Cambodia, the land of smiles, is a veritable paradise for adventurous travelers. The old Khmer Kingdom is ready for its close-up after decades of turmoil and is making a considerable impact on the tourism industry with resorts that beckon with their modern flair and one designed to bring smiles to visitors who come seeking a different and truer Southeast Asian experience.
For years the destination of choice in this part of the world has been Thailand. But Cambodia has emerged as a formidable vacation spot, especially along the magnificent shoreline of the Gulf of Thailand.
Indeed, young visitors are often saying, “Thailand is so 1980s. Cambodia is the place to be.”
But Cambodia is no longer a backpacker’s destination of choice.
Those with a soft spot for luxurious, eco-chic resorts flavored with an unadulterated Khmer zest will find Song Saa Private Island, a year-old playground about 30 miles from Sihanoukville, offering every amenity, making it a worthwhile and lavish stop in this land of smiles.
Song Saa, member of the exclusive Virtuoso Travel Network, sits on two private islands (Koh Ouen and Koh Bong) within the pristine Koh Rong Archipelago on a 99-year concession granted by the government and it just might be Southeast Asia’s ultimate luxury resort.
It is an intimate, all-inclusive property linked by a footbridge over a marine reserve where unparalleled relaxation in a natural setting is the order of the day. Here, sophisticated travelers find a virtual oasis of luxurious repose in an authentic design patterned after Cambodian fishing villages. Its overwater bungalows have thatched roofs over rough-hewn timber and furnishings carved from driftwood.
The place simply stuns.
Song Saa’s commitment to the surrounding communities while keeping a sharp eye on sustainability are exemplary in a corner of the world where at one time those words were largely ignored.
According to Rory Hunter, an Australian with long experience in Southeast Asia, who, along with his wife Melita, own and developed Song Saa, “Being the first to develop a private island in Cambodia; [it was] our desire to create a sanctuary of uncompromising luxury that would set the benchmark in sustainable development for the region.”
Hunter adds that the project “was truly a labor of love, and shows our commitment to the preservation of this magnificent environment, which will always remain at the forefront of everything we do. We spent $500,000 on conservation before we opened the doors. This isn’t about marketing. We’re trying to help rebuild a country that is in need of being rebuilt.”
Song Saa is completely sustainable. The four conservationists on staff have created a singular range of personalized ecological programs for guests who may want to receive first-hand knowledge of the area’s flora and fauna. If swimming among sea horses and other exotic marine life by day and enjoying warm tropical waters at night isn’t enough, there are great excursions to seaside villages where guests mingle with the locals while sampling Khmer cuisine.
The resort’s 27 one- and two-bedroom bungalows are either overwater, on the beach or sit in a jungle clearing. Each provides uninterrupted views of the dramatic sunsets, seascapes and starry evenings commonplace to southwest Cambodia.
The villas feature king-size beds, superb bathrooms with indoor and outdoor showers, private plunge pools and a natural decor that blends seamlessly with the environs.
Guests craving for a discrete island hideaway, will find the 2-bedroom Royal Villa offering incomparable privacy. Song Saa even has its own jetty for judicious arrivals and departures.
The centerpiece of the property is its 70-seat Vista Restaurant—an exquisite overwater lounge and restaurant with panoramic ocean views. The casual, elegant atmosphere is perfect to unwind with a simple, yet sophisticated menu featuring a delicate fusion of traditional Khmer with Western cuisines.
Rates for the all-inclusive resort start at $1,336 per villa, per night dbl and are exclusive of tax, spa treatments and motorized watersports.
A number of airlines offer flights to Phnom Penh from the U.S.: Malaysian Airlines lists a current fare of about $1,747 roundtrip from Los Angeles, while China Eastern has a special of approximately $1,620.
Song Saa offers its guests complimentary speedboat transfers from Sihanoukville, which is reached on a 40-minute flight from Phnom Penh. In fact, Cambodia’s Angkor Air inaugurated daily flights this month from the capital; a one-way ticket costs between $60 and $80.
Song Saa: songsaa.com