Today I decided I didn’t want be anywhere that involved wearing shoes.
I had been walking up the north side of the beach to reach the ones it connected to, Ochheuteal and Serendipity, the two main tourist beaches. I had already spent two days relaxing and exploring the totally empty southern beaches and wanted to see if the party scene here was as abrasive as I’d heard.
I reached the northern end of my beach and climbed a staircase through the forest, then started a descent down a road covered in pointy rocks. I wasn’t wearing anything on my feet, and navigating further would be painful and slow. I was at an impasse, and I scanned the horizon to see what exactly I was walking towards. It looked like more beach bars and guesthouses, and I knew beyond that was the nightlife and noise that I was curious about. I could turn back and retrieve my sandals and try again, but I decided screw it, if it means putting on shoes (which I had neglected since my arrival) I’m not interested.
The pace of Otres beach is completely intoxicating, a relaxing and inviting energy that can suck you in and hold you hostage to the outside world if you’re not careful (and you shouldn’t be). The weather is perfect, the water refreshing, and the sunsets picturesque. When I first got to my hostel I asked the Australian guy at the front desk what there was to do around here. He gave a small laugh and responded, “Everyone asks that on their first day.” I get it now. I’ve spent 72 completely aimless, pointless, amazing hours here so far, and have no real motivation to seek anything else out, which is not typically my style. Everything I need is within strolling distance - I haven’t even left the beach yet.
After I settled on my no-shoes mantra I returned to my beachfront guesthouse ($4.50/night), left my belongings on a beach chair, and entered the surf. Unlike my last beautiful, insanely-relaxing beach, there are actually waves and a current here, so you need to stay on your toes and can’t fully relax in the water for too long. I didn’t mind since I only wanted to rinse the sand off and then soak up the sun on a chair as I dried. I was doing that, reading a book, when one of the local massage ladies who roam the beach approached me. “Hello my friend!” she beamed at me, and three persuasive minutes later I was lying facedown on the padded beach chair, two meters from where the waves were crashing ashore, working on my tan, while she was kneading coconut oil into my back (“I make special – for you!”), for $5/hr. And just to heighten the beauty of the moment, behind me the bar had started playing the Geto Boys’ “Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta”.
When I’m not growing or moving forward in any way, when I’m wasting my days doing nothing, I often start to feel restless and need to move on. But not here. Otres beach, Cambodia, you win this fight in a knockout. I’m not going anywhere (especially if it involves wearing shoes).