Spending 2 months on a motorcycle and a scooter can be pretty enduring. You become very used to constant movement, spending only a few days in any one place and always keeping your eye on the map to pick your next destination. In Bali, there were so many options that kept us moving. In Vietnam, we simply underestimated the 2100km it took North to South and therefore had to be sure we gave ourselves some leeway. Once we hit Cambodia we knew we wanted absolutely nothing to do but find a chilled-out little beach town, a cheap room, some good company, and just remain in one place for a little while.
Unfortunately it will be difficult for me to express the beauty of this place because after 2.5 months of travelling and averaging about 10 pictures daily I lost my camera and more importantly my 32G memory card containing just that; memory. But alas, I will continue. We’d been told to make our way down to Sihanoukville, spend some time on Serendipity Beach and then catch a boat over to Koh Rong – A small Southern Island that is in its beginning phases of growing into the next big destination outside of Thailand. However, as our Vietnam trip began to wind down the words ”Otres Beach” started to become more and more common. People raving of how there is no other place like it in the world, there’s a community of people like you wouldn’t believe, and, well, a certain substance is simply available and free. It just so happened that on our bus ride into Sihanoukville from Ho Chi Minh City we sat beside a couple that’d been working there for about 4 months who again in the span of a couple hours convinced us basically that we should head right there and stay right there, which is exactly what we did.
Otres truly is a paradise. White sand beaches that line the crystal see-your-feet clear water that looks out toward a few islands in the distance and floating longtail boats. It faces to the West so every night you’re lulled by the deep reds and oranges that paint the sky. The small mud road strip is lined with bars, restaurants, and guesthouses – and usually all in one. Places such as Rise, Blame Canada, Wish You Were Here, and Pappa Pippo’s all host weekly events that seemed to be supported by the whole community. Anything from Open Mic’s to full out shows, trivia nights, and ping pong matches (and not the ones like in Thailand – you sicko’s). Every Saturday there is a night market that seems to bring out the entire community! A lineup of artists singing covers, folk, reggae, house, and even some didgeridoo.
Even though Rose had been carrying a travel guitar with her since Hanoi, she hadn’t had a chance to really play a show – Until Otres. Thanks to a great man named Tam, in the span of 2 weeks she played 6 shows at 4 different venues. I wrote a post about ‘settling in’ that was inspired by this place. It is an expat community that has only sprung up in the last 2 years and continues to grow. People come for a week and still find themselves there 7 months later.
A typical day in Otres might include: Waking up around 9am (your head is likely hurting a little) and walking straight out to the clear ocean water for a morning dip. Once your head is cooled and you dry off, enjoying a nice breakfast on the strip is a great choice. Although Otres can be a little pricey for food, for a cheap breakfast spot check out Cambodian Jungle. Next, you can spend your day reading a book, writing in your journal, playing cards, or simply drifting in and out of sleep as you rock back & forth on your hammock. By the afternoon, and certainly after another meal you’ll begin to feel a thirst that can certainly be quenched by $0.75 beers at Rise. A few more of those and the chatter becomes a little louder, you find yourself sitting at the bar acquainted with a new group of people and you find out what the night’s lineup is. It’s a Tuesday, so you head down to Pappa Pippo’s for some of the most difficult trivia you’ve ever done and laugh at every ridiculous question that somehow people manage to answer correctly. As you pass the midnight hour it’s time to head to Shin, a sashimi restaurant by day and an after-hours bar by night. This is where you come to put a certain blur on the rest of your night and meet others with the same idea. You get back to your guesthouse anywhere from 3am-6am, have a skinny dip in the ocean (is there anything better) and crawl into bed to dry, rinse, and repeat!
Where to Stay
It’d be difficult to find a bad place to stay on Otres 1 or Otres 2 as there are so many guesthouse options and all run by great people. Of my personal experience I’d recommend.
Dany’s Place – You can’t find anything cheaper than $5/night. The room is simply a mattress on the ground with a bug net on top, but it’s comfortable, cheap, and strangely charming.
Wish You Were Here – This little outfit may not be right on the beach but the chilled out environment, and nightly shows and events make it attractive.
What to Do – The Weekly Lineup
This list is simply a guideline as I only spent about 2 weeks there. I’m sure the weekly schedule is constantly in flux and I’m also aware of N64 Super Mario Kart nights and Chess Nights but I haven’t a clue what day they fall on!
Tuesday: Trivia Night at Pappa Pippo’s – Besides having the best pizza on the strip this is simply a great night out and a great way to meet a group of people
Wednesday: Ping Pong tournament at Rise – its $1 for anyone to join but this isn’t always for the faint of heart. Be prepared to be matched against some true contenders.
Thursday: Live music at Wish You Were Here – anything from folk to spoken word, whoever happens to be in town for the moment.
Friday: Perhaps my favourite venue. Live music at Pappa Pippo’s sets the stage under a small veranda as everyone sips wine and enjoys acoustic music with a great sound system.
Saturday: The Otres Market at The Barn. This truly isn’t to be missed. Live music, food stalls, and gift vendors all inside the courtyard of The Barn. Music typically kicks off around 7pm and works its way well into the midnight hours, swinging from acoustic folk, to spoken word, punk, and house. A Tuk-Tuk is about $3 from Otres 1. Enjoy some authentic Italian Sandwiches, amazing vegan burgers, traditional Cambodian cuisine, and even some chocolate cupcakes! Check out http://www.backpacksandbunkbeds.co.uk/cambodia-2/otres-market/ (Also, the name, just a crazy coincidence!)
Sunday: More live music at Wish You Were Here.
I could rave at quite a length about Otres, but it’s truly a place you need to see for yourself. Book a plane, bus, boat, train – WHATEVER it takes and get yourself down to the next happening place in South East Asia.