Angkor Wat – for some travelers this is where Cambodia starts and maybe directly comes to an end again. Many keep traveling a little further into the country, usually on the paths of the awful history of the Khmer Rouge. Nearby the capital Phnom Penh, for example, you can visit the Killing Fields, where in times of the Khmer Rouge more than 200,000 people were brutally murdered.
Arriving in the early morning, just after five o’clock on the night bus to Sihanoukville, the loquacious tuktuk driver named Ken approaches us. Since the ticket office for the ferry does not open until 6:30am, he takes us first to a café. We sit down at a with tarpaulin covered street restaurant. In the backmost corner, the grandmother and her grandson are sitting on the bed, which is probably still warm from the last night rest. Leisurely the foam mattresses are rolled aside, while the mother prepares our morning coffee. Peppy with a morning grouch smile she throws our glasses onto the table, to the brim filled with ice cubes and only a little coffee with sweet condensed milk in them. I zip my jacket. Fresh morning!
After we exchanged family histories and paid our bill, Ken gets us to the ticket-office for the ferry. Here, we buy our 20 USD (18 EUR) ticket for the return trip.
For one last time we jump onto Ken’s tuktuk that brings us to the ferry pier. We’re early. A few Vietnamese restaurants or bars of hotels have already opened. A cafe right at the beach and next to the Gypsies Hotel leaps to our eyes. I cannot find a name, but it looks kind of like at home. It has not really opened yet, but soon we can order coffee and cold drinks. The highlight comes along a little later. Just in time for the arrival of many ferry passengers, baking tins full of croissants with chocolate or bacon are being brought into the cafe. The tourist rush onto it like flies. Yeah, right! Me too. And it’s delicious!
Around 9:30am we go on board the ferry. We stop at Koh Rong Samloem first, before we continue to our final destination Koh Rong.
Koh Rong – The Party Island
Upon our arrival at Koh Rong, the island instantly shows us, what it is famous for: its reputation as a party island. The restaurants at the pier serve burgers and pizza. A few steps further down the pier a dreadlocked Australian with dilated pupils invites us to chill in his bar. “No thanks“, first we want to find a place to stay and actually, this should be as far away from the party strip as possible.
A little along the white soft sandy beach, not yet too far away from all the bars, the Paradise Bungalows are located. Here we rent one of the bungalows on the beach for 50 USD (EUR 45) for the three of us.
Later, I learn that the Paradise Bungalows were built by Rudy, a German globetrotter and diving instructor. 2004 Rudy worked as a diving instructor in Sri Lanka, when he was seriously injured during the tsunami. After he was flown to Germany, he was put into a 17 days long coma. When he awoke, he decided to build his own paradise. Rudy researched and found out that Cambodia is rarely hit by natural disasters. As one of the first on the island, he built bungalows on the beach and a nice restaurant on the hillside.
The accommodations on Koh Rong are all quite spartan. Most of them only have electricity from 6:00pm to 6:00am. Compared to mainland, prices for accommodation and food on the island are quite expensive.
To distract the party animals from their hangover, this small island has much to offer. Besides snorkeling and diving, you can go on jungle treks to secluded beaches or go on a trip to the glowing plankton. There is even a high ropes course on the island.
Koh Rong Samloem – The Resort Island
It is a lot more quiet on the smaller neighboring island of Koh Rong Samloem, which you can also reach by speed ferry. There is an additional ferry operating between the two islands, leaving at 10:00am and perhaps at 12:00pm (That was quite a funny thing to hear, but that’s what they told me.). However, you can also treat yourself to a water taxi for 30 USD (26,50 EUR). The trip takes about an hour.
Arriving, we can tell that it’s a lot more decent here. There are basically no bars or nightlife on Koh Rong Samloem – apart from the monthly Full Moon Party at Saracen Bay. The main beach is lined with all different sorts of bungalows, most hotels call themselves resort. In fact, they are in contrast to the ones on Koh Rong well equipped, so you do not have spare your sundowner on the beach.
We stay at the Sol Beach Resort, which was only opened in October 2015. Having a closer look at the construction of the bungalows and the lodge, I suppose Canadians must be the owners of this place – everything looks flawless. Alomost: the owner, Steve, is an American.
On the beach in first row, you will find the bungalows suitable for two people. In the second row, the so-called tree houses are located. Those are bungalows that are built on high stilts, so you can even enjoy the sea view from here. Up to four people can stay in a treehouse, because there is another bed underneath the high roof.
Behind the tree houses, there are other bungalows with three bedrooms, which can sleep a family or a group of up to six people. All cottages are built in traditional Khmer style and have red tiles with white ornaments on each corner. Every cottage has a large terrace with a day bed and a table with chairs.
We make one of the tree houses to our own and I’m instantly impressed, the minute we walk in (no, this is not only because of the well-functioning air-conditioning). Besides the beautiful interior and huge bed, the bathroom looks quite fantastic and as I hop into the shower, shortly after checking in, I squeak in joy: this is what I call water pressure! In the last few days (almost weeks) my hair has become a mass full of shampoo residues.
Another very convenient fact at Sol Beach Resort is that you have electricity around the clock, unlike in our accommodation in Koh Rong. I love this place and since it is already dark and I don’t need not feel guilty, if I just relax in our tree house for the rest of the day. The beach will still be there tomorrow.
The next morning there is a buffet breakfast with a mix of local specialties and the typical continental breakfast. I scoop in everything quite fast, because the beach is calling loudly. Chop chop, we only have until 4:00pm until the ferry leaves this beautiful place.
The beach here in the Saracen Bay is also very suitable for children or non-swimmers, because you can paddle through the shallow water forever, before it gets deeper. I really wish, I could stay a few days longer.
A little tip in case you might go to Sol Beach Resort: check if they have Lychee Breezer on the special menu. if so: order one! It is an ice shake with lychees and mint; just right for a warm summer day at the beach.
All Facts about the Cambodian Paradise Islands in short:
- The speed ferry towards both islands leaves at 9:00am, 11:00am and 3:00pm from the speed ferry pier.
- The ticket is a return ticket and costs 20 USD (18 EUR)
- The ride takes about 45 minutes
- The ferries back to main land leave at 10:00am and 4:00pm
- Many travelers are arriving with the night bus at Sihanoukville bus station. Taking the tuktuk from here to the ticket office and further on to the pier costs about 3 USD (2,60 EUR)
- Koh Rong = Backpacker party island with a great offer on entertainment like snorkeling, djungle hikes or a visit to the high ropes course
- Koh Rong Samloem = For all, who like it more quiet. Here you will find many resorts, but no bars or nightlife. Our recommendation: Sol Beach Resort. If you like, they also offer a „door to door“ service, picking you up at Phnom Penh airport
Have you ever been to a beach in Cambodia? Even at the main land there are supposed to be beautiful beaches. If you have any tips, please share them with us!
Vielen Dank an Steve vom Sol Beach Resort für die Einladung und Gastfreundschaft. Wir hatten einen wunderbaren Aufenthalt!