You hear a lot of opinions travelling and I usually choose to listen to the good but take the bad with a grain of salt, assuming they’re exaggerating. But I must say, every traveller review I’d been told about Koh Rong was very, very accurate. I’d heard that the beaches are beautiful, there’s usually no electricity, the accommodations suck and there’s sand fleas. Like…a lot of sand fleas.
Let’s start with the beaches. They really were beautiful, nicer than any I’ve seen on my trip thus far. I would, indeed, recommend them to a friend.
Then there’s the electrical. I had mistakenly assumed that this just meant no wifi and I’d have to go back to my roots…reading and whatnot. No. No electricity outside of the hours 6pm to 12am means that there is no air conditioning, no ceiling fans, and all around just no air flow. It was hot. So fucking hot. I would have spent more time on the island if I could have handled sweating through my mattress every night. But alas, I could not. What I used to refer to as “Bangkok levels of sweat” will now be rephrased to “Koh Rong at 3am levels of sweat.”
Now for the accommodations. Anything affordable does, in fact, really suck. I arrived to a pre-soaked mattress covered in sand (oh goody) in a place that I wouldn’t really call a hostel. I would call it a bar with bunk beds. (I should note that I changed accommodations the next night and it was a lot better, though my mattress was now crawling with ants rather than sand).
Annnnd on to the sand fleas. Arriving on the island I was told mosquito spray doesn’t work, you need to coat yourself in coconut oil. I ignored this, got a million bites my first day and purchased some coconut oil for the second. But let’s take a moment to consider this. You cover your body in oil and then you lay out in the 40 degree sun…covered in oil. You do the math.
But with these complaints came a really good time, particularly when it came to people watching. There was the Canadian guy that had single-handedly shot gunned 1000 beers to bring Canada to the #2 spot on the leader board, there were the fire dancers that were just “feeling the moment” in their own drugged out world all night, there was the waitress trying to clear plates when she was so drunk she could barely walk, the guy with face tattoos that wore a bike chain as a necklace…I could go on but I’ll stop.
Essentially, it’s like they took all the weird people that hung around the bus stop at the mall when you were 14, threw them on an island and gave them acid. That is the backpacker scene in Koh Rong, at least when it comes to the travellers that live there for an extended period of time.
My first night there I managed to score some normal Stranger Friends, Australians to be exact, and we headed to the paint party at Coco’s. I’ve been to a lot of paint parties in Asia…it’s kind of Asia’s thing. But this one was on a whole other level as hippies/weird folk/(picture those people from the mall) take their body paint very, very seriously. I went for a bindi, the Australian bros went for some sporadically placed dots and every hippy in the bar went for the most elaborately painted creation you can envision. And then they danced their hippy dances, stomped their hippy feet and sang their hippy songs (which I’m told are really just songs popular in Australia that I’ve never heard of since I’m Canadian…but I’m calling them hippy songs anyway).
Koh Rong is a strange place.