Dec 17 2012
Sunday is a good day to escape the crowds in Sihanoukville. It used to be easy — you’d just go to Otres beach instead of Ochheuteal. Now that the road is paved, that doesn’t work quite as well. If you really want to escape the weekend hordes, you have to push on a couple of kilometres to the far side of Otres Beach.
At 9:00 in the morning, the developed end of Otres Beach was still quiet, so I stopped for breakfast at a place that was still being built the last time I reported on places to hang out on Otres Beach. The Lighthouse gets top marks for murals, but unfortunately, the power was out, so I wasn’t able to sample their orange-carrot-ginger-smoothie and it was too early to try “Beyonce’s Spaghetti Carbonara”. Instead, I settled for a cup of coffee and an omelette.
After breakfast, I moved on to the far side of Otres Beach, at the end of the two-kilometre stretch of designated empty beach. A little place called Shanti Shanti caught my eye and I wandered inside to see what their “Shanti Sailing Trips” sign was all about. At $150 a day for up to four passengers, they were a deal, but since I now had less than $10 in my pocket, I settled for a cup of chai and flashbacks of Goa until a boat returning from the islands made me determined to get out on the water one way or the other.
Although I wasn’t on Serendipity Beach, serendipity seemed to be on my side. Almost next door to Shanti Shanti, a little Khmer-run place called Nautica rented out kayaks and a couple of sizes of Hobie catamarans. At $10 an hour, the Hobie Wave was now outside my budget, but I still had more than enough money to rent a kayak for $3 an hour.
Now the question became, “Where to go?” The closest island suddenly looked a lot further away than it had before, but I didn’t want to just paddle up and down the beach; so I decided to explore the estuary at the end of Otres Beach. That turned out to be a perfect plan, because as soon as I cleared the mouth of the estuary, I felt like I’d paddled to another world.
I may have got a little too carried away by my adventure, because I didn’t think about the return trip until my aching muscles told me they would rather be back on Otres relaxing. I told them they had to hang in there a little longer. Fortunately, they complied and a tail wind helped get me back to Nautica in reasonably good condition.
While still one of the least developed parts of Sihanoukville, Otres beach now has more places to stay at the far end than there were even a few months ago. The garden at the Secret Garden has grown considerably and although they still have the only pool on all of Otres Beach, other places to choose from range from cheap thatch beach bungalows to more well-appointed bungalows on the other side of the road.
It was almost surreal to see all the cars lined up on the side of the road along the main part of Otres beach on my return journey. Until the new road went in, you almost never saw cars here, and when you did, they were never shiny and new. I guess that’s a sign of progress, but I prefer the far end of Otres Beach, where the only traffic I faced were some cows who apparently were having a day off at the beach.
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