I had been planning to go to a 10 day Vipassana meditation course in Battambang but decided not to see the course through. It is not something to take lightly – complete ‘noble silence’ throughout and 12 hours of meditation a day – and I decided very early on into the course that I did not have the energy to see if through at this time. That’s a story for away from this blog, but having jacked the course in I have realised I do want to do it, just not now.
So… I exchanged contemplation and inner peace for adventure and visual paradise. I went to the beach 🙂
A comfortable 12 hour overnight coach later and one change in the capital Phnom Penh took me to Cambodia’s premier beach port, Sihanouksville in the SW. Aside – the overnight coaches could teach National Express a thing or two – you can pay to lie down entirely or with only a very small gradient and a blanket, so you actually sleep.
From Sihanouksville, a movie scene worthy 45 min speed ferry to the biggest of Cambodian’s islands, Koh Rong, buzzing past a bunch of jungled smaller and mostly uninhabited islands ala The Beach. Koh Rong is allegedly Cambodia’s Phuket or Koh Samui 20 years ago before the full moon parties and lads holidays took Thailand’s tourism industry by the goolies. But not for long. Get in there quick if you want a taste of island paradise with no roads, as development is on its way and oversees and local developers are making up for lost time. When I got up this morning there was a woman bricklaying the wall of a new hostel in her pyjamas (go sister).
The island is stunning and I was smug. It’s not been taken over by tourism yet but there is a well established ‘tourist village’ one one side, with the usual dive schools, cheap restaurants, bars and hostels very much set up for budget backpackers. It’s a fruit salad for the eyes, azure sea and sky, white sands, a rainbow of fishing boats and a fek load of tattooed and bronzed Western bar staff whove sensibly jacked in their life in Grimsby or Leon for a season of snorkelling and bar chat. Statistically they are more likely to have dreadlocks and/or nose rings. The other side of the island with more serenity is set up for those with more cash and/or an aversion to pounding jungle, Shaggy and/or party boats.
It’s also bloody cheap. For £2 night I shared a very decent room with travelling companions Sarah from Gothenburg and Tina from Auhus with a serious evening view.
On day 2 having avoided the hangovers everyone else had earned we hiked an hour over and down the interior of the island to Long Beach, expectant of isolation and paraside. Sated my inner hobbit with a jungle march and scramble through the bush 🙂
The trees parted and we spied sunlight bouncing off the sea. And a JCB. Apparently plans for an airport and ringroad and airport were halted thankfully and there is an intention to turn Koh Rong into Asia’s best sustainable resort, but the amount of concrete suggests otherwise. Really hope it doesn’t become Magaluf and lose it’s beautiful charm. Would love to come back in a few years and see…
Koh Rong Samloem
Not sure how much I can say about this place. It is absolutely beautiful, in the truest sense. Above and below so blue, and so many shades of blue, you struggle to believe it is real, or at least you’re not just looking through an instagram lens. Just stunning. If you get the chance, come here.
Spent just one perfect day at Saracen Bay, lounging in hammocks, sea hammocks, sleeping, contemplating, swimming and reading. So simple, few words are required. Could have stayed longer but didn’t want to have a second day any lesser than the first. So up to watch sunrise then back on the ferry to the mainland to head for Kampot.