AnnMarie concludes her two-part series with a guide to Song Saa, otherwise known as The Sweethearts...
Buddha once said, ?It is better to travel well than to arrive.? I'm guessing he never made it to the Song Saa private island resort.? After taking a plane to Phnom Penh and a subsequent three-hour car journey to Sihanoukville port, we were greeted by cold towels, cold drinks and a white-hot speedboat journey to Cambodia's untouched Koh Rong Archipelago. The trek was worth it; not least the vista of overwater bungalows that flank its secluded harbour. Song Saa (Khmer for ?The Sweetheart?) boasts two islands, Koh Ouen and Koh Bong, linked by a bleached wood bridge. Small and perfectly formed, Song Saa's intimacy is part of its charm, especially when guests get a meet-and-greet from the barefoot staff at the pier. This is the point at which we literally kicked off our shoes?
As an eco-friendly sustainable resort, the island mantra is ?luxury that treads lightly?. The 27 open-plan villas, each boasting their own superlative view, are sustainably built and conversant with the surrounding environment. Try Ocean View for sunrise, Overwater for sunsets or Jungle for rainforest-clad privacy. We chose the Royal Villa for our five-night stay complete with private jetty. Each property boasts its own infinity pool, private deck, outdoor showers, four poster beds, Aesop botanical bath products and all-inclusive mini bar. Oh, did I mention the mojito starter kit? Nice.
Mindfulness defines the very essence of Song Saa. Take a barefoot stroll through the rainforest for quiet time at the Koh Bong meditation rocks. Practise sunrise yoga in the outdoor sala or unblock your chi with a Kundalini back massage at the Sanctuary (unbelievable, trust me!). It's all part of the prevailing Buddhist tradition of 'metta bhavana?, or loving kindness, which also finds expression in the resort's community development projects. Having established a marine reserve to safeguard the islands? reefs and exotic marine life (sea turtles, anyone?), not to mention local initiatives from book drives to organic composting, the karma factor is undeniable. A trip to neighbouring Koh Rong with Song Saa's resident botanist helped give us a more well-rounded understanding of Cambodian culture and the foundation's full-circle values.
The beauty of Song Saa isn't just in its lush surroundings but in its personal touch. When you've finished reading that 600-page novel beside the plunge pool or snorkelling villa-side, why not avail of the organised activities on offer? We chose to kayak through the Koh Rong mangroves followed by a guided walk through the rainforests and a beachside catered picnic (five miles of unblemished coral sand... sigh.) The irony? Survivor Bulgaria was being filmed only a short distance away (if only they knew!). After we mentioned that we were keen to see an indigenous hornbill, the team also organised a lovely surprise - two seats at sunset and a bottle of prosecco at the mouth of the Koh Bong rainforest, a breeding colony for bats and roosting site for sea eagles and owls. Special? Yes.
Dinner menus are customised by the head chef and general manager and delivered daily to each villa (rolled parchment tied to your door handle with twine). Each evening offers a unique culinary experience in a different location of the island, from the 360-degree Vista overwater dining room to the beachside Driftwood Bar; you can dine poolside by candlelight or be catered to in your villa. The locally sourced Khmer ingredients make for light, fragrant cuisine worthy of anticipation. Should mouths water before dinner is served, do as we did and start with a barefoot aperitif on a bean bag overlooking the harbour.
The most disappointing thing about Song Saa? Having to leave?
Book your holiday at www.songsaa.com