Park Hyatt Siem Reap

The Park Hyatt Siem Reap is the brand’s debut in Cambodia, and we say it has effortlessly slipped into the shoes of the former Hotel de la Paix.

he Park Hyatt Siem Reap is the brand’s debut in Cambodia, and we say it has effortlessly slipped into the shoes of the former Hotel de la Paix. The classy, total makeover by designer Bill Bensley proves you can take a landmark … and turn it into something new.

We hear the 108-room, all-white building — discreetly screened from street view on busy downtown Sivutha Boulevard — was inspired by the nearby 12th-century monumental temple complex of Angkor Wat, which is, of course, the reason for coming to Siem Reap.

The lushly appointed Art Deco living room lounge is just off the classical, white lobby. And here Bensley has toyed to perfection with candy-floss pink — a color laden with potential interior design pitfalls — to create a light-hearted decadent ambiance for the colonial-style room that ends with a sultry red bar area.

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VIP contact Sarah Moya ([email protected]; 011-855-9594-1234) told us the books, with quirky pink and black-and-white dust covers, are about local history and traditions, and are for guests to enjoy. We found it hard to choose between chilling out in a cozy corner here, or under the 100-year-old banyan tree in the courtyard for afternoon tea and sundowner cocktails. So we did a bit of both.

The top-of-the-house accommodations are the suites, naturally. The Rooftop Garden Suite, No. 340, has a living room and a private outdoor garden patio with a large sunken tub. Nos. 6, 7 and 8, the Park Executive Suites are located beside the lap pool and have private plunge pools. The Presidential Suite, an impressive 2,600 square feet, has a dining room, living room, library, two bedrooms and a rooftop garden.

For the best sunset views, ask for one of the five Park Suites, with separate living and sleeping areas. Honeymooners will love the Pool Terrace Suite, which has direct access to the hotel’s large free-form swimming pool. But our favorite was the two-bedroom Pool Suite; it really feels like a private apartment, and is ideal for families as it has king and twin bedrooms and a private pool.

The Two-Bedroom Pool Suite (top right) offers views of the private plunge pool and garden.
The Two-Bedroom Pool Suite (top right) offers views of the private plunge pool and garden.

The Park, Park View, Deluxe and Deluxe View rooms have glowing wood floors, ceiling fans, Nespresso machines, and the Deluxe are a spacious 580 square feet. For families, good options are the 16 rooms with shared entryways and king or twin beds. All bathrooms feature Italian marble and dual vanities and the amenities are June Jacobs.

General Manager Sholto Smith ([email protected]; 011-855-9595-1234) says peak time is at Christmas, from New Year to mid-February, and early December, when the Half Marathon comes to town. The Zen-inspired Spa has a 24-hour fitness center; six treatment rooms, of which three are couples’ suites; and a steam room. Spa Manager Ladang Leng ([email protected]; 011-855-6321-1234) told us the most popular masseuses are Khem Sovanna and Ath Rommany. Our Choice: The soothing Apsara full-body massage with fragrant local oils; a perfect way to relax after a day of temple visits. And it is wise to contact Ladang to make advance bookings.

If you want to make your A-listers happy, you will need Guest Relations Manager Bruno Belletti ([email protected]; 011-855-9555-5163). Ask him to set up a luxury romantic cruise on nearby Tonle Sap lake. Other interesting options are exclusive temple tours with a senior archaeologist, or with famous Angkor Wat photographer John McDermott. And for your VIP transfers, ask Bruno for the Park Hyatt BMW 5 series.

Not so many years ago Siem Reap was a sleepy town, but today the Angkor Wat complex and its surrounding temples are attracting huge crowds. Insider Tip: Choose the June and July low season months to visit. There will be rain showers, but they don’t last very long, and they are a small price to pay to see the temples without the high-season rush.

The zen-inspired Spa (right, center) at Park Hyatt Siem Reap has three couples’ suites.
The zen-inspired Spa (right, center) at Park Hyatt Siem Reap has three couples’ suites.

After dusk is the best time to head down to Pub Street, which is everything its name implies, and has many massage parlors and al fresco eateries. It is also close to the main night market, trendy boutiques, galleries and souvenir shops.

Khmer cuisine is one of the most sophisticated in Asia and the Park Hyatt’s Executive Sous Chef Martin Robl ([email protected]; 011-855-9555-5161) organizes Masters of Food and Wine interactive culinary events. Enquire about his farm-to-table gastronomic journeys through the Cambodian countryside, ending with lunch in the signature Dining Room, which specializes in local Khmer and French provincial cuisine.

We were bowled over by Martin’s Seafood Amok, a delicious curry with coconut milk, which is Cambodia’s national dish. We also tried the Kampot Pepper Menu and discovered this national treasure — arguably the best pepper in the world — and the haunting aromatic nuances it adds to meat and fish dishes.

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