Koh Rong, Cambodia: One Among the Stars


cambodiaI have been to a place where the sky is in the water and the stars swarm around me. It is Koh Rong off the coast of Cambodia and it boasts a heaven like none I’ve ever visited.

By day it is ordinary: azure sky, white sand, tilting palm trees, and transparent waters. The sunsets boast soupy violet and electric-peach clouds, whose impressions cast a warm glow onto an opaque, gently rocking ocean.

But Koh Rong only reveals its greatest secret to its more daring visitors after the sun is buried. At that point, the sky and the ocean are the same bottomless indigo, painting the Earth clean. The ocean whispers and a briny breeze coasts across the waves. In the distance, an inky slip of an island is the only point that distinguishes the horizon.

Above it is the purest night sky I’ve ever seen. Stars scatter the great abyss, winking sapphire, ruby, gold, and diamond white. I lie back onto the cool, slightly damp sand and stare. Between the tiny twinkling suns are eddied mists, vast swirls of golden dust flung across the dark canvas. Whole solar systems and great stampedes of rock belts are visible to the imagination here.

I am looking at time itself. Some of those burning disks have already been extinguished, an echo of their lighted glory racing through space to feature in Earth’s majestic night sky. It’s impossible to think the world could be more tremendous than this. But then I enter the water.
The evening is cool and the water even cooler, raising the goosebumps on my skin. I immerse myself to the waist and stand still. All is quiet but for the awed shrieks of a group of backpackers some twenty feet away. ‘Move your arms!’ They yell at me.

I obey the command, sweep an arm broadly through the water, and gasp.

There are golden stars in the sea as well, but they are not stationary. They cling to my body, outlining my arms, my fingers. Their light ebbs and flows. Further down, I can see glowing mist covering my legs when I kick out. These stars feed off my every movement.

A community of phytoplankton, tiny glow-in-the-dark creatures invisible outside night time, have come to dance with me. I lead and they waltz. I wave my hand and their cast smears a golden rainbow in my wake. It is a beautiful symbiosis; their play lights my way while my movement triggers their illumination.

It is cold and my teeth chatter, but this aquatic celestial heaven has me captivated. My peripheral vision is gone, the distant inky island and the closer ghostly shore vanishing along with it.

Before me is only supreme bliss. I alternate between lying on my back, buoyed by the waters, and flipping over to entertain the stars below. Overhead I see a sky devoid of moon but replete with planets and suns. Then I pull myself upright and watch the phytoplankton synchronise with my balletic twirls and groovy hand waves.

I have no idea how much time has passed when I remove myself from the water. It feels now as though my glow-in-the-dark friends have become apart of me – or perhaps I have become one with them. My body settles back onto the sand, but my soul has been buoyed to the heavens, to glow among the stars and simultaneously remains in the ocean, to dance brightly with the night’s secret creatures

About the Author: Amanda Bensted manages A Roamer Therapy, a travel blog that explores what makes travel wonderful, exhilarating, exasperating, and most importantly of all, so addictive.

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