Koh Rong Samloen has been coined the 'quiet' island because it's calm, serenity contrasts the lively parties on Koh Rong. It's a world away from the boisterous backpacker crowds and beach sellers of Sihanoukville and a welcome break away from the 'busy' narrative of travelling.
Yet if you want a real sense of simple seclusion then you're going to have to trek to Sunset Beach. Located on the west side of the island this remote bay offers you the deserted island experience- disconnected from internet, electricity and sometimes even boats, as we discovered on our first day!
We booked on to Buva Sea's speedboat, which was supposed to drop us off right by our accommodation. Unfortunately due to the windy weather our boat was cancelled and we ended up having to get the speed ferry to Saracen Bay, the main entry port to the island. What we didn't realise was that in order to get to Sunset Beach we were going to have to trek 1.5km through jungle- with a 23kg suitcase in tow! The route would have been a fun adventure had we brought big backpacker bags. But no, instead I'd decided to borrow my mum's fancy new suitcase with its 360 degree spinny wheels, which were utterly useless along the rocky route! The 50-minute ordeal was filled with blood (the mosquitoes decided to massacre Dan as sunset started) sweat (we were drenched and so was the lovely new suitcase) and tears (it really was a laugh or cry moment!) Yet we made it to the bay just in time to see sun slip behind the clouds and in spite of all the travel stress, it was totally worth it.
We stayed in a tipi at 'Sleeping Trees', one of only four accommodations on the beach. Our unusual lodging was large, airy and almost entirely bug-free (which was a big-relief for Dan!) It came with a massive trunk to store our valuables, although I'm almost certain there was never a need to lock things away, as there was hardly anyone around. It's one of the most relaxing place I have ever been, abundant in hammocks, tree houses, beach huts but barely any people. At times it felt like we had the whole bay to ourselves, enjoying the warm waters and the endless blue skies as if we'd been shipwrecked on the sands!
Yet in spite of its seclusion the bay offers a variety of delicious dishes at really reasonable prices. Happa's restaurant offers tasty teppanyaki and Huba Huba served us up one of the best coconut curried we've ever sampled. Considering they have to import most of their produce and cook using solar powered generators it's amazing that we tasted so many fresh flavoursome dishes at no more than $6 a main. Thankfully the owners of sleeping trees are French, so the house wine (and only wine) was surprisingly good! It's either that or your choice of 2 beers, homemade rum, or a concoction of cocktails! A refreshing break away from a world of too much choice!
The people who have brought life and light to this peaceful place are so chilled and cheery- it's no wonder they never leave! Island life- in all its simplicity and seclusion- really takes you back to beach basics: sun, sea and sleep. It's about relaxing, reviving but most importantly- living in the now. Even a broken blender or unpredictable speedboat fails to faze them- after all "c’est la vie!"
Thankfully we avoided repeating the jungle trek as we were able to jump on board the dive shop’s slow boat back to Sihanoukville's shore!
Getting to the Sunset Beach:
Speedboat to the bay
This is obviously the easiest option (on a clear weather day). However the company is incredibly unreliable, unhelpful and even refused to refund us after cancelling our boat. Book with caution!
$12.5 each way. Approximately one trip each day.
Speed ferry to Saracen Bay then trek across the jungle
This is the most reliable option. In hindsight we would have left our suitcase at out shore-side hotel and taken small backpacks for the trek. You don’t need much for the beach, just swim stuff, a towel, toiletries and maybe 2 changes of clothes (pointless bringing any wine and dine clothes as it’s dark by dinner!)
9.00am, 11.30am, 3.00pm
10.00am, 12.30pm, 4.00pm
Approximately $15 (although you may get it cheaper from one of the many ticket touts!) Includes bus transportation to the port from Serendipity Beach.
Slow boat back
I don’t believe you can book this both ways but on its return, the dive shop boat takes islanders back to the shore for $10. It’s VERY slow, taking approximately 2 ½ hours to get into Sihanoukville harbour. Yet a useful option if you don’t want to trek or if your speedboat has been cancelled!
http://www.diveshopcambodia.com/ (Also worth checking out if you want to do some scuba diving.)
Accommodation on Sunset Beach:
All four accommodations are located on a 500-metre stretch of beach and you can use any of the restaurants, bars and facilities. There’s a friendly, family feel on Sunset Beach so regardless of where you stay, someone is usually happy to help!
We stayed in a tipi here for 2-nights and used the shared bathrooms. There are also bungalows and hanging beach tents available (perfect for solo-travellers!) The owners are very chilled and every night prepare a communal ‘family meal’ that is open to all.
The most party place on the west side of Koh Rong Saloem. It’s great for backpackers as they offer shared accommodation in the form of ‘family’ bungalows. Excellent food, varying from squid to and one of the best curries I have ever tasted!
Happa Garden Resort
Lovely little bungalows with private, open-air bathrooms. The restaurant serves delicious Japanese food that is prepared right in front of your eyes and served sizzling.
The most private out of the four accommodations, with a selection of tipis and bungalows tucked away at the end of the bay. There’s a lovely restaurant but no bar, making it a much quieter option at night times. They also hire out paddle boards for $5 and snorkels for $1 (per hour).