When caught up in work, stress, and a maze of relationships, it’s often easy to lose sight of yourself and forget what is important. Though I love living in Tokyo, I find it often hard to relax here and there is an endless amount of events occurring which really places a lot of pressure on my life. Spending 4 days on the small Cambodian island of Koh Rong in Koh Touch, a small village that only stretches for about a mile, really taught me taught me some valuable lessons I will treasure for life.
It was here where I went to my first old-school rave in the jungle and learned to live frugally compared to my extravagant city life. The villagers were extremely kind and I was always surrounded by friendly people that took care of me despite the fact that I ventured here completely alone. My time here really helped me let go of a lot of anxieties and insecurities I had that were holding me back recently. Though I have many caring friends in all the countries I have visited, being in this setting helped me resurface to reality and form an entirely new perspective so I could enter a new mindset that I couldn’t reach before. I am still trying to find the proper words to convey exactly what happened, so I am just going to start from the beginning and write it all as I feel it.
The night began I as I wandered from my treehouse from around 9pm to a local bar called Karma, just because it had a lot of pretty murals, dank music, and was the designated pre-game spot before the rave in the jungle. The best way to find out where these places are at is by word of mouth (simply by asking someone that works at the bar what’s going on for the night). Here I met a crazy diverse group of people (one banker, one bar owner, and one government worker) who I really hit it off with so they ordered me some happy cookies, shots, and some Turkish coffee (which is just really strong, delicious tasting coffee) to keep me awake. We all just had the same vibe–this was our first time in Koh Rong and we wanted to go out for the night but didn’t know what to expect–so we stuck together. Fortunately all of us were experienced travelers who had done the Fullmoon Parties in Thailand already and were looking for something different. And an absolutely insane night full of neon lights, fantastic music, and important self-discoveries was ahead of us!
If you haven’t heard, the main reason that people flock to Koh Rong is because of their weekly beach parties on the un-ironically named Police Beach. In addition to the vivid nightlife, there is a ton of unspoiled nature and beaches to explore. The reason I love Koh Rong is because unlike other places, it usually only has one event going on per night such as beach parties, bar hopping, or game nights between small groups of people. There is no competition between events and everyone that shows up is generally friendly and looking to have a good time. I did not encounter one unpleasant person while on this island. I came during the off-season in October, but the weather was still sunny with only mild rain. It was perfectly suited for me because I never felt like I was missing out.
We arrived almost at the start of the party because we were already buzzed and ready to dance. I wasn’t extremely familiar with any of the DJs but they did a great job of mixing really classic techno songs. I liked the venue because it had an indoor area that protects you from the rain, lounge chairs where you can relax and smoke joints, and nicely-sized dancefloor, and an outdoor area where you could relax on the beach but still hear the music. It wasn’t anything fancy because it was partially in the jungle, but it was perfect for what it was. I have been to many clubs in Asia so I was looking for something different like this.
Basically anything goes at this party–it preserves the old rave culture that is lost to Japan and many other places. If you’re looking for something, then you’re likely to find it if you make friends with people beforehand. I also loved the fact that wild dogs would roll up to the party and fall asleep on the ground (they were friendly and nice). While I was at this party I really had a lot of fun twirling on the dance floor and running across the beach. I felt relaxed, energized, and full of life. It reminded me of being in college again, so I messaged some of my old college friends and told them I was thinking of them while I was there (since it was day time in the US and they were awake we had some great convos).
I stuck with the group of people that I had met earlier, but also was in my head for the most of the night. To be honest I don’t remember a lot of things, but I was able to reach a level of thinking where I could compartmentalize my stress and anxieties and manage them a lot better. That in itself made the entire experience worth it.
When the clock struck 6am, we climbed down to the beach and watched the sunrise. It was breathtaking. The sun looked like a red beady dot that was emerging from a sea of clouds, just like how we were all slowly trickling out of the jungle to the beach. Earlier that night I had put a lot of effort into my appearance but at this time of morning I didn’t have a single care in the world. I felt like a mermaid as I swam in the cool water.
When the party ended, I didn’t go to sleep. I ran back to my treehouse and blasted my favorite songs from my balcony. I met one of the bartenders on the way walking his dog and we had a lovely conversation. Then I waded in the water until the first ferries arrived and sailed off to Koh Rong Samloem Island (which I will cover in my next post). Overall, this was one of the best party experiences I had in my life, and I am so grateful I made the decision to come out here.
Compared to the beautiful islands I traveled to in Thailand, this was like an off-the-grid, undiscovered, party paradise that only the true backpackers make it to.
As an article on Matador Network puts it:
It’s not as if Thailand lacks an authentic culture…but the country, especially its islands, has been inundated with foreign tourism for so long that it’s far more difficult to forge sincere connections than it was on Koh Rong.
The biggest issue with islands in Thailand is that they are sometimes overcrowded with tourists so it’s difficult to partake in genuine Thai culture while you are there. Plus because their Full Moon parties attract a large number of tourists, there are always other smaller underground parties going on at the same time as competition. If you are only in Thailand for a short time, then it’s really impossible to hit up all the events. However, at Koh Rong you never have the fear of missing out and can really learn from the culture of the people there. The parties take place away from the hotel area so you can easily escape them if you need to. There is a sense of peace and balance on Koh Rong that you’d never find elsewhere. From what I’ve heard, Thailand used to be like this in the 80s, but this kind of culture is starting to fade away with the huge tourist boom. However, I am extremely grateful I had the opportunity to travel to both countries and make friends.
Will I come back to Koh Rong to resurface to reality again in the future? Perhaps one day. Next I have my sights set on the Philippines and Indonesia which I likely will traverse next year! But this has been my best island experience by far so I likely will try to go again. Thank you to everyone for reading my heartfelt post.