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Travel & Holiday

Cambodia's luxury coast

There's more to Cambodia than Angkor Wat
The Straits Times - March 6, 2012
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Cambodia's luxury coast -- PHOTO: SONG SAA

Do not go to Cambodia just for Angkor Wat. In the southern province of Sihanoukville lies a cluster of islands with turquoise waters and powdery white sandy beaches like that of Thailand's.

The Koh Rong archipelago located in the Gulf of Thailand is said to be what Thailand's islands were like 30 years ago - beautiful and unspoilt.

But act fast as there are already plans to turn the archipelago into a beach destination similar to Phuket, Koh Samui and Bali over the next two decades.

In the meantime, the islands are still relatively untouched, save for a few backpacker-style bungalows scattered across Koh Rong Samloem, and the new luxury Song Saa Private Island resort on the islands of Koh Ouen and Koh Bong.

The resort is named after the Khmer nickname for the pair of islets which the resort is built on. Song Saa means 'the sweethearts'.

Along with the resort, a marine reserve has been built to preserve the reefs and marine life such as dugongs, seahorses and exotic tropical fish species.

With the island's crystal-clear waters and creamy-white beaches, virgin rainforests and rich wildlife in the vicinity, it is easy for those looking for a private getaway to fall in love with the place.

There are also 20 uninhabited islands in and around the Koh Rong archipelago where visitors can explore by speedboat or longtail boat for a day of picnicking, swimming and snorkelling.

Getting there: From Phnom Penh, it is a four-hour drive to Sihanoukville. Then take a two-hour boat ride to Koh Rong Samloem. Alternatively, Cambodia Angkor Air (www.cambodiaangkorair.com) flies direct 70 minutes from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville from US$82 (S$103) one way.

To reach Song Saa resort, it is a 35-minute speedboat ride from Sihanoukville. The resort also provides private plane service from Siem Reap for US$330 a person one way, and US$220 from Phnom Penh. The journey takes from 45 minutes to over an hour.

Where to stay: At Koh Rong Samloem, the Lazy Beach resort lazybeachcambodia.com) charges from US$40 for a bungalow for four. It has access to a 1km stretch of coastline for sunbathing, snorkelling and other leisure activities.

Those with deeper pockets can head to Song Saa Private Island (www.songsaa.com, rates from US$1,595 a villa). It is Cambodia's first private island resort, with 27 rainforest, beach and over-water villas.

Besides the usual beach activities, guests of Song Saa can also go for a night swim to experience the natural phenomenon of bioluminescence, in which the water glows because of the light-emitting micro-organisms.

Meals are a fusion of Khmer and Western cuisines.

Best time to visit: October to May when the weather is dry. June to September is the monsoon season.

To book: Luxury tour operator Lightfoot Travel offers a package to Song Saa, in which you get three nights for the price of two. Priced from $4,148 for two, it includes accommodation in a jungle villa, meals, activities and return speedboat transfers. Travel period from June 1 to Oct 31, call 6438-4091 or e-mail info@lightfoottravel.com

 

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