Rich in both culture and history, Cambodia is a symbol of raw beauty and resilience. Despite the country’s horrific past, tourists are welcomed everywhere. Marvel at the many temples, including the legendary Angkor Wat. Visit laidback beaches and adventure through jungles. Read on to find out where to stay in Cambodia:
This beautiful private island resort is dotted across two tiny rainforests isles ringed by calm clear waters teeming with tropical fish in Cambodia’s southern Koh Rong archipelago. It comes with 24 vast thatched roof villas, a spa and a host of magical local experiences. Almost every part of every building and almost every item of furniture has been upcycled from wood collected in the local area – a painted fishing boat fashioned into tables, curving overwater walkways of mismatched planks, light-diffusing bamboo screens, and glossy driftwood stools.
Despite its remote location, Song Saa has no end of unforgettable experiences, from morning snorkels in search of seahorses, to afternoon kayaking through mangroves with the resident marine biologist, to night-time dips in bioluminescent waters. There are jungle villas, sea view villas and Maldivian-style overwater villas.
All are beautifully decorated in a contemporary-tropical style, with soaring thatched roofs, cool stone walls and vast four-poster beds. The indoor/outdoor bathrooms are dreamy, especially in the evening, when the huge soaking tubs are lit with tealights. Vista Restaurant, positioned at the end of a wooden walkway snaking out to sea, catches both sunrises and sunsets. The food spins Khmer ingredients into menus that change daily.
Wake up to the sound of birdsong and gibbon calls and watch the morning mist rise and clear over the forested Cardamom Mountains. That’s your view from the deck of these luxury tents, each one on a floating pontoon along southwest Cambodia’s jungle fringed Tatai River. A library, restaurant and reception sit on the central pontoon, with 12 luxury tents and riverfront decks on either side.
Owing to the fragility of Cambodia’s ecosystem, the owners have minimized the use of wood, solar power is used where possible, and community projects are supported. Kayaks are free to use, and staff can organize waterfall trips – great for a hydro-massage, and firefly and sunset cruises, rainforest hikes and village excursions. There is no pool, but the river awaits. Zip open your tent to find comfortable king-sized or twin beds, desks, wardrobes, minibars, standing fans, and TV screens for watching DVDs.
Each has a lounge area with a chaise longue, and a spacious bathroom with twin sinks and an innovative wooden shower barrel containing a hot-water power shower. The river-view deck is the highlight, with loungers, a parasol, and a table and chairs. Meals are served at the bar-restaurant or on your deck. This is a good location for trips to Tatai Waterfall, Koh Kong Island and the surrounding jungle, and Cardamom Mountain treks can be arranged.
First opened in 1929, Raffles Hotel Le Royal is one of the best hotels in Cambodia and one of Phnom Penh’s true heritage hotels, presenting a wonderful fusion of colonial, Khmer and Art Deco styles. Writers, royalty and celebrities have stayed here, and the walls are lined with historical black-and-white photographs. One wing was only built in 1997, but many of the interiors are original, from the polished tiles and restored staircase to the bookcases and bureaus lining the elegant corridors.
And even with 175 rooms, Raffles feels intimate. Facilities include two sublime outdoor pools at the back, surrounded by loungers, frangipani trees and tropical shrubs. Raffles Spa offers excellent treatments plus a sauna, steam room and hot tub. There is also a gym and two restaurants. Most rooms are State Rooms, in the newer wing, with private balconies, separate showers/baths in marble bathrooms, and traditional décor.
One category up is the Landmark Rooms in the original 1929 building, some with balconies and all with butler service, original claw-foot baths, antiques and high ceilings. Spacious suites include the luxurious Le Royal Suite. The Elephant Bar is a city favorite and a popular spot for afternoon tea, or else the 4pm to 9pm happy hour, when it serves its signature Femme Fatale cocktail, created for Jackie Kennedy in 1967.
For fine dining, the elegant Restaurant Le Royal is Phnom Penh’s only restaurant serving Royal Khmer cuisine, recipes handed over by the royal family. Raffles has one of the best addresses in town, along a quiet, tree-lined boulevard, among embassies, government buildings and the National Library. It is a five-minute walk to the temple hill Wat Phnom, and 10 minutes to the riverfront. The National Museum, Royal Palace and other sights such as the Russian Market are a short tuk-tuk ride away.
The Plantation is ideally located for exploration of Phnom Penh’s historic sights and vibrant markets. It is right behind the royal palace, and close to the National Museum, the riverfront, restaurants and bars. The hotel’s character reveals itself in historical layers. You will first step through a large wooden gate into a courtyard, complete with a pond and six Angkor-style lions. Beyond the courtyard, the high-ceilinged lobby is situated in a handsome 1930s’ French villa.
There are two pools, a small one open to outside guests, and a splendid lap pool, flanked by cabanas and loungers, and open to hotel guests only. An excellent spa offers a variety of oil massages and more comprehensive treatment packages. The rooms in the old block, housed in a Khmer style building from the 1960s, are beautifully restored, compact but bright, with patios or balconies. Some feature a single and a double bed, others just a double. The best views can be enjoyed from the upper rooms in the new block. Bathrooms are simple, compact and feature rain showers. There are two restaurants, one serving Khmer cuisine with some western dishes, and the other offering a French fine dining experience.
This intimate luxury hotel, in the heart of Siem Reap, just a 10-minute drive from the Angkor Archaeological Park, has 59 elegant suites that artfully blend traditional Khmer style with contemporary design. The centerpiece is an enticing saltwater pool, guarded by an Angkorian stone lion and edged by towering palms and tropical greenery, providing a serene haven from the heat.
There is a small gym and an impressive range of treatments at the sleek Kong Kea Spa, along with a steam room, sauna and Zen-like relaxation pool. Complimentary daily activities include tours of galleries or a blessing from a Buddhist monk. Bicycle tours and half-day cooking classes can also be arranged. Suites are light, bright and generously sized.
King-sized beds scattered with silk cushions sit on bamboo mats on polished wood floors. There is a daybed, separate dressing room and the marble bathrooms come with twin sinks, egg-shaped bathtubs and walk-in rain showers. All suites have outside space: Junior Suites have a small balcony, while the ground-floor Garden Junior Suites come with a secluded double-daybed and direct access to the pool.
The nightly buffet of ‘hawker-style’ classic dishes – including free-flowing wine, beer and soft drinks – at the indoor-outdoor Spice Circle is a great place to try Khmer cuisine. Poolside Ember is the place for all-day Asian cuisine and international light bites with a Latin twist. The open-sided Martini Lounge, with its gently whirring ceiling fans, offers an extensive wine list and creative martinis.
Phum Baitang is a stunning luxury resort modeled on a Cambodian village, featuring wooden villas reminiscent of local farmhouses, some with private pools. The property is just a 15-minute tuk-tuk ride to the Angkor ruins, as well as to the Old Market downtown area and the airport. Here, 25 villas and 20 pool villas are spread across 20 acres of meandering grounds that are half-garden, half-farm.
There is a large freeform saltwater pool and a spa with seven treatment bungalows, as well as a sauna and steam room, and a small but well-equipped gym. Bicycles are free to use on the resort grounds and cooking classes are available. Two types of high-ceilinged villas stand amidst a rice plantation and verdant lawns, with red tiled roofs and wood cladding, beautifully worn wooden floors and shutters, rattan sliding doors and fine retro-style furniture.
The terrace villas come with spacious balconies, while the even bigger pool villas boast almost-private plunge pools with adjacent salas. Bathrooms have huge tubs and rainshowers. The informal Bai Phsar serves fantastic Khmer cuisine. An excellent pre-dinner glass from the resort owner’s vineyards in France and Portugal can be enjoyed while watching the sunset from the terrace of the Cocktail & Cigar Bar in a one-hundred-year-old wooden house.
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