Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Day 73 - Otres Beach; so much more than a tourist beach. (Cambodia)

I briefly touched on the topic in the post of Day 69, but now I will share some more about what we learned during our stay at Otres Beach. 

The road to the beachfront takes you past a small shanty town of shacks made predominantly from corrugated iron and wood, and before we knew anything about the place we were struck by the obvious poverty of the people living in this community.

We chose to stay at Moonlight Rock Guesthouse, mainly because it was the cheapest, most relaxed looking, and had the friendliest staff; but after spending a few days speaking to Chris, Vanja and Heino about the area, we were sure we had made the right decision. Chris has been at Otres Beach for three years and in that time he has learned a lot about the area and the people, and has found himself part of the local Khmer family.

Some time ago, the villagers inhabiting the shanty village we drove past when we arrived at Otres Beach were evicted from their land by the government; some of their houses even burnt down with all of their belongings still inside. They have been working on rebuilding their community, but with minimal resources and money it is very hard for them to do so. Chris, Vanja and Heino, along with a handful of other proprietors on Otres Beach have taken it upon themselves to assist the locals where they can. They have already helped them in building sustainable homes, providing some jobs, and raising funds to erect a self-composting toilet block on wheels. Many of the people were sick with diseases such as malaria or dengue fever, so they have all been given the opportunity of treatment and vaccinations.

Moonlight Rock Guesthouse is a new establishment, only four months old. Before this Chris had another guesthouse on Otres Beach, but like the locals, he too was was evicted from his land by the government. It is now a blank space and they’re not sure what the purpose of emptying it was. There are many other examples of this type of thing happening all over the place. In fact, it’s likely that the entire beachfront will be claimed by the government within the next few years.

The current project that money is being raised for is to provide each home in the village with a water filter that can produce 1-3 litres of purified water per hour – plenty for a family to survive on. They are looking for a total of $675 which will be enough to buy around 100 of these devices, and really assist in the next step of helping this Khmer community. If anybody would like to donate financially, or find out some more information about anything to do with this issue, I would urge you to contact Chris at http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Moonlight-Rock-Resort-Beach-Bar/233323310050287, or you can check the website about this specific project at www.hyrologichealth.com .

And certainly if you’re planning on being anywhere near the South of Cambodia at any point, I would highly recommend Moonlight Rock – whether it be to stay there, or just to have a chat or a meal. The kitchen – staffed by locals – produces the most amazing food. The variety is so wide, the standards were so high and the portions were so huge, that we really couldn’t bring ourselves to eat anywhere else. A week later, I'm still struggling to.

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