I went to a tropical island and it was meh

I’ve just arrived back to mainland Cambodia after spending a few days on Koh Rong Samloem… a tropical island an hour off the coast. I can hear the collective sighs of ooh and aah from here, but honestly, I was left a little frustrated and disappointed with it. It’s a tropical island, how bad can it be?

To start off, the island itself had some stunning beaches. One in particular called Lazy Beach was spectacular, complete with crystal clear water, palm trees and powder white sand. Sounds like hell, doesn’t it? It was at this moment I realized that my frustration and disappointment had nothing to do with the island itself. It had everything to do with the classic expectation versus reality gap.

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It’s not you island, it’s me.

In order to have a truly great tropical island get away, you need a few more ingredients that complement the surroundings. They are as follows:

Some sort of air conditioning/ fan:

I had none of these options and thought I was going to self combust at night as it was so hot. It was as if my body was having an allergic reaction to the heat. Sleep was a virtual impossibility and I’m one of those guys that, if he doesn’t get enough sleep, becomes a gigantic asshole. Maybe it was particularly hot when I was there, who knows? Gili T had air-conditioning and that island was one hundredth the size of Koh Rong Samloem. Maybe it was my tight budget that led to no AC come to think of it. No, that can’t be the case – they could have had a fan at least. Hell, I would have sold my mother for a fan. Sorry mom.

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We got spoilt with a double rainbow.

Cheap beer:

This didn’t exist on the island. One measly can of shit beer cost R25. Daylight robbery if you ask me. When I questioned them about this, they said they needed to “import” the beer because they’re on an island. This makes no sense considering the mainland is an hour away and we hadn’t left Cambodia. Importing my arse man. To add some context, a good draft beer on the mainland will cost you R7.

Communication:

This isn’t a biggie, but there wasn’t any way of communicating with the outside world. Whilst I fully acknowledge that I do have an Internet addiction, if Emirates can make free wifi available on board a plane at 38,000 feet, I can’t understand why you can’t do this on an island. Maybe I’d feel differently if I was on a holiday as opposed to a long backpacking trip where I need connectivity to plan the next leg of my trip, who knows? 

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The things this island did well to make it feel like an authentic experience were:

  • You had to walk through the water to get to your boat as there weren’t proper docks. I enjoyed this. The last time I did this was on Gili T, which is probably my favorite island to date. 
  • There weren’t any cars or motorbikes which was great as my life expectancy had a chance to normalize after all the near- death hit and runs experienced from scooters in south east Asia. 
  • Jungle: the island had a few ‘secret’ beaches which were accessible by jungle walks. That was pretty cool. 
  • It had an ‘islandy’ feel. i.e nothing happened quickly and everyone was really relaxed when they weren’t feeling like they were being cremated by the heat.

I have high expectations for Thailand… I’m really easy to keep happy: AC, food and cheap beer and I’ll be your best friend.

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