I just wrapped up three interesting weeks on Otres Beach. If you have been following along, you know that Otres Beach is the sleepiest of the four main beaches of Sihanoukville, Cambodia. I arrived at the warm glow of the Sunshine Cafe after a long day of traveling and border crossing from Thailand.
Sihanoukville is the main port of Cambodia and it’s main party/holiday spot. Popular with backpackers due its cheap prices, cheap pot and a loose set of morals, it teems with people from all over the world. Well, ‘teem’ is a strong word. I am here for shoulder season, the time between when the weather turns good and when the people show up. It’s quiet, as I have said before. The beach is small, width-wise, with a gentle, 3rd-Beach-ish shoreline. With it’s gentle slope, you can walk out 50 yards or so and still not be hip-deep.
The day starts before sunrise, when the birds in the tree all start chattering at once. Beaches are swept and ashtrays emptied. Coffee is made and cushions shaken out.
A set of regulars shows up for coffee, mostly people building bungalows and businesses across the street.
The first settler shows up around 9 or earlier, parking their ass on one of the sun chairs that line the beach. Many of them will be there all day, coming up for beer and lunch or a break from the sun. Naps are taken, books are read and relaxing is had. The Austrian gents that show up every day, have their tea and get massages. The Irish guy who is here to drink stumbles in from time to time. The coconut boat drifts along the shore, offloading cocos for the cafes ($1 each). We wade in and lug them ashore. The Cambodians and those foreigners that lounge about them are not over-employed. People come here to do nothing, be it getting away from the cold (Lots of Swedes and Canadians) or just dropping out. They come to the beach and do nothing all day.
They come to Otres to get away from the hustle and bustle of the main downtown beaches, jammed as they are with all the same things we have, just an order of magnitude more.
All day, locals ply the beach. They descend upon the new ones like mosquitos. The better off kids sell bracelets on the beach, pre-made or with custom colors, they are cute and charming and know all the right replies. The less-well-off kids from the villages collect bottles and cans and try to avoid the dogs. Now that I know them, I quiz them on their schoolwork or make them do math problems before they can move on.
Fresh fruit, legs shaved, massage, sunglasses, langoustines, sarongs, they are all served up from locals, brought straight to your sun chair, whether you like it or not.
My job was to sit behind the bar, which overlooks the sea, and serve customers, take orders, make smoothies and otherwise do what needs doing. Mostly that was chatting up the guests and reading. The staff/family was really good to me. They are personable and caring and hard workers.
Though easy and relaxing for sure, they were long days, being at the bar all day and into the evening, serving dinners and drinks to the night crowd…which was the day crowd after a shower and a change of clothes.
I had a day off and I went into town a few times, but mostly I stayed on the beach.
I got to join a local Khmer family for dinner in their roadside shanty. We sat on the little patio out front and had some wonderful food, amidst the family and curious onlookers. It was a rare chance for a foreigner to be with a local family in such an intimate environment. I was pleased that I could join them.
I slept upstairs, in the cheapest room you have ever seen, which makes sense, because they rent out for $5/night. But with a fan and mosquito net, it is all you need and perfectly comfortable. Food was great and freshly made to order.
Overall, it is a great place to spend some time. Many worry about how long this little strip of paradise will last, but that’s always the case when you have one in hand. Good people, good and cheap living and a pace that makes one calm. I think I said before, come for 2 weeks, stay for 2 years. I am sure I will be back at some point.