Another Side of Ochheuteal Beach

view from our restaurant

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My family and Cambodians in general squeeze everything they can get out of any holiday. When International Women’s Day rolled around last week, Sopheak kept the kids out of school and arranged a day at the beach. We went to the end of Ochheuteal Beach, near the headland/peninsula that separates it from Otres Beach. This is what it looks like from the road.

road at far end of ochheuteal beach

I’ve written about that end of Ochheuteal before, but focused on Sunset Lounge. We went to a more traditional “restaurant.” It was lovely. There’s a string of them at the end of the road that takes you to that end of Ochheuteal Beach. I claimed a hammock. There were three in our little space, but one went unused because it was in the sun.

view from our restaurant

This end of Ochheuteal isn’t entirely unknown. I saw several Westerners walking and jogging on the beach, but none of them stopped for refreshments. They turned around and went back to the Serendipity end of the beach. I was the only barang in any of these more traditional restaurants. We ordered a feast for seven people, but it didn’t cost any more than meals for two at a more upmarket restaurant on Serendipity Road.

I went for a swim. While I was swimming, I noticed a tractor and some workers just beyond the treeline. After my swim, I took a closer look. From what I can tell, they’re extending the pathway from the other end of Ochheuteal through the empty space that once was going to be a huge resort complete with a nine-hole golf course. It may happen one day, but it hasn’t happened yet.

workers making pathway on ochheuteal beach, sihanoukville cambodiaThat may be a road next to the pathway. If that happens, we can expect even more development on this end of Ochheuteal. It may be the end of the traditional restaurants on the beach. If that happens, I’ll be sad. It’s so nice to see these little restaurants thriving. This derelict building may be knocked down and replaced by a new resort, which will also take over the beach in front of it. I hope my imagination is getting the better of me, but fear I might be right. Big resorts are springing up everywhere in Sihanoukville.

derelict building near ochheuteal beach, sihanoukville, cambodiaAnyway, we had an idyllic day until about 3:30 p.m., when the tractor moved onto the beach. I have no idea what it was doing and hope it wasn’t installing sewage pipes. It was noisy and no one paid much attention to the children who got far too close to the tractor, which was digging sand and then swinging to the side and depositing it behind the ditch to create a break-wall. They didn’t want their work interrupted when waves caved in their trench.

tractor on ochheuteal beach, sihanoukville cambodiaWe put up with it for about half an hour, but decided it was time to head home. No one seemed too bothered by the tractor. Even I was fascinated by it. The wind was sideshore and blowing the fumes in the other direction and the tractor wasn’t too loud, but it was getting late and Sopheak had to go open her new bar. She has a buyer and I hope she sells it soon. It’s too much work and keeps her up too late.

While it lasts, the other side of Ochheuteal Beach is well-worth visiting. You may prefer Sunset Lounge or another place that has tables and chairs. If you don’t know Khmer, you probably won’t be able to order what you want in the little restaurants, but you might want to buy a trinket from a vendor walking up and down the beach.

vendor on ochheuteal beach, sihanoukville cambodia

Serendipity Road Revisited

Looking up Serendipity Road from the bottom

I’ve been having my afternoon coffee at Escape lately. I still like Artisan, but the sun is lower at this time of year and it’s sometimes hard to find a place in the shade. After two weeks of watching tourists, I decided it was time for a Serendipity Road revisited post.

Golden Lions, Sihanoukville Cambodia

It’s easy for me to step back in time and remember the first time I saw Serendipity Road. It was a narrow, rutted dirt road the first time I saw it. I was on a rented motorbike. I decided my motorbike skills weren’t up to the task of negotiating the road, so I continued up Ekareach Street. At that time, there was almost no traffic in Sihanoukville and most of it was motorbikes. Times have changed. Even at 1:00 p.m., when traffic is slowest, there were plenty of cars and motorbikes on Ekareach Street. As you’ll soon see, there were also a lot on Serendipity Road.

I took this photo to show that they’ve widened the top of Serendipity Road. They didn’t widen it as radically as planned, but the extra width helps. There used to be bottlenecks as you approached the Golden Lions. You still have to go around cars and sometimes buses, but the bottlenecks aren’t as bad as they used to be.

Serendipity Road Sihanoukville Cambodia top

Before continuing down to the pier, I stopped for a cappuccino at Escape. Actually I had two cappuccinos and a bottle of water. I’m reading a brilliant book and I couldn’t put it down. After an hour or so, I forced myself to leave, but not before I took this picture. It’s not as dark as it appears in the shade of Escape, but this is the view. Basically, the view is of the passing traffic. When I came here, most of the traffic was male and white. Today, we get tourists of all ages, sizes and races. As many women visit as men and I often see families and groups of older women.

Serendipity-Road-from Escape

I had to stop and take a photo from the top of Serendipity Road where it goes down to the pier. They paved it recently, which was a good idea. The old cement road was crumbling under the weight of the cars and trucks that rolled down it. Building is still going on on the road and some of the buildings are big.

Serendipity Road Sihanoukville looking towards the pier

New hotels on Serendipity Road, Sihanoukville Cambodia

Finally I reached the bottom of the hill, where I took a photograph of the pier. You can see the boats, but the throngs of people on the pier are a little harder to see.

Pier at the bottom of Serendipity Road, Sihanoukville Cambodia

Then I turned around and took this photo up the road. The bottom of Serendipity Road is clogged with tuk-tuks, motorbikes and cars. That’s the main reason why I rarely go to Yasmine for coffee. The views are nice, but it’s hard to find a place to park.

Looking up Serendipity Road from the bottom

I came back from my little tour of Serendipity Road marveling at how much it’s changed in just ten years. Sihanoukville was a haven for backpackers looking for cheap accommodation, cheap beer, cheap drugs and, sometimes, cheap prostitutes. I didn’t like walking down Serendipity Road in the past. Every tuk-tuk driver said, “Want drugs? Want girl?” They don’t say that anymore. They just say, “tuk-tuk?” The tourists are mellower, too. They seem to be here to enjoy the sun, the water and the islands.

The city is growing faster than I’d like, but I have to admit, it’s improving every year. One thing I love about it is that visitors come from everywhere. You see Chinese, Japanese, Korean, European, American and Australian tourists here. Most of the time, I don’t understand a word I hear around me when I’m having my daily cappuccino. Sometimes I recognize the language, but I have no idea what they’re talking about. I like the cultural mix. I think I’ll be staying here for a long time to come. As my book, Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese says: “Wasn’t that the definition of home? Not where you are from, but where you are wanted.” I have a family here and feel wanted. This is my home until or unless something changes.

Independence Beach Update

It was almost a month ago that I wrote about the big changes going on at Independence Beach. In the second paragraph, I speculated that they might be building a resort. Well, I was right and it looks like it’s going to be another mega-resort and I suppose condominiums. In preparation for the Water Festival, they’ve plastered signs across the site. Not a very good photo, but you can see from the picture that it’s another high-rise beach development.

Either I’m not very observant or they built this building in a hurry because I didn’t notice it last time I passed by. I assume it’s where people are meant to go to find out more about Blue Bay.

It took me about 20 minutes to get from Ekareach Street to the beach yesterday. They were already setting up stalls in anticipation of the Sea Festival, which starts on the 23rd. Trucks unloading products for the stalls were blocking traffic. I couldn’t take any pictures as I crawled through the traffic, but about 50 stalls were already filled with goods. I saw everything from clothes and shoes to gifts and one place was even selling mattresses. They were just getting started along the beach road. I was able to take this photo of one stall. They are all about the same size.

As I made my way towards the Hill, where I was going for my almost nightly meal at Irina Franca, I passed under this banner. It’s much smaller than the one on the other side of the beach, but I was tired of fighting traffic, so I didn’t go back to take a picture of the larger banner.

Also note the now completed sculpture on the left. There’s a wide footpath leading to the Independence Hotel pier. It looks like it’s going to be open to the public.

Next time I’ll give an update on Dao of Life. They’re moving down to the bottom of Serendipity Road. I think it’s a great location. Just have to take a few photos.

From Sihanoukville Port to Hun Sen Beach

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I’ve taken the road from the Sihanoukville port to Hun Sen Beach many times before, but never explored the nooks and crannies of the village by the water. One day it may be gone, so I decided today was the day I was going to take some photos. I’m glad I did.

hun sen beach sihanoukville cambodia I rode out to Hun Sen Beach before I started taking pictures, so this will be a tour in reverse. Hun Sen Beach is Sihanoukville’s widest and cleanest beach. I had no idea why it was so clean until today when I saw some people cleaning the beach.

My next stop was at a spot where some men were building two boats. There are two or three spots where you can see boat builders, but I didn’t want to get too carried away, so this is the only photo I took.

boat builders sihanoukville cambodiaAs I continued back towards Sihanoukville, I noticed a road and decided to take a ride down it to see what was there. I saw some houses on stilts hanging over the water. They had spectacular views, but I didn’t take any pictures. I couldn’t resist taking this photo, though. Yes, that’s wall-to-wall trash, but there was something too intriguing about the setting to pass it by.

boats near sihanoukville portMoving on, I came to another road and decided to see what was there. It seemed like a complete community. Some of the buildings were on piers. For some reason, there was no trash in the water here.

boat in water sihanoukville cambodiaNow I was getting closer to the port, but I had to stop and take a picture of this “boardwalk.”

wooden bridge in sihanoukville cambodiaAnd then my journey was over. I stopped at my favourite park. It’s near the port. The grass is overgrown and people don’t worry too much about where they throw their trash, but I love it. It brings back fond memories of my first year in Sihanoukville and it is one place where you never seem to see barang. Only Cambodians go there. I’ve posted sunset photos before, but it was long before sunset today, so I took a picture of the food stalls instead of the islands.

parkAfter a bottle of water, I returned home, but I’m kicking myself a little. I wish I’d gone further and taken more pictures. Eventually, the road takes you all the way to Steung Hau (sp?). I haven’t been out there for years. Maybe next week? We’ll see how the weather is.

The Road from Otres to Sihanoukville Airport

I’ve been wanting to take the new road from Otres to the Sihanoukville Airport for a while now. Today was the perfect day for it: no rain, a little overcast and windy. I was hesitant after a friend hit a rock and had a bad accident, but another friend told me it was smooth now. She was right.

road from otres beach sihanoukville to ream I told myself I wasn’t going to get distracted by new developments. It wasn’t easy, because I saw many as I rode my motorbike to Wat Otres, where the new road begins. I couldn’t help but take a picture of this mural on a wall just outside of Otres, though. I have no idea who did it, but it’s brilliant.

mural near Otres beach, sihanoukville cambodiaThe first thing I came across on the new road from Otres to the Sihanoukville Airport was this.

on road from otres to ream, sihanoukville cambodiaI was impressed but was more impressed when I came across this vista.

road from otres to battrang, sihanoukville cambodiaI took this photograph at a crossroads. I rode to the bottom, but turned around. I thought the other road would lead to a beach. I ran into a Cambodian man I know on my way back up the hill and he wanted to show me the 3 hectares of land he had bought, so I followed him to the bottom. He told me the road comes out at Route 4 in Battrang and was going to be paved next year. I’m glad I went today. I’ve been kicking myself for not taking photos of places before they’re developed. I didn’t see much of interest on his land, but after I turned around, I had to take a photograph of these cows. I suspect one day there will be a resort where this little shack is today.

road from otres to sihanoukville airportWhen I got back to the top of the hill, I went down the road I suspected led to a beach. I was right. It was a beautiful, unspoiled beach with only a couple of families having picnic lunches on the beach.

empty beach outside of sihanoukville cambodiaOther than that, it was completely empty. I loved it and plan on returning soon to enjoy a few hours on an empty beach swimming and relaxing in the sun.

empty beach between sihanoukville and ream, cambodiaIt reminded me of Maui, circa 1969. We used to go to Makeena Beach and swim nude. It was completely empty. A guy told me there’s a golf course there now. It’s getting harder to find empty beaches. No, I won’t swim nude (that was when I was a young hippie), but I’ll enjoy the natural, empty beach for as long as I can.

The BIG Sihanoukville News

Update 13 March 2016: According to the Khmer Times and other publications, it looks like the Sihanoukville beach vendors have been given a reprieve. I’ll keep you posted, but for now at least, it doesn’t look like their establishments are going to be bulldozed.

The big Sihanoukville news is that all those lovely beachfront restaurants on Otres Beach are soon going to be a thing of the past. The story broke on the Cambodia Daily on February 17 and was quickly shared on Facebook. Some beach establishments confirmed it, with one saying they would stay until their business was bulldozed. His words reflected those of a business owner quoted in the Cambodia Daily: “I’ll tell you what my reaction to this is: It’s that I will stay until they f—king shove me off here.”

Otres19Feb2016

The buildings on the right are apparently the ones that have to go

The article says:

According to a statement dated February 12 and signed by Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Yon Min, businesses on O’Tres and those on the southern end of O’Chheuteal have until March 13 to move out, citing environmental concerns.

Those that don’t comply with the order will be bulldozed. I know of at least one business that has been anticipating this since they set up shop on the beach years ago. They made contingency plans, but many others will simply have to close. One thing I’m not clear about is what’s going to happen to the businesses on the other side of the road. I knew the ones on the beach were on borrowed time, but thought those on the opposite side of the road were safe. Some of them have invested a lot of money in their bungalows and guesthouses and have made Otres Sihanoukville’s most popular beach.

According to Sihanoukville governor Y Sok­leng as quoted in the article cited above: “Those buildings are close to the sea—the construction should be more than 100 meters away. In fact, when the tide is high, it often touches the buildings.” The guesthouses across the road are a lot less than 100 meters from the beach, but I was under the impression they were legally there and were subject only to height restrictions so that high rise construction could take place on the paved road that runs behind and parallels the dirt road shown on the photo above.

I took a walk to the end of Otres1 and took the two photos shown below. If they remove all the establishments, it’s sort of a before and after picture of what Otres Beach will look like in the near future.

Otres before and after

Before . . . and . . . After

I guess it will be kind of nice to have more beach, but I feel for the businesses that have to go. Most of them have done a great job, providing good food and beverages and keeping the beach clean. True, you have to pay for the privilege, but if you just want to enjoy the beach, Long Beach (on the right) is always there for you.

Some of my friends agree with me that removing the bars and restaurants along Ochheuteal Beach might not be such a bad idea. Many of them attract a clientele that Sihanoukville could do without. Otres seems to attract more tourists who just want to enjoy the beach. When I went down there to take these photographs, I saw three kite surfers, several people sailboarding and more than a few Hobie catamarans on the water. When I stopped in at a restaurant for a coffee and a snack, they were playing mellow music and guests were quietly enjoying the sun and the water.

So that’s the BIG Sihanoukville news. I’ll be sure to take a ride out there on or after March 13 to see what’s happened. I will be sorry to see some of my favourite weekend lunch spots go, but if there is one thing I’ve learned here, it’s that anything can happen and probably will.

Secret beaches of Sihanoukville

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I read another “authoritative” article about the noisy, congested beaches of Sihanoukville the other day. As usual, it was by someone who came here for a few days and spent all their time on Ochheuteal beach. Since they spent all of a few days in the one spot, they decided they were an authority on the subject of Sihanoukville. They mentioned Otres as an alternative, but didn’t give any details and an uninformed reader would surmise that Ochheuteal and Otres were the only two mainland beach options in Sihanoukville. As you can see, there are others.

white rabbit beach panorama

This panorama shot is a little deceiving. Straighten out the beach and the lounges and you get a more accurate picture. As you can see, the beach isn’t such a big secret, either, but it might as well be if you’re the type who believes what they read in mainstream blogs and publications.

white rabbit menu

After I wrote The Mellow Side of Ochheuteal Beach, a local complained that she wished I hadn’t published it. I assured her that most backpackers didn’t visit my site, so the secret was safe. Just to be on the safe side, I’m not going to reveal where this beach is. The photo should make it obvious, but finding the entrance to the beach isn’t so obvious. I’ll give you a hint, though. I took the photo a few days ago when the wind was blowing hard on other beaches in Sihanoukville. This one was sheltered from the prevailing wind. I hung out at White Rabbit and enjoyed lunch and coffee between swims and reading. The weather took a turn for the worse in the afternoon, but the couple of hours I spent at the beach made my weekend complete. I’d just spent a marathon week of work and needed a break.

This beach was just one of three I could have chosen to spend my time at. I chose this one because I wanted a Western meal. Just down the road is an even more secret (to Westerners) beach, but the food is all Khmer and there’s not as much sand on the beach. Just up the road is another beach that has a stretch of empty sand next to a couple of Khmer-run restaurants.

These three secret beaches of Sihanoukville are within five minutes ride on a motorbike from each other. If I had more time and took my own supplies, I could go out of town and find completely empty beaches or beaches that are frequented by a handful of Cambodians on picnics only.

The point of this little exercise is to demonstrate how limited mainstream sites are in their coverage of any destination. Fair enough, your first stop should probably be a more frequented part of any city, but if hanging out with backpackers isn’t your thing, avoid the places backpackers tell you to go to. Instead, take the side roads and see what you find. If nothing else, you’ll have an interesting day and you just might find a little patch of paradise hidden away between the tourist traps.

The Mellow Side of Ochheuteal Beach

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The Phnom Penh Post finds it hard to say anything good about Cambodia, so I wasn’t surprised when I read the headline: Ochheuteal Beach is the worst tourist trap in all of Cambodia. To my surprise, I actually agreed with some of what the 2012 article said. “Ochheuteal is why the rest of Sihanoukville is unfairly tarnished as the creeping Pattaya of Cambodia,” the author wrote and I couldn’t agree with him more. I never go to that end of Ochheuteal Beach, but should go to the other end more often.

sunset-lounge-buddha-ochheuteal-beach

This Buddha greeted me when I rolled up to Sunset Lounge yesterday morning. He set the pace for the entire morning and by the time I finished lunch, I felt like I’d been on a spiritual vacation.

Sunset Lounge is located on the far end of Ochheuteal Beach, just below the headland. Cross over the headland past Queen Hill Resort and you’re at Otres Beach. I only had a few hours to spare, so I made the most of them. I chose a table in the shade on the grass just in front of the beach and went for a swim before ordering lunch. The friendly German couple who run the guesthouse/restaurant looked after my phone and keys while I swam. This is the view from my table.

sunset-lounge-beach-ochheuteal-beach

Notice the white sand beach. They don’t just keep the beach immaculately clean: they rake it, so I felt like I was looking at a Zen sand garden and almost felt guilty for walking across the sand.

It had been about a year since I last came here and Sunset Lounge has only improved. They closed it last rainy season to landscape the grounds and add two bungalows. When I asked them how business was, they told me they were full, but were going to close on May 13 to build more bungalows, so if you want to stay there (highly recommended!), you’ll have to wait till October.

After a delightful lunch, I went for another swim and headed home for a shower before my weekly writing group meeting. Speaking of writing, I’ve finished the first draft of my book and am now doing the hard part — editing. It’s gone through a couple of name changes. The first title was This Could be Heaven. Then I changed it to Serendipity Road. I like that title, but that’s just one reason why the group has been so valuable. Someone pointed out that it sounded like a romance novel and it dawned on me that you’d have to read the book to understand why I chose that title. The title’s on hold now, but something will come to me.

I left early and wasn’t able to enjoy the sunset at Sunset Lounge. I caught the sunset at the park near the port the other evening, though. Imagine this without the port blocking your view and you get an idea of how mellow watching the sunset from Sunset Lounge would be.

sunset-in-sihanoukville-cambodiaOne thing I can say for tourist traps is that they herd all the people I don’t want to be around into one small area. While the other end of Ochheuteal Beach is populated by “inert tourists, without exception clad in knockoff Ray-Bans and propping up their foreheads with their hands, lest they all pass out in unison and knock out their two front teeth on the table”, the mellow side of Ochheuteal Beach is sparsely populated by tourists thoroughly enjoying the best of what Cambodia’s beaches have to offer.

 

Email to an old Sihanoukville friend

When I came to Sihanoukville to stay in 2007, I felt out of my depth and did what most newcomers do — asked those who had been here longer than I for their advice. One of those people was a guy who had only been here a few months longer, but he helped me more than most, not because he had all the answers, but because he admitted he didn’t. What he had to offer was better than advice: he offered support.

He left Sihanoukville a couple of years later because he couldn’t make a decent living here. We kept in touch for awhile. Then he got married, had a child and we were out of touch for years. I heard from him recently and he wanted to know what life was like here now. I thought about writing him a lengthy email. Then I decided to write the email here so others could get an inkling of how much this town has changed.

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Hey –,

Great to hear from you! Everything’s good here. It’s too bad you started your business when you did because I think if you had given it a try now it would be much more successful. We don’t have a long, dead rainy season to ride out, for one thing. The numbers drop, but rainy seasons now are as busy as the high seasons used to be.

When you were here, activity was centred around the Hill, downtown and Serendipity beach. The Hill became a bit of a ghost town after they paved Serendipity Road and the road to Otres. I think they tore down the old bus station before you left. A lot of downtown guesthouses suffered because of that, but some hung in there and a few are doing well again. They keep their prices lower than places closer to the beach and some of them pull in customers because they offer good rooms and have good restaurants.

For awhile, the area around Serendipity Road was a zoo. It still gets busy, but people tell me most of the backpackers only stay in that part of town overnight before they move on to Koh Rong or one of the other islands. Those who stay longer term usually gravitate towards the mellower Otres beach, or so I’m told.

hill - paved

Yep. Believe it or not, this is the Hill

If I’d heard from you a few months ago, I would have said the Hill is the same as it was when you left. A few months can make a big difference here, though. The main road has been paved and even the bumpy road in the triangle has been cemented. Most of the old bars are still there, but some nice restaurants have been started, too. I wrote about the changes on the Hill in a recent blog, Victory Hill Gets a Facelift, so I won’t repeat myself here. Yep. Believe it or not, the picture above is at the corner near where your café used to be.

del marI think you had the first or second espresso maker in Sihanoukville. Well, they’re everywhere now. I wrote about that recently, too, in Coffee Houses in Sihanoukville. My favourite is Café del Mar. I wish I’d written that blog a few weeks later because there’s a new del Mar on CT Road, just a few doors down from the clinic outside one of the hotels there. Same great pastries but arguably even better coffee thanks to the state-of-the-art espresso maker they bought for it.

What else is new? Oh yeah. They’re widening the beach road between Sokha beach and Independence beach to make way for a monstrous development. There’s another one planned for Independence beach, too, but I’m not sure when they’ll get started on that.

I’m pretty sure one thing you’d notice if you visited would be how much more traffic there is now. It used to get a bit crazy at around 5 p.m. when all the kids were going home from work or school, but Ekareach Street is busy all the time now. Remember how we used to notice cars on the road? There are so many now it’s not a big deal. I went to Otres beach on Sunday and it seemed like there were as many cars as motorbikes, if not more. Otres has been divided in two. Between Otres 1 and Otres 2 is a long stretch of empty beach. On Sunday, cars lined that section of road from one end to the other.

I went to Otres to escape the Chinese New Year crowds, but the only way I could escape was by renting a Hobie cat. It was a perfect day for sailing. I headed straight out to sea and when I got to the wind-sheltered side of one of the islands, I just stopped for awhile to enjoy the silence. I couldn’t even hear a firecracker going off in the distance.

Remember that big vacant area behind my house? It’s full of houses now and there are two big new apartment complexes at the top of our road. Just down from there are two more and it looks like another one is going up closer to the main road.

I think you’d be blown away by how much Sihanoukville has grown since you were here. I am. I still remember wondering why Ekareach Street was so wide when I first came here. Now I’m wondering why it’s so narrow. To ease traffic and give new businesses a chance to take root, they’ve widened the road that parallels Ekareach Street a couple of blocks down from the Total gas station. It’ll be interesting to see what pops up along that road in the future.

Anyway, it was great to hear from you after so many years. Don’t worry about bringing your family here. A lot of families come to Sihanoukville now and some come to stay. Hope you and your family can make it here some time soon.

Cheers,

Rob

Christmas in Sihanoukville 2014

sailing off otres beach, sihanoukville cambodia

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On Christmas day, Sophie and I were in Psar Leu fighting the crowds. “Go Otres now,” Sophie said out of the blue. “Justin come now.” I wasn’t expecting him for at least another hour, but I’ve learned to listen to her when she says something like that. She can be amazingly intuitive.

Sure enough, Justin and Annameeka were checking in at the beautiful new Sahaa Beach Resort when we rolled up on our motorbike. Because of Sopheak’s exquisite timing, we were able to have lunch with them before they went to their bungalow to recover from their long, overnight flight and drive from Phnom Penh.

sahaa beach resort, otres beach, sihanoukville cambodia

Sahaa Beach Resort

That evening, Justin and Meeka took my advice and ate at Papa Pippo’s. They loved it and loved everything about Otres. When they came over to our house for lunch the next day, they told me how quiet and mellow it was and how friendly the people they met at the beach were.

lunch on 26 December 2014Over lunch, we made plans for the following day. I would come over at about 10 a.m. and we would go sailing. That and dinner at Maybe Later were the two things I wanted to do with him in Sihanoukville. Otherwise, I left it to him and Annameeka to decide what they wanted to do. Fortunately, sailing was on their agenda, too, so there was no conflict of interest.

The breeze was just starting to kick in when we got to the Nautica Sailing Club at Otres 2. I was as surprised by the new Nautica as they were. It’s been expanded since the last time I was there and is as much a bar/restaurant as a place to rent Hobie cats and kayaks now. After Justin and Meeka drank fresh coconut milk and I had a coffee, we headed out to sea with me at the helm.

sailing in sihanoukvilleI had big plans, but the wind died down, so after we got out to this little island, we turned around. Then the wind picked up again, so we turned around again. I made only a token effort to head towards another island, but my preference for speed won out over a desire for a change of scenery, so we pretty much just retraced our steps.

sailing off otres beach, sihanoukville cambodia

After sailing, we walked a few steps up the beach to Elephant Garden for lunch. Everyone agreed it was delicious and there’s no mellower place to hang out than in their restaurant or on their beach lounges. Now you can stay at the Elephant Garden Resort just across the road. I’m sure it’s just as well-run as the restaurant.

That afternoon, Justin and Meeka rented a jet ski. The guy put it in sports mode, whatever that is, and Justin said they went from zero to 35kph (or was it mph?) in about 2 seconds. How Meeka managed to take this photo is beyond me.

justin-meeka jetskiBefore they moved on to the Serendipity Beach Resort, Justin and Meeka managed to squeeze in a night at the Otres Market, which they thoroughly enjoyed. Things turned a little south after they moved to Serendipity beach, though. We had a great dinner at Maybe Later, but they said they could hear music coming from the concert up the road and fireworks going off at the beach all that night and the next. New Year’s is a three-day event here in Sihanoukville.

The next day was a bit of a catastrophe. They couldn’t get an 8:00 a.m. boat to Koh Rong, so they settled for a 12 o’clock one instead. It hadn’t arrived by 1:00, though, so they asked for a refund. Going all that way just to have an hour or so didn’t seem worth it to them. They finally got the refund, but the worst was yet to come. Justin sent me a message, but I didn’t read it, so we weren’t able to take advantage of the car Sophie had for the day and take them out to Ream. They ended up going to the free end of Sokha. That night, we all met up at Olive & Olive and had a great meal, but the day could have been so much better.

On the 30th, I rode out to the airport to see them off. Afterwards, I continued on to Ream, where I found a great restaurant in a beautiful spot. Then I went on a motorbike ride up the beach. I had a relaxing time, but it would have been so much more fun with them.

beach in Ream, near Sihanoukville Cambodia

My private beach in Ream

I don’t want to get all cosmic on you, but if you ever get a chance to read my book (shooting for June 2015 completion), you’ll learn that my best guide in life is a goddess I call Serendipity. . Sophie had worked at a wedding the night before and drove some of her police friends home in one of the cars they used to get to the party. The Mitsubishi Pajero was hers for the day. She wanted Justin and Meeka to change their plans and take advantage of having the car. Had we done so, Meeka could have gone snorkelling at the empty beach in Ream we took Jan Cornall to and it would have been nicer than Koh Rong, which is kind of a zoo now that it’s so popular. We barang aren’t very good at spontaneous changes of plans, though, so Serendipity’s gift to us sat in the driveway all afternoon.

Actual photo of Serendipity and her sister Fortuna

Actual photo of Serendipity and her helper

All’s well that ends well. Justin and Meeka are now in Siem Reap and having a great time. They loved Sihanoukville, too, except for the hiccough in the end. Can’t say fate didn’t try to lend them a hand, though. When Serendipity speaks, it’s best to listen. She’s a lot better guide than Lonely Planet or Trip Advisor.