Posts Tagged ‘Saracen Bay Koh Rong’

The Best of the Rest of Cambodia’s Islands

Friday, December 13th, 2013

It’s not only Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem that offer idyllic island escapes. There are another two dozen or so islands off the coast from Rabbit Island near Kep to Koh Kong Island, the largest of the kingdom’s islands.

Koh Kong Island, Cambodia

Koh Kong Island, Cambodia

Starting out in the west near the border with Thailand, Koh Kong Island holds huge potential as the country’s largest island. However, it has remained somewhat impenetrable to hospitality and tourism developers due to a rumoured lease to exiled Thai business interests and military control of the area. Day trips to the island have long been possible, taking in the several beaches that line the western coast of the island. However, there is now one hotel on the island in the shape of Koh Kong Island Resort, offering rustic beachfront bungalows in the US$50 to US$100 range.

Moving further west along the coast, visitors arrive at the tiny Koh Sdach archipelago of islands. Located off the southern tip of Botum Sakor National Park, this cluster of islands offers a mixed bag of accommodation for intrepid beachcombers. Hanuman clients should make for Belinda’s Beach, a Belgian-run bungalow operation on Koh Sdach itself. While it lakes the quintessential tropical beach, it does have the best bungalows this side of Koh Rong and the hosts whip up some excellent cuisine, handy given how far it is to the nearest restaurant. However, the island pricing still applies, meaning rates pushing US$150 per night are considerably higher than one would pay on the mainland. Other accommodation options in this area include the very basic Mean Chey Guesthouse on Koh Sdach and the eco-friendly resort of Nomad’s Land on nearby Koh Totang, but both are a touch too rustic for Hanuman travellers.

Belinda Beach, Koh Sdach, Cambodia

Belinda Beach, Koh Sdach, Cambodia

Directly off the coast of Sihanoukville are several smaller islands with a range of accommodation available, but none quite fits the bill for Hanuman at this stage. A large part of Koh Russei and Koh Ta Khiev islands is leased by French investment firm Citystar, with plans in the pipeline for a 5* Alila Resort on Koh Russei, including a 150-room hotel and one/two/three bedroom villas. Spread over 25 acres, this promises to be a significant development on the Cambodian coast with rooms starting from around US$200 and villas from US$400. However, hold your breath, as it is unlikely to be ready before 2015 at the earliest.

Elsewhere options are similarly thin on the ground. Tiny Koh Pos just a few hundred metres off Sihanoukville, now has a splendid bridge but it leads to nowhere, as the Russian investors haven’t actually built any of the planned villas. Some observers suggest it might have been better to build the villas first rather than the bridge. Another Russian-owned resort looks like something out of James Bond, the lair of Scaramanga, and is known as the Mirax Resort. It might work well of Russian billionaires seeking something different, but Hanuman prefers to recommend Song Saa Private Island for a luxury escape. Other islands have one or two options, but they are predominantly aimed at backpackers looking for some peace and quiet. Koh Thmei, part of Ream National Park, has the German-run rustic Koh Thmei Resort. Further afield, islands such as Koh Tang and Koh Prins don’t yet offer any accommodation, but it is possible to visit as part of a liveaboard dive trip or even camp on the beach.

Scaramanga's Hideaway? Or the Mirax Resort, Sihanoukville

Scaramanga’s Hideaway? Or the Mirax Resort, Sihanoukville

The final small group of Cambodian islands lies off the coast of Kep. Here the sophisticated resorts are all found on the mainland with very little development on the islands. Rabbit Island has a cluster of ramshackle bungalows on the beach, but these are backpacker crashpads and not really suitable for Hanuman guests. The island has been leased to a major Asian developer and there are plans to create a resort complex at some time in the future.

There ends a snapshot of the Cambodian coastline in 2013. Koh Rong remains the best all-round island with everything from ultra-luxury Song Saa Private Island to rustic resorts of Koh Tui. Koh Rong Samloem is another fine option for an island escape, including long-running Lazy Beach and the up and coming resorts of Saracen Bay. Elsewhere the choice is more limited and it’s really all or nothing once you have selected your resort. Belinda Beach on Koh Sdach and Koh Kong Island Resort are the best of the rest, but it might be smarter to opt for Koh Rong or Koh Rong Samloem with room to move if the accommodation doesn’t fit the bill.

 

 

 

Escape to the island of Koh Rong Samloem

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

The lesser developed twin to Koh Rong, Koh Rong Samloem is starting to take off, with a cluster of new bungalow resorts on beautiful Saracen Bay.

Saracen Bay, Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

Saracen Bay, Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

Koh Rong Samloem is a little closer to the mainland than neighbouring Koh Rong, so slow boat transfers take just two hours to popular Saracen Bay. Long the only accommodation on Koh Rong Samloem, Lazy Beach remains one of the most attractive places to stay in splendid isolation on the west side of the island. However, it is now being given a run for its money by several newer resorts on Saracen Bay, located on the eastern side of the island.

One of the most established places on Saracen Bay is Freedom Island Bungalows, linked to the Freedom Dive Centre, offers solid concrete bungalows facing a rocky section of the bay. The rooms are comfortable enough and include a unique freshwater bathing pool built into the base of a pretty jungle waterfall. Transfers are arranged by dive boat and the Freedom Dive vessel is one of the most sturdy on the water. Further south on the main section of Saracen Bay are a couple more interesting options, including Saracen Bay Resort, which has attractively finished thatched bungalows on the beach with smarter bathrooms than the average Koh Rong Samloem resort. The other possible option is The Beach Resort which has a bit of a hippie vibe but there are some flashpacker options available, including some beachfront bungalows. For the average Hanuman client, it’s probably best avoided around full moon when they host a monthly rave up.

Elsewhere on the island, Lazy Beach remains the all-round best choice on the island for some seclusion, and the best sunsets. The spacious bungalows include seaview verandas and the bathrooms are finished with stone floors. The newer Koh Rong Samloem Villas are another option to monitor in the coming months, as they plan to add some larger family bungalows in 2014. M’Pay Bay is a great place for a good cause, a bungalow resort that supports the local community and assists marine conservation. Unfortunately for the average Hanuman guests, facilities are rather rudimentary.

Access to Koh Rong Samloem is usually via boats run by individual bungalows or resorts. There are, however, a couple of island touring boats that stop off at Koh Rong Samloem daily, including the Suntours boat and the Party Boat. There are plans for the SEA Cat fast boat between Koh Tui (on Koh Rong) and Sihanoukville to stop at Saracen Bay, but this hasn’t materialised yet. As with all development on Cambodia’s fast-changing islands, watch this space.