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).