Good morning from Koh Rong Samloem (theres a few different spellings, no-one’s quite sure on the right way). We’re around 5km off the south coast of Cambodia on island paradise, the best thing being NO WIFI ! So god knows when we will be able to post our blogs, photos and videos of me repeatedly falling off the paddle board ..
To get down to the islands was quite simple and relatively cheap, we took a 7 hour bus from Phenom Phen to Sihanoukville which cost $12pp one way. We stayed in Monkey Republic hostel for 2 nights which was a fantastic choice. Very social hostel (but not party hostel) with good food, cheap beer and english speaking staff who will help you with all you travel plans.
Sihanoukville was a very weird place, you could tell it was out of season. They had a serious litter problem, a lot like the most of Asia but even the beaches were covered with plastic. The only way I can describe it, is like an abandoned Magaluf. Rows upon rows of beach front bars and clubs, all with promo staff attempting to get you in to their empty venue. They have over 100 casinos in this small city, with one tuk tuk driver telling us the plan is to make it “Las Vegas on a beach”.
There were a few saving graces, the strip of restaurants was empty but quality of food was very high. The hostel next door to us “The Big Easy” had live music and cheap beers – so entertainment was good. We plodded through our 2 nights but after speaking to a lot of travellers apparently 2 nights is 1 or even 2 to many. On the other hand we had reliable sources tell us that Otres beach further down is lovely, but we didn’t venture that far unfortunately.
The ferry pier to access the islands of Koh Rong is situated right at the bottom of the main strip of bars and restaurants, you can’t miss it. Currently (October) is low season, perfect time to go, so far its been reaching 35 degrees in the day with a lovely storm each night, with rain clearing the humid air. The other advantage of low season is the ferry tickets are a little cheaper, it costs $22 for an open return, meaning you can play on the islands to your hearts content and always have a way back. The boat journey was amazing, crystal clear waters with the islands popping out of the sea in front of us. It was like when they head to Jurassic park for the first time.
We got dropped at Saracen Bay, beautiful white sands with a couple of guests houses dotted along. We hadn’t been told this but we found out once jumping off our boat, that we needed to get another boat to our hostel “Mad Monkey” and the pier for this vessel was a good 20 minutes walk down the beach. It has to have been the sweatiest walk of my life, carrying all of our luggage down a beach in 30+ degrees .. it was tough! The connecting boat (stereotypical wooden motor boat, you’ll see in the pics) took us to paradise.
Mad Monkey (which costs $6 per bed per night) is secluded with its own private beach, sea hammocks and swings. The boat drops its anchor in around 15m out, so you have to jump in the sea with your bags – be aware of what you’re wearing, I nearly jumped in with money/phone in my pocket. The hostel and all of its surroundings were amazing, it is paradise if you’re looking to do nothing but chill. There is no wifi at Mad Monkey so get used to making friends and being cut off from the world for the entirety of your stay. They had a couple of organised activities such as a snorkelling/fishing and BBQ trips but you need a minimum of 6 people to do it, unfortunately the day we wanted to do it everyone else seemed to be too hungover.
We met some amazing people that made our stay even more enjoyable, playing cards and drinking games into the night. The bar shuts at midnight, but everyone usually buys a few more Klangs (local beer $1.25 a can or 75c during happy hour 5-7pm) and walks down to the beach. Anytime from around 10pm onwards the sea is full of plankton, the best spot to go swimming is off the pier around a 5 minute walk from the hostel. Swimming with plankton has to be up there with the best experiences I’ve had so far. It’s pitch black and every time you move the sea lights up with blue and white sparks. I tried to catch it on my go pro but I’ve been unsuccessful so far.
The food at Mad Monkey is over priced for Cambodia, but as it’s the only place you can eat whilst staying there you have no other option. The fried rice with chicken or pork is the cheapest meal at $3.50 and ranges up to $10 mains. Three times a week they have “Pizza Night” from their stone baked oven, pizza’s are $6-8 and taste amazing! I have to tell you that Mad Monkey runs a tab system, everything you do, drink or eat is recorded on a tab with you paying the total in cash at the end. Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem have no ATM’s or card machines, you have to take enough cash to last your whole trip. If you can’t pay your tab at Mad Monkey, they take your passport as a deposit and accompany you to the mainland to get payment.
We spent 3 days at Mad Monkey, chilling and relaxing. You can’t beat lying in a sea hammock with fish swimming around you and a cold can in your hand. If you have read our previous blogs about Mad Monkey Siem Reap you’ll be shocked I’m staying here again, as my poor liver can’t do the heavy drinking anymore. Amazingly it was so much more relaxed on Koh Rong Sanloem. We only heard “free shots at the bar” once a night and there weren’t any organised drinking games etc (didn’t stop us creating our own, take a deck of cards!).
Our accommodation was a 6 bed dorm in a log cabin just up the hill from the bar/reception. Each bed had its own mosquito net, happy days. We took adventure on our last day and headed up the path between bungalows 1 and 2, which cut through the jungle back round to Saracen Bay. The path was over grown and most people turn back, but we ploughed through. We came across a river, we had to cross, as well as seeing baby monkeys swinging through the trees so was well worth the hour walk! The morning of check out was daunting, high winds, torrential rain, the darkest skies we had seen, and it was time to get on a boat to Koh Rong, shit.