Across the river from the city’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.
Set in a beautiful garden space, everything in this floral-themed bar – from the wall art to the cocktails that incorporate local fruits and the small-bites menu (try the spring rolls with chocolate and Kampot pepper) – 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, 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, 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. 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. Rooms feature hardwood furnishing and French windows, and many even have a stone bathtub out on your own terrace, obscured by bougainvillea.
After years of working in some of Siem Reap’s finest kitchens, chef Seiha Chomnab ventured out on his own with this casual restaurant that opened in May. “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), based on his mother’s recipe, and the Battambang sausage (charcoal-grilled homemade pork and beef sausage).
SilkAir flies daily between Singapore and Siem Reap. To book a flight, visit singaporeair.com
This article was originally published in the November 2019 issue of Silkwinds magazine