In the past, I always considered myself a fairly knowledgeable person. Before I retired to travel and adventure around the world you could never have convinced me but now, I know, I know only a small fraction of anything about anything. I have always loved the beach. I was vaguely aware that Cambodia had beaches and islands offshore in the Gulf of Thailand but I knew nothing about them. Now a few short years later one of the islands, Koh Rong Samloem, off the coast from Sihanoukville, is one of my favorite places on the planet. I definitely think it is one of the world’s best beaches.
To get to Koh Rong Samloem you have to take a boat. In this case, it is an old, underpowered and rickety boat 2 1/2 hours in transit. It isn’t the smoothest of passages but the beauty of green, sheer-sided islands rising out of clear blue water mercifully distracts you from the rolling of the boat and the pounding of the waves. In fact, after I got used to the rolling and the rhythm I almost enjoyed the ride.
Arrival at Koh Rong Samloem was luckily at high tide so we could use the dock and didn’t have to wade in through the waves to get to shore. At the dock, we were greeted by Chris, one of the owners of Lazy Beach, which is one of the few places to stay on the island. We were shown to the wooden, open-air restaurant for a welcome juice and a brief orientation. As we discovered the restaurant at Lazy Beach is also pretty much the only easily accessible restaurant on the island but, the menu is complete, the kitchen is run by a Cordon Bleu trained chef from Bangkok, the food is delicious, the ingredients first rate and it is all mercifully affordable considering they have a virtual monopoly on sustenance.
The bungalows are pretty beach shack basic but well maintained, clean and acceptably spacious. There is a cold water shower, mosquito netting for the bed and a great porch on the front. Electricity operates only from 6 PM to midnight. There is no TV, no room service, no Internet but, there are the sounds of nature, the surf, and a cooling tropical breeze. In other words: perfect.
Everything felt unhurried. I read books, took photographs, hiked in the green mountings, snorkeled on the small reef, trekked through the humid jungle and reflected on things that I thought were important. One night I took a moonless walk along the shore in front of my room. Heavy waves were stirring up bright phosphorescence and spreading it on the sand. The stars felt so close that it was as if you could reach out a stir them with your hands. The sound of the surf, the cooling breeze, and sand between my toes all conspired to make me fall in love with the place.
It is humbling and wonderful. I used to be cocksure about everything but the more I wander the more I know how little I know. I like that everything is not knowable. It comforts me to know that there is always more to see and learn. To me, that is a valuable lesson.