I’m not sure how to begin about Koh Rong. As soon as we docked, I knew it would be different from anywhere before. There were no roads or sidewalks, just sand and ocean. This meant, no motorbikes, no cars, not even a radio flyer. The main streets were piers and the parking lots were drift wood floors. Travelers were scattered across the beach, lounging in bamboo chairs smoking joints, sipping cool drinks (until the ice supply ran out each day) and reading in peace. No one wore shoes, barely anyone wore shirts. There were lots of butt cracks and sandy hair, but no one seemed to notice.
Bunna’s place was our home for the next four nights. It was the dingiest accommodation we’d had so far. The walls didn’t reach the ceiling making privacy privacy pretty impossible. The floor boards had cracks big enough to break a toe and electricity only turned on when it got dark. For once, we didn’t have wifi. We were as cut off from the outside world as we could be, and we loved it.
The staff at Bunna’s place made our time extra special. Most of the night life on the island was fueled by the western staff working at the different restaurants and guesthouses. Many of them had come to Koh Rong and fallen in love just like us but never left. For a moment or two we wished we could join them.
We could get our drinks as strong as we liked as long as the ice had arrived from the main land. Food and drinks came in nightly at 5pm with a boat shipment. Guys from each restaurant would lug massive blocks of ice from kayaks into the bar area to get the night started.
Besides hanging out at the beach all day, we did nothing. We ate, we drank, we tanned (I tanned, the boys burned). It was the simplest I’ve ever lived. Since there were no distractions like internet, television or cell phones, we were forced to enjoy ourselves and each other. We swam as much as we wanted and played cards when we were finished, we ate fruit for dinner and chips for dessert. We were on Koh Rong’s schedule and Hey Jackie, it kicked ass.
There is only one main drag of development, which is surprising because Koh Rong is the second biggest island in Cambodia. However, an airport, a golf course and a Hilton are in the works. Clearly, my “paradise” isn’t such a secret.
During our stay, a full moon party took place on the neighboring island, Koh Rong Samloem. Since we had been to Koh Phagnan’s Full Moon Party in Thailand, we were skeptykal of an imposter. However, some of our new friends convinced us it would be worth it. 600 people were going to show up! If only that were the case…
This story alone could be an entire blog post, but in an effort to not bore you with all the details, I’ll sum it up: A “party boat” took us to the island at 11 pm. What was supposed to be a 45 minute ride was actually a 2 hour endeavor. Everyone’s buzzes had worn off by the time we arrived and moods were low. The party was about a 30 minute walk from the actual dock, another sign we should have ran the other way.
The party itself was small to say the least. I’m not sure what we were expecting but it wasn’t that. The beach was empty and there was no where to escape. We considered swimming home but it was unusually cold for Cambodia, so we stuck it out like true Americans….WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN???
Anyway, the music sucked but there was a man in a Marlboro cowboy hat selling drugs who kept the people entertained. When I say the music sucked, I mean that it was horrific. I can usually dance to anything, because that’s a divas job, but I couldn’t even sway side to side to this. The go-go dancers clearly had been hanging out with the cowboy for far too long.
Spense took a nap and we somehow made it to the boat at 6am. Everyone was glad to be heading back to Koh Rong and no one wanted to stay any longer than necessary. When Spense and I miraculously snagged a warm bamboo chair to sink into, I couldn’t believe our luck. That’s probably because the day was doomed. The swells were so big that our “party boat” had to turn around or else we would all drown. Literally, everyone would drown because no one had slept (except Spense) and most people were in the clouds.
A smaller boat took six trips to bring loads of passengers back to shore. Somehow no one was lost in the process. Not even Jasper. We were stuck on Koh Rong Samleon with barely any money and even less sleep. After managing to order food, we all passed out in front of some poor, innocent person’s private bungalow. At 2 pm, the boat decided it was safe to leave.
We made it back to Koh Rong at 4pm the next afternoon. We were ushered back into our guesthouse for the obligatory shotgun. (Chugging a beer is a rite of passage at Bunna’s). I’ve never been so happy to be in a circle of people chanting my name. I celebrated with an enormous bag of goldfish, YES GOLDFISH. Sharing was difficult.
Besides this minor mishap, which turned out to be one of our trips’ most eventful experiences, Koh Rong was flawless. And even though Glover got food poisoning from a local cafe called Mr. Runs (ridiculous I know), Koh Rong nourished us in ways we’d never been nourished.
I was so motivated and inspired by the unparalleled beauty that I even woke up for the most amazing sunrise I’ve ever seen (although I’ve probably only seen about five).
The ferry back from Koh Rong was a period for reflection. Most everybody onboard had shared the Full Moon experience with us and it showed on their faces clear as day. We were happy to get back to port in Sihounakville, but Koh Rong was an unforgettable adventure. I left a piece of my heart behind. It is somewhere that every wandering traveler should explore. Though the party influence is evident, there is something for everyone. Whether it be walking through the jungle to find a deserted beach, or hanging out with local children and puppies, Koh Rong is magical.