Sunday 3 November 2013

Review: beaches of Cambodia

So this is my second visit to Cambodia - I was last here in 2002 when my travel companion Chloe and I hit up all the tourist sites (Angkor Wat, Tonle Sap lake, S21 and the killing fields) but we never made it to Cambodia's south coast and the beaches.

So where have I been this time?

Well with Stray we got to go to Koh Tunsay (rabbit island) off the coast of Kep. Next up was Kampot inland, but a mere 2 hour bus journey from Sihanoukville - where we checked out the various delights of Serendipity and Otres beaches. Strangely enough Sihanoukville is only a 2 hour boat ride from the tropical island of Koh Rong - so we had to visit that also!

So what did we like?

Well Koh Tunsay is a tiny island a half hour (very) small boat ride from Kep. The island has no electricity or running water - they collect rain water and use spring water but this isn't enough for demand so they also ship water in from the mainland. They do have a generator from 6pm to 10pm - which gives you an excellent opportunity to witness the phosphorescence in the sea without artificial light obliterating it. The seafood dinner was also amazing - fresh local crabs in special Khmer spice sauce was sublime. However I wouldn't spend more than one night here give the lack of facilities (only a few bungalows on the beach for $9 a night per bungalow).

Hammocks on the beach

Beach bungalows

Mosquito netted beds 

In Sihanoukville we stayed near Serendipity beach first. Now my impressions of this aren't that favourable. Maybe because we stayed in a pretty dire hostel - Utopia. On the face of it this looked like a good choice, a swimming pool cheap food options and we were able to get a private room by buying out the other beds in the dorm for only $3 a night each. However the room leaked when the tropical rain came down - 2 of us with soaking beds and water dripping into the electrics for the fan and lights by the bed. The swimming pool water was green - so not inviting to swim in! Food was good and great value though. 

Anyway I digress - if we'd stayed somewhere else we may have had better opinions of the accommodation - my review of the beach isn't so favourable. Serendipity beach is covered with beach bars and restaurants and rubbish... The sea seems to be the outlet for runoff water (fingers crossed not sewage but you really don't know) - I wouldn't want to and didn't swim there. However we had a good night out with free drinks for ladies and an opportunity to dance the night away. We also had a good value $3 seafood BBQ with squid, prawns, scallops, clams and fish!

Serendipity beach

Dancing the night away with free drinks #ladies night!

So in short Serendipity is not for beach days but for eating and dancing! 

Next we visited Koh Rong - having seen Anne Marie's photos of blue waters and pristine beaches we had high hopes! 

We weren't disappointed - Koh Rong was a tropical island with fine white sand, clear clear water with a glorious colour and a lovely chilled out vibe. We stayed at Monkey Island resort as they could fit us into a bungalow for 5 at $5 a night each - 10 steps from the beach.

View from the beach Koh Rong

We had a great time here - chilling out in the hammocks and up first thing for a run on the beach. This turned into an island triathlon as to get to the longer beach you needed to climb over the rocks and then when we go to the jetty on the long beach we jumped off into the water and swam back part way.

Long beach next to ours

Rock climbing

The jetty


Relaxing in blue waters!

Running back


An afternoon boat trip included snorkelling at the little island in the bay, fishing with hand reels (we caught small red snapper that they grilled up for us that night at Mama's noodle stand) and a trip to Long Beach on the other side of the island (4km long!) for sunset - unfortunately the sunset was dismal but the swimming and beers on the beach were good!

We were also on the island for Halloween so had to fashion our costumes from the clothing and make up we had - I think a good attempt was made by all (I'm Davie Bowie's unknown daughter!), but Cameo won by cross dressing as Carlos....

Safe to say we enjoyed the island lots.

After 5 days we headed back to the mainland to check out Otres beach on Shane and Audrey's recommendations. We were a little concerned that it wouldn't live up to the standards of Koh Rong. However when we checked into Mushroom Point we were charmed with the mushroom shaped rooms with round beds nestled under the mosquito nets. Even the dorm room had these round beds.

Mushroom houses - including one for the bathroom!

Round bed

Sunset over Otres

The beach was nice - still had clear water and fine sand, however there were lots of hawkers selling everything from lobster and fresh fruit to bracelets and threading!

So not quite as relaxing as soon as one hawker had gone you had to deal with the next one...

Kitty getting 'attacked' by Cambodian women on the beach

So in conclusion I would recommend anyone and everyone to get off the mainland and head to Koh Rong. But if you don't feel you have time for that - try Otres for a lovely beach and chilled out vibe - it's only a tuk tuk away from the Serendipity nightlife!

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