After being in the large metropolitan capital of Phnom Penh we were all looking forward to spending some time at the beach. Both Sihanoukville (which I still can’t pronounce correctly) and Koh Rong Island fitted this bill perfectly.
Sihanoukville is a growing seaside resort town and as soon as the town came into view from our bus it was very evident that construction is occurring on a pretty large-scale given the size of the town. Despite already having at least 15 casinos, new ones are popping up everywhere; most, if not all, are owned by Chinese and cater for their own tourists, especially as local Cambodians are not allowed to enter the casinos other than to work. Unfortunately, other than offering jobs to locals there is seemingly little other benefits for them, with most people still struggling to make a living.
We did not come here to visit the casinos and instead made our way 10km out-of-town to Otres Beach. This beach has two main areas, appropriately named Otres Beach I and Otres Beach II. Otres II would be our home for six nights where we ended up staying at two different places due to our first real accommodation fail. We stayed just one night at Otres Marina and the rest of our time was spent at the Jully Anna Guesthouse, both just a short walk to the beach. Similar to Thailand, it does not take long once you arrive on the beach to be offered any number of services; food or merchandise, massages, pedicures, fruit, bracelets or sunglasses. The restaurants which line the beachfront have a number of lounge chairs available for customers, which we made the most of during our time ordering the odd beer or cocktail to keep them content with us using their loungers. The beach, although busy, was never packed, making it easy to find a place to settle in for the day.With Otres being a very touristy destination the prices of food were definitely a lot higher, between 200-300% more than we had being paying even for a simple fried rice. Thankfully a cold handle of beer could still be found for $0.50c US/$0.68 NZD and 2 for 1 cocktails during most happy hours. Similar to Sihanoukville, a lot of construction is occurring in the Otres area with no less than five large hotels are currently underway within a 200 metre stretch. Further areas of land are seemingly awaiting for the ground to be broken with signs indicating 5-6 level resorts coming soon. I’m sure it won’t be long until the first casino pops up here as well and within a couple of years it will be unrecognisable.
Koh Rong Island, a mere 45 minute fast ferry ride from Sihanoukville and around 95% undeveloped, was our next stop on our Cambodian adventure. We had been warned about Koh Rong being a party island for backpackers so had booked accommodation at Bunnan Bungalows on Coconut Beach, where only 5 small resorts are located and are away from the bars with pub crawls.Coconut Beach also had the bonus of having fluorescent plankton you could swim with at night, which is something I had wanted to do for some time. So at around 8pm one night, Paula and I ventured into the dark water and swam with the thousands of tiny glowing fish. Although they were not as plentiful as photographs and videos we had seen it was still an amazing experience as with every movement of your body the tiny plankton would light up momentarily like sparks. Unfortunately we have no photographs of this incredible phenomenon but if anyone ever has the chance to do it, it is well worth it.
Koh Rong also allowed us to let off our first sky lanterns in Southeast Asia. This opportunity came up by chance after enjoying a dinner at the nearby Coconut Bungalow’s restaurant with staff encouraging everyone to take part. In the end, nearly thirty lanterns were released. The boys really enjoyed this time old tradition from constructing the lantern, lighting it and finally making a wish before letting it float off into the night sky and watch it drift away.Little else occurred on Koh Rong island, which is exactly why we chose to spend four nights here. So in that respect we definitely were not disappointed and it was a great way to spend some time before heading to our final destination in Cambodia, Kep.
Average Daily Spend – Sihanoukville: $112.46 NZD ($60.04 under budget per day)
Average Daily Spend – Koh Rong: $137.18 NZD ($35.32 under budget per day)