We woke up the next morning ready for our next destination, Koh Rong Sanloem, the island life. To get from Kampot to Koh Rong Sanloem, there is quite the mixture of transportation modes. We knew we didn’t want to waste a day traveling, and after a small amount of research we knew we wanted a goal of the 11:30 am ferry. In order for that to happen, we had to leave Kampot by local bus at 7am and make the 3 hour journey to a town called Sihanoukville.
Getting There and ATMs
Ferry times from Sihanoukville to the Cambodian islands, Koh Rong Samloem and Koh Rong are limited, running between 8am and approximately 4 p.m. We didn’t want to count solely on the last ferry at and risking getting stuck in Sihanoukville. (rumor is there might be a later ferry, but in April 2019 the last ferry was at 4pm)
Everything worked out in our favor, though I’m still not sure exactly how we managed. You see, we went from a local bus to ANOTHER bus, then had to walk down a hill/road to arrive at the ferry dock. Why? It’s still a mystery to me, but it all worked out. It did provide us with several opportunities to get to an ATM, which are located along that main road.
THIS IS A MUST, because the islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem are cash only with ZERO, NILCH, NADA ATMs located on them. Oh, did I also forget to mention that much of the island of Koh Rong Sanloem is cellular data limited. This means, you’ll be disconnecting from everything for a few days!
While in Phnom Penh, we had decided in advanced to stay at the Mad Monkey hostel on Koh Rong Sanloem. Mad Monkey KRS is located on a private beach only accessible by long boat. They have courtesy pick-up and drop-off at Saracen Beach at select time. They partner with ferry company, Speed Ferry, so those select times are in correlation to Speed Ferry. We managed to take the 11:30 a.m. boat as planned and arrived at Saracen Beach about an hour later. It was a pretty simple ferry ride and the Mad Monkey long boat was waiting for our arrival.
Mad Monkey KRS
Mad Monkey KRS is a large hostel located on a private beach/cove with several options for small to big dorms. There are several options from hillside view dorms, private ensuite beachfront villas, and sea view dorms from 4-12 beds.
We pre-booked our accommodations via the Mad Monkey’s website directly and received a 10% discount. None of us really knew the set up a head of time, so initially booked the 6-bed mixed dorm room. After arriving and noticing the large 12-bed dorms open air, beach front location, we requested to move dorms on our second night.
Each bed comes with their own mosquito net, as bugs are ruthless here (NOTE: BRING BUG SPRAY AND LOTS OF IT). There is a lock box for each bed and plenty of space for luggage. I never felt like I was walking on top of my dorm-mates.
Mad Monkey has a large common-dining-bar area with a beautiful view of the bay. This area is where most of the action happens. There were even bean bags available for some light reading or sun bathing.
Mad Monkey is a cashless property, which means keep your money in the room. During my visit in March, they were in the process of making the switch from paper tabs to an electronic tab system. Upon arrival, you will get a bracelet that will be used to track your room cost and purchase food, trips, and beverages. When you check out to leave, you will get a final bill. Again, make sure you bring enough cash to cover all possibilities for the amount of time you stay.
Mad Monkey offers a variety of events and excursions. Several days have nightly themes like “pizza night” with their stone oven. Some nights have shows like fire dancing on the beach. During the day, there is an option for a $10 boating/fishing excursion, which takes you on a 4 hour long boat adventure.
This adventure includes friends, music, drinks, snorkeling, and learning how to fish using the traditional Cambodian method. I HIGHLY recommend adding this to your list because it was such a great time. Even though, I was awful at the fishing part.
Everyday between the hours of 3-6 p.m. is happy hour on the pier. This is a large wooden area in the middle of the bay with a large bar and covered area, a swing and rope swing, plenty of bean bags, and platforms to jump off.
Basically, this hostel has everything you could ask for while enjoying the Island Life. My friends and I participated in basically everything, but because it was service-limited and Wi-Fi free, I rarely had my cell phone. Meaning, I took little to no photos during my 4 days at Mad Monkey. Oops.
(I need to check out my footage from my GoPro since I have no idea what I actually captured)
A Little Something Extra
To me, Island Life means one thing…Scuba Diving. I hadn’t heard much about the diving in Cambodia. I was itching to get back into the water as at this point, it had been close to 8 months since my last dive. I was going crazy not being in the water.
After googling and surfing trip advisor, I settled on a company in Mpai Bay, another bay on Koh Rong Samloem. They did not offer pick up from Mad Monkey, but they did offer it from Saracen Bay. At the time of booking, I did not realize that Mad Monkey partners with a dive shop in Koh Rong which included pick up. Hindsight. I wish I would have used this other company strictly for the convenience.
The company I used for was a decent shop with good equipment and my particular dive master was amazing, but customer service was a bit “eh”. The dives themselves were nothing special and I was told that visibility was always very poor in Cambodia’s waters. I wish I would have known this prior to diving, as I probably would have saved my money. I did see an octopus on the second dive so BONUS, but in the process, I did lose my dive master because of visibility.
Regardless of the poor visibility and “eh” customer service, I still thoroughly enjoyed being back underwater. It always gives me such a peaceful mind and spirit. I still wouldn’t recommend diving in Cambodia (especially after diving the Thai Islands), but if it’s your only opportunity while in S.E. Asia, then go for it!
Four days came and went very quickly and I really wish I could have stayed longer, but it was time to continue on my solo backpacking adventure. I left the boys and many friends on the island and ventured back to Phnom Penh to catch my next flight. Stay tuned to find out where…