We almost didn’t come to the island of Koh Rong (‘rong’ means cave in Khmer), since getting there was a bit of a logistical nightmare. The ferry schedule didn’t line up with the flights from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville (the closest mainland city to the island), or the busses from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penn (where Becca needed to be in three days to catch her flight back to the states.) Moreover, we had heard stories from other tourists of being stranded on the island for days due to bad weather.
We crossed our fingers and decided to give it a go anyway. This meant spending the first night in Sihanoukville, a city infamous for having some of the worst crime rates in all of Southeast Asia. While fortunately we didn’t see any crime, we did find this unexpected awesome Mexican place just a few blocks from our hotel.
Just as we were finishing our meal, a torrential downpour started outside. Like most of the other patrons, we decided to wait it out with margaritas and their Rambo-themed bathroom.
The next morning, we caught the first ferry to Koh Rong. We had heard that the island was like Ko Tao twenty years ago, before development really picked up, and it (mostly) lived up to that expectation. There are no roads, no cars, and just a couple motorbikes on the island — so we traded off dragging Becca’s wheeled suitcase all the way up this beach to our bungalows.
The small “downtown” consisted of a row of about 20 bars and restaurants (a number of which openly advertised “happy” cookies), and the overall vibe was very friendly and laid back.
Our bungalows were right on the ocean in a wooded area about 15 minutes walk from town.
From our rooms, we had fabulous views of dramatic clouds over the ocean and the nearby island of Koh Toch (toch mean ‘small’ in Khmer).
The path to the bungalows was lighted with these pineapple lamps, which we only later realized were made of plastic spoons. While we could see some trash around the island, there was significantly less than in other places we’d visited in SE Asia. It seemed like the locals and expats were banding together to come up with some really creative ways to keep the island clean and sustainable.
Becca had just one full day on the island, which we spent reading on the beach, taking a mind-blowing nighttime boat trip to swim in the bioluminescent water, and getting to know the many friendly dogs and cats that frequented the restaurants and bars along the main drag.
We had to say goodbye to Becca the next day, but we decided to stay longer. We enjoyed the beautiful laid-back surroundings so much we might have stayed an extra week, if it wasn’t for the lack of AC (no central power generation) and spotty internet (the whole island was without for about half of our stay) which made planning and working rather difficult.
We spent our extra two nights picking up some trash from the beaches,
and kayaking to Koh Toch to snorkel. We saw lots of different coral, sea anemone, and crazy-colored giant clams, but as usually happens when we go swimming – we forgot to take the GoPro! The corals and marine life on Koh Toch seemed like it was in good shape (especially compared to Ko Tao).
Our last night, we watched a pirated copy of Game of Thrones (from a waitress who was wearing it around her neck on a USB stick) while it stormed outside.
Fortunately, the storms didn’t interfere with the ferry, and Becca made it home and we caught our flight onwards to the capital of China!