Koh Rong – A paradise island or hell on earth? You decide

Posted By Hayley | 2 comments

From my seat on the speed ferry approaching Koh Rong all I can see are palm trees, white sand, vibrant bars and the bluest of blue water. My nerves immediately kick in as I carefully climb off the ferry onto a pier that appears to be crumbling beneath my feet but once I am safely on land, I look around and am delighted to be part of this tropical paradise.

To the left it looks ever so slightly like a more exotic version of a Benidorm bar strip. Endless bars & restaurants with shiny lights offering cheap drinks, fantastic food and some form of evening entertainment. To the right side of the island it’s nothing but the whitest sand that goes on for ages which is lined with gorgeous trees. Other than that there is nothing else until it ends with rocks pools and a forest. It takes around ten minutes straight, walking on very hot sand, but once you get to the end you are in a real life bounty advert. The view from here is breathtaking.

We make our way to our accommodation, its a huge climb up into the hills. I’m tackling a massive incline with my case and I’m feeling the heat at this point. The distraction of my case, the heat and the hill causes me to walk with tunnel vision and I don’t notice my surroundings changing. To be honest I was aware I had left the bounty advert but nothing major caught my attention. My first thought was ‘wow I’m staying in a tree house, in a jungle on a desert island, this is so cool!!’ After a long sweaty climb we arrive.

We climb up the rickety wooden ladder to access our wonderful new home. It’s literally a wooden hut on stilts, with huge gaps between the wood through which we can see the jungle foliage. We have a mosquito net on the bed which super excites me. The whole thing is very adventurous. It feels as if I’m on the movie set of a Tarzan film! I love it!!

We are now on one of the highest accessible points of the island. The view is phenomenal. We have visited over 30 countries and I can honestly say I have never seen a view like this before. Spectacular!!!

At this point I am ecstatic. I cannot believe my luck. To be here amongst all this beauty. Every colour was before me from turquoise to topaz to royal blue. All made brilliantly vibrant from the blazing sun shining down on it.

With all of the above in mind, what could possibly go wrong. How could this tropical paradise not be exactly that. Lets move on to Koh Rong from a different view point. Lets see if it’s still so magical when day turns into night…

First we have the fact that the island is still 90% jungle. With the strip of bars being so attention grabbing, it is easy to forget that right behind them are slums and behind those it is jungle mania. Of course this means insects are bountiful. We have a mosquito net so surely we don’t have to worry about bugs right….. wrong!!! It may work for mosquito’s but a mystery bug made its way into our net one night and feasted on the back of my thigh. What really freaked me out was that I could feel it but couldn’t actually see it.

Another issue of residing on the the outskirts of a jungle are tropical spiders. There was a huge one the size of my palm on the wall one night, I sat praying inside my net, too scared to move until it finally crawled away…. eeeek!!!

The next day I noticed even the sand dramatically changes from one end to the other. It transforms from paradise to slum within minutes, from white clean sand to dark dirty sand filled with garbage. You have to be careful because there are so many small objects to tread on and hundreds of cigarette ends. 

Along with the dirty sand and the random piles of garbage, are the sewage pipes leaving the bars and heading out to sea. The waste is literally dumped into the sea. I was shocked by this and Andy’s response was “well yeah of course, where dya think it’d go!?!?” haha!! Andy and his dulcet tones!!!

Sand flies are a major pain too, after sunset they are rife. The problem is you don’t notice them until a while later when suddenly you are covered in a red bumpy rash. It’s common to pass people on the island whose legs are covered in scabs. It’s their own fault though, they shouldn’t scratch.


If you don’t like dogs then Koh Rong probably isn’t the place for you, no matter where you are on the island….. slum half of bounty half, you are never far from a dog or five!!! On the bright side they are the calmest dogs I’ve ever encountered. They come sniffing around when you have food but they soon leave after a stern “GO AWAY” from Andy – bless them!!! Cats are also in many of the restaurants too. The staff seem to pick them up to play with them, then when the kitchen bell dings, without washing their hands they bring your food to the table. OMG!!! Health & hygiene is non-existent!

I think I’ll leave it here, I have provided enough examples from both sides. I think it’s important to be aware of everything before visiting Koh Rong. After a few negative experiences, I realised why it isn’t called Koh Right! But then I guess that’s like anywhere. Every place you go has good and bad points, it’s just that when you are on an island everything becomes intense. All experiences are amplified.

Is it a sweet dream or my worst nightmare? I still can’t decide.

On one hand there were the rude, scowling locals who made me uncomfortable, large amounts of trash scattered on the beach, the unsanitary conditions of almost all restaurants and the loud music which plays until late. On the other hand I enjoyed the most majestic fishing trip I’ve ever been on, where I witnessed dazzling views, I visited long beach which has sand so white and crisp it’s like walking on warm snow, I saw remarkable sunsets, sensational reefs and have quite honestly never seen so much beauty. I guess I both loved and hated it equally. Most importantly it was an experience like no other and left me extremely grateful for my return to mainland where in general everything is a lot more balanced.

Have a great day



  1. Hayley, You’ve done an amazing job in your post! First I must say that you made me feel a bit like I was on the Island- by your pictures, your comments. To the point of making my leg itch while reading about the bugs! HA.

    Thank you for sharing your trip!

    Post a Reply
    • Have you read the Ko Ta Kiev Island post that Andy wrote, it made me smile:)

      Post a Reply

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