4 Rivers Floating Lodge

If you build it, they will come.

These are the famous last words of real estate developers across the world who try, but fail, in their bold attempts to create something out of nothing. Occasionally, however, someone with an exceptional vision, perfectly executed, manages to prove the old adage true.

Enter: 4 Rivers Floating Lodge.

4 Rivers Floating Lodge is a boutique glamping resort located at the confluence of four rivers at the base of the Cardamom Mountains in southwestern Cambodia. Yes, you read that correctly. As the name suggests, 4 Rivers is literally located on top of a river, a construction style inspired by the floating villages native to Cambodia’s countryside.

Credit: 4 Rivers Floating LodgePhoto Credit: 4 Rivers Floating Lodge

Further, the lodge is located in a remote part of an already faraway country, about five hours west of Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh. But this did not deter us or thousands of other travelers. Like I said, “build it and they will come” occasionally works out.

Our trip started with an adventure: a harrowing, five-hour bus ride during which our driver played chicken with oncoming traffic the entire time. We spent most of the ride with our eyes closed, teeth clenched. All part of the experience, I guess. Once deposited in the village of Tatai, our journey continued with a longtail boat ride down the river.

3-the-lodge-finally-appears-

4 Rivers Floating Lodge is only accessible by boat, naturally. After twenty minutes of putt-putting down the river, the secluded resort finally appeared in the distance, around a bend, tucked between the eastern bank and a small island.

Even though we knew what to expect, landfall — or shall I say “tentfall” — was still astonishing. There’s something hard to believe about real estate created on top of a moving body of water.

The property, if you want to call it that, consists of a landing area in the center, which includes the restaurant, the office, a library, and some back of house operations. This central landing area is flanked by two long pontoons, with six tents each, for a total of twelve suites.

4-the-tent-main-room
5-bathroom

Our suite was a massive safari tent with a pitched roof, great room, and ensuite bathroom. We also had a large riverdeck with lounge chairs and swim ladder.

Once settled in, we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the river, reading, swimming, and kayaking.

We also enjoyed a bottle of pinot noir while watching an unexpectedly spectacular sunset.

9-first-morning-2

The next morning, the river’s beauty continued to amaze. The surface was like a polished mirror, covered in fog which had snaked its way down from the highlands. While we rose, the land fog began its retreat from the heat of the rising sun.

After a morning swim and breakfast, we set off on one of 4 Rivers’ many nature excursions. We chose to visit the Tatai Waterfalls. Sambo, a local Khmer guide employed by the lodge, took us up the river.

17-sambo-showing-us-how-its-done

Once there, Sambo immediately showed us the hidden climb up the slippery rocks and through rushing water to the top of the falls. He wasted no time demonstrating how to properly jump off. After some nervous jitters, Meghan bravely went first. Once I let her test the depth, it was my turn.

26-kayaking-upriver

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the falls, eating a picnic lunch, and kayaking back down the river. Among Sambo’s many talents, we learned he’s also a candid photographer when we discovered these shots on our camera afterwards. Thanks Sambo.

The waterfalls were stunning and our kayak ride further added to a connection we were starting to feel with the river. To passersby, the river might be overlooked as a mere geographical feature blended into the overall landscape. Once you get up close and personal, however, it becomes clear that the river is the source of life for everything in its path. It is the backbone for a way of life practiced by the locals for hundreds of years.

This was one of the surprises of 4 Rivers Floating Lodge. I honestly thought we’d find the “floating” aspect of the resort to be a gimmick — just a cool way to differentiate from other glampsites and ecolodges. But it’s so much more than that. By floating, you are authentically connected to the river: the cradle of life in this part of Cambodia.

14-the-ride-upriver-4-with-sambo

In talking to Sambo and the rest of the staff, I began to understand that 4 Rivers accomplishes this connection in a sensitive manner, protecting the environment, instead of exploiting it. This is, in my opinion, the most impressive accomplishment of 4 Rivers. Unlike typical destination resorts, which purposefully isolate themselves, 4 Rivers has integrated into the community and generated remarkably positive effects on the locals and the environment.

Sambo was literally a hunter-gatherer before 4 Rivers. Now, thanks to the lodge, he and many other locals speak fluent English and hold an unusually progressive view towards protecting the environment. No longer just a natural resource, they want to preserve the environment for the future. For example, we were impressed as we noticed Sambo quietly collecting litter left behind by other shortsighted locals while we climbed the waterfalls.

For these reasons, 4 Rivers Floating Lodge has redefined what we consider to be the pinnacle of glamping. The basic promise of glamping is to provide an opportunity to enjoy nature without sacrificing modern day amenities. 4 Rivers takes this pledge one step further, providing an opportunity to not just enjoy nature, but to connect with it. And protect it.

32-view-from-the-island

Perhaps the old aphorism should be rephrased in 4 Rivers’ example: if you build something special, they will come.

Daniel Doyon

After a decade of running the rat race in institutional real estate investment, Dan decided to abandon the deferred life plan and pursue his dream of extended world travel while still young. He resigned from his career, sold all his possessions, and began an open-ended journey around the globe, along with his girlfriend Meghan. Dan now contributes to Glamping.com as a guest writer.

Sandat Glamping: Truly Glamorous Camping

Normally, when I think of “glamping,” I imagine camping… with with a touch of glamour. You know, a few modern day amenities like a real bed, electricity, and maybe an ensuite bathroom if I’m lucky. What I don’t typically imagine is a luxurious safari tent that could very well appear on the cover of an interior design magazine. This was my experience at Sandat Glamping — a boutique tent hotel on the island of Bali in Indonesia — which elevates the glam in glamping to a whole new level.

Sandat Glamping is located just outside Ubud, the artistic and cultural hub of Bali. Ubud is a popular destination among international travelers because of its hip vibe and stunning natural beauty. The town itself is rife with craft shops, dance performances, yoga studios, restorative spas, artisanal coffee, and organic chocolate. Immediately outside Ubud are lush green landscapes of rice paddies and bamboo forests. Given all these ingredients, it is no surprise that a luxury glamping destination would thrive here.

Meghan and I came to Ubud after spending a week in Bali’s busy coastal surf meccas, so we were excited for some well-deserved peace and quiet. Fortunately, Sandat Glamping is located outside the town center, about a 15 minute drive east of central Ubud, in the middle of working rice paddies.

As a boutique resort, there are only eight accommodations in the entire place — five luxury tents and three lumbungs. A lumbung is a traditional Indonesian “rice warehouse,” easily recognized by its bamboo pole structure and grass thatched roof.

lumbung-1

While the two-story lumbungs would have offered a beautifully authentic Balinese experience, we opted to stay in one of the signature luxury tents instead. Each of Sandat Glamping’s five safari tents has its own, Indonesian-inspired name. We were staying in the Bantan tent, which we learned was also known as the “white tent.”

bantan-tent

The concept of color theming would normally conjure mental images of a tacky hotel on the Las Vegas strip, but that association could not be farther from reality here. Sandat Glamping was developed by a fashionable Italian husband and wife duo with a tasteful eye for design. The color theme in this case is merely an accent, exquisitely woven throughout the unique decor of each luxury tent. Meghan in particular could not be happier that we chose the white tent with the shabby chic decor.

glamour-meghan

It was obvious that not a single detail of the interior design had been overlooked, and there were some thematic features that varied from tent to tent, from the hanging light fixture in the bathroom to the musical instrument used to summon room service. (Seriously. Our tent had a little xylophone, in lieu of the standard hotel telephone, if we needed something during our stay.)

light-fixtures

The staff at Sandat Glamping are overwhelmingly accommodating and they would have gladly helped us participate in some of Ubud’s many tourist activities.

other-activities

But we only had enough time in Ubud to stay at Sandat for one night, so opted to stay put and experience all the resort’s luxurious details. No need to leave! We’d rather rest and recuperate in our plush lounge chairs by our private plunge pool in the middle of our own slice of tropical jungle paradise.

other-tent-plunge-pool

lounging-3

We spent the rest of our day relaxing and reading in luxury. When we got hungry, we dined in Sandat Glamping’s main hall, which serves many functions including bar, lounge, restaurant, and meeting area. Just like the luxury tents, the hall is exquisitely designed, with attention to detail obvious throughout. Dinner was tasty too.

the-central-hall

dining-hall

The next morning, we arose naturally with sunlight pouring into the tent, which is one of the many things we love about the glamping experience. This was the first time while glamping, however, that we found ourselves in a luxurious bed that’d rival any 5-star resort. Well-rested and feeling inspired, we went for a run along the paths carved out in the rice paddies and soaked up the beauty.

paddie-buddha

Our time at Sandat Glamping was now running short, but we still had time for breakfast. Like everything else, the meal was elevated by an unfailing attention to subtle details. I particularly loved the fresh assortment of Bali’s best bread, pastries, and jam. (I had gone running already, after all.)

pastry-dan

After breakfast, it was time to go. Reflecting on our stay, it’s amazing how we never cease to be surprised by the range of our glamping experiences. We were initially drawn to the concept because we love nature, but find that camping can be cumbersome and a little too rough at times. Even then, glamping usually involves some sacrifices. Not at Sandat Glamping. On the contrary, Sandat has found a way to harmoniously merge the best elements of a boutique hotel — luxury, decor, and hospitality — with Ubud’s natural beauty, without making either feel out of place.

Daniel Doyon

After a decade of running the rat race in institutional real estate investment, Dan decided to abandon the deferred life plan and pursue his dream of extended world travel while still young. He resigned from his career, sold all his possessions, and began an open-ended journey around the globe, along with his girlfriend Meghan. Dan now contributes to Glamping.com as a guest writer.

La Cocoteraie Ecolodge: Glamping on Gili T

After spending a few weeks on the ever popular Indonesian island of Bali, we were excited to take a step off the beaten path and visit a nearby chain of tropical islands called “The Gilis.” The Gilis are three specks of white sand known for their beaches, laid-back atmosphere, and freedom from motorized vehicles — an ideal setting for some tropical glamping at La Cocoteraie Ecolodge.

To get to the Gilis from Bali, you need to take a makeshift “fast boat” some 50 kilometers across the Lombok Strait. Local Indonesian operators strap on as many outboard engines as will fit on their boats’ sterns and punch it, full throttle, hence the name. Our glamping adventure was off to a quick start.

outboard-engines

Two bumpy hours later, we were deposited on the eastern shore of Gili Trawangan — or Gili T — as it’s known.

unboarding-on-gili-t

Gili T is the largest and most developed of the three Gilis. It also has a reputation as a bit of a backpacker destination which we sensed immediately. While we have nothing against backpackers, we tend to favor more tranquility these days. Fortunately, La Cocoteraie is located on the western side of Gili T where it’s much, much quieter.

To get to the other side of the island with our luggage required a ride in the island’s signature mode of transportation: a cidomo (or “one-horse carriage”). Rather than circumnavigate the sandy beach ring road, the cidomo carried us briskly through the village and over dusty trails, into the heart of the tiny island. Small signs marked the faintly visible path to our destination.

CIDOMO-S

Unlike most other development on the Gilis, La Cocoteraie is not located on the beachfront. Instead, it’s tucked away about 300 meters along a dirt path into the woods. It is from this location among the coconut trees that La Cocoteraie derives its name — “the coconut place” in French. This location might not work for a traditional Gili resort hotel, but it is perfect for a glampsite.

La Cocoteraie was developed a little less than three years ago as a boutique resort with eight safari tents. Each tent is identical in design with the glamping upgrades of a porch, ensuite bathroom, electricity, wifi, and air conditioning. The decor and finishes are simple, striking a perfect balance between the natural aesthetic of camping and the luxury of a hotel stay. Bamboo is prevalent throughout — from the furniture to permanent construction — connecting the generic safari tent to the tropical locale.

coconut-grove-by-david-doyon

our-safari-tent-1-d-doyon

Other amenities include a modest bar & restaurant, a swimming pool, bicycles, and snorkeling gear. We love riding bikes so we immediately dropped off our bags and set out to explore Gili T.

bicycles-d-doyon

When we emerged onto the sandy loop road, we were instantly relieved to see that the western coastline is significantly less developed, still retaining some of that tropical paradise feel. We followed the coast north and then east to a beach where we were told sea turtles abound. Unfortunately, the swells were too powerful so we decided to pack it in before we spotted any turtles.

Another perk of the west coast of Gili T is its view of the sunsets. The sunset is celebrated nightly and you have a variety of “scenes” to choose from, ranging from club hits to live acoustic bands. We opted for the chilled out drum sesh at The Exile, which also sold the coldest beer I’ve enjoyed in over ninety days of tropical travelling. My kind of place.

we-have-beer-colder-than-your-exs-heart

the-exile-sunset

After the sunset, we went for dinner “downtown” on the other side of the island. By the time we finished our nasi goreng, things were already starting to get a little rowdy, so we skipped town and set off on a harrowing bike ride back home through the darkness. Thanks to our trusty headlamps, we made it to La Cocoteraie in one piece, giggling about a close encounter with a baby goat and his irritable mother. These are the kinds of adventures you don’t usually get staying in a normal hotel.

It had been a long day and we were exhausted. Before going to bed, however, we had an important decision to make: au naturale or air conditioning? After much deliberation, we finally decided to zip up the tent flaps and activate the aircon. Call us “soft” if you want — we don’t care. What’s the point of glamping if you’re not going to enjoy some of its glamours anyways?

In the cool and quiet, we slept like babies.

The rest of our Gili T adventure was spent in much the same way as our first day: exploring the island on our bikes, lounging on the beach, hunting for turtles, and enjoying the sunset. La Cocoteraie was the perfect home base, showcasing the best side of Gili T while offering a genuine tropical glamping experience among the coconut trees.

Daniel Doyon

After a decade of running the rat race in institutional real estate investment, Dan decided to abandon the deferred life plan and pursue his dream of extended world travel while still young. He resigned from his career, sold all his possessions, and began an open-ended journey around the globe, along with his girlfriend Meghan. Dan now contributes to Glamping.com as a guest writer.