The amazing Song Saa Private Island sits in Cambodia’s Koh Rong Archipelago, which is made up of mostly uninhabited islands – oases of virgin rainforests, coral reefs and pure white beaches. The resort helped create a marine preserve surrounding it’s two islands to protect the marine life including turtles, seahorses and exotic species of tropical fish. Cambodia’s first private-island resort, Song Saa’s guests enjoy “always included” pricing and can choose from 27 Over-Water, Jungle and Ocean-View villas designed around the theme of a Cambodian fishing village, but with all the luxuries and modern conveniences of a world-class resort.
He was many things to the Cambodia he helped navigate through half a century of war and genocide – revered independence hero, ruthless monarch and prime minister, communist collaborator, eccentric playboy, avid filmmaker. Most of all, perhaps, Cambodia’s former King Norodom Sihanouk was a cunning political survivor who reinvented himself repeatedly throughout his often flamboyant life.
His son, Prince Thomico, said that the former king, who quit the throne in 2004, was brought to the hospital and died shortly after… “It’s painful. I am full of sorrow… “ and then added, “King Sihanouk did not belong to his family, he belonged to Cambodia and to history.” The former king had been staying at his Beijing residence since January. He would have been 90 on October 31.
“The royal government of Cambodia will bring his body from the People’s Republic of China to Phnom Penh to hold a funeral at the Royal Palace according to our traditions,” said a government announcement read out on Cambodian television.
King Sihanouk had fought a long battle with health problems that dogged his final years, including cancer, diabetes, hypertension and heart problems. Despite abdicating in favour of his son Sihamoni, the ex-monarch remained hugely popular in his country. His portrait still adorns public buildings and many Cambodian homes, and he used his website to communicate with the outside world.
In a message in January, he said he wanted to be cremated upon his death and have his ashes kept in an urn inside the Royal Palace, reversing an earlier wish to be buried.
Cambodians woke to the news of their former monarch’s demise on the final day of the annual festival for the dead, known as Pchum Ben, when most people leave the capital Phnom Penh to spend time with their families in the countryside. Dead ancestors are believed to emerge to walk the earth during this time, and they are honoured with prayers and food offerings at Buddhist pagodas. Prince Thomico said he believed Cambodians would find it “significant” that King Sihanouk had died at the conclusion of the 15-day festival.
In eastern Kampong Cham province, local people expressed their sorrow over the former monarch’s death. “He was a good king and watched over the country and the Cambodian people. I liked him very much,” said 94-year-old Ching Sivheang.
King Sihanouk was placed on the throne in 1941 at the age of 18 by French colonial authorities. Twelve years later he gained Cambodia’s independence and shortly after quit the throne for the first time in favour of his father Prince Norodom Suramarit to pursue a career in politics.
King Sihanouk served as premier half a dozen times, repeatedly leaving the post with a characteristic flash of angry theatre over perceived slights, until finally becoming “head of state” following the death of his father in 1960. He was toppled in a U.S.-backed coup by one of his own generals, Lon Nol, in 1970. King Sihanouk then aligned himself with communist guerrillas Khmer Rouge. The hardline communist movement used him as a figurehead as they seized power before putting him under house arrest in the royal palace with his family during their 1975-79 reign of terror.
Guests staying at the luxurious Amansara in Siem Reap can now experience a once in a lifetime breakfast in one of the most spectacular and unique settings in the world: the Angkor UNESCO World Heritage site. A simple but delicious breakfast of tropical fruits, pastries and freshly brewed coffee will be served in the grounds of a 12th century temple. Meanwhile watch the sky change colour from inky blue to crimson, red and gold as the sun slowly rises revealing silhouettes of sacred temple towers. These historical and spiritual temples are the perfect location to practise the ancient discipline of yoga. Amansara can organise early morning sunrise yoga sessions at the deserted North Gate where you can immerse yourself in the tranquillity of these beautiful temples. Afterwards, head to the Khmer Village House, a wooden dwelling on stilts, and enjoy breakfast overlooking Sra Srang Baray, a shimmering lake over 800 years old. This is followed by a relaxing foot massage.
The temple breakfast and sunrise yoga are available to Amansara guests only, however romantic sunset dinners at the Khmer Village House are available for outside guests, on request and subject to availability.