My wife and I worked over 40 years before we were finally both able to retire. It was a well-earned retirement. She had worked as a schoolteacher, and I had worked as a firefighter. Both of us came home each day waiting for those golden years when we would finally be able to take the nest egg that we had set aside and be able to use it on dream vacations. It was going to just be the two of us and we could not have been happier to know that we were going to spend our remaining years getting to do things just the two of us.
If we were going to properly vacation, we were going to do it right. We were going to travel, visit places we had never seen before, and gain a lifelong group of memories, even if those memories were not going to be around for very much longer.
Travel was going to be our number one focus. We begin to see places that we only imagined seeing when we were working. Places like Paris, Rome, and Rio de Janeiro were first on our list. However, there were more exotic or different kinds of places that we wanted to visit that maybe even 20 years ago we would have never thought about going to. One of those we knew we had to visit was Koh Rong Samloem Island.
For those of you who are not familiar with Koh Rong Samloem Island, let me fill you in with a little information about it. This beautiful island is actually off the coast of Cambodia, about 4 km south of KohRong Island. It is a beautiful location, right in the Gulf of Thailand.
Surprisingly, there was not really very much to this island even 15 years ago. This was just a small island that had fishermen and a few other people living on it, but not much else to it. That all changed when the Cambodian government allowed a group to build a resort on the island, and turn it into a virtual tropical paradise for tourists.
What is to Koh Rong Samloem Island?
Koh Rong Samloem Island is very much like Koh Rong itself. It has a lot less landmass to it but the terrain is very similar. It is predominantly a hilly island with a few moderately sized mountains. The island itself is only about 9.5 mi.² in area. It’s about 5.9 miles long and at its widest point is about 2.9 miles wide while at its shortest point is a little less than two thirds of a mile wide.
The interior of the island is a very densely packed jungle. It is much like a tropical rain forest, and frequently rains will fall within the jungle area itself. The beach area along the shores is absolutely beautiful. There were three yellow sand beaches on the western coast ofKoh Rong Samloem Island that are breath-taking. On the east side of the island you get phenomenal views of the mainland. The Eastside also receives the largest impact from weather patterns within the bay, and is often susceptible to such things as monsoons.
The sandstone rock formations are a real thing of beauty. You can find them in a few locations on Koh Rong Samloem Island and they are definitely something every tourist wants to view.
Also on the east side of the island you will find the crescent-shaped Saracen Bay Beach. This is a great place to be able to go and swim, fish, or sail, or if you just want to lay out in the sun, you will find no better place on the planet.
A Little About the People
Koh Rong Samloem Island has two small villages, one in the north which is called by the people Ma-Pay Bay, and the other in the South, which is referred to as Koh Rong Samloem Phumi Kang Khnong. This is nothing more than a little fisherman’s village at most.
Most of the people who live on the island are there for one of two reasons. The area itself is beautiful and has some of the best fishing in the world. As a result, many people who live on the island work as anglers. The fish they catch not only helps to feed the people of their villages, but also is used in many of the restaurants and hotels on the island.
Tourism is the number one reason that most people live on the island itself. Many people who work in the restaurants, bars, hotels, and other tourist attractions live in one of the two villages, although many are brought to the island by boat.
The island also has a small base that the Cambodian Navy uses. This provides safety and security for tourists and persons who live on the island alike.
Why Visit Koh Rong Samloem Island?
Now that you know a little bit about the island itself, let me tell you beautiful and amazing things that my wife and I discovered. The tourist part of this island has really only been occurring for just a few years. In fact, there really aren’t hotels as we think on the island at all. Most of the places where people would stay who visit are in guesthouses or bungalow resorts. This is part of what makes the island a perfect vacation stop.
Many places a person would visit on a vacation are kind of ruined by hotels up and down the beach area. Here you are looking at a beautiful beach area, yet it is cluttered with hotels. This looks quite out of place and takes away from the natural beauty of the island itself.
You won’t find that on Koh Rong Samloem Island. The bungalows and guesthouses are built in such a way as to naturally fit into the look of the island itself. You feel like a true tropical islander when you vacation here. The services that are provided are exceptional, but you truly feel like you are in some kind of great adventure tale.
The Natural Beauty is one of a Kind
Before I get into talking about the many man-made wonders of Koh Rong Samloem Island, I would be remiss if I didn’t start with the natural wonders of this exotic island. It first of all begins with the captivating sunsets that my wife and I got to witness each and every day. They are absolutely stunning, because much of the area you look out over as the sun goes down is completely untouched. No large skyscrapers, no human innovations to stand in the way of enjoying this incredible beauty. This is also true of the amazing night skies we gazed out at every night while we laid on the beach. It truly was paradise, more than we ever could have imagined.
The wildlife in and around the island is also something to behold. We saw some of the most incredible fish, not only because of their size but also because of the beautiful colors that they took on. It was like seriously looking at God’s most beautiful and majestic designs as we looked into the water. Whether swimming or out on a boat, or even walking along the beach, we were able to see some of the most magnificent fish imaginable.
If you’re walking along the shore or have your feet in the water, you have to be a little bit careful. There are some incredible beach crabs that are beautiful to look at, but who act quite angry when you invade their space. This did not happen to us, fortunately, but we did see a couple of people who were bitten by these little creatures. No permanent damage was done, but it still looked pretty painful to those people.
If you like to swim, the beaches and bay area are an incredible place to enjoy a day in the sun. The waters are warm from the sun shining down on them each day, and the water is as blue and clear as one can imagine.
What makes this island so beautiful is that the natural beauty is still present. They have not gone over the top in trying to commercialize it, and because it has only been a resort island for just a few years it is virtually untouched by tourist traffic. You all know what I mean.
My wife and I visited Rome, Cancun, Rio de Janeiro, and Paris. All of them are beautiful cities. All of them have great places to visit and natural beauty to them that makes them incredibly unique. However, a lot of that beauty has been destroyed by man and his desire to visit these places. They leave garbage, pollution, heavy traffic, all of which take away from the incredible beauty of these cities.
The beaches in areas we visited were often cluttered with garbage, and there was often so many people there that it was hard to even find a place to sit down. They are beautiful, yes that is absolutely true, however since everybody else think so that means that there is so many people there. You simply can’t enjoy yourself as much as you would like to.
That was not true in Koh Rong Samloem Island. This look virtually untouched for the most part. While there were pathways and roads that headed through the jungle areas, much of this area we were able to walk through without seeing much human disturbance to the natural landscape. We just got to enjoy beautiful beaches, incredible trees and plants, and some of the most exotic animals you will ever see.
In the jungle area there were kingfishers and Osprey, animals that were so incredibly beautiful in the way that they look. There were also a lot of little rodents running around, which we understand nobody really likes, but they were still cute in their own way.
As for the man-made parts of the island, this is truly a one-of-a-kind vacation spot. My wife and I were able to rent boats to just sail around the bay as we pleased. We went out on a couple of fishing excursions where we had quite a bit of success catching some fish. There were great places where you can go to either have your fish cleaned and prepared for you, or where you can go and make yourself an amazing meal. It’s really up to you as to what choice you prefer.
We didn’t really take this journey, but there are great pathways where you can ride your bike or just walk to enjoy some time together. On such a small island it is hard to get lost, so going out to enjoy a casual stroll with your sweetheart or just get a nice bike ride is another great adventure you can enjoy onKoh Rong Samloem Island.
No one is going to leave you hungry on this island. There are some very nice restaurants and places to go to find food. All of it is authentic native cuisine to the area. Whether you prefer salads, fish, or other sea life as your meal, you will find some of the most incredible dishes imaginable. Truthfully, I think I gained 5 pounds in my ten-day trip there.
You don’t have to go to any of the restaurants either. Most nights there is a great open luau kind of meal where everyone in the community can gather, whether you live on the island or adjust interest, and partake in an evening meal with the other inhabitants ofKoh Rong Samloem Island. These meals are really something. We had incredible fruit that was fresh and is tasty as it gets, sometimes a cooked hog or fish was served, and we even tried a few different kinds of insects. I know it sounds kind of disgusting, but they were actually pretty good.
The bungalows are also very nice. Comfortable beds, nice cool breeze coming through the bungalow, and you feel safe there. The wonderful thing about this whole adventure for us was that we felt in our safety and security was always in place. Most nights we didn’t even feel a need to ensure that our doors or windows were locked. We left them open so a nice cool breeze could come through, and we felt that our fellow islanders would do us no harm.
One day we even got to enjoy a nice cruise out to some of the other islands around Cambodia. There are a few other islands that have been turned into tourist attractions, but these are all relatively new as well. This means that very little of the land had been destroyed are tarnished by human activity, making it an enjoyable excursion for my wife and myself.
A lot of this trip we just enjoyed traveling out in the gulf. Looking out over the water, and just seeing the incredible creation of God was awe-inspiring to us. It was something that we talk about virtually every day since we came home.
When you get as old as we are, you start to think of the missed opportunities you had in life to do something special. It is easy to start thinking you wasted your best years by not doing the most with your days. I know lots of my friends that feel that way now.
We could’ve felt that way to. We could have just sat around discussing every day as we waited for our time to pass, talking about what we should have done with ourselves. Fortunately, we decided a long time ago that we were going to enjoy our remaining years together. We are living that dream out now.
Koh Rong Samloem Island gave my wife and I the opportunity to see one of the most beautiful sights on earth. Most people don’t think of Cambodia when they’re planning an exciting and exotic vacation, but I am sure glad we did. This was everything we could’ve asked for and more. We had the absolute time of our lives.
For those of you who are thinking to yourself that sounds like a great vacation when you’re 65 years old, but when you’re 24 and have kids that doesn’t sound like a great place to go. Let me tell you something right now. If you decided that taking your family on a vacation to this tropical paradise was the decision for you, you should be aware that you will be giving your wife, your husband, and your kids the best vacation they could ever have, and they will be talking and thinking you for the rest of their lives.
This is a beautiful place on God’s earth, and the greatest thing about it is that it still looks like the way God designed. You can find many places to go now that are ruined by the look of what humans have done, enjoyed this place while you still can. I assure you that you will not regret it.