Dec 06 2011
If you’ve always dreamt of spending the holidays on a deserted tropical island, might I suggest Cambodia’s Koh Rong? Okay, okay it’s not quite deserted. Four small fishing villages inhabit the 78 square kilometre island, and a handful of resorts with between four and 15 bungalows each. But compared to Thailand’s islands, it’s positively rustic.
Koh Rong island is one of my favourites — calm turquoise waters lap against white sand beaches and you can get fresh seafood dinners every night for very little, if you’re so inclined (and I am). Despite the fact that Koh Rong is remarkably undeveloped, there are lots of options for things to do: diving, snorkelling, jungle hikes or just sitting around drinking — all of the resorts on the island are kind enough to have put in a bar, and drinks don’t cost much more than on the mainland.
For meals, check out Treehouse Bungalows — they’re got an Italian running the kitchen with a wood-fired oven and their pizzas ($6.50) are better than what you’ll get in Phnom Penh. They often have specials like tiramisu or home-made pastries and some nights they will do a decadent five-course set menu with seafood caught fresh that day. If you’re interested in trying a set menu, talk to the owner, Srey Nuch.
If it’s seafood you’re after, try Nam Nam on Koh Rong’s southeast side, run by the entrepreneurial 17-year-old Srey Leak and her family. Nam Nam is the place to go for cheap and cheerful Khmer meals. Order crab, prawns, fish and squid by the kilo a day in advance and have a seafood feast on the beach.
The Monkey Island restaurant, in addition to having the most happening bar on the island, is your best option for Western and Thai dishes. They’ve an extensive selection of Western breakfasts and sandwiches, but where they really excel is with their fantastic Thai selections. Each night they offer a few excellent specials such as chicken green curry or Lao-style beef salad prepared by their chef, Vi, who is originally from Thailand.
If you end up staying on the other side of the island, stop by Angkor Chum, a set of four bungalows on the western side of the island owned by the village chief, Mr Chruk (that’s Mr Pig for you non-Khmer speakers). He’s also set up a restaurant on the pier there, which serves up local Khmer dishes and fresh seafood daily. They’re happy to show you what the catch of the day is as well as all available vegetables and let you decide what you’d prefer.
To get to Koh Rong from Phnom Penh, you’ll need to take a bus to Sihanoukville (Capital is said to be the best bet these days since Mekong Express stopped doing this route). If you book in advance with one of the above-mentioned places, you’ll also be able to book a spot on the boat that leaves from Sihanoukville every day between 12:00 and 13:00. The boat takes between two and three hours, depending on the weather.
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