Anantara Angkor - A serene oasis in the ancient Khmer kingdom
After touching down at Siem Reap International during what seemed to be the hottest (and busiest) time of the day, I couldn't help but breathe out a sigh of relief when I spotted a SUV marked 'Anantara' in the gleaming sun. As hoards of sticky travellers frantically scrambled in the harsh humidity for taxis and tuk-tuks, I made a beeline for the shiny silver vehicle, from which a smiling young man emerged. "Welcome to Siem Reap, Mr. Corver!" he eagerly greeted, without as much as a drop of sweat on his forehead...
As soon as the car door was shut behind me, I reached for the ice cold lemongrass infused towel and chilled mineral water that were neatly waiting for me. Whilst being chauffeured from the airport parkade, I puzzlingly pondered about this jungle town's sweltering summer heat - mercifully, I had just arrived in the heart of winter.
Less than ten minutes later all my cares about adapting to the seemingly overpowering weather (and regaining control of my practically permed hair) dissipated as we approached the imposing porte-cochère of Anantara Angkor Resort. It was as if the white washed walls secretly exuded an aura of calm - exactly what I had hoped for... The entrance is surrounded by a tranquil terraced water feature and equatorial greenery, leading to a breezy open air lobby with polished teak floors and bespoke slatted screens. I was kindly offered a refreshing drink and presented with a graceful crimson banana flower during check-in. This place knew exactly how to delicately ease my wound up western spirit into their restful realm, I thought.
There are 39 suites on the property, (with two grander additions coming soon) and I stayed in both the Anantara and Terrace variants. If you need extra space and a private study/ lounge, go for the former, however, I preferred the slightly smaller, but equally appealing, poolside lodgings. These are actually less pricy, and I think they offer considerably more value. The Premier Terrace rooms have a small outside deck complete with mini plunge pool, where you can freely bask in your own tropical paradise.
Many of the accommodations also house expansive ensuite wet rooms that feature giant open rain showers and free standing bathtubs. I can't think of a more appropriate environment to unwind in after an exciting day adventuring through the nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site's famous temple ruins.
Anantara's attractive and uncluttered interiors showcase a placid colour palette of neutral hues, and are finished in timeless natural materials. Traditional influences and other unique decor elements like intricately carved wooden partitions and signature relief artworks can be spotted throughout the thoughtfully designed spaces.
Undoubtedly, the most significant amenity of this hotel is its black-tiled salt water swimming pool. It is located amongst tall palm trees at the centre of the building complex (which apparently gathered inspiration from Angkor Wat), and flanked by pairs of timber sun loungers shaded by white canvas umbrellas. This deliberate layout is rather effective, as it instantly entices you to take a dip and submerge yourself in absolute bliss.
Further on-site leisure facilities include a functional fitness room and sensual spa which is secluded in a separate corner of the peaceful premises. Here weary visitors can luxuriate in celebrated Western treatments or experience rejuvenating time-honored Khmer therapies within the uplifting and exclusive surroundings.
Of all South East Asian cuisines, Cambodian food is one of the less familiar kinds in the West. Naturally there are some similarities to Vietnamese and Thai cooking, and even influences from China and India, yet I found contemporary Khmer fare to be rather distinct. The hotel's flagship restaurant, Chi, serves an inspired selection of inventive and delectably flavorful dishes, made with fresh organic ingredients.
This stylish double volume eatery is also where guests gather for a delightful breakfast spread of local and international delicacies. On my last evening I was generously invited by the hotel to enjoy a fabulous dinner, highlighting their newly launched menu. My meal started with perfectly seared US scallops, followed by braised lamb shank curry and finishing off with an array of delicious local sweets. Perfection!
The resort is run by a small and talented team of experts, who seem to go out of their way to make your stay as memorable and comfortable as possible. Well spoken, confident and accommodating, the staff here have obviously been meticulously trained to ensure their guests have a genuine and authentic experience. I had the pleasure of meeting the general manager, monsieur Anthony Borantin, and he is clearly passionate about this fascinating country, its people and Khmer culture.
This bijou retreat offers vacationers a quiet breathing space away from the liveliness of town. Even though the actual site may appear a bit misplaced, once enclosed within its walls, you're transported to a mystical world were time seems to disappear. As this intensely sought-after destination becomes more commercialized I can only hope that Anantara Angkor remains true to its benevolent boutique approach to hospitality, which this brand is known for across the globe.
* I stayed at the hotel as a mystery guest on my own account
All photos and opinions are my own © Traverate 2017