Skip Sihanoukville and Go Straight to Koh Rong
Koh Rong Island seems like a world away from Cambodia’s self dubbed ‘sin city’, Sihanoukville but in reality is connected by speed ferry in just under 40 minutes. Having little knowledge about the area before we arrived we had decided to stay in Sihanoukville first and then move to Koh Rong for New Years Eve and the few days after. I had previously read reviews of no power, limited food choices, and dirty beaches which tainted my expectations for the island.
Sihanoukville had the potential to be an enjoyable vacation spot but in my mind missed the mark. The main beach, Serendipity beach is so full of bars and restaurants that there is little to no actual beach to sit or walk on. Many of the bars stay open very late and are quite popular with the younger crowd. The very fact that every single night of the year there are fireworks is a good testament to the ‘vibe’ of Sihanoukville.
Thankfully some areas are less seedy than others so it is possible to have a beach getaway without being subject to the sex trade industry and drug culture. We had heard that Otres beach was much nicer, backpacker friendly, and more of a chill-out kind of attitude. Perfect!
We rented a scooter from one of the larger Hotels on the main road along the beach for $4 and headed on our way. Otres beach is a fun strip of sand with options for both the budget or high rolling traveller. There are bars and places to eat along the water as well as many sun chairs. We found two lounge chairs that were free to use by one of the many restaurants and had a seat there. Like any beach we were asked multiple times by both adults and children to purchase goods, get massage, manicure, or reserve a spot on a tour. I am not bothered by this but we did see some tourists buying things out of frustration. The beach itself was a bit underwhelming as the tide was so high it was almost impossible to walk the beach without having to step over lounge chairs or be knee deep in the water.
Koh Rong Island however is a beach lovers paradise. Once offloaded from the ferry it becomes footwear optional from here on out. The main action hub of Koh Rong is on either side of the pier and is comprised with beach bars and budget accommodation. Despite what you may have read there are many places here with power during the day and through most of the night and also a few with decent WIFI. There are many sides to Koh Rong and more accommodation is available in other locations around the island ranging from budget to secluded four star and from guest house to tree house. The water is a beautiful turquoise and clear and the sand is soft and clean.
Being more ‘go with the flow’ travellers after about 7 months of travel we had not booked ahead for New Years Eve in what seemed like a very popular choice for backpackers. We managed to find a room at White Rose in a small dorm room with only 1 bed free for the 2 of us to share. It was overpriced to begin with so we were almost thankful we only had to pay for one bed. We spent our new years watching hippie fire twirlers perform and comforting a terrified puppy from the noise of the fireworks.
The highlight of our trip to Koh Rong and a MUST do is the hike to Long Beach. There you will find miles of undeveloped white, soft and squeaky silicone sand for as long as the eye can see with little to no other visitors there. It is one of the most magical places I have ever been and I am worried It wont stay that way for too long so make sure you go when you have the chance!