Sitting on the swing seat in the shade of the cloistered courtyard sipping my mojito at the Park Hyatt Siem Reap, I gaze at the most perfect Banyan tree which is the centerpiece of this elegant oasis of sophistication amid the hustle and bustle of downtown Siem Reap. Small birds hop to and fro, pecking for ants around the pool. A small woman in a dark green uniform and broad-brimmed hat slowly sweeps away the few fallen leaves from last night. I’ve been here since breakfast, and it’s now just afternoon. The atmosphere is perfect, and I don’t want this moment to end.
If you’re a European or North American, Siem Reap is otherworldly. Most people who come here do so for one purpose. To visit the largest religious site ever constructed by mankind. Just 15 minutes from the hotel by motorcycle tuk-tuk, Angkor was in the 11th century, the world’s largest city. One in a thousand of all human beings alive lived here then. It was the capital of a mighty kingdom unknown to the western world until French archeologist Mouhot started to map it and cut back the forests which had overgrown its beautiful temples. Over a thousand temples have since been identified. There is much more to Siem Reap than temples, though. Wonderful restaurants, the most amazing, intimate circus troupe, vibrant markets, and even a crazy golf course.
If you want to get to know this crazy, hurly-burly town with a big smile but have a quiet, luxurious hotel to retreat to, you couldn’t do better than the Park Hyatt. Slap bang in the middle of town, within walking distance from everything, including the famous (infamous?) Pub Street but hidden within plain white walls concealing a haven of tranquility and elegance. There is even a bakery shop, open to the public selling french style bread with a sing-song musical crust.
The smallest room is 35 m² and beautifully furnished in a modern style of Khmer. All rooms are very well appointed with Nespresso machines, effective aircon, marble bathrooms, Wi-Fi large screen TV, and everything else that spells luxury. View rooms have a view of the courtyard and are quieter than the outward-facing rooms. Suites range from the 71 m² Park Suite King to the Presidential Suite. Our favorite though is the Park Executive Suite – there are only four and one of them has two bedrooms. Each has its own courtyard and private plunge pool, which is exactly what you need when you have survived the humidity at the temples.
Service & Facilities
The spa is reached through the vast glass double doors, which are held open for me by twin attendants who appear from nowhere to prevent me from having to strain a sinew. I have to take the elevator, scented with a bowl of fresh jasmine flowers, up a floor. I have to walk through the cool corridors and over the terracotta tiled bridge past the magically tropical freeform pool to the spa reception. I will be forced to drink chilled lemongrass tea, mount the stairs through the secret garden to the therapy suite and allow yet another Cambodian masseuse to work on my knotted muscles with her super-sensitive hands for a whole hour. Such hardship can barely be born.
Food & Drink
There is just one restaurant for the 104 guest rooms but it is a very good one and a three-course dinner can be as little as $25 USD per person. There are always special offers on wine (including Champagne), and dinner is accompanied by a very tasteful display of traditional Khmer dance and music three times per week. The lounge is a beautiful and cool place for cocktails or meetings, and the hotel shop displays some truly fantastic Khmer artworks to admire or purchase. They support a local art charity too.
It’s a good breakfast at Park Hyatt Siem Reap, with excellent traditional Cambodian food, following the chef’s grandmother’s recipes. His father before him was also a chef at this hotel. Mr. Pisith, Cambodian noodle soup, and the banyan tree, all perennial. All timeless.
Just before we depart, the general manager happens by. A giant of a man with the gentlest manner, Sholto Smith must be something of a god to the tiny Cambodian staff. “How are things?” he asks, and is there anything he can do? I respond that everything is just fine, and he’d better not change anything. He’ll go on trying to improve the level of personal service, that’s how he works, but the smiles and warmth of the Cambodians are so genuine and spontaneous that to improve their English skills would almost spoil the otherworldliness of the place.
This hotel is so good we have twice canceled other plans to come back here, and we will keep coming back for many years.
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