Chic Siem Reap, Cambodia
While the average first time visitor to Cambodia comes for just three days to see the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Angkor Wat, and barely scratches the surface of the endless temple complex, any guide to Siem Reap will let you in on a secret: the town itself is far too enchanting to miss.
Top stylish spots in Siem Reap
Siem Reap has its own very special appeal and there's just as much fun to be had exploring what's become an increasingly cosmopolitan destination of its own. Here's our guide to the stylish side of Siem Reap:
Pamper: treatments at Frangipani Spa
There are plenty of places to get massages and manicures in town but none rival Frangipani. Tucked behind an oasis of greenery, this retro-styled spa has a zen feel and a full range of beauty services. You're served a cup of hot tea and a cold flannel before being dispatched back into the real world post-treatment.
Yoga: classes at Navutu Dreams Resort & Spa
Try a yoga class with a difference in the super cool surroundings of Navutu Dreams, an Italian-run Mediterranean-designed retreat 10 minutes by tuk-tuk from the centre of town. Private classes can be arranged on the rooftop or lawn, and the resort holds advanced yoga workshops with international yogis.
Snack: cake at The Upstairs Café
The Upstairs Café is just a few minutes from the well-trodden tourist-filled centre of town, yet isn't really on the radar of the average guide to Siem Reap. Here in the up-and-coming area of Wat Bo, an ex-MAC make-up artist has brought her own brand of French style, eye for detail, and predilection for baking to a tucked away secret space which you'll spot from the road by the tell-tale red teapot.
Listen: jazz at Heritage Suites
Every Thursday evening, the exclusive boutique hotel Heritage Suites holds a happy hour and jazz evening in the refined surroundings of its atmospheric Asian-meets-colonial style bar. Enjoy a Khmer margarita or head to the dedicated wine bar to choose your two-for-one tipple to the sound of a trio of jazz musicians.
Drink: cocktails at Raffles Grand Hotel D'Angkor
The Elephant Bar at Raffles Grand Hotel D'Angkor is a swish place to stop in for a drink, and you'll be in good company: the Clintons have stayed here, and the conservatory walls are adorned with pictures of Jackie O from her 1967 visit to Cambodia. The signature cocktail to try to the sound of tinkling ivories is The Airavata; a blend of rum, coconut passion, lime juice, crème de banana with pineapple and coconut juice.
Admire: art at The 1961
Long-time local resident, Filipino artist, and the main man on Siem Reap's art scene, Loven Ramos, exhibits his own work as well as that of other artists at The 1961, a retro-styled gallery meets hotel. Set in what was once a private house with large courtyard on River Road, a visit is a great way to get in touch with the artistic side of Siem Reap culture.
Sleep: Shinta Mani
Shinta Mani is a real deal design hotels: a 39-room temple to modernity for those who love art, housed in what was Siem Reap's original post office building. But Shinta Mani is more than just a trendy place to hang out, drink, sleep and eat.
While signature restaurant Kroya (which means 'food' in Khmer) features modern interpretations of Cambodian cuisine which can be eaten on one the four-seater suspended swings, the real coolness comes from the hotel's not-for-profit foundation which trains 22 students in the onsite hospitality training programme.
This beautiful bolt-hole is decorated in an achingly cool palette of muted grey tones, concrete textures and urban tiling, punctuated by flashes of orange which are said to represent fleeting glimpses of the monks as they move through the temples, and no guide to chic Siem Reap would be complete without a nod to the town's most stylish hotel.
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