We didn't even plan to be in Otres, then one night changed to two, two to four, and I am now writing this after spending the best part of two and a half weeks there in November 2017.
So what happened? Well, we just had to get out of Sihanoukville after that first night and I'd remembered a place called 'Blame Canada' from back in 2014 but I didn't remember the name of the place it was in. A little asking around told us that Blame Canada was now called 'Mom's' and was located on Otres 1. We had a quick look on booking.com and found a place to stay (the Orange House in Otres Village, which was lovely) and then in a tuk tuk, with Casper, the friendly Dane we had met along the way, we headed straight there.
Arriving in the area, we immediately felt a sigh of relief. You could literally feel the chill hippy vibes on the sea breeze. Otres is a relaxed beach village comprising of Otres 1 (a beach on the right of 'Long Beach'), Otres 2 (a more boutique and upmarket beach on the left side of 'Long Beach' and Otres Village (whose spine is a concrete road, one of the only concrete roads in the area). Long Beach is a deserted beach you want to stay away from (there are reports of construction workers and meth heads mugging, raping unsuspecting travelers and also stealing the belongings of tourists there, when they go for a swim to see the plankton). It's better to see the plankton on an island or just go in your swimming trunks and take nothing else and go with someone if you must use Long Beach.
Otres 1 and 2 are a different story entirely. Otres 1 is a dirt road with a beach on the left. The beach is ok, a little dirty in places but not bad; the islands are better for a swim, though the beaches in Otres will do on a hot day and it can be as good as any white sanded beach in places. There's a few places to stay there (to suit every budget and tatstes) and a few restaurants and bars. We had a great night in 'Wish You Were Here' (they have an international shot competition, which you can see from our photos, as well as a great menu especially for food), 'Sea Garden' (for a chill hideaway), there's excellent Italian food and a Tuesday trivia quiz at 'Pappa Pippo's' (we met the owners last night doing a 'The Good Greek' youtube episode and we needed people to eat the food!), there's 'The Corner' where there's often a party and they have a VERY extensive menu if you know what I mean, and 'The Greenhouse Effect' which is an unofficial sister coffeeshop of the Amsterdam one (and yes they may sell the green stuff there too), there's also a lot of Khmer places and a few other bars and restaurants.
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Lots of accomodation too. We stayed at Mien Mien, which was ok for $10 and a private bathroom which was a relief after Koh Ta Kiev's shared bathrooms. All the places mentioned have rooms, like 'Wish You Were Here' which has a really buzzy and cool vibe inside. We'd recommend there or 'Sea Garden' or at a push 'Mian Mien' if you are looking for a place to stay on the beach in Otres 1. The energy is more party and chill down by the beach, particularly around 'The Corner.'
Otres 2 is a more upmarket version of Otres 1 with boutique and upscale hotels and resorts, a more serene and composed atmosphere and a slightly more classy vibe.
However, Otres Village (and Otres Riverside) are our top choice of where to stay and hang out in Otres. It's also perfect as a base to explore the area and it's future is a bit more resilient in the face of all the foreign investment coming into the area. The beach side of Otres 1 and 2, for example, have been served notice and sooner or later they will be bull dozed to make way for resorts, golf courses and casinos. The non-beach side will be safe for a few more years. After researching, the beach side of Otres will have maybe one to three years and the road side a lot longer, possibly they will be safe. The same is true for the village, it is probably safe for at least 5 to 6 years.
The owner of all the land (Mr Sok) is apparently a good guy who appreciates the character Otres brings to the area and hopefully how it's character is needed and should be protected in the face of all the large scale investment in the area. We certainly hope so as Otres is a fantastic heaven of a place. We loved it, as you will see below. However, there's always the chance of someone offering the land owner lots of money and he sells it and everyone has to move. If that happens a brilliant world on the traveller trail will be lost. It is Cambodia so anything could happen so we recommend getting to Otres as soon as possible to experience its joys!
But Otres Village! Oh wow! There's so many great places to stay. We loved Orange house, it's rustic charm and the great bar area with awesome pizza made by this really cool Slovenian chef. There was Mama Clare's with the amazing Clare Shave, an ex-music exec turned guesthouse owner and hypnotherapist. She was such a lovely person (in fact everyone around town told us that whenever we said where we were staying!). Indeed, we ended up doing a 'The Good Greek' episode there and feeding her and her friends!
There's also Sea Sky Bungalows for really decent $10-15 rooms with private bathrooms (we stayed at this one too). There's Blue sky Bungalows with cute and good quality bungalows from $18. It's got a nice communal area too. Even more upscale is Sok Sabay near Mama Clare's. There's also Otres Hideout ($15, private bathroom and fan), Kui (a bit pricey but very good quality and has a pool, c.$17-36) and Happiness Bungalows for another decent room with a/c or fan ($10-15, we stayed at this one too and liked the owner, the cocktail menu and the wifi). There's lots of other places too which you can find on booking.com or other websites.
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There's also excellent food. I really mean that, as a chef and foodie, I was blown away by the love of food in the place. There's Khmer or Cambodian food places, local restaurants and the like. But there's also a huge expat community here, some have been here for ten years. They really keep the vibe of the place and in the low season, near the beginning of the high season, when we went, it felt like being at the build stage of a music festival. I also couldn't get away from the feeling, from my other life as a jack of all trades/creative in the festival world, that Otres was one big festival. with stalls, campsites, stages/areas and events. I think it will be buzzing in the high season (December to February).
There was a fish and Chip shop run by a northern lad called Owen, who made everything himself and did a bloody great job at it too. There was a Portuguese place (Amarino's: delicious!), a Lebanese place (Ali Baba's, which was awesome!), a really great Khmer place called Rotha Cafe (and another one called Otres City which we ate at a lot, we loved the menu and prices and it was always full of people). There's also an amazing Italian called Jin's, brilliant crepe's at Bob's and so much more! Maybe Mama Clares will serve some of the dishes I showed her too by the way so look out for that if you're there! Tonight we are going for BBQ Buffalo (yes that is right, Buffalo!) at Otres Lodge (on Otres 1) and for lunch we had Uzbekistani Plov at Globetrotters Cafe and Tavern (the owner ande chef Max is a obvious foodie!). There is just so much food, you have to go just for that.
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But it's also the night life. The energy here is just so safe and friendly and free, it's how I imagine India used to be many years ago or can be compared to what's happening in South American now. There's a movement here, people are trying to build stuff and you can feel a real homely vibe. It was Otres village, all the food and all the people, as well as the nightlife, which has made us stay. There's something happening every night, from open mike nights, to quizzes, Psy-trance 'raves', deep house nights, jazz and so much more. The music and choice of venue is perfect for any tastes and especially for experience junkies like ourselves.
We loved the cocktails and conversation at Bob's, the classy atmosphere at Woody's, the live music at Stray Cats (has rooms too), the den feeling of Neverland (has rooms), the parent's garage feeling of Club House, the wooden hole where two cool English people were selling cocktails (Jaffas), Jumanjis, The Village Idiot, Sok Sabay for sunset cocktails over a lake, Done Right (also has good rooms) and lots more! It was like a really fun festival night, over and over again. Every night we were meeting new people, meeting up with newly made friends, going to different events, it was really great!
Overall Otres, the Village in particular, is a must do. It's cheap, fun, there's lots to do and it's a great place to pass the time (there's things nearby like watefalls (Kbal Chhay), cookery courses (Sinuon Khmer Cooking Class), mini golf, and temples (Wat Leu) too!). In fact, it is well known that people come here and stay. We've lost count of the people who have told us they just came for a few days and stayed a whole season, or two, or three or more! We just cannot recommend enough that you make a visit to Otres!
Check out our below pictures for more.
Otres photos: Click on the arrows to scroll, or on the image for a larger version (in a pop-up)
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