Koh Rong is currently one of THE hotspots of South East Asia.
It’s a little island off the Coast of Sihanoukville in Cambodia and is developing quickly… so quickly in fact that in the time since I’d booked accommodation and arrived (less than 3 months), there were already two new accommodation spots on the island, with another one being built.
The thing that is drawing people there in droves is that it is being touted as what Thailand’s Southern beaches were like 30 years ago, before the touts, the resorts, the rampant sex industry. I know that’s what got me there along with the fact that I could stay in a treehouse, lounge in a hammock and do little else for the duration of our trip.
The Island has been sold to a developer who is going to turn it into an eco resort… before I went I had strong feelings that this simply shouldn’t be allowed to happen, but after our visit, well, things have changed.
The island has beautiful resources – pure white sandy beaches that are 28 degrees celcius warm during the day, undisturbed jungles in the middle of the island and dive sites in the warm waters. It is a haven from this mad and busy world.
With the level of building currently going on, though, how can this be preserved? The island is growing in popularity and the number of guests growing… as is the amount of sewage, food required, number of boats… on and on. This is not being managed to preserve the natural beauty of the island at the moment, or so it would seem, so having a managed plan might actually be the best way of preserving the unique elements of the island… but then, apparently there is a golf course planned, so perhaps not.
We stayed for two nights in a treehouse bungalow (US$30 a night), which was magical, even if our bathroom made us squeamish. It’s not the Ritz, for sure!
On our full day, I paid $75 for two refresher dives from a boat (group of 3 with one dive master and a DM in training) and for the boy to snorkel. The boy didn’t enjoy the snorkelling so much, so I skipped my second dive to hang out with him and do flips off the back of the boat… still major fun and super inclusive. We were stung by jellyfish spores, which sounds a bigger deal than it was, but stayed in the water anyway. I have a video of the boy jumping in and rising to the surface in a pile of bubbles, but no need to bore anyone!
On our second full day we lounged in the water, hammocks, beachside cafes and more. We swam so much in that turquoise water and caught up with people we’d met on the boat. There is a smug kind of smile that every guest shares on the island, like we’re the ones that have discovered a secret paradise and know how lucky we really are.
It was also the only place on our trip that I really felt comfortable enough releasing the boy off his big Western leash. The man assisting me with our booking gently chided me for babying him too much, a sweet reminder that I’m attempting to grow a person, not a child.
Ohhh, a few more things about the island:
There are dogs everywhere.
There are two Khmer island communities… These are townships made up with corrugated tin homes, boilers, single room houses and the trappings of poverty. This is a community that is currently reaping the benefits of cashed up tourists who are too lazy to do their own laundry (like me. I paid US$1.75 for all of the boy and I’s clothes to be washed by someone else). It’s not for the faint hearted, though, as the smell is intense. It offers bonuses, though, like the wedding we got to witness!
I guess the big thing is, ultimately, whether we enjoyed it or not. That is an absolute no-brainer. We loved it and cannot wait to return with my beloved spouse as soon as possible. I don’t know if we’ll stay on Koh Rong on the busy side, again… I think we’d either stay on the other side of the island or on Koh Rong Samloen. For this trip, though, being close to people was important as it was just the boy and I.
I seriously miss this Island way of life so much and the idea of it being years before we return makes me immeasurably sad. Sooner, rather than later is the order of the day for Koh Rong.
How to get to Koh Rong:
Catch a 2.5 hour ferry from Sihanoukville. You can liase directly with Koh Rong Dive (who operate Treehouse Bungalows and Coco’s) or book through one of the Sihanoukville travel agents.