Cambodia Beaches - the good, the bad, and the ugly
We traveled to Cambodia during a school break and decided to balance the history lessons in Siem Reap with a few nights relaxing along the beautiful Cambodian beaches.
We took a quick fifty minute flight from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville, which was our launching spot for Koh Rong Samloem. We spent one night at the White Boutique Hotel. I am generally pretty thorough in my research, but I was blindsided by this hotel. It is not a cute boutique hotel, but a professionally photoshopped motel in a fairly dingy area. It was by far the most expensive hotel of our time in Cambodia, which made it all the more shocking. When you're traveling sometimes these mistakes happen. In my opinion, they often make for the best stories, if you can laugh about it. Thankfully our friends are very easy going, so we dumped our bags in our non-luxurious rooms and headed for the beach, which was beautiful. The beach side food was also pretty good and the kids were super happy to eat and play in the waves. The hotel calls the beach private, which isn't really true; however, there aren't many other accommodations nearby, so we did have the stretch of sand to ourselves*.
* Technically there weren't other sunbathers; however, there were a few local women trying to sell us foot massages, hair braiding services, and necklaces and local men trying to sell us jet ski rides and other motorized boating activities. They are nothing if not persistent, but repeatedly saying no and trying to relax does get tiring.
We were happy to move on from Sihanoukville in the morning and if you can arrange your flight to better match the ferry schedule, then I would definitely recommend skipping this stop altogether.
The ferry transfer jeep came for us in the morning and we were on the island of Koh Rong Samloem for a late lunch. The accommodations on the island are simple and everything is rustic in a way that is so fitting for this remote island. We stayed at the Sara Resort, which is nothing glamorous, but right on the beach and everyone working there was lovely.
After a bit of traveling around, it was so nice to just go into complete relaxation mode. The part of the island that we were on was quiet and thankfully not a hot spot for the 20 year old party scene. The kids were free to swim, snorkel, and explore the island. There was an even more remote beach on the other side of the island, Lazy Beach, which was fun to find after trekking through the woods. We played cards and celebrities, also called "salad bowl" by our Canadian friends.
Something that we really would have loved to do was the nighttime boat tour to see the bio luminescent plankton. Unfortunately the night we were planning to go there was a big storm and a lot of lightning over the water. I didn't want to take any chances, but I am really sad we missed that opportunity.
One really crazy thing that happened during our peaceful sojourn, was one of the kids sliced her foot on a sharp barnacle while jumping off the pier. It was fairly deep and we didn't want to risk infection, so we took her to the local medical room. This was a tiny hut behind the bar of another hotel. There was one cot, terrible lighting, and a guy with a medical coat who we had to trust. He recommended stitches and unfortunately, it seemed like a necessary step. There was a lot of screaming and crying, which seemed really uncharacteristic of the girl getting stitched up and we later learned that he was sewing on a nerve. That would explain a lot. Anyways, she survived and we got another wild story for the memory book. Sadly, though, that meant that she wasn't able to do much for the rest of the trip.
The food on Koh Rong Samloem is quite terrible, as everything is coming over by boat. Expect a fair amount of frozen food (ie: fried) and not so much fresh food. I had been warned about eating meat on these tiny islands, since it is brought over without great refrigeration techniques. I don't eat meat anyways, but I did have a plastic bag of some bloody meat being brought over sitting by my feet on the ferry. So needless to say, I would avoid that at all cost.
So all in all, this was an adventure. I don't know that I would do this all again, but like I said before- sometimes when things go weird or just downright bad, they are the things you remember forever. We were so fortunate to be traveling with easy friends. So take note- Choose your travel friends wisely!