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My friends and I woke up the next morning excited for our next destination, Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia. I was ready to get back on an island and the boys were just as ready. We didn’t want to waste a full day traveling from Kampot to Koh Rong Samloem. With small amount of research we’d done and with the help of our hostel, we had a goal of making the 11:30 am ferry. In order for that to happen, we had to leave Kampot by local bus at 7am. This isn’t the only option but it was one of the cheapest.
Getting To Koh Rong Samloem
The local bus costs USD 4 and was all set up through out hostel. It is 3 hours from Kampot to a town called Sihanoukville. You cannot avoid going through Sihanoukville as it is where the ferries are located. I do not recommend spending any more time that necessary in Sihanoukville. Between the massive construction going on and the amount of garbage seen on the roadsides, Sihanoukville is not a place I’d want to go. This is why we had the goal for the 11:30 am ferry. We didn’t want to count solely on the last ferry at and risking getting stuck in Sihanoukville.
Ferry times from Sihanoukville to the Cambodian islands, Koh Rong Sanloem and Koh Rong are limited. They run between 8am and approximately 4 p.m, about every few hours. The ferry costs ~USD22 and takes about 45 minutes to one hour. It could take longer, I’ve heard, if you’re on the slow boat. (rumor is there might be a later ferry, but in April 2019 the last ferry was at 4pm)
Everything worked out in our favor and we managed to catch the 11:30 am ferry as planned. It was quite the adventure getting to the ferry dock, but that’s part of the fun. You see, the local bus dropped us at some random place where ANOTHER bus picked us up. Then, that bus dropped us at the top of the road; the ferry dock is located at the bottom. We then had to walk down the 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.
ATMs and Cell Service
Visiting an ATM is a MUST before getting on the ferries. The islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem are cash only with ZERO, NILCH, NADA ATMs located on them. Hostels have plans for when people forget cash, but I recommend making sure you carry more than enough cash. I brought USD 300 for 4 nights and it was more than enough.
Also, the island of Koh Rong Samloem and Koh Rong are limited on cell service and cellular data. This means, you’ll be disconnecting from everything for a few days! I honestly didn’t mind the disconnecting from the world. I sometimes rely heavily on social media and data. If your looking for a great place to get away, I highly recommend escaping to the Cambodian Islands.
Mad Monkey Koh Rong Samloem
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.
Mad Monkey KRS is a large hostel 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. (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.
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.
Hostel Activities and Excursions
Mad Monkey is a known party/social hostel with locations throughout southeast Asia and other countries. It was one of the reasons we wanted to stay. My friends and I are all very social and wanted a place where we could have fun, drink, party and still enjoy the island.
Mad Monkey offers a variety of events and excursions throughout the week. Several days have nightly themes like “pizza night” with their stone oven. A few of the nights have shows like fire dancing on the beach. It was nice having options for entertainment versus just drinking.
During the day, there is an option for a USD 10 boating/fishing excursion. The excursion is 4 hours long and includes a free drink, 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. There is a large wooden area in the middle of the bay. It has a large bar with a covered area, a swing and a 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.
Scuba Diving Koh Rong Samloem
To me, island life means one thing, scuba diving. I hadn’t heard much about the diving in Cambodia and I was itching to get back into the water. 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!
Three days came and went very quickly. 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 made my way back to Phnom Penh. My flight was early the next day to a new country.