This is part 2 of our 2-weeks itinerary through Cambodia. For part 1, click here.
Check out the entire itinerary:
Day 6 – Day 9: Koh Rong Samloem
After our massive sightseeing marathon at Angkor Wat, we were ready to kick back our tired legs and relax a little bit on the famed islands of Cambodia. Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem are sometimes compared to the islands in Thailand, before mass tourism hit them. Out of the two, we chose Koh Rong Samloen because the island was supposedly even less developed and more laid-back.
The two biggest settlements on Koh Rong Samloem are at M’Pay Bay and Saracen Bay. Boats from Sihanoukville will also generally only go to these two places. Less developed, but even more beautiful are the beaches in between and around these “towns”, including Clearwater Bay, Sunset Beach and Lazy Beach. Basically all but Clearwater Bay offer some sort of touristic infrastructure, mainly beach bungalows. The rest of the island is jungle and while there are some paths leading from one place to another, oftentimes the only way to get around is by taxi boat around the island.
We ultimately decided to stay at M’Pay Bay because that seemed to be the destination of the more budget-minded backpackers. M’Pay Bay is really just a strip along the coast with a pier, a couple of shops and a number of restaurants that also function as bars and guesthouses. We checked into the Chill Inn for $7.50 per night including a free beer per day :).
Infrastructure at M’Pay Bay is quite in its infancy: There is running water and electricity, but no hot showers and there was only one place with WiFi where it also only worked about 30% of the time and then in slow-mode. No ATMs anywhere. Obviously this means there is also not much to distract you from the perfect beach stay. The only problem with that is that there was also no real trash management and there didn’t seem to be enough “garbage boats” to handle the situation. It would be really nice to see some more development to cope with that problem!
Hike to Clearwater Bay
On our second day at Koh Rong Samloem, we decided to head over to Clearwater Bay around 3 Km to the east of M’Pay Bay. To get there, we had to walk around the bay, then wade through the ocean (!) for about 200m before hitting a trail through the jungle (there was a sign marking the trail). For some reason, we only took our flip-flops, so the trail turned out to be quite challenging! Especially because the ocean is full of sharp rocks, so we both had cut our feet open while walking through the water.
After about 1.5 hours though, we finally arrived at Clearwater Bay and oh may god, was that a beautiful beach! It looked like basically no one ever comes down here. Much of the strip is completely untouched by human development except for the occasional hammock in the trees. The sand was so white and fine, we literally wanted to take it and bake a cake out of it! The ocean is very shallow and calm and it is possible to simply walk out for maybe 50m or so.
The only hostel/restaurant at Clearwater Bay is called Driftwood Hostel and that’s where we headed for lunch: pasta. The very spacious common room is beautifully decorated with all sorts of hippie stuff. Everyone was just chilling or reading or playing music (there is really not much else to do). We talked for a while to an Israeli who had stayed there for over 20 days and really seemed to have forgotten about life. After lunch, we were ready to head back to M’Pay Bay: The hostel advertised a taxi boat at around 6pm for $7, which was quite expensive. However, when we walked back along the beach, we managed to catch a boat willing to take us for $3! After our difficulties getting to Clearwater Bay with flip-flops, we were more than happy to go by taxi!
Kingdom Boat Tours
Apart from diving, the only real thing “to do” on Koh Rong Samloem is to take a boat tour. We booked one from Kingdom Boat Tours for $15 and it was quite amazing and a fair price for the value!
We started out at noon and took the boat to a reef where we snorkeled around for maybe an hour. After that we went to Military Beach, a part of the island that is normally off-limits for tourists. The main attraction there is a light tower on top of a hill that granted incredibly vistas over the whole island.
At military beach we also had lunch (vegetarian fried rice) and enjoyed our free beers in the sun. After that, the boat tour took us to sunset beach, another immensely beautiful strip of white sand. The beach was wider and there was more development than at Clearwater Bay, but the sand was not quite as fine. After some more snorkeling, we headed back to M’Pay Bay, however, not without enjoying an amazing sunset on open water!
Day 9 – Day 10: Phnom Penh
From Koh Rong Samloem, the trip led us back again to Phnom Penh by boat and minivan. We stayed at the One Stop Hostel, which is part of one of the most reputable hostel chains in Cambodia with standardized rooms and services. They are located right in the backpackers area near a gigantic and authentic street food night market with some of the cheapest food we have had anywhere! And since we didn’t get diarrhea the day after, this is probably our only recommendation for Phnom Penh ;-)
Written by Kevin and Nicole, Si Phan Don