Saturday, October 25, 2014

What Could Koh Rong? Top 5 Things I Liked and Disliked About Koh Rong, Cambodia

Ok enough with the puns...or maybe not, I love puns. After traveling through Cambodia and seeing more of the serious side, it was time for some vacation...finally.  The purpose of Andrew being with me was to celebrate our marriage with an AWESOME honeymoon and the whole trip had been work focused with a side of fun, until now. We started off our "real" honeymoon in Koh Rong, an island off the coast of Cambodia. We had originally planned to beach it up in Phuket, Thailand, but a coworker of mine from Thailand said that we should skip the touristy beaches there and head to Koh Rong. So that's exactly what we did.

The boat ride over kicked everything off to an interesting start. We had booked the ferry over on a "faster boat" that took about an hour but when we got there, they had over-sold (which is apparently always an issue with them) so we were bribed to go on the "fast boat" that was supposed to take about 1.5-2 hours to get there. They offered us 2 free beers, and we weren't in a hurry so we figured, hell, why not. The boat was jam-packed with young people...probably ranging in age from 18-30 but mostly on the under 21 side. Off we went on our lovely boat ride to the island when suddenly, we stopped...we were broken. While they were trying to fix the boat, some of the crazzzyyyy youngsters said "are there sharks?" and when "no" was the answer, they all decided lets go swimming! So off they jumped in to the water...and Andrew went right along with them haha. After some time of not moving, a new boat came to rescue us. We piled on the smaller boat and finally headed on our way to the island. All in all the trip took about 3 hours.

Koh Rong is a very small island, with a very small strip of restaurants/hotels right when you get off the boat. And when I say very small I mean like 10 restaurants haha.  No roads, no tuk-tuk's, just sand, young people, and beer. Lots of beer. It was quite funny to watch these girls with their rolley bags going through the sand...luckily we had backpacks. Our hotel was called Paradise Bungalows, and though it was a bit expensive compared to other places on the island (still only $50 a night) we liked it. The first 2 nights we were in the honeymoon suite, not sure why it was called that, then the last 2 we were in a much better spot - beach front bungalow. It was more expensive ($65/night) but it was beach front so WHO CARES?!

We spent most of our days lounging around reading and thinking about our next meal. We tried almost every restaurant on the island and especially loved the burgers at Bongs. The highlights included making friends with Boris and Morris (the two water buffalo we named), seeing a monkey, and being able to finish our books haha.  We also met a really fun Aussie couple that let us go with them on a private boat tour to see the glow-in-the-dark plankton one night.  Pretty much the most amazing natural wonder I've ever seen.  Every time you moved in the water it sparkled like the stars. Think of that one scene from Life of Pi.  Amazing.  Absolutely amazing. I think that was one of our most exciting nights because we got to see the plankton and we got to drink with someone other than ourselves haha.

We spent a total of 4 days there, which I think was plenty. You wouldn't want to stay longer unless you like the party 24/7 and sleep all day vibe.  I'm a bit more in to seeing and doing things than that.  However, with 4 days, it was just enough relaxation and getting yourself out of your routine to make it an awesome trip.  I would say it's definitely a place I would recommend, but only to certain types of make it a bit easier to see why, I made a list of my top 5 favorite and least favorite things about Koh Rong.

Top 5 thinks I liked about Koh Rong:

  1. Lots of young people - meaning lots of fun, laughing, and having a great time. Most of them were westerners but it was rare to see an American. Everyone spoke English. 
  2. Lots of outdoor activities you can do - There's trekking, kayaking, fishing, boat trips, beaches, scuba diving, snorkeling, and my favorite - glow-in-the-dark plankton!!!!! All if it is really relaxed too - totally on beach time. You just take the kayak for the day and bring it back - or as one of the bars/hotels if they can take you to see the plankton. 
  3. It's small and pretty undiscovered - This place is touristy, don't get me wrong, but it isn't commercialized touristy, which was really refreshing. It's going to explode so fast once people discover it. We talked to a few people that had been there for a year and said that the "town" is double in size. If you want less people though you can go to Koh Rong Samloem which is very remote like Koh Rong was a few years prior. 
  4. It's beautiful and cheap and friendly - All of the people that run the businesses are friendly, the food and hotels are cheap, and its absolutely gorgeous. The water is super blue, the sand is pretty white, and it's pretty natural. We especially loved the monkeys (that I hear can be pests) and the water buffalo. I love water buffalo.
  5. It's basically Neverland - This is the place you go when you don't want to grow up. You party all night, have no responsibilities, and sun tan all day. When I feel really stressed out and ready to quit life - this is the place I take myself back to in my mind. 

Top 5 things I didn't like about Koh Rong:

  1. Lots of young people - Though it can be a pro, it also means lots of drunken loud people partying all night and keeping you up. They were also rude in that a lot of them didn't respect the local customs (lots of girls sunbathing topless though it's considered disrespectful to the locals) and they threw their trash everywhere.
  2. No air conditioning - We were lucky and had a fan, but it was HOTTER THAN HELL and all we had was a dinky fan. Our hotel was one of the few that had power through the night so we were lucky to have the dinky fan.  It got cooler by the middle of the night but the heat definitely woke you in the morning. 
  3. Expensive for Cambodia - Hotels were a bit more expensive as well as the food and drinks - but it was still like  $3-5/dish and $1-3/drink soooo that's just me nit-picking. It was also frustrating to see the price differences. If it's not high-season and sold out, it's definitely cheaper to just do everything once you're there rather than booking in advance. Our hotel charged WAY more for the boat ride over, WAY more for food, and WAY more for a room. There were places on the island you could have stayed at for $5 a night. You probably shared a room with drunks, but still. Speaking of money, DO NOT BRING LARGE BILLS ON THE ISLAND - no one wants them so it took us a while to find a place that would let us eat there. 
  4. Lots of trash - Unfortunately, Cambodia is filled with trash and they don't know what to do with it. One of the days we were there, the wind blew the wrong way and trash came floating by. Not just a little trash, so much trash that the tourists that were trying to clean it got so overwhelmed that they just stared at it. 
All in all - I am really glad I went. Would I go back? Probably not. Especially once I'm over age 30......however, I think it was the perfect experience to kick-off our honeymoon. We were able to relax, have fun, drink cheap beer and meet great people. The island really is a beautiful place, but as I said before, it's just a matter of time before it's over-run with tourism like any other beautiful place ends up being.  So if you're going to go, go NOW before it's too crazy.  We definitely had some experiences that I will never ever forget and for that, I will always remember my Neverland, Koh Rong. Now off to Thailand!!

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