Five special hotels in Cambodia
First published 20th November, 2007
Cambodia's guesthouse and hotel scene is really developing, with some outstanding places to now stay at across the country. Here are five very special places that caught our eye on a foray through the countryside in 2007. If you'd like to factor in a splurge or two during your trip, these all belong on your short list.
PHNOM PENH: BODDHI TREE ARAM
Set in the heart of Phnom Penh's colonial district and within a short walk of the Royal Palace and the riverfront, Boddhi Tree Aram is easily one of the most charming properties in Phnom Penh. Set in a renovated 1950's house, the building was once the residence of the Spanish owner of the Boddhi Tree brand and it must have been an oh so hard decision to up and move out to make way for guests.
Boddhi Tree Aram boasts soaring ceilings, airy rooms and interiors, a comfortable balcony cafe and a rooftop terrace. A tranquil colour scheme permeates throughout, and the rooms, while not massive, are immaculate and well decorated (though we'd swap the TV for a minibar). Small balconies accompany some rooms, though the views are little to get excited about. Spacious bathrooms come with piping hot water showers. The first floor encompasses both reception and lobby, with comfortable furnishings, tasteful art and a complimentary selection of newspapers (IHT and Cambodia Daily). WiFi access is available throughout the property without charge.
Boddhi Tree has little flourishes that distinguish it from its competitors -- tiny fish in tall vases by reception, aromatherapy burners infusing calming lemongrass scents, mixed light and heavy curtains -- perfect for early birds and late sleepers. Sashes deflect the harsh midday sun if you're lounging on the terrace restaurant, and complimentary mixed olives come with your afternoon tipple.
But these are trivial compared to Boddhi Tree's number one asset -- its staff. Travelling with a baby isn't always easy and we found Boddhi Tree's staff and owner to be incredibly accommodating of our needs. Our kitchen is your kitchen -- please make yourself at home was how we were greeted, and by the time we left, Aram truly felt like a home away from home.
What Boddhi Tree Aram isn't, is cheap. You'll get a property for half the price with a swimming pool elsewhere in Phnom Penh (Boddhi Tree doesn't have a pool, though you can walk over to the Himawari and use theirs, for a fee). But there's more to life than a swimming pool and we found that the glowing service and lovely building more than compensated for the stiff rates.
Boddhi Tree Aram
70 St 244 Phnom Penh
Tel: (011) 854 430
SIEM REAP: VIROTH'S HOTEL
As we waited at Viroth's reception, one of the guests wandered over to say hello, and when we asked how the rooms were, he replied: "Fabulous -- nothing more -- nothing less," and then promptly offered to walk us through their room. Viroth's is the kind of place where the guests freely intermingle, the staff are approachable and the rooms, well, they're fabulous!
Set a short walk from the Siem Reap River in Wat Bo, we found compact Viroth's to be a breath of fresh air in Siem Reap's cluttered hotel scene. Truly a boutique hotel -- one that has earned the moniker rather than shamelessly appropriated it -- Viroth's has but a handful of slick, stylishly designed rooms, clustered through a multi-level modern building which overlooks the most wonderful (albeit small) swimming pool.
The rooms are light and airy and styled in the ivory linens, sharp edges minimalist manner popular in Thailand, and we'd say they've got it down just about perfectly here. Amenities include air-con throughout, open-plan bathroom with rainfall shower, cable TV, internet access and firm, queen-sized beds. Some rooms are barely stumbling distance from the ideally placed swimming pool.
There's plenty of open space, the foyer blends off into poolside with the rooftop cafe (breakfast only) and Jacuzzi swinging the deal. To us, Viroth's felt like it would be just as at home perched on a Balinese cliff top overlooking the ocean as it does on this Siem Reap back road and next time we're in town we know where we'll be staying. Reservations recommended.
0658 Wat Bo, Siem Reap
Tel: (063) 761 720;(016) 951 800
BATTAMBANG: LA VILLA
Battambang's La Villa is, quite simply, one of the most charming hotels we've seen in Cambodia -- and we've seen most of them.
Dating back to the 1930's, this lovingly restored colonial villa has been transformed from a squat into the most mesmerising of small hotels. La Villa sits just across the Sangker River from central Battambang and is comprised of a compact two-storey building in a walled-off garden.
The rooms are exquisite -- cool encaustic tiles are relaxing on the feet and charming to the eyes, while art deco interiors display an attention to detail we see far far too infrequently. Tall ceilings and subdued colours make what are already very spacious lodgings appear even more so -- the upstairs rooms are simply massive, with an almost public reading room appearance about them. Downstairs, the rooms are more moderately sized, but they're still lovely, with tasteful linens, cloths and antiques littered throughout. The hot-water bathrooms come with large and deep freestanding bathtubs ideally suited to the type of long -- hot -- soak you'll need to rid yourself of red dust after a day in the countryside. But it doesn't stop with the rooms. La Villa also boasts an excellent restaurant -- bright and airy courtesy of a large atrium skylight. Both the restaurant and bar come well recommended.
The only thing La Villa lacks is a swimming pool and we were told, by the especially friendly co-owner who showed us around, that one may be on the way some time in the near future.
While the rates blow the Battambang average out of the water, that's more a reflection on most of the town's lodgings being ridiculously cheap rather than La Villa being at all overpriced. This is a truly lovely boutique hotel worth every penny -- we'd go to Battambang just to stay here. Highly recommended for a splurge.
185 Pom Romchek 5, Battambang
Tel: (053) 730 151, (012) 991 801
KAMPOT: LES MANGUIERS
We first heard of Les Manguiers (The Mango Trees) in hushed tones in Phnom Penh and what we found was just as we were told -- hidden-away bungalows in a mangrove grove, nestled between rice paddies and the slow waters of the Kampot River -- all a couple of kilometres north of Kampot town, along a rutted dirt road guaranteed to keep the minibuses at bay.
It's an interesting spot, a melange of sorts -- backpacker meets expat -- under French-Khmer management. We arrived in the midst of a heaving rainstorm and as we plonked our way up the cracked pavers, with the river's waters very high and the grounds almost awash, it felt almost malarial -- but in a good way. Once safely ensconced in our spacious bungalow we felt a world away from, well everywhere. While we didn't swim due to poor weather, at night the river is aglow with phosphorescence and quite the experience to immerse yourself in -- another facet that adds to the magic. It's a very timeless, captivating spot.
The bungalows are far bigger than normal and very spacious inside with plenty of well-screened windows and, something we'd not seen before, screened in ceilings -- removing the need for any netting on the actual bed. Bathrooms were equally large, with bitingly cold water showers and a throne with a view. Minor gripes was a shower hose designed for the height-challenged and a frustratingly small balcony which could have been a good deal larger and more comfortable if the stairs went up the side of the bungalow rather than the front.
Les Manguiers has a dining area set over the river that felt like it was going to collapse at any moment, but the very cheery and helpful staff guaranteed us it was far more solid than it looked, which wasn't very solid at all. While there's no menu, the food was pretty good and once you're over the shaking floorboards, the dining area is quite a comfortable place to while away the slow hours.
Perhaps reflecting its popularity with expats, Les Manguiers is a little overpriced for the standard, but if you're after a few sleepy days by the river, it could be right up your alley. Popular with Phnom Penh expats, particularly families, it can get busy on weekends -- especially holiday weekends, so keep that in mind.
A couple of km north of Kampot
Tel: (092) 330 050
KEP: KNAI BANG CHATT
The most incongruous of our five, Knai Bang Chatt charges premium rates in one of Cambodia's more low-key settings -- Kep. Listed among Conde Nast Traveler's Hot List 2007, and with rates that start at US$110 a night (skyrocketing up to US$392), this luxurious compound isn't trying to be anything but the very best.
The setting is sublime -- three main buildings sit upon a landscaped lawn estate with a sizeable horizon pool, artfully placed hammocks and massage salas accompanied by a lovely, open-air restaurant that offers terrific views across the Gulf of Thailand and serves up fine, very healthy, food. Both the restaurant and "beach bar" (a few hammocks slung under a shade tree) feature tremendous bench tables -- each wrought from a single tree -- and make for ideal settings to while away the day and evening.
The rooms vary in style and positioning -- most, though not all, have sea views, and while they're minimalist in styling, some are quite bare and we didn't feel the fittings, nor the bedding were up to scratch. But there's more to Knai Bang Chatt than the rooms -- there's a reading room/library affair by the swimming pool and ample public veranda space to enjoy the views. A Beach Club was being built during our stay (October 2007) which promises to deliver a wide array of watersports including windsurfing and catamaran sailing.
We list Knai Bang Chatt because there's nowhere quite like it in Cambodia, but it should be oh so much better than it is. As it stands, you're paying for the exclusivity alone -- not for five-star service and facilities. The count on which Knai Bang Chatt really falls down is its service -- or lack thereof. For these prices, the standard of service, from general level of spoken English right through to just being able to find someone to get you a drink or coffee (to enjoy in your sala) should be tenfold where it currently stands.
That said -- perhaps we caught them on a bad weekend, as friends who have also stayed here waxed lyrical about the service. So if your budget is six-star and you'd like to stay somewhere that was previously open only to those with the means to hire the entire resort, then keep it in mind.
Knai Bang Chatt
Kep Beach, Kampot
Tel: (012) 349 742, (012) 879 486
Somewhere got a special place in your heart in Cambodia? Please tell us where and why over on the Travelfish messageboard.
Related readingAngkorian traffic woes
Spas, shopping & seers in Siem Reap
2006 Top guesthouses in Phnom Penh
Nine Asian upcountry hideaways
Bangkok to Siem Reap
Siem Reap to Ko Chang
Read 3 comment(s)
Add your comment
Feature story quicklinks
- Giving back in Southeast Asia (12)
- All stories
- COPE: Helping people move on
- Epic Arts
- Helping Phuket's children in need
- Helping Siem Reap's rubbish dump families
- Helping Singapore's transient workers
- Helping the Karen of Burma
- Humanitarian Services for Children of Vietnam
- Lifestart Foundation, Hoi An
- Swim Vietnam
- Thai Freedom House, Chiang Mai
- The Samui Prison Project
- The SET Foundation
- Burma (8)
- Cambodia (22)
- All stories
- A Cambodian Eco-lodge
- A honeymoon in Cambodia
- Angkorian traffic woes
- Battambang weekend
- Elephant riding in Cambodia: Should you?
- Great places to stay in Siem Reap
- Is Preah Vihear safe to visit?
- Koh Rong: Trouble in paradise?
- Kompong Cham escape
- Northeast Cambodia in photos
- Oh Poipet!
- PEPY:Sustainable Cambodian tourism
- Phnom Tamao Wildlife Refuge
- Sihanoukville beaches lure expats
- Spas, shopping & seers in Siem Reap
- The best islands in Cambodia
- The best places to stay on Cambodia's islands
- The Death Highway
- Trekking in Virachey National Park
- Trekking the Cardamoms in Cambodia
- Which Cambodian island is right for you?
- Why you should go to Cambodia
- Indonesia (13)
- All stories
- A funeral in Toraja, Sulawesi
- Climbing Rinjani
- How to hire a boat in Indonesia: Without drowning
- Learn to surf in Bali
- Medewi: A great Bali getaway
- Mountain biking in Bali: A ride in the woods
- The Gili islands: Which is the right one for you?
- Ubud bird watching: From waterhens to witchcraft
- Ubud shopping guide
- Village trekking in Tana Toraja
- Weekend in Nusa Penida
- Yogya's student scene
- Laos (16)
- All stories
- A breeze through Luang Prabang
- Best budget rooms in Luang Prabang 2013
- Elephant trekking in Laos
- Exploring Laos' Bolaven Plateau
- Huay Xai to Pak Tha by slowboat
- Is Lao Airlines safe to fly?
- Laos' vanishing elephants
- Luang Prabang escape
- Muang Ngoi Escape
- Photos of Luang Prabang, Laos
- Pi Mai Lao in Luang Prabang: In 1999
- Southern Laos by scooter
- Temples in Luang Prabang
- The Gibbon Experience
- The Phonsavan adventure
- Vientiane's Chinatown
- Malaysia (7)
- Singapore (9)
- Thailand (73)
- All stories
- 10 Bangkok galleries worth a look-see
- 10 Thai treks aside from Chiang Mai
- 24 Hours in Bangkok: Sukhumvit to Siam Square
- 31 Thai islands
- 5 Southern Thai towns to lose time in
- A Thai homestay in Ayutthaya
- A weekend in Phra Phradaeng
- A weekend on Ko Samet, Thailand
- An extra day in Krabi
- Andaman Sea island hopper
- Ayutthaya temple tour
- Bangkok for art lovers
- Bangkok's Charoen Krung Road
- Bangkok's Thonburi: exploring the west side
- Brilliant Bangkok
- Chiang Dao getaway
- Chiang Mai's temples
- Corruption in Thailand
- Eating on the edge
- Elephant's World Kanchanaburi
- Exploring Lamphun
- Exploring the Lungs of Bangkok
- Far southern Thailand: Go or not?
- Five days in Khao Lak, Thailand
- Floating markets around Bangkok
- Highlights of Chanthaburi province
- How to do Khao Yai National Park
- Khao San Road safety and scams
- Ko Mun Nork: a nearby paradise
- Ko Pha Ngan 7-day detox:Colonic fast
- Ko Pha Ngan's best beaches in 2013
- Ko Phi Phi on a budget
- Ko Tao for non-divers guide
- Ko Yao: the islands you're looking for
- Learning Muay Thai in Bangkok
- Motorcycling the Chiang Rai loop
- Narathiwat: residence of good people
- Navigating Bangkok: The BTS Skytrain
- Phuket by night
- Phuket for Kids
- Phuket heritage walk: Car parts to saris
- Phuket's secret beaches
- Planning around Thailand's civil unrest
- Roll your own Kanchanaburi
- Should I book for the full moon party?
- Should I cancel my Thai holiday? No.
- Should I cancel my trip to Thailand? No.
- Soi Thong Lo, Bangkok
- Sorting out Suvarnabhumi Airport
- Staying at a Thai monastery
- Thai islands for nature lovers
- Thai islands to lose yourself on
- Thai visa FAQ
- Thailand tsunami wrap
- Thailand's Mae Khlong market
- Thailand: Where to from here?
- The best beach on Ko Samui
- The best places to stay on Ko Kut, Thailand
- The bridge over the River Kwai festival
- The road to Sangkhlaburi
- Travelling through north-east Thailand
- Trekking in Thailand
- Trisara -- decadent luxury at its best
- Two days in Kamphaeng Phet
- What is the best beach on Ko Tao?
- What is the best island in Thailand?
- What's a good beach on Ko Pha Ngan?
- What's a good beach on Ko Samui?
- Where to stay at Railay Bay, Thailand
- Where to stay in Sukhothai?
- Where to stay on Ko Samet, Thailand
- Which beach on Ko Samui?
- Which island in Trang?
- Vietnam (31)
- All stories
- A short break in Nha Trang
- A Weekend in Can Tho
- Being fed Fido: Eating dog in Vietnam
- Buying a touring motorbike in Vietnam
- Con Dao escape
- Do nothing and see the best of Hanoi
- Doing the DMZ from Hue
- Exploring Kon Tum
- Exploring Vietnam's Mekong Delta
- Ha Long Bay conclusions
- Ha Long Bay for backpackers
- Ha Long Bay for budget-busters
- Ha Long Bay for flashpackers
- Hanoi escape
- Hanoi or Saigon?
- Hoi An -- Walking over the dragon
- How to do the Dien Bien Phu loop
- How to enjoy your time in Vietnam
- How to pick a good Ha Long Bay cruise
- Is the Hoi An culture tour worth it?
- Motorbike Vietnam's Central Highlands
- One day in Hanoi
- Responsible shopping and eating in Hoi An
- Saigon's top 10 cafés
- Sapa or Bac Ha?
- Saving Vietnam's bears
- Street food safety
- The DMZ: Traveller tactical briefing
- Travel tips for Tet in Vietnam 2013
- Two Wheels & Ricefields: A review
- Which is the best street food tour in Hanoi?
- Accommodation guides (21)
- All stories
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Chiang Mai
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Hanoi
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Phnom Penh
- 2006 Top guesthouses on Ko Phi Phi
- 2006 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top Bangkok airport guesthouses
- 2008 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top spots on Phu Quoc Island
- 2009 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2009 Top Phnom Penh guesthouses
- 2011 Best places to stay in Kuala Lumpur
- 2011 Best places to stay on Ko Phi Phi
- Best places to stay in Hanoi 2012
- Cheap Phuket guesthouses & hotels
- Five special hotels in Cambodia
- Ko Lipe's best budget guesthouses 2012
- The best hostels in Bangkok 2014
- The best places to stay on Ko Chang, Thailand
- The changing face of Khao San Road
- Where to stay on Koh Rong Samloem
- Travel with kids (7)
- Opinion & advice (15)
- All stories
- 10 reasons to do an adventure tour
- 10 reasons to travel independently
- A year's worth of travel for 2013
- Beach hideaways in Asia
- Christmas and New Years in Southeast Asia
- Do I need reservations for my holiday?
- Evil man of Krabi
- Fifteen tips for a great holiday in Asia
- Getting a cheap airfare to Asia
- Hotels should never charge extra for WiFi
- Long distance buses in Southeast Asia
- Mass tourism in Southeast Asia
- Nine Asian upcountry hideaways
- Planning a Gap Year? Some advice.
- Ten Southeast Asian trips for 2008
- How do I? (11)
- All stories
- Bangkok to Ko Samui, Pha Ngan & Tao
- Bangkok to Siem Reap
- Catching a train in Thailand
- Catching a train in Vietnam
- Cheap flights with Discovery Airpass
- Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
- Crossing the Cambodia Laos border
- Ko Chang to Phu Quoc Island
- Siem Reap to Ko Chang
- Stops between Bangkok & Chiang Mai
- Visa run from Thailand to Burma
- Cycling Asia (13)
- All stories
- 24 hours in Bangkok
- An Angkor cycling guide
- An introduction
- Battambang, bamboo trains & guides
- Confessions of a "cheating cyclist"
- Cycles of all sorts
- Ha Long Bay independently
- Ko Samet Vs Pattaya
- Muay Thai night
- Phonsavan and Luang Prabang
- The hills of Vietnam
- The road less travelled
- Tubing in Vang Vieng
- Health and safety (6)
- Money and finance (4)
- Diving guides (6)
- Photo essay (3)
- Guest blog (2)
- General (15)
- All stories
- 10 Christmas days in Asia we're yet to have
- 10 dumb things I've done while travelling
- 34 ways to travel greener
- Asian animal experiences
- Call me Mr Massage Magic
- Chefs Without Borders
- Flying is fun!
- Mr Golden
- On being a travel writer
- Teaching ESL in Asia
- The 211 country honeymoon
- The Boxing Day Tsunami: 5 years on.
- To Teach or Not to Teach
- Travel writing scholarship 2012
- Tuk to the Road Charity ride
- Book reviews (5)
- Interviews (8)
- Explore Bangkok by BTS (16)
- All stories
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ari
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chid Lom
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chong Nonsi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Mo Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: National Stadium
- Bangkok by skytrain: On Nut
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phaya Thai
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phloen Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phrom Phong
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchadamri
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchathewi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sala Daeng (S2)
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sanam Pao
- Bangkok by skytrain: Saphan Taksin
- Bangkok by skytrain: Surasak
- Bangkok by skytrain: Thong Lor
Sign up for Travelfish Burp!
Our weekly wrap on Southeast Asian travel.
Click here to see a recent newsletter.