Dec 31 2012
Have you ever been to one of those rural weekend markets where all the locals gather to display their wares? If so, you have an idea of what Sihanoukville’s new Otres Market is all about. You won’t find it on the main drag of Otres beach, though. Like all good weekend markets (it’s on Saturdays for now), it’s a little off the beaten track.
About half a kilometre inland from Otres beach, on the dirt road that leads to Wat Otres, a small community of expats has slowly been growing over the past few years. The first bungalows to be built on this flat, rural area at the edge of the estuary were appropriately enough called the Estuary. More recently, a couple of other bungalows have sprouted up in the vicinity. Then there’s the Barn. Hastily but well constructed by a group of expats, the Barn is the venue for the market, which spreads out to the land behind it to the edge of a murky lake that appears to be an orphaned part of the estuary.
The Otres Market was inspired by a couple of ex-Goa expats who in turn were inspired by the weekend markets in Goa. The Australian proprietors of Ooch, the first venue at Otres beach, are credited with doing the organising, but before long, the venture was supported by most of the Otres expat community and the first market was held on December 1, just in time for a practise run before the Christmas rush.
Not knowing quite when people would want to attend, the organisers initially advertised the market as opening at midday and closing at 21:00. When no one showed up until 16:00 or wanted to leave at 21:00, they changed the hours to 16:00 till “late.” By the end of the month, the market was an Otres institution.
The beauty of country weekend markets is their character. All the locals come out of the woodwork to display their crafts, sell their home-made food and have a good time. Although not quite as bizarre yet as, say, the Channon Market on the north coast of New South Wales near the hippy community of Nimbin, there’s a good chance that the market stalls in the Bizarre Bazaar will eventually fill in and earn its title. When I was there, an itinerant jewellery maker from the Czech Republic had his handiwork on display and a local artist had their rendering of a windsurfer on display in the gallery. A couple of people were selling clothes and all-in-all, there was already enough there to make it interesting.
It gets even more interesting after dark, when the live gigs get started. One week it was the M’lop Tapang Apsara Dance Troupe, another it was Jitterbug Jackson, aka Hugo W. Browndog, whose ladder balancing and blind juggling act was an enormous hit. Between scheduled acts, or in their absence, the open mike performers keep everyone entertained.
Plenty of food and drink is on offer at the market, so filling up before you go is not recommended. Feeling a little thirsty, I saw a sign offering chai on a stall in the main gathering area, but as it turned out, the stallholder had not shown up yet. I asked the stallholder next door if she had anything to drink. She smiled and said, a little condescendingly, “Yes, but you may not want to drink it.” Taking the hint, I moved on and found someone who sold fresh juice and another stall that had fresh baked goods ready for later, when revellers started to get the munchies.
It was still early when I checked out the Otres Market and I left before dusk, but already it was filling up. I got the impression the sign boasting that “Otres Market will be getting bigger & better every week” wasn’t just wishful thinking.
So far, the Otres Market plans to be a high season event only. When they decide to close up shop will depend on the arrival of the rains. Keep up with the changes on the website and Facebook page. Shuttle buses are available from Led Zephyr at the top of Serendipity Road or Ritchie’s Bar, in the middle of Otres beach.
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