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Koh Rong

My sole reason for going to Sihanoukville was as a jumping off point for Koh Rong, and after a short but scenic ferry trip, I was dropped at the main beach, Koh Touch. From there it was only a short uphill walk to my bungalow, perched in a serene, jungle-like setting. I grabbed a very ordinary lunch, explored the tiny village that was filled with mostly beachy shops and tour agents, then whiled away some time in the hammock in front of my room. The menacing grey clouds never eventuated into anything, so I threw on my hiking gear and hit the trails.


My aim that afternoon was to trek over to the next beach along, Long Set Beach. I followed the road up and over a short but rocky hill, the type that would twist ankles or send your motorbike flying (somehow the locals managed the terrain; the foreigners that I observed had a lot more difficulty). It was a 4 km hike to Long Set, and at 3.9 km I hit a flooded section of road. I stared at this conundrum for several minutes before a motorbike passed and offered me a lift over. Even with my feet up they got drenched.


In a nutshell, Long Set Beach was quiet. Crazy quiet. There were only a handful of resorts, no shops or tour agents, maybe 10 guests, and nothing to do but swim or sit on the sand. It was much prettier than Koh Touch, but I could see myself getting bored here fairly quickly.

The next day I was all set for a hike through the middle of Koh Rong across to another beach, Sok San, on the west coast. I started out on the same bumpy road as yesterday before veering off on a narrow trail through the forest. At the beginning it was exactly what I wanted: the path was clear, I was surrounded by trees, and I loved being out in nature. That feeling lasted 20 minutes. Somehow, I lost the trail. I don't know if it was hidden underneath the river I jumped over or overgrown by thick shrubs, but it completely disappeared. I attempted bush-bashing in various directions without luck. Defeated, I turned around to head back, only to discover that I had no idea where I had come from. I had gone so far off course that the original trail was nowhere in sight. Panic started to set in as I wondered how long I would be lost in the Koh Rong jungle.


Several tense minutes passed, where multiple attempts resulted in failure. I then remembered I had to get back across the river, so I followed the sound of rushing water, leapt over, and miraculously found a narrow track leading in the right direction. I emerged on the main road scratched, bruised and bleeding. The relief was palpable.

With that plan out the window, I returned to where I had started and followed the coastal path, a much longer and flatter way to my destination. Most of the road was paved, water views were rare for the first 5 km, and there was zero shade on this bright, sunny day. I passed many abandoned houses, guesthouses and resorts, but there was no one around who could offer me a cool drink. It was torturous.


I eventually hit the start of Sok San Beach (also called Long Beach, not to be confused with Long Set Beach of yesterday). It was absolutely incredible. Powdery white sand, the clearest water I have ever seen and almost no development along the coast. It would have been perfect except for the amount of rubbish lining the high tide mark. If I faced the water, I could pretend there wasn’t an endless stream of discarded plastic bottles behind me.


About 1 km later, I found myself out the front of a very upscale resort, which I immediately entered. I walked straight up to the outdoor reception desk and asked if there was anywhere I could buy a beverage. Sure, the woman said, jump in the golf cart. I didn't think that was necessary, but I followed her instructions. The 400 m drive to the restaurant changed my mind, and I greatly appreciated the lift. The giant, ice-cold, fresh coconut went down a treat and reinvigorated me for the rest of the hike.