We all long for Paradise, and some times we are actually lucky enough to find it! We found our’s just off the coast close to the Cambodian town of Sihanoukville. It has all the beaches, all the sunshine, all the palm trees and all the nice people we ever wanted.
We ended up, partly by chance and partly because ES never takes a hotel without reading the Agoda and Tripadvisor comments, at Coconut Beach Bungalows on the Island of Koh Rong. We were thinking about a visit to Thailand, like most other looking for a beach in this part of the world. However, ES and The Daughter strongly voted for Koh Rong, where the latter had spent a weekend a few months earlier.
The resort is owned and run by Robbie, a young Cambodian with a strong entrepreneurial spirit and a family to help out. Robbie mingles with the visitors, carries their luggage and does «management by walking around». His sister Pia runs the restaurant while mommy runs the kitchen. Big daddy watches from the bar and helps out when he is needed. They are all a bunch of very big smiles.
Robbie has 8 bungalows at 40 or 50 USD a night, and a dozen tents where backpackers on smaller budgets can sleep for a fraction of that. From the restaurant you look down on the local beach, some 3-400 meters of snow-white sand that feels like talcum powder between your toes.
Robbie’s and Pia’s English is excellent, and they actually care about their guests. If you ask for an extra chair in your bungalow you get it straight away. It you ask for correct boat info you get the correct boat info, not just some gibberish thrown in your face by somebody who does not dare to tell you that he does not know. We had a few too many of those in this part of the world, to be honest. Robbie and his family smile at you because they want you to feel good, not because they see the need to pretend to be polite.
We spent our days wading out into the clearest and cleanest ocean you will ever see – anywhere. We visited in April, a rather hot month, and both the air and the water was 30 degrees plus. At night you sit in the restaurant with a beer or a drink, chatting with other people or with yourself, depending on your mood and your preferences. The rest of world is a million miles away and the neon lights are all gone. You will have to do with the moon and the stars and the flying lanterns Robbie occasionally gives his guests to send up into the skies.
The best light however, we got from the glowing plankton. Plankton is a diverse group of organisms that provide a crucial source of food to many larger ocean creatures, from small fish to whales. This particular species produces sparks of light as a defense strategy. They react to movement and you see them as thousands of small swimming stars if you move your hands, your legs or a piece of cloth thru the water. Sheer magic, no less!
Robbie’s place is a bit isolated, but to us that was very much part of the attraction. We spent a total of 18 days there, and we loved every minute of it. We brought some books and some DVDs that we ran on our Mac. We bought a local Cambodian SIM card to get Internet, because the place has no WiFi. We took small hikes over the hill to the near by village, and we inspected a couple of little waterfront bars. We also did a bit of diving; the local village has both a restaurant and a PADI dive shop.
We have already decided that we will go back, realistically in 2019 or thereabouts. We just hope that Robbie’s little beach is not totally «developed» by then. A few more bungalows will not ruin the place, but if too many fancy resorts and restaurants pop up along this little stretch of water this very easily can be yet another Paradise Lost.