Special feature: Amansara, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Siem Reap in Cambodia draws in more than four million tourists a year, which is four times more than a decade ago. And tourists and travelers alike are all there to see one thing: Angkor Wat. The ancient temples and complex of Angkor, set on the outskirts of Siem Reap, are by far the country’s biggest draw. And what better way to experience Siem Reap than with the Cambodian outpost of Aman, Amansara?

Amansara - Mercedes Benz

At Amansara, the Aman experience begins upon arrival – off the plane, we were greeted by a representative who ensured we did not have to wait in line for immigration or customs and whisked us through both. Upon exiting the airport, a classic 1960s Mercedes-Benz awaited us.

Amansara - Main Pool

The hotel is the former guesthouse of King Sihanouk of Cambodia, and has been under Aman’s portfolio since 2002. It initially housed 12 suites in the old structure, but a further 12 suites, each with a private pool, were added later. The style is decidedly sixties minimalist cool and retains elements of the original structure such as the unmistakable curved slate pool. Our pool suite, the largest of three room types at the resort, comes with an extended courtyard and a private pool measuring 6x5m. The rooms ooze contemporary minimalist chic with an open plan, with the bedroom leading down to the bathtub and courtyard.

Amansara - Angkor-Wat

While the resort is decidedly luxurious, at Amansara, it’s all about the location. Room rates at the resort include twice daily guided tours to the Angkor complex (among other things), where a guide and driver will accompany you throughout your stay, scheduling and executing a wonderful itinerary that takes you off the beaten path, and to the obvious sites (Angkor Wat) through passageways that are unused, walkways that have been forgotten, and by coordinating the time so as to ensure you get to experience each temple within Angkor in all its glory.

Amansara - Bayon

As the Angkor complex is within easy reach of Amansara, rides to and fro are not in a car but in Aman’s modified remork, a Cambodian tuk tuk, given the Aman touch with fine leather upholstery and ample space.

Amansara - Banteay Srei

This is Aman at its very best – each excursion is followed by refreshing cold towels and bottles of water ready at the remork, much needed in the exasperating heat and humidity of Siem Reap. On one occasion when heading back we remarked to each other how perfect a fresh coconut in this heat would be, only to be presented with two fresh coconuts by our driver at the ready when we arrived at our mode of transport.

Amansara - Village-House

After an early morning trip to Angkor, which finished around 9am, we are diverted from our usual path (back to the hotel) to a local Cambodian house by the river. The house, a traditional Cambodian structure on stilts, is now owned and operated by Amansara who bring guests over after long excursions for a breakfast (or lunch or dinner or cooking classes). With refurbished decors whilst maintaining authenticity, the house also allows for a chance to see the local Cambodian way of life.

Amansara - Angkor Walks

Back at the hotel, the curved main pool and the lengthy lap pool provide plenty of relaxation time. In the heat and humidity of Siem Reap, and with early mornings and long excursions, a wonderfully designed hotel pool (or private pool) is an absolute must.

Amansara - Lap Pool

Evenings offer wonderful themed entertainment, including a renowned local Apsara dance troupe that has performed for royalty, regaling folk tales through the medium of dance. Based on Aman’s expert suggestions, we also enjoyed Phare Circus, featuring dance, theatre, live music and unique acrobatics performed by Cambodian youths whose lives have been transformed.

Regrettably, the food at Amansara was not quite up to our usual Aman expectations, but the team, led by General Manager Astrid Killian, were very thoughtful with their suggestions and planned itineraries. Going into Siem Reap, we didn’t know what to expect. Siem Reap has its reputation as a historical and cultural place, while the capital of Phnom Penh is better known among the foodies. But this busy little town, revolving around the lively area of Pub Street, is turning into quite the food capital.

Amansara - Spa

We were introduced to Khmer Kitchen, which we revisited time and again on our trip – a buzzing restaurant set within a sleepy old colonial structure that specialises in honest Cambodian fare served at very reasonable prices and generous portions, along with their famous live streetside barbecue. Another recommendation from Amansara is a place we revisited even more frequently: Khmer Touch. Led by former Amansara chef Samantha Oeng, this refined yet unpretentious take on authentic Cambodian fare was an absolute highlight of our trip from a food perspective. While prices are high for Siem Reap standards, by international standards they are extremely reasonable for the quality at display.

Amansara - Food

Amansara is not a destination hotel – it is not a place you come to, sit, relax and never leave. In Siem Reap, you must explore. But that is precisely why you stay at Amansara – because here you do not have to worry and just let Aman guide you to a most memorable stay, in the only way they know how: the Aman way.

Disclosure: Our stay was courtesy of Amansara.

Comments (2)

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  1. Jeni says:

    Oh wow, I had no idea that Cambodia was becoming such a popular tourist destination. I also haven’t even heard of Angkor Wat at all – it is breathtaking. Visiting an ancient temple is definitely on my list though! That Benz is absolutely gorgeous, what a wonderful time you must have had. You’ve definitely convinced me to visit

  2. Eleanor says:

    Wow the Amansara looks very impressive, I’d love to stay there! The pool and car look amazing. I’ve been to Siem Reap before and seen Ankor Wat, I was blown away by it, such an incredible place. I will hopefully go back there to show my partner how amazing it is.

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