Island Life | Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

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

local bus

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.

MMKRS dock

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.

fire dancers

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…

A Peck of Peppers | Kampot, Cambodia

After two days of Phnom Penh and a couple good nights out, my friends and I decided to keep moving through Cambodia. We’d talked to several other travelers who recommended visiting the town of Kampot; a quite town along the coast of Cambodia, and it’s exactly where we headed.

We were able to find a bus leaving mid-day arriving into Kampot just past dinner time. We thought it was the perfect timing for a bus, however, like most things in Southeast Asia, it took WAY LONGER than expected.

What we encountered was a completely tore up highway, packed with traffic, and a ridiculously bumpy ride. Reason: a huge freeway (actually a few) is being build throughout Southeast Asia connect China to the coastline. It wasn’t the most fun bus ride but we made it safely to our quiet hostel located in the center of town.

Accomodations

Although Mad Monkey does have a location in Kampot, the guys and I decided to branch out and try another hostel, a non-party but social hostel, called Monkey Republic. This hostel is located pretty centrally and very easy to walk to from the bus depot. The staff was super friendly, breakfast was delicious (extra cost but located onsight), and the cost was reasonable. It was approximately $6-7 USD per night, which is ideal on a backpackers budget.

It should also be noted that one of the hotspots to stay for backpackers is called Arcadia Backpackers Kampot. Located on the outskirts of town along the river, Arcadia offers backpackers more than just accomodation. They have a variety of water activities including a waterslide, blog, tubes, rope swing, and so much more.

We were pretty intrigued by this hostel, but made the ultimate decision to use Kampot as a “chill spot” before the islands. Plus, Arcadia is located quite far from the main city center and would require a tuk-tuk ride to and from the location. It was something we didn’t want to hassle with at that moment.

Tourist Attractions

One of the main “must see” is going to visit a pepper farm. Apparently Kampot is known for its pepper and as someone who had never been to a pepper farm before, I was very intrigued.

Through the help of our hostel, we were able to gather some information about how to visit one of these farms. The front desk told us many of the tuk-tuk drivers have different types of “packages” of touristy places we could visit, with prices varying. We ventured outside to the main road and easily found a tuk-tuk. As a group (we had another hostel mate join us), we decided on a package that included a visit a local lake, a salt field, and the farm.

The first pit-stop was to a salt field, which was nothing but a field. It was dry season so I wasn’t expecting much, but our driver did provide a little explanation of how salt…grew? Was made? (not sure the correct verbiage for salt)

The lake wasn’t anything unique, since at this moment it was dry season, but there were a few small huts surrounded by rice fields that made it quite beautiful. It was quite bumpy to get too, but the route took us through local villages and rice fields. Unfortunately, the downside was the amount of plastic we saw on the ground and in the rivers/water. There were many moments that were hindered by the sight of garbage.

Kampot Pepper Farm

After the lake, we continued to La Plantation, a certified organic Kampot pepper farm located roughly 22km in Kon Sat; a particular area with the perfect temperament and climate for pepper to thrive. I read something to do with the combination of the salt water/salty air, the air, and the amount of rainfall.

When we first arrive to the farm, we were greeted with a beautiful walkway surrounded by plants of different shapes and sizes. This walkway lead us to the main building, where we joined in on a FREE walking tour (with pepper tasting at the end.)

The tour walked us throughout the pepper and spice plants teaching us about the 22 hectares farm. From how the plants are grown, to how they harvest the pepper berries, and finally, about the different types of pepper.

Prior to my visit, I couldn’t tell you anything about pepper. Now, I can tell you that pepper plants grown upwards on wooden poles. The different berries all grown on the same stalk and have to be hand picked and hand sorted, as flavors from the different berries wouldn’t blend well with the others. There are four different pepper berries: green, black, red and white; each with their own tastes and purpose. And there’s a unique difficulty to collecting the white and red pepper berries, which apparently are rare.

Plus, La Plantation is more than just pepper. Their array of plants also include a variety of spices like turmeric and chili and other peppers like long peppers, which are all grown throughout the farm.

One of the perks of visiting this particular farm is the pepper tasting that comes at the end of the walking tour. It provides an insight into the various flavors of each pepper. A chance to taste before deciding to purchase a product. Plus, it’s just fun. I never fully understood that extent of pepper but I have a new found appreciation for pepper thanks to this tour.

The Rest of Kampot

After we returned home from the farm tour, we didn’t really have a plan. Thankfully, when this happens it usually means food is in the near future. There was one place we were told is a good area for food, the river side.

We found a little restaurant located near the river and indulged in local Cambodian cuisine. Afterwards, we walked along the riverside admiring the boats lined up. We were told they offer boat cruises at sunset but we were more interested in just having a beer. That is exactly what happened when we ran into several other hostel mates. It was a pretty tame evening as we were leaving for another location in the morning.

No affiliation with any of the hostels listed.

For more information regarding La Plantation, please visit their website at https://kampotpepper.com

Travel occurred in March 2019