Recently I spent 4 nights staying at 4 Rivers; this was supposed one of the highlights and the “luxurious” part of my 3 week visit around Cambodia. I write this review as a reflection of my experience that I would like to share with you as fellow travellers: some parts were good, some parts were bad. The bad bits are not immediately apparent – but as I stayed and looked beyond the surface, these became more and more apparent day by day; accentuated by my better experiences in Cambodia and travels to other parts of the world. My trip started as I was greeted by the friendly staff as I boarded the 5pm boat at Tatai bridge. The trip to the floating lodge took about 20 minutes, and as I approached the lodge, set against the sunset, the lodge certainly seemed to be set in a lovely quiet location – a good start and certainly good first impressions. There are 12 tents; 6 on either side of the central area/tents which house the dining area, office, and general communal area. If you’re allocated a tent close to the central area, you may be affected by noise and certainly by other guests who walk past your tent to get to theirs (as the tents are floating they will move up and down a bit as people walk past on the walkway). We were fortunate to have a tent near the end – the best tent is the 6th tent right at the end of the 2 walkways. At least 2 sets of other guests we met changed tents during their stay. The tents are nice and large; first impressions were great – nice throws on the bed, large flat screen TV and DVD player, wardrobe, lounge chaise, chairs/desk and fridge were all available. The en-suite housed a wooden standalone shower, but there were several things that lacked attention to detail for a lodge that is marketed as “luxury”. For example, the door to the shower was broken, the wall paper ripped in parts and starting to fade, the lamps mis-aligned with the mirror, the mirror too low, no shelf to put your toiletries...the list goes on. Yes, these are small, even tiny, points – but for a lodge that charges USD 139 a night - more than twice as much as many other lodges in Cambodia (to compare like for like at local rates), and marketed as luxury, you would expect them to get this right. Another example of lack of attention is that light bulbs had gone in the main dining area and these were not replaced, butter brought out at meals that were still hard (yes, I know, small points.....but that’s what you’d expect them to get right). Housekeeping was poor, toiletries were not replaced, and I had to chase housekeeping down to ask for them to be replenished. Towels were stained; some of the towels that were used only once and hung up in the bathroom were replaced (not eco-friendly), others that were wet and left outside on the deckchairs were just left there. Plates in our tent from the night before were not cleared by housekeeping, and were finally cleared by the general “run of house” staff more than 24 hours later, who were actually very good, polite and friendly. The lodge is marketed as an eco-lodge, but sadly it isn’t eco-friendly. I am not a conservationist, but several things are apparent - such as the large generator on a nearly little island 50m away runs day and night, and there are no solar panels.
There are 3 organised activities that you can sign up to, including a day trip to Tatai waterfalls (expensive at USD 25 with lunch) – the waterfall was quite good, and if you’re up for the 12km trip you can kayak back. A USD 25 fishing village trip was also offered, but no one took this up – who wanted to pay to oogle at local village people? The best trip was the 9pm 10 minute night kayak to watch the fireflies in a nearly tree....blinking on and off in the dark, like Christmas lights. Management were also looking at starting a short 1 hour trip to the nearly island where the 4 Rivers generator and some local people lived – we did the “pilot” – there were lots of fruit trees, and locals lived there in their bamboo/wooden shacks. I wondered what they thought to the USD 139 a night tents only 50m away from them? Probably a night’s accommodation at the tents was 2 month’s salary for them. You can also hire kayak’s for USD 9 a hour if you’d like to paddle up/downstream on your own. Nice idea but expensive.
Unfortunately, you cannot “leave” the premises /lodge. The lodge is truely floating; walkways interconnect the tents and communal area, but no-where else. Whilst some people may like this, I felt a bit “trapped” as I like the sense of freedom; to be able to go for a night walk, to go somewhere else for dinner, to have options (unlike other river floating lodges we have been to in other parts of the world). This was not possible. I was also disappointed to find out that despite its location, there is very little wildlife: just a few small fish swimming in the river and few Circadia insects flying around.
To fill your days and nights up, books and DVDs are available. Whilst I realise that in Asia there are many fake copies and illegal downloads, I felt it was wrong for an establishment such as 4 Rivers to readily have obvious non-original DVD’s on display and for loan to the guests.
One of my biggest gripes is the over-pricing. The lodge is positioned as high end, positioned for the segment of the market where customers who don’t mind spending that little more and want a bit of luxury. However, several things are hugely over-priced at 4 Rivers for what they are. Dinner is a 3 course meal priced at USD 19 per person: cheap by western standards, but for those of you who have spent time in Cambodia know that you can get a really good main course for USD 3. (You are stuck at the lodge so you can’t go anywhere else). Dinner standards are mixed; some main courses were delicious, such as the beef fillet and mushroom sauce, but some of the starters were rather odd, such as the watermelon, chilli and mozzarella skewers. Breakfast, on the other hand, was great due to the variety (and that wasn’t only due to the fact that it was included in the room rate). You did have to ask for juice refills as the staff did not do this (probably the “conservation” part coming in from management). Lunch is not included and you can pay up to USD 12 for a sandwich – also overpriced. Cocktails also overpriced at $5.50. For me there was a very apparent sense of management trying to get the most $$$ they could out of the customers. 4 Rivers is only 18km from Koh Kong and the staff make regular trips there to get supplies/go about their daily duties, so it really isn’t that isolated in terms of ferrying goods in. My most disappointing experience was my last day at 4 Rivers, when I asked for a taxi to pick me at Tatai bridge to take me to my next destination. The price quoted was over-inflated (this is based on my personal experience after having taken several private taxi’s across Cambodia), and when I asked why this was so expensive (extra $ were also added due to their usual taxi service being booked up), I was snapped at by the Hungarian/Romanian general manager who was on site that day. He challenged me and said that he was making a zero profit on top of the quoted price, saying that we could phone and challenge the taxi driver himself and have him on loudspeaker so I could see for myself. I politely declined saying that it really wasn’t my role to do that as a guest at the lodge. I accepted the price in the end (I had no choice; I recognised that the taxi drivers could charge higher prices as there was less competition – Tatai bridge after all is not Koh Kong or Phnom Penh), after being told that the taxi service 4 Rivers used was better, the drivers spoke English and there was no car pool and other people jumping in part way (I did point out my other cheaper taxi trips in Cambodia were private, but this comment was duely ignored by him). Francois the site manager witnessed this, and it was nice of him and Anna (another member of management who seemed nice) to apologise on behalf of the general manager that evening. Despite this, my trip ended on a sour note. The next morning, when I left, my expensive car service turned out to be a ute / pick up truck where I was cramped in the back seat (which wasn’t a proper seat), together with the drivers wife and son, his clothes and bags, and the driver also accepted a large tip from 2 other passengers he put in the back who were trying to get a bus they missed.
Do read the 4 Rivers small print – they ask that you tip the staff USD 20 per person per day (staff were great, but note that the average Cambodian wage is USD 1-3 a day – so work that one out), and that there is a 3% credit card charge on your bill should you wish to pay by MC or Visa. Many places in Cambodia do accept credit cards without charge now.
Would I recommend 4 Rivers to other fellow travellers? If you’re just staying a night or two, don’t mind paying over-inflated Cambodian prices, travelling along the southern Cambodian coast anyway, don’t mind it’s not eco, don’t need to do very much and don’t mind the sense of being “trapped”, then you may not mind it, and may even enjoy it - as some other fellow reviewers do. However, would I go again or recommend it to my friends and other travellers who want that special trip that is really what it is made out to be? I think you know the answer....4 Rivers is not there yet.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.