Looking to stay somewhere off the beaten path while you explore Angkor Wat? Here are three resorts that offer stays in thoughtfully restored traditional wooden houses as well as heritage-inspired villas.
1. Sala Lodges
Swiss-hotelier-restored Cambodian homes just outside the Siem Reap city centre
Sala Lodges is a boutique resort comprising 11 magnificent structures originally built from the 1950s to 1980s. Co-owners Swiss hotelier Arne Lugeon and his tourism expert wife Simone lovingly transported and restored each of these buildings to their near-original state.
Arne says that while there are similar types of wooden homes in neighbouring countries, several factors define the Cambodian style, especially the exquisite local materials used.
“These glorious old houses have a soul. You can really feel it”
“Everything is hyper-local. Most of the homes you find near the Mekong have these beautiful tiled roofs that you don’t find anywhere else,” he explains. “The wood used in many of these houses is called koki wood. It’s local to Cambodia, and can take a lot of humidity and withstand the rain. These glorious old houses have a soul. You can really feel it.”
For the comfort of today’s traveller, the Lugeons have added modern bathrooms, air conditioning and new luxurious beds and wardrobes from Rajasthan. The homes now stand in palm-shaded gardens, surrounded by frangipani trees and winding paths. There’s also a beautiful saltwater pool ensconced in lush greenery.
Also of note: The on-site Restaurant Monolith and Bar serves modern twists on Cambodian cuisine, such as a delicate Tonle Sap fish ceviche marinated in lime and lemongrass, and a moreish Khmer curry. Reserve a private dinner on your terrace for that extra special experience.
2. Maison Polanka
Traditional houses filled with Khmer art and artifacts
Maison Polanka is an intimate, idyllic boutique resort near Siem Reap River that features three exquisitely restored wooden houses in lush tropical gardens. Striking antique Art Deco furniture and beautiful artwork by contemporary Khmer artists such as Lim Muy Theam litter the place, such that every room possesses a touch of artistry.
Like the Lugeons, French-Cambodian owner Nathalie Saphon-Ridel and her husband Jean Pierre disassembled, moved and rebuilt two wooden homes to accompany the original house on the property.
The jewel is The Khmer House, a stunning 1940s wooden home originally from 30km away. This has now been exquisitely restored (with advice provided by a Kru, a Khmer spiritual master), and kitted out with mod-cons such as air conditioning and new bathrooms.
Also of note: Service is full of personal touches, with guests treated like friends or family. Staff go the extra mile to provide tips that only locals would know and arrange detailed bespoke itineraries such as a picnic at one of the quieter Angkor temples.
3. Zannier Hotels Phum Baitang
A family-friendly Khmer-inspired resort graced by the stars
Part of the Zannier Hotels group, Phum Baitang comprises 45 private villas on the outskirts of the city among paddy fields and meadows. While the modern and luxurious villas are all newly built, the traditional stylings give them the ambience of a rural Cambodian village. The resort’s Sunset Lounge, however, is the real deal: this 100-year-old farmhouse hails from a small town along the Mekong River.
Phum Baitang is ideal for families. Its paddies boast a pair of resident buffalos and the lagoon-sized pool is perhaps one of the largest in Siem Reap. There is a kids club where young ones can enjoy activities such as coconut-shell painting and traditional shadow puppet games. For the older kids, there is a PlayStation, as well as lessons in traditional apsara dance and bokator (a Cambodian martial art).
Also of note: Phum Baitang is a favourite with celebrities like Angelina Jolie, so you might just spot a star during your stay.
To learn more about Singapore Airlines’ flights to Siem Reap, visit the official website.