Koh Rong Sanloem island off the coast of Sihanoukville, Cambodia is a very special place for me. The indescribable beauty, genuine and authentic people, sandy roads, charming signs, endless hammocks and the abundance of beachside hangouts made this place somewhere I never wanted to leave. I meant to only stay for 3 nights, but then didn’t leave for 2 weeks. I didn’t do much more than relax on the island but on a few occasions I wandered out to explore the beauty. I stayed in M’Pai bay, on the northern tip, making it a perfect spot for sunrise as well as sunset. I didn’t make it to the more expensive and popular beach of Saracen Bay, but don’t feel disappointed about it.
A few days after I arrived, Andrew who owns the guesthouse I stayed at, took me and another guest, named Claire, on a quick hike to a small waterfall. The trail to the waterfall passed many guest houses all with their own style and personality. The trail ends at the ocean with a perfect sunset view. We walked along the rocks at the edge of the ocean until we reached a small creek that leads to the waterfall. We walked up the creek to the waterfall that creates a small swimming hole. It had rained pretty hard that day so the waterfall had plenty of water and we sat on the rocks under the falls and let the water massage our backs. Aside from one passing hiker, we had the place completely to ourselves. The trees and their overhead foliage created great coverage from the sun and heat.
One morning I decided to go for a walk just after sunrise. I’ve become an increasing fan of early morning walks because I feel like I see a completely different side of places. I love watching people in their natural habitat, getting ready for their day. Families having breakfast together and kids getting ready for school. Everything is quieter and I feel like I connect better with locals. I walked away from the beach and up the hill to where the Cambodian locals live. I passed the school buzzing with young children laughing and playing before class. I passed many new homes being built and wondered if they would be guest houses offering a more quiet stay away from the beach. After walking through the small neighborhood I headed down to walk the beach and I was nearly alone. The beach always looked different in the morning when it was deserted and all the lazy beach chairs were still put away. The water is so calm and quiet before the boats arrive, offering perfect photo opts.
On 2 occasions I went to see the bioluminescent plankton that glows brightly in the ocean here. If you haven’t experienced bio plankton glow before then I highly suggest you do so. It’s an incredibly magical experience. When you swim and move the water around you, it lights up an iridescent blue. I tried to get a video of it but of course that didn’t work out for me. Simply magical, enough said. The first night I went in the water, but I wore my clothes. For some reason I thought I would be cold. But it’s still in the 80’s at night and the water in the gulf of Thailand is the temperature of bath water. So I’m an idiot. I definitely didn’t get cold, but what I did get where about 30 bites on my legs. Something must have been attracted to my leggings and how I got bit through them is beyond my comprehension. The second night that I went, I joined three others from the guesthouse. I opted not to go in because I was still dealing with the bites from last time and didn’t want to mess around with that again. Instead I sat on the beach and a puppy came and curled up in my lap and kept me company. That night I left my wet sandals outside and one was confiscated by a local dog. You’re welcome furry friend.
One of my favorite adventures on the island was visiting Clear water beach. I found it to be stunningly beautiful. Leaving from M’Pai bay, it takes about 25 minutes walking along the beach and a 20 minute easy hike through the jungle. The walk along the beach was fantastic. The entire stretch of beach was deserted except for maybe two other people. It was a beautifully clear day and I stopped a few times to get in the water because it was so gorgeous. I just had to.
About half way to Clear water is an Eco Resort. I didn’t go up to the resort but it looked amazing and they were advertising volunteers needed. I might consider that for when I come back to work for a few months after Vietnam. It’s completely secluded and about a 15 minute walk into town. I imagine it would be an amazing beach job and the scenery can’t be beat. I can’t stop picturing myself with my feet in the sand, beer in my hand and computer on my lap. I’ve been thinking a lot about monetized my blog, try to make some money from it, so I can continue traveling.
The turn off into the jungle from the beach had a few paths, one being straight up into the jungle and I took that one. I don’t think this is the one you’re supposed to use. It has a pretty good incline and the path ends in a locals back yard, which is always awkward. “Hey, so sorry, but I’m going to walk through your yard right now, while you stare at me. No big deal” Luckily they were very nice and directed me to the beach. The actual path is a much easier hike and ends right on the beach, needless to say, I took that route back.
Clear water beach is beyond words for me. White sand meets crystal clear, aqua blue water and not a soul in sight. I do realize that this is slow season so it could be a different experience during peak season. But for me, I felt like I landed on a deserted island, castaway style. Just needed to find myself a coconut and a volleyball. There is one resort/ guesthouse on the beach. It’s called the Driftwood and looks like a treehouse fort. On the beach a ways out in the shallow water they have beach swings and hammocks, which in my opinion is a genius idea. I climbed the large set of stairs to the driftwood and got a beer while a rain cloud floated by. Apparently, I found out later from Andrew, the Driftwood is a creative outlet and hangout for people using psychedelics. It’s pretty obvious, they have tons of art and paint everywhere, everything is handmade and extremely creative. Only a mind on psychedelics could think up a place like this. It was fantastic, so much to explore and look at. A hippy’s dream oasis. I only stayed for one beer but thoroughly enjoyed the visual stimulation.
On several occasions I went to see the sunset. I had been introduced to a girl named Rachel who was on the island teaching English. She invited me to watch the sunset with her and a friend Annis one night at a guesthouse called the Dragonfly. The Dragonfly is situated on the western rocky coast making it one of the best spots for sunsets and everyone knows about it. Annis brought a ukulele and sang and played for us. It was so freeing, relaxing and gorgeous! The guesthouse is an adorable spot with cute decorations and awesome music. I returned several nights after that to catch the sunset and I frequently ran into Rachel and other people I had become familiar with. The Dragonfly is also a spot I will apply to work at when I come back because I just fell in love with it.
So I promise this is my last post about Koh Rong Sanloem island, but only for now. I really do see myself coming back and setting up shop for a few months during their peak season before I move south into the Thailand islands, Malaysia and Indonesia. I’m even trying to convince my mother to come here for holiday so I can show her this amazing place.
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