Mar 21 2013
When we heard a man named Kylie was renting out motorbikes to explore Cambodia’s second largest island Koh Rong, we jumped at the chance. In fact, we were so keen, we were his very first customers. Checking out the interior of the island, seeing views and travelling roads that have been available to very few people is our idea of a good day out. The road is a new addition, a precursor to development of the island, and allows you to get off the beaches and into the heart of Koh Rong.
Before we get you all excited, though, a disclaimer. The roads on Koh Rong are very rough and ready — the scree and rocks can make for an easy tumble. If you do come a cropper, there are very few places to ask for help, and there are no hospitals on the island. Because of this, we would only recommend this trip for experienced riders. And no, that day out on smooth tarmac and straight roads around Pai doesn’t count.
If you do have the right credentials, you are in for a treat. Admittedly, the rudimentary roads deserve trail bikes but you’re getting a 110cc motorbike, so make the best of it. It’s still preferable to using your legs, right? The bikes will be delivered to the road up the hill behind Monkey Island on Koh Touch beach. You’ll be given a briefing on the routes and the sights and then you’re free to go exploring. The worst of the road is the first section, with big rocks and steep inclines. If you can make it past this part, you’ll have no trouble on the rest of the routes, which have smaller rocks and shallower gradients but some rickety bridges. These are built for trucks, so choose the reinforced sections for extra security.
Kylie and his crew have done a good job of signposting the routes. At the first junction, turn right towards the Sangkat village or left to 7km beach. The road to the beach offers some stunning views across jungle to distant white beaches and you can catch a glimpse of the exclusive Song Saa island. You’ll meet very few people on the road, but you’ll pass wooden homesteads tucked into the bush under a canopy of coconut palms. On the way, make a detour to visit the small pagoda, then strike out on foot down the path beyond, over a ramshackle bridge crossing a lagoon, to a secret and secluded beach.
Heading back to the main road, the final section of the route to the beach involves a shady sandy path through the jungle. At least if you come off here, the landing will be soft. You’ll emerge about two thirds of the way along 7km beach, with Sok San village a couple of kilometres’ ramble to the right. It is not possible to reach the village by bike, because even first gear isn’t enough to counteract the deep sand (we speak from experience and painful arm muscles). Timing your visit to the low tide may make the job easier on wet sand, but you’ll need to return before the sea does.
Stopping to examine strikingly coloured tropical flowers or an unidentified bird, the peacefulness of Koh Rong is unbeatable. Other than a rustling breeze, insects or a distant dog bark, all is quiet. The calm of Koh Touch beach seems like a bustling metropolis compared with this.
If you’re starting to wonder if there’s anyone left on earth, make a visit to the Sangkat village down a steep hill. The village is as pretty as a postcard, with friendly inhabitants who are likely to find you slightly fascinating. Salt-worn wooden houses built on stilts huddle the fishing jetty, with colourful green and red boats moored alongside. Order an iced coffee and revel in the quiet simple joy of it all.
Bike rental is available at US$10 for a four-hour session between 8:00 and 12:00 or 13:00 to 17:00. Fuel is charged at US$1.50 per litre, and you’ll need two litres to be on the safe side. Due to the road conditions, bikes are only hired out for one rider without a passenger – two people will need to hire two bikes. Be sure to bring sunscreen and sufficient water with you. Long sleeves and trousers are recommended as protection against the sun and possible tumbles.
Kylie’s Bike Rental
Sangkat Village, Koh Rong
T: (015) 332435 / (087) 652362 / (016) 223469
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