To describe the location of Smiling Gecko Farmhouse as being “in the middle of nowhere” would be unfair to the people and animals who call Samaki Meanchey District in Kampong Chhnang home. And to call it a farmhouse understates just how lovely these boutique bungalows, surrounded by tropical gardens, are. So let’s call it an “approachably posh” resort in a “remote bucolic locale.”
Which is to say that the 35-odd traditionally-styled wooden houses, the expansive — and mostly organic farm — possibly the nicest hotel pool in Cambodia, and the friendly staff combine to create a charming and quiet nature-filled escape from Phnom Penh, with plenty for adults and kids to enjoy (and maybe even learn from, fancy that!).
A 65 kilometer drive north from Phnom Penh along National Road 5, or some 90 kilometers if taking the backroads, which offer a glimpse of the “real” Cambodia. Despite its proximity to the capital, the route to Smiling Gecko Farmhouse firmly within Cambodia’s countryside: rice fields, palm trees, small local Wats, potholed red dirt roads. You get the picture.
For the full rural experience, the journey is very cyclable (which is how this intrepid adventurer traveled there and back), on almost traffic-free roads and tracks, and plenty of road-side coconut pit stops.
However one arrives, it is certainly worth the journey. Upon arrival, it is very quickly made clear that Smiling Gecko Farmhouse more than just a resort. Yes, the 4-meter deep pool is glorious; yes, the food is delicious; yes, the rooms are comfortable (especially the more expensive ones); but that is only the start. Stroll post the vegetable fields, fish ponds, and chicken coops that provide food for the restaurant, to get a sense of what sets Smiling Gecko apart.
There are even tours of the various farm areas on site, which makes a great way for children to learn more about how the food they eat is produced, while also offering adults insight into Cambodian farming techniques and how modern sustainability ideas are being introduced.
Indeed, the whole place ticks many sustainability boxes: no plastic anywhere, most of the food at the restaurant is local (including the fish and meat, for those who are so inclined), staff live on site and use bicycles to get around.
The farmhouse is connected to the Smiling Gecko NGO, which does social work in the economically deprived areas of southern Phnom Penh. It has built schools and local infrastructure, as well as providing jobs, possibly in an effort to help keep the local community economically secure, and not subject to the push/pull forces that have driven so many others into Phnom Penh seeking work.
Popular at weekends, during the week the whole place can feel like a private resort, and the good wifi allows for a great remote work location. Those so inclined can also do yoga, or get a restorative massage, or even leave the farm to see the abandoned nearby train station, or explore the endless red dirt roads bisecting the surrounding rice fields.
Standard rates are from $75 to $170 per night, for a traditional wooden house (called bungalows) that includes hot water and air-conditioning for two people. The higher prices are for the superior and comfort bungalows for two or three people, which have large balconies with chairs, minibars, rain showers, larger indoor seating area, and private patio under the bungalow. There are low season discounts as well as last-minute discounts, so check with Smiling Gecko for current prices.
Overall, highly recommended. Go visit, on the slowest route you are able, and have a great time!
Smiling Gecko Farmhouse Resort and Spa
Samaki Meanchey District, Kampong Chhnang
Tel: +855 11 67 95 95