Koh Rong Samloem: Cambodian Paradise?

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Koh Rong Samloem: Cambodian Paradise?

The minute I arrived to the picturesque M’Pay Bay on the Cambodian island of Koh Rong Samloem I realized this is exactly what I came to SE Asia looking for. It is a relaxing island paradise with a mix of friendly local fishermen and a small population of backpackers and foreign entrepreneurs.

The boat to Koh Rong Samloem leaves multiple times a day from the main pier in Sihanoukville. It takes about 2 hours to get to the island. There are two stops on the island: Saracen Bay and M’Pay Bay. Most of the budget accommodations are located around M’Pay and I believe it is the more unique of the two as well.


Until recently the local people relied entirely on the sea. Just a few years ago the bay was discovered by a few backpackers and the fishermen and their families graciously welcomed them as they still do to everyone who comes to their village.

While it may not provide for the most authentic experience, Cambodia seems to be a popular place for foreigners to run a business. I have yet to look into it but I would assume it is easier to start a business here than in neighboring Laos or Thailand. Some people may not like this, but I found it very interesting since I am always looking for new business ideas.

Windy Koh Rong Samloem

My first full day on Koh Rong Samloem was a perfect beach day. It wasn’t too hot and the water was smooth as glass. It was also the clearest water I had seen up to that point. The first island I visited, Koh Ta Kiev, didn’t have the clearest water so it was nice to feel like I had finally arrived in paradise. Unfortunately M’Pay bay doesn’t have the best beach. It is very narrow, so at high tide it is basically nonexistent. Also most of the beach is covered in trash. It is not from the locals, in fact, they do their best to clean it up. This is tidal garbage that comes from all over the world. Once you find a decent section of clean beach it is easy to look past this with the beautiful views.

Kog Rong Samloem

The next afternoon the wind started to pick up and by the night it was very windy. Apparently it can get windy this time of year and sometimes last days or weeks. It was clear and there was no rain, but very very windy. It made it kind of fun to swim at least with some decent waves. You almost could have surfed these waves. It was a big contrast from the calm waters of the day before.


Overnight the wind picked up even more and even woke me up a few times slamming things around outside, even blowing the door open at one point. The next morning when I woke up I noticed something about the bay was different.

Koh Rong Samoem Pier

Koh Rong Samoem Pier collapsed

The end of the pier had collapsed overnight and apparently took with it some things that were delivered by the boat the following night including some tiles for the new bathroom the owner of my hostel was building. He was not happy, but figured that he will dive to retrieve them when the weather calms down.

The wind was still very strong and the boats for the day were cancelled. No one was getting in or out for the next few days. It was’t a place I minded being stranded though. I enjoyed a few more days just hanging out around the village and the beach.


koh rong samloem

“Main Street” in M’Pay Bay


The best place to eat on the island, The Fishing Hook, is out on the pier. It is owned by a group of local fishermen and they serve excellent fish and curry dishes along with some western food. It is still the best curry I’ve ever had. Food is a little more expensive in Cambodia than it is in Thailand especially on the islands, but it is still a little less than you would pay in the US or Europe. Meals here were only about $6-$8 which was a great value for decent portion sizes.

I’m not sure I mentioned it before but Cambodia mostly uses the US dollar for anything over $1. Change is given in Cambodian Riel. It is very easy since 1000 riel is $0.25. It was kind of nice though to pay for everything in USD since I knew exactly what I was spending instead of having to do a quick conversion everytime I pay for something. It was kind of weird after going to the ATM for the first time in Cambodia to have a few hundred dollar bills in my hand again.

The fishing hook

I was able to get out after a couple days on one of the only boats that was to come that week. It was a very rough ride back to Sihanoukville and several people were very sick. I enjoyed sitting on the bow of the boat and getting wet dropping into the big waves.




I am traveling the world focusing on adventure and photography.

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