NOSTALGIA NEAR THE TEMPLES OF ANGKOR
(Siem Reap / Angkor, Cambodia)
By Gilles Malaisé
This is part of the charm of Cambodia : it has lots of special lodging, for the most basic till the most refined. The Samar Villas & Spa Resort plays in the highest category, targeting five-star hotels clients willing to experience something different. If there is one city in the kingdom where the distinguished traveler would prefer to avoid the large hotels and its group of noisy Chinese and Korean tourists, this is definitely Siem Reap.
The Samar is the antithesis of a Hilton or Intercontinental. Located away from the crowds, yet on the way to Angkor and a five-minute tuk-tuk drive from the pubs and restaurants district, this private property and its treasure were ours during three days. Emerging at the end of a quiet lane, the elegant façade opens to the airy lobby, with a pleasant restaurant opposite the reception desk, and stunning black-tiles swimming pool with an immediate access to the suites, distributed in a Khmer style two-storey pavilion. After a quick check-in and before visiting our room, we already knew that we would experience a great time in this treasure of hospitality.
The deep sofas, precious wood panelled floors, and the antiques carefully presented everywhere our eyes could see, made us as much impression as the first class service. We could see almost immediately that the management could not be locally operated… As a matter of fact, Bertrand, the owner, is French. Familiarized to luxury travel from his childhood, he decided to share his passion for premium hospitality with his happy-few guests. We should even write “happy very few”, as with only six suites and two villas, it takes only a dozen of residents to make The Samar full house… The guests that we approached during our stay were quiet and smart experienced travelers, indeed.
We had been booked in the “Pierre Loti” junior-suite. There are five suites in this category. All lovingly and specifically decorated by Bertrand, they exhibit precious silk from the local production or Jim Thomson Bangkok, a canopy bed and, in our room, elegant 1920s colonial armchairs, a smooth lightning, Khmer and Buddhist decorative items. We liked the private outside veranda, where we sat to smoke a cigar after our dinner, listening to the frogs and geckos song. The impression of privacy was similar at the poolside. Lots of guests leave their rooms at sunrise to visit the temples, coming back at sunset. Those skipping the visit, like us or many residents from Phnom Penh visiting Siem Reap only for its peaceful atmosphere and fresh air, get the pool for their quasi-private use during the whole day… We had the exciting impression that we rented a private villa.
in a villa at The Samar is actually an option for those with a family,
or just in search of a peak of luxury and intimacy. The first option is
the one-bedroom Villa Samar. It offers the same amenities as the
suites, plus a large private terrace with a pool and garden view.
Serviced around the clock by a personal butler, it makes the guests
actually feeling at home, enjoying extra privileges in an already
splendidly serviced property. The second option, with the same premium
level of service, is the Villa Fou-Nan. A traditional Khmer house
located opposite the lobby, boasting a spacious and stylish living area
with classy colonial furniture, original etchings, and collages by Yves
Saint Laurent, and a large balcony adorned with a collection of
orchids: ideal for a honeymoon, separated from the other guests,
feeling like in Paradise.
same dishes are served in a different atmosphere opposite the street,
at the Fou-Nan
restaurant operated by The Samar. The design made us
traveling back to the Belle-Epoque of Indochina. Set in a lushly
tropical garden, it has an Apsara show and village dances each
second magical evening. Cookery
classes initiate the active gourmets to the subtle refinement of
the Khmer cuisine.
Of course, there is a reputed Spa. Small but well designed, each guest shall experience it, as a short treatment is usually included in the room rate calculated on the Cambodian standards: which means much affordable for a special lodging of that class.
Samar Villas & Spa Resort is a member of the prestigious Secret Retreats collection
of boutique hotels, intimate inns and camps, beautifully designed full
service villas, exquisite restaurants and exotic cruises.
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