Koh Rong, Cambodia: We would still be there if it weren’t for the sunburn…

Brian and I were laughing the other day because who names a travel blog “Beaches & Backpacks” and then travels for just shy of two months without setting foot on a single beach. Well, apparently we do!

We highly doubt you’ve been holding your breath anxiously anticipating a beach blog post but on the off chance that this has been the case, please know that we sincerely apologize for the two month delay and sorry for any brain damage that may have occurred. The good news is that Koh Rong island, which is located off the coast of Cambodia, marks our first official beach destination and hopefully not our last!

Where to stay?

Ideally we were hoping to score a nice private bungalow overlooking the ocean for a reasonable price. However, I don’t know what world we thought we were living in but a private bungalow does not equate to budget friendly option. I guess we were just being hopeful and who can blame us for for that? We then developed the following game plan: find a cheap accommodation for the first few nights and then maybe splurge on a bungalow the next night or two. Go big or go home, right? Well not exactly…

The first few nights we called home to a very basic guesthouse that was owned by a local family on the island.  While the guesthouse was no bungalow, it got the job done and we had our eye on the prize – the coveted bungalow on the beach in a few short nights! However, you should probably be aware of one very minor detail regarding our room at the guesthouse. When we committed to staying the night, our room was missing a door. No, the door wasn’t broken. The entire door was MIA. Someone please send out a search party!

The woman reassured us in broken English that “door come in 30 (pronounced ter-tee) minutes.” In Cambodian fashion, we had a door sans a lock about an hour and a half later. By the time a lock for the door arrived, we were looking at a solid two hours past our arrival but it’s island time so who is counting!

Sign should actually read "one room(s) two bed minus a door"

Sign should actually read “one room(s) two bed minus a door”

After two nights, it then came time to treat ourselves to a beach bungalow. Much to our surprise, we were told that the bungalows just so happened to get booked up a week to a month in advance. As backpackers, we rarely plan what we’re doing over the course of the next few days let alone the next week. Who in the world is booking these bungalows so far in advance? While I’m usually not a betting woman (okay so maybe I am), I would bet a lifetime’s supply of Skyline Chili that it was flashpackers. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, flashpackers are essentially backpackers with deeper pockets and who often travel with more techno gadgets. They usually stay in more upscale accommodations and although not always, they are typically older as well.

Since we weren’t able to score a bungalow, I thought why don’t we go for the next best thing. What’s the next best thing? Jeopardy style – let’s try camping on the beach for $5 (because that’s how much it cost to rent a tent). Yes, camping on the beach really did happen and here is a picture to prove it!

Our humble abode.

Our humble abode.

I’ll let you be the judge as to whether our experience qualifies as camping or glamping (i.e. glamorous camping) because I must confess we weren’t completely roughing it! Before I elaborate on our camping setup, you should know that at some point over the last several years, Brian made a full disclosure to me that he was never a Boy Scott and he was not blessed with the “handy” genes. As a result, we’ve previously steered clear of camping all together. In fact, this was our very first camping experience together.

While I appreciated Brian’s honesty, it takes a real man to admit his weaknesses and I love him all the more for it even if I’ve never seen him use a hammer, a drill, or a wrench. Okay fine, I have seen Brian use a wrench on several occasions and I’m here as a living witness that he did a mighty fine job! Brian has a long list of endearing qualities – I’m really not concerned how well he can pitch a tent or fix a leaking sink.

So this is the deal – our tent may or may not have already been pitched and we may or may not have had a mattress, pillows, and a blanket waiting for us when we climbed in. We actually found the whole camping experience to be fun and quite amusing! How many people can say they have slept on the beach or that they have fallen asleep to the sound of the waves crashing right next to them?

Our spectacular view of the sunrise from outside our tent.

Our spectacular view of the sunrise from outside our tent.

Where to eat?

Casual, laid-back restaurants line the main beach and each restaurant has tables scattered all along the sand that are conveniently situated between the restaurant and the ocean. Our dinner meals were eaten on the beach by candlelight with our toes in the sand. The novelty of our dinner experience never wore off and to describe it as incredible would be an understatement.

There is no shortage of BBQ on the island as several restaurants offer it like it’s fried rice (which is a commodity around here). Brian was battling a stomach bug for the first few days we were there so it wasn’t until our third night on the island that we over-indulged in American size portions of BBQ chicken, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, rice and to top it all off, garlic bread! It was a feast fit for a king and we savored every delicious bite! Shortly thereafter we retired to our tent and as you can probably predict, we slipped into a deep, deep carb coma!

Our tasty BBQ meal

Our tasty BBQ meal

Where to go?

There are several beaches on Koh Rong but without question our favorite beach was Long Beach. The beach is located on the western side of the island which makes it the perfect sunset destination along with any other time of the day really. Long Beach is one of our top picks on our fairly short list of beaches that we’ve been lucky enough to visit! It requires a 45 minute hike through the jungle that’s fairly intense both at the beginning and at the end due to how vertical the hike becomes. However, isn’t there a famous quote that goes something like the best things in life are worth the wait or worth the work (in this case)?

Once we reached the beach, our jaws immediately dropped down to our feet in absolute awe as we admired the crystal clear waters and the pristine white, soft sand that tickled our feet. Since Long Beach is a little bit more difficult to get to than the rest of the beaches on the island it’s not nearly as crowded which only adds to the splendor!

Just taking a leisurely stroll and admiring the view!

Just taking a leisurely stroll and admiring the view!

Apparently Bulgaria's latest Survivor series is being filmed on Koh Rong so we decided to make our own Survivor style challenges with the obstacles on the beach!

Apparently Bulgaria’s latest Survivor series is being filmed on Koh Rong so we decided to make our own Survivor style challenges with the obstacles on the beach!

We had planned on leaving Koh Rong the following morning but within a minute of being on Long Beach we decided to extend our stay at least another day. We had fallen in love and we were willing to do whatever it took to stay as long as we could. Until…

Our awful sunburns manifested later that afternoon. These weren’t your average sunburns either. Before we find ourselves on the receiving end of a sunscreen lecture, let me just add that we have been very good about lathering on our SPF 30. It just so happened that the day we encountered paradise was the day we absent-mindedly left our sunscreen (for reapplication purposes) in our tent on the other side of the island. When we felt the burn creeping in, we covered up as much as we could and continued enjoying the beach. It was early afternoon and we weren’t willing to give up picture perfect paradise quite yet. We paid for those extra few hours of beach bliss though.

We got burnt more than we got tan unfortunately...

We got burnt more than we got tan unfortunately…

We transformed into real life lobsters. Since our skin couldn’t handle being exposed to an single ray of sunshine the following day, we were forced to pack up our backpacks and reluctantly say adios to an incredible island and an unforgettable beach!

It was a short trip but we cherished every minute that we had on the island!  It’s no wonder that over the last several years Koh Rong has gone from a hidden gem to a hot beach destination! If your travels take you to Cambodia, we highly recommend you go to Long Beach on Koh Rong. Do you have any beach recommendations for us?  We would love to hear them in the comment section below!

Second to his beloved hat, a good hammock is Brian's second favorite thing in the world!

Second to his beloved hat, a good hammock is Brian’s second favorite thing in the world!

7 thoughts on “Koh Rong, Cambodia: We would still be there if it weren’t for the sunburn…

    • It was truly amazing! We heard Rabbit Island is nice as well but sadly we weren’t able to make it there. If your travels ever take you back to Cambodia maybe you can enjoy both beaches!

  1. I really like the idea of “Flashpacking.” When y’all get back, we need to have a Flashpacking excursion to Sea Island. I’ve heard there are flashpackers everywhere.

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