From a little known Vietnamese bay, a hidden Island nestled in Cambodia, to a dreamy Thai town, here are 3 of the best-kept secrets in Southeast Asia for your escape.
18 miles off the coast of Sihanoukville, Cambodia is a secluded island, Song Saa. Unlike the UNESCO historic site Angkor Wat, which is packed with at least thousands of tourists each day during the high season, Song Saa is a private island: exclusive, luxurious, and indeed, not cheap, but worth every penny to enjoy the unparalleled beauty.
The fascinating story of Song Saa began in 2005 when Roy and Melita Hunter decided to stay in Cambodia for a year before moving to New York. On their first visit to Song Saa, and Song Saa’s first encounter with foreigners, a local family simply asked if they want to buy their island at the price of $15,000 USD.
Song Saa is a secluded island, 18 miles off the coast of Sihanoukville, Cambodia
The pair has spent years and millions of dollars developing the Song Saa resort, cleaning the land and reefs, and creating a sustainable environment with the help of local people from surrounding islands. They bought old fishing boats off the locals, hauled them out of the water, and repurposed them as beautiful art as part of their cleanup efforts. Recycled materials, such as driftwood, wood from old boats, stone, and fallen trees lying on the banks of Song Saa and its neighboring islands were incorporated into the construction of the resort.
Recycled materials were incorporated into the construction of the resort
Now, the property has 27 paradise villas spread across the twin-islands (Song Saa Private Island and Koh Song Saa) that sport pristine scenery, untouched beaches, golden sands, calm water, and tropical fish. All of them are built into the jungles or perched on stilts over the sea; certainly appealing to those with a real sense of both luxury and adventure, and who expect high standards of service and design. From Phnom Penh, you can take a 4-hour road trip to the Sihanoukville port, followed by a 30-minute private speedboat to the island. You can also book a helicopter ride straight to the beaches from Siem Reap and Phnom Penh for a truly stunning experience. Prices for a stay on the island are around $1,000 USD per night, which all goes towards exceeding your every expectation of an island resort.
Activities at the resorts contribute to the Hunters’ vision of a one-of-a-kind island getaway experience.
Ninh Van Bay is certainly not as popular as Halong bay or Phu Quoc, and far more enigmatic. Situated in the Hon Heo archipelago, 37 miles (60 km) north of Nha Trang city, Ninh Van Bay is fairly far off the beaten track for travelers. However, just a 20-minute boat ride from the Nha Trang’s pier will get you to Ninh Van in the quickest and easiest way possible. But, if you want to take the scenic route, you can take a taxi or private car around Nha Phu Bay. Ninh Van, a sheltered bay, boasts extraordinary natural beauty, diverse wildlife, lush jungle forest, smooth white sand, and clear water still unspoiled by rampant tourism.
Ninh Van Bay boasts an extraordinary beauty of nature
For many years, Ninh Van was an isolated area, surrounded by mountains and the ocean; practically inaccessible, except by boat. A road was first built in 2007 and only started to come into use around 2011. This road still remains only one of the few ways of accessing this secluded paradise, which gives the local village a chance to develop at a decent pace, while retaining its tranquility. Most of the area is covered in stunning beaches, tropical forests, garlic fields, and amazing snorkeling and diving sites.
The dramatic setting of Rock Pool Villas, Six Senses Ninh Van Bay
However, Ninh Van Bay doesn’t have many options for overnight accommodation, but the spectacular Six Sense Resort and An Lam Retreat do offer some truly amazing stays. Not only do these resorts offer unparalleled privacy, but the two resorts’ wellness & spa centers are also famous as perfect places for bodily and spiritual rejuvenation. Their traditional Vietnamese therapies will balance your mind and body, while top-notch cuisine made with only the freshest organic products will please any inspired gourmand’s palate.
Built on a large rock formation in the sea, Sen Restaurant of An Lam Retreat looks over to the majestic bay, creating an ideal ambience.
Last, but certainly not least, is the dreamy town of Pai, Thailand, where nature, history, and culture unite in harmony. Those who know about Pai usually head there from Chiang Mai by a bus or private car, which takes 3 - 4 hours. Another option is taking a flight from Kan Airlines at Chiang Mai that gets you to Pai in only 25 minutes.
Nestled deep in the valley, Pai perfectly exemplifies natural beauty
Throughout history, Pai was very cut off from the outside world and fairly unconcerned with the Lanna empire until 1481 CE, when the Lanna Kingdom set down their law and authority in the area. Since then, Pai has, of course, kept up with the pace of development, but the small-town mindset hasn’t changed in hundreds of years. Nestled deep in the valley, Pai perfectly exemplifies natural beauty, from its endless mountains, incredible hiking trails, thermal springs, spectacular limestone caves, and beautiful waterfalls. But what really draws people to Pai is its tranquil atmosphere; sipping tea at sunrise without a soul in sight can be your perfect escape. Pai doesn’t only boast tranquility, but rich cultural history, as well, from the WWII Memorial Bridge to the natural bamboo bridges over the rice fields, and playing with elephants in the rivers to immersing yourself in natural hot springs.
Visitors are naturally attracted to Pai by its tranquil atmosphere
Pai is definitely not a party town for bar-hoppers and partiers. The town offers very little diversity when it comes to nightlife and entertainment, but you can indulge in the islands’ penchant for elegant nostalgia. No place is better to do so than the Reverie Siam. This resort offers a cultural melange of Western-style with the native Thai tradition, conjuring up daydreams of a bygone era, defined by romance and elegance. For the literati, you can immerse yourself in the silent world of words from a selection of the resort’s literary works. When darkness falls, things loosen up with live musical performances of jazz, classical, blues, folk, and ballads at the Silhouette Library. Enjoy the music to your heart’s content until you’re drawn back to your room for a peaceful, well-earned rest.
Reverie Siam conjures up daydreams of a bygone era, defined by romance and elegance (Photo: Spacious Deluxe Pool Access Villas at Reverie Siam)
If you are going to plan a holiday to Southeast Asia, rife with paradise getaways, pristine beaches, and wild jungles, contact our travel experts to customize your trip today!