At first I was skeptical, to go to this “hippy paradise” that I had only read about in an article sent to me by my brother. I thought that it sounded too good to be true or that there is no way that it remained unspoiled. I was also so in love with the city of Phnom Phen that it was hard for me accept that I would have to cut days out of our trip. But with my brothers persistence, we scheduled it into our 6 weeks South East Asia tour. (And I am forever thankful for his persistence.)
Sihanoukville was lovely, we spend two nights there. Monkey Republic served Savannah Dry and towers came with free T-Shirts just down the road. Our day on the beach was spent enjoying 1$ beers as Nicki and their clan asked if we wanted sunglasses and hair wraps. I was also told that I will never find a boyfriend if I don’t let them thread my legs, my eye brows and my underarms. They were probably right, but we had already spent enough of our budget on AC that day, so we declined…probably about 40 times.
The night before we left for Koh Rong, we met up with some of the most wonderful british friends we had made along our travels. They had planned to go to Koh Rong at 8am the next morning, our ticket was booked for 11am. After about a two hour boat ride and some sea-sick tablets later, we arrived at what would soon turn into one of my favourite places on this planet.
Greeted by Coco’s finest, we were given a drink as soon as we got there. Then we were given the welcome speech. Hilarious and terrifying at the same time, we got the just. Don’t ride/climb the water buffalo and the power turns off at 1am. We made the 1km trek to what we soon found out was the nicest place on Koh Rong, Tree House Bungalows. For the next two nights, we stayed in an amazing tree house that was 3 feet from the beach. This place is quintessential paradise.
We went for a short 20 minute walk and found a white sand beach, occupied only by one water buffalo. “You will know one when you see one.” After we went for a swim, we met Bungalow, our trusted little Koh Rong dog that protected us from all the other dogs. Koh Rong has a “stray dog problem”, but these dogs were never ever aggressive and seemed that they were just trying to find someone to love them. If you give any dog attention, you will have a dog for the rest of your stay on the island.
We met some amazing people in Koh Rong. The moment I sat down at Mango’s I met my favourite Koh Rong friend, being a charming Aussie man, with the most amazing eyes you will ever see. The man knew how to make a fantastic rum and coke. One of the most spectacular things about Koh Rong is the people that you meet there. There were no “bros” or “labs” in sight, but simply down to earth people there from all over the world, looking for a place to appreciate everything we were so fortunate to have. You can talk to anyone, you can drink with anyone, there was no judgement, no questions of character, just a group of people celebrating each other.
On the first night, I tried my luck with a few Cooktails (Made by Cookie). If you ever meet a man named Cookie, who runs Mangos, give that man a hug. That night, we found a green snake (the non-poisonous kind) in the bathroom. But apparently cocktails give you courage, because all I wanted to do was touch it. I was stopped before the madness could continue, although one of the other girls gave it a good go.
Our second day was spent getting my nails painted for 1$ and eating delicious pad thai from Sigi’s Pad Thai and swimming in the crystal blue ocean. My night was spent back to Mangos, drinking normal whiskey and cokes, made by the Australian bartender with the eyes. We shared stories and laughs and I couldn’t see myself ever not knowing this amazing man. Although I got to bed by 2am, this didn’t help sleeping much, but after a plankton swim by myself to cool off, I did manage to sleep until 8am the next morning.
After convincing from all ends (let’s be honest, you cannot deny an Aussie accent), I decided that it didn’t matter that we had accommodation and a bus ticket already booked the next day in Phnom Phen, I loved this place, and we were going to stay at least one more night. If I had the time, I would have stayed a month. Our last day was spent on Long Beach. We grabbed a long tail boat and some road beers. With a volleyball net that looks like it has been through a million storms and a very kind Khmer man with a cooler full of ice cold beer, we had found another paradise, on the same island. We spent the day playing in the waves, attempting to play volleyball, and enjoying all that the couple local folk on the beach had to offer. All I wanted was to stay with those people and stay there forever.
On our final night, one of my lovely british friends won a one legged standing competition and we all went swimming with the plankton. Swimming in the ocean that night, sealed the deal. Koh Rong was one of my favourite places on earth, and if I’m being honest, definitely my favourite place in South East Asia. I watched the sunrise that morning. Leaving was bitter sweet, as all the living on Koh Rong had taken its toll on my body and I was mainly just interested in sleep, as I had done very little of that over the last couple days. The weather had also made a turn for the worst, and all good things must come to an end. As I walked away I was taking with me the most amazing memories of white beaches and blue eyes.
This paradise remains untainted as far as I know, and I plan on making my way back as soon as I can find the money and the time. I realized after I had gotten to the main land, that I hardly took any pictures. I got a snapped a few on my iPhone, but none on my good camera. I was so busy living and taking in every moment that I didn’t even think of taking pictures, which is very unlike me. Although thinking back, I wish I had more pictures of this amazing place, its also something I can appreciate that I have the memories in my mind.
It is in places like this that you lose yourself and find yourself at the same time. In a place this beautiful and this authentic, you don’t need a lot to be extremely happy. Happy gets redefined when you sleep in a tree house on the beach, can swim in the ocean at 2am, and are surrounded by people from all walks of life sharing the same energy. And that is what Koh Rong did for me, happiness and authenticity was redefined into something I didn’t know existed.