Soul Circus Festival | A Yogini’s Dream

Attracting some of the country’s most sought after yoga instructors, S O U L  C I R C U S Festival, in its first year, is the perfect countryside escape to let your body dance and your soul run free, whether you’re brand new to yoga or an experienced practitioner.

Having just about got a night’s sleep in after putting on our own festival (Varkala Festival) two weekends ago; attending Soul Circus last weekend – a Yoga and Wellbeing festival in the heart of the Cotswolds, with an emphasis on feeling great and ‘putting yourself back together’ – was just what the guru ordered….and a dream weekend for any yogini.

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Offering everything from restorative Y I N classes, uplifting Rocket sessions, G O N G baths, dynamic V I N Y A S A flow practice and soulful Jivamutki; through to Aerial, Acro and D I S C O flow; from sunrise to sunset, Soul Circus privided an extensive program offering something for everyone.

Dreamt up by Broga U.K’s Matt Miller, the yoga-loving California-born former American football and his Co Founders Roman and Ella of Ella and Fleur Hot Yoga, truly succeeded in offering a weekend of tranquillity; giving his guests the chance to re-calibrate with twenty yoga classes taught each day across Friday to Sunday, in three difference ‘experience tipis’ in this lakeside outdoor venue.

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It wasn’t all about the yoga though…

True to their name, Soul Circus fed the soul with a collection of different sounds and experiences including Meditation Classes, bubbling Hot Tubs to ease the muscles, a Gin Bar, a Rude Health breakfast bar, Supper Clubs, Chocolate Masterclasses, as well as having some of Gloucestershire’s finest local and sustainable vendors pitch up to offer interactive dining experience, including plenty by The Core Cheltenham.

And once the yoga was done there was plenty of time to relax with the best in local ales, ciders, wines and special Soul Circus cocktails – a favourite new discovery of mine being Asparagasm, serving beautiful raw cakes, insanely delicious unique Vegan Cheeses, creamy Nut Mylks and their own range of vegan organic beer and wines.

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Whether you swear by a plant-based, vegetarian, gluten|dairy free or cold pressed diet – or are simply a good old fashioned lover of meat – Soul Circus catered for it!.. A refreshing take on the old idea that you have to sup on green juices and avoid meat if you practice yoga, making for a well-balanced wellness festival serving delicuously shameless Chicken Tandoori Wraps and glasses of Prosecco.

As well as food vendors within the festival sites, Soul Circus also host two lunchtime interacting workshops run by Chef Jay Halford on how to live and cook healthy.

And on the Friday night and Saturday night, festival goers had the option of bookings one of two amazing dinning experiences.

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There was also a VIP Tipi hosted by Canadian apparel brand, Kit & Ace, satisfying the senses on a number of different levels including, a Kit and Ace pop up shop, VIP Supper clubs, a Rude Health Breakfast Bar, Evening Cocktail Bar and Outdoor Beanbags for lounging and watching music performances – the best seats in the house…

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Having spent the day, Namaste-ing in the hay, perfecting downward dogs and cultivating Zen; revellers returned to their accommodation with luxury loos and shower facilities.

In the dedicated glamping village, guests found fully furnished bell tents with matting and bedding set up with either two single beds, one double or three single beds.

Thanks so much and N A M A S T E to Soul Circus for having us…

Love Supreme Festival | Keeping Jazz Alive

The country may be divided but the love was felt last weekend as some of the biggest names in the jazz world headlined Jazz FM’s Love Supreme Festival (from 1 to 3 July); making the idyllic location of Glynde Place in East Sussex home to the U.K’s only three day, greenfield jazz festival.

Keeping Jazz alive for its fourth season; this weekend saw Love Supreme Festival showcase its winning mix of soul, funk and jazz crossover with Main Stage artists including Grace Jones, Burt Bacharach, Lianne La Havas, Kelis, Average White Band and Morcheeba – alongside a solid jazz programme in the Big Top and Arena stages featuring French acid jazz band, St Germain, beat-driven piano trio GoGo Penguin and DJ /Acid Jazz and Talkin Loud Record Label owner, Giles Peterson.

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Love Supreme Festival also played host to the Verve Jazz Lounge, which as well as celebrating 60 years of the iconic American jazz label with a range of talks, panel discussions, film screenings and exclusive performances.

Easing into the Saturday evening sunset was the soft, soulful sounds of songstress Skye Edwards (aka Skye of Skye & Ross – of Morcheeba). With a warm and graceful stage-presence, Skye’s set included classics such as Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day, sent minds wondering to far flung places with Down by the Sea; previewed tracks from their album due to be released this September, and a surprise cover of Bowie’s Let’s Dance!

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Later on, while the 15,000-strong crowd huddled from Saturday night’s rain in their parkers and wellies; sealing the show and storming the stage nothing but in body paint and the opening cry of  “I’m going to have to drink some whisky, it’s f***ing cold.” was superstar Grace Jones; sending love supremers into a frenzy with renditions of Strange, Private Life, Pull Up To The Bumper and Love is a Drug.

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Also mesmerising the crowd was Ludovic Navarre with the full St. Germain band, Getting Everyone Together as they headlined the Big Top on the Saturday; followed by Giles Peterson closing the night at 2am.

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Guests with weekend tickets then had the option of camping – or glamping in the Supremium site within in the quieter grounds of the manor house – ensuring a luxurious night’s sleep ahead of Sunday’s round two.

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With more than enough food options at Love Supreme’s Food Village, choosing where to enjoy a hearty or healthy breakfast to fuel the funk is almost as complex a decision as navigating your way through the music program to make sure you don’t miss out on anything!

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After dodging the bullet of suggested Scotch Eggs for breakfast, a quick walk around the corner led to Wide Awake Cafe – one of the best loved vegetarian/vegan café’s catering for the hungry people of the festival world.

With Monmouth Coffee on the menu, freshly squeezed orange juice and Buddha Bowls rammed full of falafel, roast vegetables and hummus, all to be enjoyed under the sun on wide set picnic benches; Wide Awake Cafe was the first stop of the day before an incredible performance from Average White Band.

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With sunshine on their side, the Scottish blue-eyed soulers still had it with Cut The Cake, Let’s Go Round Again and Pick Up The Pieces; a seamless way to transition over to the Big Top for Go Go Penguin.

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Toning down her raucousness to suit the crowd, we caught Kelis on the Main Stage playing a more sultry jazz-tinted set in Sunday evening’s baking sunset. Slowed down soulful renditions of Milkshake and Trick Me had the crowds swaying before closing with the loving lyrics of Acapella and slinking off stage.

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Having also played host to Van Morrison, Chaka Khan, Earth Wind & Fire, De La Soul and Candi Station over the last four years, Love Supreme is one to watch – and get down to – every summer.

Early bird tickets for 2017 are available here

Huge thanks for having us <3

 

Bottomless Brunch, Victory Mansion: Stoke Newington, East London

Inspired by Manhattan’s trend, Bottomless Brunches have become the norm in London, as though brunch without free-flowing fizz is nothing more than a sorry-looking, late breakfast.

London is drowning in restaurants offering bottomless Bloody Mary’s alongside samey-small brunch plates; but when a creative collective of bartenders and chefs came together to open Stoke Newington’s Victory Mansion, an East London tavern bringing its own take on eclectic casual dining and groundbreaking cocktail concoctions – the Bottomless Brunch result was a beautifully balanced offering of outstanding food and an innovative drinks, playing homage to British eccentricity and it’s local London roots.

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A stone’s throw from Church Street, on the lively Stoke Newington High Street, Victory Mansion is brightly lit, stylish, sociable and homely.

The walls are covered with vintage drink adverts, black & white photography and shelves displaying retro spirit bottles. The furniture is a homely dark oak finish blended with evergreen leather chairs, set against a feature wall of palm-print wallpaper.

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Everything is comfortably recognisable yet beguiling enough to intrigue..

Example: a truly top notch, too-easily drinkable cocktail on the Bottomless Brunch menu is affectionately named the Barbara Windsor; a name known and loved turned into a Gin, Earl Grey, Fresh Lemon and Fizz blend – far more lovingly concocted than any old prosecco served during most Bottomless Brunches.

And while the girls go for breakfast bubbles, the boys (*anymore more hardcore than me) can opt for a Bloody Dafoe, its namesake taken from William Dafoe, less known for living in London’s N15 and better known for playing The General in Platoon – the recipe, a unique Bloody Mary blend featuring a homemade Guinness & Marmite syrup.

Love or hate it, that’s an unbeatable Hair of the Dog!

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Bottomless Brunch cocktails also include the JJ Lister, inventor of the microscope and another east London boy celebrated with Aperol, fresh orange and pink grapefruit sherbet; and the Victory Coffee, an Espresso Martini like no other (I’m a credible judge), featuring rocket fuel strong Clockwork Coffee, Dutch coffee liqueur with rum and Hazelnut liqueur.

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When it comes to the food Sam Wilksinson’s menu is the best of the brunch!

Bringing his personal flair to signature breakfast dishes, poach egg on toast is elevated to Burnt Miso Prawn Toast with Chilli & Avocado, and classic kippers on toast transforms into Smoked Kippers with Beetroot, Pistachio & Orange Oil, crumbled over Sourdough Toast.

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Vegetarians are more than catered for with a plant-based plate of Spicy Spring Onion and Pumpkin Fritters, cooked to perfection, and served with Spinach, Poached Egg and Smashed Avocado – all of my favourite foods on one hearty, healthy plate.

There’s also the option of Smashed Avocado and Crispy Quinoa, and a Mushroom & Sage Pattie with Manchego & Honey Mustard on Sour Dough Toast – More of my favourite things on a plate – so I ordered both!

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Victory Mansion is a tasteful but low key perfect place for a lazy weekend catch up with friends over top quality food and back to back beautifully executed cocktails.

The music selection is on point, entering to the doors to The Doors, followed by the likes of Fat Freddy’s Drop and Nina Simone. What starts off as a late n lazy Bottomless Brunch will very easily slip into your Saturday night.

Highly Recommended!

8 Stoke Newington High Street, London, N167PL

info@victorymansion.co.uk

Guide to Luang Prabang: From Shoestring To Showstopping

Hidden in the shadow of lofty green mountains, in between the mighty Mekong and calming Khan rivers, lies the laid back town of Luang Prabang, a UNICEF designated world heritage site and the most stylish of Laos’ tourist draws, thanks to its French Indochinese heritage.

Luang Prabang is a perfect, pocket-sized blend of prohibition-era Paris and the innocent, but beguiling, Buddhist way of life. Endowed with chic colonial architecture, the town is as dotted with red-roofed temples as it is red-wine bars.

Backwater of Beyond : Nong Khiaw & Muang Ngoi (Laos) www.borntobeawildflower.com Bianca Capstick

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Steeped in culture, Luang Prabang’s most famous tourist attraction is Wat Xienv Thong, the most enchanting and historic Buddhist monastery in the entire country.

Backwater of Beyond : Nong Khiaw & Muang Ngoi (Laos) www.borntobeawildflower.com Bianca Capstick

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While visitors flock to marvel at its intricately designed golden walls and quietly admire this graceful place of worship; this quaint riverside town has so much more to offer backpackers and flashpackers, whatever the budget.

There is a distinctly stylish and low key vibe here, where French culture compliments its Southeast Asian home.

ON A SHOESTRING

Things to do, What to Eat and Where to Stay

The cheapest way to enjoy Luang Prabang and soak up its atmosphere is by hiring a push bike from one of the town’s many guesthouses (£1 for 12 hours) to meander down the town’s winding alley ways and alongside both of the rivers.

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Let Angkor Restaurant Review: Luang Prabang (Laos) www.borntobeawildflower.com Bianca Capstick

Cycle along the Mekong and there are no shortage of budget-friendly river front restaurants or cheap street food stalls.

The former makes a picturesque pit stop for lunch or evening drinks to watch the sun disappear behind the mountains. The former is the cheapest and most authentic way to eat out in Luang Prabang – with vegetarians more than catered for. Grab a bowl, pay £1.50 and treat the barbeques and street food stalls like a buffet and fill up as much as you can.

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Meat-lovers will adore the dirt-cheap smoky skewered pork and vegetarians can eat their fill of vegetable noodles, fried Mekong river weed and sweet potato curries.

If a bicycle isn’t for you, your feet wont tire of strolling past French Colonial houses-turned-wine-bar or art galleries, dotted with Chinese lanterns; leading you in circles around the town among Luang Prabang’s legacy of ancient red-roofed temples to the sacred Buddha image, Pha Bang.

Backwater of Beyond : Nong Khiaw & Muang Ngoi (Laos) www.borntobeawildflower.com Bianca Capstick 

Greenpark Villa Hotel: Vientiane, Laos www.borntobeawildflower.com Bianca Capstick

SHOWSTOPPING

Things to do, What to Eat and Where to Stay

If visiting Luang Prabang with a little cash to splash then you will not be disappointed with town’s choice of frangipani fringed boutique hotels, stylish restaurants, cocktail bars, fashion boutiques, art galleries and day trips…

…The best bit about most of these options being that they each serve, in some way, to give back to Laos local communities – essential to this beautiful country with its little-known tortured past as the most bombed country in the world!

While spoiled for places to stay, my number one recommendation would be the stunning Villa Maly hotel. Centered round a pristine pool under chic Chinese lanterns, you will find Villa Maly, a colonial mansion turned boutique hotel, hidden from the hustle of Luang Prabang by its dense green garden of sky high palm trees and vibrant banana plants.

villa maly poolside 4 Bianca Capstick/BorntobeaWiildflower

Villa Maly Hotel : Luang Prabang (Laos) www.borntobeawildflower.com Bianca Capstick

The hotel serves expertly blended cocktails by the talented team in Villa Maly’s Mouhot’s Bar, its namesake Henri Mouhot, the French naturalist who rediscovered the famous Angkor temples before travelling through Luang Prabang.

As well as Mouhot’s Bar, Villa Maly offers luxury dining at Le Vetiver a perfect alfresco experience, sited on a wooden deck, appointed with a warm rose wood furnishing and sheltered by a canopy.

And on balmier evenings guests have the option of a poolside barbecue: Surrounded by the garden’s tropical frangipanis, ginger, orchids, lilies, gardenias and mango trees, and served next to what has been rates as one of the best pools in Luang Prabang, here Villa Maly’s team will fire up the grill and leave you to cook your selection of tantalizing cuts of well marinated tenderloin, ribs, pork, shrimp and fresh seafood.

If you’re not watching your pennies then Luang Prabang’s sunny streets are rife with luxe Laos cuisine, French bistros and low key wine bars.

Everyone who’s anyone in Luang Prabang 
(whatever that means!) heads to L’Eléphant, where you can choose from a French or Lao menu (Ban Vat Nong; 856-71-252-482; entrées from $10).

Its sister restaurant next door, the chic Green Elephant, 
is Laos’s first vegan eatery (no phone; set menu, $21).

And even if you’re not staying at the hotel itself, the 3 Nagas café—with extra-fresh Lao court cuisine—is worth 
a visit. The shady patio makes for 
a great lunchtime spot (856-71-253-888; entrées from $5).

My favourite restaurant is Le Tangor  on the main street of Sisavangvong Road; a French restaurant perfect for people watching, serving a killer steak and baked camembert, espresso martinis and delicate lemon tart. The shabby chic, red hued interior plays strong homage to its Indochinese heritage to perfection.

Let Angkor Restaurant Review: Luang Prabang (Laos) www.borntobeawildflower.com Bianca Capstick

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Let Angkor Restaurant Review: Luang Prabang (Laos) www.borntobeawildflower.com Bianca Capstick

Let Angkor Restaurant Review: Luang Prabang (Laos) www.borntobeawildflower.com Bianca Capstick

Let Angkor Restaurant Review: Luang Prabang (Laos) www.borntobeawildflower.com Bianca Capstick

Let Angkor Restaurant Review: Luang Prabang (Laos) www.borntobeawildflower.com Bianca Capstick

Statues of Buddha sit alongside vintage tins of Fois Gras and the walls are adorned with retro TinTin prints.

If you fancy making the most of Laos boat life, stretching beyond the Mekong then take a unique cruise along the spectacular Luang Say from £120 per person based on groups of 9-38 people.

WHEN TO VISIT

Go between November and January when temperatures are mild, but keep in mind that this is also the season when tourist numbers are highest.

Alternatively head to Luang Prabang in the rainy season (April-July and Sept-Oct), when ‘rain’ means a brief cleansing shower most afternoons, but otherwise lovely weather.

Avoid March when temperatures are searing.

The Lao New Year festivities (from 13 to 15 April) are a worthy draw, and the tradition of throwing water is delightful – and tonic.

Koh Rong Sanloem Travel Guide: Cambodia

Koh Rong, the largest of Cambodia’s collective of islands, has enjoyed the “backpacker favourite” status for the last five years. However its smaller sister, Koh Rong Sanloem, beautifully unspoiled, yet closer to the mainland is a much quieter and more picturesque and serene spot; favoured by the “flashpackers,” and definitely worth consideration for backpackers looking a little further off the beaten track – or for those not looking for a trashy Full Moon Party.

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Despite being just 45 minutes away from Sihanoukville by the “Fast Ferry” ($20 return) or 2 hours in the “Slow Boat” ($10 return)*; navigating your way to, from, and around the island is a little more challenging than you’d assume: So below are some points to consider when planning a trip to this truly stunning island.

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*The main strip in Sihanoukville is full of small travel agents who will be able to book you on either ferry. Try to book a day in advance if you’d like to go early in the morning, otherwise you can arrange same-day transport.

  • How to get to Koh Rong Sanloem

Just south of Koh Rong, Koh Rong Sanloem takes pristine beaches to another level; offering picture perfect snorkelling spots and peaceful Eco-conscious diving options, as well as a stretch of standy beach for sun-worshipping.

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Koh Rong Sanloem’s M’Pay Bay is the closest beach to Koh Rong and as well as offering unspoiled beaches, here a small community of fishermen and their families gives tourists a unique insight to village life.

For an average of $40 a night (you can stay in a dorm for around $10, camp for $5 or pay up to $80 for more premium accommodation), you can sleep in a beach front bungalow with private bathroom (some also offer free wifi in the guesthouse restaurant between 6pm and 11pm); and use the dense jungle behind you for trekking and exploring.

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A 45 minute trek through the jungle will lead you to the other side of the island, Saracen Bay; where a stunning and vast expanse of pure white sand snakes round in a circular bay, meeting a pure aqua shallow sea; the landscaped dotted only with occasional traditional turquoise fishing boats.

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IMPORTANT TRAVEL INFORMATION: If travelling from Sihanoukville main land, both ferries will only drop you off on Saracen Bay and you will have to make your own way to M’Pay Bay either by paying $45 on for a “taxi boat” or talking to some locals and jumping in with them for free at around 4pm when they head home.

No one will tell you this before getting to the island, so if heading to Koh Rong Sanloem from the mainland it is best to book a guest house on the stunning Saracen Bay; or keep in mind that you will have to make your own way (via boat or jungle trek) to M’Pay Bay.

Similarly, if you are traveling to Koh Rong Sanloem from Koh Rong, most boats only go to M’Pai Bay, so it is worth booking accommodation here, or keeping in mind that you will have to find your own way to Saracen, via the same suggestions above.

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Both beaches are equally beautiful, with chilled out beach bungalows, low key bars (although M’Pai is has a bit more of a party scene) and delicious seafood restaurants; Both are also a little more expensive than the mainland with accommodation starting at around $30 a night and the cheapest dish (including breakfast) starting at $4.50.

Therefore whether you end up in M’Pai or Saracen you are in for a similar experience; it’s just useful to know which beach you can expect to end up on, depending on where you are travelling from.

However as they are only a 45 minute, breezy, jungle walk apart, it’s very easy to day trip from one side of the island to the other to experience both!

Prefering the quieter island life, we stayed on Saracen

  • Where to Stay on Saracen Bay

After the fast or slow ferry drop you at the Jetty, the second guesthouse you will reach is a Turkish-owned set of beach bungalows, called Rumi & Atam Bungalows, which at $30 / night was one of the cheapest options, and where we chose to stay. The bungalow was a decent size, had sea views, clean private bathroom and the seafront restaurant, naturally serves very good Turkish and Khmer food for a reasonable price. The staff are very sweet and our stay was very pleasant.

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About halfway down the beach is the beautiful Green and Blue Resort. Somewhere I wish I’d stayed if we’d explored a little further at first. Again, Turkish-owned, this bohemian blissful spot has blue and green day beds, hammocks, murals, traditional Turkish “Evil Eyes” hanging throughout and offers beautiful, uniquely designed bungalows with balconies  which cost around $60 a night.

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For a cheaper option try the lovely Easy Tiger Bungalows at $24 a night and for a bit of luxury, go for Sol Resort which just opened in 2016, or the very cosmic Moonlight Resort – where you will stay in unique luxury domes at the far end of the beach for $120 a night. – Another place I wish I’d explored further to reach when looking for a place to stay.

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  • Where to Eat on Saracen Bay

The restaurants in both Rumi and Green Blue Resort offer very good Turkish Food, Green Blue is better, with more picturesque views, stylish cocktails, more of a beach vibe – and is the only place on the island to take card or offer cash back. Green Blue is a romantic little dinner spot and close to where the Plankton surface at night, if you feel like a sparkling midnight swim after dark.

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For incredible pizza, perfect seafood (and the most reliable wifi on the island)  head over to Moonlight Resort’s Blue Moon Restaurant. As though dining under the stars, the blue domed restaurant is a beautiful place to eat along side the shore.

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  • What to do on Saracen Bay

Sunbathing is the obvious choice: All of the hotels and bars have day-beds and sun loungers on their ‘patch’ of beachfront, free for anyone to use; and if you need a little shade then there are plenty of treehouse style beds, built around the shoreline’s palm trees.

The living is easy and blissful.

StandUp Paddle boarding at just $5/ hour is available on the island, the team also arrange 2-3hour snorkelling trips around the Saracen Bay’s two reefs for just $20/person, or 6ft Diving for $60/person.

The snorkelling trips are beautiful: The sea is crystal clear, making for a serene immersion into coral reefs spiked with Black sea urchins and shoals of tropical fish. To the meditative sound of your own breath, hours can be spent lost underwater admiring clown fish – and small octopi.

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If you need to resurface to adjust your snorkelling mask, you’ll also spot monkeys playing in the jungle on the reefs edge.

If island-hopping through Cambodia, it would be my strong recommendation to visit beautiful Koh Rong but to steer as far away from Sok San Beach as possible – unless you enjoy terrible music (*PSYTRANCE) and don’t mind the tragedy that it’s once pure shores* are now washed up with the mainland’s rubbish.
*It also speaks volumes about how tourism has changed the island for the worse now that police patrol the beach to stop anti-social behaviour.

Instead take the time and small extra expense to visit Palm Beach on the north side of the island. This private, but inexpensive stretch of beach with thatched bungalows, a great bar and a solid playlist is a stunning, edge of he world setting, opposite the stunning SongSaa Resort, the owners of which, work hard to preserve their local environment and marine life.