neighbours. I had breakfast there to the soft strains of Adele and it made for a nice start to the morning.
Finally, an estuary brings Otres Beach to a close, but not before you reach the final potential hangout. The Cinderella Dive Resort & Beach Bungalows is sister to the flashier Cinderella Golden Lodge in the Serendipity Beach area. As the name implies, it’s set up for diving lessons and excursions, but if all you want to do is hang out, that’s fine, too. The grass-shack bungalows, some built on top of old longtail boats, are perfect for barefoot Cinderellas and Prince Charmings, while the Serendipity Road accommodation is more for the glass slipper set.
It’s probably safe to say that while more Otres Beach hangouts will appear in the future, they won’t be brick and glass skyscrapers. Zoning restrictions forbid anything higher than one storey and the only brick structures allowed on the beach side of the road are for cooking or toilet facilities. One day, if all goes according to plan, the high rise resorts will appear along the next road back from the beach, but for now, Otres is still the mellow beach it’s always been, only better.
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