After spending 3 days in Siem Reap (you can read our impressions here) we finally decided to head towards south, with a plan to get some proper sunshine and celebrate New Year’s on the Koh Rong island, known as a little Cambodia’s paradise.
There are many companies operating between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh but backpackers should be aware of scams especially on the night buses for example people getting robbed or been forced to travel in a very dodgy conditions. However Giant Ibis buses operate on Siem Reap-Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville route vice versa, their service is really efficient although we recommend to book your tickets in advance – we almost ended up paying 70£ for a one way flight to Sihanoukville due Christmas season.
Boats to Koh Rong leave from Serendipity Beach Pier in Sihanoukville and once we got our tickets we rewarded ourselves with a margarita in Dao of Life, vegan café with a perfect setting for lunch, situated right next to pier. Their menu features great selection of fresh whole foods for a reasonable price.
It takes around 45 minutes to get to Koh Rong by Speed Ferry Cambodia and you would be surprised how scary this journey can be. While boarding we were given life jackets and most of the people were really excited, taking lots of pictures and opening their cans of beers. In the beginning it all seemed to be fine, but half way waves became so big and the journey turned into a living hell so everyone dropped their party mood immediately. We didn’t have much choice, as to obey the situation and hope it won’t last long. Arriving to the island soaking wet but happy to be in one piece, the first thing we did was a shot of tequila in one of the beach bars!
That time we were visiting our friends from London, Karolina and Marco, who also decided to travel around South-East Asia and found a temporary jobs in one of the resorts on the island. First impressions about Koh Rong – wow! It’s a pretty small island and after westernised beaches of Thailand, we found Koh Rong not touristy or too crowded.
What we liked the most was that you can easily walk everywhere and reach secluded KK beach (our number one spot for sunbathing), walk through the forest between magical bungalows, play with local dogs which happen to be everywhere, see sparkly phosphorescent plankton visible only at night, greet magnificent sunsets and sunrises with a stretch on the beach.
Such a great place to celebrate New Year’s, we were enjoying company of fellow travellers, sipping incredibly cheap cocktails and listening to familiar techno tunes from one of the bars. I still remember Koh Rong Ice Tea which was made of 5 different types of spirits! We were happy to spend a few days on the beach, chilling in the sun and drinking water from coconuts. It was perfect oasis to recharge our batteries for upcoming backpacking trails in Vietnam.
Koh Rong has a couple of vegetarian cafes, but sadly we got sick after having couscous salad in one of them. We heard and read that a lot of people get the common virus after visiting the island and Cambodia in general so maybe that’s something you cannot avoid overall? It was a bit of struggle to cope with, but fresh coconut water saved our asses and we finally decided to return back to the main land.
A couple of things to note if you are planning your visit to Koh Rong Island:
- There is no proper working WiFi – perfect place to stop the endless scroll just for a few days.
- There are no ATM’s. Take enough cash with you, although some of the bars do loans.
- Most of the beaches are full of sandflies, but you can prevent the bites by covering yourself in coconut oil. It doesn’t repel them, but the layer of oil will stop them from biting.
- Last boat leaves the island around 5pm so make sure you plan wisely if you need to return to the land!
Sihanoukville remains dirty and full of trash, literally everywhere you turn. We had a little breakdown when we saw how much plastic was laying along famous Otres Beach. However, if you are planning to have a little stop before you head to your another destination, these are a few places worth a visit:
- BOHO Hostel – we stayed here for one night, clean rooms, friendly staff, rooftop bar, great place to hang out for drink or two
- Pachamama – vegetarian restaurant, stay in their bungalows and go for a morning meditation or yoga class!
- Peace Food Café – unique menu, small business runned by lovely owners, best smoothies in town!
- Bamboo Bar & Vegetarian restaurant – lots of veggie and vegan options, good value for money!
- Stray Cats – another cool place to hang out and meet fellow travellers, they also play live music on Tuesdays!