Cambodia days 15-19: same island, different vibes in Saracen Bay, Koh Rong Sanloem + snorkeling & fishing boat trip + jungle hike

Hello friends! I’m writing to you back on mainland Cambodia after another set of relaxation days on the islands. After my time in M’Pai Bay, a rugged hippie village on Koh Rong Sanloem, I took a boat to the other side of the island called Saracen Bay, which is known for its more upscale vibes and resorts.

Saracen Bay is where most people stay when visiting Koh Rong Sanloem, and even though it’s the antithesis of M’Pai Bay in every aspect, I enjoyed it just the same. Instead of humble village vibes like M’Pai, Saracen is basically a looong row of hotels and resorts. The beach is SO gorgeous, filled with pristine white sand and endless turquoise blue water – definitely the best beach on the entire island versus M’Pai where I felt the beach was lacking (and a big reason I came to the other side). While M’Pai Bay is a small isolated village, Saracen Bay is slightly better connected to other parts of the island, which means there are more activities/tours available. Also, more amenities are in Saracen Bay – wifi and electricity, oh how I missed you. 🙂

I stayed at Onederz Hostel for $7/night for a dorm room bed. It seemed to be THE backpacker spot on the island, and like all the other accommodation in Saracen, it was right on the beach. The place was very large, and because there were so many people, it had less of a community feel as everyone seemed to be doing their own thing. Nevertheless, I still met a few people who made good company.

There were plenty of hammocks and space to relax. I spent a lot of time like this – I finished my current book here, The Beach, which seemed appropriate. 😉

An unexpected treat was that this hostel was pet-central! I hung out with more cats than the cat cafe in Singapore. 🙂 This orange kitty won my heart as she was so desperate for cuddles.

This doggy too. ❤ He reminded me of my dog nephew, Constantine.

After a few days of relaxing, I wanted to get out for an activity, so I went on a boat tour through my hostel. A few people joined along and the boat was pretty big and comfortable for all of us.

The boat took us to a few spots for snorkeling. Funny enough, the main spot was M’Pai Bay. I left the village just to come all the way back. 😛 Fortunately, I didn’t snorkel when I was there, so this was new for me. Overall, the snorkeling in Cambodia was alright – I saw some fish but not as epic as some places in Thailand and the Philippines!

Then we anchored the boat and went fishing. Our boat driver made these fishing poles out of water bottles. 😛 Even though I didn’t have luck catching any fish, I was just happy to be on the water.

Our driver caught a big one!

After we caught enough fish, it was time for a barbecue. We cooked the fish right on the boat and ate it for dinner. It was so tasty as it doesn’t get fresher than this. 😉

The sunset on the boat was lovely. ❤

After the sun went down, we stopped for our last activity – spotting bioluminescent plankton in the ocean. I was a little hesitant to jump in the ocean in pitch black, but everyone did it so I hopped in. 🙂 I’m so glad I did because the bioluminescent plankton was SO cool! I’ve seen this plankton in a few spots around the world, but Cambodia was the brightest yet. I think it helped that there was no light around us which made the plankton brighter.

Another activity was hiking to Sunset Beach, which is on the other side of the island from Saracen Bay. The hike itself was ~45 minutes one way, and it was right through the jungle.

The trail was well-marked and easy to navigate.

There was one section that was a decent climb up some rocks. I love these kinds of hikes and enjoyed it the challenge!

Finally, I made it to Sunset Beach. The beach itself was pretty small and isolated, but very beautiful. There was yellow sand instead of white.

There was a line of ~4-5 accommodations that mostly had glamping tents / bungalows. It definitely had a similar hippie community feel to M’Pai Bay. I really liked the vibe and actually wished I stayed here for a few days! Just another reason to come back to Cambodia.

After sweating like crazy on the hike, I jumped in the ocean and then found a hammock to relax.

Then I found some lunch at Robinson’s, a colorful restaurant at the end of the beach. The views were lovely as it was on top of a cliff.

After 10 rejuvenating days on Koh Rong Sanloem, it was time to go back to the mainland because…I ran out of money! There are no ATMs on the islands, which I actually knew in advance and prepared for, but I didn’t realize everything would be 2x more expensive on the islands. 😉

I think the main lesson I learned from the island was learning to slow down. I’ve mentioned my travel mantra in past posts (“travel slow”), but it wasn’t until the islands that I truly felt an internal shift. Besides ~3 days of activities, the other days were spent doing “nothing”…I felt a little antsy at first about this, but in the end I was 100% content with my experience. I really want to carry this mindset forward to my next destinations.

With a third of my time in Cambodia left, I have one more stop. There’s a small countryside town that seems to be buzzing among backpackers, and so I wanted to block off a good chunk of my trip for this next chapter. After 10 days of being constantly covered in sand, I’m excited for a change in scenery in the countryside. 🙂

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