One of the weekends I was in Cambodia we decided we wanted to get out of Phnom Penh for a few days. We were told that Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem were beautiful so we decided to head there. It’s not somewhere that I had ever really heard of before I set off travelling. It probably didn’t help that I didn’t really know anyone that had gone so didn’t really have much clue what I was doing. We booked some beachfront bungalows for pretty cheap (maybe like £8 a night each but I don’t remember exactly), arranged coaches and looked at some images on google to get ourselves excited.
I remember it being quite a long journey because we had to take a coach down to Sihanoukville on the coast. I went with my friends Jade and Liv, and we had had to book onto two separate coaches because we decided we wanted to go at different times. Liv and I went on one and Jade got on a slightly later coach. Luckily, Liv and I made it there in plenty of time, but for some reason, Jade’s coach took ages to get there. We had a little walk along the beach and sat down and had some lunch, we even wandered over to the jetty that the ferries went from to check the times. In the end, it seemed like Jade’s coach was going to get here really late and would miss the last ferry to the island. As we had paid already we decided to go on ahead and Jade could join us when she arrived. By some miracle, they ran another ferry that day so she managed to make it over. We had made it to the beach bungalow and checked in when we got the text that she was on her way and we couldn’t believe it. We headed back to the jetty to wave to her and help her with her things.
Koh Rong Samloem is maybe the most beautiful place I ever been to. As the ferry pulled up, I genuinely couldn’t believe that somewhere like that existed. The water was the most vivid aquamarine colour, lapping against the pristine white sand. It’s so tiny that it doesn’t have any roads, just one bay with a few hotels and places to eat, then a few more hotels around the other side you could take a boat to. Stacked behind the little beach huts and guesthouses were leafy mountains jutting into the sky. It was exactly what you would picture if someone said secluded, beautiful, tropical island. Because there were no roads, the beach just turned into a path cut into the rocks that we walked round to our bungalows. We had a tiny bit of beach that I think was private to the bungalows where we sat one evening and dabbled our toes in the water. I remember Jade being really freaked out by the fact there were loads of tiny crabs.
Day times were spent in ultimate relaxation mode, just lying on the beach sunbathing and taking occasional dips in the beautiful blue water. One morning we woke up before sunrise so we could walk around the bay a bit and get some good photos at dawn. It was so tranquil and perfect to be up before the rest of the world, enjoying this slice of paradise. Because it is so secluded wifi isn’t great but there were a few places you could get it in restaurants and guesthouses. Of course, this may have all changed now. I went a few years ago, and the rate technology and tourism is developing probably means that it’s like a completely different place. I even tried looking on booking.com to see if I could remember where we stayed, and the amount of places compared to when we went was crazy. I digress, either way, you do not go somewhere as beautiful as this to sit on your phone so it is all irrelevant really. I remember seeing a few places you could rent kayaks or stand up paddle boards but our budget was quite small so we didn’t do that.
The one activity that we did decide we wanted to spend money on doing was a nighttime plankton dive. I don’t know if you have ever seen those pictures online of the plankton that glows in the dark…
…that look something like this. But they have this bioluminescent plankton in the water round Koh Rong Samloem. I think these pictures must be taken with long exposure because it doesn’t wash up like this there, but when you are actually in the water and moving you can see it.
Our dive started at nightfall and we all went and piled into a slightly rickety wooden boat. There was a thunderstorm brewing on the other side of the island and we could see lighting illuminating the sky far off in the distance behind the jutting hills. I love the sea, during the day it is beautiful and inviting. I have seen the sea at night and paddled along the edge, but it’s one thing being in the shallows, and a completely different thing heading out on a small boat into menacing black water. It is even worse to have to jump into said menacing black water, as we soon discovered. Sitting on the edge of the boat in my snorkel and flippers, staring down into the water, unable to see what was in there was nerve-wracking, to say the least. A small but powerful lantern was hanging at the bow of the boat – enough so you could see what you were doing on the boat, but not to light up the water.
We took the plunge and dived in. Those first few seconds where you lose orientation and can’t see much, and can occasionally feel something grazing your leg (normally someone else’s flipper….I hope) are horrible. You have a very brief panic before you realise that actually you are completely fine, and start edging away from the boat.
The plankton was magical. At first when we were thrashing around and yelling ‘OH MY GOD WHAT JUST TOUCHED ME???’ we didn’t really notice. But then someone shouted ‘woah look at this’ and we put our faces under, dragging our hands through the water and letting it ripple between our fingers. Tiny little lights trailed behind your fingers, like a little trail of stardust. As we trod water and moved any parts of our bodies, it sent these stars shooting out. We experimented with how different actions and body parts changed it. My favourite was slowly shaking my head and watching as the ends of my hair lit up. When someone asks what the best moment of my life is, I never want to sound too gap yah but I think this is it. What no one really warns you about is the fact there is a tiny, tiny little stinging feeling as the plankton comes into contact with you. For the first few seconds, it’s a bit disconcerting, then you stop noticing.
To anyone not sure about where to go, I urge you to pay Koh Rong Samloem a visit. It is beautiful and magical and everything that you want a small tropical island to be. the water is perfect and the sun beats down on the palm tree lined beaches. The fact there are no roads means it’s so relaxing, and there is something wonderful about just having to walk.