Belmond La Résidence d’Angkor is a place of hidden charms. Arranged around a discreet courtyard with an inky swimming pool as its centerpiece, this stylish sanctuary encourages you to slow right down. The rooms are open and inviting, blending traditional materials with subtly modern design, and you can’t help but love the oversize bathtubs. And the spa; oh, the spa. In a word? Special. And, if you need to switch gears, the night market and town centre are a 10-minute walk away.
Stunning sculpted motifs will whet your appetite for Angkor.
The Dining Room, where Khmer subtlety meets French sophistication.
Bathtubs for two if you’re feeling a little mischievous.
A cocktail each in the Martini Lounge
In the know
Also need to know:
Three-night minimum stay at Christmas and New Year. The state-of-the-art Kong Kea Spa sports an indoor plunge pool overlooking a serene bamboo garden for chilling out after a pampering session. Try one of the signature treatments with cleansing, purifying and relaxing part of the ritual, or enjoy a private yoga workout or a free meditation class with a Buddhist monk.
Bring a paperback pocket copy of Ancient Angkor by Claude Jacques, with easy-on-the-eye photography by Michael Freeman, to plan your adventures around Angkor.
The balmy environs suit light and natural layers, and nothing too showy – La Résidence is not that kind of place.
Mr and Mrs Smith reviews
In Angkor, capital of the ancient Khmer kingdom, if you made it safely over the temple moat it meant that you were either a guest of the king or you had successfully conquered his realm. Both were significant events and cause for much ado. But it is as more like a couple of ragged scouts than a triumphant army that Mrs Smith and I hobble through the gateway to La Résidence d’Angkor hotel in Siem Reap. The overnight flight and the humidity have taken their toll but no matter our rumpled attire, a small retinue of staff, neat in their pressed shirts, descend on us as if we are royalty.
Energetically courteous, they bow and immediately relieve us of our bags. Then, amid more bobbing, they invite us to step across the pretty, gable-roofed bridge that crosses the hotel’s ornamental moat. In its clear waters red and orange carp flick playfully among the lily pads.
We are seated in the low-lit coolness of the foyer, under a ceiling of dark wood beams. A large stone bas-relief, glowing like treasure, is framed by the foyer’s main wall. Fragrant chilled drinks materialise – Mrs Smith stretches, sips and smiles. It is clear already: we may not be nobility but that’s exactly how we’ll be treated here.
Belmond La Résidence, built in 2002, faces the east bank of the Siem Reap River, a placid, tree-lined waterway bisecting this gateway to the ancient kingdom’s one thousand temples. When we are led to our Royal Deluxe Poolside room, Mrs Smith and I begin to appreciate the hotel’s cocooning properties as the buzz of tuk tuks and clatter of jackhammers recede behind its stone walls and palm thickets. We follow a path through the foliage, brushing volcanic brick columns and skirting a stately pool. Our eyes drink in white rendered walls, dark wood louvered screens and gabled terracotta roofs; our new home is a restful combination of neo-colonial French architecture, tropical-modern luxury and Khmer temple art.
Entering our room, Mrs Smith coos appreciatively at the crisp bedlinen and the talc-smooth, scalloped stone bath in the adjoining bathroom. Relaxation instantly kicks in. Later, stirring from her novel in the shade of our balcony, Mrs Smith ventures poolside to languish on a sunlounger, quaff a gin and tonic, and nibble on grilled salmon, one of many treats that hint at the kitchen’s potential. At the nearby Ember restaurant, I pair a chilled gazpacho soup and a spicy noodle dish. Here, west meets east with ease.
Although the more languid can feast until midday, temple-goers eager to beat the heat can breakfast at 5am on freshly baked croissants, friands and pains au chocolat, or Khmer rice-paper rolls. Mrs Smith firmly demurs, so in dawn’s half-light I stroll alone around the vast maze of colonnades, rooms and towers of the 12th-century Angkor Wat temple. It predates the Palace of Versailles by 500 years but loses nothing in sophistication, at least until the day’s first tour buses arrive.
Mrs Smith’s strategy is to raid the spa, which nestles discreetly behind a small pool, ringed by a stone snake. A local monk or yogi periodically pops by for those who are intent on mindfulness. But these daytime diversions are a sideshow. At La Résidence, nighttime is show time. Refreshing by day, come evening the pool is magical, with a guardian lion brooding at its side, framed by flickering torches and rustling fronds. Eerily sub-lit, its emerald-green tiles suggest something sacred. I slip into the cool waters thinking of Tomb Raider, having just heard that Ta Prohm temple’s jungle-infested ruins featured in the film.
Before dinner, Mrs Smith and I are enjoyably distracted by some mojitos, Singapore slings and martinis in the second-storey Martini Lounge. Then, seated beside the ornamental moat, I singlehandedly tackle a towering Khmer medley of lobster, king crab and tamarind-spiced beef at Circle. Fittingly, my feat is topped by a captivating performance from the Sanskrit epic Ramayana, enlivened with shadow puppets and a small orchestra.
Performance and art are part of the fabric at La Résidence, with cultural pursuits up for grabs from meditation to cooking or dancing lessons, and guides for temple tours. But tempting though it is to explore further afield, we realise our home-from-home is where the heart is – and for the remainder of our stay we don’t wander across the sturdy planks of La Résidence’s moat bridge.
River Road, Siem Reap, Cambodia, 855 063
0.8 mi / 1.4 km from city centre
- Aerobics instruction
- Exercise gym
- Internet services
- On-Site parking
- Complimentary in-room coffee or tea
- Room service
- Onsite laundry
Circle restaurant, with its menu of international dishes and Khmer cuisine with a few haute Mexican dishes courtesy of award-garnering chef Saul Garcia Ramos, is the venue for a dinner date. Dine indoors in the elegant wood and white space or outside in lush gardens. For a more casual affair, alfresco Ember (also helmed by Ramos and his team) by the pool is the ideal spot for a light lunch or snack of house-made pastries and cakes by day; come early evening, it transforms into a grill, with meat and seafood treats hot off the barbecue. Favourite dishes include lamb and cumin kebabs and spicy green mango and shrimp salad.
On cooler nights, an outdoor table at Circle sets the mood for a romantic rendezvous. By day, perch poolside at informal Ember. You can also request seductive private dining set-ups in the spa or out on the garden terrace.
Circle serves breakfast from 5am to 10am and dinner from 6.30pm to 10pm; Ember is open from 10.30am to 10pm; the Martini Lounge plies its trade from 8pm until midnight.
Available from 5am to 11pm, handy if you are getting in from a late one… ahem, we mean getting up for an early start to your temple viewing. The menu spans salads, soups, pizza and burgers.
The Martini Lounge is a refined indoor-outdoor bar overlooking the gardens and Siem Reap River. With 14 martinis, including the Lemon Drop Martini, to choose from, as well as global wines, you could work your way through the entire list during a stay. Happy hour is from 5pm to 7pm, there are tapas up for grabs, and you'll find board games and free WiFi if you need more distraction. During the day, you can also savour drinks at Ember.