Offbeat Cambodia: Island Life on a Budget

You know that one particular island you long to find? The one that’s affordable, isolated, safe and uncrowded…not to mention gorgeous? An island where life is all about sitting in a hammock, your toes dipped in the sand, a book in hand and where the sun flirts generously with the waves. Here’s one such place you, your heart and your soul long to get away to…

Welcome to Koh Ta Kiev

Koh Ta Kiev, that’s the answer. I had just returned googly eyed  from endless ocean views at an island called Koh Russei when I bumped into a group of travellers heading to Koh Ta Kiev. More than the adjectives being used to describe the island , it was the people doing the describing that convinced me to go along. I’d been travelling by myself for a while and a bunch of friendly solo travellers who’d just met each other was exactly what the travel doctor advised. So off  I went to catch the boat that was going to take us to – in the words of my fellow travellers- “paradise”.

The Koh Ta Kiev “Cruise Liner”

Here’s the thing about Cambodian islands, they can be quite complicated and most of them are in imminent danger of being redeveloped. The islands are often sold or leased by the Cambodian Government to French or Malaysian developers who then get the work done by builders from China or Thailand. Getting the permission to do anything at all must be a nightmare which is why Crusoe Island, the one place to stay on Koh Ta Kiev feels nothing short a bureaucratic miracle.

Crusoe Island Beach Camping and Bungalows is the place to stay on Koh Ta Kiev

Thus far my focus had been on the entertaining group of motley travellers I had just met and not so much the destination. Also since I was coming from a similar island jaunt, I had massively underestimated the sensory impact Koh Ta Kiev would have on me. As soon as we got there, I wanted to jump off the boat and run down the length of the beach till I ran out of breath. And that’s exactly what I did. This had nothing to with a sudden burst of “fitspiration”. There was no other way I could express how thankful I felt at the point except to run and physically manifest my happiness in some way. 

Time? What’s that?

Among all the resort, golf course, and casino blueprints that exist for Koh Ta Kiev, the guys behind Crusoe Island have managed to create a place that travellers genuinely yearn for while sitting at their various 9 to 5 desks across the world. A place that not many others manage to reach or even know about. A place where the living is simple and where views of the big blue ocean come without a price tag attached. A place where time is an alien concept and where new friends, stories, and big dreams are weaved easily. 

Hammocks, an essential part of beach bumming. Crusoe Island is not short of them.

You will probably see islands more beautiful than Koh Ta Kiev in your lifetime but what sets it apart is how accessible nature is over there to us mere mortals. You can sleep on the beach however you choose to: be it in a hammock,a hut or a tent. There’s a 1 kilometer stretch of golden sand and you can pick where you pitch your tent, lay your mat or hang your hammock. All the meals are eaten by the ocean, songs are sung, dances are danced and connectivity to the rest of the world, while it exists is minimal. Should you need anything else Sihanoukville, the closest town is only a 10$ return boat ride away.

Home Sweet Home on Crusoe Island

The price for hiring a tent from Crusoe Island is only 6$ and that includes a mattress, pillows, and permits for 2 people. If camping is not for you then Crusoe Island also has bungalows with oceans views that cost anywhere from between 15$ – 35$. One of the bungalows even has a private sundeck and side by side hammocks. Lounging in colourful hammocks on your private sundeck while overlooking the ocean and that too on a budget? It exists on Crusoe Island.

Views from the private sundeck on Crusoe Island

There is no electricity on the island after 11:00 P.M so nights are strictly for listening to the ocean, having conversations and for midnight (skinny) dips. During the day, if you run out of books and are tired of swimming or lounging in hammocks, there are a fair few hiking trails in Koh Ta Kiev. For fans of all things piscine, you are laden with a variety of fishing opportunities. Other than that Crusoe Island also organises cooking lessons and believe it or not, archery lessons. Fancy yourself as a self-sustaining digital nomad living on a remote South East Asian Island? At Crusoe Island, it can all be arranged. Offbeat is an overused word, but if offbeat Cambodia is what you seek then at Koh Ta Kiev, you will find it.

Hiking trails through Koh Ta Kiev
A Koh Ta Kiev sort of sunset

A warning might ruin the mood here but I urge you to get there as soon as you can. The developers are coming for Koh Ta Kiev. They’ve already closed down one such place I loved and I’m worried about the future of Crusoe Island. For now, despite keen interest from some Malaysian developers, Crusoe Island on Koh Ta Kiev is well and truly alive.

Indian Passport Holders: We can get a 30 day visa on arrival in Cambodia.

Getting there: Fly into Phnom Penh and from there take a bus to the town of Sihanoukville. The journey from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville takes about 3 to 5 hours. The boat to Crusoe Island leaves at 11:00 A.M from a shack called “Rise” on Otres Beach.

Photo Courtesy: Crusoe Island. For more details on how to get there visit  Crusoe Island’s website here.

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