Sihanoukville, the main seaside town of Cambodia, doesn’t have very nice beaches (except for Otres beach that we liked) or great atmosphere. But from Sihanoukville you can get to the nearby islands that are not yet too affected by civilization. We only visited Koh Rong, although there are several other interesting islands — well, maybe we’ll go there next time.
Koh Rong is considered the most developed Cambodian island, but it is not really that developed. There are no roads (and no transport), the electricity works a few hours a day, and there are no big hotels — only guesthouses and bungalows. There are 28 beaches on Koh Rong, but only one of them has some kind of infrastructure — the others have one or two guesthouses at most.
You can get from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong on a speed boat, it takes about an hour. Honestly, this boat is one of the most painful forms of transport in the world. It sways very strongly on the waves, and because of the strong spray they close all the windows — so there isn’t enough fresh air inside. There seems to be another option — a slower boat that takes 3 to 4 hours to get to the island — but we’re not sure that this boat brings less suffering. Anyway, Koh Rong is worth the trip. We managed to swim back and forth two times: once by ourselves, a month later — with Natasha’s brother Dima and our new friends from Germany: Sebastian, Anne and Hannes. We met all of them in Ho Chi Minh city and then traveled together for almost a month in Cambodia.
The ship docks to the main pier on the island — the most developed beach Koh Rong is located here. There are many colorful boats near the pier.
To the left of the pier is the local village; to the right, until the end of the beach, various guesthouses and restaurants are located. The housing and food is cheaper in the village than in other places: you can eat a noodle soup for a dollar, and drink a coffee for 50 cents. A fruit shop at the beginning of the local village is one of the most popular places on the beach, where a beautiful woman makes shakes and fruit salads all day long. Sometimes her husband replaces her, but he is not that professional.
You can rent a bed in a dorm for 6 dollars, a simple room for 10 dollars and a separate bungalow for 20-60 dollars. The further from the pier, the more expensive is the accommodation.
It’s mainly backpackers who go to Koh Rong, so in the evening there are parties, cocktails and loud music. So it’s not a good idea to live right near the pier (unless you plan to join the partying). The first time on Koh Rong we lived right near the pier, and we suffered a little from the loud music.
The second time we lived at the furthest point of the main beach, and it was great.
Sebastian, Anne and Hannes — our German friends — lived in bungalows located high in the trees (and they were terrorized by monkeys).
But our first bungalow had one distinct advantage: a black cat and three black kittens lived there.
At night they were catching rats quite noisily — there are a lot of rats on the island, as well as other living creatures: we got acquainted with the giant insects (thank you, mosquito net!), lizards, dogs and even monkeys who stole things from the balconies of high bungalows.
During the second visit to Koh Rong geese lived with us — they bathed in a basin of water where people washed away the sand from their feet.
Also, buffaloes live on the island.
During sunset the sun is not visible on the main beach of the island, unlike in Sihanoukville — but the light is still very beautiful.
People at the sunset — Natasha and Dima.
Dima and Anne.
Anne, Natasha, Dima and Sebastian.
Although you can’t see the sun at the sunset on the main beach, you can meet the dawn. Andrei took photos of three sunrises.
Andrei met the second sunrise with Dima, Hannes, Anne and Sebastian. Natasha slept through all of the sunrises.
Andrew also wasn’t lazy to get up at three in the morning and do some night shooting.
The main problem at Koh Rong and probably at any other Asian beach is garbage. Here and there are bunches of garbage, bottles, some old shoes, and no one really cares about it. Young backpackers that come here don’t improve the situation with all the drinking (yes, we are grumpy old people), but the locals don’t really care about the purity of the island either: while the main beach is usually clean, but the local village is very dirty.
Some more sad news: people say that the island was bought by a Chinese company which plans to build luxurious hotels and make some golf courses (seriously, golf?!) Now all is quiet, but it is sad that this island may soon become very different.
But for now Koh Rong is a small secluded world where you can escape from everything. Internet on the island almost never works, and at some point you just stop trying to check the mail; and then even charging the phone becomes unnecessary. You also forget about the hot water (that is rare in all parts of Cambodia). There isn’t much to do in Koh Rong except for sleeping, lying in a hammock and walking from one beach to another; but in the end it is very, very difficult to leave Koh Rong.
We also don’t want to stop writing about Koh Rong (besides, we have too many great photos), so in the next post we will show some more remote beaches of the island. It’s very beautiful there, we promise.