Dante please forgive me for the comparison that came to my mind straight, but experiencing this heavenly Cambodian island brought to my mind the experience of the Italian poet. Before reaching the light and the serenity of the Heaven he had to pass through thousands of vicissitudes.
For me it was a little bit like that, before reaching this spectacular island surrounded by a celestial sea and a pure white sand.
I researched a lot before deciding which island I was going to visit in Cambodia for a couple of days. It had to be a choice I was making to recover from the dense and rich trip to Vietnam. Then, I found Koh Rong Island.
It was not so easy to understand what it was about. There are different opinions about this place: some people describe it as a very wild spot, some others instead find it very comfortable.
Only when I put my foot on the island I understood why: I’ll try to explain it…let’s go in order!
The island has become accessible 15 years ago, so it is still and fortunately very wild and pure.
Its nature is blooming and wild and there is a little waterfall inside the forest.
The island ideally has two faces: one more animated and less paradisiacal (Tui Beach), and another more calm and quiet (Sok San Beach).
The first is frequented mostly by backpackers for very low prices, and the increased presence of bars and loud music; the second is more niche and less traced.
Koh Rong has no airport and no accessible routes except some small paths. For this reason it is hard to get around once you reach the island, but not impossible.
To get to the island there are specific boats for each beach or even for each bungalow / resort so you have to be careful about which boat you take. If you get to the wrong beach then you will have to cross the jungle or hire a private boat to take you on a different beach.
A tuk tuk got me from Sihanoukville center to the harbour area (that’s where the boat to Sok San Beach Resort was departing from) and, although the resort gave me some detailed informations to get there, I walked all the way up and all the way down around most of the piers before I found my Charon to ferry me to the final destination!
I was late and risking to miss the only boat of the day. I found a generous Virgil on my way: he was a Cambodian on a scooter. He realized I was in trouble and, as soon as he understood what I was trying to tell him, he offered me a ride to reach the place I was desperately looking for!
Once on the boat, I chilled out with a bunch of other souls and started wondering about the island.
Koh Rong Island is a mysterious place. Only when you get there, you can understand how much can reality overpass your imagination! It was such an emotion getting closer and glimpse the colours and the candid spots of the island!
Light blue limpid sea, white sand, fine like flour. There were few beach umbrellas, made out of straw and a small wooden jetty. A sacred silence was embracing the place.
At night, with the complicity of few lights located on the island, I had the chance to see the plankton shining on the shore.
I thought it was an event only scientists have the chance to experience, but here, everyone can. Your attentive eye will be astonished. An indigenous put some precious shining grains of sand in my hand and I could not avoid to offer him my best smile!
It is not easy to explain the emotion I felt in front of such a marvellous view, and yet I was born on an island and I always carry the sea inside of me.
But this has been an indescribable emotion: not only for the beauty this island offers to your eyes, but also for the experience this island allows you to live. This experience remains inside of you.
Koh Rong is the heavenly and wild island I have always dreamed about but I hadn’t found yet.
On Sok San Beach not even a defeat can be found by the toughest critic: here everything is absolutely perfect!
If you have the chance, I would suggest you to visit it before it turns into a “commercial” place like many other islands in Asia.
Today, the island is not known that much due to the difficulties to reach it and, subsequently, to the few information you can find about it.
After all, not even Dante knew the right path to get to Heaven!
Instructions for use
How to get to Koh Rong?
Due to the fact there are no airports nor connections with the mainland, you can reach the island only taking the boats that leaves Sihanoukville harbour (composed of many numbered ports) or from Serendipity Pier depending on which side of the island/guesthouse you need to go to. Make sure you ask your stay for details. The boats leave two or three times a day.
How do I know what is the right pier?
When you book the accommodation, ask the number of the pier and the time the boat leaves.
To get to the West area of the island and, particularly, Sok San Beach Resort (where I stayed, place I do recommend you) I caught the boat from Port 65 at 2pm (45 minutes crossing), for $20 per person (I know, quite pricey!).
To get to Tui Beach, or the South area loved by the backpackers, you can catch the fast ferry from Sihanoukville – Beach Pier Serendipity for $10.
It takes 45 minutes to get to the final destination.
In this case, you can choose among different hours: 8.30am, 11.00am, 3.00pm.
For the way back, from Koh Rong to Sihanoukville – Beach Pier Serendipity: 9.30am, 12.00pm, 16.00pm.
Where to sleep in Koh Rong?
The island is very wild and there are no many places where to stay.
Koh Rong island is divided in three main areas where you can spend the night at.
In the Northern area there is very Arabian-Nights-style resort, beautiful but very expensive as well (about 499€ per night).
The Southern area is where the backpackers prefer staying. It is cheaper and more accessible to everyone. People stay in some spartan stilt houses (parts of the roofs are opened and you can literally sleep with the local fauna!)
This area is the most lively at night but also the wildest one.
Finally, the West side: a happy corner of heaven with just very few accommodations, among which Sok San Beach Resort, absolutely comfortable and perfect for an unforgettable experience.
Next to this structure, there are some cheap bungalows, similar to those ones located in the Southern area. Close to these cabins, there is the local fishermen’s little village.
As far as I am concerned, it is the right compromise between dream and reality.
I chose this place because it combines the natural and wild aspect of the island with the comforts. It has the advantages of a touristic village, in other words the eye for the detail and attention to service, but not the defeats you can find when you reach places that are the target of a mass tourist. So, a fairy stay!
Where to eat in Koh Rong?
On the island there are only these accommodations and some little restaurants. Due to the lack of roads, it is not possible to move from a side to another without the assistance of a boat or a jungle hike. The last thing I would want after dinner is a nice walk in the Cambodian jungle..!
I mostly had my meals at the resort I stayed at. I enjoyed delicious dishes of Asian traditions and continental as well.
Breakfast was abundant and included in the price. The prices of the meals are higher and do not follow the Asian standards but more the Western ones.
On the shore of this part of the island are also a dozen restaurants belonging to the fishing village or guesthouses. I Have tried a few and they were not bad at all, with beers at $1!
Extra activities on the island
I preferred enjoying the relaxing atmosphere of the island but, for those who prefers something else, here I suggest some extra activities.
Renting a boat or a catamaran
For about $20 it is possible to rent a catamaran for one hour. The boats cost a little bit less.
In the forest area there is the High Point Adventure Park: 120-metre long zip line, 24 metres high that crosses the forest from the top.
Prices vary according to the season: during the low season (from April 18th to October 18th) it’s 25$ per person. During the high season (from October 19th to April 17th) it costs 35$ per person.
It is possible to dive or do snorkeling (a few hours or half day).
You just need to book for a diving or a snorkeling session at the hotel where you are staying. The price varies according to your requests.
You can explore the jungle in Koh Rong and the immaculate rainforest to the fall of the island. The path is traced but uneven. It’s a free activity and you do not need any tour guide to enjoy it.
You can rent a bike and ride over the 30 km composing the dirt road, adding some relaxing stops in the middle.
You can rent a boat and enjoy fishing with the local fishermen. Just go and deal the price with them!
For each one of these activities, I would suggest you to ask the hotel you are staying first. They will explain you the best solutions for you according to your position in the island. Until now, there is no professional tour operator to help you with this issues. It means that the majority of the tours are enormously influenced by the ideas of the people wanting to make them. Same for the prices.
Remember to bring enough cash with you as there are no ATM on the island!
Koh Rong has been the location used for many reality shows in the world, precisely for its beauty and its wilderness.
Survivor Cambodia and its respective French version have been shot here…And it is easy to understand how come they have chosen such an incredible spot for their set!