Stories about unspoiled beaches, bioluminescent plankton and hidden paradises are told about the Cambodian coast, obviously enough reasons that most Cambodian traveler want to go to the coast at some point. After spending two nights in Phnom Penh, I decided to take my shot and travel around 4 hours to the coast of Cambodia. While the coast is far less developed than similar places in surrounding countries (Hello Thailand!), some cities are very touristic and not always in a good touristic manner (Sihanoukville) though. Luckily I found a newly opened and promising Hostel, Monkey Maya, situated around 35km away from Sihanoukville on a lonely beach.
After being dropped off at Ream Bus Stop and around 20 minutes on the back of a motorbike with a driver, who has never heard the name of the hostel before, I arrived at my accommodation for the next nights. And what should I say, the pictures and description of the place weren’t promising too much. Nicely lying next to a beautiful 1,5km long sand beach with absolutely nothing around it except ocean and jungle. It was a perfect place to slow down life for a couple of days. My daily routine involved enormous amounts of sleep, lying in a hammock, swimming in the super warm ocean and playing beach volleyball with other guests and the team. In the dark nights, it was possible to experience the bioluminescent plankton, while swimming in the sea. It’s the place, where you can disconnect from everything and do not want to have urge to see one sight and attraction after each other. Just a man or a woman looking at the ocean.
After three nights, a friend of mine arrived and on the next day we made our way to Sihanoukville and via ferry to the up-and-coming island of Koh Rong. Koh Rong got quite popular throughout the last two years with descriptions like paradise or Koh Phi Phi 30 years ago. Koh Rong has 23 beaches and most of them are picture perfect and you are quite likely the only one on most beaches. The only beach which is significantly populated and contains most guest houses, small resorts and bars, is the main beach (Tui Beach). I liked the laid back atmosphere, the lively bar scene and somehow crooked houses on the main beach, but if you are looking for a “the beach” like paradise it is not actually the place. The slightly unplanned and on going constructions and lack of proper facilities are leaving their scars at some points of this beach with untreated sewage and litter. But nevertheless it’s a good place if you are looking for a combination of decent nightlife (don’t expect clubs or party all night long) and tropical island feeling and if you move a little bit away from the guest houses everything is clean.
As soon as you move away from the main beach, Koh Rong offers this specific undiscovered island feeling. The easiest way to get to unspoiled beaches is to take a boat from the main beach (5$ one way) or just walk from the main beach to the so called long beach (1h walk and the name actually fits pretty well). We did a boat tour, which was actually pretty nice and had good value for its price (10$ for the whole day including barbecue, drinks, etc. ). The long beach is far from a secret beach, but even though you are sharing this white super fine sand beach (it squeaks when you are walking on it) with just bunch of other people.
Unfortunately, Koh Rong is a paradise in disguise. While the main beach suffered slightly because of the recent developments, it is no way comparable to what is about to come to the whole island in the next years. On long beach signs show the planned destruction of the island and also the constructions of streets and a new harbor indicate the future prospects of the island. Basically the whole island should be commercially used and inhabit dozens of resorts, golf courses and casinos (!), which will leave nothing left of the beauty of the island. To ensure that the resorts have a constant guest inflow, a new airport on the island is, of course, planned as well. Of course my visit fuels this commercialization as well and development is something, which Cambodia after decades of war urgently needs. But the way Koh Rong is going to be developed rather looks like only few people will benefit, while the rest and the nature will suffer under this development. So in case you want to visit the islands in this area, better do it soon before they have changed their face and the backpacker crowd moved to another place (until the same development happens again).
After two nights on the island and in total six nights on the coast, we were ready to move on and booked a nightbus to Siem Reap to explore the world famous temples of Angkor Wat.