“Came for a few days, stayed for two weeks”
Even though we were already madly in love with the west side of the island, we decided to head to the north-side of the island to investigate what the buzz is about.
Reaching M’Pay Bay Village
We heard good things about M’Pay Bay Village. A cosy little fisherman’s village with a pleasant atmosphere. When we decided to go there, it turned out to be less straightforward than expected. It seemed, no-one could give us exact information on how to get to this mythical village. “There is a hiking trail from Saracen Bay that will take you to the village – but bring a machete”. “Oh no, it’s not possible to hike through the jungle”, “take a boat to Ecosea & Bungalow Village Resort and ask a fisherman to take you from there to the village”, “no, you should catch the supply boat coming from Sihanoukville and hop off at the village, but it doesn’t always go”.
In the end, the best advice we got was to go to White Orchid restaurant and ask the staff. This restaurant seems to be a little transportation hub for the island of Koh Rong Samloem. We waited a couple hours on Saracen Bay which we spent exploring the long beach, and then hopped on the supply boat.
Sailing counter clockwise around the island to the northside of the island, we arrived at the village pier.
Quickly we began to understand the spell-binding charm of this village. The village pier where you get off has quirky wooden houses on stilts attached to it. As you continue onto the island, you step right onto the main road of the village.
Accommodation options in M’Pay Bay Village
Small restaurants and new guesthouses and bungalow resorts are springing up in the village. Tourist numbers are low, but growing bit by bit. The establishments are partly owned by local entrepreneurs taking advantage of the new opportunities brought by tourism, and partly by foreigners who simply couldn’t bear to leave the village. Luckily, until now the accommodation has been kept low-key and simple, reflecting the life of a fisherman village.
There are options for those who want a homestay type experience, where local families have cleared space in a few of their rooms to welcome visitors. The Drift has a welcoming hostel atmosphere with common sleeping areas and youthful vibes, while you can try to spend the night in a hammock at The Dragon Fly (mosquito nets included). Bungalow options have become rather numerous ranging from dirt-cheap to mid-range bliss.
Those seeking a romantic hideout go to Sunset Bungalows located on a rocky peninsula with beautiful seaviews or Ecosea & Bungalow Village, situated a few hundred meters east of the village. The latter practically has its own private beach. Worth a mention is the absolutely charming Beach House (our favourite) with stunning architecture, great views from the hammock on the balcony, and high comfort.
Restaurants – Khmer, Turkish, Western, or Japanese?
In the village, there are both restaurants that serve Khmer and Southeast Asian classics, and the usual Western classics of burgers and pasta. Highly recommendable are two restaurants right on the pier: Babagannus serving Turkish delicacies and a local family-run restaurant serving a rich and varied buffet (book in advance). Plenty of fresh seafood and no shortages for vegans and vegetarians either.
Here are a few images from in and around the village.
M’Pay Bay’s Beaches
On either side of the pier there is a beach. For taking a dip or swimming the best one is on your right hand side as you face the island coming from the village pier. A good handful of small bungalow resorts and restaurants are situated along this side of the beach, and the sandy stretch is kept cleaner here by the accommodation providers. The sand is soft and no sharp rocks or corals lay on the seabed. There are basically no waves and the water is shallow for the first 30 meters heading out. As you approach the small peninsula on the left, the seabed becomes rocky and slightly more dangerous, as there are large sea urchins between the rocks.
Heading in the opposite direction (south), you will pass fishermen’s boats and an area with some small boulders, before you reach the beach pictured in the last image above. The beach here has some sea debris, but is otherwise beautiful, and the water of the bay is usually calm.
Snorkeling and Kayaking
Apart from the rocky areas near the peninsula, there is not much going on in terms of snorkeling right off the beaches. However, we strongly recommend you to grab a kayak and snorkels, and head towards the small cone island, Koh Koun, right in front of M’Pay Bay Village. On the opposite side of the small island there is a stunning display of marine life and great visibility. Should you want to dive, the village has a dive center right on the beach.
While you have a charming village, an impressive selection of food, and above average beaches, what really spellbinds people to this location is the laid back and jovial atmosphere. People from various places on the globe have been smitten by the village, and together they have built a thriving community that rubs off on anyone visiting this village on the northern side of Koh Rong Samloem.
Can’t get enough of Cambodia?
Don’t forget to further explore Cambodia on our dedicated Cambodia destination page. You can also ready about why Cambodia is Southeast Asia’s next big beach destination.