Siem Reap is awash with hotels, but for those looking for a distinctive experience, Phum Baitang melds Cambodian rural charm with pure luxury
While the world-renowned ruins of Angkor are deservedly Siem Reap’s major draw, it is hard to resist the temptation to ignore the herd and relish the sensuous delights offered at Phum Baitang, a sumptuous property on the quiet side of Temple Town.
By day, the perfect pitch to take in a wide-ranging view of the eight-hectare site is found by wallowing in the 50m infinity pool that crowns the property atop a small rise. Spread out ahead, gardens brimful with flowering trees and shrubs surround 45 traditional-style villas in a simpatico simulacrum of a Cambodian village. Dividing two clusters of accommodation, a koki-wood walkway snakes through bijou rice paddies, adding to the rural vibe.
If the relative rush of poolside action becomes wearing, it’s easy to attain solitude in one of the pool villas. Each has a couple-sized patch of water, just a few steps from the comfort of a king-sized bed, and an accompanying fan-cooled thatched cabana provides welcome shade if the rays become too strong. Inside the villas, with their thick wooden floorboards, shutters and water-hyacinth woven mats, the natural look repeats – only there’s full air conditioning, a smart TV and a sound system to ground guests in the modern world.
Come sundown, reinvigoration can be found in the Cigar and Cocktail Lounge. Set in a 100-year-old farmhouse, all carved wooden panels and rattan wingback chairs, there’s a scintillating array of signature cocktails, fine wines and vintage liqueurs, as well as scores of parejos and presidentes to puff on. Once ensconced on the balcony, it’s time to draw breath and wait for the frogs to commence their evening singsong as the unobtrusive lighting turns the grounds into a twinkling tropical fairyland.
After preprandial libations have been consumed, it’s time to choose a dinner venue. Take a stroll through the rice paddies to the poolside Hang Bay restaurant and discover the delights of Cambodian cuisine, or opt for the no-less-tempting pan-Asian dishes of nearby Bay Phsar. Oh, and don’t worry if the thought of all that walking seems like hot work. Guests can always request an electric buggy to silently whisk them to their preferred destination.
The rubdown lowdown
“Your body is a temple, treat it as sacred,” the 38-page menu for Phum Baitang’s Temple Spa sagely advises. Its pages are overflowing with alluring massages and treatments – all featuring local plants and herbs – such as the Khmer Empire Splendours Ritual and the Miracle Tree Polishing Cocoon, each inspired by ancient Cambodian purification traditions. The spa’s cool interior, with its dappled lighting, is a welcoming retreat, or guests could elect to perform a wellness ritual in one of the poolside pavilions.
If country life becomes a drag and the desire for some upscale shopping takes hold, make haste for the newly opened T Galleria by DFS in uptown Siem Reap. Nestled in a park next to the Angkor National Museum, the galleria hosts big names such as Tiffany & Co, Saint Laurent and Bottega Veneta along with quality local wares produced by the likes of Artisans Angkor and Golden Silk. Traditional Khmer motifs and Angkorian-inspired architectural flourishes abound and there are more than 200 sales staff to guide shoppers through the duty-free purchase process.
Phnom Penh’s Malis restaurant has long been a go-to for those wishing to sample Cambodia’s culinary highlights. Now, with the opening of a new branch in Siem Reap, there’s no need to hit the capital to savour its celebrated flavours. Housed in a pristine white building overlooking the river, traditional Khmer style meets a modernist aesthetic in this restaurant where diners can get a taste of the Kingdom in salubrious surrounds. Although the decor may be swish, the menu has earthy elements, with smoked and fermented fish along with locally grown herbs and Kampot pepper gracing the dishes.
Tel: +855 (0)63 961 111. Address: Phum Svaydangkum, Sangkat Svaydangkum, Siem Reap, 1700. Website: phumbaitang.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Rooms: guests can choose from either an 80-square-metre Terrace Villa or a 130-square-metre – including garden, plunge pool and terrace – Pool Villa. Suggested accommodation: while the Terrace Villas, with their six-seater sofas and dining tables, are supremely well appointed, the Pool Villas up the ante with their alluring plunge pools.