Koh Rong and Phu Quoc are both situated in the Gulf of Thailand. I was in Koh Rong for 2 nights and in Phu Quoc for 5. That is a result of my poor time management, not my preference of these two beautiful islands. Although they are actually closer by boat than by land, such a service does not exist, making it impossible to get between the two in the same day.
To get to Phu Quoc, you have to take the ferry back to Sihanoukville from Koh Rong, get a bus to Ha Tien ( just over the Vietnamese border), and then wait until the next ferry in the morning. Because the last ferry from Ha Tien goes at 1:30 pm, it becomes a two day ordeal, otherwise you could manage this all in the same day. It is a bit annoying, so that would be cool if they made a ferry in the future to speed the travel time up. I imagine it would be expensive to do that though because they would need to add some form of border in between.
These islands were the highlight of my trip in Asia. Can you see why?
As it was high season, I looked online to check out some accommodation in Koh Rong, and chose the Sunflower Guest House. I wouldn’t recommend it as it was a bit dirty, but it was basic and did the job. It was a bit off the main path as well, and one of the few guesthouses or hostels that didn’t have a bar underneath to blast music and keep you up all night.
The second day there I took a tour which was pretty unbelievable for the laughable cost. The tour was advertised as: snorkelling with bioluminescent plankton, barbecuing, and watching the sunset on a different part of the island. I believe the beach we were at, which is pictured below, is where Survivor was filmed in Cambodia.
The total of the tour, including food, a beer, rum & coke, and two times snorkelling (6 hour day total) was $10.
Doesn’t seem that hard to survive there right?
It wasn’t the most amazing snorkelling, I’d seen better just off The Split in Belize. But the bioluminescent plankton, and what you got overall for your $10 was pretty amazing. Plus you got a free beer and rum which would already cost $20 in Canada, so I was happy. If you are a budget traveller, this is a must do.
Other than that excursion I didn’t do much in Koh Rong. There was pretty much nothing to do except move from bar to bar as they had monopolized all of the space on the beach with their chairs. It was pretty hard to just lay out and enjoy the beach. I didn’t expect Koh Rong to be as touristy as it was. I had read an article saying to visit before it was overrun by backpackers, so I guess I missed that boat.
Overall I enjoyed it, but I found the beaches to be a bit dirty, and there was not much to do there besides party.
Next I made my way to Phu Quoc. This was organized through a pretty terrible company, but I can’t remember the name. They were really unorganized. Of course you expect that in a third world country, but literally standing there with clipboards shuffling people into one bus, then the next, then making you switch back to your original one kind of chaos. I think I switched busses about three times in a four hour bus ride. The girl I talked to while waiting for my bus had been waiting half the day for her “delayed” bus, and I was actually told the wrong time for mine, but thankfully earlier rather than later. They didn’t really have their “paperwork” together to say the least.
After going out in Ha Tien and accidentally eating a weird dish that definitely contained fish, and also ordering one beer and ending up with two, I went to bed. I woke to a call from the hotel reception. They then shuffled us from our hotel room to the ferry (with no warning that we were leaving an hour early). The ferry was a lot smoother and larger than the one to Koh Rong, but it lasted an hour and half, as opposed to a quick thirty minutes. By the time the ferry arrived and we were swarmed with taxi drivers and shuttle busses, I was getting extremely hangry.
Another half an hour later, and FOOD. Finally. This was obviously banana pancakes and chocolatey coffee. But I would have ate pretty much anything. I wolfed it down in the lobby of the hostel as we waited to check in. Q Hao hostel only opened about six months prior, but it was a really awesome hostel. It had nightly activities, a rooftop bar, a hot tub, and just a five minute walk to the beach. You can’t really beat that. The walk was basically only done through a bar called Rory’s, where I subsequently spent almost every day. They didn’t exactly offer cheap food or drinks, but you could use the lounge chairs with the purchase of a drink. The owners were friendly, and I rented a stand up paddle board through them one day for about $8.
The sunsets on the roof were pretty hard to beat, and drew in a crowd every night. I didn’t find it to be the most social hostel, as most people were sorted into their groups already by language. Regardless, I stayed and met a few people. The hostel has potential, but I think it was a bit away from the main backpacker area, so it wasn’t the top choice of a lot of backpackers. I was looking to be closer to the beach, so that drew me in.
A good trip from Duong Dong (the main backpacker town), was to Sao Beach. You could reach Sao Beach by taxi or by motorbike if you rented one. This beach was extremely quiet and secluded. There were a few resorts and boats, but other than that you seemed to have the entire beach to yourself (especially at 8 am haha). It’s amazing this place hasn’t been ruined by huge resorts yet, but I’m glad I experienced it before it did.
Check out that white sand and clear water! There are many things you can do around Phu Quoc, like rent a motorcycle, snorkel, drink, shop, check out restaurants, or even get a tattoo. Phu Quoc has a huge amount of Russian tourists for some reason, so a lot of the menus actually had some pages in Russian. Other than that, the restaurants all sort of had the same menu, with one page being beef, next chicken, next seafood, and so on, leaving one page with pizza for the vegetarians. There were some other cool restaurants on the island, but they were a bit pricier. My favorite was Itaca Resto & Lounge, which was a fancier Spanish style tapas bar. My other favorite was beside the hostel, family run, and had two tables and an adorable dog.
I had a hard time not comparing Koh Rong to Caye Caulker in Belize, as I felt they were similar in the small shops, hostels and bars. Of course they are in different parts of the world but I just felt the same atmosphere from both of the islands. With the crystal blue water, hammocks on the beach and party vibe, they share a lot of similarities.
Overall, Phu Quoc is a lot bigger, more developed (it even has a small airport), and has more to explore. Koh Rong has a great backpacker vibe, and is for the travellers looking for a good party. If I were to do it again, I would spread my time out between the islands more, or check out Koh Rong Samloem or the smaller surrounding islands in Cambodia.
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