Published on March 3, 2020

MYANMAR: Secluded Sand


by Dave Stamboulis

When most visitors think of Southeast Asian beaches, Myanmar usually isn’t the first country to come to mind. Which is probably just fine for those in the know. With over 2,000 miles of untouched coastline and some 800 uninhabited islands in the magical Mergui Archipelago, you’ll find plenty of hidden gems and tropical paradises reminiscent of what Thailand was like thirty or forty years ago. For those who want seclusion, epic sunsets, along with some of the best diving to be found in the region, Myanmar’s your choice. Just don’t delay on going, as the word is starting to spread about this white sand nirvana.

115 Island, Mergui Archipelago by David van Driessche

Ngapali (pronounced Napally) beach is Myanmar’s most popular swath of sand, and features seven kilometers of gorgeous palm-fringed blindingly white sand. Once only accessible by a tortuous mountain road through Rakhine Province, you can now arrive in 45 minutes via a flight from Yangon to the nearby Thandwe Airport. The long curving beach here faces west and is noted for its dramatic sunsets. Ngapali is wonderfully relaxing, and if you get bored you can always make a day trip out to the unique black sand island of Zalat Htone, just a short boat ride away. Even better yet, head out to Ngapali’s most secluded piece of paradise, Lalay Lodge (https://lalaylodge.com/), a sustainable beachfront resort hidden in laid back Maung Shwe Lay fishing village (45 minutes by boat from Ngapali) where you can hike, bike, standup paddle, and snorkel to your heart’s content, all the while enjoying an authentic local village experience.

Lalay Lodge, Ngapali photo courtesy of Lalay Lodge

If you’re looking for a weekend beach escape from Yangon, there are a couple of options. Choose between sleepy Chaung Tha, a beach mainly frequented by locals and noted for its abundance of excellent fresh seafood. Chaung Tha is only reachable by road, some 5-6 hours from Yangon, and is home to the comfy Azura Beach Resort (https://azura-beach-resort-chaungtha.booked.net/). Otherwise, head to Ngwe Saung (Silver Beach), accessed by a 6 hour drive (or even a 16 hour boat journey!). There are 15 kilometers of silvery sand to spread out on here, and the beach faces the Bay of Bengal, once again making for sunset-viewing extraordinaire.

Azura Beach Resort, Chaung Thar by Jaffee Yee

However, if you truly want an escape, and to see what Asian beaches must have been like before mass tourism, head to the Mergui Archipelago. Comprised of some 800 islands off of Myanmar’s southern coast, the Mergui features endless turquoise bays, total solitude, amazing opportunities for diving, snorkeling, and kayaking, and even a chance to interact with the unique Moken sea nomads, famed for their deep sea diving without oxygen prowess, and who have lived out of their traditional canoes as the only residents of the Mergui for ages.

Access to the Mergui is via Kawthaung township, serviced by flights from Yangon and departure points for boats, and with tight restrictions imposed by the government to preserve the area, you’ll need to make arrangements with a tour operator to visit. Island Safari Mergui (https://islandsafarimergui.com/) offers tours on its live-aboard traditional Burmese junk, the MV Sea Gypsy, as well as arranging stays on Boulder Island, aptly named for its large photogenic boulders that guard the entrance to one of the Andaman’s nicest bays, and home to the charming Boulder Bay Eco Resort (https://boulderasia.com/), where simple wood and bamboo bungalows aesthetically blend in with the jungle, just steps from hiking trails created by the resort, which lead to hidden jungle overlooks and dazzling serene beaches and azure bays.

Boulder Bay Eco Resort Sunset, Mergui Archipelago by Dave Stamboulis

In the Mergui you can cruise spots like Shark Island (named for it’s fin-like pinnacle and not for predators in the water), where you’ll be able to set foot on land via a dingy or kayak and feel like Robinson Crusoe, with your footprints being the only sign of visitation in remarkably pristine bays and empty beaches. On massive Swinton Island, home to dense jungle and root-choked mangrove forests, you can go wildlife spotting, and then there’s the large bay on Jar Lann Island, where hundreds of Moken paddle their dugout canoes and inhabit a small fishing village open to visitors.

While the ancient temples of Bagan may headline your Myanmar tour, its marvelous marine and coastal life remain the country’s best kept secret. Make sure to set aside some days, or perhaps weeks here, as once you arrive, you might not want to leave.

Published on February 12, 2020

PHILIPPINES: Beach Connoisseur’s Delight


by Dave Stamboulis

Gorgeous Poblacion Beach on Malapascua Island, Philippines by Dave Stamboulis

Beach lovers can rejoice when coming to the Philippines. With 7,641 islands, not only is there a beach for everyone, but you could probably spend a lifetime or three here and still never discover them all. Whether you’re after suave resorts, empty stretches of white sand, or for that matter even black or pink sand, the Philippines delivers on all fronts. Start packing your swimsuit now.

Even a dense book a la War & Peace wouldn’t do justice to the number of sandy getaways on tap here, and on a single web page, it’s almost pointless even trying, but here’s an attempted overview of some of the best, most unique, most famous, and most hidden spots to put on your bucket list.

Starting in the far north, sleepy Luzon flies way under the radar when it comes to beach escapes, and yet offers a wealth of attractions. Pagudpud and its beautiful Saud Beach and nearby Maira-ira Beach, known as the Blue Lagoon, lead the way, offering powdery white sand, turquoise water, overhanging coconut palms, and even an emerging vibrant surf scene and dolphin-watching trips during certain months. Nicknamed “Boracay of the North,” Pagudpud also boasts sleepy fishing villages, hundreds of windmills turning in the sunset, and a glimpse at what Boracay might have looked like a few decades ago. Set in the charming Ilocos Norte Province, you can spend your days here tanning, saunter through colonial UNESCO Heritage Vigan, and eat from the Philippines most distinctive cuisine. Speaking of Vigan, just outside the charming town you’ll also find the strange black sand beach of Mindoro. The black color of the sand here is due to a heavy concentration of magnetite that is brought down during the rains by rivers. Further south in the Bicol region near Legazpi, you’ll find Santo Domingo, the country’s most famed black sands, where volcanic erosion from Mount Mayon’s ground lava creates moody dark beaches that contrast with the lush tropical green surroundings.

Onuk Island, Balalac, Palawan. Photo courtesy of Las Islas Travel & Tours

Moving further south into the Visayas, comprised of islands like Bohol, Negros, Iloilo, and Cebu are where you’ll find a mass concentration of some of the country’s most picture postcard-worthy beaches, not to mention plenty of quieter escapes. Vintage white sand tropical is the dominant theme here. Everyone knows world renowned Boracay and its jewel in the crown White Sand Beach, which certainly is not an escape from the crowds. However, after being closed for half a year for a much needed cleanup, you can now see Boracay in a more eco-friendly mode (you’ll need advance resort reservations in order to be let in, and the beachfront bars have all been moved well back from the white sand).

Other gems here include sleepy Panglao Island, home to brilliant Dumaluan Beach that offers one of the best diving spots in Southeast Asia, and you’ll also find plenty of reefs and diving off of Moalboal’s White Beach on Cebu. A perennial favourite amongst backpackers, beachcombers, and lovers of all things tropical is Malapascua Island, just off Cebu’s northern tip. Eco-tourists flock here as well, to swim with whale sharks off of the idyllic island’s Bounty Beach. If you really want to get away from it all, Sugar Beach, so named for its sugary-brown sand, is an old-school escape-the-mainstream retreat, accessed via Sipalay in southern Negros, and only reachable by boat.

Panglao Island, Bohol. Photo courtesy of Las Islas Travel & Tours by Las Islas Travel and Tours

Heading further south towards massive Mindanao Island, jump off to the east to visit the teardrop-shaped Siargao, a small island home to Cloud Nine Reef, the Philippines best surf break, as well as to plenty of powdery paradise bays such as found at Burgos up in Siargao’s northeast.

The southern parts of Mindanao and Zamboanga have gotten a bad rap over the years due to terrorism and lack of security, but Great Santa Cruz Island, just off of Zamboanga City has been making a comeback after being named one of the 21 Best Beaches in the World by National Geographic. It’s famed for being home to one of the only pink sand beaches on the planet, with a shoreline made up of eroded red organ pipe coral that has been mixed with sand by surf erosion over the years, giving the entire beach a pink coralline sheen. Another southern gem to explore is Camiguin, a small isle just off the Mindanao north coast that has more volcanoes per kilometer than any other island in the world. Hikers and explorers will love this nature-filled paradise, and if you want to see the most beautiful strip of sand in the Philippines, head to White Island, an uninhabited sand strip set off Camiguin’s northern shore that boasts soft powdery sand surrounded by turquoise water, with views of Camiguin’s volcanoes in the background.

tropical fantasy, beautiful Snake Island in the Bacuit Archipelago, Palawan, Philippines by Dave Stamboulis

Last on the list, but most certainly not least, is Palawan, one of the world’s most beach-saturated places on earth. Between El Nido in the north and its northern neighbour Coron Island, you’ll find more emerald and azure water, blinding white sand, and epic photo ops than perhaps anywhere else in Asia. Highlights include three-kilometre Nacpan Beach, the pristine Seven Commandos Beach (reached by boat tour only), and the crystal clear water Banol Beach found on Coron. All the small islands in the Bacuit Archipelago off the El Nido coast can be explored by kayak, and offer superb opportunities to have a slice of white sand paradise all to yourself.

With so much choice, the biggest question in Philippine beach planning may be, “When am I coming back?!”

Published on December 23, 2019

Sentosa Resort Island Reinvented


by Luc Citrinot

The most famous beach resort destination in Singapore is located along Sentosa Island. Famed for its giant Merlion and its theme parks, Sentosa is also home to some of Singapore finest beaches. Although artificially created with sand imported from Indonesia and Malaysia, the 2km-long sheltered beaches offer a place to relax surrounded by resorts such as the Shangri-La or the Siloso Beach Resort.

Other beautiful resort hotels include the Mövenpick Heritage Hotel Singapore, the five-star luxury Capella Singapore located in former British barracks, Resorts World Sentosa, the Hard Rock Hotel, Le Méridien, the W Singapore – Sentosa Cove, some being located on hills surrounded by rainforest and overlooking Singapore Harbor.

However new developments are on the map with an expansion of the resort island and its merging with nearby Brani Island to create a reshaped larger Sentosa. The process is due to stretch over the next 20 to 30 years and will integrate Sentosa and Brani into a larger redevelopment project called the ‘Greater Southern Waterfront’, a mega waterfront along the Singapore southern coast

Both Brani and Sentosa are already linked together by a bridge. Pulau Brani is for now used as a cargo facility with Brani Terminal welcoming every day dozens of cargo ships. However, maritime cargo is due to move to the new Tuas mega port by 2027, leaving spaces for new developments.

Last September, the first key milestone of Sentosa Brani Master Plan has been unveiled. The plan is due to turn Sentosa Island turned into an enhanced leisure and tourism destination, according Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC).

The Sentosa-Brani Master Plan will be rolled out in phases over the next two to three decades. It will see both islands receiving with new world-class attractions as well as fresh night-time attractions. The new spaces will reflect authenticity and sustainability – including rejuvenated beaches and nature trails through five distinct zones – Vibrant Cluster, Island Heart, Waterfront, Ridgeline, and Beachfront.

“The Sentosa-Brani Master Plan is one of our tourism developments to position Singapore as a leading destination for the next few decades. Sentosa Sensoryscape is the first project under this Master Plan. It will complement the expansion of Resorts World Sentosa and subsequent infrastructure enhancements on Sentosa and Brani. Our tourism industry has plenty of scope for further growth and rejuvenation,” said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Education, Mr Chee Hong Tat.

The new 30,000 sqm Sentosa Sensoryscape will link Resorts World Sentosa in the north to Sentosa’s beaches in the south through a multi-sensory experience. It will be started by the end of 2019 for a completion in 2022.

Sentosa Sensoryscape will feature a series of novel, picture-worthy vessel-like structures, measuring some 25 m wide and 13 m tall. Each of these will be framed by unique architectural features, around human five senses through various elements such as polyphonic water features, mist as well as fragrant flowers and plant species.

Authorities promise that the future construction site will not disturb visitors to Sentosa island numerous attractions including the very popular Universal Studios Park.

However, among the new attractions being created, Sensoryscape will make a first victim among the existing attractions. The giant statue of the Singapore Merlion, which has been greeting visitors for over 25 years, will be demolished to give way to the new infrastructure…

Singapore other beaches

If Sentosa captures travellers’ attention and is a real magnet for visitors, they are alternatives for beach lovers in Singapore. Beyond Palawan, Siloso and Tanjong beaches in Sentosa, beach addicted travellers can enjoy the family-style atmosphere of Changi beach while watching landing aircraft at neighbouring Changi Airport; Pasir Ris Beach is another family-style relaxed beach area, famed for locals looking for a picnic place.

A very popular –and often crowded during week-ends- beach area is the East Coast Park established in the 1970s. Along its 15-km long beaches, sport activities are offered while trails for trekking and bicycles as well as Cable Skiing and skating have been created. They are also many seafood restaurants which are famous among Singaporean foodies.

 

Pulau Ubin, Kusu Island with its turtles sanctuary or Punggol Beach offer a more serene atmosphere, far from the vibe of the metropolis and considered as offbeat destinations. Ideal to escape for a day from bustling shopping malls in town!

Published on November 7, 2019

A VISIT TO PARADISE ISLAND: Koh Lanta Thailand


By Shana Kongmun

Koh Lanta is not an unknown island and yet, at least in the low season, it still feels very much off the beaten track. For those seeking great shopping and big city life, Lanta is not the place for you. But if you are seeking an island with that authentic local feel, then Lanta may fit the bill.

Developed enough that you still have signal on your phone and high speed WiFi if you just can’t go unconnected but relaxed enough that you can leave it all behind should you so choose. Getting to Koh Lanta readies you for the slow pace of life. From the airport is an hour or so drive to the pier where you drive on to a barge for a short but leisurely ride over to Lanta Noi. From there you have to drive to Lanta Yai (the big island) over a bridge and through winding roads to the beaches.

Most people choose Phra – Ae or Long Beach as it is known, which is, quite literally, long! Five kilometers long, it is a short drive from Saladan village and the port. Swimming on this beach is also quite good as the gentle slope in the water makes it fun for kids, adults and all those in between. Water sports are available but unlike busier islands, the ubiquitous and noisy jet skis are not filling the swimming areas.

Long Beach is dotted with resorts, restaurants and bars making it a fun 5 kilometer stroll and even better place to relax and watch the sunset. If you want something even quieter, give the beaches to the south a try.

Hotels and resorts on the island run the full gamut, if you want a hut on the beach, you can find it. Or if luxury is your thing, Lanta has that on offer too. Layana Resort is a luxury resort on Long Beach, mid-range resorts include Lanta Sand Resort. Pimalai Resort and Spa, further south on Kan Tiang beach, is the first and most well-known luxury resort. It has definitely earned its reputation for an amazing destination for a beach holiday.

On Lanta, you can lounge by the beach, by the pool or rent a motorbike or car and drive around the island. There are cooking schools that dot the island, Time for Lime is the oldest and has a great evening vibe. After you finish your class you can sit next to the beach and watch local children play football with their flip flops as goals. Nothing feels more local than that!

If you are looking for an island that has a great beach, a chill vibe and great food, Lanta may be just the place for you.

Published on October 15, 2019

PENANG: Pearl of the Orient


By Jaffee Yee

Penang Island, or Pulau Pinang, was founded by Francis Light of the British East India Company in 1786. It was said that he cleared the thick tropical forests by shooting silver coins to spur the migrant workers or Chinese coolies into action. Formerly known as Prince of Wales Island, the city George Town once served as the capital of the Straits Settlements, a loose grouping of British crown colonies that included Melaka and Singapore.

Located at the Malacca Strait, off the northwestern coast of Peninsular Malaysia, it is separated from the mainland by the Penang Strait. The island is home to about 730,000 people and Penang is Malaysia’s second largest by population. With an area of 293 sq km or about a third the size of Singapore, Penang Island is the fourth-largest island in Malaysia.

The island today is a booming tourist destination, growing in popularity after the historical George Town was accorded the UNESCO World Heritage Site status on July 7, 2008 along with Melaka. The day has been designated as a public holiday and named “George Town World Heritage Day” with annual celebrations to mark the occasion.

Penang International Airport is Malaysia’s oldest airport opened in 1935. It is located on the south of the island 16km from the city center. The medium size airport has direct link with major airports of Asia including Singapore, Bangkok, Jakarta, Hong Kong, Taipei, Guangzhou, plus a few island and beach resorts nearby such as Phuket, Krabi and Langkawi.

George Town, the capital city of Penang State, is steeped in history with many heritage buildings, the legacies of the British era. Many of them have been given a new lease on life by transforming into fine heritage hotels. One extraordinary property named the Eastern & Oriental Hotel, or E&O as the locals call it, was built in 1885 by the three Armenian Sarkies brothers who also built The Raffles in Singapore and The Strand in Yangon.

Penang has a unique multi-cultural charm and has more attractions to see and thing to do to fill up the time of any visitor who plans to spend more than just a few days on the island. Not to miss are the temples, museums, art galleries, street art and street food, hills, parks and beaches. Some of the top attractions are Kek Lok Si, Wat Chayamangkalaram, Sri Mahamariamman, Khoo Kongsi and Snake temples, Kapitan Keling Mosque and State Mosque, St. George’s Church, Fort Cornwallis, Penang Hill, Penang Botanic Gardens, Batu Ferringhi Beach and The Top @Komtar.

The beaches of Batu Ferringhi, Tanjung Bungah and Tanjung Tokong in the north are lined with deluxe beach hotels such as Rasa Sayang, Golden Sands, Lone Pine, Park Royal, Holiday Inn, Hard Rock Hotel and Bayview Beach Resort. Balik Pulau, in the southwest, contains the only large pockets of scenic countryside with fishing villages, fruit orchards, and mangroves and a vibrant art scene. Penang Hill, at 833 meters above sea level, is the highest peak of the island and an important forested catchment area. It is also one of the top tourist attractions. Although it is possible to drive up to the top of the hill, a majority of the visitors opt for the memorable romantic tram ride from the Air Itam Station. The experience is comparable to the Peak Tram ride up to the Victoria Peak in Hong Kong.

Penang is also a well-known foodie’s paradise, famous for delicious and inexpensive street food. First time visitors will be absolutely spoilt for choice. Highly recommended are some noodle and rice dishes such as Hokkien Mee (yellow noodle in prawn flavor broth), Char Koay Teow (fried white flat rice noodle with shrimps), Penang Assam Laksa (spicy rice vermicelli noodle), Wanton Noodle, Mee Goreng Mamak (Indian Muslim fried yellow noodle) Fried Oyster, Popiah (fresh spring roll), Chicken or Char Siew Rice (Chicken or BBQ pork rice), Nasi Lemak (mild coconut flavored rice accompanied with dry curry with anchovies and fried chicken usually eaten with breakfast), Nasi Kandar (a favorite Malay style rice with mix curry side dishes).

Photos from the recently released book ABOVE PENANG by David ST Loh

Published on October 4, 2019

PHUKET KING’S CUP REGATTA


The 33rd Phuket King’s Cup Regatta will once again be hosted from November 30th – 7th December, 2019.

Asia’s biggest and the most prestigious sailing regatta will be held at its traditional home on the popular resort island of Phuket in southern Thailand and this year the focus will be split between the keelboats, multihulls and the next generation of sailors in the International Dinghy Classes.  For more details: www.kingscup.com

Published on January 1, 1970

LUXURIOUS PARADISE ISLAND ESCAPE: The Royal Sands Koh Rong, Cambodia


By Jaffee Yee

When you’ve got the feeling of being trapped in a big concrete jungle, fighting an endless rat race, you may just dream of a paradise island with powdery white sand beaches gently lapped by warm crystal-clear waters. This dream can be a reality, as there is truly such a place on earth… and it’s not that far from Thailand or China.

Koh Rong, in Cambodia, is the very definition of a dreamlike pristine island paradise. In many ways, it’s just like one of the numerous islands in Thailand’s Andaman Sea which, back in the 1960s and 70s, were just waiting to be discovered. Unfortunately for Thailand, soon after these islands were discovered by tourists from all over the world they became, one by one, overexposed, crowded and less alluring. We now often hear bad news about over tourism in some of these formerly pristine beach destinations; most notably Koh Phi Phi, where the Thai government was forced to close Maya Bay to tourists in 2018 to enable it to regenerate its natural ecosystem and beauty.

The good news, for those in search of a lost island paradise, is that Koh Rong, the second largest Cambodian island in the Gulf of Thailand, is not that far from away. And for discerning travelers seeking the ultimate luxury paradise escape, The Royal Sands Koh Rong offers everything you possibly desire.

Getting to The Royal Sands Koh Rong is easy. From the Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok you can either charter the four passenger private jet owned by pilot Captain Luzi Matzig, the founding partner of the resort, for a flight to Sihanoukville International Airport, or hop on a regular AirAsia scheduled flight to Sihanoukville. In addition, for Chinese visitors, there are now more than 18 flights direct from China, as well as regular domestic flights from Siem Reap. Upon arrival, the efficient Royal Sands representative will be there to take care of arranging transfer to the resort in a luxury private boat. A special helicopter service from Phnom Penh is also available to fly guests directly to the property.

The Royal Sands Koh Rong is a five-star, all-villa resort nestled along a 650-meter long stretch of private beach that overlooks the translucent turquoise waters on the southwestern coast of Koh Rong. It’s a setting that is totally surrounded by nature. Among the 67 freestanding villas, 10 are Beachfront Pool Villas, 17 are Ocean View Pool Villas, and some others offer two- and three-bedroom accommodation options. All the units are spacious and fitted with super king-size beds, sofas, and an impressively large bathroom, with separate toilet and shower, as well as an outdoor rain shower.

There are two restaurants for in-house guests to savor food prepared by a highly professional female Australian-trained Vietnamese chef. The Chill,located by the pool and the beach, is the perfect place for lunch, sundowners, or a relaxed oceanfront dinner. The extensive menu offers Asian and Western cuisine, as well as a seafood BBQ—best enjoyed with either a chilled beer or a glass of wine.

A day in the life of The Royal Sands Koh Rong should both begin and end at the Ocean Restaurant, where guests can enjoy a sumptuous buffet breakfast in the morning, and a romantic à la carte wine dinner during the evening. This open-air main restaurant is at the center of the resort, overlooking an iconic Buddha statue sitting on the beachfront, blessing guests throughout the day as they dine. The restaurant has a very impressive wine list, with labels from around the world that can pair beautifully with most food on offer, from local Khmer dishes to the international cuisine. All the dishes are highly recommended using local ingredients that capture the flavors and influence of Southeast Asia. The Khmer tasting plate devised from Chef Chau is to die for and extremely popular.

There are a great variety of recreational activities guests can enjoy and participate in during their stay, and all are professionally managed and monitored by skilled resort staff members. These activities include fishing, diving, PADI diving lessons, snorkeling, kayaking, island hopping, mountain biking, and trekking. Guests are also welcome to simply work out in the on-site gym, or indulge in a relaxing, soothing spa treatment and/or massage at the Senses Spa, which offers special treatments in a room equipped with an indoor shower and a glass floor; allowing guests the unique opportunity to deeply relax during the treatment while gazing down at colorful tropical fish.

This paradise island resort is a place where you can walk on a powdery white sand beach, hear the sound of the waves, see spectacular sunsets, eat the freshest seafood, and drink fine wine, all with attentive professional service. It is the ultimate soulful retreat that should be experienced at least once in a lifetime.

Photos: Courtesy of Royal Sands Koh Rong, Cambodia

Published on January 1, 1970

MAYA BAY ON THE WAY TO RECOVERY FROM OVERTOURISM


Maya Beach on the island of Koh Phi Phi Leh in Krabi province made famous by the 2000 Leonardo di Caprio movie, The Beach, is a classic example of a popular destination suffering from overtourism.  For years, there were four to five thousands tourists pouring onto the beach each day till the government came to the rescue by closing the beach giving it an opportunity to recover from the environmental scars.
Thailand’s National Parks Department, Songtam Suksawang, recently confirmed that the bay will remain closed until June 2021 at the earliest.
Coral has now been replanted around Maya Bay and was apparently doing well until the recent hot spell, which led to some coral bleaching. It’s hoped the longer closure will allow it time to recover.
It’s understood that National Park authorities are also planning an expansion of visitor facilities, including a floating dock, environmentally friendly boardwalk, and new washrooms.
Plans are also afoot for an electronic ticketing system that will limit visitors to 1,200 a day, a significant decrease on the numbers visiting prior to the closure.[/caption]

 

Published on September 11, 2019

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Published on September 1, 2019

LUXURIOUS PARADISE ISLAND ESCAPE: The Royal Sands Koh Rong, Cambodia


By Jaffee Yee

When you’ve got the feeling of being trapped in a big concrete jungle, fighting an endless rat race, you may just dream of a paradise island with powdery white sand beaches gently lapped by warm crystal-clear waters. This dream can be a reality, as there is truly such a place on earth… and it’s not that far from Thailand or China.

Koh Rong, in Cambodia, is the very definition of a dreamlike pristine island paradise. In many ways, it’s just like one of the numerous islands in Thailand’s Andaman Sea which, back in the 1960s and 70s, were just waiting to be discovered. Unfortunately for Thailand, soon after these islands were discovered by tourists from all over the world they became, one by one, overexposed, crowded and less alluring. We now often hear bad news about over tourism in some of these formerly pristine beach destinations; most notably Koh Phi Phi, where the Thai government was forced to close Maya Bay to tourists in 2018 to enable it to regenerate its natural ecosystem and beauty.

The good news, for those in search of a lost island paradise, is that Koh Rong, the second largest Cambodian island in the Gulf of Thailand, is not that far from away. And for discerning travelers seeking the ultimate luxury paradise escape, The Royal Sands Koh Rong offers everything you possibly desire.

Getting to The Royal Sands Koh Rong is easy. From the Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok you can either charter the four passenger private jet owned by pilot Captain Luzi Matzig, the founding partner of the resort, for a flight to Sihanoukville International Airport, or hop on a regular AirAsia scheduled flight to Sihanoukville. In addition, for Chinese visitors, there are now more than 18 flights direct from China, as well as regular domestic flights from Siem Reap. Upon arrival, the efficient Royal Sands representative will be there to take care of arranging transfer to the resort in a luxury private boat. A special helicopter service from Phnom Penh is also available to fly guests directly to the property.

The Royal Sands Koh Rong is a five-star, all-villa resort nestled along a 650-meter long stretch of private beach that overlooks the translucent turquoise waters on the southwestern coast of Koh Rong. It’s a setting that is totally surrounded by nature. Among the 67 freestanding villas, 10 are Beachfront Pool Villas, 17 are Ocean View Pool Villas, and some others offer two- and three-bedroom accommodation options. All the units are spacious and fitted with super king-size beds, sofas, and an impressively large bathroom, with separate toilet and shower, as well as an outdoor rain shower.

There are two restaurants for in-house guests to savor food prepared by a highly professional female Australian-trained Vietnamese chef. The Chill,located by the pool and the beach, is the perfect place for lunch, sundowners, or a relaxed oceanfront dinner. The extensive menu offers Asian and Western cuisine, as well as a seafood BBQ—best enjoyed with either a chilled beer or a glass of wine.

A day in the life of The Royal Sands Koh Rong should both begin and end at the Ocean Restaurant, where guests can enjoy a sumptuous buffet breakfast in the morning, and a romantic à la carte wine dinner during the evening. This open-air main restaurant is at the center of the resort, overlooking an iconic Buddha statue sitting on the beachfront, blessing guests throughout the day as they dine. The restaurant has a very impressive wine list, with labels from around the world that can pair beautifully with most food on offer, from local Khmer dishes to the international cuisine. All the dishes are highly recommended using local ingredients that capture the flavors and influence of Southeast Asia. The Khmer tasting plate devised from Chef Chau is to die for and extremely popular.

There are a great variety of recreational activities guests can enjoy and participate in during their stay, and all are professionally managed and monitored by skilled resort staff members. These activities include fishing, diving, PADI diving lessons, snorkeling, kayaking, island hopping, mountain biking, and trekking. Guests are also welcome to simply work out in the on-site gym, or indulge in a relaxing, soothing spa treatment and/or massage at the Senses Spa, which offers special treatments in a room equipped with an indoor shower and a glass floor; allowing guests the unique opportunity to deeply relax during the treatment while gazing down at colorful tropical fish.

This paradise island resort is a place where you can walk on a powdery white sand beach, hear the sound of the waves, see spectacular sunsets, eat the freshest seafood, and drink fine wine, all with attentive professional service. It is the ultimate soulful retreat that should be experienced at least once in a lifetime.

Photos: Courtesy of Royal Sands Koh Rong, Cambodia

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