These days we have become too integrated with being integrated. FOMO crowds our minds as we cling more to our devices and less to our experiences. Many modern-day travellers are spending hours to perfect the illusion of living and are forgetting to actually live. Throughout my time travelling I have noticed people taking hundreds of photos to show others what a great adventure they are having (and yep, sometimes I’m guilty of it, too). Instead of experiencing these new places through our own eyes and senses, they are being observed through camera screens and justified by a number of ‘likes’.
During this South-East Asian adventure, the epitome of the photographic craze was the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand where you could not look anywhere except the sky without seeing a damned selfie stick. So it was time to get away before it drove me mad, and this led me to the remote islands of Cambodia. Some of these islands were unexpectedly touristed (they are completely gorgeous after all) but there are still quite a few where the popularity hasn’t yet swarmed them.
I split my time between some beautiful bungalows on a beach on Koh Rong Samloem, and the other half spent on the shores of Koh Ta Kiev. ‘No WiFi’ is enough to incite fear in the hearts of many Gen Y travellers who may ask themselves the great questions of “Can I actually go a week without posting a killer Insta? What if something happens to my friend and I won’t know about it? How on Earth will I FaceTime my dog?” And yes, it was hard to suppress this inner dialogue. Even for a few days. But the techno-dependent voice in my head was quietened and the adventure of going “off-the-grid” and reconnecting with the moment was fully embraced.
Meanwhile in paradise a.k.a. Cambodia
My days on both islands were spent being hugged by the warm Cambodian sun and listening to the lapping of the ocean that came calmly in and out like a breath. The first thing I noticed was how much time there is in the day when you don’t have a News Feed to scroll through. Whenever I checked the time it was a surprise: is it really still that early? It made me realise just how much time I spend at home doing menial tasks and forever scrolling. Here in Cambodian remoteness, the biggest concern you seem to have each day is whether to spend the next hour reading or snorkelling.
There is no pressure out on these islands. Nothing runs on a schedule and nobody needs you to do anything. All you have to worry about is you, and whether you should order another coconut. It really is “island time” — and that is the best sort of time.
The pier on Koh Rong Samleom, the connection to the outside world
The bungalows I stayed in on both islands were basic but incredible. With no doors or windows, you would awake in the morning to the sunrise and the sound of gentle tumbling waves. The lack of WiFi and electricity meant that once the sun goes down there is not much to distract you, so you bring your candle back to the bungalow and settle down for a deep sleep. You are so embraced by nature that it is not unusual to share a bungalow with colourful (and surprisingly large) geckos, or the few mosquitos that make you put an unnatural amount of trust in the bed net. It is paradise. It is reconnection with the world around us.
There are not too many places in the world that are as easy to get to as Koh Rong Samloem and Koh Ta Kiev, but still so relaxing and relatively untouched by the mass tourism nearby. It seems almost impossible that they can still exist so peacefully.
But all this is about to change.
With 99-year leases slapped on a lot these islands by foreign investors in China, Japan and France (Phnom Penh Post, 2012), development looks like it is about to boom here. The beautiful island of Koh Ta Kiev is set for a connecting bridge to the mainland and a handful of resorts, and Koh Rong Samloem will have bars, hotels and a consequent rush of people. The crazy development of nearby Sihanoukville gives an insight into what these islands may look like in the future, as people look at the prosperous Thai islands and try to implement similar changes. Cambodian island escapism may not truly be ‘escapism’ any more.
Koh Ta Kiev is only accessible by longtail boat, but this might change if a bridge is constructed to the island
Getting away from it all is so important. Just being able to unwind, relax and get back to basics will teach you more about yourself than most other travel experiences. And the Cambodian Islands are the perfect place to do this. Transforming your life from electricity, Internet and running water into the life of beach relaxation, bungalows and bucket showers will give you a much needed life detox.
If you can make it to one of these small communities and experience the disconnection of a Cambodian island before it all changes, I promise you it will be worth it.
READ MORE: Your Ultimate Guide To Angkor Wat
Koh Ta Kiev
Koh Ta Kiev is only 4km from mainland Cambodia and incredibly close to Sihanoukville. Although there are major development plans here when I visited in 2016 all seemed to still be as it was. Koh Ta Kiev is popular with day trippers from Sihanoukville but not many people actually stay here and this makes it my favourite Cambodian island for an escape. If you are staying at Coral Beach then a long tail boat is the only way to get there. This boat can be taken from Otres Beach.
Koh Ta Kiev has several gorgeous beaches, marvellous snorkelling opportunities, and plenty of relaxed travellers to mingle with. My recommendation is to spend the majority of your island time on Koh Ta Kiev where you can really feel like you’re getting away.
Stay at Coral Beach where the food is good, the sunsets are golden and the vibes are chill
Sitting in a treehouse on Koh Ta Kiev watching the fish below at Coral Beach
Spectacular sunset swims on Koh Ta Kiev, possibly my favourite Cambodian Island
Koh Rong Samloem
Koh Rong Samloem, due to its proximity to Koh Rong, is already host to several backpacker hostels and hotels. To truly escape here you will have to choose a secluded beach and a non-fancy form of accommodation. I found that Koh Rong Samloem Villas at Eco Sea Bay was the perfect place to do just that. The boat which goes to Koh Rong proper stops here at Eco Sea which makes these villas easy to access. With friendly staff, impeccable sunsets, quality snorkelling, and a peaceful beach, Koh Rong Samloem may be the escapism you are craving.
Stay at Koh Rong Samloem Villas at Eco Sea Beach to avoid the crowds and get back to the simple life
READ MORE: Koh Rong Samloem Travel Guide
Not quite a coconut, but a gin and tonic goes down well on Koh Rong Samloem too
Love it? Pin it