I never heard of Koh Rong until someone told me about the islands of Cambodia. It was quite surprising for me to know that as I had always associated Cambodia primarily only with Angkor Wat. I forgot all about Koh Rong and didn’t even mention its existence to anyone else, until a few months later, my boyfriend planned a one week surprise trip to both Koh Rong islands.
Andy and I took an afternoon flight from KL to Phnom Penh (we nearly missed this flight, thanks to me and basically we ran as soon as we stepped off the KLIA Express). We didn’t do much, walked around the streets after having two special happy pizzas, although I was pretty doubtful on the ‘happiness’ part since I didn’t feel anything.
Next day, we took a van to Sihanoukville, it took a whole morning with only a 20min break once during the trip. When we reached Sihanoukville, it was lunchtime.
My quick impression of Sihanoukville is that it’s a small town by the beach, and there are fast boats nearby that will take you to Koh Rong. Too simple, I know! But I was there for less than 24 hours.
The fast boat ride didn’t take long, around 45 mins. Once we arrived in Koh Rong, we got off at a new wooden pier, and you’ll be right on the beach in front of the main shops, backpacker hostels and restaurants.
There’s no road, or pavement, so with every step I took with my flip flops, I felt like sinking into the sand even more with my huge backpack. I couldn’t take off my flip flops as that particular area of the beach was full of trash and sharp objects but after we got further ahead to the more secluded part of the beach, I could slip off my flip flops and walk.
We stayed at Paradise Bungalows. It’s owned by a German, so needless to say, everything was clean and efficient. The bungalows were on top of a small hill and we had quite an amazing view of the beach from the veranda in the lobby.
Koh Rong does not have electricity, they run on generators. Therefore, during the day, the lights go off at a specific time, even the fans, so there’s absolutely no staying indoors! The bathroom was very basic too, with a little bucket to help you wash yourself along with a very weak shower. Clean water is valuable and everything here is quite eco friendly so everything needs to be used wisely and at the right time!
But with a view like this, why stay inside? I was just recovering from chicken pox so our activities were quite restricted. I would have loved to go diving or snorkelling, even kayaking (yes, they have this activities available) but I didn’t want to worsen the appearance of my scars so my days were pretty much spent in the shade on the beach, watching Andy have a swim and sunbathing.
The beaches at the main strip of restaurants and shops are a bit dirty and trashy due to uneducated people who leave their litter about after sunbathing/partying.
Don’t be discouraged, Koh Rong can still be stunning if you walk up the beach away from the village and buildings to more quiet beaches. Be careful of sandflies though, as we got a few bites when we sat at this beach.
There are a lot of young backpackers here. Like Koh Pha Ngan, they have their own version of the Full Moon Party too in Koh Rong. Andy and I planned to go although we might have arrived too early as we were also unsure where it was exactly. So, we hung out at a bar to wait for any signs but unfortunately, we went back soon after as I didn’t feel well. So much for our first Full Moon Party together!
In Koh Rong, I had my first taste of this tasty delicious Cambodian dish, Amok. It’s something like curry? It’s rich in flavour as with all curries, but less spices than the usual Indian curries. It’s usually served in banana leaves and it’s to be taken with rice. We had the best Amok in Paradise Bungalow restaurant.
We also had a pretty decent seafood paella with sangria at Ashia, located on the main beach. I like it even though Andy and I agreed that it was a bit dry. It was quite pricy but for the ambience, it’s nice and romantic as you are sitting directly on the beach underneath the stars.
Oooh, fruit shakes! I got addicted to mango shakes during this trip, and to this day, nothing beats the mango shake at the village area of Koh Rong. Tip: Buy mango shakes from the locals nearer to the village, they sell it cheaper and make it fresh. Such a delicious treat on a hot day!
Coco’s Bar has a lot of choices for western food like burgers. We had lunch here on our last day and one thing that is still stuck inside our heads to this day is the amazing Coco’s special, a chocolate peanut butter banana milkshake. Who knew such a combination could be sinfully delicious?
Before I forget, Koh Rong (KRS too) only accepts cash. There is no ATM on this island so make sure you have enough cash with you to pay for the hotel, food and etc. Andy had to make a quick morning trip to Sihanoukville just because we overlooked this. It’s best to confirm with the hotel owner beforehand if they would like extra as deposit too, just in case.
Koh Rong Samloen
After 3 nights in Koh Rong, we headed to another island, Koh Rong Samloen (KRS). KRS is a much quieter version of Koh Rong. Once you walk off the pier and stand on the beach, you can truly appreciate the almost untouched beauty of this island.
We stayed at Huba Huba, which we had to trek into a jungle to get to other side of the island. The boats only make one stop on the island so if you wanted to get to the other side to the sunset beach, you had to either hike or ask a local/dive boat to send you.
The second option was impossible as the beach was virtually empty when we arrived, so we had no option to hike. I was dreading it as I was not feeling well, but surprisingly there is a clear path in the jungle although we had to climb up and down a few rocks along the way.
The place where we stayed were managed by French people, who welcomed us with drinks. The hotel is very isolated, there is no wifi and like Koh Rong, the lights are turned on at night and we used collected rainwater to shower. We saw a huge lizard one morning but hey, we are in his home after all. There are only 2 other places on this side of the beach so we were practically alone most of the time and had the beach to ourselves.
The sunset is spectacular. People would hike the jungle like we did to see this view, although I would advise to do it with someone if you don’t mind hiking it back to the other side in the dark.
Unfortunately, the beaches were a bit trashy however the staff will make an effort to clean the beach every morning, they also explained that the current was strong during that time and it kept pushing the trash from Koh Rong. Although, we found a clean spot on the beach! The water is as crystal clear as Koh Rong but the sand not as powdery white on this side of the beach.
On our last day, we went back with a dive boat from the dive center on our side of the beach since we didn’t feel like hiking all the way back to the other side. Bad decision. The boat was soooo soooo slow, I was dying multiple deaths of boredom.
And we didn’t even reach the pier in Sihanoukville. We reached a different pier at sunset too.
Our night in Sihanoukville was very short but pleasant. The owner was very helpful and friendly. Although we stayed a little too far from the main area, the beach was directly across our hotel. We wanted to eat seafood but we ended up eating nothing as there were no restaurants nearby so we just drank Coke on the beach underneath the stars. I would recommend the Sunset Lounge if there are looking for a private place away in Sihanoukville.
Sadly, we left the next day, back to Pnom Penh for our flight back to Kuala Lumpur. We took the same pickup service that got us to Sihanoukville.
This trip was memorable for us both as we got to fully spend time with each other with no interruption from Facebook, Whatsapp and etc. We barely had any wifi connection in both islands and the break was truly welcomed. Although at the end of the trip, we were thrilled to go back to civilization, back to a good plumbing system.
Despite the reputation that Koh Rong is building for itself as a backpacker island, it’s still a place worth visiting if you know the right location to appreciate it. People have to take care of this island. If you call yourself a beach lover, please protect the environment and don’t litter! Share the beauty.
Koh Rong Samloen is perfect for a little hideaway but I would recommend to stay on the main beach across the pier unless you don’t mind hiking to and fro in a jungle to get to the other side of the island. There’s no place like KRS if you want absolute tranquility and fully connect with nature.
Andy made this video for this trip (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yIrulV_GtU) and don’t hesitate to click through his other videos! He also made a video of our trip in Vietnam. Don’t forget to watch in HD!
He will guest blog soon to write about his travels as well although he is a bit occupied for a few months since he’s traveling in India now. We worked out an agreement that I would ghost write for his adventures in Myanmar, Laos, India and Singapore.
*disclaimer: all photos and video are duly credited to my amazing boyfriend except perhaps a couple of the pictures was taken by me