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A welcome respite for an American traveler in Southeast Asia, this hotel still isn’t quite up to the high standards you’d expect from the brand. Pros: Great incorporation of local culture, the staff is wonderfully welcoming, and the air conditioning is strong. Cons: Scuffed furniture, unlovely view, high price for food and drinks.
About a third of the way into my three-month quarter-life-crisis journey throughout Southeast Asia, I decided to explore the ancient ruins of Angkor Thom city in Siem Reap, Cambodia. By this point, I had already stayed in three different hostels in addition to an unkempt, lizard-ridden “fan room” (read: not air-conditioned) within the confines of a dog shelter I’d volunteered at for two weeks on a Thai island, and was desperately in search of peace and luxury during my brief stay in Cambodia.
Considering the Park Hyatt is known for overarching elegance while infusing local energy into its properties, I thought it would be the perfect place to sprinkle myself with Cambodian culture while receiving the world-class service that I most definitely deserved by that point. The Park Hyatt’s open-air pavilions and two swimming pools would make for a delightful place to relax after exploring Angkor Thom — especially for me, since I planned to do it by bike for over 10 hours starting at 4:30am.
Overall, I wasn’t at all disappointed with my decision due to the convenient location and well-priced amenities and offerings, but the room itself left something to be desired.
Traveling during the off-season means lower rates, although the Park Hyatt Siem Reap was still in the top tier, pricewise, of the several dozen five-star hotels in the area (and cost nearly three times the average rate in Siem Reap for that month, according to Kayak). Cash rates were starting at $140 a night before taxes, but just a few months prior I had opened a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, knowing that I would want to treat myself to a couple of nights in luxury hotels here and there throughout my trip. Even though the cash rates were objectively low, had I paid cash for this stay it would have eaten a large portion of my budget, so I used those Chase points instead.
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The Park Hyatt Siem Reap is only a Category 3 property in the World of Hyatt award chart, meaning a free night costs 12,000 points per night. And, since Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio and I had a fresh stash of 60,000+ points waiting to be used, I transferred 24,000 of them to my Hyatt account and booked my two-night stay directly through Hyatt. Airport pickup arranged by the hotel would have been charged separately, so I opted for a cheaper airport taxi (hello, backpacker’s budget!), which cost $10 up front.
The Park Hyatt is in the center of a bustling intersection in Krong Siem Reap, about a 10-minute drive from Angkor Wat and a 10-second walk from both a KFC and Burger King across the street in different directions. Other hotels I saw along the way appeared to be farther from the roads and had more green space, but this location felt far more metropolitan to me. It was a good location for someone who wanted to be within walking distance of lots of shops and cafes, but if you’re looking for pure relaxation, this isn’t exactly the place for it.
The hotel itself had various meal options, so I didn’t have to venture into fast-food territory — although I could have gone without catching a glimpse of any American junk food during my stay, too. Crossing the street itself was a nightmare due to the sheer volume of motorbikes, cars and tuk tuks. The KFC was in view through the windows at the front of the hotel, so I just simply sat the other way.
I arrived at the Park Hyatt in Siem Reap after chaotic hostel stays in Bangkok and Thai islands and was looking forward to exchanging dorm life for a private bathtub and towels large enough to wrap around my “western-framed” body. The omnipresent, friendly staff of the hotel really made me feel welcome here. I usually feel quite awkward with tons of staff paying attention to me at all times, but the team here was so genuine and kind that my social awkwardness quickly dissipated. Almost every door was held for me with a smile.
Upon arrival I was ushered into a comfortable, pink-velvet booth in the Living Room, a lounge filled with statue-like, animalistic objects and books, and offered a welcome drink from a sizable menu. I chose a ginger-mint combo, and it was lovely, especially considering the intense heat outside.
They asked for my credit card right away to keep on file, but processed it in a nearby booth, which I found a bit awkward — I don’t like anyone taking my card where I can’t see it. Regardless, once that was settled, I was shown to my room within five minutes.
Though I was on the first floor, the room felt high up, overlooking an open courtyard and the outdoor dining area of the restaurant. I imagine other rooms may face the street, which I would not have been thrilled about.
The room was spacious and clean, an instant classic but with modern design elements — a typical Park Hyatt. I would describe the design in the room and the overall hotel as earthy, with a touch of pink velvet.
The king room at the Park Hyatt Siem Reap passed the TPG shower test with flying colors.
In addition to spaciousness and cleanliness, the room had great amenities that made me not want to leave it at all. Thankfully, I had only my one tour of Angkor booked and could spend the rest of my 36 hours in Siem Reap relaxing. The closet offered more than enough space for my 46L pack and all-black wardrobe. You can take the girl out of New York …
There was bug-killing spray above the safe in the closet, but I didn’t come across any insects in my room. A blessing!
A very telling thing about my personality: how much this note about sanitization on the TV’s remote control pleased me.
The room had plenty of free room-temperature bottles of drinking water.
In terms of what I didn’t like about the room, the bed was a bit firm for my taste, but all hotel beds are for me. I was also uneasy about some damage to the room that seemed easy to fix but had been ignored. One of the fake drawers in the bathroom was hanging by only one of its hinges.
And, the closet doors were difficult to keep closed due to unevenness, and since the light inside was automatic, it often stayed on.
The fridge had odd spot-shaped damage on the door, and beneath it was a big scuff on the floor.
The light switches, which were flat, black buttons on the wall, gave me a massive headache, as I couldn’t figure out the proper way to use them. They were also quite slow and operated on a dimming scale instead of an immediate on or off upon pressing them. As an impatient New Yorker, this stressed me out immensely and probably way more than the average person. I intend to speak with my therapist about it at the end of my self-love-and-learning journey!
Despite the easily fixable damage and unbelievably complicated light switches, the room had a few special Cambodian design elements that made it feel homey and special, reflecting Angkor Wat and Siem Reap in general. So a 10 out of 10 for decor!
Food and Beverage
Breakfast at the Park Hyatt Siem Reap was incredible. The options were seemingly endless, and I wished I didn’t have to rush off to a scheduled bus so I could have spent more time trying all the food in the restaurant. There was a dim sum bar, tons of fresh breads, various western egg dishes and traditional Khmer breakfasts available to order (like fish-ball or beef noodle soups), yogurts and fruits, full cheese wheels and fantastic French press coffee. I could have hung out in the breakfast area all day.
The freshly baked breads and pastries made me break my gluten-free diet.
A station just for different kinds of bread toppings and condiments … a toast fan’s dream.
You could get a traditional Cambodian breakfast (think soups and noodles and beef instead of eggs and bacon) if you wanted.
Big chunks of tropical fruits lined the countertop next to fresh yogurt and granola toppings.
I couldn’t muster up the courage to order a Khmer dish for such an early breakfast, so I ordered a smoked-salmon eggs Benedict (which was lovely) and had a side of fruits, yogurt, coffee and an egg tart. In my defense, this amount of food was meant to hold me over for a six-hour bus ride to Phnom Penh.
The room-service menu was different from breakfasts but offered similar fare. For dinner one night, I ordered a traditional Khmer set for dinner, which came with an appetizer, entree and dessert. They had at least three choices for different sets, and it ran me about $65 with a glass of wine, but was well worth it.
I later learned that the restaurant featured live music and dancing certain nights of the week. I could hear it from my room, which may be an annoyance to some, but to me it felt very authentic, and I appreciated the encouragement to embrace traditional Cambodian culture. The dancing was wonderful to watch from the ground floor, where I chose what I wanted to order for room service so I could enjoy the A/C in my room instead of sitting outside in the heat. The hotel was empty, and only one couple was sitting outside eating dinner and watching the show at the time I went downstairs to order.
The Park Hyatt had two swimming pools, one in a semicovered rooftop area on the second floor, and one on the ground floor surrounded by pool chairs beneath a massive rectangular arch. The food service was impeccable on the top floor, which appeared to be more popular than the ground floor. I didn’t see a single staff member in the afternoon I tried the ground-floor pool, but I would have rather spent my time on the rooftop anyway.
The ground-floor pool was beautiful, but wasn’t covered, and therefore not really usable in the rain.
The pool on the first floor had an infinity edge (looking over a messy, leaf-covered roof that wasn’t very scenic up close) and was mostly covered, so you could continue to lounge despite poor weather.
The hotel’s Wi-Fi worked relatively well. I uploaded large photo files to my Google Drive smoothly, but my HBO Go kept pausing. Speaking of technology, the power shut off in the hotel at least twice during my stay there. Generators kicked in quickly, but it’s always a shock when something like that happens in such a big place. It made me concerned about the quality of food in the restaurant, if for example the power was out overnight and guests might not be aware.
Throughout the hotel were a small boutique shop with mostly carpets and statues, a large business center and a desk area in the hallway on my floor. Aside from the boutique, there were elephant statues for sale in the lobby. I had a feeling many of the objects in the hotel were available for purchase and made in Cambodia.
To get to the gym and spa, you had to walk around the pool outside on the first floor in the uncovered area, so you’d get a bit wet if it was raining. Thankfully, it was all clear when I went to work out, and despite quite small, the gym had a good variety of modern cardio machines, free weights, med balls and, most importantly, cold bottles of water.
Taking into account that I was in a Cambodian province and not the US of A, this hotel is definitely exceptional. The hotel did an incredible job of incorporating local, traditional culture into such a large hotel from a Western chain. But I’m not sure it’s worth the money considering the random room damage and high expenses for dinner and drinks. I imagine that if you’re fine with power outages and scuffed furniture in your room, you may enjoy a cheaper hotel room in a boutique space that still has a pool, as opposed to the Park Hyatt Siem Reap. But if you want to stick to Hyatt, you won’t go wrong by booking a room here, and you’ll still get a solid cultural immersion of Khmer culture during your stay.
All photos by the author.
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