A short tuk-tuk ride away from the magnificent temple complex and twisting tree trunks of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Amansara is a tranquil little retreat that more resembles a lushly landscaped private residence than a hotel. The former guesthouse of Cambodian royalty that was designed by a prominent French architect in 1962, the building is a mod marvel of sleek lines and curves dropped into what feels like a private jungle oasis. More intimate and convivial than what most have come to expect of the Aman group, it stands apart from a collection of hotels that tends towards a more monastic atmosphere.
Style & Surrounds
The design? Designed during the height of 1960s New Khmer architecture that adapted modernism to a tropical clime with airy open spaces, the property soon became a hotel after its inception as a royal villa. It was then occupied and later abandoned during the political upheaval of the ’70s, before its more recent restoration. The building’s mid-century aesthetic has now been complemented with decorative touches like rattan chairs and locally woven silks and linens.
The scene? While a convivial mood prevails between guests and the warm and welcoming staff, there’s an air of sophisticated quietude that keeps most interactions throughout the day to a softly spoken exchange.
The surrounds? Set opposite the verdant royal gardens along the access road to the Angor Wat temple, the grounds of the property are an equally lush enclave of canopied trees, manicured courtyards and gently babbling water features.
Day beyond the hotel?Angkor Wat can easily consume two days’ worth of exploration, most charmingly by bicycle via a network of discrete paths. The town of Siem Reap proper has an evolving scene of dining and shopping beyond the bedlam of its more touristy thoroughfares—even if there is a certain charm to a cheap bowl of nom pajok (fish noodle soup) and beer as the tuk-tuks and scooters whirr by.
The rooms The simple, elegant and airy rooms are rendered in a uniformly retro style, with a monochrome color palette manifest in dark furniture and smoothly finished white concrete walls. Floor-to-ceiling windows lead onto a private courtyard which includes a plunge pool in 12 of the suites.
Bolt-hole, palatial or something in-between? All rooms essentially have the same spacious footprint—the difference is the outdoor space, which ranges from a small courtyard to a large patio with the private plunge pool.
The turndown touches?When you arrive after a taxing day of travel, the staff draw a warm bath with floating lotus flowers next to a small stand with incense and bath salts, while soothing Buddhist chants play over the sound system.
If you could, what would you take home? We’d start with the linens, but come back for one of the vintage woven chairs.
Room for improvement? All in all, there is little to fault in the rooms, though the positioning of the freestanding bathtubs in the bedrooms can feel like a squeeze.
Lobby, Bar & Amenities
How was the food? The kitchen plates up fragrant Cambodian fare like sour soup, green papaya salad and fish curry in a domed dining hall that was once a dancehall.
The breakfast? Breakfast can be taken in the dining room or the hotel’s private Khmer house in a serene spot close to the Angkor temple complex. The menu ranges from local produce like dragon fruit and mangosteen, freshly pressed juice, or a more savory start to day like spicy green curry noodle soup.
The bar? The cocktail menu features a mix of reinvented classics that are very welcome after a day’s sightseeing, including a refreshing lemongrass drink with mezcal and a feisty kick of local chilis.
Bring a bathing suit?Yes, beyond the pool suites, there are two communal pools—one of which is a retro affair and the other a secluded lap pool for more serious swimmers. Each provides a much-needed splash of cool in the hot afternoons.
Salon, spa and treatments: The expert therapists at the Amansara spa can ease away any sore muscles with traditional Cambodian techniques like a pre-treatment scrub incorporating a blend of fresh Khmer herbs or a dry massage that focuses on pressure points to improve blood flow and flexibility. In fact, it was one of the best treatments we’ve ever had.
Be warned about: The hotel is much smaller and more intimate than one might expect for an Aman property, which will be a welcome relief for those wanting a secluded hideout, but may disappoint anyone hoping for room to roam.
The Green Card
PRIOR preferences hotels with green credentials who give back in a real way to their communities. The following criteria were modeled in partnership with Bouteco, an enterprise celebrating truly sustainable hotels.
A sustainability manager for the Michel Reybier Hospitality group, which owns five La Réserve properties and six more across France and Switzerland, will start in early 2020 focussing on group-wide initiatives such as reducing the amount of plastic consumed. The group is already phasing out straws from all its bars and restaurants.
The hotel engages in water conservation and efforts to limit energy use, and separates waste for recycling and composting.
Address Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Number of rooms 24 suites, including 12 pool suites.
Activities The hotel provides anything from yoga lessons to wellness treatments and Khmer cooking classes.
Families Extra beds and babysitters can be arranged for younger children.