After over a month of intense inland and city travel we were absolutely over the moon to be heading to the coast. On our four hours turned six-hour bus ride down to Sihanoukville we watched as farmlands changed to palm trees, mango and banana plantations. Tuk tuks are the primary form of transport in Cambodia consisting of a motorbike with a carriage-like trailer extension. We piled into one of these and bounced around with our luggage towards Otres beach of Sihanoukville. Sihanoukville is the coastal town on the mainland and not much to see in and of itself, but we were using it as a one night stop over before catching the ferry to our ultimate destination: Koh Rong. A gorgeous island.
Our accommodation at Otres beach, Sihanoukville was amazing. Boho hostel was colourfully and quirkily designed with a warm, sparkly blue pool to relax in.
We spent what was left of the day on white sands under palm trees and swimming in the flat warm water til our fingers went wrinkly. We were all salty, sandy and extremely happy.
The next morning we got a tuk tuk to the port and caught a one hour speed ferry across to the paradise island of Koh Rong. Now I don’t use the word paradise lightly. Koh Rong is quite literally the epitome of a tropical island paradise. Think long white sandy beaches, swaying coconut palms, exotic and brightly coloured fruits, crystal clear blue waters host to bright tropical fishies and of course the laid back lifestyle of ‘island time’!
We stepped off the boat and I couldn’t help but exclaiming at the beauty of the colorful boats bobbing up and down on turquoise water.
We walked along the beach with our backpacks for a few minutes and arrived at Paradise Bungalows. After checking in we walked a few metres away from the beach to our jungle bungalow, home for the next three nights.
We spent our first afternoon gazing out at the brilliant blue water as we lay on the beach just outside our accommodation. Luke was absolutely itching to dive into the water so we donned our snorkels and masks and dove in for an underwater adventure. We found some rocks home to a wide variety of tropical fish with all sorts of different colours and patterns. We were both filled with absolute joy and discovering a completely new ocean and all the treasures it had to offer. Nic joined in the fun for a bit too and we waded back in, HOURS later, salty and content.
The beach was dotted with restaurants where you could eat dinner on a round wicker chair with your feet in the sand. For both lunch and supper ate at one of these places and tried some delicious traditional Khemer food including Amok, curry and Lok Lak.
For our first full day on Koh Rong we decided to do the one hour hike through the tropical jungle to Long Beach on the other side of the island. The humidity began to take its toll as we walked through dense jungle, sweat running down our bodies. The moisture was soon replaced with tropical rainfall as we swung downwards on Tarzan-like branches. Drenched we arrived at Long Beach, 9km of postcard perfect paradise!
The rain subsided as we walked along the white sand to find the best place to relax for the day. We settled and cooled off in the bluest water I’ve ever seen. The gentle waves created the effect of a thousand diamonds lying on the seabed. We found treasures of a different kind though as we dived into the underwater world. A black baby seahorse, intricately patterned shells and crabs.
After lying in the sunshine and soaking up many good vibes we walked along the best trying to find somewhere to grab some lunch. Long beach remains untouched for the most part with very little development and long stretches where you seem to be the only ones on the beach. It felt like Koh Rong’s best kept secret. After a few kilometres we finally came across a beach restaurant with swinging chairs, hammocks and massive portions of fried noodles. We sat for a while and just breathed. I love how there is no agenda here other than to explore beaches and relax.
After lunch we sauntered along for another few kilometres before spreading ourselves out on another gorgeous part of this beach. We snorkeled around finding even greater treasures of pansy-like shells, green & black striped fish, purple & yellow dotted ones and a beautiful sea-snail, all through the filter of brilliant blue.
Nothing quite beats the feeling of swimming around being able to take peek into the most incredible underwater life. I’ve always been a water baby and the ocean is my ultimate happy place. Luke shares this passion entirely, if not even more, and is studying to become a marine biologist. It brings my heart the greatest amount of joy!
The sun began to set and the tones turned pastel as we buoyed around in the ever warm and still sea. An absolutely blissful day in true tropical paradise!
And then things turned around a bit for the worse. We were under the impression that we’d be able to catch a taxi boat back to our beach after sunset from along the beach. Sok San village at the end of the beach was the busiest part and we’d seen boats coming and going from there all day. We’d walked the whole 9km beach over the course of the day and had arrived at Sok San village. After asking a few people tho
ugh it became apparent to us that there weren’t any boats going back to our beach. The taxi boats left from Long Beach after sunset: but Long Beach was only the little bit of beach right at the beginning, 9 km away now! it was looking like we were stranded on the wrong side of the island as nobody wanted to make the trip after dark and especially with the storm brewing. I got tearful and worried about how on earth we’d get home. The boys took charge and we found someone who would take us. But it would be a ‘private charter’ and would cost us 40$ instead of the 5$ we’d been expecting to pay. It was exorbitant, especially for backpackers on a very very tight budget. But there didn’t seem to be another option and so we agreed, getting onto the boat and ploughing through the torrential downpour as we crossed the bay, lightning lighting up the sky and thunder the soundtrack to our horror movie. There was no light on the boat and we were just trusting that our broken English conversation with the captain would send us in the right direction. We huddled together, drenched and cold, wondering how on earth we’d managed to get this so so so wrong.
We got home safely and the only damage was to our bank accounts. But it was an experience, one which we can laugh about now and tell stories of in the future.
Koh Rong is the kind of place that backpackers travel to and never leave. There’s a massive expat community here with lots of foreigners working at restaurants, hostels and boat companies. There’s a really chilled out and mellow vibe with a very young, backpacker community. We felt like we slotted right in!
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