Having tackled the madness of Bangkok, wowed ourselves with the wonder of Siam Reap & Angkor, and immersed ourselves in the history of Phnom Penh, we both felt the need to get involved in some serious R&R!
Our research had lead us to Sihanoukville, the most popular coastal destination for tourists in Cambodia. The area boasts a number of beaches, and as with everywhere else in Cambodia the accommodation was extremely affordable! However, one evening in Phnom Penh we met a couple who were also heading to Sihanoukville, but they were actually just using it as a stop gap before they set sail to one of the islands off the coast. They recommended an island called Koh Rong, Cambodia’s largest island and, apparently, paradise! From their descriptions and a little bit of research we were sold, onwards to Sihanoukville before, hopefully, finding our own little slice of island paradise.
Again the preferred mode of transport is a bus, and 6 hours later we found ourselves at the familiar stage of batting off tuk tuk drivers while trying to unload our baggage from the bus. Here things were slightly different, apparently all of the drivers in Sihanoukville have made a pact and they charge a flat $5 fee from the bus station into the town-rather overpriced for the region, but there simply was no haggling.
It did come as some surprise when the driver that we did choose lead us to a car-honestly travelling in a car is something that felt quite alien after the last couple of weeks of various motorbike based transport or buses. Still, after a long bus journey we weren’t complaining and we set off for our guesthouse in the town, at this stage you get the usual sales patter from the driver-everyone gets a commission for everything over here.
Upon arriving at the guesthouse we were happy to find that it was very nice-free pool, free Wi-Fi, nice restaurant and fantastic beetroot smoothies! Settled and fed, we set off to try and find some accommodation for Koh Rong. It’s at this point that once again our plans changed, it would seem that Koh Rong is no longer the semi-deserted paradise that it once was, while it is still supposed to be gorgeous, it became apparent that Koh Rong is now a party island, and the desired R&R sanctuary may not be found here. Instead we were directed towards Koh Rong Samloem, an island which is pretty much next to Koh Rong, however with only a few guesthouses on the entire island it seemed to be the only choice for our retreat. Accommodation booked, hi speed ferry tickets bought, it was just down to us to pack our stuff again and get ready for our island adventure.
We ended up staying in a jungle hut about 20 meters from our own private beach, with no hot water, no wifi, no phone signal and electricity only between the hours of 6-11PM…..We’d found it, bliss!!!
Needless to say there isn’t much more to say about our four days here-I’ll just share some photos instead 🙂
It would seem that tourism is on the up here though, with more developments on the island planned and the local village being somewhat impacted by the current influx of divers, it remains to be seen how long Koh Rong Samloem will stay as it is. There are initiatives which are being put in place to protect the coastline, so hopefully these will prove effective and the island will offer the same sanctuary to others in the future!
During our time on the island we had become friends with the team of diving instructors that had arrived the day after us. They were a group of guys from a diving school in Cyprus, and were going to be running the school on the island for the next four months. What a life, following the sun and working in amazing places around the world!
On leaving the island and setting off for Sihanoukville again, the guys from the diving school were also taking a trip to the mainland to get some supplies and go out for some beachside local seafood, so we organised to meet up with them so they could show us the local way of dining out! Queue the most amazing feast of crab, tom yam, clams and prawns on the beachfront with the locals-seriously the best seafood of the trip so far. If I’m to be honest I probably wouldn’t have eaten at the venue if it weren’t for the guidance of our new friends, it was all a bit confusing, daunting and a little bit crazy-but it was absolutely delicious! The evening continued with something of an over-indulgence on cocktails and laughter, a fantastic end to our Cambodian beach and island chapter!