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Sand and Sanskrit

By Rebecca Lo | China Daily | Updated: 2013-11-17 10:24

Sand and Sanskrit

The island resorts feature such events as snorkeling and diving, or guests can simply laze around the sunset pool. Photos by Rebecca Lo / For China Daily

The isles surrounding Sihanoukville are ideal R&R bookends to the temples of Siem Reap. Rebecca Lo goes island hopping before climbing Baphuon mountain temple.

People are always shocked when I admit that I have never been to Phuket. The reasons are simple: My idea of a holiday involves more than lying on a beach. There are plenty of beaches to enjoy in Hong Kong, and it doesn't involve getting on an airplane to do so. However, I am all for vacations that combine sand and surf with more cultural pursuits.

Sand and Sanskrit
Ideal isles around Cambodia

That is where Sihanoukville in southern Cambodia gets it right. It's less than an hour's flight from Angkor Wat, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary as one of UNESCO's top World Heritage Sites this year. The country is seeing exponential growth recently as a friendly, affordable destination, and the archipelago surrounding Sihanoukville is gearing up for development into the next Maldives getaway.

With Siem Reap's temples stealing the scene, many don't realize that Cambodia boasts miles of sandy shoreline and more than 70 islands ranging from a mere blip to bigger than Hong Kong island. While backpackers have known about the archipelago's unspoiled retreats for years, it was only with the opening of Song Saa near Koh Rong that people seeking luxury had a place to park their Louis Vuittons.

With Song Saa's 27-key all-pool villa resort doubling in value from concept to completion, French developer CityStar has a new and much bigger resort in the works on the western portion of Koh Russey. Operated by Alila, it is slated to be completed in 2015 and will include 48 rooms and a variety of pool villas. CBRE intends to launch the first batch of villas for sale late this month in Hong Kong.

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