When people talk dirty about Sihanoukville, they’re often really talking about Ochheuteal and its environs and all of the low-grade sleaziness that that place exudes like an infected wound. But there is very much more to Sihanoukville than this, with Otres a strong case in point. The beach itself is similar to Ochheuteal: three gently curved kilometres of soft, near white sand facing out to the southwest and an horizon studded with Sihanoukville’s famous islands. But the likenesses end there.
In everything else, Otres is another world. Laid back, rural, and far less densely packed, Otres has a hippy haven kind of feel to it, though the first tentative steps towards gentrification have been taken and are already attracting a more mixed crowd. The beach itself is divided into three sections. Otres 1 is the northern end, with an abundance of cheap to mid-range guesthouses, late night bars, and some new, smarter developments springing up. Otres 2 is all the way at the southern end of the beach, where the general atmosphere is much more sleek, though you can still land some bargain bunks if that’s what you’re looking for.
In between those two is an undeveloped stretch of sand topped by spindly trees. According to those we spoke to, there will soon be development along here but they are expecting big, flashy hotels to be built on the main road with a clear view out to the sands and sea. This is why, people say, a strict moratorium has been imposed on further building out from either Otres 1 or 2. That view must be kept unimpeded for the expected throngs of big spenders. It is also expected that the beachside hotels from Papa Pippo to Everythang will eventually be cleared by authorities, though like all things in Cambodia it’s not clear when or even if that is likely to happen.
However, as part of a response to that threat, some places have started to build elsewhere, namely Otres Riverside. This is a forested little enclave down the tracks to the south of Otres Village, and home to a host of alternative souls. It is also starting to see newer, smarter resorts being set up for those seeking a little more seclusion but still like their comforts.
While Sihanoukville is, for some, all about the beaches and access to the islands, there is plenty more going on too, especially at Otres 1. If quietly broiling under a relentless sun with sand in your pants and your food and your cocktails isn’t your idea of ideal, there is plenty more to do to keep away the horrors. Queenco Palm Beach has a mini-golf course, perfect for adults and kids alike. If that’s a little sedate for your tastes, then Otres Lodge has a volleyball court to get blood pressures up. Then you could dial it down again with a gentle game of petanque at Pat Pat Guesthouse, or go for maximum chill with a soothing yoga session at Done Right, which are held twice a day, at 07:00 and 16:30.
There’s also plenty of sea-based stuff to do. Mercifully, the jetflyers have been banned, but with steady winds blowing all through the high season, kitesurfing looks like it’s really taking off on Otres, and you’ll find Otres Beach Kitesurfing, which offers all the gear as well as training, opposite Papa Pippo on Otres 1. Sailors should head to Otres Beach Resort on Otres 2, where they can hire kayaks and Hobie wave sailboats for a trip out on the waves. Those same breezes make windsurfing off Otres an absolute dream, with a long stretch to skim along. In addition to windsurfers ($12 per hour), Hurricane Windsurfing at the top of Otres Beach, also has paddle boards ($9 per hour), and body boards ($7 per hour).
Inland from Otres Village, you’ll also find Liberty Ranch, which offers a range of hourly, half-day and day rides exploring Sihanoukville’s beach and surrounding countryside. This is a truly wonderful way of exploring, and getting on to trails that you would otherwise never see, and as bird and nature watching exercise is not to be missed.
If you’d rather tax your brain than your body, Papa Pippo hosts a pub quiz every Tuesday evening.
For live music, it’s hard to beat the atmosphere at Otres Market, hosted on Saturdays in Otres Village. With loads of stalls selling clothes, food, jewellery, essentials oils and more, there’s plenty going on here to while away a happy evening. Papa Pippo also hosts live music gigs on Thursday evenings, with plenty of the beach bars like Blame Canada and Shin Otres Beach holding some pretty impressive dance and DJ parties.
It may look quiet, but you’d actually have to work pretty hard to get bored at Otres.
By Nicky Sullivan
Last updated on 31st May, 2015.