I randomly found myself on Koh Rong for New Year’s Eve. The day before, my current travel companion at the time and I ran into a few people we had met in Hoi An, Vietnam. We told them we weren’t headed to the island because there were no rooms available. They told us we had a place to stay.
A two hour $10 USD ferry ride from Sihanoukville makes this a fairly popular island getaway for backpackers. I had been contemplating going to the quieter Koh Ta Kiev, but when you get invited to a party for New Year’s Eve, then c’est la vie. Right?
Koh Rong left me with a mixed bag of feelings about her. No doubt she is paradise personified in her white sandy beaches and clear blue waters. But the town was overcrowded, loud, and dirty.
I do believe this to be because of the holiday and bad (or no) planning by travelers (myself included) — there were actually people sleeping on the beach who had taken the ferry over in hopes of finding a room upon arrival.
Bummer for them. Good news for the sand flies.
However, I heard from several other backpackers that they did not have the same experience. That it was peaceful and quiet and a perfect escape from the more frenetic mainland.
I did have a wonderful time with a lovely group of new friends from various parts of the globe. Eating every meal on the beach is a sweet way to live. A night hike to another beach away from town to see the bioluminescent plankton is not something I can say I do every day. And by the time I rolled out of bed on New Year’s Day, one friend had already organized a snorkeling / fishing / BBQ sunset trip for later that afternoon.
For less than $10 bucks each.
There are a buttload of hiking trails to be explored on the island, but most are difficult to find and not on any map. Probably the most popular trail is from the main tourist town of Koh Tuich that goes up, over, and down to the postcard-worthy Long Beach.
Who am I kidding though? The whole damn island is postcard-worthy. Fortunately the investor who bought the island plans to protect half the jungle as a nature preserve. Hopefully this will help stop the illegal logging caused by the tourism boom in the last few years.
However, I do think my negative reaction to the town of Koh Tuich was intuitive to what may become of this island if development and tourism aren’t managed in the future. The land and water will become tragically disgusting and every trip advisor review will confirm this to be so.
I am aware that I contributed to this problem by going to an overbooked island. Quite honestly, I didn’t think about the repercussions of cramming 7 people into a 4 person room. It seemed a small sacrifice on my part knowing I’d be in close quarters. What I didn’t think about for a second was the island’s sacrifice for me.
Sounds hippy dippy, but it all adds up, eh?
And so to conclude my PSA to travelers everywhere: Let’s just all do our part to keep the beautiful places beautiful and the magic of travel in tact.