To be honest, if you asked us how and why we ended up travelling from Sihanoukville through the Krong Koh Kong province to its capital which shares the same name, Koh Kong, we would tell you we were just passing through on our way northeast to Battambang.
A key destination for Thai holiday goers and expats doing a quick border run from Thailand, Koh Kong capital was never on our radar but we decided to jump off the bus to spend the night and break up the journey.
Of course, it was just our luck to find out that, due to the lack of infrastructure and tourism in the region, you cannot take a bus direct to Battambang. Well, let me rephrase – you can of course travel from one to the other, but the journey itself will take a number of days, many different methods of transport and, in the end, cost more than simply making a U-turn back to Phnom Penh.
Although we were intrigued by the possibility of adventure across unknown-to-tourist territory – our budget didn’t like the idea, nor did our 30-day visa which was fast running out, and so we admitted defeat, slapped ourselves for the lack of pre-planning and research and decided to make the most out of our situation, and surroundings.
So here you have it, a guide that we had no intentions of writing, to a city we had no intention of visiting. But, do we regret it? Absolutely not! In fact, we ADORED our few nights in Koh Kong. Despite being the only Westerners, our hostel was fun, our hosts were welcoming and lovely and our little outings around the city and across the national park, past the waterfalls into the thick Mangroves, made us feel we’d discovered a wonderful little corner of Cambodia all for ourselves.
And sure isn’t that one of the best things about veering slightly off the backpacking path.
Accommodation In Koh Kong:
At €5 per night for a private room with shared bathroom, Paddy’s Bamboo Guesthouse was a total bargain and have to say, we had such a laugh here. The family are lovely; they have at least three dogs, a snooker table, a number of open common rooms which are all comfortable and some even have hammocks to chill in.
You can book tours and transport through the guesthouse, but they are a little overpriced. Same goes with the restaurant in the hostel, but the coffees are cheap, large and delicious!
Location wise, Paddy’s Guesthouse is ideal! It is close to the market, the seafront and cheap local eateries. The only heads up would be that they lock the main gate from around 11.30pm so if you are out and about maybe mention this to them or arrange to get them to show you where they keep the key!
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Things To Do In Koh Kong:
Not the hottest Cambodian destination, we expected very little to be happening around these parts but soon found ourselves eating our words when we discovered the many hiking opportunities, waterfalls and picture-perfect swimming holes and isolated beaches as pretty as the ones found on Koh Rong Islands minus the white western bodies.
And like always, our favourite thing to do was to rent a motorbike and zip around the city outskirts which led to an adventure getting lost in the Peam Krasaop National Park, home to a wonderful wildlife sanctuary full of flora and fauna, and ended with us picnicking at Koh Kong’s hugely impressive mangrove forest.
Yup, no regrets.
Rent a Motorbike:
For only $5 for 24 hours from Fat Sam’s restaurant facing the main roundabout near the Central Market bike rental in Koh Kong is a steal. You might need to swing the head in early and speak to the giant Scottish gentleman who, may not be called Sam, but is as friendly as any Scot and would love to help as much as he can.
Unfortunately for us he didn’t have any bikes available at the time but sent us towards the coastline, a less than 10-minute walk from the roundabout and a quick left at the seafront, to the Golden Sea Restaurant.
Note: you will need to bring and leave your passport. Make sure to get helmets!
Mangroves & Peam Krasaop Wildlife Sanctuary:
The wildlife sanctuary is essentially a national park, and within it are the Mangroves, a favourite little spot among the locals. It is a quick and easy 15-minute drive from the centre, use Maps.me for directions. The entry fee is 5,000 riel (€1) for foreigners (they accept dollars too!).
Parking outside the market, near the entrance, cost us a staggering 1,000 Riel (€0.20).
In true Ungraceful fashion, when we are heading off on a little unknown adventure, we tend to pack a lunch as no one wants to deal with either of us when hangry (not even each other) and so we arrived with the idea of having a cute picnic under then scary low-growing swampy-loving Mangrove trees.
First, take off the shoes and prepare for a knee-deep tread in the sea water. The path begins to elevate as it winds its way through the creepily beautiful forest.
Exploring every corner we found a viewing platform and a number of huts, some with hammocks, and enjoyed a spot of lunch. And while we always recommend bringing your own grub, know that there are a few shops and stalls nearby the entrance where you can pick up some snacks. There is also a small market inside too; prices are hiked a little but not a whole lot.
There are toilets next to the internal market and are free but most definitely bring toilet roll!
Next, to the lookout tower you can join the locals and jump on a boat to journey further into the Mangrove, a little jaunt that ends back at the entrance – so maybe wait until you are ready to leave.
We didn’t have high expectations before visiting the Mangroves yet ended up enjoying it a lot more than we thought. You will easily spend a few hours there.
Tai Tai Waterfalls and the Cardamom Mountains:
About 20km from Koh Kong city are the Tai Tai waterfalls where you can combine a day of hiking, swimming and boating.
You can make your own way out and then hire a boat while there but to head off on an extensive hike through the Cardamom Mountains, you will need to arrange a tour and guide.
We suggest heading down to Fat Sam’s restaurant to discuss the tours they have on offer. There are other tour operators around as well.
Without a tour, you can just jump on the motorbike and drive out or you can hire transport; either a van if you’re a large group or a tuk-tuk for a small. We’ve popped the prices down below.
Getting Out Of Koh Kong:
I can imagine that in a number of years, Koh Kong will develop itself a new road and route to Battambang which would definitely help with placing it on the Cambodia backpacker trail. Until that day, the only way is down, and around and back up again which is pity although not a huge ball breaker!
So back to Phnom Penh you go!
Either booking via your hostel or if you can shop around at the tour agencies near the main roundabout (they all have banners advertising busses so you won’t miss them). Majority of tour agencies and bus companies have two options:
#1 Take the Emerald Express minivan from Koh Kong to Phnom Penn for $12 per. This is a 6-hour journey. Although it states minivan it is more so a large van (to our relief!) so you do have a lot of leg room.
#2 You won’t be able to book the large bus option through your hostel as they will tell you that the only available transport is the minivan, so head down to the bus companies offices and book directly with them. The large bus costs $10 but takes around 7/8 hours depending on drop-offs and traffic.
Two companies we came across were Rith Mony, take a right after Fat Sam’s restaurant and the roundabout and you will see the offices on the right-hand side. Or keep walking straight for another 10 minutes to find Virak Buntham bus company on your left-hand side. You will need to book the larger bus in advance.
Whether you book minivan or a bus, there are only a small number of services that run in the mornings between 6.30-9.30 am. Always triple check where the bus will leave you in Phnom Penh, especially if you plan on heading onwards to say Siem Reap, Battambang or Kratie. The good news is that the above bus services will drop you in Phnom Penh early enough that you will have enough time to jump directly on another bus to your next destination.
For a town, we had no intention of visiting we really had a ball in Koh Kong. There was a lot of stuff to do and more importantly, it wasn’t super touristy which we loved! We thoroughly enjoyed our few days here and we recommend you do the same! Get a taste of the real off the beaten track Cambodia before they put it on there.
As always the Instagram highlights are quite funny is you fancy a giggle we’ll leave them here for you.
Please do feel free to get in touch if there’s anything else you need from us, until then Happy Travels TUG x
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