Magic plankton, sunsets and cookies. White and golden beaches, perfection.
The cynical me seems to have dropped away as I’m finding it hard to get my usual negativity.
This place is glorious.
When I came backpacking, this is what I wanted.
Wearing ridiculous long baggy trousers with elephants on and lazing all day in a hammock or big beach mattress. Flip flops completely abandoned and everyone looking as ungroomed from a lack of electricity and cold showers as the next person.
One of the big draws when visiting Koh Rong is the phosphorescent plankton that lives in the water. I’d heard of this natural phenomena but never experienced it up close. After a few epic strength cocktails it seemed the perfect time to disrobe, hang our stuff from a tree and finally see what everyone was talking about. With new friends Ava and Angela we got into the water at the darkest part of the beach we could find and swum with the mystic plankton. It was amazing, probably more so because of the high level of inebriation. Swimming through the water you could see glitter like chunks of plankton passing seemingly from your very skin. It was mesmerising.
Admittedly stumbling up and down the beach in pants trying to find where all our stuff was was less magical but the plankton was incredible. I’m just sad I was too drunk to try and photograph it.
The final day on Koh Rong we spent snorkelling and fishing. I learnt that I am truly a horrific fisherman, when spearing a tiny catch, shaking it back into the water out of pity and guilt. Catching the fish (or at least seeing them caught) and cooking them on one of Asia’s finest beaches, eating with the backdrop of a magnificent sunset was a perfect day. The beauty of hindsight has allowed me to dwell less on the fact that everyone felt super seasick on the tiny wooden boat and that live fish were flopping despairingly around our legs on the journey to Long beach.
This morning as I wandered along the island I was invited into a local volunteer school. I spent an hour with a girl called Mei practising her numbers and alphabet in English. It was a great experience. The locals on the island of Koh Rong live a decidedly bizarre lifestyle by Cambodian standards, most of them have a livelihood catering to western backpackers to a culture that is very far from the traditional Khmer lifestyle. The children are tattered and messy and look ten times happier than kids I see on the streets of England. They play on the beach and smile cheekily at the foreign visitors.
This new tourism market for the people of Koh Rong is only going to expand as the island is set to change dramatically in the next few years, as Sihanoukville opens an airport and a much more direct route onto the island for tourists.
It’s a shame to consider that the Cambodian government is already considering clearing roads on Koh Rong to make it more tourism friendly, to rival to the islands of Thailand. The thing is that anyone who has been here, I’m sure, could vouch for the fact that Koh Rongs appeal comes from its lack of exposure and island hideaway charm
Although this is of course a valid and important point, it got genuinely infuriating to hear everyone you met tell you that it won’t be the same in five years.
Though on the flip side it’s nice to be on the island in its heyday as much as the idea of the future is depressing, its preferable to see it now rather than being constantly told that you should of been in a place ten years ago to really appreciate it.
It’s going to be so hard to leave this gorgeous island, it’s got a brilliant nightlife with little to do during the day other than lay back, relax and admire the view.
The most perfect island.
I could stay forever.