Saturday, March 17, 2012

smiles, everyone, smiles

readers of a certain age will remember ricardo montalban's reminder to his employees on fantasy island. that's exactly how it felt to us as we rounded the headland on the west side of koh rong saloem, an island off the shore of south cambodia in the gulf of thailand, a two hour boat ride away from sihanoukville.

here's a little video of our arrival.

pier at sunset, koh rong saloem, cambodia.
the golden sand of "lazy beach" came into view complete with a jungled shoreline, basic wooden bungalows popping out of the greenery, a rickety old wooden pier jutting into the blue water and smiling employees making their way from the breezy bar down to the boat to welcome us ashore.

our first thought was "THIS is the southeast asia beach we'd been looking for." aside from the four other boat passengers, the driver and the staff approaching us on shore, it was our beach. and one of those wooden bungalows popping out of the jungle was ours, too, complete with a hammock for each of us.

not one, but TWO hammocks at our bungalow, "lazy beach,"
koh rong saloem, cambodia.

as we carried our packs up to the open-air bar/reception/restaurant/hangout space, someone approached with ice cold glasses of some fruit drink and said "drop the bags, have a drink, carry on to your bungalow when you're good and ready. i suggest a swim first, however."

well, this was off to a good start. and it only got better.

koh rong saloem quickly became our favorite beach in all of southeast asia. it filled that fantasy, deserted island idea of empty stretches of beach set in clear blue waters we've all dreamed of. directly out our front door, a mere 30 second walk led us down to a stunning beach with gentle waves, an endless blue horizon during the day and, it facing west, some mind-blowing sunsets.

a 30 minute hike through the jungle to the other, east-facing, side of the island brings you to this.
a completely different type of sand along with stunningly clear, blue water. koh rong saloem, cambodia.

a sad fact of life in southeast asia is the sheer amount of trash that washes up along beaches all across the southern coast. not here, though, it was clean. occasionally an old net would wash ashore from the fish and squid boats constantly bobbing offshore. this bay was framed by rocks at either end of the beach which provided some pretty good snorkeling. no effort. just rent a mask and fins for $1 and float a few feet into the water... FISH! and sea urchins, and coral.

our bungalow came with a pair of  charming, and LARGE, geckos who helped to keep other critters to a minimum. we named them nick and nora. they were charming most of the time, until they found our bag of muesli at 3:45am.

and these were no ordinary geckos, these were geckos on steroids called "tokays." they sit completely still, too, like statues. when michelle first spotted one, she thought it was a decoration. i thought "there is no way i would have opened that door and NOT noticed that thing before." i poked it with a broom, it jumped, it yelled and skittered away. so did michelle. :) and when you hear them chirp, you understand the onomatopoeic name. apparently they're territorial and consider your cabin as their "turf." we watched a high-speed chase around the bungalow when an interloper appeared. these things went from dead-stillness to the speed of light up the walls, across the ceiling, under the beds... we didn't know where to stand.

pretty much says it all. koh rong saloem, cambodia.

back to that ricardo montalban comment earlier. i asked the young dude behind the bar "come on, be honest, do you feel like ricardo montalban from fantasy island each day that boat pulls around the headland and in to view?" <blank stare> "too young to know the reference?" <nod> "give me a beer, please."
it's now been a few weeks since we spent these days doing absolutely nothing at lazy beach but i'm certain it will continue to stand out among all the beautiful beaches, cities, villages and towns which we've been lucky to visit. if only lazy beach would give commissions for blog posts like these, we'd write one every day.

"our" beach at sunset, koh rong saloem, cambodia

an indulgent photo but this pretty much captures the vibe. this may be the
most relaxed russ has ever been.


  1. Man, I'm relaxed just reading this!

  2. I must have missed this in the rush of deadlines. Definitely helps relax me now, though.