Oh Koh Rong, where do I even start? This small Cambodian island is about an hour’s ferry ride away from Sihanoukville on the mainland, and after hearing great things from many other backpackers, me and my travel buddies had been keen to check out the island for a long time. And boy were we impressed!
Back mid-February, as our boat pulled into the docks of Koh Rong, it immediately became blindingly obvious that I’d be enjoying myself there. The water was a dazzling hue of aqua-blue, the sand looked luxuriously soft and white and the teeny-tiny shops and restaurants along the beachfront were buzzing with backpackers. But that was just the beginning.
To this very day, Koh Rong is still my favourite spot I’ve visited during my four months travelling South-East Asia (so far!) So, why did I love Koh Rong so much you might ask? And what exactly set it apart from other beach islands in South-East Asia? Well…
Long beach: ‘Make sure you go to Long beach’ everyone had told us, and I always nodded along nonchalantly, knowing that indeed I would visit Long beach but not thinking much of it. Long beach is either a short boat ride or a 45-minute jungle trek away from the main ‘strip’, and as soon as I caught sight of this renowned beach, I was mesmerised, captivated, transfixed. It was by far the most beautiful beach I’d ever seen and bitter-sweetly no beach I’ve seen since can even compete. The water was the clearest, most aquamarine I’d ever seen. The sand the softest, most caster-sugar white. And considering the incredible beauty of Long beach, it wasn’t even all that busy. There was only one restaurant, and visitors consisted mainly of several groups of young backpackers.
We visited several times, and one night we even decided to camp there for the night, drinking whisky around a cosy campfire telling stories of our travels. Waking up to the sun peeking over those waters was absolutely unreal. Oh, and the sunsets were unbelievable!
The atmosphere: There is something about the type of traveller you meet in Koh Rong. Perhaps I was lucky, but I seemed to like pretty much everyone I met there on that island. There is such a chilled-out community vibe, and it really feels like everyone is on the same wavelength, as hippy as it sounds! Koh Rong is pretty tiny and the main part of the island is literally just one small strip along the beach so you meet and bump into so many people you recognise. And since everyone is so like-minded, it’s ridiculously easy to meet people and form big groups of instant friends.
The parties: The party atmosphere on Koh Rong was ideal for me. It is the sort of place that has a buzzing nightlife, but one which can be easily avoided if you so wish (I obviously didn’t however!). Early evenings usually consisted of chilled out bar-hopping or pre-drinking on the sand. Then as the evening rolled on, make-shift dancefloors would slowly emerge within the bars and you’d spend the night drinking, dancing and chatting to other travellers. Every second night there would be a ‘proper party’ with DJs and louder music a short walk away on Police beach, for those wanting something a bit more raucous. It was nice to mix it up, though, and it was all definitely a lot of fun.
The plankton: Swimming with luminous plankton had been top of my to-do list before even flying to South-East Asia, so when I found out that Koh Rong was the place to see it, I was beyond excited. There are lots of boats advertising sunset trips for about $5 which I had planned to do, but I actually ended up swimming with the plankton on an evening I hadn’t expected to. It was the night camping on Long beach, and after spending our time drinking around the campfire, we all thought it would be a good idea for a spot of midnight swimming.
‘We’ll be able to see the plankton’ someone in the group had said. I immediately dismissed it, laughing, but soon ate my words. As I swum through the shallows of the water, the plankton would glow brilliantly with every move of every limb. It really was an absolutely amazing experience, perhaps one of the most amazing so far since the start of our travels. And to experience it on Long beach, on Koh Rong, my favourite spot so far. Well, that was even more the better.