SIHANOUKVILLE and KOH RONG. The time we found ourselves in a hippie commune

Location: Sihanoukville and Koh Rong, Cambodia.

Highlight: Swimming with phosphorescent plankton at night in Koh Rong.

Sihanoukville is a beach town – reasonably nice but quite trashy, and I only partly reference to the rubbish. There’s a strip of bars and restaurants along the beach, all trying to outdo each other with free drink offers.

Amy, Matt (we met with them again in Sihanoukville!) Simon and Tom are people who will shamelessly take the free drink from one bar and then move onto the next bar, repeating the process until there aren’t any more bars with free drink offers. Maybe we’ll even limbo under the burning pole at one of the bars before watching their fire show too.

There are also a load of expats who have been disowned by their parents for moving out to Cambodia to be a rep at one of these place, one we met who the guy she fell for has a meth addiction. Damn.

We had a relaxing day sunbathing by the beach and then watched as a dramatic sunset filled the sky. Another day started with a ‘pool party’ at our hotel though the four of us accounted for 80% of the attendees. But we had fun nonetheless. Tom painted a rubber hen, which is a real party staple.


On the painting, one day on the beach Tom had the materials out and was painting some kids who were playing in the sea, people kept coming up to see what he was painting, and eventually they realised that they were in the picture and they got very excited. They were torn between continuing their splashing around and seeing how the picture was progressing. At one stage there was a group of around 15 watching the painting coming to shape… made all the more intimidating by the face that they were all speaking in Khmer.


Another night out including some karaoke (some poor soul had to sit in and listen to us singing in case we wanted a drink) and we were sadly saying our goodbyes to Amy and Matt, who were heading onward to Siem Reap before continuing onto the southern Thai Islands, before we jumped on a boat to Koh Rong the following morning.

3 hours after we hopped onto the ferry, which Simon was doing his best to struggle his way through on a hangover, and we docked. Simon caught his bag which was tossed over the worker’s shoulder and luckily stopped it from falling into the water.

We checked into a ‘hostel’ which had a pungent aura of some herbal concoction that neither Simon nor be had any idea of… and some people were smoking these things, like cigarettes, but bigger and wider at one end than the other… how odd, we thought to ourselves

We were greeted by a shirtless heavily tattooed hippie Westerner British man (I’ll not bother writing “shirtless heavily tattooed hippie Westerner” again but SHTHW for short) who we had to explain two or three times that we wanted to check in, then when he got the message, he popped off happily and came back with a blank expression. “Ah, yes. Check in. Right you are.” People were very peculiar around here. 20 minutes more of this laborious back-and-forth later and he’d finally given us not only the key, but also towels! And we were on our way.

I woke up with 2 more cats on my bed than I had when I went to sleep:


Similar story again at lunch, the waiter was a SHTHW man who just gave us the pad of paper to write our own orders down on, then we got up, handed it to him and he gave it to the Khmer staff who then cooked it for us. He was on another island in his head somewhere, and again that funny smell of some local herb… What was it?

One nice SHTHW man we met told us about the tour he operates, he seemed the most lucid person we had met yet so we were drawn in by that alone. Then he asked behind the bar for his weed and they brought out a tray. Now my understanding of weed is days spent as a child helping out in the garden with my dad removing those pesky weeds getting in the way of the nice flowers, but this must’ve been something different.

Feeling suddenly light headed, we went to relax on the white sanded beach with beautifully clear water. The water was warmer than bath water and the neighbouring islands made for excellent scenery.


It was Simon’s birthday one day, so we headed off on a day’s boat trip which was the highlight of the trip so far. We went snorkeling, chatted to 20 or so other friendly people we shared the boat with, went fishing, visited a local village, visited the beach where the TV show Survivor is filmed to watch the sun set and play Nerf and Frisbee and drink some beers, then headed back, but not without the cherry on the top; swimming with phosphorescent Plankton.

Once it was dark the boat stopped out at sea, they turned the lights off and told us all to jump in with our masks on. You couldn’t see anything unusual from on the boat, but when you jumped in the sea around you lit up. They would only light up if you disturbed them, so you could float there and look out into dark nothingness, then kick out and your legs would glow green. It was an incredible experience, everywhere you looked around there were thousands of tiny phosphorescent specks of light.

Personal favourite moves were “The Spiderman Web” where if you cocked your wrist backwards and pushed your whole arm forward, the plankton would light up and continue going in that direction like a ball of flame or Spiderman’s web, or “The Tornado” where you swim round and round quickly like you’re the blades in a food processor and watch as the plankton continue circling you afterwards. The sky was clear too, so you could look up and see the twinkle of thousands of stars against the black sky and look down and see the twinkle of thousands of plankton against the black ocean. What a day.

The next day we explored the jungle – we put the hiking boots on (first time Simon had worn shoes this whole trip) and we trekked from one side of the island to the other. It was very humid and the noise of all of the birds and insects was deafening. The route was treacherous and required scaling down sheer rock faces at times. We saw a fairly large monkey (when we were on the beach on day one, we also saw one being clubbed to death by the locals – that was mad), and once we were through to the clearing there was a lovely view over the bay.

We made it down to Long Beach, spent the day there and waited for the sunset, which was spectacular. All sorts of colours and dramatic cloud forms going on, and schools of fish jumping out from the sea right by where we were swimming, they could quite easily have come slapping into our faces one after another not knowing we were there but fortunately we avoided them.

I mean… come on. Look at it! Just… look at it!

An amazing place, quite unlike anywhere I had ever been before. Very beautiful, some character to it too and some interesting SHTHW people.


During our stay in Koh Rong, unless lying on the beach, sleep was difficult to come by.

This was due to late night activities of other guests sharing our accommodation. Although we had a private room, the walls were corrugated iron and didn’t even make it to the ceiling, so as you can imagine – we could hear EVERYTHING.

We could hear those revellers who would come upstairs to vomit into the toilets (on average 2 per night) before going back down to continue. But even more disturbingly we could hear the late night bedside activities. This was one of the least pleasent experiences I’ve had. Drunk people think they’re letharios and are so noisy, at least twice a night we heard these groanings and moanings. I couldn’t hack it one night and left to lie on the beach. The accommodation was called Bong’s for anyone who likes the sound of Koh Rong but wants to avoid that part of the experience… or even anyone who wants to be involved in it…

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Much Love,

Late 20’s Crisis


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