Ignore what you’ve heard. The rumours of the demise of Cambodia’s beach paradise are vastly exaggerated. As long as you steer clear of the Macau-style casino development of the city of Sihanoukville, there are still plenty of idyllic slices of paradise to enjoy.
Otres is one of many small settlements around Sihanoukville where you can still spend your nights in a grass hut on the sand and your days wondering which postcard you fell into. The scenery is not quite as spectacular as some of Thailand’s beach hubs (although it leaves Patong for dead). Cambodia is far less crowded, and the vibe is much more chilled. It’s a favourite holiday destination for Brits and Europeans, and with its calm waters and endless water activities, it’s a favourite for families with young kids, too.
And with its west-facing aspect delivering Insta-perfect sunsets, Otres Beach has no shortage of charm for those who remember what Thailand was like twenty years ago.
1. Wind down with massages, margaritas and more on the beach
You might think that goes without saying, but with so much to do around Otres, it’s easy to overlook the obvious pleasures that await you on the beach. Great food served on the beach? Check. Ten-dollar massages under palm fronds? Check. Pretty much any water activity you can think of? Yup, you guessed it. And if you’ve worked up a thirst, all you need do is stick your hand up to get it quenched.
2. Chill out on a day-trip around the islands
A deserted pearly beach with nothing but a hammock and a restaurant? Yes please. The calm waters off the coast of Otres Beach lend themselves to exploration by boat. Whether it’s a rustic longtail or a resort-owned cruiser, book yourself a ride by either approaching the boatmen on the beach or asking at your hotel’s reception. Your day on the water will involve torpedoing across flat seas between vertiginous limestone islands, a spot of snorkelling, and a lunch stop at a deserted island. Just make sure you’re prepared to swim to shore if you’re aboard anything bigger than a longtail.
3. Shop till you drop at Otres Village night markets
Friday nights in Otres are a delight for the senses. Take a tuk-tuk through the village to the night market, where you’ll enjoy scrummy street food while meandering among craft stalls or taking in a show by local musos. Every visitor who spends any amount of time around Sihanoukville eventually turns up at the night market, so the vibe is social and the crowd eclectic.
4. Party hearty at a ‘jungle doof’
Keep your ear to the ground and ask the locals about these outdoor dance parties held in the middle of the jungle. Climb aboard a beached wooden pirate ship with walkways and decks high in the trees, and look down on the revellers while a DJ pumps out banging trance. Or get amongst it yourself – as long as you don’t mind a bit of mud.
5. Chow down on the local grub
And when we say ‘grub’ – if you’re game, you could get literal. Crickets, scorpions and silkworms are among the local delicacies. Crunchy and delicious, they’re sautéed in various local sauces and can be had at street food stalls and some restaurants. If your tastes are a little less exotic, Cambodian cuisine has a lot to offer lovers of curries, seafood, and tropical fruits. Low on chili but high on fresh ingredients, local restaurants also do fantastic Western-style dishes, especially pizza and breakfasts.
6. Lap up those sunsets
The only alarm you need to set for a holiday at Otres is one that’ll get you down to the beach in time for dusk. Truly, the sunsets here, with islands dotted off the coast, are to die for. Whether the skies are crystal clear or sultry and stormy, the blazing reds and oranges will paint the horizon and turn all the boats to shadow puppets. Best enjoyed while dipping your toes in the tropical waters or paddle boarding your way towards a sundowner.
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