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After a couple days in Bangkok, the next stop on TPG Managing Editor Eric Rosen’s Southeast Asia adventure was Siem Reap, Cambodia, where he stayed at the recently opened Park Hyatt Siem Reap. Here’s his review.
When my Asia trip was coming together and I knew that I’d have the chance to visit Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor, I knew I definitely wanted to check out the Park Hyatt Siem Reap, which took over one of Siem Reap’s grande dames, the Hotel de la Paix right in the center of town in 2012 and recently reopened in August.
I know there are cheaper options around including a lot of charming guest houses and even the Le Meridien where TPG stayed last year, but that’s a bit outside of town, and this was an exciting hew Hyatt property where you can earn and redeem Gold Passport points and looked beautiful, so I decided to stay there this time.
I was looking at my November dates back in September, and the best rate I could nail down then was a prepaid nightly rate of $328 for a Standard Park King. Other than that, nights were going for nearly $400 even for just standard rooms, so I went ahead and booked it. The high room rates (they’ve been running closer to $270-$280) were made more palatable by the fact that the hotel is running an opening special where if you stay before November 30, you get a bonus 1,500 Hyatt points (book directly through Hyatt using the offer code GP675), plus this stay would put me closer to reaching at least 5,000 bonus points with Hyatt’s fall promo, which I should hit later this week at the Park Hyatt Saigon (review to come), so it seemed worth it.
If you’re interested in staying here, though, you can snag an award night for 15,000 points since this is a Category 4 property (so the point redemption level won’t change post-devaluation in January).
The Style and Rooms
This is the first Hyatt property in Cambodia and has just 108 rooms including 13 suites (four of which have their own private plunge pools). It is smack dab in the heart of town and just a 15-minute drive from the entrance to the Angkor Archaeological Park.
Hyatt hired Bangkok-based interior designer Bill Bensley, who’s worked on other projects like the Four Seasons Koh Samui and the Siam in Bangkok, to oversee the redo of the historic property and he marked it with his signature minimalist-chic style while also paying homage to the building’s fabulous Art Deco elements.
Guests are checked in by a personal representative in the new Living Room, a lounge bar that is stark shades of black wood and pink-purple velvet by day, but which transforms into a sophisticated, candlelit space by night (with half-price happy hour cocktails to refresh you after a day out sightseeing). Here’s where I hit my first snag. Though the staff was very friendly and solicitous, their English was…well, not quite up to scratch, and it took them a good 30 minutes to check me in – no explanation why they had difficulty locating my reservation, or anything else.
There is a small, circular central atrium with a dome-shaped ceiling meant to evoke the roofs of the Angkor temples, with a skylight up at the roof, and each floor has a kind of living room surrounding this light space with armchairs, sofas and shelves of books and colorful boxes for accents of color. Two corridors radiate off it on each floor, perpendicular to one another.
The first room my hotel rep took me to was right next to the elevators and I asked him to change it. He said he would see what he could do while I came back to the Living Room with him, and in a few minutes he came back with another key for a room on the third floor (the top one, and what would be the 4th floor in the US) at the end of the hall. Much better, though no Hyatt Platinum upgrade for me, it seemed.
Rooms start at 35 square meters (about 370 square feet) and are decorated with a contemporary take on traditional Khmer art including metallic sculpted headboards shaped like banyan trees and dark hardwood floors and furniture.
While on the contemporary side, beds are dressed in crisp white linens, the sectional lounge that ran the whole length of the room had eye-catching yellow upholstery, the nightstand had an antiqued mirrored surface, and the bathroom was all marble with wooden shutters separating it from the bedroom, a deep soaking tub, huge walk-in shower with handheld and rainfall showerheads, a separate WC and two vanities.
The room also had a 40-inch plasma TV with cable and satellite, a DVD player, wall-mounted speakers, high-speed internet that was reliable and fast.
My favorite morning amenity, a Nespresso coffee machine – though mine was on the fritz the first morning and they had to replace it – and I really needed that coffee before the early morning trek to Angkor Wat!
All in all, I though the room was gorgeous, and my only two quibbles were that the sectional took up too much of the room, and that the variety of switches for all the lights, the fan, etc. were a bit hard to navigate and more than once, I shut off all the power in my room including the A/C by hitting the master switch, which I thought would only be for the lights.
There were also a few new hotel kinks to work out – like the Nespresso machine and the English language skills barrier, but also things like my shower wasn’t running one evening and someone had to come fix it – so hopefully they’ll resolve those before long.
Apart from the rooms, the hotel has a few other interesting features. The Living Room is one of the top spots for cocktails according to expats living in Siem Reap and it got into full swing around 8pm in the evenings.
The hotel also had a lovely formal restaurant called the Dining Room, which serves French-influenced Khmer dishes, and on the far side of the Living Room was the small Glasshouse Deli & Patisserie, where guests can grab breakfast in the morning and other things throughout the day like sandwiches, salads, pizzas and pastries.
The pool is on the first floor (one floor up from ground level) and is “free-form” though it has straight edges, but it flows into a variety of little lagoon-like pools and is partly in the sun and partly in the shade, which is a blessing on those super hot days here where you just need some relief from the sun and heat. At the end of the pool area is the entrance to the spa and fitness center. The fitness center is actually pretty decent sized with all-new equipment and a variety of cardio and weight machines.
The spa consists of 6 individual treatment rooms (some of them for couples) as well as a rooftop relaxation area for private yoga classes and foot massages. The treatments are extremely reasonably priced, with hour-long massages and facials going for about $65. The hotel was actually having a few spa specials during my stay, so I booked one, which was a combination hour-long Apsara massage – healing and relaxation, named after the heavenly dancers sculpted into scenes at Angkor Wat – and an hour-long foot massage (which was awesome!) for the grand total of $100 instead of the $130 it would normally be. Both treatments were performed by the same therapist and both were really enjoyable – I’d highly recommend.
Other than that, I’d say that the hotel’s central location is a blessing and a curse. It’s great because everyone in town knows the hotel and it’s easy to get everywhere from there, whether you’re just walking out to Pub Street, the Old Market or the River, or if you need a tuk tuk or car to pick you up or bring you back from a day out at the temples or on a tour.
However, due to the fact that Siem Reap has developed so rapidly and chaotically in the past few years, the center of town is a congested mess, and though the hotel grounds are beautiful, right out front you’ve got a very busy intersection, a KFC right across the road, and my room overlooked the pool and then rundown shanties right over the wall. It’s a good reminder of the stark contrasts inherent in Cambodia, but if you’re looking for peace and quiet, you might want something farther out of town.
All in all, I’d rate my stay as good not great thanks to a bunch of operating kinks, the subpar language skills of the staff, and the melee right outside the door. However, the rooms are beautiful, the public areas including the Living Room and the spa are really cool experiences, and it’s great to be able to earn or redeem points in this corner of the world at a high-caliber Hyatt.