Reasons to Travel – Number Ten- You may end up with the best job in the word

Reasons to Travel 6

Reasons to Travel – Number Ten

You may end up with the best job in the word

I had heard about Monkey Island resort located on Koh Rong from my girlfriend and when we took some time off to travel around recently it was high up on the priority of visits.

Having survived the arse numbing six-hours and the occasional involuntary traveller’s boner whilst sleeping on the bus from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville and stopping only momentarily (2 days) to hang out on Otres Beach, We found ourselves in the Monkey Republic Hostel, Koh Rong, knocking back a Klang with bleary eyes and booking our boat tickets.

Having had duplicate recommendations from my other friends including the owner of Ko Ru resort on Bamboo Island I was ordered to introduce myself to Paddy, the island manager, on arrival with one of those knowing winks combined with the statement “You will like Paddy”.

Paddy is a very chilled out Englishman, like so many Brits in Cambodia he is a conversational festival of complete random facts and funny points that make a conversation with him very easy.  He could probably strike up a conversation with you even if you are one of those awkward people that can’t stand still without out touching your anus for a little bit, or one of those people that goes to Star Trek conventions, Paddy has the ability to put you at ease instantly.

“I was working as a specialist financial consultant in the UK, my job used to involve driving between the East Midlands and North Wales – I was working in a place called Mould for some time, it is one of those places that’s certainly feeling the economic downturn.  At times I was driving two hours a day and working a further 15 so compared to that life living on an island is certainly a lot more pleasurable.

When my brother was living in Jakarta and I had come out to Cambodia a couple of times before.  After I had been here a while going back to Mould to just didn’t hold the same appeal.  I returned back to the UK and as my last contract was coming to an end I bought my flight to Cambodia knowing full well that I probably would not be using the return – I was perfectly prepared to miss the flight and I did.

I am not a very good traveller I tend to waylaid wherever I am, preferring to stay on and chill for a while and get the feel for a place.  It just so happened that I arrived in an era of people who came through Sihanoukville for a few days and just never left, I instantly fell into the ex-pat beach lifestyle that claims so many of us and I am better off for it.

Some of my mates were running the Monkey Republic when they conceived Monkey Island, I guess they felt I was best positioned to be “Island boy” because I was the one drinking rice whisky with Fisherman at 8am.  I think this was prerequisite that led to my selection for the role. Yes it was selection, I didn’t volunteer.

It’s still work, I have to get up at 7am and I go to bed at 1am whilst working on the island, and like most hospitality businesses I have my share of drama to deal with on a day to day basis but on the whole apart from missing the perpetual disappointment that comes part and parcel of being a Derby County supporter and the occasional real ale I think I am pretty blessed.

I love the permissive conservatism of Cambodia as compared to the UK, I remember once when I was on a train from Birkenhead to Liverpool that I fell asleep only to be woken up by Mersey rail officials giving me a fine because I had my feet on the seat.  If I fell asleep on the Island even somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be the powers that be are just as likely to throw a sheet over me and put a pillow under my head.

One of best things about living on a perfect desert island is the sense of community we have here.  There are 75 families living in the fishing village, I pretty much know everyone to say hello to.   Monkey Island employees 22 people from the village on its own which gives the Island a real family feel.”

He is right – when you step onto Koh Rong to dock at a traditional fishing village, where you are just as likely to be drinking rice wine with the locals as to be caught up in a conversation with a backpacker.  There is a different feel about stepping onto Koh Rong compared to some of the other islands I have stayed on in Cambodia.  Firstly there are a couple of resorts here so you can go bar hopping, all be it between the three bars on offer. You can also dive from the Island or take one of the many boat trips on offer during the day.  If you suffer from mild OCD like myself (it’s not mild) you have things to do.

When asked how they keep everything so perfect, Paddy explained:

“Our direction is certainly sustainable tourism, right now we are testing solar panels to be used to power the bungalows, the island recycles all of its tins and plastics, we collect all of our used straws for an NGO called M’Lop Tapang who then turn them into place mats and other recyclable products,. We also have three full time staff cleaning our section of the beach in high season to ensure the customers get the authentic desert island feel.

We only run the generator for power between 6pm and 12 am which adds to the charm of the island.   There is a certain satisfaction that can only be gained by completely cutting yourself off from the grid for a few days. We also don’t play music during the day because people like the sound of the sea which a lot of customers appreciate. At night time we turn the music up and have fun talking to the guests.

Staying here you will appreciate that the beaches are spotless and devoid of nasties that will slice your foot open.  The beaches contain plush white sand that opens into a placid blue green hue of translucent water from the movies.

It is like a scene you would expect to find in a James Bond film at the moment where the “Co Star” James is about to shag steps onto the beach holding flippers and a mask shakes her hair and gives James the “Sex Eyes”, much to your chagrin if watching it with your Nan on a Sunday afternoon – just slightly awkward.

There are three resorts on the village side of the Island, Paradise Bungalows, Tree House Bungalows and Monkey Island, on the other side of the island there are another three BHGH – Broken Heart Guest House, Sok San and Angkor Cham with four of five bungalows.

Charter boats will the take you to other islands near by or around the other side of Koh Rong based on a price you work out with the driver

Taking the boat is an option that negates the otherwise obligatory 1 hour jungle trek and steep climb down to the beach to the other side of the island if you stay on the village side, this may well prove to be a good option if you are a few Klangs down by lunchtime.

The food at Monkey Island is as tasty as it is diverse.  You would actually think you were in a top restaurant and not a two-hour boat trip from the mainland.  With a large selection of Thai dishes cooked up by Paddy’s wife, English fare which rivals a UK village pub and a mix of international favourites and Khmer dishes it is really difficult to break yourself away to eat anything else.  I downed my own bodyweight in sausage eggs and chips the first day I arrived.

The food is inexpensive as well – with dishes ranging between $2.00 and $5.00 with most around the $3.50 mark explains why Monkey Island is as popular with backpackers as it is families. Try the Dr Klangs Klang cakes, a thick Klang beer based pancake with ham and melted cheese for $3.00 or the Pad Ka Pow stir fried Thai chicken, with a basil and chilli served on a bed of green beans for $3.50.

There are two bungalow classes in Monkey Island– ten seafront bungalows with a shared bathroom and 9 set back about five meters from the beach with en-suite bathrooms.  Prices range between $18 and $25 per night per bungalow in high season.  A bungalow has two beds that will comfortably sleep four people.

You can dive with Dive shop on the peer or Scuba nation with prices starting at $50.00 -$90.00 per two dives. On the village side of the beach there are only 50 or so bungalows, so if you want to be sure of somewhere to stay you absolutely must book ahead if you want to stay on Koh Rong especially during high season.

If you are travelling down south this make sure you put Monkey Island on Koh Rong on your list of places to get waylaid.  It really is a very chilled place with a very friendly vibe. Make sure you get into a conversation with Paddy or any of the guys at the bar, and do enjoy a Klang or two in their company, its certainly very rewarding.

Secret Tips – Ask about the monks living on the small island, the two waterfalls, and stop to watch a volleyball match.

Visit the website and go there – http://monkeyisland-kohrong.com/