Koh Rong is a lovely little Cambodian island in the Gulf of Thailand that is accessible from Sihanoukville. Harmony and I bought our boat tickets online for $10.50 each. You can also easily buy tickets from Serendipity Pier, where there is a really nice restaurant called Yasmine's. We ate there before we boarded the boat, watching the boat staff humorously throw people's luggage over the water to one another. Thankfully, no one's bag fell in!
After 45 minutes of sailing on the bus speed boat over the open ocean, we came to a few tree covered islands with small, sandy beaches. The first island was called Sam Loem. After 20 minutes longer on the boat, we arrived at Koh Rong. In comparison to Sam Loem, both seemed equally off grid, but Sam Loem looked to be a lot more chilled. Lined up along Koh Rong's beach were endless bars, restaurants and guesthouses, whilst Sam Loem had wooden beach huts, sun loungers and thatched umbrella sun shades.
Meeting everybody off the boat was a crazy but cool character, red with sun burn and short blue hair. He wanted to give us a quick briefing and a bit of information. It went along the lines of "there's one medical center, no atms and a shortage of fresh water." He also told us that there's lots to be seen if you fancy a trek through the jungle or a boat trip, as well as a dive centre if you can afford it. Upon close inspection, the island was just like where we came from at Otres Beach, Sihanoukville, with a great atmosphere and reggae and “tropical house” music playing at every bar. The guest house that we chose to stay at (White Rose) was quite affordable and also very clean. Strangely, everything was built on the beach, so it looked like there wasn't much room to swim or sunbath. However, a short walk to the north took us to an area of near white sand and rubbish-free water.
Although Koh Rong is another hippie haven, it could also be considered a bit of a party place. When I was talking to a friend about the island, I was told about the pub crawl. Neither Harmony nor I bought a ticket for it, but we tagged along that evening and still managed to get the free shots at each bar. The only thing we missed out on was a pretty sweet, free t-shirt, which I probably could've done with as all my clothes were starting to smell and I didn't want to do laundry. As more people started to get drunk, more people started to dance and the night became fun. In most places, beers were $1 and cocktails were about $3, so it's easy to have one to many. We went back to the hostel at about 1am, but I imagine it went on for much, much longer for some people.
One of the island's major activities to take part in is the zip wire course, so that's what we did the next day. We bought a ticket from our hostel in advance and made our way there for 1pm. At first, it wasn't easy to find with the instructions we were given (on the south side of the beach, over the bridge and behind the school), but we did get there just in time. A nice but not so talkative Russian welcomed us into the reception, where we signed safety waivers and got kitted up. A short walk took us into the jungle and we got a quick safety demonstration (always have one caribena on the rope at all times). There were lots of mosquitos here, but not so many when we climbed higher into the canopy. Most of our time in the tree tops involved walking across high wires and swinging planks of wood. The zip wires were the most fun and I'm glad there were three!
Thankfully, the platforms weren't too crowded because there was only one other person doing the activity with Harmony and I. The whole course took about an hour for us to complete and it went really quick because it was so fun (but also tiring)! Obviously, if there were more people, then there would've been more waiting around and more time spent doing the course. As it’s $25, I wouldn’t really recommend it. However, the views from the highest point (25m) are amazing and almost make it worth it!
The next morning, I woke up to photograph the sunrise and it was unbelievably beautiful. I headed to a spot just up the beach, where there was an old boat that was almost completely covered in sand. I set up there, but a group of girls came and sat right in front of me. So, I found another composition and watched the sun get higher and higher in the sky, whilst the clouds turned more colourful. I then found a few more compositions and I'm really happy with how all of the shots came out. Being up early also meant that I could enjoy the wifi whilst no one else was on it, when it is otherwise utterly useless.
Another activity that was offered to us was a boat trip. It only cost $10 a person, yet it's the number thing to do on the island. It started at 1pm, when a man escorted us from our hostel to the beach. We waited there for him to gather more people and then waded out to the boat. The boat crept away from the beach very slowly at first, leaving a cloud of petrol fumes behind. Then, we made it out to the open water with our boat’s speakers playing a variety of pop music. It wasn’t long until we arrived at our first stop - another small, rocky, tree covered island - where we snorkeled in fish-filled water. Unfortunately, the water was also very dirty and had an oily liquid covering some of the surface. Nevertheless, we swam whilst admiring the colourful coral for about an hour and then the boat took us to our next location. Here, the boat rocked back and forth for about 40 minutes and people began casting their fishing rods off the side. A lot of people didn't actually partake in the fishing, but those that did partake caught plenty of fish to cook up on the BBQ later. Us veggies got to enjoy vegetable skewers and rice, which was a fantastic other option.
We ate our food on Long Beach as the sun went down. We also had some time to swim about in the water whilst the food was being cooked for us on the boat. People played volleyball and others played frisbee, and we all took advantage of the free alcohol! Long Beach is located on the other side of the island and is otherwise only accessible with an hour long trek through the jungle. It's an almost untouched paradise with shallow waters and a perfect view of the sunset. There were people selling refreshments on the beach and a few free-to-use toilets.
After the sun went down, we made our way back round the island, until we suddenly stopped and the tour guides splashed their hands around in the water. This was the moment we had all been waiting for, so a few people jumped straight in with their overbearing excitement. We all knew what was to come, but didn’t know exactly what to expect. After all, the tour guides didn’t seem confident and we couldn’t see anything from the boat, but those already in the water were screaming with appreciation and awe. More of us jumped in and that’s when we saw the plankton sparkling with every movement that we made. You had to jump in and see it for yourself! Goggles were passed around and arms were being splashed. Legs were being kicked and people were diving down as deep as they could go. What made the experience even more surreal were the stars shining above us and lightning in the distance! I still have a hard time believing that it was real! If safe to say that we left the island the next day knowing that we did it right!