Great places to stay in Siem Reap
First published 10th February, 2013
Accommodation standards in Siem Reap have improved beyond recognition in the last few years, across nearly all budgets. The gateway to Angkor now has more than 300 hotels and guesthouses and the chances of a soft landing are high. Here, though, are a few of our favourites that won't break the bank.
Dream a dream
Starting at the top, the recently opened Navutu Dreams Hotel, Resort & Spa is set amid paddy just a 10-minute tuk tuk trip away from the centre of town. Designed by the Italian family behind the highly commended Navutu Stars resort in Fiji, and the much-loved Italian restaurant Il Forno, Navutu Dreams is a step into another world.
White Neo-Moroccan villas sit in a tropical, landscaped garden, with a Polynesian straw-roofed dining pavilion forming the centrepiece, flanked by two Egyptian blue swimming pools. The effect is stunning, even before you get to see the spacious rooms, which are exquisitely designed with a gorgeous Mexican cyan backdrop to offset the sculpted white walls and carefully selected pieces of regional crafts. Rooms start at $108 per night, so it could be worth a splurge for one night even if your budget wouldn't normally go that far. Alternatively, check out the spa, which combines Cambodian and Pacific know-how and ingredients in a cool, luxurious setting. Follow it up with a cocktail or dinner at the restaurant.
From the last boutique hotel to the first, which has undergone some changes to say the least. It's a bit of a muddle, but the Golden Banana was one hotel that is now four different hotels, all with the same name but owned by two separate people. Among them, the Golden Banana Superior Hotel is absolutely worth a look in the $28 to $55 range.
You'd be bananas not to consider it.
Only a five-minute walk from the buzzing town centre, the butter yellow two-storey building incorporates large, beautifully furnished rooms with all the bits you need plus a view from the balcony on to the long open-air swimming pool below. The Superior serves food, but just around the corner the Golden Banana Boutique Resort features the really lovely Red Lantern restaurant, a romantic evening spot that serves western and Cambodian food on a covered terrace overlooking the pool. Follow the magnificent Chinese red lanterns to find it.
A hotel with a heart
It has to be said that Soria Moria Boutique Hotel is possibly the best in town. Not necessarily for the size of their rooms, though on average they're reasonably big, nor for the quality of their decor which is good but not outstanding. Their location on the Wat Bo Road is excellent, but that's not it either. They have a bright, airy restaurant that has an excellent $1 tapas night on Wednesdays, but that's not what makes us smile every time we hear their name. Nor is it the full schedule of activities, whether it's movie nights or the "Oh My Buddha hand me another one of those outrageously cheap margaritas" nights. What makes Soria Moria stand head and shoulders over most hotels, anywhere, is the size of their hearts.
More than just a hotel.
Soria Moria was founded in 2007 as a boutique hotel with 38 rooms and from the very beginning, this Norwegian owned and run hotel was about making Cambodia a better place. The hotel has been associated with and active supporters of a number of reputable local NGOs since its inception, including the $1 tapas night, which is also a hospitality training night for disadvantaged youth. They have invested heavily in their staff training and support, with the real coup coming last year when 51% of the hotel's ownership was transferred to the staff. If you would like to do your bit to contribute to Cambodia's future, they have plenty of ideas for you to follow up on.
The rooms at the Soria Moria range from $40 to $65 per night, and we forgot to mention they also have a rooftop bar perfect for watching the sun sink down over the horizon.
Elegant and tasteful
Just up the road from Soria Moria, and still within walking distance of town, Frangipani is a lovely one-year-old hotel. It's the creation of three enterprising Cambodians, an architect, a landscape gardener and a marketing whizz, whose specialties have come together in an elegant symbiosis. The two large, airy buildings house tastefully decorated rooms (from $40 per night), featuring lots of four-poster beds with gently fluttering canopies, silk throws, flowers and subtle contemporary motifs. A setting this lovely would cost significantly more pretty much anywhere else in the world.
Look out for the frangipani.
The pool at the back is a real prize, and faces east so is perfect for afternoon swims after a morning spent trampling around temples. Our only reservation here is the restaurant in the principal building, whose standards and ambiance seem rather at variance with the rest of the hotel.
Build a future
Way over on the other side of town, there is another hotel with a heart. Actually, Sala Bai is not really a hotel but a hospitality training school that takes in 100 disadvantaged young Cambodians and gives them formal and practical training in the industry.
Part of the training includes hosting guests in the few rooms above the (amazing) restaurant, which are simply decorated, clean and very good value at $20 per night. At that price, you're doing more than securing comfy accommodation; you're building someone's ability to grasp their own future, which is worth so much more in the long run. On that note, it's worth remembering that sometimes the staff may struggle with their developing English skills especially at the beginning of the school year, and they may make the odd mistake. But I can't describe the happiness you'll take home with you knowing that you can play a part in helping them to help themselves build a future of their own making.
The restaurant downstairs, which is also part of the training school, is headed up by a very talented Cambodian chef who has worked at five-star hotels in the Middle East. The experience and creativity he brought back with him is a gustatory joy and the set menus, which change every two weeks must be checked out whether you're staying here or not.
155, Phoum Tapoul
T: (063) 963 329
A true rose
If you're into more homely fare, then Rosy's Guesthouse could be the place for you. The love child of a young English couple who met and fell head over heels in Siem Reap, Rosy's is a sort of home away from home for many.
Rosy and homely.
Like its owners, it is down to earth, straightforward, but thoughtful and also enormous fun on the monthly charity quiz nights. The bar area has a pool table, and two large flat-screen TVs for catching up on sports and the Wednesday movie nights. For the hungry, Rosy's beef and Guinness pies are the stuff of local legend. Travellers with children will be thrilled by the recently opened Kids Room downstairs, which is stocked with toys, soft flooring, a blackboard wall, books, and anything else the owners can get their hands on.
Rooms at Rosy's range from $8 for the dorms and $15 to $35 for the rooms.
Rosy Guest House
# 0074, Phum Slor Kram
T: (063) 965 059
Unique and creative
On a more esoteric front, in the north river area you'll find The 1961 hotel, a sort of accidental hotel that started out as somewhere for artists to hang out, that became a sort of artists' residence and then evolved into a hotel with art and all things creative at its heart. You never know what you might come across here, from poetry slams to creative writing workshops, art and photography exhibitions, and then there might be dance, meditation, music gigs, you name it. As they say themselves, The 1961 is not so much a hotel as a creative space which means that guests can choose to simply enjoy the unique atmosphere and creativity that bursts from every nook and cranny, or can participate themselves if their muse should so take them by the ear.
Rooms are clean and basic (from $40), but each one is uniquely decorated according to a theme associated with the 1960s. Indeed, they are called galleries; galleries in which you can also rest your head and take a shower. The themes reflect global politics – the Cold War and John F. Kennedy – as well as important Cambodian cultural icons of the time, such as renowned architect Vann Molyvann, the royal family or Cambodia's most famous pop singers Sinn Sisamouth and Srey Sothea.
Not your average hostel
Super-popular with backpackers, the Siem Reap Hostel is only a two-minute walk from the Old Market, and is really much more than just a hostel; it's one of the only places in town with an indoor pool too. And a pool table, and a regular yoga schedule, games nights, occasional gigs, Sunday barbecues and, you know what, it's impossible to keep up with their busy schedule unless you're actually staying there. The Siem Reap Hostel makes a virtue out of hiring energetic, creative management teams whose sole reason for living seems to be ensuring that their guests have as much fun as possible while they're there.
Not your average hostel.
Rooms are spotlessly clean, and for those who want to step out of the party light, there is comfy seating on the large balconies on the first and second floors where you can find some space to just chill out – subject to the traffic on the street below. Dorms start at $6 (low season), and rooms are $15 to $45.
The Siem Reap Hostel
7 Makara Street
T: (063) 964 660
Locally owned Mandalay Inn is one of those places that people just can't seem to praise enough. Set in a large Cambodian style villa off the river road, the compact rooms are modest but scrupulously clean and the service is really among the friendliest and most helpful you'll find in town. They also have the only Burmese restaurant in Siem Reap.
A great sundowner
Just a little bit further down the road from the Mandalay Inn, but still within walking distance of Pub Street and the Old Market area, the Cashew Nut Guesthouse is a real trooper of a place for many of the same reasons as Mandalay. The service and friendliness of the staff is wonderful.
The rooms are all spotless and excellent value, with prices starting at $14, and the tours they offer have been developed by a fellow who has spent many years leading groups around the region. And to crown it all, the roof. Yes, the roof. This is a fantastic spot for sun-downers with an open-air lounge area in which to chill, enjoy the sunset, and let the beer rinse out the dust and the worry.
Cashew Nut Guesthouse
T: (063) 765 015
Story by Nicky Sullivan
Related readingFive special hotels in Cambodia
2009 Top Phnom Penh guesthouses
The best islands in Cambodia
The best places to stay on Cambodia's islands
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