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  • Writer's pictureErin Paulsen

Koh Kong, Cambodia

Koh Kong is a precious little fishing town that is, amazingly, still untouched by the tourists and backpackers that are now flocking to Cambodia's coast. This town is about 15 minutes from a border crossing into Thailand and made up mostly of motorbike shops, smart phone stores and pharmacies. For being such a tiny place, we were not surprisingly unable to find a market anywhere, or even any restaurants besides the ones located right next door to the hostel we stayed at. With so much poverty in this little town we were constantly wondering why phone shops were the predominant businesses. 

The shore front, or "boardwalk" (for lack of a better term), lined the entire edge of the town and was constantly full of fishing boats coming and going from the shore. The fishing boats were all of a brilliant blue and turquoise color and were 100% authentic in Cambodian style. Every evening the bay front would fill up with children playing soccer, vendors and their little fold up dinner tables, and young men and girls in their nicest evening ensembles all eating and socializing as the sun went down across the Gulf of Thailand. The view of the sunset was absolutely breathtaking here every single night.

The morning after we stayed in the village we took a 2 hour boat ride to Koh Kong island where we would stay for the next night. The beaches and floating villages lining the coast of Cambodia were golden. Marvelous in their simplicity and lack of modernization. For half of the ride we thought our boat was going to capsize as it kept leaning so hard to one side. We arrived safely, however, and were in for the most blissful next 24 hours.

The island of Koh Kong had been uninhabited for centuries, up until this past January (2014). What now exists on the island are 8 tiny bungalows like the one pictured above. One family runs the little "resort" cooking freshly caught fish and climbing coconut trees for the people who stay here. One night we sat down to get some dinner and upon asking if we could get a fresh coconut for juice the owner replied with "No more coconuts tonight, too dark to climb". Probably the most amazing answer to any question any of us has ever asked in our entire lives. 

 Sunset salutation on the beach.

The night we (myself, TJ, my sister Brynn, and TJ's cousin Ryan) stayed here I believe there were only 2 other foreigners on the island. Including the family who lived on the island there would have been 10 of us total, on the entire island, from about 4pm until noon the next day. Too serene to even be able to explain.

The following morning, Brynn and myself decided we would take a hike up through the islands jungle with some man who was acting as the "hike guide". We had asked once if we could do the hike ourselves without a guide (they wanted like $10 for the guide fee) but about 2 minutes after we set off into the unmarked jungle we realized there was no path, no markers, no nothing that lined the trail. I don't even know if there was a trail. The people who live on the island just know the land well enough to be able to find their way to the river that runs down the mountain. It was a rough hike, not in terms of endurance, but in terms of constantly being caught in trees and vines of thorns and rocks crumbling under our feet. We made it to the little pool along the way of the river, but decided not to get in. The guide kept checking for snakes and who knows what else, and I didn't want to be whatever was in the waters lunch that day. On our trek back we saw some monkeys hanging above us in the trees and our guide picked some strange little purple fruits for us to eat as we walked back. 

The one tiny little boardwalk that shakily greets the newcomers from the boats to the island.

Every time we saw a boat coming or going from the dock, or were on a boat coming or going from the dock it was low tide and the boat either took 30 minutes to dock, or couldn't at all. On our way off the island back to the mainland we all had to get in a smaller little blue boat and be taken out to the main boat as it could not get close enough to shore.

Koh Kong is such a beautiful, untouched and remote place in Cambodia. I hope it will remain that way for as long as possible.

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