Asia, Beach Holiday, Cambodia

When Koh Rong goes WRONG

15th September 2017

As soon as I booked my flights to Cambodia I was all over the search for the best beaches, Koh Rong was top of the list.

You hear of these heavenly islands when you’re travelling, they haven’t been subject to the tourist takeovers in the same way as the more popular places in Asia. As a traveller you can’t wait to reach one, because then you get to experience more of the ‘back to basics real travelling experience’. It’s hypocritical in a way, because as a tourist you are part of the problem, if you didn’t want to visit these destinations, hotel chains wouldn’t have snapped up the land as they realise people wanted to go, and they wouldn’t have built snazzy state of the art resorts.

These islands are where you go back to basics, no internet, no air con, no hot water! Just beautiful white sand and blue seas.

Koh Rong, the paradise island located south of Cambodia is very much one of these islands! But imagine getting to one of these islands and having to leave literally 24 hours later because you’ve managed to injure yourself in the least dramatic way possible. Leaving you with a visible injury for weeks after, where you have to admit your rubbish injury to everyone.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we shall begin!

Just after Christmas last year I crashed my friends lads trip to Cambodia. I loved Siem Reap, and while I found Phnom Penn interesting and was glad to get the opportunity to learn about the history of the country, being the beach baby I am I was so excited to get down to Koh Rong and spend some time relaxing on the beach.

Getting to Koh Rong:

We got a taxi to Sihanoukville from Phnom Penn and spent a night there before getting the fast boat the next day to Koh Rong. The sun was shining and the weather was gorgeous, we were all so excited for some down time on the beach.

When we arrived we were told that the weather was really bad. Looked ok to me, the sun was shining and the sand was bright white, but the sea was rough and the usual taxi boats that would get you around the edge of the island weren’t running.

Once you get off the boat you are all gathered together for a quick talk from one of the islands ‘customer service guides’. These all appeared to be travellers who had landed on Koh Rong and decided the simple life was for them, they had all been there a while and knew everything there was to know about the island. The talk was just a general run down of what to expect on Koh Rong.

4k Beach, Koh Rong

Things to Know:

If you’re planning on visiting Koh Rong a few of the things mentioned in their talk are listed below:

  • There was only one cash machine, and you were charged a hefty fee for using it, so bring cash with you!
  • There were no medical facilities on the island, if anything happened there were a couple of volunteers who could administer first aid but anything more serious meant you needed to get a boat back to the mainland.
  • Popular bars and restarants were pointed out.
  • The lack of wifi and air con was explained … as in, don’t be expecting it in your accommodation.
  • Beware of sandflies, you can’t see them but they’re lurking in the sand!
  • There is no police presence, but there is also barely ever any crime. But if you do cause any trouble you better believe you need to hot foot it off the island as quick as you can!
Where to Stay:

With that everyone dispersed and went to find their accommodations. We had booked into Reef on the Beach which we soon discovered wasn’t particularly close to the main beach where we had been dropped off. We were advised as the taxi boats weren’t running we were going to have to walk there ourselves and that it would take about an hour, through the jungle and there was also a stream we would have to cross. Great. They made it seem a bit of a drama but to be honest once we set off we actually found it wasn’t as bad as we excepted it to be!

The view from my bungalow at Reef on the Beach

Our bungalows at Reef on the Beach had the most amazing views, the balconies faced straight out to sea, we were finally in a place we could chill out!

Disaster Strikes:

So the night we arrived we freshened up, dropped off our bags and then we went back to the main strip where we got off the first boat. To get there we convinced the restaurant next to us to give us a lift in their taxi boat. It was all fine until we had to get off it, both the boys managed to jump off onto the pier and climb up, my legs being about 10inches shorter than theirs didn’t make it as easy for me. Everytime I went to jump a wave would hit and I’m pretty sure at least twice my friends thought they were about to watch me fall in and get squashed! I made it eventually and we headed to Sky Bar to start the Sunday night bar crawl.

We had a great night, got our shit bar crawl vests on, played beer pong, made friends with other travellers on our flip cup team. Everything closes up pretty early on Koh Rong, I think it was around midnight we started our walk back to our bungalows. When we got in I was closing the curtains and managed to lean funny, sending shooting pains up my left arm. It hurt, a lot! But there was nothing I could do so I just got in bed and went to sleep.

The next morning I was in so much pain, I couldn’t move my left arm and my left hand was swelling up. I could move my fingers so tried not to worry and went to find breakfast with my friends. A few hours later my arm was getting more painful and it wasn’t getting easier to move so I went to find the volunteer first aiders. To find them is easy, if you ever need help go to any bar on the main strip, they all have a radio inside you can use and one of the first aiders will answer and come to meet you as soon as they can.

Once they found me we went to their little medics office. Their supplies were limited as they don’t get paid for this, the donations they receive are the only funding they have to keep this going! There were three people there, two girls and a guy. The guy took the lead and had a look at my shoulder, pointing things out to the two girls and explaining what he was doing. He quickly decided my shoulder was dislocated and I needed to get back to the main land. By now it had been out of the socket for a good 12 hours which can cause additional damage to the nerves and tendons.

The last boat back to the mainland was at 4pm, and with the weather still being bad there were disruptions to the boat services. My friends were on hand to help, I met them back at our bungalows where I packed myself an over night bag. They packed up all my other things into my giant backpack and kept that with them, there was no way I’d be able to carry it! I was then really lucky because a friend from school had a brother who lived on the mainland and he was an absolute hero and offered to meet me off the boat in Sihanoukville to help me at the hospital. This meant the friends I was travelling with could stay on Koh Rong and didn’t have to disrupt their plans because of my clumsiness!

I made it to the 4pm boat, getting on was awful, it was so rough you had to grab the boat and leap on to the steps, the staff helping everyone on and off grabbed me by the shoulders not realising what was wrong with me which was literally the worst pain I ever felt!

The boat ride was rough, really rough! Thank God I don’t get sea sick but everyone around me was being handed sick bags, that wasn’t an issue for me, I was more focused on just getting my shoulder put back where it was meant to be!

After what felt like the longest boat ride of all time I was finally back on solid land. I got a tuk tuk to Sihanoukville, where I met my friend at the Big Easy (in other news this is one of the best bars in Sihanoukville, good music, good food, good atmosphere!! You should go!) From there we headed to the hospital, I had travel insurance … because I’m not an idiot! Don’t ever travel without it kids!! Because I had really good medical cover we went straight to the ‘nicest’ private hospital in the area. More expensive than the others but that’s what travel insurance is for, right? It was perfectly clean, the staff spoke excellent English and I was taken straight into a waiting room.

Sitting filling out my paper work I was suddenly very aware what state I was in. I had sand all up my feet and legs, my hair had been tied in a bun before bed the night before and not touched since so now resembled a wonky birds nest, I had no make up on other than some crusty mascara down my cheeks, I hadn’t showered and you better believe I had been sweating that day seeing as it was over 32 degrees … wow! What an absolute state. I felt genuinley bad for the nurses that took me into X Ray.

It was confirmed quickly that my shoulder was dislocated, so I was given some seriously strong codeine and left alone for a while. Once the pain killers kicked in the doctor took me in his office and popped my shoulder back in to place. I honestly don’t remember this bit, I’m quite glad I don’t!

I was sent home in a sling, with a stash of super strong drugs and told to try not to move my arm for 2 weeks and that I should go straight to my doctor when I got home.

I couldn’t get back to Koh Rong after that, the rough waters would have done me no favours so for me the dreamy section of my trip lasted less than 24 hours, and at least 12 of those I was in agony. Not quite the paradise I expected!

I can’t wait to get back there this year while I am on my travels, it can’t be any worse than my first trip there!

The Moral of the Story:

The two things I want to highlight in this post are as follows …

The people living on Koh Rong are so incredibly kind and caring. They didn’t know me, but as soon as they knew there was a problem they helped me as much as they could, they advised me on hospitals on the main land, they made sure I got on the boat I needed to be on and they reassured me the whole way. I was lucky my friends brother was on the main land and I didn’t need too much advice from them as I knew help was waiting. But if I hadn’t been so lucky I honestly don’t think I would have felt too concerned as their help was thorough and the information they gave me was exactly what I would have needed back on the main land.

The second thing is that travelling without insurance is one of the most ridiculous things you could ever do! I didn’t have a dramatic accident, I literally jarred my arm closing a curtain. That could happen to anyone! So when people say, ‘I don’t need insurance I’m always careful’ just do them a favour and slap them in the face! My insurance covered the cost of the X rays, the pain killers, the boat ticket, my hotel room on Koh Rong that I couldn’t get a refund on because I had pre booked, and if I had thought to save taxi receipts I could have also claimed those back.

If you swing by Koh Rong, even if you don’t need their help I suggest you donate a little bit of money to the medical centre there, I know I will be doing when I go back. If they hadn’t been there and told me how serious my injury was I’d probably have stayed on the island until I was due to leave, trying to block out my pain and think positively which would have done me no favours in the long run!

What’s the most ridiculous accidents you’ve had while travelling??

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