Pure Island Paradise: Our Stay on Koh Rong Samloem

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I completed the following post on our stay in Koh Rong Samloem with Katie’s help and input.  When I first wrote it, I had forgotten she had already done some of it herself, so I combined the two.

Days 235-237 (March 19-21, 2017):

So, after celebrating Saint Patrick’s day on the mainland we took a speed ferry out to the island of Koh Rong Samloem.  Let me give you the rundown on this little gem for it is not to be missed as a younger traveler.  Off the coast there are two islands: Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem (yea I know, not confusing AT ALL).  Koh Rong is by far the most popular and the most developed.  We had not heard much about either island, although the online rumors indicated that Koh Rong was a party hotspot.  While this may convince most backpackers to head straight there, we were inclined to feel the opposite.  After our party session on Otres 2, we were looking for a more relaxed vibe.  We were also primarily going to the islands because we heard the islands, in general, were we’re home to bioluminescent plankton which were better able to be seen when it was as dark as possible.  This, too, supported our decision to seek out somewhere a bit more secluded.

After some online searching, we found that the options on Koh Rong Samloem were extremely limited.  However, we found availability for a four-person room at the islands most well-known and well-regarded hostel, the Mad Monkey.  Without knowing much else about the place, we booked a couple of nights and headed out there.  What we found was the most gorgeous beach I had ever seen with the whopping price tag of $11 per night.  The Mad Monkey is located on a private stretch of the island.  They picked us up from the small ferry port and the second we rounded the corner in our water shuttle and the hostel came into view, we knew we had made the right choice.

Like I said the beach itself is like something out of a magazine; crystal clear, bright blue water and a small stretch of white sand and rocks surrounded by jungle-covered hills without another hotel or lodge or home in sight.  Absolute perfection.  The water itself was shallow enough to walk out a hundred yards without sinking below your shoulders, and there were several over-water hammocks and swings facing out over the ocean.  The reception, bar, kitchen, and social area of the hostel were contained in a giant open-air wooden pavilion littered with people lounging around on bean bags or scarfing down food at one of several long tables. We checked into our beachfront cabin and soaked it all in.

The hostel was so remote that there was no cell service, no wifi, no in-room outlets, and the electricity was shut off entirely between midnight and six each morning.  So, we were forced to unplug and make our own fun.  We spent our time there swimming, sun bathing, and playing sand volleyball with our fellow guests.  At night, everyone gathered in the pavilion to eat some delicious, if not a bit expensive dinner (the fried chicken sandwich was AMAZING), and socialize.  That socialization often led to drinking and then heavier drinking.  We taught people drinking games like kings and picolo.  We caught up with two girls we had met while backpacking in Thailand AND Vietnam (and now, I guess, Cambodia). Katie and I defended Americans love of athleticwear and tried to explain its versatility when you want to go to the grocery, meet a friend for lunch, or simply lay on your couch and binge-watch Netflix, as well as when you are actually, like, doing something athletic.  I also had a memorable conversation with a Frenchman about his passion for massage.

At midnight, when the power shuts off and the bar closes, all the drink addled and revelrous guests charge out into the shallow water to see the plankton.  We splashed around in the water, agitating the creatures into glowing, wiggling our fingers through the waves.  I was convinced that I was magical as the plankton sparked from my fingers, while Adam amused himself by kicking at them with long strides, giggling to himself as he splashed around.  On our first night, Katie and Justin had already gone to bed when this was happening, but I was so amazed at my own power, I half dragged Katie from her bed into the water to see them.  She briefly enjoyed channeling her inner Harry Potter in the water before stumbling back to bed.  Katie and Justin joined us in the water the next night, but with a couple less drinks in us the plankton’ s glowing was a tad less exciting than it previously seemed.  Although, that evening was still somewhat eventful as Adam freaked us all out at 5:00 a.m. because he dreamed there was a snake in his bed. He woke up yelling “oh shit!” and fell out of bed. The “snake” turned out to be the lining of his blanket….

The day before we left, we joined a group of guests on a snorkeling and fishing excursion.  We drove around to the reef on the other side of the island and enjoyed swimming amongst the mounds of coral.  We saw fish, giant clams, and a ton of super creepy, jet-black urchins with glowing green or blue eyes.  We then got back on the boat, had a couple beers, and attempted to fish for our lunch using baited spools of fishing line.  We were not all that successful (I seem to remember only catching a fish about three inches long, and a piece of coral I spent the better part of twenty minutes wrestling to the surface).  However, our guides were gifted and managed to get a decent haul that they immediately put on the grill, even if they were still flapping around a bit.  Freshest fish I ever had, that’s for sure.

So, overall, our experience at the Mad Monkey on Koh Rong Samloem was one to remember.  I don’t think I have ever stayed in a location that perfectly beautiful, and we managed to do it for a bargain.  The atmosphere is great and it served as the perfect spot to unplug and unwind for a few days.  I was genuinely sad the day we headed back to the mainland.


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