After a fun first few days in Siem Reap it was time to move on for a one night stay in Phonm Penh before taking a long drive to the jungle and the Tatai River.
The drive from Siem Reap was long, approximately 5 hours and while looking out the window at various hamlets and villages was interesting for the first 30 minutes, it became rather similar. Be sure to load up on podcasts and audiobooks.
Phnom Penh Hotel Review – Palace Gate Hotel & Resort
We spent one night at the Palace Gate Hotel and Resort in Phonm Penh. Upon check in there was the usual inefficiencies with passport scanning etc, and we were informed of the strict no smoking policy and warnings of a fine for smoking.
We were escorted to our room, however the first room we entered had a strong smell of smoke so we politely declined the room and requested another one. More paperwork ensued downstairs but we finally checked in to a river view a few minutes later. The room was large but felt quite dated. Certainly not the standard of Viroth’s but definitely sufficient for the night.
The facilities of the hotel were excellent. I wouldn’t go as far to say the hotel was a “resort” like the name implies, but the pool area was excellent and picture perfect.
In the evening we enjoyed a drink on the hotels rooftop bar and exchanged plans and stories with other travellers on a similar path.
Overall the hotel was fine, if we were back in Phonm Penh I may spend a few minutes looking for a hotel with more modern rooms, but the pool and bar are excellent.
Journey to the Jungle – Koh Kong Conservation Corridor, Tatai River
We set off early morning from Phonm Penh towards Koh Kong, close to the Thai border town of Trat.
The journey took us along the Koh Kong Conservation Corridor which stretches along either sides of NR48 from Koh Kong Town to the Gulf of Sihanoukville. It is home to many of Cambodia’s outstanding natural sites including the southern and central Cardamom Protected Forests, the mangrove forests of Peam Krasaop Wildlife Sanctuary, the beaches of Koh Kong and Botum Sakor National Park.
Warning – the roads on this route are currently under construction and range from perfectly smooth roads to non existent roads. It is a long journey but we felt it was worth it.
Shortly before the town of Koh Kong, we transferred by boat to the remarkable Canvas & Orchids Retreat.
Hotel Review – Canvas & Orchids Retreat – recommended
I’ll admit I had no idea what we were walking into when we got on the boat transfer to Canvas & Orchids Retreat. However, looking back, this was a highlight of our time in Cambodia – the friendly staff, fun excursions and peacefulness made this a must see destination.
We were staying in a luxurious safari-style tent which was floating on the Tatai river. Our tent overlooked the river and jungle and included a swimming platform to jump straight in – vital in such warm weather.
The room was well decorated and included a massive air conditioning unit to keep cool on an evening.
Pro tip: do not leave any lights on in the room after dark to prevent bugs entering the tent.
You’ll see from our tip above that bugs can be a problem. The hotel does a good job of explaining how to minimise the bugs, but we failed to listen to their advice on the first evening and had a few bugs in our room. We followed the advice on the second night and had zero bugs.
The excursions and activities are a must do. We loved the waterfall excursion, kayaking at sunset and the unique firefly tour the resort offered.
As you are in the middle of the jungle, there are no restaurants other than the resort. Thankfully the menu is plentiful and I enjoyed the food – especially the lemongrass based dishes.
We stayed two nights which was perfect and let us experience all the excursions. I think an extra night would have been beneficial but is not essential to getting the most out of your stay.
We packed our bags and said our goodbyes to the friendly staff and prepared for our long journey back to Phonm Penh where we were catching the evening flight to Saigon/Hi Chi Mi City. We were excited to start out Vietnam adventure!