When we first started planning our trip to Cambodia we mainly thought about visiting temples and historical sights. Our next destination – southern Thailand – was famous for its beaches, so we were going to skip the coast to leave ourselves more time to explore the rich Khmer history and cities. Big up to the friend who convinced us not to dodge the sands – they proved the perfect escape from the sultry heat of Angkor Wat, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Think white sands, turquoise water and swaying palms aplenty.

Koh Rong islands
Koh Rong | © Crabs Move Sideways

Getting there

To get to the Koh Rong islands you need to first get to Sihanoukville. There are plenty of bus companies offering links from most popular destinations in the country. There is also an airport with flight connections to Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and couple of short-haul international destinations. Once in Sihanoukville, its just a short boat ride. We wouldn’t recommend a stay on the mainland at all. We made that mistake and had the worst night’s sleep ever – cheers Sakal Guesthouse and the arse who revved his Harley at 5am. What once was a long stretch of white sand beach, has been replaced with dodgy restaurants and bars in Sihanoukville, too. There are more and more mega casino-hotels run by Chinese visitors, and the area is slowly being changed into a sort of Macau-Las Vegas mashup. Not good.


Koh Rong islands
Koh Rong | © Crabs Move Sideways

Koh Rong

Koh Rong is the bigger and the more developed of the two islands on offer from Sihanoukville’s pier. In recent years it’s become known not only for its pristine beaches but also for  wild parties. Despite its hedonistic reputation, Koh Rong is a really relaxing and beautiful island. If you take a short walk through the coastal jungles, secluded white-sand beaches can be had almost to yourself. There are lots of areas to stay with most budget options located in Koh Toch Village. Head there quickly before it’s changed into the next Sihanoukville, that’s what we say.

Koh Rong islands
Koh Rong Sanloem | © Crabs Move Sideways

Koh Rong Sanloem

The smaller and less developed Koh Rong Sanloem is the sort of place you see in the travel brochures. This little island could certainly beat most Thai beach destinations hands down. The long stretch of white sand and the calm, shallow turquoise waters on its side is known as Saracen Bay. That’s where we stayed, and despite some high waves, it was awesome. To watch magnificent sunsets, you just have to take a 20-minute hike through a jungle to the west-facing Lazy beach. There are no roads or ATMs. Only the tranquility of the island that takes you back to a Southeast Asia from before the tourist boom. Unfortunately, it looks like things are changing. 

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