Koh Rong Sanloem the hidden gem in Cambodia
I never heard of this island until my bestie asked if I wanted to go as her boyfriend was organising a trip. It turned out to be one of the best beaches I've ever seen with my naked eyes. And trust me when I compliment a beach. As someone from a tropical country that is known for tens of kilometres of coast featuring long stretches of white- sand beaches, many of which have made their names known worldwide, I have an extremely high standard for a beach
About Koh Rong Sanloem
It's an island off the coast of Sihanoukville, the capital city of Sihanoukville Province, Cambodia. The island is located not far from its sister island, Koh Rong island, which is a more popular tourist destination due to its bigger landmass. However, I've heard that Koh Rong Sanloem is a better and prettier place to see than Koh Rong. A good thing about Koh Rong Sanloem is that it's less well-known than its sister, which means you'll find less tourists on the island.
Koh Rong Sanloem is a basic place. No shops, no cash machines, no roads, limited phone signal, slow internet (only a few places have wifi). If you're looking for entertainment, this is not the destination you want to go. But if you want to take a break from your busy life and embrace nature, carry on reading.
When to visit?
The best time to visit Koh Rong Sanloem is between mid Nov and early May as it's dry season. Cambodia weather stays warm throughout the year. Rainy season runs from mid May to early Nov, so try to avoid that period if you want to get the best out of your time in Cambodia in general.
When it comes to accommodation, most people choose to stay on the east side of the island, simply because it's closer to mainland and less windy.
What to do?
1. The beaches: Koh Rong Sanloem has beaches on both east and west sides. The beach on east side is featured with white sand whereas west side golden sand. Both beaches have shallow water. I wasn't too impressed with the sand and coast line as I've seen better, but the greenish seawater was absolutely beautiful. I'm sure you'll fall in love with the island the moment you see the sea.
2. Plankton tour and star watching: At night, we went on a plankton tour, which costs $20 including 2 hours tour and dinner at the pub. Watching plankton glowing in the dark water around me was truly an incredible experience. Just when I thought I couldn't get any more amazed by nature, I looked up at the sky and saw stars twinkling in dark silence. Living in the city for most of my life, where artificial lights, tall buildings and smoke obscured the view of stars, never had I realised how beautiful a sky could be on a clear night. I was immersed in nature, completely filled with love and admiration for the beauty of it.
3. Hiking: oh yes! As we wanted to see the golden sand, we hiked from east side of the island to the west by simply following a jungle trail which took about 45 mins. I'm sure it'll take less time if you're an experienced hiker. When we got to the other side of the island, we were one more time stunned by the beauty of the sea. This side was rather quiet and there weren't many activities to do. So we just went swimming and spent time chilling and enjoying the sea. Lying on the beach under trees' shadow with the view of clear greenish water, blue sky above and breezes blowing on the skin felt so peaceful. We stopped there for a few hours before getting on our feet to head back.
How to get there and back?
When I spoke to a few people, most of them didn't know that Sihanoukville had an airport. They thought that I travelled on road for 9 hours from Sai Gon to get to Sihanoukville and then took a 2 hour boat to the Koh Rong Sanloem. How ignorant they were about the world's development ! :P After a long period of dormancy, Sihanoukville reopened its airport in 2007 and today there are quite many direct flights to Sihanoukville. So do check out the flights as it will save you a lot of travel time.
Our journey to Koh Rong Sanloem couldn't get any easier. We took an 1 hour flight from Sai Gon to Sihanoukville and then 40 mins high speed boat from Sihanoukville to the island. We arrived at the island full of energy and enthusiasm.
There are many high-speed boat companies in Sihanoukville and their prices are quite similar, around $15 per person and most of them offer pick-up service. My friends and I went with Buva company, which we found quite decent even though we thought they could improve their punctuality. Also, if you want to make sure that you will get on the boat you want, you may want to go the pier yourself. My friends and I booked the pick-up service but because of traffic, the driver didn't get to us on time so we had to wait 2 hours for the next boat.
Some last words on Koh Rong Sanloem ...
As you already know from this journal entry, there aren't many things to do in Koh Rong Sanloem. People often go there for one or two days trip. I was there for two days only but I felt that I could stay there for a week without getting bored. Staying in such a basic place makes me feel like slowing down and enjoying life more. If you want to get away from the fast paced life in the city and want to press the refresh button, come to the island :)