Earlier this year I was cycling down a dusty side-street in Siem Reap, trying desperately to find a boutique hotel, which was tucked a little further out of town. I has already been caught in a small downpour once; my legs were speckled with dust and dirt, my hair was stuck to my face and children were running around me giggling and pointing at the obviously ‘lost’ foreigner who had accidentally found herself in their neighbourhood.
I passed a stall selling what I thought was ice-cream and realised that was exactly what I needed. Grinning, I ordered a portion and perched on a nearby kerb to eat it. But it wasn’t ice cream, it was doughy, delicious and full of coconut flavours. It turned out to be Num plai ai, glutinous rice flour dumplings stuffed with palm sugar syrup and rolled in fresh grated coconut and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It was nothing short of delicious.
I was healed. I looked around at my surroundings with fresh awe, I had the best job in the world and I would find this elusive, tucked-away hotel no matter what, I decided.
And that is exactly what I did. For the next five days I cycled up and down dusty streets, paved roads and bumpy fields to find the best boutique hotels in Siem Reap for luxury holidays to Cambodia. And now, in order to save you from the same ordeal, I will share my findings with you. Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to present my hidden gems for the cultural capital of Cambodia.
1) Navutu Dreams
Maybe I’m taking its name a little literally, but this is the stuff that dreams are made of. This is definitely one of my favourite ‘out of town’ spots (yes, it’s a dusty lane discovery!) – its beautiful white buildings sit around two large pools, surrounded by tropical gardens and it is, without a doubt, one of the prettiest resorts in the area. Located about 1.3km from Siem Reap, which takes just 10 minutes in a tuk-tuk, and about 5km from Angkor Wat, the resort feels very accessible despite feeling like you are hidden away in the very heart of Cambodia’s rural beauty, well off the tourist trail. Navutu Dreams only has 22 rooms so has an intimate feel – do not be surprised if resort manager Reaksmey knows your name by the end of your first day! All rooms have a stylish, chic decor, with wonderful arches and splashes of colour against otherwise white walls. Between the two swimming pools, is a large, round restaurant and bar, made from woods and natural materials, promises an atmospheric dining experience – and what’s more, with the owners being Italian, you can expect the finest Mediterranean cuisine as well as top notch Cambodia grub. (Prices start from £80 per night – click here for more pictures and details).
2. Pavilion D’Orient
Pavillion D’Oriet offers top notch luxury, service and comfort at extremely reasonable prices. And what’s more, it just oozes personality. What a find! With only 35 rooms set over large grounds you are promised an intimate stay at this charming, boutique hotel which blends the grandeur of French colonial times with traditional Cambodian architecture perfectly. The bedrooms are gorgeous, light and airy – think big, colonial wooden fans, large wooden French doors that open out onto airy balconies, and beautiful beds, draped in netting. It boasts French style with a Cambodian smile. The resort has two salt water pools, which means there is plenty of space to relax after a long day of temple viewing. There is also a spa on site as well as a fantastic open air restaurant Le Planteur, which offers a variety of Cambodian and European cuisine and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Snacks are served by the pool every day. (Prices start from £70 per night – click here for more pictures and details).
3. Samar Villas
This is another favourite ‘out of town’ spot of mine. Samar Villas takes the notion of what a boutique hotel should be to another level. The hotel, which has the look of a collection of traditional Khmer homes around a beautiful swimming pool, immediately creates and intimate and homely feeling. French owned, the hotel feels more like an extended, rambling house full of nooks and crannies. It offers guests some rather wonderfully quirky services including a free daily barber’s shave for men and one free facial for women during their stay. It has just eight rooms and each one is completely unique – with not a roll of wallpaper nor floorboard shared among them. Each room feels like you are walking into a different era – you could opt for the Japanese style Junior Suite with its low sunken bed on a deep wooden platform – or take the oriental themed suite with the gorgeous cushion-scattered-bed-like sitting area that is curtained off from the main room. Whatever you choose expect luxurious dark wooden furniture, beautifully tiled bedrooms and adorable finishing touches. This is a gem of a find in Siem Reap. (Prices start from £120 per night – click here for more pictures and details).
4. Shinta Mani Resort and Club
These two hotels, which are in the same ’boutique family’ and over the road from each other, are probably the funkiest boutique properties in Siem Reap. Designed by world famous architect Bill Bensley, they are ideal for those looking for a contemporary twist on hotel design. What’s more they have a wonderful location – in central Siem Reap’s leafy French Quarter. The room prices at the Resort are slightly cheaper than that of the Club but guests at either hotel can use the facilities at both sites. The resort is set around a beautiful large swimming pool, and all rooms have a terrace or first floor balcony looking onto the courtyard and pool. But it is the design that makes this hotel different. Think black and white, bold shapes and huge, mirrored walls, black metal beds that resemble something of a pimped hospital bed and handcrafted light fittings. The pictures above are from the resort, which I think is one of the best bargains of all the luxury hotels in Siem Reap. (Prices at the Resort start from £120 per night – click here for more pictures and details).
5 Heritage Suites
And then there is the Heritage Suites. Just when you thought this lost couldn’t get any better. The beautiful Heritage Suites is what I was lucky enough to call ‘home’ for the time I was in Siem Reap. After a hard, dusty day of cycling and hotel inspections, I got to return to one of the most beautiful rooms in Siem Reap decorated in a unique blend of Asian and Art Deco themes, with a garden, outdoor shower and even a private steam room! Some rooms even have private jacuzzis in the gardens. Again, this is a small luxurious resort, with just 26 spacious bungalows and suites, so the service is delightfully intimate and personal. I especially loved coming back to the fabulous outdoor swimming pool, which remained open in the evening, with a pool bar besides it. What better way to wrap up a day’s work?! (Prices at the Resort start from £180 per night – click here for more pictures and details).
Of course there are so many more fabulous boutique hotels in Siem Reap, including the wonderfully luxurious Amansara, which is said to be Angelina Jolie’s stay of choice when she’s in Siem Reap. But there is just something magical about the hotels I’ve mentioned here – all offer unique luxury, value for money and bundles of happiness. Just remember, there are some pretty good temples to see down the road!
If you are interested in booking a trip to Cambodia and would like to stay in Siem Reap please contact me via my contact page (in the ‘about’ menu) or take a look at my travel agency site Fleewinter – which sells luxury holidays to Cambodia.