At certain times of year life in Siem Reap without a pool verges on the tortuous. Many expats make a point of leaving Siem Reap as soon as April arrives and the elements unleash the most ferocious heat and energy-sapping humidity of the year. But with a bit of forward-planning it can be an excellent time to visit: hotel prices drop, the crowds at Angkor Wat diminish, and even if you are staying in the cheapest of rooms known to man, you could still find yourself sipping a pina colada between refreshing dips without blowing your entire Cambodian budget.
Since we last wrote about Siem Reap swimming options — all of which are still valid — the number of hotels allowing non-residents to chill out poolside has grown and there are now even more places to cool off if your daily allowance doesn’t quite stretch to the luxury of a hotel with its own pool. Most charge a day rate while some just insist that you buy food and drink, but there is almost certainly something to suit every budget.
For just $3 a day you can use the pool at the My Hibiscus Hotel, opposite the end of Street 22 (please note that the location map on the website is incorrect), which runs east from the Siem Reap river and past the beautiful 18th century pagoda of Wat Bo. This is also good place to stop on your way home, especially if you pass when the monks are chanting, usually around 17:00.
My Hibiscus is Muslim-owned and -managed which makes poolside cocktails a bit of a challenge, although we were assured that beers could be brought in for us if we really wanted to indulge. The hotel’s website advertises two pools but realistically there is just the one. Well, there are two, but one is off limits and half full of algae, but the main pool is a good size and although the sun loungers are a little tatty, it’s usually quiet and you could easily do laps without accidentally having someone’s eye out.
Also $3 a day but only open to non-residents in the low season — which seems to be dictated by how busy the hotel is rather than by the calendar (check in advance) — is La Noria Hotel which is on River Road East, making it very handy if you are staying at Rosy Guesthouse just a few doors away. La Noria’s medium-sized pool is hidden among lovely gardens, surrounded by sun terraces with a pool bar which is open from 11:00 until 19:00, and poolside massage rooms where half an hour with a blind masseuse will cost just $5.
If you are looking to work on your tan here, it’s worth bearing in mind that the terraces are quite shady, and the furniture consists of varnished wooden deckchairs which are very attractive but not altogether practical for dedicated sun-worshippers.
In the thick of the guest houses on Wat Bo Road you will find the ever popular Frangipani Hotel and Spa which opens its doors to overheated non-residents for just $5 a day. if you spend more than $5 per person on food or drinks the daily fee is waived. The hotel’s tropical-urban-chic design and the restaurant’s excellent menu are significant factors in its popularity, making up for the pool’s lack of size and rather cramped albeit pretty garden.
The Cockatoo Nature Resort in the Wat Damnak area is a peaceful retreat less than a kilometre from the Old Market and has a delightful pool in quiet gardens with a poolside bar and shady cabanas for when the heat gets a bit too much. Food is available poolside, or on the balcony of the resort’s traditional Khmer house and the friendly owners are usually happy to put together whatever you’d like to eat as long as they have the ingredients. Your spot at the Cockatoo will set you back $5 a day.
Handy for the myriad budget accommodation off Sivatha Boulevard, the Somadevi Hotel has a large pool with the rather glamorous bonus of a swim-up bar where you can sip a cocktail without even getting out of the water. For $6 a day you can use the pool and the adjacent gym, quench your thirst at the pool bar or in the wonderfully air-conditioned indoor bar, and enjoy the waiter service from the hotel’s restaurant.
Slightly north of town on the road to Angkor Wat is the Angkor Century Hotel which is home to one of biggest pools that open up to the public. The $8 price tag prevents it from getting too busy, and buys you access to the hotel’s gym, sauna and Jacuzzi. A poolside bar offers the usual drinks and snacks, and shady day beds are scattered around the gardens. The sun terracing here is spacious and well-furnished and makes a great place to work on your tan.
If you fancy a real treat, some of the luxury hotels, like the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor will allow you to use their pools for no extra charge if you book a treatment at their spa.
Most hotel pools in Siem Reap tend to be busier in the afternoon than the morning when people diligently set off to explore the temples so if you like a bit of peace and quiet as you soak up the rays and bury yourself into a good book then time your visit carefully.
And finally… if you are looking for a real budget option the West Baray is the cheapest of them all. The vast Angkorian reservoir is free to use – although you have to get there first and it is about 30 minutes by tuk tuk, and just about within cycling distance if you are fit. And by the time you get there, you will definitely need to cool off.
My Hibiscus Hotel
Ta Neuy Road, Wat Bo Village, Siem Reap
La Noria Hotel
River Road East, Siem Reap
T: (063) 964 242
Frangipani Hotel & Spa
Wat Bo Road, Wat Bo Village, Siem Reap
T: (063) 963 030
Cockatoo Nature Resort
Wat Damnak Village, Siem Reap
T: (063) 969 069
Sivatha Boulevard, Siem Reap
T: (063) 967 666
Angkor Century Hotel
Komay Road, Khum Svay Dankum, Siem Reap
T: (063) 936 777
Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor
1 Vithei Charles de Gaulle, Khum Svay Dankum, Siem Reap
T: (063) 963 888
By Simon Hare
Last updated on 31st January, 2015.