Beach time in Cambodia!

Trip Start Apr 12, 2011
Trip End Apr 01, 2012

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Where I stayed
Mushroom Point

Flag of Cambodia  , Khétt Preăh Seihânŭ,
Sunday, February 19, 2012

From Kampot we took a bus back through to Sihanoukville and then what can only be described as an off-road tuk tuk along a dirt track to Otres Beach. I think we would have been a bit concerned about where we were going if we hadn't read online that this was entirely normal.  We arrived at Otres Beach which is a more relaxed strip of restaurants and bungalows along a lovely white sand beach.  We stayed at Mushroom Point and our bungalow was as the name would suggest, shaped like a mushroom!

So we spent the next couple days at the beach; swimming in the turquoise water which was perfect for me no currents and slightly warm and moving between the several different beach restaurants. 

We discovered that Cambodians here were another level of laid back, when it came to paying for the bill in restaurants they would have no idea of what was ordered and you could sit on the loungers for hours without being bothered about buying something from the restaurant.  There was also a constant flow of women offering massages on the beach or selling fruit, teenagers selling bracelets and sunglasses and children collecting plastic bottles for recycling (sometimes ultra keen, before you have finished the water but who could say no to them!?)  In this respect Jonny noticed Cambodia has seemed to have changed in the past few years as very few people will beg, they all have something to sell which I suppose is a start.      

In the evenings we could get a table on the beach beside the water for beers at sunset then head into a family run restaurant where the kids were helping out (of course after doing their homework and in between playing in the sand).  We liked these beach restaurants as you do feel that you’re in their home and plus they bbq’d fish on the beach for us!

Then it was off to an island called Koh Rong Saloem, a couple hours off the coast.  We didn’t get off to a great start as a part of the boat had to be repaired and so we arrived at the island a couple hours later than expected.  But at least we met the owner, an English guy that moved here 5 years ago and runs it with another English guy and his Cambodian wife and family.  Plus we were in time for sunset.  We had a wooden bungalow that was about 10m from the sea, with our own private path to the beach.  I especially liked that a pair of large lizards came free with the bathroom.  So whenever I went into the bathroom I would have a look around to spot them so I wasn’t surprised.  They seemed to live behind the mirror and apparently every hut has a pair.  There were hammocks outside so we could sit and listen to the sea and the rustling of crabs running about the beach.  There was a big sandy bay that was always pretty quiet as on the island there were only two other tourist accommodation options and both were pretty small

Unfortunately we only had one full day on the island, in the morning we took a walk across the island to see if we could find any wildlife. We didn’t see much, not even the heard of water buffalo rumoured to be roaming about but heard the birds in the trees and got to the other side of the island to find much of the same.  Then we came back across to our side for some lunch and then snorkelling in the bay where we saw lots of brightly coloured fish and some more unusual creatures including black spiky sea urchins and cuttlefish.  The beach itself although pretty, we even saw a monkey from the beach, does have it’s problems.  Every time the tide comes in, it brings in a whole lot of rubbish which is said to be from the night fishermen and it certainly looks that way.  The people that own our bungalows do try to collect the rubbish but don’t stay on top of it and so some guests were helping out.  We couldn’t decide what we felt about this as we were paying a decent amount especially for Cambodia but they didn’t have someone full time cleaning up the beach.  On the other hand the guests that were tidying had been there for more than a couple days so maybe they liked having something to do apart from swim and snorkel.

On our last night we were woken by thunder and lightning and heavy rain, not exactly the thing you want to here when you have a boat to get the next day but by the time we got up the thunder was almost gone and the sea was as still as a lake.  All very strange to us but the locals knew that this happened at this time of year.  Storms in the wet season, however, mean that they can’t always get the boat into the bay.

We really enjoyed our time on the island, although brief.  It’s exactly the type of place we wanted to stay at the beach and we struggled to find it in Vietnam and so skipped their beach areas. 

Developments by mainly Chinese and Russian companies are not so popular with locals and ex-pats in Cambodia for their tendency to built big flashy resorts with casinos etc.  Their latest venture in the area has been to build a bridge to one of the other islands (surely takes away the magic of an island!?) and built a big resort on it.  So the future of the bungalow-type places are a little uncertain as in a country like Cambodia, you can pretty much do what you want if you have money to throw at it.  The owner of the bungalows knows he doesn’t know how long he has here as he leases the land from the government so we’re glad we’ve seen it before the big companies hit.  Even Otres Beach back on the mainland has been earmarked for development and so could be (and has been before) bulldozed by the government with the aim of development.  The Cambodian families that were displaced now live in shacks just off the beach and I doubt they received any compensation from the government.  Hopefully some more thought will go into the development of this whole area rather than just seeing $$ signs.    
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