Perched on it’s own private island off the southern coast of Cambodia, the new Six Senses Krabey Island embraces its natural surroundings. Brett Davis went to see for himself, and had a more eye-opening experience than he anticipated.
The boardwalk extends around parts of Krabey Island, and normally provides and idyllic view and the lush coastline, rock outcrops and small pockets of golden sand. Normally. I was standing a few metres above on the stairs leading down, watching the pounding surf crash and foam over the deck with a force that would surely sweep away any foolhardy stroller.
A tropical storm was coming in from the west, bringing with it strong winds and heavy rain, and generating the kind of surf I have rarely seen in Asia, much less in Cambodia. But to tell the truth, these are the kinds of elements that remind me of my Australian roots, and I’ve always found it particularly invigorating.
Earlier that morning my wife and I had taken the short flight from Saigon to Sihanoukville, then a brief drive the the Six Senses ferry dock and a 15-minute trip across to the island. It was all extremely efficient and impeccably managed. Fortunately, the whether had not picked up so much at that point and the journey was relatively calm.
Six Senses Krabey Island (pronounced krab-buy in Khmer) is a private island resort with 40 free-standing pool villas set in the dense tropical foliage. Winding paths and staircases also ensures each villa absolute privacy from its neighbours. There is a very comfortable and earthy feel to the villas with the liberal use of slate and timber, while the full-length windows on three sides provide for panoramic views of the surrounds. Also worth a mention is the enormous bed, wider than it is long, enveloped in the mosquito net suspended from the ceiling. It was like sleeping in a gauzy cloud.
The guiding ethos of Six Senses is built around sustainability and wellness. For instance, much of the fresh herbs and vegetables used in the restaurant are grown on the island’s organic farm, and an on-site reverse-osmosis and bottling plant provides guest’s in-room drinking water in re-usable glass bottles. In fact, it is almost impossible to find a piece of plastic on the island.
One of the first impressions you get on arriving on the island, and one of the most impressive, is how much the staff buy into the vision. Our guest experience manager (rightly called a Gem) Phuti, told of of how proud she was to work there. You might expect this to be an obvious bit of patter, yet it was delivered with such heart-felt directness, and repeated over and over again by other staff, that it was impossible to believe it was not genuine.
On one wet and windy afternoon we climbed the hill to visit the Six Senses Spa, one of the largest and most well appointed in Asia. It pretty much has everything in terms of facilities, from gym, yoga studio and treatment rooms to Swedish saunas, salt baths and Jacuzzis.
However, this is not your everyday spa. The level of thought and work that has gone into developing a wide range of deeply detailed personal wellness programs is nothing short of astounding. The consultants and in-house holistic practitioner Dr Anand Peethambar use a series of tests to gather 40 biometric indicators to create a baseline for a fully individualised program for everything from detoxing, weight loss and improving sleep to creating a new sense of spiritual wellbeing. These programs might take anything from three to 14 days, depending on your level of dedication.
The organic and local-ingredient focused meals are dished up in two restaurants, Aha and Tree. The two restaurants currently alternate dinner service, with breakfast and lunch served up at the former. Both exude a light and airy confidence, with Tree probably being the more formal establishment. A high-end take on traditional Khmer cuisine is a signature of the menus, while the wine list is compact yet well-selected with a focus on new-world wines primarily from Australia and New Zealand.
The collection of all the experiences offered at Six Senses Krabey Island does add up to something of an overwhelming assault on the more pleasurable of our senses. Even those experiences that are generally unintended.
Which brought me back to that rock above the boiling sea, staring into the face of the gale. I closed my eyes, listened to the tumult of the ocean and felt the wind whip across my skin. As it did, every ounce of care and tension from city life was atomised and carried off into the ether. It was in that moment I felt like all my senses, however many there are, had been stripped down and renewed.