Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Koh Rong but it's So Right

Koh Rong is an island located three hours off the southwest coast of (Sihanoukville) Cambodia, it is the most magnificent tropical paradise I have ever come across in my life! There is no mains electricity everything is run by generators and power is rationed thoughout the day, water is also very scarce with the whole island being supplied by a reservoir. Our bungalow guesthouse "Koh Lanta" was without doubt the best, it was in a perfect spot directly on the beach, it was a reasonable price and was upstairs from a choice pizza restaurant. It's run by a French guy (Gee) and some Kymer staff he employs, they are awesome really friendly chilled out people, they make the dough daily and cook using traditional stone bake oven and they really were delicious. We had a small issue when we arrived to the island and that was that we didnt know there was no ATM, we came with around $50 in our wallet so kinda had a problem. We thought we were going to have to take the boat back to Sihanoukville costing $15 and wasting a whole day so were kinda gutted, word on the street though was of one bar who lends money at a 10% interest rate, they keep your passport and you have to come back to Koh Rong to pay them back so it wasnt really a good deal at all. Gee on the other hand told us he would do it at an 8% rate and we pay his friend from the boat when we get back to the mainland, he also told us he didn't need our passports which was a sick deal so our financial problems were thus gone.

We spent two weeks in total on the island and it will literally be impossible to explain the events that took place in the way that they happened so I can simply list. One day we trekked though a short jungle path to find an a good couple miles of beach which was virtually deserted. Another day we took a boat to another beach (Long Beach) on the island which again was largely empty, I hired a snorkel for the day and saw some incredible sea life I had never seen before, on the way back I steered the boat the whole way. I asked a kid on one of the days if I could ride his water buffalo along the beach to which his reply was yes. We partied with the local Cambodians at a Kymer wedding party. We went to a rave on the beach then after were invited back to a locals "house" (a big plank of wood on a platform with a tent like cover over it) we were offered food and drink although it looked highly unappealing I took some of the whiskey while my friends sampled the odd looking seafood. On another day we took kayaks to a very small island that had a temple/spirit houses at its center. I sung on a few evenings for the open mic night at Bongs. I helped out at the local school for which my favourite kid Mod was delighted,  he comes to see my every day at "Aisha" which is a Spanish restaurant next door to our guesthouse where I landed me a job, a few hours here and there very informal for free food and drink, that was siick. We went to the Full Moon party on a neighbouring island "Koh Rong Saloeng" for a superbly discounted price (being staff on the island) We helped put out a huge forrest fire using only a human chain and bags of sand as no water pumps are available, regrettably I was informed that the fire was indeed started on purpose by people wishing to build there, it is quicker and easier for them to do this instead of cutting all the trees down. What they had no consideration for was that the school (in the direct vicinity) could have gone up and if the westerners didn't help to put it out the whole island could have gone up. Im told that these fires are a regular occurrence. Lastly I should add in the two weeks I was on the island I slept inside just three times. My favourite place to sleep was on a camp bed on either the beach or balcony, luckily (touch wood) I do not get bitten by mosquitoes so was fine as far as that goes, on the last few nights though there were an abundance of sand flies which did bite me; this is only reason I had to sleep inside.

Koh Rong as I mentioned really is the best place I have ever been, without sounding cliché it is what I think the Thai islands would have been like 20 years ago. I was able to fully enjoy all parts of the island from enjoying the secluded beaches, meeting many local people, helping give back by giving time to the school and the local kids on the island, I was able to get an awesome job from which I met many more people and all in all I was able to feel at home with the island. I really do hope that the "Royal Group" who bought Koh Rong from the Cambodian Government dont completely destroy it, done correctly I believe the island can stay beautiful but it really needs considerable planning. Setting fire to things because you want to build there will not hold up, please sort this out!

My next stop is back to Siem Reap to meet my German friend Philip who I met in Thailand in January (i think), he has just come from Vietnam and we shall go explore the wonders of Angkor together. I am sad to leave as I got very attached to the way of life and the people here but I must move on. Dont worry though Koh Rong, I will be back!

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