Koh Rong, Cambodia

February 14
We found what every backpacker dreams of finding; We found paradise. The image is no longer vague in my mind. When I think of paradise, I now have a vivid picture of my perfect paradise. Our night bus arrived in Sihanoukville and we bought a ferry ticket to Koh Rong. After eating lunch, we boarded the ferry and were off. The ferry was run by a scuba diving company and only ran three times a day. The island is still not on the map. Unlike the Thai islands, Koh Rong isn’t exploited yet and isn’t built up. It was completely off the map two years ago. One year ago, a scuba diving company began taking divers to the island for a couple of days to dive around the area. There were a couple hundred locals but that was it. Half a year ago, there were 8 small guesthouses and a few travelers ventured to the island without intent to scuba dive. Since then, the news of this perfect unexploited island spread by word of mouth by backpackers in Cambodia. Now, we are on the back end of the island still being paradise. We are lucky because in a year, it may be just another island with a lot if tourists. There are now the original 8 guesthouses and then around 10 more bungalow areas. It really isn’t crowded at all, but more people go to the island than leave the island, so it’s expatriate population grows weekly by people not wanting to leave. These people get jobs at the bars as waiters in exchange for a place to sleep at night and cheap meals. There are no roads and one populated beach. You have to walk the beach to get anywhere because it is the way to get around. The entire beach takes about 8 minutes to walk and you can have your own slice of beach even in that small area. This island shows what backpacking was like in the 1980’s before the tourist boom in Asia. It is a hippie paradise where everyone is chill and smiling. No one moves too fast and everyone is nice. Some people may lounge in a hammock all day and smoke weed, while others will chill in one of the bars for cheap drinks and laidback music. After almost two months of travel, Matt and I finally found what we were looking for and it was missing nothing. Besides the atmosphere, the sand was the most powdery I have ever felt. It was soft white sand that was perfectly clean. The water was so blue that it looked like the sky. The water was so clear you could see the white sand right through it. It was perfect. We took our shoes off and walked to our guesthouse for the night. If you don’t catch the first ferry, you won’t be able to find a place to stay because space is that limited. We caught the second ferry so we decided to book in advance. If you book on the island, you can get a beach front bungalow for about $30, a guesthouse room for $15, a dorm bed for $7, or a tent on the beach for $5. We paid slightly more to book from the mainland but we were really happy with our rooms. The first night, we were at a guesthouse right on the beach. We didn’t know at this point that everything was right on the beach but it was a nice surprise. We ate at one of the two main places on the beach, called Monkey Island. The other is called Coco. Food was good and cheap. The owners of the restaurants could jack up prices on the island because we don’t have a choice and have to pay it, but they don’t. It may be too soon for them to realize how much of a cash cow they have. We went swimming for the day in the crystal clear water with no one around us at all. Just the occasional people walking by on the sand. The water was nice and warm and the sun was out. There was no garbage or leaves in the water or on the sand. It couldn’t be more perfect. Once the sun was going down,we went back to our place, Island Paradise Bungalow Resort, to shower. We headed out in our shorts and a tshirt, which was standard. Nobody wore shoes and a fair amount never even wore shirts, day or night. It was so chill, you could do whatever you wanted and nobody would stop you or tell you to stop. We chilled all night at Coco. We ordered food and then drinks, and then drinks again and again. We sat on these cushion benches around a table and it was easy to meet people because people have to share tables. We ended up befriending two kids a little older than us from Beijing. It was a couple with an American guy and a Chinese girl. He moved to china five years ago. We talked to them all night and got to know them. They invited us to stay with them in Beijing when we came. They also gave us a realistic itinerary for a three week trip in China and told us what wasn’t worth seeing. It was really helpful and nice of them. After a solid first day and night, we headed off to bed to the sound of the waves.

February 15
We checked out of our guesthouse and into Coco for the next two nights. We got the last room available, which was the deluxe ocean view from the mountain. We had to walk up stairs to get there, but the view was incredible from our balcony. It was a bungalow with our own bathroom and a hammock on the balcony. We ate breakfast and began our adventure for the day. We hiked to a beach that was paradise the way you imagine it. The only way to access the beach is by foot and you have to hike over a small mountain for 45 minutes to get there. After a hike over rocks and down an angles cliff, we made it to the beach. The beach was about 5 miles long and there were about 50-100 people on the whole beach, all people who hiked there like us. The sand was so white, you had to squint when you looked at it and it was so clean, the sand literally made a squeaking noise as you walked through it. There was one bungalow area on the whole beach with a small restaurant and two Cambodian guys selling local food on the beach. By the time we wanted to eat, the restaurant was completely out of food and the two Cambodian guys only had rice or noodles left, so we had that. This just shows that the island isn’t ready for the loads of people that it will soon be getting. The locals can’t keep up with the numbers that they aren’t used to getting. All day, we just chilled and swam on our own section of the beach and water. It was the perfect beach day. Hours later, we watched the sunset and then got onto a long boat to take us back to the main beach of the island. The ride back was nice because the sky was lit up but gradually getting darker as we rode. A half hour later, we were at the main area and had to jump off into the water to get back to the beach. We showered and then went to get dinner at the Treehouse Bungalows at the far end of the beach. There were bungalows on stills about 10 meters up right on the rocks next to the water. It was a cool place. I had some delicious wood oven pizza and a mudslide! Afterward, we went to Coco again for the night. We chilled on the rooftop ledge and looked over the beach. We both got drinks that were very strong. We found that even though the drinks in Cambodia are so cheap, they are very strong. We chilled on the rooftop section until we got tired and wanted to go to bed. Every night, Coco tries to have a theme night, but noone ever does it because people here are so chill. For example, there was a stoplight party night, body paint night, and reggae night. Nobody did anything for any of the nights. There was a full moon party tonight on the island nearby but we heard it was kind of a let down so we decided to chill on paradise. Sure enough, we met these girls the following morning who said that it was a huge disappointment. We are glad we hung out on Koh Rong. Why leave paradise?

February 16
We woke up early to do yoga but the instructor/random hippie cancelled for the day. We were up so we decided to have a relaxing day all day again. It was the day of rest. We ate breakfast at Monkey island for a large portion egg sandwich and chocolate covered pancake. We then walked the beach and laid out in the sun and shade. For lunch, we went to Coco and had some nice large portions again. We then went down the beach to our favorite section and swam in the waves for an hour. I wanted to go to the Treehouse Bungalows again because I wanted a mudslide so we hit that place up again. We saw people walking out of the jungle barefoot and with no shirts so I asked the bartender where they were coming from. He said that there was a beach called 4K beach and was a 15 minute walk through the jungle. We decided to check it out, so we walked over and it it was cool. There were only about 30 people there and the sand was very white and soft. The water was also very blue, but it seems like the norm on this island. There are 27 beaches around the island and I bet they are all perfect. We hung out here until just before sunset so we could walk back in the light. We showered and then are dinner at Coco’s again. They had good food so we kept going back. We then went to Monkey Island for happy hour, buy one get one free anything. I got two mojitos and two makeshift mudslides (I ask bartenders here for a White Russian but with Baileys instead of Khalua). We talked to a bartender for a while. He is from LA but is a straight up vagabond. He had been on the road for a few years and usually hitch hikes everywhere. He said that the only country he experienced problems was in the USA. He went coast to coast a couple of times and said it was tough to get picked up because everyone thinks you will murder them. The people who did pick him up were often very strange. He also explained that he came to Koh Rong 8 months ago when it was practically nothing. It was a diving island still and he liked it so he got a job as a bartender at Monkey Island. He said that the island will eventually get touristy and along with it will come people trying to sell massages or sunglasses and beggars like Sihanoukville. He will leave once it gets more popular but he said that as of now, it’s still paradise. We also met a waitress at Coco’s from Miami who is traveling around Southeast Asia like us, but two and half weeks ago, she got to Koh Rong and applied to be a waitress the next day because she didn’t want to leave. After a chill day, we headed off to bed for our final night in paradise.

mikepsilve'sKoh Rong album on Photobucket