Paradise Lost: Cambodia’s beaches and islands

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I spent my first 10 days in Cambodia on its beautiful, isolated beaches.  First I stayed on Koh Rong Samloem, a small island off the southern coast that is less touristy and less developed than its big brother, Koh Rong.  Then I stayed in Otres Beach, a gorgeous, chilled-out, unspoiled beach just east of Sihanoukville.  The water was warm and crystal clear.  The town of Otres consisted of one dirt road about half a mile long that was lined with beachfront bungalows and restaurants.  The towns were relaxing if you wanted to relax, but if you wanted to get funky, you could find a party.  Chill out by day, party by night… or just watch the stunning sunset, grab a glass of wine, and keep chillin’.  It was definitely the highlight of my 2.5 weeks in Cambodia.

Sadly, all the businesses that own hostels, hotels, and bungalows along the beachfront may own their buildings, but they do NOT own the land.  And this valuable land is being bought up, primarily by Chinese real estate companies.  I just found out a few days ago that all the beachfront bungalows in Otres Beach are being demolished because a Chinese company purchased the land and is ready to start building a casino resort.  I was just there 3 weeks ago, staying at Pappa Pippo, a place with very comfortable bungalows and an amazing Italian restaurant right on the sand.  News of the demolition makes my heart ache.  Otres Beach was probably my favorite place in Cambodia.  It was a place I didn’t want to leave.  And now it’s not there.  And in a year or two it will be a giant Chinese-run resort.  What will happen to the local people who owned or worked at these fantastic seaside lodgings?

Development can be both a blessing and a curse.  I understand that.  But in this case, I think that it’s a curse.  The loss of Otres is a huge loss to the Cambodian coast, to the locals who worked there, and to travelers who will never get to visit.  And if that isn’t bad enough, Cambodia’s islands might be next to go.

See below for photos of Koh Rong Samloem (still there… go while you can!) and Otres (going, going, gone).

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Koh Rong Samloem

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The beachfront bungalow at Mad Monkey Hostel, where I stayed on Samloem

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Koh Rong Samloem

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Koh Rong Samloem

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Koh Rong Samloem

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Koh Rong Samloem

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Snorkel tour on Koh Rong Samloem

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Snorkel tour on Koh Rong Samloem

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Mad Monkey Hostel, Koh Rong Samloem

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Koh Rong Samloem

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Ocean playground at Mad Monkey Hostel

 

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Otres Beach

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Otres Beach

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Otres Beach main road

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Otres Beach

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Otres Beach babe

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Otres Beach babes

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Getting a $5 pedi on the beach… heck yeah! Also, this woman completely healed my ingrown toe nail.

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Sunset on Otres Beach

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Otres Beach dog

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Otres Beach

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Bye-bye, Otres Beach

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4 thoughts on “Paradise Lost: Cambodia’s beaches and islands

  1. This just makes me so sad. There are so few unspoilt places left in the world, why can’t we protect them!? I’m so glad you were able to experience such a beautiful place before it is destroyed…thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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