Style Meets History at Jaya House River Park, Siem Reap

Stylish, five-star boutique Jaya House River Park is on Siem Reap’s riverfront, the banks of which have been transformed into a tropical jungle thanks to the more than 2,150 trees the hotel has planted there over the last six years. We were greeted in the lobby, which looks out on the beautiful garden with mature trees and a gorgeous silver swimming pool, by the owner and general manager Christian de Boer ([email protected]; +85-563-962-555) who likes to welcome all his guests.

It didn’t take us long to realize why this hotel is a fixture on Hot Lists and, for the fourth year running, in the Top 25 Best Hotels in the World. First, they told us they didn’t need our passport as “you are part of the family.” At every step there were smiling staff with cold towels, a spray of insect repellent, or seeking ways to assist. Soft drinks and beers in the minibar, unlimited laundry, one-hour spa treatments (max two per room per day), and a cell phone with free local calls are all complimentary. Added to which, waiters roam the pool areas, plying guests with iced water and, in the afternoons, delicious ice cream cones and fruit skewers. De Boer has really put an exciting new spin on the art of bespoke five-star hospitality.

Jaya House River Park
The central pool at Jaya House River Park is adults-only and is equipped with sun loungers. (Jaya House River Park)

The 26 Deluxe rooms, six Junior Suites and four Junior Pool Suites with outdoor plunge pools are in two white low-rise buildings—nothing here can be higher than the Angkor Wat temples. The way they blend symbiotically into the vegetation reminded us of the remarkable hotels designed by Geoffrey Bawa, the Sri Lankan architect of Tropical Modernism fame. Our Junior Suite on the first level, No. 210, overlooked the central pool, which has sun loungers and is adults-only. We had a balcony—all rooms and suites have balconies or terraces—with a table and chairs, and a bathroom with a massive stone bathtub as well as an open shower. The hotel has two sets of connecting rooms, as well as rooms for guests with mobility issues. We liked Deluxe rooms 103 and 105 on the ground floor, which have small terraces and are right in front of the central pool.

Rooms have tea and coffee facilities and a choice of ginger, lemongrass and moringa (a tree with antioxidant properties) organic herbal teas. The beds are super comfortable with high thread-count linens. We loved the generous use of dark woods, the vintage telephone and the handcrafted in-house Jaya Organics toiletries, which can also be purchased. In the Trorkuon Khmer Restaurant, breakfasts are a mix of buffet and à la carte with East-West evergreens. The all-day dining also includes international and local dishes, like Beef Lok Lak with Cambodia’s wonderfully aromatic Kampot pepper. Guests can sit inside, or beside the pool on comfortable swinging daybeds. The rooftop Sky Bar is a must for the sunset happy hour and serves light snacks, and we do recommend booking spa treatments in advance, as temple-weary guests keep them in high demand.

The Trorkuon Restaurant
The Trorkuon Restaurant is vegan friendly, and serves Khmer cuisine, classic Western meals and healthier options such as the smoothie bowl. (Jaya House River Park)

Sustainability permeates every corner of this hotel, which proudly flaunts its social conscience. It is Cambodia’s first plastic-free hotel. De Boer is the founder of "Refill not Landfill," which outlaws plastic in favor of refillable bottles and, for a small donation which is added to the bill, guests can plant more trees. De Boer, who says his target guests are well-traveled and honeymooners, told us Executive Assistant Manager Chris ([email protected]; +85-563-962-555) is the person to contact for transfers, advance spa bookings, to organize temple tours, restaurant reservations and more.   

River Park Spa
The River Park Spa at Jaya House River Park uses ancient Khmer and South-East Asian massage traditions. (Jaya House River Park)

In the complimentary, wheelchair-accessible tuk-tuk we were just five minutes from the daily Old Market and popular night markets, and 20 minutes from the Angkor Archeological Park, home to Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious complex and one of Asia’s most visited attractions. Well, that was pre-COVID, when visitors there topped 10,000 a day—far too many for the ancient monuments and the little town. With numbers now around 1,000 a day, this is the ideal time to enjoy the UNESCO site and the town at a leisurely pace. Siem Reap recently got new roads and upgraded urban facilities, and is also getting a new international airport, due to open in October. This is a good and a bad thing, as the old airport, now too small and antiquated, is just 15 minutes away, whereas the new one will take over an hour by car.

Jaya House River Park
The Hotel is surrounded by a tropical jungle as it has planted more than 2,150 trees over the last six years. (Jaya House River Park)

There is a lot to do in and around Siem Reap. Angkor Wat, of course, more than merits a couple of days, but the dozens of smaller temples like Koh Ker, Bang Mealea and Bantei Srei, which are a bit further, are just as fascinating. The old town has an interesting Made in Cambodia handicraft market with sales benefiting local artisans, a National Museum, and the downtown Kandal Village and Wat Bo Village have cool eateries, boutiques and craft shops.

Art-lovers will not want to miss a day with Dubliner Robina Hanley. Her art tours bring them into Siem Reap’s creative inner circle, with private visits to photography and art galleries, and to artists producing fine local crafts like lacquerware. And an exclusive stop at the atelier of Madagascar-born fashion designer Eric Raisina who enthralls global catwalks with his stunning silk creations.

Jaya House River Park
The Deluxe King Suite at the hotel offers 409 square feet of space and among its amenities are a selection of homegrown teas and a well-stocked complimentary minibar. (Jaya House River Park)

For out-of-house-dining de Boer told us that Jomno Modern Khmer and Cuisine Wat Damnak are his favorites, and that the Miss Wong cocktail bar is a great choice for informal dining. Cuisine Wat Damnak (+85-577-347-762) is the only Cambodian entry on the 50 Best Restaurants in Asia, and it made us seriously rethink our misconception that Cambodian food was less exciting than other Asian cuisines. Our eight-course tasting dinner was one visual and gustative delight after another, as were the eight courses on the plant-based tasting menu.

Jaya House River Park
"Refill Not Landfill" is a global campaign that aims to reduce single-use plastic drinking bottles and other single-use plastic waste. (Jaya House River Park)

Another surprise was Pinak Pou (; +85-598-460-988), a colorful courtyard restaurant run by Mengly Mork, a creative young local chef who has made his name with his innovative take on Cambodian street food. Think beehives with live larvae and red ants, though there are also lots of conventional dishes on his menu. No visit to Siem Reap is complete without a show at Phare, The Cambodian Circus. Forget the circuses of old, this is a spectacular blend of theater, music, dance, acrobatics, juggling and more, that tells uniquely Cambodian stories and appeals to all ages. For special inquiries, contact Craig Dodge ([email protected]), marketing manager.

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