Across the river from Siem Reap’s nightlife epicentre of Pub Street and its bustling surrounds, the quieter Wat Damnak neighbourhood is slowly cultivating attractions of its own, from cosy restaurants serving up inventive dishes and boutique hotels offering more personalised service, to beautiful art spaces with international appeal. We check out some must-visit spots below.
Set in a beautiful garden space, everything in this floral-themed bar – from the wall art to the cocktails that incorporate local fruits and their WILD menu (try the spring rolls with chocolate and Kampot pepper and Californication cocktail of red hot chili pepper infused vodka, peach liquor, mango purée and pomegranate) – feels personally curated by owners Lorraine and Renaud Dion, who work alongside their all-Khmer staff. The small shop at the back sells handmade crafts made by local families or social businesses, and all proceeds go to various NGOs – such as Soulcial Trust, which helps people with disabilities.
2. Sugar Spa
This bright and cheery day spa is a sanctuary in several ways: as an all-natural beauty salon for both men and women, as a relaxing open-air yoga studio and as a social enterprise that provides gainful employment to local women. They also work with an NGO that helps trafficked girls reintegrate into society.
An upright slab of deep teal concrete by the entrance is one of the telling signs of this gallery’s contemporary slant. The main space, a renovated traditional Khmer wooden house complete with lotus-themed latticework for eaves, signals its Cambodian DNA. The gallery aims to present the works of Cambodian artists to an international audience. Gallery director Martin Phéline says, “We want to show the world that Cambodia has something to say, with very interesting aesthetics.”
This charming boutique stay comprises Khmer-style villas built around two saltwater pools. Choose from three room types (balcony villa, deluxe terrace and deluxe rooftop) for a drastic yet magnificent view of the gardens below. You can even enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner in the comfort of your own room or visit the Rambutan bar for cocktails mixed with locally infused flavours.
Sister Srey Cafe isn’t just any conventional coffee shop. Opened in 2012, the airy and Instagram-worthy café is also a social enterprise with a goal to provide employment opportunities to young Khmer students who are struggling to balance studying and having to support their families. Besides being active in multiple community activities such as lunch donations and supporting small local businesses and farmers, Sister Srey also focuses heavily on environmental sustainability and works hard to reuse, reduce and recycle wherever possible.
After years of working in some of Siem Reap’s finest kitchens, chef Seiha Chomnab ventured out on his own with this casual restaurant inspired by his love for traditional Cambodian cuisine. “I want to share Siem Reap street food and present [it] in more modern ways,” he says, and the results are delectable market classics that spotlight Khmer cooking and flavours. Don’t miss the teuk kreung (shrimp and fish in coconut gravy served with vegetables), based on his mother’s recipe, and the Battambang sausage (charcoal-grilled homemade pork and beef sausage).
Bang Bang Bakery’s name comes from the Khmer word “nombang”, which means bread, and that’s exactly what it specialises in. Swing by and get your fix of freshly baked bagels, sourdoughs, donuts and ciabatta but be sure to check their bread and cake schedule beforehand so you won’t end up disappointed. Alternatively, you can visit for their brunch specials which include eggs Benedict with poached eggs, ham, spinach hollandaise and English muffin; and a Brekky Bagel filled with smoked bacon, fried egg, avocado and cheddar.
The information is accurate as of press time. For updated information, please refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.
To learn more about Singapore Airlines flights, visit singaporeair.com.
This article was originally published in the November 2019 issue of Silkwinds magazine and updated on 4 April 2021.