‘If I die tomorrow, I will die happy,’ I thought, as I lay marinating in the clear, warm water.
Ian and I stumbled across this idyllic island by accident. After travelling for over ten months we were weary. Travelling had become a chore. We’d been in Battambang in Cambodia and couldn’t wait to get out of there, but we couldn’t move on until we’d decided where to go.
We wanted to spend the last week of our trip on an island and someone had suggested Phu Quoc in Vietnam. It could have been a contender, but it meant another border control, another visa and another currency. Could we be bothered?
While looking at Phu Quoc on the map, I noticed some small Cambodian islands nearby and we decided that Koh Rong Samloem fitted the bill. We immediately checked out of our hotel and booked an overnight hotel bus to Phnom Penh with an onward bus to Sihanoukville, on the south coast. From there we caught a fast boat to the island.
By 4pm the next day we had arrived in paradise. We hadn’t booked any accommodation but found somewhere as soon as we got off the boat. The aptly named Freedom Bungalows were simple but adequate. There was no hot water, air con or internet and electricity was only available from 6pm to 3am and at lunch time. However, the view of the ocean from our verandah, where we spent a lot of time listening to the waves lapping the rocks, more than made up for it.
Saracen Bay, known as the sunrise side, is the most developed part of the island, with about 15 resorts, each with their own restaurants. With so much choice you never have to wait long to get served, even in the high season (November-March).
The resorts hug a sweeping stretch of white talcum powder-like sand, looking out over the Gulf of Thailand’s turquoise water – water that is clean, shallow and as warm as a hot tub. There are also several resorts on the sunset side, which can be reached by walking trails through dense forest full of monkeys.
It was the perfect place to relax and recharge our batteries. By the end of the week, I had slept more than I thought was possible and finished a couple of books that I had carried around the world with me and not had time to read.
I didn’t want to leave so we extended our departure date by a day. This meant we only had one full day in Phnom Penh and had to whizz around the sights like mad things. But I wanted to squeeze every last drop of paradise out of Koh Rong Samloem to sustain me … just in case I didn’t die and had to go back to work.