Your guide and tips to Koh Rong Samloem by Beth
In all the years I spent dreaming of Cambodia and its jungle-tumbled temples, I never gave much thought to the rest of its landscape. I suppose I had some small sense of the damage wrought by the Khmer Rouge and I think I once read a novel about the French occupation, but I had no idea about the islands. The Koh Rong Samloem will take you by surprise.
Sharing the Gulf of Thailand with the much better known Thai islands (think full moon parties and booze cruises), Cambodia’s tropical islands fall to the South, closer to Vietnam, and offer, for now at least, a quiet paradise with minimal development and maximum peace.
The biggest, Koh Rong, has absorbed some of it’s Thai relative’s party vibes, so I’d opt for Koh Rong Samloem, a crescent shaped island about 35minutes by ferry from the almost unpronouncable Sihanoukville. You can opt to stay where you land; Saracen Beach offers the long view back to the mainland, cute resorts, multiple sea swings and as many coconut cocktails as you can stomach.
Hike to seclusion
If though you’re more like me and crave fewer people and more space, you can hike 45 mins over the spine of the island and seclude yourself at the idyllic Sunset beach.
The hike is not to be scoffed at. It’s through literal jungle, uphill then down, on tree root stairs and humid as hell. The monkeys are reportedly a menace. If you have a case, hire a boat or a porter. If you have a backpack, take plenty of water. 3/4 of the way there you’ll probably curse yourself for having not just stayed on the fun beach, but then you’ll get there and forget you ever complained.
Clean and calm beaches
White sand, intensely salty turquoise water and silence were what greeted us. Wash the hike off and float in the sea before finding a bungalow to dump your stuff. There are a few places to stay along the beach. Robinson Bungalows offers great Khmer food and good value accommodation with some friendly resident cats. Sleeping Trees has a livelier bar scene and Huba Huba rounds out the offering. Sandwiched between is a well equipped dive shop with kayaks and paddleboards to hire, and coral reef guided snorkel trips available.
Relax by the waters
Once you’ve got the lay of the land, settle in and enjoy it. Read a book, have a drink, snorkel and get to know your fellow Sunset Beach dwellers. Participate in some seaside yoga if that’s your thing, or just loaf in a hammock and wait for the sunset to do its thing.
Once you’re fed, relaxed and the sun is down, go out for one last wade in the water before bed, and enjoy the bioluminescent plankton that make every movement look like magic. Sleep soundly with the jungle sounds and then get up and do it all again – it’s paradise after all!
Politics job by day, dancing by night, thinking about her next adventure 24/7, Beth is based in London. She lives with her cat and writes about her travels to preserve the memories and help others not make the same mistake she did; not leaving her home country for 25 years! Read more on her website
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