Connect the dots

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Paradise Found

Just skip Sihanoukville and make a beeline for what has to be one of Southeast Asia's last remaining island jewels. Sink your feet into the powdery white sands, dip into the crystal clear bath water warm waters and swing into mindlessness in a hammock. You have arrived on Koh Rong Island,  a two hour ferry ride from the mainland.

Still mostly backpackers

Debating on which place was less backpacker party, we took our chances with Paradise Bungalows. Besides, the description that he sold more wine than beer and that the tunes played were less of the top 40 variety, made it sound the most appealing. We initially booked for 2 nights but ended up staying 5. (Once you're here, it's very difficult to leave.)

Owner, Rudy, came here 4 years ago while bring divers (from his former Dive Shop operation) to the nearby reefs, built the neighboring Monkey Island resort, sold it, and now only runs Paradise Bungalows. This is also his second life as he likes to say. Rudy also formerly ran a dive resort in Hikkadua, Sri Lanka. He was a lucky survivor in the tsunami of 2004, but just barely with broken ribs and under a coma for several weeks. He also feels lucky because all year long Paradise has no problems filling rooms with Koh Rong being firmly planted on the backpacker trail and rainy season coinciding with European school holidays. Chris and the staff made sure Alex was occupied (especially with puppy Nepal) and full of fruit shakes. They even made me some rice soup when I was having tummy troubles.

Our beach bungalow
Our rustic room
The jungle shower
The beach from our bungalow
Reading, lounging, cocktails at the Paradise restaurant
If you feel guilty doing nothing, hop on a boat for a snorkel or a dive. These are the cheapest dive rates we've seen in a while. Two dives are $50 with all your equipment, breakfast and lunch. Our first dive was a reef off a 7km white sand beach on the southwestern side of the island. Only 9 meters under was something akin to a Japanese garden: white sands with small rock formations but teeming with life. We spotted bamboo sharks, squid, shrimp fish, puffer fish, damselfish, and lots of sea urchins.

Alex's Finnish snorkel buddy and babysitter, Manu
Identifying fish with future Divemaster Claudia
Those who prefer to stay on land can also take a few hikes through the jungle. We spent an afternoon in search of the Italian restaurant, Pura Vida, for some simple pasta and their famous mango cake. It was definitely worth the 40 minute walk; the best food on the island.

I hope Koh Rong retains some of its lazy, quiet island feeling. Developers have already dug their shovels into the island. They claim they want to make the resorts "eco-friendly" leaving most of the pristine jungle alone but with a ring road, an airport and golf courses in the works, I'm not sure that those intentions will be delivered. I'm just glad we got a piece of paradise before the crowds roll in.


  1. Tip: Don't expect your modern conveniences here. The bungalows are basic without fan or A/C. There's only solar or generator power from 6pm to 10pm. Forget the TV, internet and Wi-fi. This is the place to turn off and tune out! Besides, isn't that why you're on vacation?

  2. OMG--This place looks great, and Alex is SO BIG!!! I miss you guys. xoxo

    Tom C.