Arriving here after a delayed flight, it was pitch black by 6:30pm. The ride from the airport was 25 minutes through traffic in darkness. No street lights or signs of any kind were in sight. Sihanoukville is the town we flew into from Siem Reap. This is where most people stay that visit here. It’s crowded and packed with budget hotels and backpackers.
Sihanoukville has lots of bars along the shoreline and tons of beach umbrellas and chairs packed together on the beach. There’s hardly room to get out of the sea. The streets are lined with booking offices for boat tours, transportation and land & water activities. In other words, tourist central. Rooms are available from as low as $4.00 and up.
Prostitution found its way to Sinhanoukville too. While waiting for the speed boat to leave the island I got my dose of a man and his escort. A drunk westerner was getting loud and upset because the hotel he went in wouldn’t rent him a room. He had a Cambodian prostitute with him. Both of them looked like they had been up all night. The hotel manager spotted this a mile away. So did we sitting across the street in a cafe. It was entertaining to watch. Did I mention it was 9:00 am? It ended with a “fuck off!” as he walked off into the sunlight down the street with his lady of the night.
A fifteen minute drive from Sihanoukville is Otres Beach I and Otres Beach II. We chose Otres Beach II. The vibe is more relaxed without the hassles of a crowded beach area. Sooner or later this area will be built up too. Right now the roads aren’t paved and there are just a few hotels and bungalows around.
The sand is powdery white and the ocean is warm. Those two things I look for in a perfect beach. Most of the people visiting were older. The one thing everyone had in common was we all wanted a quiet place to chill. The beaches are very clean with little traffic from boats and vendors.
Otres Beach II looks and feels like Thailand did 17 years ago before it was discovered by heavy tourist traffic. It’s pristine and the landscaping is natural without crowded buildings, touts, traffic and noise. But that will soon change over time. A storm rolled in later in the day. Clouds covered the neighboring islands. Tourists lined the beach with their iphones and cameras taking pictures.
Larger hotels are being built on Otres II. The new resorts remind me of mansions in California. The buildings are modern, white and contemporary. None of the new places really fit in to the culture of Cambodia or the even a beach resort setting. Just huge out of place stark white buildings. The other option is a bungalow shack. On hotel booking sites, rooms are available as low as $11.00 (USD) a night here. Some of them don’t have air conditioning. Bugs can be a big problem in these bungalows too. Since we are flashpacking, this is a perfect time to spend the money and be comfortable.
We stayed at the Secret Garden Resort. This is a small resort with only 11 bungalows around a pool area. The Secret Garden room was a bungalow with low lighting and very basic. The restaurant is across the street on the shore of the beach. 12 sets of beach lounge chairs with umbrellas are set up on the beach for guests. We could only book two nights here and moved next door to the luxurious Tamu Resort. The hotels are next door to each other with only a $5.00 (USD) price difference. Luckily we stayed at the Secret Garden Resort first and they didn’t have availability all 4 nights we were here. Tamu Resort is beautiful, comfortable and spacious. Tamu Resort has all of the western comforts that make travel a pleasure. It is the nicest hotel on Otres Beach II. It’s also the newest. Unlike the larger white buildings, Tamu is only 2 stories and uses the beach sand around the property instead of cement.
The first night we ate at Secret Garden Resort’s restaurant. The restaurant is highly rated and reservations are for the hotel guests only. After trying Tamu’s restaurant we ended up eating at Secret Garden Restaurant again for dinner. During dinner one night, Doug left the table while I was looking at my phone. When I looked up a cat was sitting in his chair eye balling his plate of red snapper. It was surprising but I loved it. Of course I tried to feed the cat! Strangely he didn’t want any. Maybe it was too seasoned? When Doug returned the cat refused to get out of the chair. Finally after flipping the chair the cat fell out. Little things like this are so entertaining because this would never happen where I live. Feral cats and dogs in restaurants aren’t the norm in America. When was the last time a cat stole your seat? The restaurants we chose to eat at were on the higher end price wise. The dinner bill was roughly $29.00 (USD) per night. We took a tuk tuk to Otres Beach I and at a place called Papa Pippo. Including the $6.00 (USD) roundtrip tuk tuk ride, the night cost us $25.00 (USD). For $19.50 (USD) we ate an authentic Italian dinner with 2 drinks, 2 entrees and an appetizer. It was much easier to stay at in our area, especially since the resorts we stayed in had the highest rated restaurants.
There are a handful of women walking around selling massage, scarves, bracelets and food to people chilling on the beach. We were approached by a woman with a hard sales technique. Once I turned all of those things down, she offered threading my eyebrows. After going back and fourth for 10 minutes, she finally went away. A lady selling fried shrimp was a big hit with the tourists. She called them lobsters but they looked more like langoustines. They looked better than they tasted.
Two days later I got a massage. I realized the girl was on the take when my one hour massage wasn’t really an hour. After 37 minutes she was done. I had my iPhone under the pillow timing it. Who knew 2:02pm to 2:35 was an hour? Instead of arguing I just paid her and chalked it up.
Men are walking around selling “designer” sunglasses and island tours. Making any eye contact attracts them over. I just give them the head shake no and a smile. Nine times out of ten they are courteous and keep walking. A guy named Mickey approached us about a 3 island tour. For $15.00 (USD) a boat takes you to 3 different islands for snorkeling, hiking and time to relax on the beach. The boat ride, snorkel gear, breakfast and a bbq lunch on one of the islands is all included in the price. It’s an 8 hour tour. I made the mistake of telling him “maybe”. Mickey came by asking if we were ready to go. After every “no,” he replied with “maybe later”. This went on for for three days.
Since Otres Beach isn’t as built up at Sihanoukville, there isn’t much action to report. It was nice to just sit back and relax without a plan for the day. I hope this area stays hidden for selfish reasons. Things are so much nicer when they are undiscovered by the cloak of tourism.