Koh Rong (Cambodia)

Koh Rong island is just 1 hr. by fast boat from Sihanoukville.

A few years ago, Koh Rong, Cambodia’s second largest island, was a virtual secret.  The word gets out on the internet very quickly and magical places tend to get discovered and developed.  There are two (2) Koh Rong islands:  1) Koh Rong  2) Koh Rong Samleon.

Impending development on both Koh Rong islands are sure to take away their unique charm.  For years, the island was almost completely undeveloped with the exception of a few bungalows.  However, I can see that is changing.  Koh Rong appears to being developed into a party island.  While Koh Rong Samloen into a more mellow, no frills back to nature beach escape.  There’s enough to keep even the most active visitor busy on both islands with activities such as diving, snorkeling, trekking, kayaking, and plenty of baby powder-like white sand beaches for those looking to just sit on their asses.

Koh Toch, the main area and arrival point is a sandy budget guesthouse-packed stretch of beach that has earned Koh Rong a reputation as a party island.  The clientele closest to the village are mostly backpackers and divers who have come to enjoy the nightlife and openly smoke pot in the restaurants and bars.  No police presence on this island and it’s funny how backpackers have a tendency to gravitate to these type of freewheeling islands.  Expats and couples who prefer more seclusion, a quieter beach and more spread out accommodation would need to head further along the beach, which is what we did.

Koh Rong is a visually stunning island that in my opinion needs major development only in terms of accommodation levels.  The current guesthouses are inadequate, too basic and really only cater to budget backpackers who are ok with sleeping in a pile of shit, in their drunken stupor, as long as there are no mosquitoes buzzing around nearby their pile of shit.  Actually, judging by all the mosquito bites on their legs, they don’t seem to give a damn about the mozzies either.

For some strange reason, tropical island backpackers seem to be a slightly different breed than mainland backpackers.  Just feed these island creatures some noodles, rice, beer and some weed.  Give them a basic foam mattress to crash on for $15 bucks a night, and they are good to go.  I got a kick out of watching them party all night and then seeing them the following morning passed out with their bodies sprawled out on the sandy beach, in the blazing sun, looking dead with a large bottle of water sitting right next to them.  No towel, no suntan lotion, no shade……simply curled up into a fetal position with sand all over their hair and the sun scorching their bodies.  How they managed to rally and get their hands on a large bottle of water to help aid in their hangover recovery was one major accomplishment.  It is almost like the island gods were looking out for them and placed a water bottle right next to every passed out backpacker.  What was interesting, in unison, they would come staggering up to their feet at about 4:00 PM or so, just like in Night of the Living Dead and proceed to rinse and repeat for another night of debauchery.

The only exception to the basic accommodations in the area is the ultra-high end Song Saa Resort to the north of the island which I heard is obscenely expensive even for us Flashpackers.  You can save your cash and get the same paradise views at a fraction of the cost elsewhere on Koh Rong.  However, you would need to sacrifice a high level of comfort.

The Cambodian government has sold Koh Rong to an investment group based in Cambodia.  And the big question is, how will it be developed?  I would bet in the future, the interior jungle will inevitably be flattened and replaced with a paved road and maybe even an airport similar to other islands like Koh Samui.  Having seen Samui before developers set in, I know what can be lost when paradise is discovered.

I am not a big fan of development of pristine islands but in this case, I would say if they can plan properly (which they probably won’t) and somehow upgrade current accommodation levels all while keeping the island in tact (which they probably won’t), then we can see the formation of a true paradise island.  There were no Flashpacker options on this island but I enjoyed roughing it a bit on this beautiful island and being in the thick of all the wackiness surrounding us.  On another part of the island the TV show Survivor was filming so you can get an idea how remote some parts of this jungle-like island is.

How long will Koh Rong stay in its current form is the big question.  If you want to experience it in its’ current form, do so sooner rather than later.  My guess is that in time, the po’ ole backpackers will be flushed out which follows the trajectory of all other pristine Asian islands.

Restaurants –  Paradise Bungalows every single meal.  No backpacker fare for us Flashpackers.

LOOSE STOOLS INDEX – 6  Thankfully, as not sure I could juggle backpacker island living and loose stools simultaneously

Living like a backpacker and amongst the wildlife on Koh Rong brought back good memories of my younger backpacking years.  Being part of this backpacker action and ‘roughing it” a bit was real good for our heads.  After all, I guess you gotta keep your head in the game, despite your older years, in order to stay on top of the game.  Barbie bitched a bit but deep down, I think she enjoyed taking in the entire scene.  From past history, usually the most uncomfortable places become the most memorable.  The best part of this island experience was that both internet and cell coverage were down during our entire stay…….. it was a real good feeling to live completely off the grid.  Try doing this at home for a few days and just see how liberating it is for your mind.

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