Settled on the banks of the Mekong, SMango House is one of a new breed of resorts, providing fresh air and peace a short journey out of Phnom Penh. Aimed at time-pressured expats and wealthy local families, it’s also perfect for travellers stuck in the city who feel they have exhausted its charms.
It’s easy to while away a day at SMango House around the saltwater pool ($5 per swimmer), lazing on sun loungers and in straw-covered cabanas in a lush garden overlooking the river.
There’s WiFi if you must (signal is strongest by the bar) and a pool table and a children’s playground to satisfy the easily bored. The menu has a standard mix of Asian and Western dishes, and service can be a little slow when it’s busy, but we’ve waited for lunch in much less picturesque settings.
The real delight of SMango House lies in waving off the day trippers, knowing you have the place almost to yourself. With just four bungalows and a few rooms, the evenings are peaceful (unless someone’s getting married in the neighbourhood, as happened on our last visit). Without the nuptials, frogs compete with crickets to out-volume the lapping of the river bank.
The bungalows, angled to give a river view from each veranda, are made from bamboo panels and topped with straw. The decor is an interesting mix of boutique chic, seaside charm and country cottage, but the whole melange somehow pulls through. For a good night’s sleep, there’s a double bed with a mosquito net, a carefully positioned fan and curtains that go all the way around the walls. The real effort, however, has gone into the bathroom. Flanked by painted bamboo and stone-and-fossil patterned tiles, you’ll notice a bit of roof is missing, right by the shower. Starlit or sunny sky splashing is the order of the day, although only in cold water.
The other sleeping options are four rooms in the wooden Mango Villa, or a little cottage all of your own. This country-style house has stairs leading to a balcony, a small kitchen and dining area, and two double beds separated by a wall of wardrobes.
To find this haven, cross the Mekong from Phnom Penh city. The Arey Ksat ferry by Nagaworld takes you to Kandal province, about five kilometres south of SMango. The more difficult to find Svay Chroum on the Chroy Chungvar pennisula brings you in about two kilometres away. Motodops (motorbike taxis) are available at each of the Kandal landing points, bring a bicycle, or you can take a tuk tuk from the city. A brief ride along a dirt road of painted wooden houses and unfeasibly large cows brings you to the gates of SMango. Of course, the most splendid way to arrive is on your own personal boat, hired from the north end of riverside.
For a few days of nature, sunsets and swimming, SMango House is the getaway without getting away.
By Abigail Gilbert
Last updated on 12th March, 2014.