Serendipity means something good that happens by mistake. This could definitely describe my adventure to Koh Rong, a gorgeous island located about 25km off the coast of Cambodia. Due to a mix up with flights, I found myself with a few extra days to spend after visiting Sihanoukville. Tired of “Snooky’s” party atmosphere, I decided to grab a boat to Kong Rong instead.
Visiting Koh Rong turned out to be one of the highlights of my trip. The island is not fancy – it’s plagued by power cuts and there are no real ATMs (although you can withdraw money from a couple of EFTPOS machines). However, that is the appeal of the island – a chance to get away from our hectic, constantly connected 21st Century lives and instead slow right down. Life on Kong Rong is not about updating your Facebook feed or filling your days with endless activities. It’s about taking life slowly, and soaking in all of life’s simple pleasures. It’s a place to make friends, and most of all, to relax.
How to Get to Koh Rong
Getting to Koh Rong is easy. I got the fast boat from Sihanoukville, which at the time took under an hour and was about $20 USD. I hear that a new company has now started running boat trips and it is now even faster. The tickets can be purchased from any of the tour/transport offices around Sihanoukville.
If you’re not in Sihanoukville, you will need to get there! Luckily, that is pretty easy, although it might take awhile. There are bus services from most of the main cities like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, although the bus journey for the latter is pretty long (and the buses not that comfortable). You may prefer to fly, depending on your budget.
Most of the ferries stop on Koh Touch, which is the busiest of all the beaches on Koh Rong. Don’t be disappointed if at first glance Koh Rong doesn’t look like the island paradise you were hoping for – it is the busiest and most developed beach on the island, so lacks some of the charm.
Where to stay on Koh Rong
There are lots of options for where to stay on Koh Rong and it really depends on what you are looking for. Around Koh Touch, there are many budget accommodation providers, including hostels. They’re right next to the party area, though, so if you crave peace and quiet, they might not suit you.
The other option is to head further away, in search of a bungalow. This is what I did – just walk down the main tourist strip for about 15 minutes, and you will start to see numerous signs. Of course, you can also pre-book after looking online. We stayed at White Beach Bungalows, which were just what we were looking for – not too close, but not too far from the action!
It is certainly possible to get away from the crowds totally on Koh Rong. Although the island is not enormous, it is not tiny either, and there are plenty of quiet corners to really get away from it all. In order to get to the more far away places, you may need to get the boat to take you. One of the most remote (and beautiful) places is Lonely Beach, and there is an eco resort there.
What to do on Koh Rong
Relax! For the most part, Kong Rong is a place to unwind and take life slowly. The most exciting activity in your daily schedule might be lazing by the beach and finishing your book! There are also lots of nice restaurants and cafes which serve a range of Western and Cambodian food, as well as delicious cocktails and local beer. I fell in love with the delicious Fish Amok, an aromatic curry that is common all over Cambodia but seemed particularly delicious on Koh Rong.
If you are wanting to add a bit more in to your itinerary, there is an increasing selection of activities on Kong Rong. There are many water based activities – kayaking is a lot of fun, particularly if you adventure out to “Small Island” which gives you a bit of an arm workout as well as a sense of achievement!
There are also lots of snorkelling trips, as well as diving experiences for those who can dive (I, sadly, cannot, and didn’t want to pay to do the PADI accreditation). The snorkelling is great – the highlight of my tour was seeing a seahorse, and having a nice homecooked meal with my fellow travellers!
At night, Koh Rong becomes quite the party island near the main beach. The drinks are affordable, and the cocktails in particular are delicious. Just choose any of the many bars in the area, and you are bound to have a good time and make new friends. It is, however, pretty easy to get away from it if you’d rather not partake.
All in all, our trip to Koh Rong was amazing! The whole island has an atmosphere of fun, friendship and simplicity. You will find more information about Koh Rong Island at http://kohrongislandcambodia.com/ It certainly reminded me of why I love to travel, and I hope to return one day.