White Christmas

The Coconutbeach Bungalows Resort was one of our main reasons for going back to South East Asia in the winter 2019/2020. On the shining sands of Koh Rong Island we knew we would get a beautiful White Christmas!

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Coconutbeach Bungalows Resort has grown a good bit since we were here first time in 2016. It was set up in 2012 and is run by young entrepreneurs Robbie and Pia, assisted by their parents, their red cat Tiger and their two dogs both named Jimmy. A proper family business if you ever saw one!

Robbie and Pia reside on a little hillside at the south end of Coconut Beach – on the southeastern tip of Koh Rong I in Cambodia. The number of rooms and tents has more than doubled over the three years, but the place is still very much like we remember it. This includes the hassle of getting to Koh Rong from the mainland town of Sihanoukville. The speedboat service is as uncomfortable and as unreliable as it ever was. We spent two hours in the steaming heat of the concrete slab of a boat terminal not knowing what boat our ticket was valid for, just like three years ago. Neither did anybody know where on the pier we should look for it, just like three years ago. We are still amazed that a company that does so much boat traffic can have so little control over what boats are where – and when!

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It is not easy to travel the world living only from one’s pension, but somehow we are able to keep our heads above water.

Once at the resort however, the troublesome wait is soon forgotten. Coconut Beach still has the same powder-like sand, the same warm and shallow waters, the same friendly hosts and the same laidback atmosphere that we had come to love first time around!

As for the friendly hosts, the family is a little bit bigger now. Robbie has a wife and a four-month-old son. He juggles the bookings and organizes the comings and the goings, while his sister Pia runs the restaurant and their parents work behind the scenes.

Resident Dog called Jimmy also has a new close relation, also called Jimmy.

– It is very practical, Pia says with a grin; you call one name and they both come running. Young Jimmy looks like Old Jimmy’s son, but he is not. Jimmy Jr. is a puppy the family adopted in Phnom Penh because he has the same patterns and colours as Jimmy Sr. Life can be hard for a stray dog in Phnom Penh, and Jimmy Jr. probably does not know how lucky he is!

Our three weeks at Coconut Beach flew away like the burning paper lanterns that Robbie lets his guests send up from the beach on New Year’s Eve. Robbie is a generous host giving out little extras over the Holliday period; setting up events, handing out little gifts and making sure he is around to answer questions. The restaurant is like the family living room where you can find Robbie dozing in one hammock and his baby son in another, with the two dogs under a table nearby. Pia might also look asleep when the place slows down a bit after lunch, but she always dozes with one eye open in case somebody should want another can of Klang beer.

In Robbie's restaurant playing games with a friend.
In Robbie’s restaurant playing games with a friend.

Cambodia is a mismanaged place on earth knee deep in social, financial and practical problems. Robbie’s and Pia’s resort is an oasis of pleasant normality in a country where hardly anything functions the way a western visitor is used to.

Life at Coconut Beach is simple and easy, but if you cannot stand a cold shower in the evening you shoud go somewhere else. Here, the luxury is to be found in the sand and the air and the water and the surrounding woodlands, and in the new friends you make in the late evenings in the open-air restaurant. It does not come in the shape of air-conditioned rooms, soft sofas or white tablecloths. The showers are warm and cosy during the day while the sun works on the water pipes, but a good bit chilly after nightfall. A crowd of loud geckos creeps out on our terrace and helps us fight the mosquitos while we sit outside in the evenings, while the nets around the large and comfortable bed in our room make sure we can sleep safely. Robbie does give out mosquito coils by the way, and they do work! A fan blows air onto the bed if we remember to turn it on in the evening, but most nights we do not bother. After all it is winter here also.

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We celebrated both Christmas Eve and New Years Eve on the beach with fireworks and flying Chinese lanterns.

The tents make up two thirds of the rooms, and at 10 USD a night they cannot be labelled as anything else than affordable. Our bungalow with a bathroom, two large beds and a private terrace cost us 50, and we have no reason to complain over that either. Life on Koh Rong cannot under any circumstance be called expensive. Between the two of us we had a hard time eating and drinking for more than 40 dollars a day, so the whole three weeks cost us less than 2000 dollars in total.

We will sure be back, maybe in another three years. By then Robbie Jr will hopefully be up and running, and he may have a sibling or even two, but apart from that we hope that the changes will not be too many. Coconutbeach Bungalows Resort is a place where the good old days look like they never left, and we can only hope that they will last forever!

 

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