What sort of hotel would you like with your breakfast? If you’re looking for something a little different, and would like to spend the night in a cavernous ‘pipe’, for example, or pay several hundred bucks to stay in a tent overnight, Siem Reap can deliver.
Siem Reap has one of the densest clusters of hotels and resorts of any destination in Southeast Asia, and the accommodation available ranges from the average and ordinary to the absolute in chic and luxurious, from $15 a night to a couple of grand, from ground-breaking and innovative eco-friendly resorts to the just plain unusual.
Like the Funky Lane-located Ring Boutique Hotel where guests are invited to stay in one of the 26 cylindrical pipe bedrooms, ranging from family rooms, to double rooms and single rooms which, the hotel’s website proclaims, are, “Each philosophically equipped with soft linen, bathtub and rain shower.”
On the eco-friendly front there’s the oddly-named The Beige, a glamping* delight, where tent accommodation goes for between $300 and $800 a night according to some online quotes, and where reportedly an elephant is (or was) on hand to entertain guests and feed children at breakfast. Unsurprisingly, the presence of the elephant at the resort prompted online criticism from animal lovers and Koichi Tanioka, the resort’s sales and revenue manager, declined to respond to a query about the gentle giant.
Elephant-free, but home to a fleet of vintage limousines, is Viroth’s Hotel, firmly established in the amazing category because it’s been heralded as the world’s best hotel. Yet the tariff kicks off extremely reasonably at about $125 a night.
Or, as Money magazine reported about Viroth’s, “There’s some good news for prospective travelers: a hotel recently ranked as one of the best in the world costs just over $100 a night.”
The 35-room hotel which opened in Siem Reaps Wat Bo precinct in June, 2015 is owned by Viroth Kol and Fabien Martial, and has been described as a ‘Chic, tranquil, green and luxurious oasis… with friendly, helpful and yet unobtrusive service.”
Three years after its opening, Viroth’s won the world’s best hotel award, and in January 2018 co-owner Fabien Martial proudly posted a press release saying,
“Being named the No. 1 hotel in the world for TripAdvisor’s 2018 Travelers’ Choice Award is a huge achievement for Viroth’s Hotel.”
Viroth’s general manager Saay Sokross says that the quality of the service at the hotel was a contributing factor to the big win.
“We did not expect to win the best hotel in the world honours, but our team deserves it,” he says.
“We are a team that cooperates well when faced with challenges and big responsibilities.
“The design of our hotel is unique and stylish and distinguished by our artful use of greenery, and we are the (only) hotel in Siem Reap with the most vintage limousines. These provide our guests with airport transfers and memorable travel to other nearby destinations.”
Green aspects and creative design also give an unusual edge to unfortunately-named The Beige and the Ring Boutique.
The Beige – a Japanese-owned resort with ten luxury accommodation ‘tents’ – opened in early 2018 in a forest lodge setting in Svay Chek commune, Angkor Thom.
Like Viroth’s Hotel, the reception area features quirky décor touches such a vintage phone and fans, but unlike Viroth’s, the view is ‘feral,’ overlooking a river that’s a watering hole for buffalo, and the tents are in a forest setting.
The tents as such are high-tech permanent structure air-conditioned running-water rooms made entirely from organic materials with ‘walls’, that fold up, letting the breeze in and giving the feeling that the room is one with nature.
The property is mostly booked out, as is the Ring Boutique at the other end of the economic scale, with 19 rooms priced from $30 to $85.
What sets the Ring apart is not just the fact that beds in the rooms are set in cylinders or pipes, but that the hotel is a labour of love on behalf of the engaging owner, Phy Sophov, a self-taught hotelier who opened the hotel in August 2016.
“In 2013, I had the complete plan in my head but not enough budget to do it,” he says. “I worked in an architectural company and I was just bored with the square shape, with square rooms. I wanted to be different from everything else.
“I liked the idea of a big circle in the room, and I put very thin lights in the tube, or pipe, and it feels like you are sleeping in the moon.”
The rooms and the foyer are also an art lover’s delight as Sophov commissioned his artist friend Lim Kunthea, a gallery technician and assistant art teacher at the Small Art School in Siem Reap, to cover the walls in colourful glory.
Sophov also covered the grounds in greenery including a funky Buddha tree, and further broke away from the standard square room hotel fare by catering for group bookings with the equivalent of 4-person and six-person rooms.
“The three-pipe six-person Royal Family Room is the most popular by far,” he says. “Most hotels don’t have rooms for so many people, but we cater for such people, and they can come here, stay together, play cards or whatever pleases them.”
Sophov admits that building such a quirky hotel and opening it without any hotel experience, was a risk, but hard work and a steep learning curve paid off for him.
“We’re now normally fully booked,” he says, “Because when you are unusual, you stand out from the crowd.”
*Glamping = glamorous camping