If you are planning a vacation mixing culture and some amazing white beaches, Cambodia is the right place for you. StaffTraveler blogger Simone went to Cambodia for a short holiday. Here’s what you need to know for your visit to Koh Rong island and Siem Reap.
Our first destination was Koh Rong, a beautiful island along the Cambodian coast, right in front of Sihanoukville. The ferry to Koh Rong operates from here. We landed at Phnom Penh and then hired a private taxi who took us to Sihanoukville in almost 5 hours. Since we arrived late at night, we had to sleep there in order to take the ferry the next day.
Sihanoukville, once a very typical Southeast Asian town, has been torn apart by Chinese investors, building a huge conglomerate of apartments, hotels, and casinos for the new riches. Rubbish is everywhere, making it very unattractive. Don’t waste your time here.
5 things to know about the ferry to Koh Rong
- There are several ferry companies operating from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem.
- Prices are roughly $22-25 return ticket, depending on the season and the company.
- The trip takes about 45 min.
- The first ferry runs at 7:30am and the last at 5:00pm.
- It’s recommended to book your trip online to guarantee your place.
Where to stay on Koh Rong?
The island has just a few 5 stars resorts, like The Royal Sands, many hotels with bungalows like the Sok San beach resort, White Beach Bungalows, Tree House Bungalows, and others. You’ll also find lots of hostels and areas where you can rent a tent on the beach for a few bucks.
For a luxurious experience, like Angeline Jolie, you can go to Song Saa, a private island with a five star luxury resort $1600 a night!
The main tourist and lively place in the island is Koh Toch village, where the ferry stop. If you are looking for a party atmosphere, this is where to stay.
In case you prefer a more laid-back, family-friend location, find something further away from the village, but still close to Koh Toch.
A bit more isolated beaches where to stay are 4K, Lonely and Sok San beach.
Three beautiful beaches
Beaches in Koh Rong are incredibly beautiful and it was a hard task to choose only 3, but in my opinion, the winners are:
It’s a must! Not only for its beauty and wildness but for the sunset as well. It has kilometers of white powder sand and warm water. What makes this beach so special is that there is nobody there! My advice is to take the boat from the village for $10 including return, at 1pm and in 20 min you are in paradise. There are only two places where you can eat, with $4 you can get a bowl of fried rice or noodles and a beer!
This side of the island is the only place where you can admire the sunset, so don’t miss it!
At 6:00pm (or after the sunset) the boat will take you back.
The Royal Sands Resort has the perfect location at this beach.
White Beach is just 5 min walk from Koh Toch, but with beautiful white sand. It has also a bar and restaurant right on the sand, where you can eat BBQ with fresh fish.
4K or Long Set Beach
This beach is located 15 min walk from Koh Toch. It’s a long white beach around 4km with a few bars, hostels and some tents where you can rent to sleep on the beach.
There are several boat trips you can easily do, almost all of them departing from Koh Toch. Here are some ideas:
Koh Rong Samloem
This is the nearby younger sibling of Koh Rong, for $10 a return trip, you can take a boat and it’s well worth for a day trip.
Tour of the best beaches of the island all day long including snorkeling, fishing, BBQ on the beach, visiting a local village, all for $25.
Other boat trips
- At 7:00pm you can take a boat trip to swim with the planktons, for $5.
- A trip to Long Beach and be back after the sunset, $10 for a return trip.
10 Things you must know
Remember to take cash with you, US Dollars are used everywhere, there are no ATM machines on the island and credit card is not well accepted.
You may experience electrical power cuts 2,3 times a day for approx 1 hour.
Air conditioning and hot showers are a real luxury on the island. Almost all hotels and hostels have fans and no hot water.
To move from one beach to another you can take a hop on/off boat or a moto taxi.
Eating in Cambodia is still cheap. Local food starts around $3-4 and beer start at $0.50 cent for a can, maybe that’s the reason for so many parties.
Don’t forget to bring sunscreen and repellent for mosquitoes!
Careful with sandflies, some beaches have more than others.
It’s better to use a backpack, instead of a trolley. Once you arrive on the island, there are no paved roads or sidewalks, so you need to carry it. Plus, if your hotel is on the other side of the island, you need to take a motorcycle or a boat to reach it.
There are some development projects to modernize Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem, like some big resorts, golf course, marina, casinos and much more.
You must travel to Koh Rong before is too late!
Next destination: Siem Reap
Siem Reap was a great surprise for us, and I suggest you spend at least 3 or 4 days. The city is clean and well maintained, the center has beautiful French colonial buildings, nice and cool restaurants and bars everywhere. You can find all kind of cuisines, from Khmer to international and all price ranges. There are many options for hotels for all budgets as well.
Angkor Wat Temples
Angkor Wat Archeological Park is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. It has stunning temple ruins and the remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, dating back between the 9th and 15th centuries. The 400 Sq/Km temple complex became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992.
The Angkor Pass can only be purchased at the official ticket center, located 4 km away from Siem Reap town and open from 5am to 5.30pm every day. Children under 12 years old are free, you must show the passport for age confirmation.
There are 3 types of tickets available:
- 1 day $37
- 3 days $62
- 7 days $72
The 3-day pass is valid for 10 days from the issue date, the 7-day pass is valid for 1 month from the issue date. With both of these passes, it’s not necessary to visit on consecutive days.
It’s important to remember these are temples so you need to dress appropriately. Temples require long pants or a long skirt and covered shoulders. Comfortable shoes like sneakers is a must, since you will walk and climb all day long.
Most of the temples in the park can be visited from 7.30am – 5.30pm, but there are some exceptions:
Angkor Wat temple: 5am – 5.30pm (except Central Tower, open from 7.30am)
Srah Srang: 5am – 5.30pm
Bakheng temple: 5am – 7.00pm
Pre Rup temple: 5am – 7.00pm
Visiting the temples
The best way to visit them is to hire a Tuk Tuk. For $15-25 you can rent it for half or full day and the driver will take you everywhere you want.
You will be surprised to know that there are more than 100 temples. It’s impossible to visit all in a short visit. The most popular are 10-12 temples. You can choose between the short tour with 5-6 temples or the big tour with more than 10.
Unfortunately, we had only 1 and a half day in Siem Reap; in one day, of course, you cannot see everything, but you can have an idea of what the temples are all about.
We walked for more than 5 hours, around 9km, under the burning sun visiting the temples with the short tour, including the massive Angkor Wat. There are no words to describe the beauty of this site. It is filled with a really impressive stone constructions and the huge roots that grew inside of the temples, out of its walls. You will be amazed with every and each detail carved on the stone and the massive architecture of the complex.
My suggestion is to visit the historic sites in 2 or 3 days so you can split the big tour in 2 days and visit the far temples on the third day or just relax in Siem Reap.
After the temples, it was time to go back to our hotel where a fresh swimming pool was waiting for us.
The Pub Street area is the center of the nightlife with restaurants, bars, cafes, karaoke, places to dance, massage spa, the local market for souvenirs and much more. You can’t miss these bars:
Things to do
- A popular day trip not far from Siem Reap is visiting a number of floating villages.
- Participate on a Khmer Cooking lessons at “Le Tigre de Papier Cooking School”
- Watch The Phare, Cambodian Circus Show
- Visit the Landmine Museum
- Visit Art Night Market
- Old Market also known as Psah Chas
- Visit Les Artisans d’Angkor