Leaving the port of Sihanoukville and cruising the hour-long ride on the local ferry to the picture postcard island of Koh Rong, the two destinations could not be starker. I had last visited the island of Koh Rong almost three years ago and unlike many places I have revisited in Asia, I can say the place is better than previous.

My 2016 article can still be found on this site at https://harrisonwhitejournalist.com/portfolio/koh-rong/

Everything stated in my first visit in 2016 still holds, however with a few exceptions. The establishment of semi-reliable power and wifi, whilst may annoy the backpacker purists. Looking for their own ‘The Beach’ moment have claimed this has caused the island to lose a sense of exclusion. However, for those who still need to send and receive emails whilst on holidays, like myself, it was a godsend. 

On the plus side, there has also been a reduction of both the wild dogs and for lack of a better term, wild children, that were running around the beaches at all times of day night. Speaking to an in the know local, the dogs have been culled after a multitude of biting complaints from tourists and the children are at primary school built in conjunction with a local charity. Two great initiates and that need to be further expanded in the region.

If I did have to nitpick about changes for the worse, there has been a surge in motorbikes that now frequent the island. With both locals and tourists riding do a cause a sense of noise disruption. With many tourists getting bogged in the soft sand, send sand flying isn’t great, however, can provide some entertainment over a few beers whilst the locals look on laughing at the predominately Chinese rider.

Staying on the island about 80% of visitors including myself will choose to book a room on the main beach. However I can definitely recommend spending a day on one of the islands many other beaches. Accessible either via boat or by motorbike, the latter being my recommendation as a motorbike ride along some of the islands ‘back roads’ is not the most comfortable.

With a day along the lesser frequented beaches on the island providing a picture postcard moment. One can only refer to the thoughts of the early explore French 19th-century explorer Henri Mouhot. Who wrote when exploring the islands, “I soon forgot the miseries of our voyage, and was amply re-compressed by the shifting scenes of beauty presented to us by the group islands we were passing.”

A few photos from Koh Rong:

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Arriving from the ferry from Sihanoukville (cost $24 roundtrip) a range of mostly wooden beach houses constructed along the main beach is your first impression of the island.

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Standard BBQ dinner on the island, vendors set up charcoal BBQ’s along the beach from around 5pm onwards. Around $5USD a plate for the days catch, salad, bread roll, and table on the beach.

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 This is a picture of my favorite beer in Cambodia called Klang and can only be found in remote places of the country, however, be careful it packs a punch at 6% alcohol. 

Expert Tip: Beers on the island run around a $1USD however if the order is in Khmer (suom beer muy) it will be given for 75USDcents 

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A view looking outward from the jetty waiting for the ferry back to Koh Rong’s sister island Koh Rong Sanloem.

#watchthisspace

Straight to Jakarta and the biggest news out of South East Asia this week is the street violence not seen for decades. During the supposed sacred month of ramadan, six people have died and at least 200 have been injured in civil unrest in the Indonesian capital. The protest erupted after Governor Anies Baswedan stated to the election commission confirming President Joko Widodo had won last month’s election.

Supporters of unsuccessful presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto have clashed with security forces since this week, setting fire to a Jakarta police dormitory, attempting to force their way into the offices of the election supervisory agency and burning vehicles.

Two weeks ago I spoke about a few in the know diplomats predicting this may occur in a country that even with an emphatic win for Joko Widdo still seems divided, mostly along religious lines.

This is a tweet by the ABC’s South East Asian correspondent David Lipso that I thought encompassed perfectly politics in South East Asia. 

“Peak Indonesia: Riot police and protesters break fast together”

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The US Navy’s operations chief would like Australian and Indonesian maritime forces to have a greater presence in the disputed South China Sea, including by sailing controversial freedom of navigation operations. US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson said on Thursday that each nation in south-east Asia had to determine its own response to China’s moves to militarise disputed islands in the South China Sea.

Thailand is exploring the legalization of same-sex civil partnerships after Taiwan’s legislature voted Friday to legalize same-sex marriage, a first in Asia and a boost for LGBT rights activists who had championed the cause for two decades.

According to a few in the known sources from The Nation, the paper issues of the English-language daily will be discontinued in favor of a solely online platform. The last edition is expected to run on June 28. A formal announcement is expected “soon”, the source said. The Nation’s English language daily was founded on July 1, 1971, 48 years ago. In recent years, the paper has been plagued by financial losses. Nation Multimedia Group, which owns The Nation, lost 1.7 billion baht in 2017 alone. Just last week, the group pulled its TV channel, Spring 26, from free-to-view digital TV.

It’s hard to know if this would be a good or not for Thailand’s largest print newspaper the Bangkok Post. However, personally, the quality of both papers appears to be getting worse with every trip back to the country. All Thai owners and editors of both papers now cater to neither the Thai or ‘Farang’ readers, essentially no man’s land. With much better content and writing to be found through websites and dare I say even some online forums.

This was probably the longest #watchthisspace I have written so far. With the takeaway that South East Asia is moving at an unprecedented pace, with an increase in western thinking and rapid advancement of technology colliding with ancient ingrained beliefs and way of life.

Photo of the week:

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I took this photo on the Island of Koh Rong – I will be gathering a poll for next week with the question. Left or right who looks more unhappy in the marriage? Send your answers in to harrisonwhitejournalist@gmail.com

The Week Ahead:

After spending the last three weeks reporting on my trip to Cambodia, detailing reviews of the sights and sounds experienced. I will be looking to change up my opening piece with a few segments of first-hand stories and thoughts from the region.

My inbox has been exploding over the past few weeks with emails about questions and general musings on the region, so expect the reinstating of the fan favorite questions and answers segment either next week or the following.

Harrison White can be contacted at harrisonwhitejournalist@gmail.com