When you think Angkor Wat you’re more likely to think jungle and overgrown ruins rather than urban sophistication, but that’s exactly what you’ll find at Park Hyatt Siem Reap – with a nod to its Cambodian surroundings of course: its collection of rare Buddha statues, cultural performances at dinner in the courtyard and highly-acclaimed Khmer food served up by locally-born Executive Chef Pisith Theam.
Perhaps most evocative of all are the oversized black and white photographs of Angkor that line the hotel corridors, firmly linking this luxury hotel to its exotic locale near one of the most astonishing archaeological sights in the world.
At the same time, you’ll never mistake the Park Hyatt for a hotel trapped in the past. Revamped by Bangkok-based interior designer Bill Bensley, the layout is drool-worthy sleek, with a dramatic black and white striped hallway leading in from the entranceway, contemporary Khmer art and plenty of cool Italian marble warmed up by fragrant flower arrangements.
The most convenient reason to choose the Park Hyatt is its location. Unlike most top-end hotels in Siem Reap, the Hyatt is smack in the centre of town, which makes wandering through the streets and night markets a breeze. That’s what my husband and I did on our first evening here. We strolled down popular Pub Street, grabbed a bite at a local restaurant then retreated to our 3rd-floor suite to watch the street action below.
A Hotel That’s Hard to Leave
The problem with staying in an urban resort that has everything is that it’s temping to stay on property during the heat of day – not recommended when the stunning site of Angkor awaits. Mark and I compromised, taking in the various temples, terraces, moats and causeways in stages. In the morning we visited the temples of Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm – the famous ‘Tomb Raider’ Temple – then headed back to the hotel for some much-needed pool time in the Hyatt’s urban garden setting, where an attendant immediately rushed over with glasses of ice water and sliced guava to cool us down.
There are two pools at the Hyatt, the chic garden pool (our favourite) and a salt water lap pool. There is also a fitness centre and a spa that focuses on locally-sourced florals and natural ingredients such as ginger and lemongrass.
The Living Room
Relaxing with a Coconut Scrub or a Herbal Compress Massage sounded tempting, but we skipped treatments in favour of having afternoon tea in the Living Room. Designed to make you feel at home (if your home happens to be a colonial-style mansion), the Living Room lounge and bar is a sumptuous mix of dark wood, dusky pink velvet and shelves lined with curios, books and artisanal crafts. It’s easy to sink into the plush chairs and linger, but in the late afternoon we headed off to tour the ancient city of Angkor Thom, once the capital of the vast Khmer Empire.
Touring this once-mighty city gave us a taste for all things Khmer, so the hotel’s Cultural Performance and Dinner in the centerpiece courtyard seemed like a good way to cap off the night. The hotel offers three cultural programs: a shadow puppet theatre, the Apsara (a type of Cambodian dance) and the Bokator (a martial arts performance). We watched a traditional shadow puppet show while diving into a multi-course meal of Khmer specialities that included grilled Eggplant Salad, a tangy Prawn Sour Soup and a traditional Seafood Amok.
There are other dining options at the Hyatt: the French and Indochine-inspired cuisine at The Dining Room as well as the casual Glasshouse, a street side deli-patisserie that makes a good stop for salads, sandwiches and those all-important ice cream cravings triggered by touring in the sunshine.
A Home Away From Home
With 104 rooms including 13 luxe suites – four with private plunge pools – the hotel is larger than it seems. This is done on purpose. Various sections are separated in a way that makes them always seem intimate, a design element especially appreciated at our go-to lazing around spot, the shady deck chair nooks at the infinity-edged swimming pool.
An Award Winning Hotel
With a host of awards and accolades under its belt, such as making the 2015 Condé Nast Traveler Gold List and Travel + Leisure’s list of the 500 World’s Best Hotels, the Park Hyatt is clearly one of the top choices at Siem Reap, especially if you want shops and restaurants at your fingertips, while having the temples of Angkor only a 15-minute drive away.
By staying at Park Hyatt Siem Reap we may have seen less of Angkor Wat than we should have - but isn’t that the sign of a good hotel, when you find it too hard to leave?
For more information on stays and reservations visit the Park Hyatt Siem Reap website. Hotel address: Sivutha Boulevard, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Tel: +855 6321 1234