I was prepared to not like Sihanoukville, but unlike Bangkok or Mandalay, I was never proven wrong. From what I saw of my brief time on Serendipity Beach, it was just a party beach resort for Westerners. It didn’t differ much from European resorts like Magaluf, the difference only being the tuk tuks.
In fact, even after sitting in a beach bar for a few hours, the music never once became good and I didn’t see any dancing or much fun. I also didn’t like much the atmosphere and felt a lot on guard. We were insulted for ignoring a man trying to get us into his club, and the leery attitude of certain men really made me happy to be only staying one evening. Maybe I missed some real gem of Sihanoukville, but what I saw didn’t appeal.
I was very glad to escape to the white sand and clear shores of Koh Rong. After mentally debating between the larger island and its sibling Samloem, a question of price and an irresistible name settled the decision to stay at Coconut Beach on Koh Rong.
I can’t say a lot about my stay. The intention was to treat it like a second Koh Kut, hire a bike perhaps and venture round. What we actually did was virtually nothing.
Our day would begin like this. We’d wake naturally, glad for the lack of an alarm. We’d take a leisurely breakfast in our bungalow’s restaurant. We’d stroll down to the beach, armed with our free water and coconut oil.
Or play on the large lilo floats provided. But mostly we just lazed with a book. We’d then head to one of the other bungalow restaurants for lunch – we could choose from three places to eat. The second had (very unreliable phone hotspot) wifi and the third had a bigger menu. We’d eat some local dish, drink juice, coffee or cocktails and read some more
And then as the sun began to set, which wasn’t too impressive from our position as we got the sunrise, we’d head back to our bungalow restaurant to eat, play board games and make wishes on Chinese Lanterns.
Only on the final day did we move our ass and walk the couple of kilometres to the local village. It’s a small fishing village over the hill where there’s a small seafood restaurant, some places to buy fruit and meet the people who live in the village. A few of the kids were fascinated to touch my braids, but one girl after a long inspection was not a fan. We went twice, once in the day for a coffee, and again for the sunset, which is very lovely from that side of the island.
Mostly, we were just very lazy. After six very busy and frantic weeks we had begun to rise at 8am or earlier naturally. Our agendas were packed full, and I began to feel a sense of guilt and waste if we had even a lazy afternoon. Being in Coconut Beach allowed us to really relax.
The wifi is so sparse that it’s not worth using. Only one bungalow has access via a mobile hotspot. We used it to take care of a few issues back home, then returned to our books. Coconut Beach Bungalows also provides board games for old school entertainment which was great fun and got us chatting over dinner.
Additionally, although there are the options of bungalows, we opted for a tent. We stayed in one in Koh Kut and aside from being awoken by the wind and an ant army invasion on the last day, it was enjoyable. Here, the experience was ten times better. The tents are elevated from the beach on stilts. They’re spacious, and your luggage is kept in a locked room so there’s plenty room to stretch on the large soft mattresses. My only issue was that the toilets were a little way away, meaning any night time visits were a bit of a trek on a full and desperate bladder (as all night loo visits are!) Staying in a tent near the sea and the camp fire really helped with the relaxing, basic vibe.
It’s also a great place to try Khmer food. We saw the cooks peeling vegetables and preparing fish every morning, and every dish was delicious and tasted fresh. Even the bread was home baked, and unbelievably the fries were great too! Two dishes I tried were the Khmer Amok. This is the national dish of Cambodia: baked fish with lemongrass, coconut and chilli with steamed rice. It’s creamy and flavoursome with a little bit of heat.
I read that Khmer food is a little underdeveloped in comparison with Thai food, when you compare flavours and so on. I still found these dishes so delicious and definitely still complex. I also tried a seafood spaghetti which was also wonderful, and the fish very fresh having come from the nearby fishing village.
The food, the simplicity and the beauty of Koh Rong made me love it beyond expectation. I thought I would make comparisons to Koh Kut due to proximity, but they are both outstanding in entirely separate ways.
Although different beaches will offer different experiences, Coconut Beach is secluded simplicity. I can highly recommend Coconut Beach bungalows. The staff are friendly, eager to get to know you, they provide so many things for your stay including daily bottles of water and coconut oil for the sun and insects, and sheet changes in the tent. The atmosphere is nice and calm, with reggae played near the fire in the evening. The service is exceptional, and the food is phenomenal.
As I said of Koh Kut – Coconut Beach is not for those wanting to get wasted on a party beach. I welcomed the full moon with a lantern and a game of Jenga. If you want to relax and slow the pace of life right down, if you need to unwind after a packed South East Asia itinerary of doing something every day – this is the ideal place. Your body and your mind will thank you for it.