When I found out I would be traveling to Cambodia with Dragonair/Cathay Pacific I was excited. Not just because it’s an easy, 2-hour flight from Hong Kong but because I knew I would be staying at the luxury hotel La Residence d’Angkor. Part of the Belmond group of hotels (formally Orient Express) my partner and I stayed at a sister property of theirs in Laos and loved every second of our time there. With the memories of pasts experiences in mind, I knew my stay in Siem Reap would be a good one, and I was right.
Located within easy walking distance of downtown Siem Reap, La Residence d’Angkor feels like a private escape. As soon as you walk through the lobby the intoxicating scents from the tropical plants overtake the senses and create a certain feeling of peace and relaxation that persists throughout the stay. There is nothing better in my opinion than luxury accommodations in Southeast Asia; they just know how to do it right. Everything is a process in civility and calm; from check-in to the most quotidian of activities and that was seen in full force at La Residence d’Angkor.
I’ve long said that the hallmark of a great luxury property has nothing to do with the trappings of comfort. No, instead it is tied to the service and how the hotel or resort can complete your trip, instead of just be a bit player. While in Cambodia, it was important to me to see and do as much as possible. Before I even left home I knew that the hotel would be able to facilitate all of my activities, from visiting the nearby temples for which the town is so famous to helping out with dinner ideas. La Residence d’Angkor has a comprehensive list of things to do in the area and will help facilitate any activities you can imagine. They don’t throw their guests on package tours or other group activities, the tours are private; they just help find the right guide for the right experience. There’s nothing so reassuring as knowing that with only a limited amount of time, concerns over what to see and do are handled so well by the hotel. It adds another level of ease and comfort to an experience that is already blessed with ample amounts of both.
If walking into the hotel lobby was an escape to a beautiful jungle, then the entire stay is a study in peace, calm and relaxation. Every morning Buddhist monks arrive on property to lead interested guests through morning rituals, setting the tone for the day in as tranquil a way possible. The hotel is lush, that’s the only real word for it, from the tropical pool to the rooms decked out in teak and other tropical woods. You feel like you’re in a private villa instead of a nice hotel room; it’s so different from other experiences that the stay itself is an escape.
The hotel has all the normal perks one would expect including a special dinner three times a week featuring not only local, Khmer foods but an Apsara dance. If you walk through the temples around Siem Reap you will see engravings of elaborately dressed dancers; it is from this tradition that the Apsara is influenced. The traditional dances are beautifully choreographed and each tell a story, sharing information that has been passed down through the centuries in the same way. It’s a beautiful way to spend the evening and to learn more about the local culture as well.
When it is time to explore the city though, La Residence d’Angkor makes it easy thanks to its location in the middle of the action. Perched along the river which bifurcates the downtown area, an easy amble down the street brings you into the thick of the activities in Siem Reap. The town has long been known as a backpacker hotspot, and at night these young adventurers are out in droves, seeking everything from massages to cheap beer – both of which can be found in ample quantities. It’s important though to get out and experience life in Siem Reap, as touristy as it can be, to see what makes this city tick in 2014 and to also patronize some local shops and restaurants. Unlike some other hotels around the world, instead of discouraging its guests to leave the property, La Residence d’Angkor encourages it, knowing that it is indeed an important part of the travel experience and is something not to be missed.
If you are luxury minded, then traveling to the famously inexpensive town of Siem Reap may at first seem daunting. Luckily there are properties like La Residence d’Angkor that provide a type of luxury that is deceptively simple; comfortable and relaxing while maintaining certain standards in service. It’s my second time staying with hotels in the Belmond Group and each time the experience has been wonderful. I’ve left with a feeling of peace and relaxation, a certain serenity of body and mind that is nearly impossible to achieve in the modern world, which makes it all the more precious when you finally do find it.
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