Some hotels, like some people, have an innate sense of style. When coupled with grace and charm, it’s not just engaging and appealing but uplifting. And, of course, rare.
Amansara is the perfect example of such a gem. Set in the heart of bustling Siem Reap with its ever-increasing catalogue of hotels lining the boulevards into the city, Aman offers visitors a tranquil haven, a nest of calm. The building was originally the former royal guest house where the good and the great who visited the kingdom would have stayed while touring the ruins of Angkor and enjoying the sophisticated and gracious Cambodian hospitality. Today, as in days gone by, anyone staying here will not only be treated like royalty but will also enjoy the subtly attentive service for which Aman is so famous.
Although almost everyone visiting Siem Reap is likely to be here to explore the temples of the kingdom of Angkor, a stay at Amansara will appeal to architecture and design aficionados as well since the structure was built as part of a modernist movement in Cambodia.
Aman has restored the building beautifully, and it retains a fabulous modernist style not dissimilar to that of Geoffrey Bawa’s Sri Lankan structures. The layout of the hotel flows beautifully: the suites on the perimeter of the grounds have cloister-like verandas, immaculate lawns and two pools providing cool respite. For those wishing to find out more, the history of the building is documented in a lovely photographic memoir available to peruse in the hotel’s library.
It’s rare to visit a hotel and pass a few days without any glitch or even just a mild annoyance, but that’s what happened while I was here. Simply put, my stay at Amansara was divine. Read on.
- Daily breakfast for two
- Room upgrade upon arrival
- Subject to availability
- Daily choice of lunch or dinner for two
- Excludes beverages
- Return airport transfers
- From/to Siem Reap airport or other arrival/departure point in the town
- Spa treatment
- One 60 minute massage per room per stay
- Hotel experience
- Remork transportation within Siem Reap town
- Hotel excursion
- Daily excursion to Angkor temples with English speaking guide and transport, temple pass excluded
- Early check-in / Late check-out
- Subject to availability
- VIP welcome
- Non - alcoholic beverages, freshly baked cakes and cookies, seasonal fruits and cheese selection and laundry, excludes dry cleaning
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
Exclusive benefits may vary by hotel or hotel group. Exclusive benefits apply when booking the Best Available Rate and are not combinable with any hotel offers or special packages unless stated.
- Detailed Review +
- Facts & Amenities +
Arriving at the hotel there wasn’t even a signpost with the name – only a tasteful stone wall alerted me to the fact that there was anything beyond the street.
A large gate opened and I was immediately greeted with a sense of poise and calm that continued throughout my stay. The delightful front office manager came over to meet me, all smiles, and said ‘Welcome home’, as this was not my first visit to the hotel. There was no check-in, as efficient filing meant they already had my details from my previous visit and I was escorted straight to my suite.
The hotel has a small but immaculate footprint. Walking to my allocated suite, I was struck once more by the elegance of the grounds. There was a sense of peace, an almost soporific aura to the entire place.
Rooms and suites
All the suite interiors are much the same in terms of layout (the main difference being whether there is a pool or not) and the finishing everywhere is of a very high standard. The entrance to each suite leads off a cloistered courtyard, and the door opens straight onto the bedroom. The suites are not huge but they are very spacious and perfectly proportioned. The bedroom looks down onto a small seating area, a bathtub and a twin vanity unit. To the right of this is the shower and WC, mercifully enclosed. A glass wall leads out to a private courtyard with or without a square, oversized plunge pool of a decent size, but not large enough for laps.
The interior design takes its inspiration from the original interiors, with a contemporary twist. Mainly beige, white and black shades are used throughout, and a selection of textures softens the effect. In line with the Aman aesthetic, there are limited plug points, especially next to the bed itself, which I found quite frustrating, but it’s a small niggling point.
The suite is entirely open-plan, other than the shower and WC, which are in a separate area with a door. The lighting around the twin vanities is reasonable at best, and the addition of a shaving mirror should have helped, but the bulb was so dim that it had almost no effect.
One thing to note if you are friends sharing a room is that while the shower offers a lovely floor-to-ceiling view of the private pool and courtyard, it also means that your companion outside has a full view of you inside.
General amenities and forgotten necessities are available from reception, leaving the bathroom blissfully clutter-free. The in-house shampoo and conditioner are gorgeous, and there is – joy of joys – a good hairdryer.
All meals are served in the elegant, round dining room, which also serves as a bar and lounge area. I wouldn’t say the food is the highlight, but to be fair, it varies from meal to meal.
Breakfast is delightful, with a small but creative menu offering local curries, porridges (plural), eggs any style, healthy options and assorted pastries. Lunch and dinner menu options are relatively limited, but the chef will accommodate any dietary requirements or even just a general whim. I tried the hotel’s version of a couple of local dishes – amok and sour soup – and while they were good, they were not as delicately flavoured as outside local offerings.
I was celebrating a special event while I was here, and the staff pulled out all the stops for me and my travelling companion. A special table was set up with beautiful candles, flower petals and a tailored menu. Every effort was made to go the extra mile to make the evening truly memorable, which it really was. The Aman attention to detail in this instance was highlighted in its very best light.
Other restaurant options
Dining within the hotel is limited to just the one dining room or room service, which can be set up inside the room or in the courtyard at the back of the suite. I ate only in the main dining room, which can get repetitive for someone staying more than a couple of nights, but the Siem Reap culinary scene is diverse, and there are many superb local restaurants.
Spa and wellness
The spa experience at Amansara is sublime, and for such a small hotel it has a real sense of space and serenity. The south-east-Asian-themed treatments are the main focus here. I turned up somewhat physically crumpled, and the oil massage I was offered completely ironed me out, using pressure only a few talented therapists have mastered: strong and deep but also relaxing. And even though the spa is located next to the road, the extra-thick double glazing combined with the gentle trickling of a subtle water feature and meditative music meant you couldn’t hear anything disruptive, other than perhaps yourself breathing.
Pool and beach
The interesting semi-circular design of the main pool is the exact shape as the original guest house. It’s a striking layout, updated with lovely dark tiles, a smattering of sun loungers and a covered sala. There is pool service, and snacks and drinks are offered. There are also a few tables and chairs in the shade nearby. Towards the rear of the property, hidden away so that unless you explore you could easily miss it, is a 25-metre lap pool. If you want to attempt a few lengths, it’s usually empty, but it is on a roadside so you do get noise pollution.
There are no specific facilities for children and, given the tranquil atmosphere of the hotel, I would hesitate to recommend it for a boisterous family. Older kids might enjoy it more thanks to its proximity to the city centre, with the night market and bars close by.
Staff and service
The Cambodians are by nature kind, smiling and welcoming people. Sometimes this translates into inefficient service, but the well-oiled Aman machine has managed to gather a team that combines all that charm with effectiveness. And all this with the capacity to disappear and reappear as if by magic when you need them.
Various nationalities were represented when I was here, including visitors from France, America, Japan, Australia and China. Most guests were touring during the day and only in the hotel in the mornings and evenings.
It took a while to compile the bill but check-out was otherwise relatively smooth, and a car was ready and waiting to take me on my way.
How to get there
15 minute by road transfer from Siem Reap Airport