“This isn’t Ko Rong,” a tanned lady told me as I moved to pick up my rucksack.
“Thanks,” I said, swinging it onto my back. “I know.”
I hopped onto a wooden jetty and then turned to be passed my guitar. The boat pushed off immediately and was already retreating back into the noontime sun, music blasting. I breathed a sigh of relief as the bass faded into the distance – I had made it to Ko Rong Samloem.
I had set off for this Island on the recommendation of a friend and on the basis of one of her Instagram pictures of a long, wooden pier stretching out into an ocean of perfect turquoise. I know that’s pretty risky (it could have just been a great filter!) but the scene in front of me now did not disappoint. I shuffled towards dry land and sure enough, found myself facing the sign of the guesthouse I had been told to head for “The Chill Inn”.
Those words pretty much summed up the following five days for me. There’s no Wi-Fi on Ko Rong Samloem which, let me assure you, is truly amazing. I read three books whilst I was on the Island, one of them over 800 pages long. I wrote in my diary, I listened to music, I drank beer, I played cards, and I walked on the beach. I didn’t check my Facebook or scroll through Twitter and guess what? The world didn’t end! The most eventful thing that happened during my stay was when I tried to swim to another Island which looked quite close…it wasn’t, and I got very sunburned in the process. This only meant that I had to chill out even more and stay in the shade for a couple of days.
“The Chill Inn” is run by Shay, a laidback guy from Manchester who will happily relax with you as you while the hours away. My room was clean and came with a good fan and mosquito net, something that is rare even in some developed areas of Southeast Asia. Room rates on the Island are reasonable and consistent at $5 a night; there is a real sense of community and so business owners work together to develop the tourists industry rather than undercutting each other anywhere.
There is a sense that bigger things are coming to Ko Rong Samloem, but for now, it is a haven. I would recommend bringing more cash than you think you’ll need, there are no ATMs on the island at all and so when you inevitably decide to stay a couple more nights you’ll want to be prepared. The final thing to note is that I’m not exaggerating when I say this place is small and relaxed; come here if you’re a person who is happy with their own thoughts or a good book.
There is a small dive school on the Island – the Cambodian Diving Group, which prides itself on being the only entirely Island-based dive operator in Cambodia. The Director, Simon, is an IDC Staff Instructor who originally specialised in UK wrecks, accumulating 1000s of dives. He moved to KRS in 2008 and has been working as a full-time Instructor ever since. He has a huge range of dive packages available ranging from one fun dive for $65 to advanced open water for $320. Snorkelling is available for hire all year round.
If you’re looking for buzzing nightlife and busy bars, head to neighbouring Ko Rong which is famed for its beach parties. Just be sure to ask for the right ticket when you get on the boat!