Photo: Rural scenes around Siem Reap.

Where to go swimming

At certain times of year life in Siem Reap without a pool verges on the tortuous. Thankfully, even if you are staying in the cheapest of rooms known to man, you can still find yourself sipping a pina colada between refreshing dips in a lovely swimming pool without blowing your entire Cambodia budget. Plenty of hotels allow non-residents to chill out poolside; most charge a day rate while some just ask that you buy food and drink. Here are a few suggestions.

Your hostel might not have one of these, but don't let that stop you swimming.

Your hostel might not have one of these, but don’t let that stop you swimming.

On the west riverside you’ll find RiverGarden Hotel, a cool jungly oasis that will transport you away from the crowds. The pool here is small, but mostly shaded, and it’s free for use provided you return the favour by buying drinks or food. The Australian owner, Deborah Saunders, has been a long time in the business of catering, and her food is wonderful. The staff here are very efficient and friendly too.

Kanell is a restaurant rather than hotel. Two minutes in a tuk tuk from Old Market, it has wonderful landscaped gardens, brimming with all kinds of flowers and trees. It’s cleverly designed with little gazebos dotted around the garden so that you can eat in the shade while maintaining a little distance from everyone else if you want to. At back is a small, raised pool that is a hit with expat families on Sunday mornings when Kanell puts on a special brunch menu as well. The restaurant serves great food; choose from the poolside menu offering tasty snacks, sandwiches, burgers and so on, and a more upmarket menu with a selection of French and Asian dishes. Kanell will also provide towels if you don’t have one handy.

The pool at La Noria: only in the low season, whenever that may be.

The pool at La Noria: Only in the low season, whenever that may be.

For just $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. It’s 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 and poolside massage rooms.

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.

The Frangipani pool: cool, but a tad crowded.

The Frangipani pool: cool, but can get a tad crowded.

In the thick of the guest houses on Wat Bo Road you’ll 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. Food is available poolside, or on the balcony of the resort’s traditional Khmer house. 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.

Off the beaten track: the pool at The Cockatoo Nature Resort.

Off the beaten track at The Cockatoo Nature Resort.

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.

The Somadevi pool bar: perfect for a lazy afternoon.

The Somadevi pool bar. Hello, lazy afternoon.

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.

Size may not be everything, but The Angkor Century's pool is definitely a big one.

Size may not be everything, but The Angkor Century’s pool is definitely a big one.

The Prince d’Angkor, a four-star hotel on Sivatha Boulevard, also has a huge outdoor pool — this one is saltwater — and while they also charge $8, it gives you access to the air-conditioned and reasonably well-equipped gym. It’s set in a lovely enclosed courtyard. The pool is pretty quiet too if you’re looking for some serenity, and has comfy shaded loungers, and a splash pool too.

Ready to splash out at Prince d’Angkor.

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.

The Raffles Hotel pool: if you really want to splash out on a splash around.

The Raffles Hotel pool: If you really want to splash out on a splash-around.

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, or just about within cycling distance if you are fit. By the time you get there, you will definitely need to cool off.

The RiverGarden: West River Rd, Siem Reap; T: (063) 963 400;
Kanell: 7 Makara St, Siem Reap; T: (077) 207100;
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;
Somadevi Hotel:
Sivatha Boulevard, Siem Reap T: (063) 967 666;
Angkor Century Hotel: Komay Road, Khum Svay Dankum, Siem Reap; T: (063) 936 777
Prince d’Angkor: Sivatha Blv, Mondul II, Sangkat Svay Dangkom, Siem Reap; T: (063) 763 888;
Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor: 1 Vithei Charles de Gaulle, Khum Svay Dankum, Siem Reap; T: (063) 963 888;

Last updated on 17th May, 2016.

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