KOH RONG: CAMBODIA’S BEST GET AWAY
KOH RONG: CAMBODIA’S BEST GET AWAY
Keep in mind, my last visit to Koh Rong was in February of 2012. I’m sure things have changed out there. When I made my first backpacking trip to Asia and I would tell people where we were planning to finish off our trip, most people hadn’t heard of it.
Flash forward 3 years to May 2015, while visiting the Krabi province in Thailand I met many travelers and we got on the topic of Koh Rong. It’s not a secret anymore. However I think it’s still a little off the beaten path for most visitors heading to Cambodia. Sounds like most make it Sihanoukville and don’t leave the coast.
Koh Rong is home to some very beautiful beaches backed by jungle with magical phosphorescent planketon glimmering out in the water in the evenings. It’s the perfect place to get away from it all and better yet, you can probably afford to visit the island! All this said, the worst two things I encountered: You will come across trash washed up on the beach unfortunately and well sand flies.
To visit the official page for Koh Rong and read some pretty up-to-date info on Koh Rong, along with accommodation bookings and ferry schedules head over to kohrongisland.org
There are several crossings from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong now daily. The slow ferry that takes about 2.5-3 hours leaves 2-3 times per day and a speed boat taking roughly an hour leaves 2 times per day. A round trip ticket for the slow ferry will cost $10 and the speed boat will set you back $20 round trip.
When I visited I arranged a bungalow by calling the number listed for the Monkey Island bungalows. At that point in time you could not book very far in advance or online. We went to their Sihanouville bungalow, Monkey Republic and arranged the ferry through them. It even included a pick up in a songthaew to the boat dock.
Food and drinks are not sold on the ferries, so bring snacks and water and plan accordingly.
WHERE TO STAY
There are several bungalows to stay at on the island. When I visited there were very few and there was the possibility (it was end of high-season) if you showed up with no arranged accommodation that there would be no vacancies. So in that event I’d bring a tent.
Many more places have cropped up since 2012 so there are now more options. Just know that accommodations are basic. I stayed at Monkey Island. Our bungalow had a light inside and one out back in the toilet/shower. And the lights only worked the few hours each day that the generators were ran.
Many places now offer wifi, which is a change from 2012. A fiber optic cable has been ran out there as of recent.
Expect to pay as cheap as $3 to 10 per night for a dorm bed in a hostel style room or $20 a night or more for a private room.
WHAT TO EAT
Everywhere that seems to offer sleeping accommodation also has a bar/restaurant attached. From my experience I can say that Monkey Island’s restaurant had great food all prepared by the owner’s wife, who is Thai. I was sent a few kilometers down the beach by a few who said Pura Vida’s Mango cake was to die for, and didn’t disappoint.
I didn’t find food and drinks to be too pricey on the island. Usually in the $3-4 a meal range.
WHAT TO DO
This just speaks for itself. Miles and miles or kilometers if you’re metric, of white sands and crystal clear water. This is where I’ll shut up. The pictures do the most talking.
Ok, so there is a dive shop that runs boats out where you can snorkel and dive off the coast. I did go snorkeling with the shop, and it was their very first voyage! It was $5 per person to go out there, we had been walking the beach and two Australian girls asked if we’d care to join them that afternoon and told us that this was the dive shops very first trip.
You can do some trekking around the island, however there are a few beaten tails but most places you might want a local to guide you.
In the rainy season there is a jungle waterfall, but if you go during dry season like I did, it will by dried up.
And then there’s the phosphorescent plankton. The same Australian girl who invited us on the dive boat is who told me about it. She told me to go swimming that evening and I’d feel like a fairy. And sure as shit you do!
At first I sort of moved my hands in the water and… nothing. But then something touched my leg, which me in water that I can’t see through… My only guess is that I’m currently being attacked by a shark so I start flailing violently. I felt more like an uncoordinated ninja fairy at that point. The water lit up with little green orbs.
And best of all (especially my visit in pre-wifi times on the island) you can get away from it all.
THE COUPLE THINGS TO BE WEARY OF…
1. I’ve heard of thefts on the island, but personally did not have any issues. Our room has a large box attached the wall where you could pop your own padlock on there. The bow was large enough to fit both our backpacks in. I just locked everything in there and didn’t think about anything until I had to pick up and leave back to the mainland. Not that anyone would dare want to steal my stinky, musty, sweat drenched clothes.
2. The water buffalo on the island have a bit of reputation. On the slow boat coming over we were told to stay away from them if possible. A tourist on the island got gored by one after accidentally spooking it while taking a photo. He ended up having to make the 3 hour voyage back to Sihanoukville where he was put up in the hospital and then got a major infection from something regarding the lack of infection control, and then had to be medevaced to Bangkok. So yes, I kept my distance from them!
3. Sand flies. We have these asshole bugs at home in Alaska. We call them noseeums. Anyways these are wild beaches here and there are sand flies lurking, waiting to feast on your tender, sun drenched flesh. The best way to combat these jerks is bug spray. I totally spaced it, we hiked one day from Monkey Island Bungalows to Long Beach. I had a nice long nap on Long Beach and awoke to hundreds of little red bumps all over my body. It was all fine and dandy until about 8pm that night when I was itching uncontrollably. Luckily the small village in town is used to idiots such as myself and keep Tiger Balm in stock.
I HOPE THIS HELPS ANY OF YOU HOPING TO MAKE IT OUT TO KOH RONG!
Have you been there and have anything to add? Let me know.