I originally set out on this trip chasing summer and beaches. I’ve been quite terrible at that and have mostly chased fog. So for my last stop in Cambodia, I decided to spend a few days on Sihanoukville beach. It has everything I missed by not hitting southern Thailand, beautiful sand and a huge party scene. So I set out south of Sihanoukville, because party scene I do not need. I ended up on the quiet and beautiful Otres Beach portion of Sihanoukville.
I settled into a quiet bungalow across the street from a bunch of bars and guesthouses on the beach. Instead of drifting asleep to waves and repeated reggae, I prefer this lovely pond setting. I am pleased that this place is Khmer owned, as many of the more well thought guesthouses are often run by foreigners. No, the Otres Orchid is a gem of beautiful well built Khmer traditional style bamboo huts with plenty of space and sitting areas complete with hammock out front. Just what I wanted! Lucky too since it’s been so rainy I’ve spent more time in a hammock than on a lounger. Surprisingly, I’ve seen more kindles and e-readers than I have iPods on the beach. Hooray for reading! The laid-back rain ridden area was ripe for playing different variations of rummy with new friends over tea and relaxing with some good books.
Like most resort areas, this area is full of terrible food. I’m not sure why I stumbled across so many traveler’s blogs talking about how great the food is here, maybe low season brings less fresh food. I miss the fresh crab of Kep as this is otherwise extremely westernized and lackluster Khmer and western style seafood. The best of the bunch appears to be Sunshine cafe for westernized Khmer fare and Everything is Everything for non-Californian style burritos and tacos. Yes, I am cranky that most guesthouses think their “famous” burritos full of salad and dressing are what burritos should be. I miss my carb rice and bean (and sometimes fries) bombs of California. I am also slightly amused and terrified of how many giant rats are running around in the latter. I got turned away the first day for a room there, and was glad when everyone who stayed there offhandedly mentions all the rat droppings and raided snacks. My insatiable sweet tooth continued but was mostly left unsatisfied. The closest my chocolate hankering got was a mars bar rice krispies treat at Everything is Everything that reminded me of an elementary school bake sale in the not good way.
Sihanoukville is famous for their persistent touts asking if you want to buy things. Otres Beach is known to be less annoying but you still get the same characters you see on any beach. The kids who should be in school selling you bracelets, the women carrying huge baskets of things on their head and for my first sight here, women offering you cheap massages as you chill in a lounger. Disturbingly, I never saw lobster basket head lady ever sell a single crustacean and yet that pile grew larger daily. How old are those?!
All over Cambodia I seem to confound tuk tuk drivers, who are the most persistent of those bothering tourists. They follow you a bit, ask if you want a tuk tuk, and for me, often ask why I do not. They cannot comprehend that I like to walk, I think they are convinced I just do not like to pay them. It involves them driving away shaking their heads confused.
I spent my last days doing exactly what I wanted, not much at all. In the midst of a lot of people trying to make it work, and often badgering the hell out of tourists to do so, it is easy to get annoyed. But then you see them play practical jokes on each other. The old market women sneaking up behind each other and popping bags while the other one eats. The bus stop guy who scares a sleeping driver. Soon you realize and enjoy the weirdness that Cambodia, a beautiful country crisscrossed by waterways and nice people.