East Riverside, Wat Preah Enkosai, Siem Reap T: (063) 763 980
In the heart of the cool, leafy-green north riverside is an even cooler, leafier, greener resort, a lovely riverside getaway that reminds you how to breathe again.
The original complex had just nine rooms, but a new wing has been added on the south lawn. Set in slightly less mature gardens, though with plenty of tree cover and shade, these new rooms are identical to the originals’ winning formula of shapely, modern, spacious rooms, each with a terrace or patio, and plenty of soft natural light captured by the soothing neutral colours of the rooms’ decor.
With so few neighbours, this is one of the quietest areas in Siem Reap, though it should be said that nowhere in Siem Reap (or Cambodia we’re pretty sure) is ever quiet for long. This hotel is upriver of a pagoda from which morning chants may be heard. Most will find this charming, and a delightful part of Cambodia’s allure. Others might be put off, but remember that it always sounds better than the sound of tile cutters, which is the more urban Cambodian soundtrack.
The long, saltwater pool provides plenty of space for sun lounging, and with so few to compete against, there’s no need to sneak out at dawn to stake your claim.
All rooms come with their own private terraced balcony (upstairs) or patio (downstairs). We’d suggest requesting upstairs since the downstairs rooms nearer the hotel entrance offer less privacy as other guests will need to walk by.
The restaurant offers a mix of Khmer and Western dishes, but there is also plenty of scope given to vegans and vegetarians — who often get overlooked here. As elsewhere, everything is locally sourced and bought fresh from the markets every morning, all the better for their selection of healthy fruit and vegetable shakes.
While Natura is out of town, it’s still only 10 minutes away from the centre of town by tuk tuk, a $2 ride. The hotel has a number on call. It’s also a pleasant and mostly shaded walk into town as well, where you can experience a little of real Cambodian life. The walk in would take about half an hour, or a leisurely 45 minutes, via local markets, the gorgeous grounds of the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient, the Royal Gardens and Palace, the shopping arcade at the FCC and a string of emerging restaurants that are popping up on the riverside as you approach the town proper. We do not recommend doing this walk in either direction at night though.
The owner is a Cambodian “returnee” whose parents fled the ravages of the Civil War. Having been born and grown up in France, he has come back with some rather good ideas, including setting up pension schemes and interest-bearing savings accounts for his employees. In a country where financial precarity is the norm and the majority of the citizens live a hair’s breadth away from ruin, this is a thoughtful move.
If a relaxing retreat appeals but you require a higher level of amenities and polish – there’s no spa at Natura Resort — Navutu Dreams fits the bill with its white-washed Mediterranean inspired villas on the outskirts of Siem Reap in the opposite direction of the temples.
By Nicky Sullivan
Last updated on 3rd February, 2016.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.