Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Otres Beach, Sihanoukville

From the jungle we moved to a spot with a jungle shower. Sihanoukville lies on the southern coast of Cambodia and was only established as a city (and deep water port) in the 1960s. In the 1970s through to the mid-90s nothing happened there due to the civil war and then it was a slow road back to becoming a safe tourist destination again.

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Our taxi driver was arranged by the eco-lodge through to Sihanoukville ($60), but actually we wanted to go to Otres Beach 8km outside the town. The driver took us to the centre of the tourist precinct, to a hotel he obviously gets a kick-back from and refused to take us to our destination unless we paid him $5 more. A little annoyed we refused to pay him any more and he wasn’t budging so we talked to a tuk-tuk driver who would take us to our destination for $5. Same difference to us, but it meant our driver, who already had a good price wasn't getting another cent from us!

And looking at the town of Sihanoukville was really unappealing to us and we didn’t venture back there until we drove through on our return to Phnom Penh.

The road out to Otres Beach and the secret garden turned out to be a bit of a route that would have been much more comfortable in a 4x4 vehicle, but we were fine bouncing along with the wind in our hair. Our driver turned out to be a gem and braved construction roads and even waded through a large puddle to see how deep it was (only mid-calf) before he gunned the tuk-tuk through. Yee-har!

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Then we arrived at the Secret Garden and for 5 days all our cares and aggravations disappeared. Secret Garden is a new boutique establishment that has only been open since March this year. Being rainy season we knew we wanted somewhere where we could retreat indoors when it did rain. All the other establishment on Otres were at the more backpacker end of the spectrum, but we wanted to be at Otres because it was less touristy than the other areas and there was a nice white beach.

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The bungalow was wonderful. The bedroom was large and opened into a toilet and washbasin, which in turn opened out to a jungle shower. Open to the sky, but with a large privacy wall around it. One really nice feature was the lock box under the bed. It sounds a silly thing to mention, but the box was a locker on wheels 1m x 2m with a padlock. We could put in the computer, the camera and everything else; lock it and stow it back under the bed – no-one would lift it an wander away with it and our things were safe. We could wander down to the beach and no worry about locking the front door.

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The beach was great. It wasn’t clear, flat water as we have had in other places but it was beautifully warm and had wonderful waves. It was like the waves at Waikanae beach, but warm! The weather was quite good. Although it rained, that tended to be in the evenings, the temperature was warm but comfortable (early 30’s). The only minor negative was that it was a little windy – but with windy comes waves.

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And we ate so well when there. The kitchen was staffed by a professional Australian chef, and they produced an excellent menu of western and Cambodian dishes. And all the staff were simply fantastic, nothing was too much trouble. They had to install a generator to cope with the variable power supply and said they had to use it most evenings. Costing about $7200 it gobbled 9 litres of diesel an hour. We did bike around to one of the other beaches, but the mass tourist establishments told us we were in the right spot for us.

Really there was nothing we disliked about these 5 days.

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