Tucked away in a small Mekong riverside village, The Balé, situated to the north of Phnom Penh, emanates luxury and serenity
Set roughly 30 minutes by private car outside the bustling centre of Cambodia’s capital, The Balé offers tranquility in a modern setting for city dwellers and visitors alike. The songs of crickets and tokay geckos are a gentle contrast to the beeping horns left behind by this property nestled on the banks of the Mekong River in the midst of a quiet village. Grassy courtyards, a lemongrass-lined pond and a river edge overlooking the wooden boats that occasionally drift across the Mekong give guests a taste of tranquility and nature within the comfort of a luxury stay.
Hospitality to the tens
Entering The Balé Phnom Penh’s grounds, visitors meet staff as they make their way along a stone pathway and are guided into a lounge room, where a welcome beverage and treat await them while they are checked into their suite. The Balé team – largely made up of village locals – refers to itself as a family and provides the hospitality of one, offering a warm sampeah greeting bow and friendly banter when they see guests. They also stock guest rooms with cookies and fruit, and can be seen lighting candles of each off-suite courtyard in the evening to create a warm ambiance.
Design is in the details
While the design of the resort’s archways and architecture is inspired by its mother getaway in Bali, the Phnom Penh escape draws upon elements of local art and culture. The floors of its in-house restaurant, Theato, are lined with the kind of mosaic cement tiles common in the country’s pagodas. Dark woodwork commissioned from local furniture makers comprises the delicately curved furnishings – from bookshelves to low-sitting lounge chairs – that fill the dining room and suites. Street scenes caught in black and white by Japanese photographer Minoru Masuyama are scattered throughout the resort, providing glimpses of authentic Cambodian life.
The resort’s intimate spa offers a range of rejuvenating massage treatments, from jasmine aromatherapy and traditional Balinese kneading to traditional Khmer stretch massages, followed by soothing herbal hot compresses. Guests can unwind at The Balé’s 25-metre riverside pool, perfect for basking in the sun or swimming lengths after a morning workout in the fully equipped on-site gym. For those who prefer a private dip, book one of the resort’s four riverfront suites, featuring luxurious patio plunge pools.
Guests enjoy Theato restaurant’s delightful fusion of traditional Khmer food, plus modern and traditional Asian cuisines. The four chefs behind the scenes were pulled from the renowned kitchens of Phnom Penh’s Chinese House, Tiger’s Eye and Sokha Hotel. Avocados sourced from the northeastern province of Mondulkiri adorn the menu of Theato’s bottomless breakfast, while jungle honey and lemongrass are among a spectrum of flavours to be explored over a candlelit garden-side dinner overlooking the Mekong waters.
This article was published in the June 2018 edition of Southeast Asia Globe magazine. For full access, subscribe here.