A Guide to Koh Rong
Just a few years ago this little jungle covered island was an unknown diamond sitting in the ocean off Cambodia’s southern coast. However, in recent years Koh Rong has blasted onto the itinerary of every Backpacker traveling Southeast Asia. This white sandy paradise is what Thailand once was, an island with no infrastructure, no roads, no big hotels, no anything. Although if you do not visit fast, this will soon not be the case.
Koh Rong is one of two islands, the other is Koh Rong Samloem, which is the smaller of the two. Both islands have places to stay, but Samloem is less of a backpackers destination. Where on Koh Rong you can pay as little as $4 a night for a bed, on Samloem you will pay more as there is less accommodation. Most of the major backpackers hangouts are on Koh Rong.
Arriving at the island’s pier
Once you disembark the ferry and walk down the pier, you will be met by wall to wall backpacking hostels. Further down the beach are a few sets of bungalows and restaurants, but that is it. Koh Rong is a paradise which can take you back to how Thailand once was. This is soon going to change however, the word is out and the masses are descending on Koh Rong. If you wish to see the island while it is still wild, you need to visit now.
How to get to Koh Rong
All roads to Koh Rong island start from Sihanoukville, which can now be reached by bus, train or air. Once there you can book a ferry which will take you to the island. There are now five main high speed ferries servicing the island and also two slower boats which seem a bit rickety and should be avoided.
A return ticket will cost you $20, and will take around one hour to reach the island from Sihanoukville. Many people decide to stay longer than they first planned on the island, maybe that is why to use the return ticket, you must book your place on the boat the day before departure. This is a very good way of doing things, otherwise most would lose out on their return journey, as nobody ever wants to leave Koh Rong.
Ferries leave from both sides at various times throughout the day, and there are normally around 13 boats per day. The first ferry from Sihanoukville is at 8 am and the last is at 5 pm. The first ferry to leave Koh Rong is at 7:15 am and the last one is at 4:45 pm. However all times are approximate times, so arrive early for whichever ferry you are taking.
Where to stay on Koh Rong
Like we have said already, the secret of Koh Rong is out and already in 2017 new resorts have opened. The Cambodian Government is not waiting around and are racing ahead to modernise the island. There is now even a 5 star complex of beach bungalows on one of the islands close by. Cambodia is charging full steam ahead and wants to make Koh Rong world famous. What this will do to the backpacker resorts around the pier? who knows, but for now they are still intact.
A bungalow with a view
When you arrive at the pier you will be met by a wall of backpackers hostels. If you head left, you will find some quieter places where you can stay, head right and you will enter the party zone of the island.
You can find lots of accommodation on websites such as Agoda and Booking.com. However, there are many hostels and bungalows that are not advertised on these websites. If you do not book beforehand, have a walk around and you will easily find a place to crash. If you wish to stay in one of the nicer bungalows, then book in advance as these can fill up quite fast.
Things to do on Koh Rong
The island is known as a place to chill and relax but despite this, there is still many activities that can take up your time. With each passing month new things are being added, so by the time you visit no doubt there will be much more to occupy your time.
Full day boat trip
This is one of the best things to do on the island. For just a few dollars each, normally 9 per boat, you can spend the day sailing around the island, snorkeling in the reefs, catching fish, which your guide will cook and you will later eat on the beautiful white sands of long beach. You will watch the sunset and then head out back onto the waves to dive into the ocean in the dark, to swim with the bioluminescent plankton.
Fishing on the Gulf of Thailand
This was an incredible experience and an absolutely superb day. One thing to take note of however is that you will be drinking all day long and then jumping into the Cambodian ocean at night can be a little dangerous, make sure that you are not to drunk when you do it.
Starting from Tui Beach, you can cross the entire island by heading through the jungle. There is a designated path starting at Tui Beach, which will guide you across the island to Long Beach. Be careful once you reach Long Beach however, as you will have to scramble down rocks to reach the sand. There are guide ropes at this point of the trek but you should still be very careful.
The beautiful Long Beach
Sleep in a hammock on Long Beach
If you have trekked across the island and made it to squeaky white sand of Long Beach, you may not want to go back. It is possible to rent a hammock and spend the night here. You will see many people who have brought their tents and are staying on the beach. This is the ultimate backpackers beach.
Zip Lining through the Jungle
One of the island’s newest attractions is the jungle zip line, High Point Rope Park. There are to zip line courses, which will let you fly through the canopy 25 meters above the ground. There are two different prices depending on what time of year you are visiting. The low season from April – October costs $25 and the high season, from November – March is $35.
Koh Rong Skybar
The Skybar is a great place to chill and look out on the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Thailand. This place is also a great party spot to dance the night away.
Fishing, catch what you eat
When fishing in the waters off of Koh Rong you can catch some strange looking fish. These come in all shapes and sizes and is a fun way to spend the afternoon. The best thing of all is when you are done and head back to land. Once off the boat you get to cook and eat the fish which you caught. This is a great way to make some memories that you will never forget.
Sunset over our boat after a day fishing
Things you should know before going
There are no cash machines on the island, so make sure that you have enough money to last you. You do not want to be having to catch a ferry back to the mainland in order to draw out more funds.
Problems with paradise
When people see pictures of our journeys to these beautiful places around the world, they only see the picture postcard version of our trips. With paradise, often comes nightmares. Mosquitoes, sand flies, food poisoning, sewage and trash are a part and parcel of life in Southeast Asia.
These nasty things do not hit everybody, but be aware that they could happen to you. When you arrive on the island you will be told not to swim near the ferry pier. This is not only because of the oils from the ferries, but also this is where the island’s sewage pipe runs into the water. Our friend got really sick from swimming here and was in running backwards and forwards from the bathroom for two days. Avoid swimming near the pier.
Traveling through Asia often becomes a hunt for the best WiFi, this elusive pursuit almost always ends in failure as good WiFi is nearly impossible to find. It is the same here on the island, do not expect to find strong WiFi anywhere.
Have the adventure of a lifetime
Although the nomadic glory days of Koh Rong are probably now in the past, a snippet of this beauty still remains. If you do make it to the islands before the inevitable construction overtakes the backpackers havens, tell us about your trip. We would love to hear your stories about this wonderful island.