Katie Law rounds off her Cambodian journey with four days of downtime at the beautiful Song Saa Private Island Resort.
I’d heard so much about Song Saa, but not even the glossy promotional brochure prepares you for the staggering beauty of this lush little island resort in the Koh Rong archipelago off the south west coast of Cambodia.
With its row of silvery, driftwood thatched-roof villas on stilts hugging one the side of the bay, bar and restaurant built out on another, and separate infinity pool facing out to sea, it’s a place of hidden nooks and crannies to explore and discover.
One day we walked out across the bridge to Koh Bong, which has been left deliberately untouched to encourage nesting birds such as white-bellied sea eagles, hornbills and Malaysian plovers. A short scramble through dense tropical jungle brings you out to the far side of the island where, standing on the beautiful striated, coloured rocks worn smooth by centuries of crashing waves, you face out onto nothing but the open ocean.
On another day we kayaked up the mangrove swamps and took a boat to the small fishing village of Prek Svay on Koh Rong opposite. The villagers were friendly and all the children, just finishing school, came bounding up, wanting to hold our hand. There are no cars, only boats and in the distance, all we could hear were the sounds of cocks crowing, the occasional dog barking and the thump of hammers against wood as repairs were being done to a house on the waterfront.
One night I lay in bed with the windows and doors wide open, watching fork and sheet lightening light up the bay in intense bursts, as hot winds and warm rain swept into the room; it was quickly over, as the weather here seems to change constantly.
We stayed for four nights at Song Saa, an ideal amount of time to adjust to the tranquil rhythms of this special place. Our jungle villa had its own little tropical rainforest garden and a terrace complete with sofas and plunge pool. Standing under a shell-encrusted outdoor shower, we’d watch the green and blue painted wooden fishing boats go chugging gently by and feel every inch as if we were living in our own dream rough-luxe tropical treehouse. Eat your heart out, Robinson Crusoe. Lovely touches included the ingredients for mixing our own mojitos and little home-made chocolate mousses being left in the fridge. Each morning we’d wake up to find a message rolled up in twine, rather than in a bottle, tied to the front door, with suggestions for the day ahead.
We always ate out. Barracuda and salmon sashimi for lunch by the pool – you can even have your table and chairs placed in the shallow part of the pool to keep your feet cool – washed down with cold beer or fresh lemonade, and at night we would choose between the laid back Driftwood bar, the main restaurant or down on the beach for a changing daily menu made with locally sourced ingredients including lots of fresh fish and seafood. Wherever we were, the food was never less than exceptional. When the time came to say goodbye, it felt as if we were coming out of a dream to return to the real world.