Traveling is awesome!
Going places, meeting new people, trying new foods, swimming in oceans and hiking to mountaintops. Viewing cities from skyscrapers, drinking wine street side, and checking out street style are all experiences that can make traveling somewhat of an addiction.
But sometimes, the actual journey to get there isn’t as glamorous. The long flights and layovers, smelly buses, taxis and the taxi driver that rips you off or drops you off at the wrong hotel, leaving you stranded and confused.
Ferries that bring on seasickness, tuk-tuks in hot dusty weather, the middle seat, looking for your hotel and hauling heavy bags along the street hungry, tired, and in desperate need of a shower!!
These are just some of the occurrences that one may endure while getting there, yet still we find ourselves ogling over our friends’ vacation pictures on social media, not knowing the full story, of how they got there?
Coconut trees, clear blue sky, white sand, dreamy views of the sea, its hues of blues, and crystal clear water is what you’ll see on my Instagram feed from my trip to Sihanoukville.
I recently made a trip there (for the second time), and it was a dream. I journeyed back to Cambodia with a single longing to revisit Sihanoukville, specifically wanting to spend more time on the islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem.
My time on these two islands felt like heaven- if heaven has a beach. But getting there wasn’t that easy, or at least the route my boyfriend and I chose.
I’m here to keep it real with y’all, to give you the details on our journey to paradise- because social media is “thief head” *Trini accent.
Many of you may know of Siem Reap, and Phnom Penh as the main destinations of Cambodia. And being in these dry and dusty cities, you may not think that this country is also home to pristine islands, and beaches.
On my first trip to Cambodia, I visited both Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, and also Sihanoukville- the gem of all the provinces in this country (or at least in my opinion).
Sihanoukville is located in the South of Cambodia and is home to Otres beach, which is on the mainland, as well as many little islands, Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem being two of them.
These two island paradises, even though they are similar in name, are definitely different in vibe. Koh Rong Sanloem, the smaller of the two is quieter, and Koh Rong is a livelier, party island.
On my previous trip to Sihanoukville, I spent 7 days in a super rustic bungalow on Otres beach, 1-day island hopping, and another spent specifically on the island of Koh Rong Sanloem. I was so hypnotized by the beauty of Sanloem that I promised myself that I’d return and spend more time there.
So that’s what I did, and the journey there was a trip!
Here’s how it went down.
We first arrived at night in Phnom Penh and arranged for a driver to take us to Sihanoukville the next day.
I’m not a big fan of Phnom Penh, especially since as mentioned before I have long been void of amusement for dirty Asian city vibes. But our hotel was an oasis in this dusty dirty city, and because of this, the next day we departed Phnom Penh later than we planned.
We expected to arrive in Sihanoukville in a timely manner, in comfort and style, but instead got stuck in city traffic for three hours, then continued our journey to Sihanoukville for another 4.
By the second hour in traffic, it was made clear to us by the driver that we were going to miss the last ferry from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Sanloem.
Traffic on these Bodia streets is very normal, and experiencing it firsthand may be a bit bizarre, especially when you notice that the cause of it may be that cars and bikes are attempting to head into two directions on a one-way street.
I dealt with the news about missing the ferry and traffic pretty well for most of the ride, but as the hours passed by, I kept asking myself, and the driver, are we there yet?
After spending most of the day in a car we got to Sihanoukville by nightfall. A bit delirious and disheveled, but surprisingly enough, not disappointed that we missed our ferry to Koh Rong Sanloem. We booked a nice beachfront hotel for the night, and indulged in all of its amenities.
** I must mention, that another option would be to fly from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville airport and then take a taxi to the ferry pier. We opted out of that flight as we genuinely assumed that the car ride would have only been a leisurely 4 hours. You can also get there by bus or minivan but I do not recommend doing so as my previous experience was very bad, uncomfortable and a bit nerve-wracking.
After lounging at our hotel some more the next day, we then made our way to the dusty and crowded ferry pier and boarded a slightly overcrowded speed ferry to Koh Rong Sanloem. We arrived in about an hour, dripping in sweat (because of the poor ventilation on the ferry), but extremely relieved and delighted to have finally made it to paradise.
We made it to paradise, but we weren’t there yet! We still had to take a boat taxi to our bungalow.
The stretch on Saracen beach is long, and would have been a crazy task to lug our bags on the sand so that one last boat taxi leg was somewhat a needed “luxury”.
We had arrived. Finally!
Waking up to a serene, pristine beach every morning left me lost for words. We literally just stayed on Saracean beach for four days, with the exception of one afternoon when we ventured through the forest to get to Lazy beach for a magical view of the sunset.
I’d definitely recommend visiting Lazy beach. It’s a stark contrast to Saracean beach and gives total Bali vibes. We were very intrigued by the only restaurant that was on the beach and stayed a little while after sunset to take it all in. This meant that we had to head back through the forest at night. I tried to act as though I wasn’t a bit scared, but for the 20-minute journey I kept asking myself, are we there yet?
As previously mentioned Koh Rong is different from Koh Rong Sanloem in that Koh Rong is known to be a party island, so my enthusiasm to leave Sanloem was not very high. What did increase though was my adrenaline when it was time for our departure.
My boyfriend and I decided to relax on Sanloem on the morning that we were scheduled to leave, but we took taking it easy to another level, not even preparing for our journey to Koh Rong. We didn’t even inquire about the ferry departure times, and after breakfast, leisurely strolled down the pristine white stretch of Saracean beach to the ferry pier, finally ready organize our transfer to Koh Rong.
Upon arrival, we noticed that a ferry had just docked and then was told that it was leaving soon. We were also given the option to leave on another that would depart in 15 minutes.
We didn’t’ want to arrive in Kohn Rong at night so decided to hurry back to our bungalow, pack our stuff, and get on a taxi boat back to the pier. The ferry dude said that the ferry would leave at 12:00 pm, but my instinct told me that it would leave for the earliest at 12:15, because #islandlife. Luckily the idyllic way of organization and timing on the island allowed us to scramble back to the ferry pier on time to catch the “12:00 pm” ferry.
I should mention that we were traveling during the Chinese New Year holiday, which meant things like transportation weren’t on a regular schedule, and boats were being rented out to loads of Chinese tourist. Meaning that our seemingly seamless transfer from Koh Rong Sanloem to Koh Rong got a bit complicated.
Ideally, the transfer would have been like this:
1. Take a speed ferry to the main ferry pier in Koh Rong.
2. Take a long tail boat from the main ferry pier to the resort’s private pier.
Buttt as I said, it was Chinese New Year, so it went like this:
1. Take a speed ferry to the main ferry pier.
2. Take a long tail boat to the random pier on a random beach, and wait at a random cafe.
3. Roll our suitcases down a stretch of sand to a kind of covered pickup truck, and take the truck through bumpy, hot and dusty island, uphill, downhill and then some. Holding on for dear life and to suitcase at the same damn time.
4. Get dropped off at the top of a hill, roll suitcases down dusty/sandy hill to be halfway greeted by resort staff. LANDED IN PARADISE, AGAIN…
As I mentioned, I was a bit skeptical about Koh Rong as its known as a party island, and arriving at the main ferry pier definitely gave that vibe. I eventually came to find out that this island too could be a gem, once you find a good isolated beach.
Ours was pretty dope as our resort was currently the only one on that beach, and was once the beach used to film Survivor. It was so void of people that my boyfriend and I spontaneously went skinny-dipping while walking along the beach one morning.
My stay on Koh Rong Island was also my first glamping experience- and surely the first of many to come. I got even more excited when I realized that my B.L.B shirtdress matched our tent! Ha yes I can be that simple sometimes!
We spent three days lounging on literal squeaky-clean white sand, and then when the time came had to say goodbye- of course dreading the trek that lay ahead of us because it.was.still.chinese.new.year holiday.
We were told that there were no long tail boats available and that we’d have to once again take the long way back to the mainland.
I must admit that we were a bit stubborn about accepting our impending transit fate, and luckily the Universe heard us. Well, actually our friends heard us, as they were also staying at this resort and were having breakfast on the table next to us!
By some stroke of luck, they were using a long tail boat to go snorkeling and offered to drop us off at the main pier in Koh Rong before they did so! We gratefully and gladly accepted their offer, and once again scrambled back to our rooms to pack and be ready to head on a boat in T-minus time.
We made it to the main ferry pier on a vibesy longtail boat, and after getting in a bit of a fight with a shady ferry dude for messing up our connecting ferry ride, we were finally on our way back to the main ferry pier in Sihanoukville.
Or so we thought.
We arrived at a random pier on the mainland and were then directed to board a bus that would have then taken us to the main pier. At this point I wasn’t thinking, are we there yet, just what.the.fuck.
I sat on the bus and just daydreamed of being able to relax in a car ride back to the airport, but our driver was nowhere to be found upon our arrival to the main pier. Or so we thought, so we waited, made some calls, and eventually were connected with our driver.
Almost there, almost home, I thought as we hopped in his super comfy Lexus, with cold beers and a big pack of wet wipes in my hand (Cambodia is dusty as fuck Y'all).
We eventually made it to the airport in about 5 hours, with enough time to freshen up, eat, and relax before our flight.
We’d done it! Traveled to Sihanoukville frolicked in paradise, and made it back to Phnom Penh airport, and eventually Shanghai in one peace!
Getting to and from our destination was a trip, but there were so many great things that came out of the actual journey.
1. On our car ride to Sihanoukville, I discovered new shows on Netflix (*this is always important) as well as discovered fact that my boyfriend and I could spend 7 hours in a car and traffic without driving each other crazy. I think 7 hours is the max btw ha!
2. We learned about this restaurant called “The Stop”, which was a literal oasis on the ride from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville. The menu has both local and international options, and the food is great (especially for being a random spot on the side of the highway)!
3. After getting stranded on the mainland for the night, we made the most of our circumstance and stayed at a super chic resort on Otres beach.
4. It made us more aware of time and how important it is sometimes to be a little more planned and stick to schedules.
5. Most importantly of all, it gave us some practice in solving problems while keeping calm.
We got there, had a blast and made it back with stories to tell.
I guess this is where I should insert a quote about travel and the journey, but I’ll puff puff pass on that one, and just suggest that whenever we see those sexy vacations on our Instagram feeds, we should take a moment in the daydreaming to imagine how they got there!
What have your experiences been with “getting there”? Have you ever had any travel time adventures? Do you have any advice on minimizing time spent on the road-and not on the beach? Feel free to share in the comment section below!
Till next time,