Photo: Saracen Bay, Koh Rong Samloem.


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Just 45 minutes by speedboat, yet a world away from the grubby confines of Sihanoukville, Koh Rong Samloem offers four completely different atmospheres on four different beaches on what many might describe as the archetypal paradise island.

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The island of many spellings -- it’s also known as Koh Rong Sanloem, Koh Rung Samloen, Koh Rong Saloem, Koh Rong Samlon and several other variations -- the name means something like Island of the Far Away Cave, though no-one mentioned any caves to us when we were there.

Your seat awaits at Koh Rong Samloem. Photo taken in or around Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia by Nicky Sullivan.

Your seat awaits at Koh Rong Samloem. Photo: Nicky Sullivan

Koh Rong Samloem is owned by the Cambodian government though unlike Koh Rong, where 99-year leases are granted by the government, here the system is more short-term and locally managed. As a result, most development on the island is small-scale, with the low-key set up fostering an endearingly intimate aspect across the island. However, larger development plans continue to hang in the air, and signboards thread along the beach beside M’Pai Bei village mark out territory leased to the ominously anonymous sounding Koh Rong Samloem Island Resorts Co Ltd, a portent of what awaits.

You could sit on the dock of the bay. Photo taken in or around Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia by Nicky Sullivan.

You could sit on the dock of the bay. Photo: Nicky Sullivan

The speed ferries arrive on magazine-ready Saracen Bay on the east side of the island, apparently so named for the British ship that once moored off here. With its three-kilometre crescent of gleaming white sands, and generally expensive accommodation, this is the glamour destination on Koh Rong Samloem, though it also features some good, cheap digs too.

The western side is the chill-out coast, where Sunset Beach offers a very relaxed getaway, and base for the Dive Shop, while Lazy Beach is the flashpackers’ retreat par excellence, with a well-established reputation for excellent food and a relaxed but carefully tended atmosphere. These two are also accessible on foot via jungle paths from the eastern side and are perfect for watching the deep pink sunsets every in the evening. If you’re doing that, we recommend taking the easier and shorter route to Lazy Beach even though its orientation is not as ideal as ... Travelfish members only (Around 1,300 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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