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Koh Russei

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At Koh Russei, an island an hour away from Sihanoukville, there are only golden sands, fishermen's boats offshore, and a cluster of antique Russian guns strategically placed between the beaches. Once an island paradise, it's seen better days but is still worth a visit.

"Russei" means "Bamboo" in Khmer, and the island is often referred to as "Bamboo Island" by foreigners. A former navy base that opened to tourists, over the last year this island's once-serene character was destroyed along with the many bungalows that have been bulldozed. As of early 2011, the island iss almost entirely devoid of businesses and is again a relaxing place to chill out — while waiting to see when the developers who've bought the island from the Cambodian government will strike again.

Most travellers discover the place on one of the ubiquitous three-island boat tours which all go to the same islands (Koh Ta Kiev, Koh Charaluh and Koh Russei) for mediocre snorkelling and a seafood lunch. These set tours all have unpredictable levels of service and safety and there are complaints that the operators leave garbage from their lunches on the island.

The boat tours all stop on the side of the island closest to the mainland. Ko Ru Resort is on the secluded, sunnier side of the island, ideal for sunset-gazing and whiling away as many hours as one can get away with. The 10-minute walk between beaches is a pleasant one; they're connected by a path that traverses the island through a jungly forest filled with deafening cicadas.

Although Koh Russei is perhaps not as lovely as it once was, it still gives the visitor a rare sense of isolation and tranquillity that is so lacking in Sihanoukville. For those with more time on their hands the islands that are bit further away from town may be more rewarding, but for those who are looking for a laid back beachside vibe without going too far afield, Koh Russei is a good choice.

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Text and/or map last updated on 15th March, 2011.

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