We almost cancelled Sihanoukville. We received mixed messages from other travellers: some loved it, others hated it. One English guy gave a more neutral view: ‘There’s something for everyone in Sihanoukville. You just need to make sure you find it!’
Our journey from the capital to Cambodia’s coast was smooth running – thanks to P.P. Sorya (a result of our research after a tumultuous and scary journey from Kratie to Phnom Penh). After enduring the heat and smog of a rapidly developing city, we were both keen to cool off with the breeze of a crystal blue beach… some quiet… and only the sound of the waves to hum in our ears.
Upon arrival, Sihanoukville had a much better feel than we anticipated. We were so pleasantly surprised. The main Ocheteaul Beach wasn’t the highlight by anyone’s definition: it was dirty, filled with scores of litter everywhere, and there was a funny smell about the place. There was, however, a lot of life: an unnecessary number of beach chairs, tables and restaurants; bartenders who were ‘friendly’ (mainly because they wanted to sell you this tour or that tour, or this ‘happy’ pizza or that ‘happy’ shake – but, friendly nonetheless).
There was also plenty of hassle. Many persistent beach vendors (mainly children and one-legged landmine victims) selling bracelets, key chains, roasted chicken legs or ‘eggs-on-the-cob’ (the latter being an interesting sight from a Westerner’s point of view, but too fly-infested to gather the courage to try it!).
Otres Beach, however, was far more pleasant. Three kilometres away, it is far more quaint, clean and inviting than its’ Ocheteaul Beach counterpart. Sadly, we discovered it rather late, and only managed to spend one ‘fresh-fruit-shake-sipping-afternoon’ there. They say, though, that everything happens for a reason: had we chosen to stay there, we would have needed to forego our island trip to Koh Rong. And, as it happened, it was in Koh Rong that we became castaways in paradise.
Koh Rong achieved a significant status: ‘1 of Lina’s Top 3’ during her 7 months of travelling in Southeast Asia. I must say, Koh Rong was where I frequently said to myself: ‘I’m so grateful to be here. It’s so beautiful…so special…so isolated…so pristine.’ I don’t think I can actually accurately describe how wonderful being in Koh Rong felt: crystal blue waters, beautiful white stretches of sand, with only – what felt like – a handful of other tourists on the entire island.
Most importantly, however, we hired a tree house 3 meters from the shore. The sea, for our mere 3 days, felt purely our own. With our open-air, 10 meter high bamboo tree house, our outdoor shower and an elevated hammock facing a turquoise sea, we felt like privileged castaways… able to read, meditate and relax in a place that too few people knew about… and in times when too few such beautifully remote places continue to exist.
We really did feel lucky.