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From the Ground: Royal Sands Koh Rong Opening October 2017

By Jay Austin

Royal Sands Koh Rong  is getting ready to open a new 67 villa luxury resort on Koh Rong Island in Southern Cambodia in October 2017, and is already accepting bookings starting in October.  The villa options include Oceanview Villas, Beachfront Villas, Ocieanview Pool Villas, Beachfront Pool Villas, Two-Bedroom Oceanview Pool Villas and a Three-Bedroom Beachfront Pool Villa.

This luxury property intends to compete with Song Saa Private Island and will also offer a variety of activities such as snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, sailing, mountain biking, romantic picnics and excursions by private boat to neighboring islands where you can explore untouched beaches

The Bliss Spa will offer a full range of spa treatments and therapies, along with an outdoor yoga studio for yoga and meditation classes.

The main pool will be located by The Chill Beach Bar and Grill which will offer fresh and delicious lunches, along with more refined dinner options.

This property certainly promises to be a highlight in Cambodia’s South!

Cambodia’s Beautiful Beaches – The Lazy Beach Hotel

By Courtney Ridgel

If you desire tropical white sand beaches without Thailand’s crowds and pricey hotels, look no further than Cambodia’s Lazy Beach Hotel – a beautiful property on the island of Koh Rong Saloem, off the coast of Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Julia Cuthbertson and Carlos Jimenez traveled to Vietnam and Cambodia for their honeymoon in March.  In Cambodia they discovered a private paradise at the Lazy Beach Hotel and shared their experience below:

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Julia Cuthbertson looking out over Lazy Beach

Lazy Beach, located on Koh Rong Saloem island in the Gulf of Thailand, was the perfect island getaway to cap off a fabulous trip. The slow 2.5 hour boat ride from Sihanoukville was just the beginning of a few days that were fabulously slow and restful. We were greeted at the dock by Chris, the wonderful owner, who brought us to the bar for a welcome drink and to meet the staff.

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The path to the restaurant, which is open all day long
Our bungalow was just feet from the water
Home, Sweet Home!
Home, Sweet Home!

Our bungalow, positioned about 50 feet from the beach, came complete with 2 hammocks and a sitting area on a large porch, and 2 queen sized beds outfitted with mosquito nets. Although the bungalows are being renovated, ours was an older model, and harkened back to a simpler and more rustic lifestyle. The property generator only turns on from around 4 or 5 p.m. until dawn, so you can charge electronics and use the fan at night, but not during the day. WiFi has not yet arrived to the island and I am hoping it stays this way. We had two friendly (and stunning) spotted gecko friends that alternated between our porch and our bathroom the whole time.

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There are many places to relax, read a book and sip a fresh fruit smoothie
One of the colorful local boats
One of the colorful local boats moored off the beach

The rustic nature of Lazy Beach was appealing to us from the beginning and was definitely what made our experience there so special. Without any programmed activities, emails to check, pictures to post or high-end amenities, the hardest decision to make was where to be… lazy. Whether snorkeling, reading, lounging, playing cards, or going for a walk, we were utterly relaxed but never bored. One day we walked 20 minutes to Saracen Bay, a beautiful beach on the other side of the island, and the next we did a short (and vertical) hike up to a lookout point that gave us the most spectacular views of Lazy Beach and beyond. The last night we went swimming after dinner and were amazing by all of the bio-luminescent plankton that surrounded us.

We had the beach to ourselves
We had this beautiful beach all to ourselves
Julia taking in the sunset
Julia taking in the sunset

The bar and restaurant is in a large, beautiful and recently renovated villa and the kitchen is open continuously all day. The menu is varied, with a mix of traditional Cambodian and Asian dishes and some more international/western offerings as well. We thought the food was absolutely delicious, and we enjoyed eating it while lounging in all of the different areas of the villa.  Wandering up from the beach for an afternoon smoothie became a quick habit of ours. The staff was lovely, service was quick, and they were extremely accommodating.

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The dining room at the Lazy Beach
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Freshly made spring rolls

Chris, the owner, told us that development on the island is happening at lightning speed (which we could see in Saracen Bay). For now, Lazy Beach is the only resort on this particular bay and we hope it stays this way for as long as possible. It felt like true luxury to find ourselves, at times, completely alone on such a beautiful beach in the warmest, most inviting country.

An end to another perfect day at the Lazy Beach Hotel
An end to another perfect day at Lazy Beach

Song Saa- My Experience

By: April Cole- US Director of Operations and Tours

My family and I recently took a little escape to the newly opened Song Saa Private Island Resort off the coast of Sihanoukville, Cambodia.  To say we had a wonderful time would certainly be an understatement.  Song Saa far exceeded our standards and expectations.

Reflecting on our stay, I wanted to piece together how the luxury resort managed to exceed my high expectations.  Being in the travel/service industry I know that a perfect experience is never due to one person’s actions. A perfect experience is always a mix of the quality of the property as well as the service from the staff.

The villas:

The villas are gorgeous. Well appointed, spacious, and decorated with a beachy, but luxurious, style. The beds are beyond comfortable and the living area has everything you could want, yet you don’t feel overwhelmed with technology. The bathrooms feel like your own personal spa.

There are three room types on the island. All have the same room layout and décor style (which means all are gorgeous!). The main difference is where on the island the villas are located. The beach front villa, which we stayed in, would be my top choice for families. And, yes, I highly recommend this resort for families with younger kids–I will go into that a bit later. The other two villas are the over-water villas and the jungle villas.

Beach Front Villa–This is the room type we stayed in. It boasts the biggest personal outdoor space. With a plunging infinity pool, separate lounge and eating areas, plus your own little sandy beach we could have never left our villa and have had a magical beach experience.

The Over-Water Villa– I will likely recommend this villa type for most of our guests. Why? Your villa is on stilts over the water with a clear floor in the living room so you can look down at the coral reef your villa is perched over.  And even better-you have an infinity pool looking over the gulf to an idyllic island across the water. You can walk right out of your villa and go swimming in the pool or in the gulf. This villa is the type of thing you have categorized in your brain as the definition of “Paradise.”  I would have stayed in this villa if it were just me and my husband looking for a romantic getaway.

The Jungle VillaAgain, the same layout as the other villas, so you know the villa itself is beautiful. These rooms are the most economical of all the villa options but, in my opinion, it’s worth it to upgrade. The cost difference isn’t significant and there isn’t the “wow” factor of the over-water villa and beach villas. Now, I’m a water baby and I have a thing for the dramatic, so I can see how being on the water would be something that would appeal to me more than a jungle villa. I would recommend the jungle villa for those who really want to feel more like they are in a tree house escape and want the “on top of the world” views.

The Experience:

There’s no point in not saying it – Song Saa is expensive. At around $1500/night you should expect a lot. The great thing about Song Saa is that I think they know that and want to make sure the value is really there. The things that Song Saa includes in their resort package really add up to create a true experience and a true value

The food:

I think the food plus the food experiences could actually top my love of the villas. Our first night at Song Saa we were treated to a personalized in-room dining/movie experience. The staff kept in mind that we were traveling with little kids and they offered to download any kids movie we wanted on their iPad and then set up a projector in our room to watch the movie. Well, what wouldn’t be better with an in room movie but meals specially prepared for each child and each adult?

The kids were given a starter of BBQ’d octopus (pretty sure this was meant for Chris and me, but the kids liked it better!) which they enjoyed at the over-water restaurant while Chris and I had a pre-dinner cocktail and watched the sunset.  Next came home-made pasta for the kiddos, followed by popcorn with mixed toppings to snack on while watching the movie.  This kid-friendly feast ended spectacularly with an ice cream variety plate.  I don’t think I need to explain how happy my kids were with this, and how happy my husband and I were to be able to relax while the kids enjoyed their upscale kid-movie experience. While the kids were watching their movie, we were brought a multi-course meal designed by the chef, paired with amazing wines and beers. Perfection.

The next day my husband was playing with the kids on the beach when the chef approached him and asked if we’d enjoy a private BBQ dinner by the pool. That night we had a 7 course BBQ meal prepared just for us, with fresh locally-caught fish, while dining by the pool under the stars.  Again- magical.

The adventures:

When you get into your room, you are shown a menu of private adventure experiences that can be set up by the resort such as mangrove kayaking, a tour of a local village on the neighboring island, an adventure to another neighboring island to see where the last battle of the Vietnam-American war took place, and much much more.  I looked at the menu and was deeply saddened that I didn’t have enough time to do every single thing on it. They were all so cool! We opted for a few special experiences.

Since we were traveling with the kiddos, we opted to take the Nature Scavenger Hunt. The hunt was led by a member of the Conservation Team and he led us all around the islands looking for local animals and teaching us about each of the animals we were looking for. This was such a fun experience for my 5 year old son as he not only got to run around on a scavenger hunt, but he got to learn about a lot of animals that are not native here in the States.

I indulged in the sunrise Yoga session. It was such a treat as I was the only person there so I had a one on one session. The yoga instructor, who was also the director of the spa on the island, really paid attention to what I needed in my practice and I felt like she catered the session just to what I needed.

Sustainability:

As you know all of us here at Journeys Within care very deeply about traveling responsibily, supporting the local community and the local environment. I came to Song Saa knowing that they have a lot of words on their website talking about sustainability, but I wasn’t sure how their actions really stood up to those noted standards.

I had a chance to speak with quite a few different staff members, including the service staff, conservation team and the resort manager. What I found was an overall pride with every staff member. Each person reflected a happiness to be a part of this resort, it’s development and it’s initiatives. Honestly, it reminded me of the staff at Journeys Within Boutique Hotel/Travel Company – that pride in knowing that you’re part of a company that is doing things the right way. We discussed staff treatment and quality of living quarters. We also chatted about the construction of the resort and the impact that was made on the coral reef and the island. Now, I’m not an environmental expert and I’m the first to say that, but after speaking with the conservation team it did seem that the construction was done with careful consideration to preserving the reef and all the creatures that call it home.

We also received the great news that the new manager of the Song Saa resort is Mr. Christian De Boer, whom we know from Hotel De La Paix in Siem Reap. Mr. De Boer was the driving force behind Hotel De La Paix’s community involvement and we are really looking forward to seeing what his plans are for the community around Song Saa.

I truly hope to come back to Song Saa in the future. It was luxury done perfectly. If you’re considering going to Song Saa, I would say go now. So if you want to go, give me a ring or an email and I will happily book your stay there. Now they are also offering direct flights from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville a few times a week so you can visit the temples, Journeys Within Boutqiue Hotel, and then fly over for a luxurious beach holiday with minimum overland travel.

All the best,

April

april@journeys-within.com

877-454-3672

Here are a few photographic memories of my dream-like stay at Song Saa that I would like to share with you: