Every desk-locked worker dreams of escaping to a place they call “paradise”. Every traveler dreams of finding that secluded island away from the hordes of other tourists, and hidden away from locals trying to sell you something while you try to relax oceanside. This illustrious dream is shared by all but found by few. Increased tourism suddenly puts once deemed secret beaches on the radar of other travelers, movies and television shows highlight beautiful exotic locations that draw in tourists by the boatloads, and as tourism grows in various countries, so does access to such remote places. But the dream of being able to relax on your own private beach is still within reach, as we discovered when we visited Koh Ru Island.
Koh Ru (Koh Russei or Bamboo Island) is located off the coast of Cambodia. It’s a one-hour boat ride from the mainland town of Sihanoukville (not worth a stop unless you’re into the all-night party scene). The island is postcard picturesque, with sky scrapper-like palm trees, a manmade swing, and fresh coconuts chopped daily from nearby trees.
There is currently only one resort, Koh Ru Bungalows, for travelers to call home. Located on the sunset side of the island, twelve bungalows are evenly spread across the shoreline with the ocean only ten feet away from your doorstep. Each bungalow has two double beds and its own private balcony with hammock, so you can play out your days relaxing with the crashing waves as your soundtrack, if you so wish. There are also two larger bungalows with dorm beds for solo-travelers or those on a tighter budget to be able to experience the island. The beach spans close to one kilometer allowing you enough space between you and the next person to feel like it is, in fact, your own beach.
There is one common area that serves as the bar, restaurant, and lounge area, where you can meet and mingle with other travelers. The staff on the island is a mix of locals and travelers who just didn’t quite make it off the island. They keep the atmosphere light and fun and act more like your friend rather than a staff member. The resort is simple but has everything you would need to ensure you get the kind of time you set out for. And that’s the beauty of Koh Ru; your time there is what you make of it, allowing you to tailor it exactly to your liking (though most usually opt for something laid back and relaxing… with some drinks for good measure).
When we arrived on the island, we essentially checked-out from the rest of the world. Nothing else seemed to matter during that time except that we were out, enjoying the sun and relaxing. The daily island’s headlines included only one thing; the drink specials for the day.
It’s easy to understand how some people arrive and stay longer than they had anticipated. It’s a “routine” you can easily get used to. Since the island is remote and electricity is limited, our days were dictated by the sun; waking up around 8am and falling asleep by 10pm. Daytimes were filled with reading, sun tanning, and swimming. (I know, sounds tough, but someone’s got to do it.) We would spend hours floating, jumping into the waves, treading water, or playing in inner tubes as if we were ten years old again. We couldn’t get enough of the water. One of the other travelers even rigged his inner tube so it was weighted at the bottom, making it so that he wouldn’t float down the shore as he read his book, bobbing up and down with the current.
The night brought on a whole different perspective of the island. Every night, we were treated to a spectacular electrical light show that would light up the sky with bolts of lightning. It was incredible, as it seemed to happen all around us, but never above us. Stargazing was the best we’ve had our whole trip since there was very few light sources to impair our view. The sky was covered with a blanket of twinkling lights and the occasional shooting star. The sounds seemed to be amplified once the sun went down, with the crashing waves seeming more powerful and the choir of noises from the nearby jungle sounding rhythmic and hypnotic.
Each morning we would wake to the sunlight peaking through the slats of our bungalow and the call of the ocean, inviting us to do it all again.
Our time on Koh Ru was very enjoyable and pretty close to “paradise”. It allowed us to get away from the mainland (and the world for that matter), sit back, and relax with a good book in our hands. Hanging above the bar is a sign that reads “One More Day”, and as our boat pulled away from the shore, all we could think was exactly that; “just one more day please.”
What You Need to Know: If you want to head over to Koh Ru, visit their office on the mainland in Sihanoukville to book a bungalow or dorm bed. Their offices are located on Serendipity St, the rocky, unpaved road (at the time of writing) that leads down to Serendipity Beach. Look for the sign on the sidewalk that says “Koh Ru” placed in front of Ocean Walk Inn.
Bungalows cost $15/night and can sleep up to four people in two double beds. A bed in the dorm room costs $3/night. The boat costs $10 (with return) and takes about 1 hour to reach the island leaving at about 1pm. Be sure to pack extra mosquito repellent (and coils), some snacks, sunscreen, and a good book.