The Sokha Beach Resort, at Sihanoukville, is offering a Khmer New Year package for $199 for two days during this month, including an excursion on the resort’s new fast ferry boat to Koh Rong, which departs at 9am and returns to the seaside resort at 4:30pm.
General manager Jeff Sussman says a variety of activities are available on the island, including a guided jungle walk to the waterfalls, snorkelling, wharf fishing and relaxing on deserted beaches.
Every night from April 12 to 16, Sokha Beach Resort is offering a gala dinner at the Seaside Garden.
This Friday, April 12, will be the spicy kebab buffet with fish, chicken, lamb and local herbs and spices for $25 per person. The prices are “plus plus”.
Wines will be recommended by master sommelier Darren Gall to closely match the Khmer herbs and spices. Wines include Vina Maipo Reserve sauvignon blanc, Canapi pinot grigo from Italy, Casillerodel Diablo pinot noir from Chile, and Lindeman’s Bin 50 Shiraz.
Saturday April 13 will have a seafood barbecue for $27 that includes sea lobster, prawns paired with carefully chosen wines, Sussman says.
The April 14 dinner will be an oyster-night buffet, also for $27, with a traditional trot dance and Apsara dancing show followed by a live local band. The buffet includes live oysters with tabasco sauce and salad, for which they’re recommending the Tattinger champagne.
For April 15, the resort is offering a $27 steak-night buffet with imported beef from Australia, served with Kampot green peppercorn sauce and seafood tempura. On that night, guests will be invited to light traditional paper lanterns called kom at 9:30pm at the beach. “After your dining experience, everybody is given a paper lantern that they can release and watch them float into the sky,” Sussman says. “We also have a cultural performance and traditional dancing with local bands.”
On April 16, the evening-meal offering will be the $27 “Grab a Crab” buffet, with wok-fried Kep crab and a choice of sauces, including Kampot black peppercorn sauce, or chili crab sauce.
Sussman, who spent many years in Japan absorbing the Japanese style of traditional hospitality, has been an instrument of change around the Sokha Beach Resort by implementing a service philosophy, the 19 Sokha Habits. "You are setting the goals, removing the obstacles, getting out of the way, then following up.”
Lemongrass Restaurant sous-chef Shannon Robinson says seafood will be the big offering during the Khmer New Year holidays.
He and chef Ross Erikson say they have a new menu including saffron tempura prawns with squid ink risotto.
“Singapore chili crab is one of our signature seafood dishes, as well as wok-fried sea lobster with garlic and spring onion, and steamed garupa in our home-made superior soy sauce,” Robinson says.
Robinson says the seafood is kept live in tanks and done to order for optimum fresh taste.
“We also have a new spa menu including some of our healthier choices,” he says. “We’ve increased our salads range, along with health shakes like mango lassies, berry banana smoothies, and dishes like cured salmon salad with vinegar potatoes topped with tomato and a poached egg with a drizzling of rouille which is like a saffron potato mayonnaise.”
Also at the Sokha Beach’s Lemongrass Restaurant and The Deck beachfront dining area are tapas offerings, live seafood, 300-gram imported rib eye steaks, pork belly, as well as rabbit cassoulet with white beans and pancetta prepared in an Italian style.
Sussman says that in addit-ion to the good food, there’s a good view.
“We are enlivening your senses with not only the culinary experience, but the breathtaking view of the gulf of Thailand, enjoying the sunset experience where you can savour the salty smell from
the sea,” he says.
Guests are encouraged linger for “hours on end” at The Deck.
“We have a warm welcome with sincere greetings, a big smile and we always maintain eye contact,” Sussman says.
“Our people are trying to exceed your expectations by providing the warm and friendly environment.
The man who operates the new 40-passenger fast ferry on behalf of the resort, David Farrell,owner SeaCambodia said there were a lot of things that could be done for guests with the new vessel.
“We have great destinat-ions, a reliable way of getting there and a stable of quality things to do once you’re there.
“Those are the ingredients to satisfy contemporary people. Authentic interaction with the local community ranks right up there right across our visitor profiles.”
Farrell takes guests to an isolated fishing village where simple activities such as fishing off the wharf with local people provide memorable experiences.
“There’s a ton of fish; it’s cheap and cheery, and the interaction is fantastic,” he says.
“I’m really passionate about this place. The reason I came to Sihanoukville, after looking at various places globally, is that we have an opportunity to influence the look and feel of tourism in Sihanoukville.”
Ferrell says people are now able to expect international standards with consistency.
“With our day-trip offer-ings, people are able to expect consistency. You want to do a good job of enabling people to spend their money. Previously, they couldn’t.”
The fast ferry takes just 30 minutes to reach a seven-kilometre, white-coral beach.
“We have this exclusive package for Khmer New Year, but from May 7 there will be daily excursions. That, we hope, will bring a lot of bus-iness to Sihanoukville.”
Ferrell says the fishing is excellent around Koh Rong if you know which area to go to, which he certainly does.