Castaway on Heavenly Palm Beach : Koh Rong Island, Cambodia

Castaway on Heavenly Palm Beach : Koh Rong Island, Cambodia

I’m It won’t take long for the murky waters of Sihanoukville’s backpacker beaches to fade into the horizon as Palm Beach’s private long tail boat skims the tops of tiny ocean peaks towards Cambodia’s beautiful, and largest, island of Koh Rong; an azure promise land of pure shores and pristine white beaches.

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Often described as one of Southeast Asia’s most divine stretches of coastline, backpackers heading to Koh Rong will tend to stay on the fairly generic Saloem Beach ; where shack-style bars and beds for the night line up along a sandy stretch occupied by flame throwers, hooller-hoopers & paradise seekers.

Those seeking a more peaceful paradise should opt to stay on Palm Beach, a private beach dipping softly into crystal-clear water, so clean you can count the blankets of tiny tropical fish meander pass your ankles as you wade into the sea; set against a backdrop of dense forest, under the cover of all encompassing heat and the occasional relief of its gentle off shore breeze.

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Here, dotted along the beach and hidden back into the jungle are 38 thatched bungalows each with private balconies. In a range of different sizes and offering varying levels of luxury, Palm Beach accommodates for budgeting backpackers, families, friends and honeymooners taking that step a little further off the beaten path.

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The living is easy at Palm Beach:
Sun-lounger or Swing? Snorkel or Swim? Mai Tai or Margarita? Are among the decisions you’ll be faced with during your time (which you’ll no doubt request to extend) here. All of which can be languidly fit into your lazy days thanks to the help of Rick and his friendly, dedicated team.

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On arrival, we eagerly stepped off the resort’s private ferry and on to Palm Beach’s jetty, tasting the salty sea air on our lips with our hedonistic-home-for-the-week in sight.

Your bags will be spirited away to their rightful home as guests are guided to Palm Beach’s Bar & Restaurant and handed their signature Welcome Drink (espresso shot, condensed milk, vanilla & ‘A LOT’ of whiskey).

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Extending our welcome further was the psychedelic sounds of The Beatles, their discography to be that afternoon and evening’s soundtrack, complementing the call of the quiet call of the jungle and the gentle movement of the tide.

That afternoon, the lyrics to the likes of I’ve Just Seen a Face and Drive My Car played out to many a round of Welcome Drink ($3.50) setting the bar for the calibre of playlists at Palm Beach – a definite relief for anyone who has spent their fair share of time in Asia with a zero tolerance policy for psytrance or Justin Beiber!

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After a brief introduction to Palm Beach and all it has to offer, how you choose to spend your time here is up to you:

Creative types while away days on their balconies or rocking under palm trees to sketch, paint or write.
Sun worshippers bask in the unbroken glare of the 30 degree heat, glistening in the island’s home made coconut oil ($3.50)

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The more adventurous (or those inclined for life in the shade) will trek into the private jungle to seek out vine-covered hideaways, meeting locals on route to Prek Svay fishing village on their path.

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Visits to Prek Svay, to join the locals on their fishing trips, can be arranged along with spectacular sunset snorkelling and fishing trips on offer every afternoon for $15 per person (weather permitting, but this doesn’t tend to present any problems in Koh Rong) and should you need anything else, all you need to do is ask.

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What you won’t find yourself doing here is checking emails, insta-bragging or idly scrolling through Facebook (missing the beauty that surrounds you) thanks to Palm Beach’s decision not to offer wifi* throughout the island, suggesting (via a blackboard over the bar) that guests talk to each other instead.

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*There is a small hotspot behind the bar for those needing to check-in with anything or anyone online.

Thanks to the digital detox, instead you’ll pass your evenings in Palm Beach’s bar and restaurant, gravitating towards new friends for fresh fish barbecues, cold beers and back-to-back rounds of Jenga, Polker, Uno…and conversation!

Breakfast and lunch are also served here, with predominantly western options on the menu and all very reasonably priced.

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If the lure of that day’s beating sun and the cocktails on tap haven’t sent you to sleep by 9pm; night dwellers can sneak off for a midnight swim in shores sparkling with plankton under unbroken starlit skies. Making for very special secret memories to last a lifetime.

Surrounded by turquoise seas and living in total freedom, you won’t want your spell on the magical Palm Beach to end – but as the saying goes, all good things must…

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Check-out and the reality of totalling your bar tab is an early 8:30am start with Palm Beach’s ferry leaving the island at 9:30am – in plenty of time to return with that day’s lucky arrivals for their fair share of paradise.

Koh Rong being the same size as Hong Kong, and Palm Beach being the opposite end of the island to Paradise beach means guests must book a return journey to Palm Beach’s on its private ferry; which can be done from their office on Serendipity Beach ($25 return / person).

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As there’s always one who thinks they can outsmart this slightly higher ferry fee (usually $10) by jumping on a cheaper boat and making their own way to Palm Beach, be warned now:
This attempt will leave you on the wrong side of Koh Rong, seven hours away from the resort with the only options of reaching Palm Beach being a $50 slow taxi boat, or one long trek (backpack in tow) through the jungle.

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Like going the extra mile(s) to reach Palm Beach, the private boat is also worth the extras; marking the start of your journey to the edge of the world, sharing the ferry with new friends and the week ahead’s Jenga challengees.

Prices at Palm Beach range from £18 to £45 / night and bookings can be made online here.

Those already in Sihanoukville can also pop into the Palm Beach office, next door to Mick & Craig’s, and chance availability for that night or the next.

Thank you so much to Roy, Rick and the whole team at Palm Beach for having us. Our (twice) extended stay was very special.