Sitting at the beach bar, sipping a cocktail, I cannot help but congratulate myself on my choice of destination. The sea is inviting, the sun is hot and the private beach is immaculate and free of hustling salespeople. Perched on the shore of the Gulf of Thailand, the Sokha Beach Resort Hotel in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, is a hidden gem that allows you to bask in luxurious surroundings yet still feel as though you are off the tourist trail.
I am staying in a Moha Mohori water chalet, set over a lake. As well as a bedroom, which is more than ample, the suite includes a living room and separate dining area. There is also a kitchenette – but with a variety of local and Western dishes available 24 hours a day from room service, it is unlikely to be put to use. The highlights are the enormous bed, bedecked with sumptuous fabrics, and the free-standing bath, which affords you, while bathing, a view over the shimmering water.
The architecture of the hotel is influenced heavily by the traditional Khmer style and features an abundance of intricately carved wood and ornate gold detailing. It has a range of facilities, including four restaurants, six bars, swimming pools, fitness centre and a spa with a good selection of treatments available. In short, it is easily one of those hotels where you could spend your entire holiday.
However, the place to visit in Cambodia is Angkor Wat near the town of Siem Reap, several hours away by bus or local taxi but only 70 minutes by private helicopter (which can be chartered through the hotel). This ancient site found fame when a small part was featured in the first Tomb Raider film, but it is in fact a sprawling complex of temples and palaces which is at its best at dawn and takes at least a day to explore fully. Most striking is the Bayon temple, from which giant stone faces peer down as you pick your way amongst the ruins.
For the more politically minded, the recent history of Cambodia is well worth exploring and there are several museums in Phnom Penh dedicated to the effects of the Vietnam War and the tragedies of Pol Pot’s regime. The Killing Fields, in particular, are a reminder of this bloody period which is not for the faint-hearted.
Cambodia is a land of contrasts: a place where one can be amazed by the beauty of unspoilt nature and the remains of long lost civilizations and at a turn be struck by the cruelty of humanity. It is a place where travel can be an adventure but where it is fortunately also possible to enjoy the country’s rich and vibrant culture while staying in the lap of luxury.
Sokha Beach Resort Hotel