Koh Rong Sanloem
Following a hot and humid run on Koh Rong, I spent the next few hours in my hammock or by the water, drinking fruit shakes and waiting for the ferry to Koh Rong Sanloem. Unfortunately, I fell victim to a convincing con by the man who sold me the ferry ticket, but thanks to at least a little resistance by me, I only lost US$4.
I had booked a place to stay on Saracen Beach, and the manager emailed me to say I could get any company’s ferry to the island except one. The reason was because they use a pier over 2 km from where I was staying, whereas all other ferries pulled up just 50 m away. I had no idea which boat I would be in when I bought the ticket, but of course I was in the one that dropped me at the other end of the beach. Surprisingly, I wasn't bombarded by offers from motorcycle drivers to take me to my accommodation, so it was up to me to walk along the soft sand with my heaving backpack in the midday heat to my bungalow. Another sweaty day for me.
At least the views on my walk were beautiful, overlooking a calm bay with a series of boats dotting the horizon. Resorts were spaced out along the sand, and the multitude of restaurants and bars facing the water far outnumbered what was available in Koh Touch. I immediately wished I had stayed here all three nights I had allowed for this region.
Once I had dumped my bags and changed my clothes, I headed off to explore the island. My first destination, Sunset Beach, involved hiking across the island via an extremely rocky, muddy, steep track that required the use of hands to navigate through the various obstacles. At least it was a straightforward path to follow, unlike yesterday's outing on Koh Rong. Half an hour later I reached the short stretch of yellow-colored sand that made up Sunset Beach. My first impressions weren't great, mainly due to the large amounts of rubbish lining the shore. One local man was doing his best to tidy up the area, but it would require serious manpower to make a dent in this mess. I didn’t stay long.
After making my way back over the precipitous, slippery slope, I ventured over to Lazy Beach. The walk here was much more straightforward, on sandy tracks with the occasional family of monkeys watching on. Lazy Beach was, in a word, gorgeous. The sand wasn't as white as Saracen Beach, but it was clean and had small waves that crashed into the shore, a sound I could listen to forever. (In comparison, the water at Saracen Beach was completely still.) There seemed to be only one resort here, with spaced out wooden bungalows that all offered sea views. I could see why it was a popular location.
Back at Saracen Beach, I sat at a table on the sand and took full advantage of the happy hour deals while listening to a live band play crowd favourites. It was this sort of atmosphere that I was missing on Koh Rong.
I woke early on my final morning, keen to get a hike in before checkout time. Following my phone, I made my way down south towards a lighthouse, hoping there would be great views over the coast.
The wide, rocky road led me up and down short, sharp hills through the forest. It felt like my first proper hike in Cambodia, easily gaining more ascent than any other trek I had undertaken.
Along the way I was surprised to pass many houses, each far enough apart so they didn’t intrude on their neighbours (I had presumed there was nothing in the interior of the island). What surprised me more, though, was a gentle rustling sound beside me on the path. Usually, these types of noises are made by birds or lizards, which I ignore, but something made me turn to have a look. A long, jet-black snake was only two metres away, staring directly at me with its head reared. I scrambled to the other side of the track, hoping I was out of harm’s reach. My eyes scanned in every direction to make sure there were no others around, a practice I continued for the rest of the hike. As if I wasn't sweating enough…
Six kilometres after starting out, I finally arrived at the lighthouse. It was underwhelming, to say the least. I wasn't really interested in the lighthouse itself, but I had presumed there would be coastal views to admire. Except for a patch of blue in the distance, there wasn’t much to see. No coastline, no waves, no dramatic scenery. I left after two minutes.
On the return journey I made a detour via Military Beach, hoping to get a dose of decent sea views. I wasn't disappointed. It was completely deserted, there was virtually no development along the shore, and the gently breaking waves provided the soundtrack that was missing from Saracen Beach. There was, sadly, the ubiquitous line of trash high up on bank, but other than that, it was superb.
I made it back to Saracen Beach without any further reptile encounters, checked out, then sat by the water, waiting for the ferry out of paradise (this time, from the close pier).