ABOUT GETTING THERE, WHERE TO STAY and WHERE TO EAT
No trip to Cambodia is complete without visiting its gorgeous south coast. The main hub here is Sihanoukville (or Sihanouk Ville, or sometimes even called ‘Snookyville’ by some tourists), serviced by an airport (some 15 minutes by tuktuk and 6$-7$ out of the city center) and a slew of bus companies. So, whatever your destination is on the south coast, your first stop will probably be SV. This is also party central with as much beach bars as there are red umbrellas sticking out.
HOW TO GET TO OTRES BEACH
Sihanouk also has a string of beaches outside of town, such as Occheutenal beach and Otres. The latter offers a much more mellow and out-of-the-way vibe. I flew in from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville on BAYON AIRLINES for 80$; a one hour flight on a propeller plane. From the airport to Otres you have your typical options: get a taxi arranged beforehand via your hotel for 25$, which is incredibly steep, especially seeing you can get a shared taxi for 5$ a head. It will take a bit longer since they have to drop everyone off in the cab but will get you there nonetheless (there are clearly signed counters in the tiny SV airport after baggage claim). Tuktuk’s are also waiting outside the airport, but are a lot slower and will set you back 7$ in total (so if you are only two persons, 3.5$ a head).
FYI – a tuktuk from Otres to Sihanoukville will cost 7$. Be sure to arrange one from your hotel in Otres as the road between Otres and Sihanoukville is practicaly uninhabited and might get dodgy at night, so I’ve heard.
WHERE TO STAY & WHERE TO EAT IN OTRES
Like I said, Otres beach (made up of Otres I and Otres II, the latter being the farthest away from town) is the chilled out counterpart to SV’s buzzing Serendipity beach. Otres is all about relaxing, having a drink, nice dinner with your toes in the sand and watching the gorgeous sunset with karsk mountains popping out of the sea. If you opt for Otres I or II, that doesn’t really matter. Otres I has more dining options than Otres II, but I also had some very good meals at Otres II; there’s just less to choose from.
At OTRES II, I stayed at THE MARY BEACH RESORT but the entire Otres coastline is dotted with resorts, hotels and even some cheaper variants a bit farther from the beach (they all work their way into the environment beautifully and add to the vibe, so don’t worry about that). At MARY BEACH RESORT, the staff is very helpful, speaks solid English and isn’t afraid to crack a joke or two. It will set you back around 90$ a night in the ‘deluxe pool view room’ and comes with breakfast (including omelet made at request), free sauna, pool table, sunbeds, beach towels (if there are out of towels at the beach, just ask the counter; they always carry spares in the laundry room), a crisp clean room with an absurdly large flatscreen and welcoming aircon. Don’t get hung up on the ‘pool’ view. The pool is a slender strip of pool in the middle of the horseshoe-shaped hotel; no one goes in there anyway since the beach is only 10 meters away. Just cross the sandy road, et voila: you have yourself a palm tree dotted beach. Here you can hang out in the comfy sunbeds, take a dip in the clear water (the beach is extremely clean by the way), get a massage from one of the many (and I do mean many) ‘masseuses’ vying for your business, have a fresh coconut from one of the many (once again, many) fruit vendors or grab a cocktail (house cocktails are 4$; 3$ during happy hour) and watch the world pass you by.
The ‘beach vendors’ that try to sell you anything from boat trips to bracelets will come by every 15 minutes or so. I imagine it’d only be worse in more crowded beaches toward Sihanoukville. However, they are never pushy and will leave you alone with a simple “No, thank you”. Be aware that some are kids: DO NOT buy anything from kids in Otres or anywhere else in Cambodia since this only strengthens the ‘benefits of begging’ and will keep these kids out of school. You’ll notice that almost everywhere in Cambodia you’ll find pamphlets informing you of this situation.
Now, after you’ve had your ‘teenth cocktail or ice cold Angkor beer, it’s time for to get some food into that well-tanned belly. At the far end of Otres II beach (and only 30 meters from Mary Beach Resort) is SECRET GARDEN HOTEL & RESTAURANT. The unoriginal name is more than made up for by its beach atmosphere and tasty food. I highly recommend trying the stuffed squid (with minced pork and carrots; it comes with a spicy dip sauce) or the mushroom and broccoli stir-fry. It is also opened for lunch: I tried the red pesto ciabatta sandwich, but that wasn’t a winner. The red Khmer curry, spinach/feta spring rolls or ginger chicken curry were all a bit heavy for my taste, but do judge so yourself. The menu is extensive and has something to everyone’s liking.
Basically, if you are in the Sihanoukville area and want to relax, have a toes-in-sand dinner or some cocktails and not worry about anything else during your trip through Cambodia, come join us ‘sunset-gazers’ at OTRES BEACH.