Three nights for the price of two
Destinations in Cambodia
Playground to princes, politicians and pleasure-seekers, the palm-fringed headland formerly known as Kep-sur-Mer was Cambodia’s most glamorous beach resort for the first half of the 20th century.
In a pristine pocket of the Gulf of Thailand, off the coast of party-primed Sihanoukville, lie Cambodia's Koh Rong Islands, a handful of isles that are piquing the interest of luxury hounds around the world.
Thronged by adventurers and travellers since the 1900s, this once-sleepy Khmer village is now a bustling tourist hotspot.
There may be a non-stop party atmosphere on Sihanoukville’s shores, but it’s what lies beyond this southern Cambodian coastal hub that is piquing the interest of luxury hounds around the world.
Escape in eco-luxe style to Song Saa Private Island, an effortless rustic-chic spread of private-pool villas dotting pristine Koh Rong islands. Feast on spanking-fresh seafood, loll in the blissful spa; a cheeky dip in the secluded outdoor bath tub is an absolute must.
Knai Bang Chatt’s modernist villas are set on Kep’s simple but stylish seafront, boasting driftwood day-beds, a gulf-view pool and art deco styling. Lazy lunches and greedy dinners are taken at the Sailing Club, but for a castaway treat staff can organise a beachfront barbecue at nearby Rabbit Island.
You’ll never be far from sustenance in snack-loving Cambodia. Street food is king: on Phnom Penh’s rue Pasteur, try crispy nom pain pâté sandwiches or ansam (grilled sticky rice parcels stuffed with bananas or jackfruit). Kep’s cove-perched market shacks pack a culinary punch; Kimly's coconut-laced green-pepper crab, fresh from the sea, is the stuff of foodie daydreams. In Siem Reap, make like the locals and order plates of sticky lemongrass ribs in Nouveau Pho de Paris, or sample Cuisine Wat Damnak’s delectable Khmer tasting menu – Raymond Blanc is a fan. Whatever you do, don’t leave without getting a taste of The Blue Pumpkin’s salty-sweet caramel cashew nut ice-cream.
Leave your languid lifestyle for Siem Reap, a once-sleepy Khmer village whose neighbouring ruins have made it a bustling destination for adventurous travellers for over a century. Settle in behind your own colonial era façade at the Heritage Suites Hotel, a collection of chic and intimate bungalows set amid a lush tropical garden, before heading out for a cocktail at the legendary, art deco Foreign Correspondents Club bar and dinner of nouveau Khmer cuisine at AHA. Don’t stay out too late, though, because you’ll need to be up bright and early to hop into the hotel’s vintage car for your ride over to Angkor Wat and the surrounding temple complexes. After a Khmer historian takes you around and you’ve had enough of the dust and the heat, return home to indulge in body- and mind-restoring treatments at the hotel’s superlative spa. If you can tear yourself away from the pool, explore some of the town’s local restaurants, take a cooking class and, of course, load up on Khmer art with private gallery visits.
You’d be mad, of course, to miss the enigmatic splendour of Angkor, a sprawling complex of pink-tinged granite temples, carving-lined riverbeds and mirror-smooth reservoirs. Laid-back colonial Siem Reap is sleepy by day and heady by night; it pays to spend a day or two sampling its sybaritic pleasures (Heritage Suites’ Bodia Spa is a Smith favourite) before venturing further afield. Phnom Penh beckons with its dizzying mess of bars, daredevil motodops and charming Mekong riverfront; beyond, sugar-palm dotted paddy fields extend to stretches of idyllic beaches, sleepy seaside Kep and Mondulkiri’s unspoilt jungles and waterfalls.