Two hours from the coastline of Silhanoukville and four kilometers south of Koh Rong Island sits Cambodia’s tropical paradise, the untouched Koh Rong Samloem, where white sands, turquoise waters and uninhabited beaches await you…
I’m not Silhanoukville’s biggest fan despite having an amazing time there with a great bunch of new found friends. At times it felt too sleazy and debauched, bar workers walked around town like zombies on a bad comedown and there were far too many stories of lady boys robbing male westerners. But it is the gateway to the two beautiful Koh Rong islands and for that reason alone, you should pay it a visit.
I joined an all-day boat trip as a way of exploring the islands quickly in order to get a taste of the Koh Rong craze I kept hearing about (I’ve often rocked up to an praised island only to be disappointed). Since I didn’t want to join a booze cruise (I’m getting too old to join the beer guzzling youths nearly 10 years younger me), The Party Boat was the next best option. It’s not crazy as the name suggests, but it’s more upbeat than your average boat ride with a sunbathing deck, funky music and a relaxing atmosphere.
The first stop was off the rocky shoreline of Koh Rong Island where we had half an hour to snorkel, dive and swim in the warm waters. Although it was slightly disappointing that we didn’t get to see the coastline, in the end it didn’t matter.
Because nothing could beat Koh Rong Samloem.
Landing at Saracen Bay, I’ve never seen a beach so breathtakingly beautiful. The clear blue waters swirled across the white sands in a snaking pattern that formed tiny circular sandy islands and warm water pools. The sea glowed with a range of blue hues under the glorious warmth of the sun and the entire coastline was quiet, except for the soft lapping of the waves on shore.
It was pure perfection, a haven of relaxation. Wandering down one side of the beach, there was nothing but one bungalow overshadowed by a curve of palm trees. I had the beach to myself as leisurely soaked up the tranquil atmosphere, watching tiny crabs scurry into their holes as I tip toed over the untouched sands.
At the other end of the bay were two bars and a small handful of accommodation options (private bungalows and dorms) yet there was not a raucous atmosphere. For now, Koh Rong Samloem remains a semi-untouched paradise island. It is said that many parts of the island still remain uninhabited and alongside a fishing village there also exists a marine conservation programme.
My only hope is that the serene beauty of this destination does not get ruined and overrun; isn’t affected by the rumble of multiple boats turning up each day to ferry across dozens of passengers; doesn’t succumb to the ugly of waste and other eyesores as a result of booming tourism. I am longing to return here for a few glorious days in the near future, even if there isn’t any Wi-Fi (I know, I know – us bloggers, eh?). My guess though, is that I will need to do it very soon.
Instead I choose to overnight at Koh Rong Island.
Even though I had fallen in love with Koh Rong Samloem, I hadn’t seen the Koh Rong shoreline at all. Its closer proximity to the Silhanoukville coast (one hour) was also more convenient and it’s often talked about as one of the most beautiful places to visit in Cambodia.
Although not as stunning and peaceful as its smaller sister, Koh Rong is indeed beautiful and not very crowded – it appears Silhanoukville still a firm grip on caging the crazy partygoers. It teams with local life here, making the island feel very exclusive and not overly westernised. Unfortunately the beach is not entirely secluded as nearly the entire shoreline is lined with accommodation – you can choose to reside in a dorm (Koh Rong Backpackers being the most established traveller haunt), a private hut or a more expensive, private hillside bungalow right at the very end of the beach. The quiet beach on the other side of the island, where the sun also sets, will cost you a $5 boat trip each way in order to reach it.
I wouldn’t rule out a trip to Koh Rong, even if for a day trip to escape the trodden tourist path of Silhanoukville. It’s a gorgeous little island yet its on the cusp of becoming too touristy and where you have to pay for serenity. In Koh Rong Samloem is just exists naturally, which is why I will certainly be heading back there before the wonder of its isolation is lost forever.
The Party Boat leaves from the Serendipity Beach Pier daily and costs $20 for the full day including a lunch and a token for one free drink. Tickets can be booked via bars and tour operators in the Serendipity beach area and at the Pier.
Ferries to Koh Rong cost $20 return and leave both Silhanoukville (pick up available outside Koh Rong Divers) at 7am and 4pm and Koh Rong Island at 10am and 4pm daily.
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