Thursday, July 14, 2011

The best places to stay on Cambodia's islands

Travelfish, July 14, 2011

A few years ago if you wanted to go to one of the Cambodian islands in the Gulf of Thailand you'd have had to have been willing to settle for one of the few island bungalows that were on offer. In the last year or so though, new accommodation has sprung up on a number of islands off the coast of Sihanoukville and travellers are beginning to be confronted with too many choices.

Koh Rong, Cambodia

Rather than struggling with trying to choose the perfect island, finding the right accommodation to suit your needs can be decided first. Here are some of the best spots to stay on Cambodia's islands:

Koh Ta Kiev

Ten103 Treehouse Bay is nestled in the lush jungle on the southwestern tip of Koh Ta Kiev. It is one of the only island places to stay around that doesn't have night-time electricity or use a generator, so it's far more quiet and peaceful in the evening than other bungalows. The relative seclusion and the rustic double bed bungalows are well-suited to backpacker couples.

The trained Italian chef in residence can prepare a romantic meal of luscious homemade pasta accompanied by a glass of red wine — just make sure to bring some mosquito repellent otherwise you may have some unwanted guests joining you for dinner.

Koh ta Kiev, Cambodia

Ten103 Treehouse Bay will also appeal to nature lovers — over 150 species of birds live on Koh Ta Kiev, and there are said to be carnivorous pitcher plants on the island as well. They've built a special sunset-viewing platform to enjoy cocktails on, and the less ambitious will find that it's a hospitable place to spend entire days doing very little.

Good for: Backpacker couples, nature lovers, smokers

Koh Rong

Monkey Island on Koh Rong is a backpacker island paradise. Cheap bungalows, cheap beers, white sand beaches and phosphorescent night swimming make for the perfect backpacker accommodation. Monkey Island is run by Sihanoukville's Monkey Republic so they're well equipped to deal with backpacker needs and the Western management is particularly helpful.

Families may also find Monkey Island accommodating — they have a few bungalows that are larger than the rest, directly on the beach and far from the bar, which will appeal to those with children in tow.

Good for: Gap years, backpackers, families with kids

Paradise on Koh Rong

Paradise Bungalows on Koh Rong's southeast side will appeal to many. It's directly on a white sand beach looking out onto the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Thailand. They have a range of bungalows that go from basic to luxurious, and there's even talk that they may install air-conditioning in one of the bungalows by the end of the year.

Couples and those in the 30-and-up set seem to prefer Paradise Bungalows, perhaps because the bungalows are a notch above any others on Koh Rong. Stoners like the chilled-out atmosphere and world music played in the restaurant and lounge that's crafted from recycled teak, and eco-lovers will appreciate the solar panels and other ecological initiatives underway.

Good for: Romantic weekends, flashpackers, stoners, older folks, eco-lovers

Koh Thmei

Flanked by mangrove forests, Koh Thmei is situated inside Ream National Park, and as such, is a haven for wildlife, particularly birds. Other than Koh Thmei Resort, there's not much else on the island other than the flora and fauna, so it's a good choice for those looking for seclusion, as well as for nature lovers and bird watchers. Their ecological initiatives such as electricity-generating solar panels and a natural water filtration system will appeal to eco-lovers and those looking to stay inside the national park.

Koh Thmei, Cambodia

And, if you're the sort that can't live without draft beer, you'll be pleased to find that the German owners have been bringing kegs from the mainland every week.

Good for: Nature lovers, bird-watchers, German-speakers, beer drinkers, eco-lovers

Koh Rong Saloem

Lazy Beach has been around for years now, and it's still one of the best island options in Cambodia. But rather than growing complacent in their old age, the Lazy Beach crew has leveraged their years of experience to perfect their operations. The bungalows are large, clean and well-maintained and the the competition, Lazy Beach is popular with expats seeking to escape the chaos of Phnom Penh and couples looking for some alone time.

Families will also find enough to keep with busy between the private beach, large collection of board games, volleyball court, badminton court and table tennis.

Good for: Couples, families, expats

M'pay Bay Bungalows on Koh Rong Saloem

If you're looking to get out of the city and see more of Cambodia rural life, M'pay Bay Bungalows is located inside a small fishing village on Koh Rong Saloem and gives visitors the chance to see a slice of rural island life in Cambodia. 25% of the proceeds of M'pay Bay Bungalows go to Marine Conservation Cambodia, a conservation group that is located next door.

For those who are interested in conservation, they'll happily allow visitors to participate in some of their programs such as beach cleanups. One of their dive instructors has recently started his own diving outfit, Angkor Dive Cambodia, and visitors to M'pay Bay can sign up for PADI certification or fun dives.

M'pay Bay Bungalows are inexpensive, located next to a gorgeous beach and with access to the local village and cheap beers, backpackers will find everything they need.

Good for: Backpackers, divers, conservationists, cultural enthusiasts