Many things make 4 Rivers Floating Lodge special. The first is its unique location, only accessible by boat.
4 Rivers is made up of safari tents and floats on the Tatai River, opposite the small river island of Koh Andet. It’s named for the four rivers between Phnom Penh and Koh Kong province. With the Cardamom Mountains surrounding the lodge it’s definitely a hideaway in nature.
It’s still camping, or rather ‘glamping’, without the dirt, or crawling around to get into a ‘two-man’ tent. It’s a true retreat with no WiFi and very little mobile signal. The perfect place to get away from the busy world.
The 12 beige safari tents (which sleep two to three people) are erected on a platform that is moored to the bank of the river in the Cardamom National Park. There is an odd but not unpleasant sensation of buoyancy, especially during the wind and rain. The tents are large, 45 sq m, with a living and sleeping area and separate bathroom. The bathroom has an incredible wine barrel shower (unfortunately no wine). Three fans keep you cool, eliminating the hot, sweatiness that usually goes with camping, and I found that I didn’t miss air conditioning at all.
The environmental credentials also make the lodge special. It is incredibly low impact. If the tents and pontoon were dragged away, all traces of its existence would be erased in moments. Electricity comes from solar panels and a generator. Hot water is supplied through gas bottles but the Romanian and Filipina owners are working on installing more solar panels so that the lodge can be more self-sustaining.
4 Rivers will force you to relax and enjoy nature for a few days. There is no escape! The onboard restaurant provides all meals. You can fish or swim in the river, relax on your private sundeck or use one of the free kayaks.
The first thing you notice when you walk through the doors of Governor’s House is the amazing array of antiques. It’s easy to see that Belgian owner and antiques dealer, Alan Garnier, has chosen to make his boutique hotel a living museum. The reception area has an antique cabinet from Versailles. Other parts of the hotel, including the rooms, house antique furniture from across Asia along with ceramics and other artefacts.
The building itself is 150 years old, a former residence of the governor, although it’s only been a hotel for two years.
Extensions and remodelling has created 12 unique bedrooms and an impressive triple height atrium. Funky bar area (try the Asian mojito), outdoor chill out zone, swimming pool and two dining areas complete the accommodation.
Each room is different, as is the furniture within. I loved my antique wardrobe and pre-Pol Pot era traditional Khmer desk. One room even had a desk which once belonged to Winston Churchill but a booking meant I didn’t get a chance to sit at it.
The bed was not antique. I’ve slept on some comfortable mattresses but I think this was the best one yet. The mattress gently cradled and cushioned me no matter which way I turned. Kind of like sleeping on clouds. Sweet dreams indeed.
The staff are incredibly welcoming and my name was written (and spelled correctly!) on the welcome chalkboard, which made it easy to meet fellow guests. Soft music plays in the public areas and seating on the balconies encouraged me to explore and relax as though it was my very own colonial mansion.
With only 12 rooms the hotel has high occupancy rates, mainly from couples and business travellers, with an increasing demand for twin and family accommodation.
With my love of history, I enjoyed being up close and personal to the history in the hotel and, from the elegant façade and the beautifully polished teak floors to the antique chairs, I felt right at home.
Governor’s House is a member of Secret Retreats (www.secret-retreats.com), a collection of boutique residences, hotels and boats throughout Asia and a brand that provides experiences for the discerning traveller.
The longer I stayed at Knai Bang Chatt the less I wanted to leave.
This French colonial era hotel occupies a secluded stretch of the Kep seaside. With an infinity pool overlooking the rolling waves, you’ll get your fill of sun, surf and water.
The 18 rooms are housed in five 1960s art deco French villas, four of which are original, including the floor tiles. My ocean view double came complete with traditional Khmer bed, with a rain water shower I didn’t want to get out of, a mix of restored, new and recycled wooden furniture and amazing antique ceramics. There are mosquito nets in every room but, despite the garden setting, I didn’t notice many mosquitoes during my stay in July.
All the rooms at KBC have a unique layout and are individually decorated. Great care has been taken to select locally or nationally made furniture, tiles and Khmer ceramics. There is nothing sterile or ‘samey’ about this resort. It feels more like staying in a luxury home than a hotel.
Management want you to get out in the Kep countryside or explore the grounds of the resort so there are televisions in only two of the rooms, and in the communal library. The smooth running of the hotel appears effortless, with the hard work happening out of site.
The Strand restaurant has some of the finest dining in Kep, along with the adjacent KBS Sailing Club. The fresh crab cakes are the best I’ve had in my life. Breakfast was served every morning in The Strand, overlooking the sea. There is a buffet choice of freshly made pastries, bread, cereal, cheese and fruit. Hot food such as Khmer noodle soup, eggs Benedict or pancakes are made to order and are delicious.
KBC is popular with couples and discerning expats from Phnom Penh. Some of my fellow guests were repeat visitors and everyone looked so happy to be here. Families can also be accommodated in an adjoining room suite.
The hotel was undergoing a discreet ‘facelift’ so everything should be fresh for your stay.
Navutu Dreams is a stunning oasis in busy Siem Reap. It’s on the edge of town and its neighbours are rice fields. It feels a world away from the dusty streets and backpacker throng of the Old Market but is just a 10 minute tuk tuk ride from the action.
The staff are incredibly friendly and will do everything in their power to make your stay enjoyable. We were greeted by name whenever we saw the front of house staff. The check-in process was smooth, with a delicious welcome drink and an information pack including activities within and around Siem Reap.
There are 28 rooms at the resort, each with a patio and garden area. The Grand Tour deluxe rooms also have a roof terrace with sun loungers to while away your morning or from which to watch the stars.
We stayed in the incredibly spacious Grand Tour room which was gorgeous. The blue, white and yellow décor are reminiscent of Mediterranean Europe, perhaps a nod to the owner’s Italian heritage. I felt like a princess as I splashed around the large corner bath in the main room, or strolled into the walk-in wardrobe, which opens up to a bathroom and separate rain shower room.
There are three pools to choose from when you return from a long day at the temples – a 18 metre, chlorine treated, fresh water lap pool, a family salt water pool and a salt water lounge pool. The lounge pool was our favourite, the shade and salt water keeping the temperature a touch cooler during our visit in the dry hot season. With 5 spa treatment rooms, daily yoga classes, detox and wellness programmes, we weren’t surprised to learn that some guests come, not for the temples, but for what’s on offer at the hotel.
As well as providing incredible hospitality, the hotel supports a local community project which supports the lives of children previously living and begging on the streets.