When a fellow maiden in all things bougi life decided to elaborate on her Cambodian experience of a more natural and genuine world treasure, we thought it only fair to elaborate further, with the rest of you. As believers in redefining today's state of socalled luxury, and basically breaking down what is correct, in really good life, this would be prime testament.
So, Sonal Vara-Gross, tell us about Song Saa...
So, Sonal Vara-Gross, tell us about Song Saa...
"From the moment we touched down in Sinoukville, a sleepy seaside town (which I am sure will one day be bustling with tourists), we knew we were in for a very special treat. A smartly dressed driver welcomed us and immediately escorted us to our awaiting 4x4 - with cold towels, and refreshments, obviously.
A sleek speedboat was birthed ready to wisk us off to Song Saa Private Island. 45 minutes later, we could see Song Saa, at first glance it looked like a floating rainforest (not a tropical sandy island one usually congers up), smack bang in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand. We were so far out to sea we could only see old wooden fishing boats dotted around the rest of the unspoilt archipelago islands. The "Sweetheart Islands" as Song Saa is known for, is made up of two twin islands, and as we came closer we could see they were joined only by a small wooden bridge. The main island where we would be staying had beautiful villas peering out, and beside it lay its twin island completely uninhabited, engulfed in rich natural rainforest. Realising that we had well and truly left Cambodia and all its stunning temples behind, the captain revealed the island had its own time zone, and operates an hour later than mainland; the guests could therefore enjoy an extra lie in or a longer sundowner. How privileged we were to have our own timezone - "Island Time".
As we stepped out onto the resort's beautiful soft white sand, we were welcomed by a barefoot Australian gentlemen clad in shorts and a linen shirt. His name was Greg, the GM, with his happy smiling team beside him. As an ex-hotelier, I have never seen a GM so relaxed and happy at work, which definitely rubbed off on us."Kick off your shoes its just us here on your island". Ahhhh, and so it begins.
Where do I start. There was something different to this island. I had expected the usual luxuries, ocean view, beautiful room, but from the onset the staff, were not just staff. They became our carers, our friends. Their cambodian warmth, sincerity and kindness intoxicates you before you even begin to know your surroundings. "David and Sonal welcome to your villa (a barefoot casual staff member dressed in linens tells us), we've stocked all your favourite drinks and snacks as you requested in the questionnaire sent to you, and I will be here for whatever you may need in the meantime. Please relax and enjoy yourself. Just one special request, please dont use shampoo in the outside shower so we can continue to protect our environment" and their it was. Luxury has a protective conscience on Song Saa.
The room was spectacular and completely in tune with its surroundings. A rustic chic interior, driftwood table lamps, island flowers sprinkled all over the terrace accompanied by rich vegetation meandering around our outdoor space - with the perfect sunset view of nothing else but ocean to wake up to. Don’t mistake me, rustic as it was, luxury oozed from the chenille bathrobes (which cost $400 upon my enquiring, as this was too heavenly and fluffy and large to go unnoticed should I want to hide it away in my suitcase).
The 1000 plus thread count sheets and the consuming duvet made sure you wanted to make full use of the in-room dining experience. That was clearly our favourite part. Song Saa is an all-inclusive resort and your room rate includes everything the resort has to offer, from casual dining to fine dining to the extra special treats the staff prepare for you as part of their personalised couples experience. Even the watersports are included, so one can blindly and fully indulge, without ever thinking of any extra damage to your little plastic card.
I quickly discovered that "Diavolio Pizza" (made in the Driftwood Bar's open fire pizza oven) was the best thing in the world. And it was that divine because the star chef from this floating fine dining restaurant also cared and personally watched over how the Diavolio pizza was precisely made. With only 27 bungalows on the resort, the staff knew exactly how I liked my bloody Mary, from the second time I ordered it actually. They would even anticipate my arrival, and have it prepared as they could see us walking up to the bar from the island's shores.
Another wondrous highlight: Specially prepared dinner by Head Chef Neil in an apparantly "secret" part of the island. Escorted through the rainforest as the sun said goodbye for the day, we find the most beautiful set-up for two, romantically candlelit, secluded and naturally loving, all for David and I - under a tree.
By the fourth day, it was affirmed this resort only knew one thing: How to surpass your expectations... On a rainy tropical day, the island was taken over by a storm, and so we were confined to our villa, however as we began to tuck ourselves into a good book, our phone rings and our butler asks if we would like the in-room cinema screen to be set up accompanied by an array of different flavoured popcorn? "Yes please" we reply immediately.
The attention to detail is what really made Song Saa stand out as a modern luxurious resort - a far cry from Cambodia's otherwise rural and poverty stricken mainland. The resort's conscious commitment to its environment however, mindful of its people and surroundings, only adds to its overall charm and authenticity (for indeed, who really cares like this anymore).
We learned of the resort's much talked about conservation program, to sustain and assist the neighboring fishing villages we could see across the water. The good work of Song Saa was never shoved in our face nor bragged about in any way; it was the local staff who spoke of the impact within their commnities, and with such pride, that we just had know more. Barnaby, Head of Conservation on the island, told us how coral was being nurtured, and how the resort was looking to buy local fish from the fishing villages, and how he feels he has contributed beyond the science in such a fulfilling manner. Isn't it so lovely when humans work with humans, and the earth, to actually benefit humans - and the earth.
We were taken to Prek Svay, a fishing village relocated from Song Saa when the owners, Roy and Melita, bought the island and created the resort. They fulfilled their obligation beyond what a normal hard faced hotelier would normally do, by ensuring the lives of the fishermen and their families were interwoven with Song Saa, socially, financially and complimentarily.
David and I found ourselves mesmerised by the children’s smiles, warmth and vigor for life in this neighboring village, so much so that we decided to stay a while, give back, spend some time at the school teaching, and later sending educational books. All because of our journey to a secret private island in the untouched Koh Rong archipelago islands, where we discovered such beautiful people, with cleansed and pure souls.
On this Cambodian vacation, we had found an untouched natural beauty in Song Saa. Both service and style left us unspeakably spoiled - with the a socially enriching experience of seeing and knowing real fishing villages. This is true luxury: understated, caring and enchanting. We shall return sooner than expected."