Last updated: 23rd August 2017.
When I first visited Cambodia, I foolishly only allowed myself four days to spend in the entire country.
I spent all of my time exploring the temples of Angkor and didn’t venture outside of Siem Reap. Despite having seen only a tiny, tiny part of the country over such a short time period, I instantly fell in love with Cambodia and left wishing I had more time, desperate to see more.
So when Dave and I began plotting our return to Southeast Asia, I was immediately pushing for a month in Cambodia — and was thrilled when Dave agreed! This time around I wanted to spend all of that time exploring the coast and was planning on visiting Sihanoukville, Koh Rong, Kampot and Kep. In my mind, I had a vision of holing up in a cute, cheap bungalow on the beach and spending a few weeks writing.
A vision of something a little like this…
Papa Pippo Bungalows on Otres Beach.
Otres Beach in Sihanoukville was my first stop in Cambodia and I actually ended up spending three weeks here in total.
I’d heard mixed opinions on Sihanoukville and from my initial research I’d come to the conclusion that Serendipity Beach was a backpacker-ridden dump and that quiet Otres Beach would be much more my style. A brief stop in the area around Serendipity when I arrived confirmed my expectations — shirtless, glassy-eyed backpackers wandering around with whisky buckets at 10am, tuk tuk drivers instantly swarming around us, touts trying to convince us to get a massage, kid vendors trying to sell us bracelets. It’s one of the very worst examples of how tourists are slowly wrecking parts of Southeast Asia.
I mean, sure, if you’re looking to party then this area of Sihanoukville would be perfect, but that was the complete opposite of what I needed. This time I was craving somewhere relaxing and couple-y with no hassle, somewhere I could get some work done. I didn’t want to sit and watch my fellow countrymen vomit their breakfast in the streets on a daily basis.
I arrived on Otres Beach and was delighted and thankful to find somewhere in total contrast to Serendipity. The stretch of guesthouses lining the beach totalled around 30 or 40, taking up a small section of the beach. It felt much more peaceful, there were hardly any vendors and those that were there would mostly leave you alone and not hassle you. And the kid vendors that Sihanoukville is so famous for? After chatting for a while with one of them, they gave me a bracelet for free! For “friendship”! My mind was blown.
A lot of the laid-back vibe comes from the fact that the guesthouse owners on Otres Beach seem to have an agreement with each other to turn off the music at around 10pm, which makes for a quiet and relaxing night every night.
I was staying at Papa Pippo Bungalows and for a bungalow on the beach with an ensuite bathroom and excellent wifi Dave and I were paying just $15 total.
Here’s a sample of a typical day on Otres Beach:
Every morning would begin with this view.
When we finally managed to drag ourselves out of bed, we’d step out of our bungalow onto warm, golden sand, race each other into the sea and spend the next hour swimming (Dave) and loudly freaking out whenever seaweed attacked (Me).
After drying off in the sun, we’d head off for a stroll along the beach to find somewhere to have breakfast — and would usually end up eating at Mushroom Point with their awesomely comfortable sun loungers and bungalows shaped like mushrooms!
As an aside, on Otres Beach I actually developed an obsession with Vegemite (of all things!) and would actively seek it out for breakfast every single morning. It’s now reached the point where I carry an enormous jar of it around with me!
Breakfast at Mushroom Point
Of course, I wasn’t just staying on Otres so I could sunbathe, nap and eat vegemite — I was here to get lots of writing done. Papa Pippo had surprisingly good internet for a beach bungalow in Cambodia and so much of my morning and early afternoon was spent working on one of the cushions here.
Not a bad place to work, right?
After a hard, long and terrible day of working, it was then time to shut down our laptops and go enjoy the beach. Apart from the one time that I swam in the sea during a thunderstorm and found myself surrounded by bright blue jellyfish that looked like salt and pepper grinders, this was one of the highlights.
The sea was so ridiculously warm that it was like having a bath! The water was deep enough that you could swim and was so incredibly calm that I didn’t get seasick. With sun loungers and hammocks on the beach, there would be plenty of reading and napping taking place too.
And every night on Otres Beach would finish as chilled out as it started — with dinner and cocktails on the beach followed by an incredible sunset.
Otres Beach had some of the best sunsets I’ve ever witnessed in Southeast Asia.
Otres Beach is one of those places where I feel like I can say “go now, before it changes! It won’t be like this forever!” without feeling like a dick. Otres Beach is under threat from commercial development, with many bungalows and restaurants bulldozed a few years ago in preparation for a resort. Though it has yet to materialise, the 1.5km stretch of empty beach with bulldozers and workmen lazing around means it’s only a matter of time…
We left Otres Beach after two weeks. I knew that if we didn’t leave then, we’d never leave. And though I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent in Koh Rong, Kampot and Kep, after a week of exploring I was craving to return to Otres.
And so we did just that.
By the end of our time in Cambodia, Otres Beach felt like home, and if we didn’t have plans to head to Thailand for Yi Peng then I have a feeling Dave and I would have spent another two weeks there… Or, you know, two years.