In close proximity to the wondrous Angkor Wat temple complex, one of the greatest sights in Cambodia, the resort town of Siem Reap acts as a gateway for practically every traveller to the country. Despite its modest, almost provincial, character, there’s a plethora of hotels, inns and guesthouses catering to every pocket and preference. Here are a few of our favourites.
On the northern edge of town, the thoroughly modern eco-villas and suites of Templation stand in luxuriant gardens around a particularly large and eccentrically shaped swimming pool. Solar power, vegetation-covered roofs and open-to-the-sky bathrooms meld beautifully with the uncoated cement and local masonry of the building. Accommodation is sleek and unfussy with a faintly Japanese aesthetic, but the overall ambience distils a sort of stylised Khmer idyll.
Drawing liberally on avian themes, this city-centre hotel near Pub Street balances a practical modern aesthetic with bird-wing wall sculptures and birdcage lampshades along with neatly placed plants and foliage motifs. Likewise, rooms and facilities have names to match: Sarus Crane Suite, Plumage Restaurant and Flock Café. The Aviary somehow manages to accommodate a courtyard swimming pool curtained with brilliant green vines and yet another sunny rooftop pool edged with shrubbery.
Aman properties never do things by halves and, in utilising a former royal guesthouse, this resort is no exception. The angular 1960s New Khmer architecture has been meticulously restored and its austerity softened with fine detailing that echoes the exquisite sculpture of Angkor or highlights the simple beauty of raw materials. Each accommodation has its own private courtyard, some with plunge pools, and the restaurant occupies a spectacular domed hall once used for receptions and dancing. Experiences include meditative jungle treks, private water blessings, Jeep tours and sound healing.
The classic Mercedes cars draped around the driveway of this elegant colonial-tinged property amplify an almost stagey retro-cool boutique vibe. This promise is best fulfilled in the large suites, the best having private plunge pools and steam rooms. As if to compensate for the relative detachment of the hotel from the bustle of the city, there’s a particularly good restaurant with classic Khmer and European cuisine, while the weekly live-jazz evenings lend a memorable clubby ambience.
Tucked down a rather ordinary city-centre lane, the pleasing calm and practical simplicity of the Mulberry might come as a surprise. This compact yet charming 13-suite hotel has maximised its restricted footprint with inward-facing accommodation overlooking a courtyard swimming pool. Potted plants and shrubbery, bamboo screens, pattern-tile floors and an open-sided restaurant lend a thoroughly relaxed and unpretentious atmosphere.
The modest Pages effortlessly combines an artsy-boho hangout with simple yet comfortable upstairs accommodation. Situated in a refurbished 1960s family house, it feels like a homestay; meanwhile, the almost industrial café seems ready at a moment’s notice to clear its tables and lattes and morph into an art gallery. The local residential neighbourhood is fairly quiet, but the café is a great spot to tap into the local scene and more down-to-earth travellers.
Almost screened by a vertical garden of hanging vines and potted shrubbery on its upper verandahs, Viroth’s is a compact modern building. If ‘Scandi-Khmer’ design exists at all, this might be one of its temples: clean lines, spindle-legged upholstered chairs, bold geometric tiles and fastidious-looking sun loungers conjure a notably stylish property. There’s a spa, small swimming pool and a modest brasserie; for fine traditional Khmer cuisine, guests are usually directed to its nearby sister restaurant.
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