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Cambodia

Sihanoukville: The Hidden Oasis of Cambodia

28 Apr 2022 By Rahuldev Rajguru

When talking about a Cambodian beach paradise the first image that comes to my mind is Otres Village! This quintessential coastal village in Sihanoukville was my favorite weekend getaway during my extended stay in Cambodia. This beautiful city had my heart the first time I visited and I went back a couple of times when I used to live in Cambodia. This coastal city boasts of pristine white-sand beaches and azure waters that add to the charm of this rustic yet happening backpacker’s paradise.

Located in southern Cambodia, the city is named after Norodom Sihanouk, the former king of Cambodia. It is located at the junction of two rivers, the Prek Kampong Trach and the Prek Teuk Chhu. Founded as a port in the 1950s, Sihanoukville grew rapidly into Cambodia's third-largest city after Phnom Penh and Battambang. The city is home to several beaches, including Ochheuteal Beach, Serendipity Beach, Victory Beach and Independence Beach. These beaches attract both local and international visitors, who come for the sun, sand, and sea. There are also several restaurants and bars located along the beachfront. It is also home to several local attractions, including the Ream National Park and Wat Krom. Additionally, the city is known for its charming colonial architecture, which can be seen along the city's main street, Sihanouk Avenue. Being just a 4-hour drive from Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville is easily accessible and was a great way for me to enjoy some leisure time.


Relaxing on the gorgeous sandy white beaches in Sihanoukville enjoying some 'me time'

Otres - Cambodia's beach village

As a passionate traveler, I always seek new and unique experiences. On one of the weekends, my friend and I were pondering on where to go and we chanced upon Otres Village which is about 25 kilometers before Sihanoukville. It is the perfect place for an offbeat experience. The village is located on the Otres River, and there are a number of beautiful beaches nearby. In addition, the village is situated close to a number of restaurants and bars, making it the perfect place to relax and enjoy the Cambodian lifestyle. It has beautiful white sand beaches and is known for its relaxed atmosphere and beautiful sunsets. I have spent many weekends in this gorgeous place away from the hustle and bustle of city life, unwinding and enjoying the natural beauty of Cambodia.


A plethora of these handmade masks adorn the local markets in Sihanoukville


This charming village has been attracting backpackers and long-time tourists for years and it is easy to see why Otres is known as a backpacker's paradise.The village is home to a diverse community of Russians and Europeans, as well as a number of hippies who have made Cambodia their home. Expats have started small homestays offering budget rooms to travelers who look for long-term accommodation. These properties range from 3-10 rooms with a small restaurant. Otres also has luxurious properties for those seeking exclusive experiences.


These huts with a rustic exterior with comfortable interiors is a common sight along the beaches in Otres

Pachamama - an eco-friendly retreat

My favorite sojourn in Otres Village was Pachamama, a charmingly landscaped guesthouse run by an equally charming Brit mother-daughter duo Sylvia and Steph. Their vivacious and charismatic personality was evident in the atmosphere of the place as well. The hippy-rustic style decor complimented with plastic recycling and other sustainable practices creates a blissful ambience.The riverside accommodation was comfortable and affordable at about 25 dollars a night. It is an ideal place to relax, socialize and have a good time.

Simple, comfortable and affordable accommodation at Pachamama


Rustic accommodation of Pachamama merges perfectly with the surroundings, offering the ideal place to relax and rewind


There was an excellent restaurant serving some of the most delicious authentic vegan food. Pachamama was well known in Otres for the variety and excellent quality of vegan food served, which was cooked with care. I could not ask for a more harmonious atmosphere to spend my weekend where the accommodation, food and surroundings were perfect.


The ambience at the Pachamama restaurant was like a sanctuary with its wooden structures, greenery and warm decor


The sitting-deck of the restaurant and the open air yoga studio overlook a secluded 50 meter-wide river with a beautiful mangrove forest on the other side. I was thrilled when I was told that kayaks were available to rent and explore the mangroves. We saw many guests indulging in the adventurers and taking a memorable boat ride through the mangroves, one of the most incredible experiences ever.


A kayak ride from Pachamama meandering through the mangroves is an incredible experience



A riverside cafe on board in Otres village with the backdrop of mangroves plantation

Otres beaches - some of the best beaches in Cambodia

Otres Beach is divided into two separate areas: Otres 1 and Otres 2. Otres 1 is busier than Otres 2. They are one of the most beautiful and idyllic destinations on the coast. With its pristine blue water and white sands, it is a true paradise. Unlike many other popular tourist beaches, Otres was relatively untouched by luxury hotels or big tourist crowds. Its quiet, peaceful charm was apt where I enjoyed some quiet relaxation.


Otres Beach is a lesser known gem in Sihanoukville


Another aspect of Otres that sets it apart from other beaches is its incredible seafood. Whether you're craving fresh grilled fish or juicy oysters straight from the ocean, you can always find something delicious to satisfy your taste buds here. There are plenty of underwater activities for adventure junkies to indulge in. There are plenty of islands surrounding the place as well and one can take a boat ride to explore them. My favorite activity though was to lounge on bamboo swings on the beach taking in the exquisite sunset.


The million hues of orange that dawn the sky at sunset in Otres beach is mesmerizing

Otres Night Market - multi-cultural entertainment

Come Saturday night and the sleepy town of Otres comes alive with the Otres Night Market. It is a carnival of international cuisine, craft cocktails and live music, all set against the backdrop of the open-air festival vibe. There are performances happening everywhere and the floor is open to anyone who would like to take the stage and display their talents. One of the performances that had my attention was the fire dancers. Cheap beer flows freely and new friends are made easily, making the night market the perfect place to let loose and have some fun. It is an incredible atmosphere with diverse cultures amalgamating to create a multicultural extravaganza. People travel from other villages to come and be part of this weekly experience.


The Otres Night Market is a multicultural extravaganza that travelers must experience

Ream National Park - inside the preserved wildlife of Cambodia

Being a nature lover, a visit to Sihanoukville has an added attraction for me, the Ream National Park. It is located about 20 kilometers from Otres Village. Prek Teuk Sap river flows through the park. A must-see for any nature lover, the park is home to a variety of flora and fauna, including mangrove forests, tropical dry forests, and coral reefs. Visitors to the park can take a boat ride on the river, which offers stunning views of the surrounding mangrove forest which is home to crocodiles, turtles, and fish.


Boat ride in the river that bisects the mangroves forest


We took the boat tour that was around 1.5 hours and explored mangroves of the area. At certain locations, there were platforms built to enter the mangroves and we also climbed the watchtower. This is one of the most photogenic places. During our visit, we were the only tourists hence it was a leisurely and peaceful trip. We experienced one of the most spectacular estuaries with an amazing biodiversity on our boat ride.


A relaxing and adventurous boat ride in the Ream National Park that I thoroughly enjoyed


Visitors can also spend time hiking through the forest or snorkeling in the crystal clear waters. The park is also a popular spot for bird watching and one can often spot rare birds such as the Milky Stork and the White-bellied Sea Eagle.


The elevated platforms in the midst of the mangroves offered a vantage point for an amazing view

Kbal Chhay Waterfalls - a glimpse of Prek Tuk Sap river

Just outside the city, is located the Kbal Chhay Waterfalls formed by the Prek Teuk Sap River, which flows over a series of limestone cliffs. It is easily accessible by road, but the 10-km approach leading to the waterfalls is muddy and unpaved with potholes, so drive with caution. We visited the waterfall in between the wet and dry season when the waterfall was cascading beautifully and was a stunning sight.


The gushing Kbal Chhay Falls made for a perfect photo op session


While it is said that the best time to witness the waterfall in all its glory is during the wet season, the falls are still impressive and well worth a visit during the dry season as well. These are a series of tiered waterfalls which makes for a perfect picnic spot. We visited the place in the morning and optimized our trip from both experience and photography. There are several viewing platforms where you can take in the beauty of the falls. For the more adventurous, there is the option to swim in the basin where the waterfall ends. There are no restaurants here, however, you do get local food in the open ground.


The sight of the Kbal Chhay Falls cascading down the limestone among the greenery was incredible

Wonderful Serendipity

In an effort to increase tourism, Cambodia maintains a very simple and easy visa process. This has attracted a multitude of travelers, many of whom have stayed in Sihanoukville for extended periods of time and even started small businesses. Over the years, Sihanoukville has undergone plenty of changes and it has been modernized a lot in terms of the infrastructure and other factors. The well known Pachamama is unfortunately closed now but there are many places similar to it that have cropped up catering to travelers. The changing landscape of this tranquil haven is impacting its charm but Sihanoukville will always be close to my heart, a place of solace and rejuvenation.


Frequently Asked Questions:

Can you visit Otres Beach without making an advanced reservation?

Yes, you can visit Otres Beach without making an advanced reservation. However, there are a few things to keep in mind. It's best to visit during the off-season. You can enjoy a beautiful day at Otres Beach and indulge in amazing seafood dishes.

What are the must see things in Otres village?

Otres village is located in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. It is situated on the banks of the Otres River and is home to diverse flora and fauna. It also offers visitors a glimpse into traditional Cambodian life. The villagers are friendly and welcoming, and the streets are lined with shops and restaurants. Visitors can also take part in a number of activities, such as fishing, kayaking, and bird watching.

What is the best time to visit Otres village?

The best time to visit Otres village is during the dry season, which runs from November to April. During this time, the weather is sunny and dry, and the beaches are at their best.

How to reach Otres village from Sihanoukville?

Otres is just 10 km from Sihanoukville center. The journey should take approximately 20 minutes in total. There are a number of private taxis and tuk tuks that operate between Sihanoukville and Otres village.

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