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Cambodia’s idyllic island of Koh Rong is the country’s largest and fastest-developing island, and is well worth adding to your list of attractions during a visit. Here are some things you should note before jumping aboard the boat to get there.
The photos of deserted white beaches, lapping turquoise waters and gently swaying palm trees are enough to appeal to most travelers. However, it is well worth noting that, although development has vastly picked up pace on the island, amenities are pretty basic, so don’t expect any five-star luxury to be waiting.
Dreaded sand flies plague Koh Rong, and while it seems they don’t enjoy feasting on some people, those they do will suffer, thanks to the little blighters peeing and releasing toxins into your body while sucking your blood. Unlike mosquitoes, they are hard to spot and often go undetected until the itching strikes. A debate is raging over how to deter them, with some claiming super-strong DEET does the trick, while others recommend slapping coconut oil all over your body.
The majority of places on the bustling stretch of beach at Koh Touch offer 24-hour electricity, but it’s best to prepare for rationing just in case. Bringing a fully-charged power bank, and making use of electricity when it’s on to top up your electronics is advisable.
There is no ATM on Koh Rong, so make sure you stop off at the cash point in Sihanoukville before catching the boat across. There are a couple of places at Koh Touch that offer foreign currency exchange or money lending in lieu of your passport—which is later shipped to the mainland—but it comes with hefty interest fees.
Koh Rong boasts 27 miles (43km) of beach, seven bays, and 30 square miles (78km²) of inland—mainly dense forest—making it a large island to explore. However, with no roads, getting around can be tricky. There are a few tracks that snake across the island, so make sure you pack shoes that cover your toes. Otherwise, water taxis are the best way to navigate.
The wifi on Koh Rong is limited, and when it can be found it is often painfully slow. Bearing this in mind, download any movies and music before you leave and use it as a chance to take a break from Facebook. If you can’t tear yourself away, then it is worth buying a SIM card with 3G access.
From October 1, the Cambodian government is introducing an environment tax to all visitors to the islands. This is $2 and is not included in the cost of the boat ticket to get from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong, so make sure you have some spare dollars on you when you board the boat.
Whether it be Western or Asian food you fancy, fear not because Koh Rong has it all, and most of what can be found on the mainland can be found on the island. And the great thing is, it’s not extortionately expensive. Do, however, expect to pay a little extra to take into account the shipping costs.
In case you haven’t realized that development is gathering pace on the island, then here it is again. This rapid change comes coupled with environmental concerns about waste management, plastic in the ocean and lining the beach and the effects on marine life. Visitors to Koh Rong should go with a conscience and try to minimize the part they play in potentially destroying the area’s natural beauty.
Tourism to Koh Rong may be a long way off hitting the heights of Thailand’s Phuket or Koh Samui. However, rapid development during the last five years has wiped away some of Koh Kong’s idyllic charm. The popular stretch of beach at Koh Touch is pretty much lined with bars, guesthouses, shacks and eateries, with the party often going 24/7. For a quieter experience, get a boat to Sok San and enjoy the four miles (7km) of beach.