Last year my Khmer New Year celebrations were pretty intense. I went to Sihanoukville and partied until all hours of the morning, caught up in the energy and happiness of the occasion. Khmer’s do really know how to throw a party. This year however, as I entered my second year in the Kingdom I wanted something a little bit more relaxing for my holiday in Cambodia and was desperate to find more secret tourist destinations in Cambodia.
I wanted beaches without people and bars, ruling out Sihanoukville. I toyed with the idea of Thailand but was held back by budget constraints. In the end Koh Ta Kiev was put to me and my girlfriend Evie by another couple we know.
Koh Ta Kiev – One of the Best Hidden Secret Tourist Destinations in Cambodia
After 14 months in Cambodia, it’s not often that I’m told of an attraction that I haven’t heard of before, so my interest was immediately piqued. I quickly got myself on to google to check it out and within the hour, the five of us (me, Evie, Ellie, Josh and their dog Willow) had all agreed that this was the place we HAD to celebrate the new year, on an island with some of the most beautiful beaches in Cambodia. Koh Ta Kiev has to be among the best secret tourist destinations in Cambodia.
What is it
Koh Ta Kiev is a small (28 square km), tropical island around 10 km off the coast of Sihanoukville. There are no roads on the island and just a few trails so getting around can be a bit of a challenge. In addition to this, the island doesn’t have electricity, apart from a generator that runs for a few hours per night. What it does have however, are some of the most stunning white beaches in Cambodia and clear waters which are perfect for swimming and sunbathing. This combined with the absence of wifi, electricity and patchy mobile phone service make Koh Ta Kiev the perfect place to unwind with a book, a few friends and some drinks. It really does make for a perfect holiday in Cambodia with time seeming to literally slow down as you pass the days away in tropical bliss.
Where to stay
The island is very quiet and is one of the places in Cambodia where tourism is slowly taking hold. There are a handful of guesthouses on the island but we chose to be adventurous and camp with a camping and accommodation provider called Crusoe Island. For $10 a night we were given a tent on a wooden platform (great for keeping out creepy crawlies in the night) set back in the trees about 5 feet away from the beach. Being set back in the trees really added to the aura of privacy and the feeling that you were camping out on a desert island.
The tent came with a mattress and two pillows and, when left open to the sea breeze was an amazing place to spend three nights. Waking up the first thing I saw for three days straight were crystal clear seas and sunshine, it was heaven. At night the lack of electricity on the island meant that we could see the stars with astonishing clarity as we relaxed on the beach.
In terms of amenities there wasn’t much but Crusoe Island does have a restaurant serving the tasty generously portioned meals every day. There are also toilet facilities and a ‘shower’ – advance warning, if you want to take a shower you first need to fill a bucket from the well next door before scooping water over yourself from the bucket.
How to get there
For a place with so little development it is surprisingly easy to get to Koh Ta Kiev. First we had to get from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville on the bus. Normally we would always use the Mekong Express VIP van both ways as it’s fast, comfortable punctual and safe, an unbeatable combination.
However, it being Khmer New Year it was fully booked on the way there so we had to settle for the Champa Mekong bus. Their buses are fast and punctual but they don’t offer assigned seating. Also, when going to Sihanoukville with them you have to change buses in Kampot. Overall the journey took us 6 and a half hours instead of 4, but that was largely down to the horrendous New Year’s traffic leaving the City.
The bus dropped us off very close to the Golden Lions (City Centre) roundabout in Sihanoukville, from there it was a simple case of a ($5) tuk tuk ride to Otres Beach where we had pre-booked the boat with Crusoe Island ($10 return). The boat ride takes around 45 minutes and leaves from Otres Beach once a day at 11:30 am, returning to the mainland it leaves at around 8:30 am every morning.
Returning from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh we were lucky enough to snag the last two seats on the Mekong Express VIP bus leaving at 5:00 pm. It left promptly, we put back the reclining leather seats and closed our eyes, before we knew it the bus had arrived in Phnom Penh almost exactly 4 hours later, dropping us off right next to the night market on the Riverside. A big thanks to the CamboTicket support team for organising the trip and their valuable tips for the journey.
Koh Ta Kiev in general and Crusoe Island are both beautiful places to spend a few relaxing days during your holiday in Cambodia and make a nice change of pace from the hustle, bustle and noise of the mainland. They are home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Cambodia and as yet have not been ruined (in my opinion) by high-rise hotels and luxury resorts.
If you want time to slow down as you relax in idyllic South-East Asian surrounds with either a good book or good company or both, then this is definitely the place for you. Personally speaking after almost a year and a half this was one of the best holidays I have had in Cambodia.
Please send your comments and let us know if you have any experiences at Koh Ta Kiev or if you know of any other secret tourist destinations in Cambodia.
Written by Michael Watson as part of the CamboTicket traveler memoir section. Michael is an expat living in Cambodia and is an avid traveler.