Anan­tara Angkor Re­sort & Spa is where you should stay in Siem Reap

Af­ter ex­plor­ing huge tem­ples and quaint mar­kets, this lit­tle gem of a ho­tel is the per­fect oa­sis of tran­quil­ity and re­lax­ation in Siem Reap.

Jetgala - - CONTENTS - by Ter­rie V Gutierrez

First a caveat: If you like be­ing in the cen­tre of the ac­tion when you’re on va­ca­tion, this charm­ing ho­tel is not for you. But if you’re like us who love to get away from ev­ery­thing, then Anan­tara Angkor Re­sort & Spa is per­fect.

Not to say that the ho­tel is far off the beaten track, be­cause it isn’t.

The fab­u­lously de­signed all-suite ho­tel is only about 10 min­utes, give or take, from the in­ter­na­tional air­port and about 20 min­utes from Siem Reap’s most fa­mous at­trac­tion – UNESCO World Her­itage Site Angkor Wat and the sur­round­ing tem­ple com­plex. For those want­ing a slice of the bus­tle of Siem Reap, the old town, art vil­lages, and mar­kets are just a

tuk-tuk ride away.You don’t even have to hail a tuk-tuk – or re­mork-mo­tos, as the Cam­bo­di­ans call them – be­cause Anan­tara has a ded­i­cated tuk-tuk ser­vice that can take you to wher­ever you want to go for free. It’s part of the ho­tel’s per­son­alised ser­vice.

Mi­nor Ho­tels doesn’t re­ally mar­ket its first out­post in Cam­bo­dia as a cou­ples-only retreat, but the small in­ti­mate prop­erty has a warm and pri­vate vibe that feels like you’re stay­ing in your own villa. The in­ti­mate, homey feel is de­lib­er­ate. Done up like a grand Kh­mer villa, with well-de­signed and -ap­pointed suites set around an open court­yard and a pool, the ho­tel ex­udes pri­vacy and ele­gance, with lo­cal de­sign el­e­ments bal­anced by mod­ern art el­e­ments like the Henry Moore-es­que giant sculp­ture of a mother and child by the pool.

For a small prop­erty – there are only 39 suites – the ho­tel con­veys a sense of space and place in both the pub­lic ar­eas and suites, which adds to its over­all el­e­gant op­u­lence.

Food trip­ping

Upon check-in, guests are greeted with a “wel­come home” by the friendly staff and then whisked off for a re­fresh­ing wel­come drink and foot bath rit­ual at the lux­u­ri­ous spa, which has five treat­ment rooms, a wet room, steam room and a hot tub.

There are only two restau­rants in the prop­erty, but th­ese are more than enough. The newly re­fur­bished Chi Restaurant and Bar of­fers a well-cu­rated and de­li­cious menu of rein­ter­preted Kh­mer cui­sine by the tal­ented Chef Kien Wag­ner, whose love for Kh­mer cui­sine is ev­i­dent in his dishes. Try his sig­na­ture Lok-Lak stir-fry, which hews true to the tra­di­tional dish, even

though he uses US beef. Also a must-try is the ex­cel­lent braised lamb shank curry sara­man served with a crunchy baguette. The only draw­back – if one can even call it that – to a meal at Chi (which is Cam­bo­dian for “spice”) is that the por­tions are huge and meant for shar­ing.

A nice touch to din­ner is the ta­ble­side drinks bar, in which the bar lit­er­ally is rolled over to you so you can watch the friendly bar­tender mix your cock­tails ta­ble­side. For those who pre­fer wine, the restaurant has a de­cent wine se­lec­tion.

The restaurant also does a very good break­fast, with both buf­fet and a la carte op­tions in­cluded. If you don’t fancy any­thing in the break­fast spread, just tell the servers and they will make it for you. A se­lec­tion of freshly baked breads are served to you ta­ble­side.

For ca­sual drinks and snacks, L Lounge is the per­fect place to go. In­dulge in the canapés and cock­tails as you catch your breath in be­tween tem­ple tours or shop­ping ex­cur­sions.

Op­u­lent liv­ing

But all the ameni­ties will be noth­ing if the rooms do not come up to scratch. Anan­tara Siem Reap’s 39 ground-floor and first­floor suites are lux­u­ri­ous, all done up in hard­wood floors and dark wood fur­ni­ture. The Kh­mer touches – wall pan­els, replica stat­uettes, re­clin­ing so­fas, claw­foot tubs with fra­grant lo­cal herbs – mix in beau­ti­fully with the mod­ern up­grades – en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem, safe, wi-fi and free mini­bar.

While the ho­tel bills all the rooms as suites, not all suites are cre­ated equal. In­spired by fa­mous ex­plor­ers Henri Mouhot and Jim Thomp­son, Anan­tara’s “pres­i­den­tial” suites are noth­ing short of lux­u­ri­ous. In­spired by the French nat­u­ral­ist who ex­plored Angkor Wat and shared his ex­plo­rations with the world, the Henri Mouhot Suite is the larger of the two. It has two bed­rooms and can ac­com­mo­date six guests. The Anan­tara Ex­plorer Suite is in­spired by the fa­mous Jim Thomp­son (yes, him of the Thai silk). Both suites are de­signed like a tra­di­tional Kh­mer sum­mer home, with silk drapes, in­door and out­door space, a lush trop­i­cal gar­den with plunge pool. The lounge has a wine fridge, and the mar­ble bath­rooms have dou­ble van­i­ties, tubs and rain­show­ers. There is also a sep­a­rate spa room with a Jacuzzi and mas­sage area.

Per­sonal touches

Anan­tara is fa­mous for its per­son­alised ser­vice, and the same can be said for Anan­tara Angkor. Ex­pe­ri­ence but­lers will at­tend to your ev­ery need and sug­gest ac­tiv­i­ties that you might want to do or see. Should you want a trip to Angkor Wat and the tem­ples, the ho­tel can ar­range that for you, which will in­clude a packed break­fast (for the dawn view­ing of Angkor Wat), a car and a knowledgeable guide – called a Tem­ple Guru – to take you around. Cu­rated shop­ping ex­pe­di­tions led by your own Street­wise Guru are also avail­able should you re­quest it.

Those who are more culi­nary-in­clined might want to en­roll in a cooking class at Spice Spoons with the chef. This in­cludes a trip to a lo­cal mar­ket, where Chef Kien will help you buy in­gre­di­ents and ex­plain the dif­fer­ent in­gre­di­ents used in Cam­bo­dian cooking. It’s an eye-open­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for those who are not fa­mil­iar with Kh­mer dishes.

Aside from this, you may re­quest from an ar­ray of cu­rated ex­pe­ri­ences that Anan­tara has lined up for its guests. Should you want some­thing spe­cial, the ho­tel will go out of its way to cre­ate one for you.

Ex­pe­ri­ence but­lers will at­tend to your ev­ery need and sug­gest ac­tiv­i­ties that you might want to do or see.

LEFT: Sign up for a cooking class at Spice Spoons, where the chef will in­tro­duce you to the de­li­cious flavours of Cam­bo­dian cui­sine NEXT PAGE, TOP: The vil­las all over­look the lovely salt­wa­ter pool, dom­i­nated by a mother and child sculp­ture. This is a per­fect spot to have a drink and some snacks on a hot af­ter­noonBOT­TOM: In­te­ri­ors of Chi Restaurant and Bar

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