Look at this beach, will ya? I know that I posted a travel photo last week from Cambodia. My goal was to switch it up and give a new adventure each week without recycling countries back to back. This week, I failed – but look at that beach!
Cambodia was the first country that I traveled to without doing any research past Angkor Wat. Truth be told, I was tired of traveling. I had spent 4 years in planes, trains, camels, horses, canoes, buses, motorcycles, rickshaws and tuk-tuks, and I was tired. Thankfully, my husband did some research on where to stay in the three key cities (Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Siem Reap) or else we would have just shown up with bags and walked in circles for 19 days.
On a future blog, I will talk about why it’s important to drop your expectations when traveling. I will talk about why you shouldn’t look at perfect Instagram photos and dream of how yours will be framed on that same beach. I will drop some truth nuggets about why you can’t always trust the glorious glossy pages of travel magazines. And, I will open the conversation for doing minimal research until you land in a city.
Truth be told, you can’t always trust Trip Advisor. In one city, we went to a European owned beer garden solely because it had a high-ranking. Not only was the food horrible, but I felt like we were imposters in something much bigger that we shouldn’t ask questions about. I’m not throwing shade, but you know when you’re extremely uncomfortable in a situation and things just feel out of place? From the moment we sat down, that’s just how we felt. I’m sure it didn’t help that the restaurant was a metal shack built on to someone’s house and through the open doors you could see an elaborate entry way with pool tables, bars, little kids running around and half-dressed men. It reminds me of the time we went to lunch in Goa and the beach shack doubled as an opium den…complete with a gnarly cast of mixed expats toking and relaxing and passing a pipe.
This photo comes from a small island outside of Sihanoukville, Koh Rang Samleom. There’s Koh Rang (more developed) and Koh Rang Samleom (don’t wander too far or the jungle will swallow you). We took the speed boat for a day trip, completely unsure of if we were making the best choice, if we should just venture down to Otres 2 again, and if we brought enough to not get bored out of our minds.
When you arrive, the stilted dock the boat pulls up to feels like it could collapse at any moment or that one wrong step will send you flying into the sea below. It sways and is at an awkward height that you’re not sure who designed it as it towers over every tourist boat that arrives. When you arrive, you have to climb off. When you leave, you have to grab hands and do a prayer and a jump without banging your head on the boat’s ceiling.
We walked down the beach, chatting with the ‘resort’ owners, and finally rented a bungalow for $60. Luckily, since it was rainy season, the island wasn’t book and we were able to do this. The rest of the day was spent sitting in the bay’s crystal clear waters. Okay, we lounged a little in a hammock and read with lukewarm beer as well.
The island is absolutely fascinating. Most of the acreage is unexplored. Bungalow eco resorts exist on one side, there are a few smaller resorts on the other side, and the middle is exactly how nature wants it to be. The electricity is powered by gas generator, lizards of all species run everywhere, and I’m pretty sure it could double as a filming location for Lost or Castaway.
If you go to Koh Rang Samleom, book ahead of time. In the busy season, the island will fill up and there won’t even be extra loungers on the beach – there is typically only enough for the paying resort guests. Take the speedboat to save some time, and pack some of your own goodies for the day. Bring water, a good book, a camera, and a strong desire to accomplish nothing if the island takes you in that direction.
We fell in love with Cambodia. I believe this is because we went with zero expectations and allowed the country to lead us. I was always a planner, a seeker of all things one must see, and a hunter of artisans to shop and work with. We had spent our vacations running errands, essentially. This time, we took each day as it came and this changed the way we now travel.
Have you been to Koh-Rang Samleom? What were your thoughts? Leave them in the comments. I know we cannot wait to return – maybe our paths will cross.
Also published on Medium.