Are you ready for the REAL paradise?
Cambodia has long been a travel haven for the young and old as they trek through Asia, being drawn in mostly by the world wonders of Angkor Wat, that occupy it's most popular tourist destination, Siem Reap.
The islands off the South coast of Cambodia are still hidden and mysterious to the average traveller, and it is through true immersion with the country, culture and other travellers alike that you will make the trip down to see with your very own eyes, what others only describe as "Paradise".
One of the biggest draws of Koh Rong Island is the feeling of being off the grid, an island that transports you to a reality that can only be compared to a dreamland. An island that completely awakens that feeling of "am I dreaming - am I really here?!" Docking in by boat onto the small wooden pier's will be your first experience of Koh Rong, as you soar through the Gulf of Thailand across from the mainland, towards your island paradise. Step down onto the beautiful, perfectly pristine white sand of Southwestern Beach and look around you. Take it all in. You've arrived. You're standing on one of the most beautiful beaches in Asia.
A site to behold, you're met with wooden beach bungalows set back off the beach, with the most wonderful ocean views. The water, still, calm, and blue. A turquoise, clear blue, rippling motion of ocean, right in front of your very eyes. A feeling of stillness, and, as you look up, the realisation that you are surrounded by statuesque palm tree's bellowing in the balmy breeze, towering over you as you walk along the sand, protecting you from the heat of the Cambodian sun.
Making your way down the beach you quickly discover that you wont find high-rise accommodation here. The island is dotted with many different beach bungalows, all built on stilts that sit high above the sand. The wood is a rich mahogany, and matches the colours of the trunks of the palm tree's, which are all laden with beautifully coloured hammocks, beckoning the weary travellers passing by to lie inside and relax.
Happy Bungalows were my accommodation of choice, partly because I liked the name, and partly because they had been recommended to me. Myself and two travel friends decided to pay the $15 a night to live on the beach in a cute wooden hut, occupied by two double beds, two mosquito nets, and not much else. The owners of "Happy", were just that. Beautiful Cambodian faces, with their smiling honey brown eyes, welcoming you to their island and their home. Nothing is ever too much trouble for the Cambodian people. They live with almost nothing, yet are so content, gracious, and express this incredible charisma, even when not speaking the same language.
The beach's of Koh Rong themselves are more authentic, rustic and much more undeveloped than their neighbouring islands, belonging to Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. There is a feeling on Koh Rong that you have the entire island to yourself, even though there are people there. A desert island effect, complete with beach BBQ's, an absorbing energy and hippy-esque style beach life running through the core of this island. There are no ATM's, and just electricity run by generators between the hours of 6pm – 11pm, and after that darkness, in the most beautiful way.
You look up. Diamonds. Dazzling bright shining diamonds dotted all over the black blanket of the night sky. You can see the stars, that are millions & millions of galaxies away, so brightly here because there is no electricity, and no other lights on the island to dim their shine. That’s not even the best part. The water that laps onto the shores of Koh Rong at certain times of the year is incredibly flat & lagoon like, still in motion and as warm as that nightly soak that you take at home in your bath tub to relax.
Underneath the water's surface are more diamonds. Not stars this time, but plankton. Everywhere. Run out into the ocean with friends and a snorkel and dive into the underwater world at night, discovering how the plankton glows with every move your bodymakes. So bright. You'll be mesmerised, and feel transported to a magical place where below and above the water's surface you're met with the most beautiful of sites. Whenever I think of that moment for me, I think of Coldplay's – Paradise. Everytime I hear that song even now, it teleports me back to that time and place. You have to see it to believe it.
Koh Rong is an island paradise, there is no doubt about that. But it's also a jungle wilderness of nature and local species. The colour green is prominent here. When venturing through the jungle of Koh Rong to reach one of its famous beaches, Long Beach – the only word that can be used to describe it is "raw". There are no roads on this island, so to reach the other side you either jump in one of the typically Asian wooden boats and cruise around to the other side of the island, or if you're feeling adventurous and fancy a bit of a hike, as most travellers do – then your only other option is to go by foot through the jungles of Koh Rong. 45 minutes approximately will be your journey time, and it won't be easy as there isn't a clear path. But who wants easy, especially when you see what's waiting for you as you brush through the leaves and twigs, opening your eyes to the most incredible view. Long Beach. You made it. This part of the island is the perfect romantic spot for sunset, with your friends, solo or as part of a couple. Playsome music, grab some drinks, sit back and feel the end of the day wash over you and the strength of the sun give rise to the moon. Word of warning and speaking from experience- beware of the sand flies on this side at sunset, as they tend to surface around about that time, and can be pretty lethal. The little huts & restaurants on the other side of the island all sell coconut oil, which means the sand flies cant penetrate and bite you beautifully bronzed skin, so be sure to grab some before heading over to Long Beach.
So that’s Koh Rong sunsets covered. White sand beaches for miles. Turquoise waters. Planktorn. Stars. Beach BBQ's. Hammocks. Jungle Treks. But there is still more to explore. Fly down the zip line, which is a new activity on Koh Rong built across 23 luscious green tree's standing tall. Be braver than me! Snorkel, Scuba dive, fish, island hop – do them all. Embrace island life. Or simply relax back onto a cushion of pure perfect sand, with the sun beaming down. That’s as difficult as your choice gets on this island. Pure bliss
Hayley heads up the site, Map MyAdventure. She's originally a London girl, but has lived and worked in the Maldives, Thailand and Australia, after leaving behind her 10 year career in Corporate Banking for her passion for travel. She is obsessed with the ocean & not so secretly wishes she was a mermaid. You'll find her doing what she loves; exploring beautiful places.