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From the Ground: Royal Sands Koh Rong

By Jay Austin

Royal Sands Koh Rong  has recently opened a new 67 villa luxury resort on Koh Rong Island in Southern Cambodia in October 2017. 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 Senses Spa offers a full range of spa treatments and therapies, along with an outdoor yoga studio for yoga and meditation classes.

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

This property  is a new highlight in Cambodia’s south!

Na Nirand Romantic Boutique Resort

By Nicole Long

We have a new signature hotel partner in Chiang Mai – the Na Nirand Romantic Boutique Resort.  This resort offers everything our guests are looking for – a charming boutique property near the historic part of Chiang Mai along the Ping River waterfront, with good service, and a traditional aesthetic.

Nestled down a small soi (street) on the Ping Riverside, next to the Chai Mongkon Temple and a 5-10 minute walk from the Night Market, is a charming hideaway – the Na Nirand Romantic Boutique Resort.  This newly opened boutique property (Dec 2016) is half-wood Lanna-Colonial style and reminiscent of the traditional Thai house design from the late 19th century.  Forty-one out of the 45 rooms have a private balcony that overlooks the hotel’s tropical gardens and tranquil swimming pool, which is in view of the 100 year old Rain Tree.   The rooms are beautifully decorated with wood and rattan furniture, with accents of local textiles and handicrafts.  The four colonial suites are located in a heritage style house, with a private infinity pool and overlooking the Ping River.  They are individually themed (British-Indian, Burmese, Chinese and Siamese) and provide a private balcony, separate living space and a giant, luxurious bathroom with dual sinks, a rain shower room and a freestanding claw-foot bathtub.

In addition to the pool, the resort’s facilities include a full service spa, outdoor gym, library, conference rooms and laundry services. The Time Riverfront Restaurant, which includes a 360 degree rooftop bar, offers afternoon high tea and Thai Lanna/International fusion cuisine. The restaurant, located next to the 100 year old Rain Tree and the Ping River, gives guests one of the best views for breakfast.  Make sure to arrive early in the morning to sit at one of the much sought after riverside tables – you won’t regret it. The majority of the staff have worked at 5 star properties in Chiang Mai so you can be assured you will be receiving excellent, personalized service.

The resort is definitely what it claims to be – a romantic boutique hideaway.  Guests are given the opportunity to feel and experience the surrounding nature, traditional Lanna culture, warm Thai hospitality and ultimate relaxation.

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: