Koh Rong Sanloem, Cambodia – Saturday 7th to Saturday 14th October
It was time for the beach.
Last week we reached the six month mark of the journey. The past half-year on the road has revealed to us, without a shadow of a doubt, that travelling full time is hard work! Even when we’ve stopped we’ve been exploring; engaging culturally when we can; working on this blog, Hannah’s shop, Stag & Raven, and other freelance jobs. But much of the time we’ve been on the move from one place to the next; slowly trying to make our way overland to Bhutan.
So, with Hannah soon to go back to the UK for work for a month, we decided we needed a holiday from all this holiday.
When most people think of Cambodia they perhaps imagine Angkor Wat or the killing fields. But for a few in the know, Cambodia also has some excellent islands and beaches, so that’s where we were headed.
The Cambodian coast is to the south west of the country, predominantly, centring on the port city of Sihanoukville.
Fortunately for us (well, for Hannah certainly), in 2016 the government opened a direct rail link all the way from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukviulle. At just £6 each for the six hour journey we got to avoid another super bumpy bus ride on the terrible Cambodian roads!
Hannah wears the Cambodian train
The trains were Cambodian in a way that is difficult to describe. Old diesel locomotives drew freshly re-upholstered carriages that were already dated; bench sofas crowded with locals; the air con died, so the guard opened the doors and broke the window seals to create a breeze; and yet this was one of the best train journeys we’ve experience so far on the trip!
Can’t do this on the Virgin Pendolino to London Euston!
Bizarrely, getting to our hotel on Koh Rong Sanloem from the train station cost us almost twice the fare from Phnom Penh! There is a ‘Tuk Tuk Mafia’ operating in the city, which means a journey that could cost £2 in Phonm Penh could cost a tourist £10 in Sihanoukville.
However, with heavy bags and the train station way out of town we had little choice but to pay up. As it was, we negotiated an £11.50 fare down from an exorbitant £15 one! Hannah drives a hard bargain.
We also had to get the ferry across to Koh Rong Sanloem, so cheaper transport options were limited, especially since we had to arrange our £17.25 each return ferry ticket through our hotel.
Our first evening on the island
Still, after a long day’s travel we finally made it to our paradise island hotel. Where Hannah almost immediately burst into tears.
Our constant companion for weeks has been noise. Parties, clubs, bars, loud hostels, roads, building works. South east Asia is a cacophony of all of the most intrusive sounds, at all hours of the day. Our holiday on the island was supposed to be a retreat from this.
Though on arrival at our hotel, we were assaulted by the sound of angle grinding, a tractor engine, and a shouting workforce. They were rebuilding the restaurant. Shouting to be heard, the shift manager assured us that the building work would only start at 8am each morning, so shouldn’t be a problem. Hmm.
In a moment of true un-Britishness, we informed them that we wouldn’t be staying, and wanted a refund.
So, dumping our bags we headed up the beach looking for somewhere else to stay.
Three hours later we were settled into our little beach bungalow at the Natural Island Resort. It turned out the works had been a blessing in disguise. Our new place cost the same, but was on a way better stretch of the beach, had a much nicer atmosphere, and included breakfast!
Our lovely bungalow on the beach and the Natural Island Restaurant
The great thing about the islands close to Sihanoukville is that you get to choose exactly what sort of a holiday you want. Peaceful, or party! Koh Rong is very much the party island, and if you’re after busy nights out, that’s the one to head to. Koh Rong Sanloem, the smaller of the two, is most definitely the peaceful one. Especially since we were visiting in the low season it was perfect for us. Few people, little music, only one ‘beach bar’ to speak of – and a very chilled one at that.
Fire poi at low tide by Tree Bar – the only beach bar on the bay
We spent our days following a pretty set pattern. We’d wake early with the sun; head to breakfast when the restaurant opened at 8am; stay there sipping coffee until it closed at 11am; then relax on the beach, read, swim, and stroll through the rest of the day til sunset; then usually dinner and an early night.
At £34 a night for our beach bungalow, we were definitely spoiling ourselves. But hey, we’re not nineteen any more, and sometimes everybody deserves a little luxury.
The sea was warm and clear. And the bay was so sheltered that the water was often still as a pond. We’d also lucked out with the weather – our week was bracketed but heavy rains, but the skies hardly opened while we were there. Obviously, when it rained it poured, but for the most part this was at night, or when we were at breakfast or dinner anyway. No harm, no foul.
Hannah wears a blue dress and a sun tan!
As our week drew in we decided to take a jungle stroll across the island, to Lazy Beach. Not knowing what we were heading to, and with monkeys in the the trees above, this felt like a mini adventure on its own. We were rewarded with a spectacular Gulf of Thailand sunset; waves crashing on the squeaky sandy beach, while we dined and read in on a sofa in the shade of the Lazy Beach resort. If we ever come back, we’ll probably stay there instead!
On the way to Lazy Beach for the most incredible island sunset
All to quickly, our tropical island holiday came to an end. And it was time to head back to the mainland.
Next week, we spend a few final days in Cambodia, before heading to Thailand and the island of Koh Chang.
Hannah and Phil x