Siem Reap is hot. Really hot. The ancient capital of Cambodia, and home to the world-famous Angkor Wat temples that formed the backdrop for Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider and the inspiration for the precocious, fire-hungry orangutan King Louie’s palace in The Jungle Book.
The roads are dusty and bumpy, tuk-tuk drivers fight to give you a ride or young boys who can be no older than seven will try to sell you an overpriced book of postcards and impressively recite the past 10 prime ministers of England the moment you tell them where you’re from. This city has the bustling chaos that south-east Asia is well known for, but just a stone’s throw away lies the luscious jungle, with the most breathtaking crumbling palaces in the world. It’s a place you have to see at least once in your life.
Why it’s hot
Behind high white walls with a heavy iron gate lies Amansara, a peaceful haven away from everything. The single-storey resort was once a Cambodian king’s guesthouse, and elements of the colonial architecture is everywhere, from the shape of the pools to the quiet and immaculately groomed lawns. The rooms are cool and spacious, with half of them boasting their own swimming pools outside. Each room has a freestanding bathtub in the middle of the room which is miraculously filled in the afternoon and scattered with fresh rose petals to welcome you home from a long day of sightseeing.
A long lap pool, sitting under swaying bamboo shoots, offers a cooling swim while you listen to the noisy exotic birds and bustling city outside the walls. The spa offers one of the best treatments Stylist has experienced (and we’re spa-junkies) – the Khmer massage. You wear pyjamas throughout the treatment and the small but surprisingly powerful Cambodian therapist will crick and stretch every last muscle in your body.
But the best part of the Amansara experience are the knowledgeable guides. Each guest has their own personal tuk-tuk and guide to get you off the beaten track. While every other tourist in Siem Reap rushed to watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat, Stylist was taken through the back entrance and found ourselves at sunrise alone on the top of the temple, where the greatest rulers of south-east Asia once sat, with the entire place to ourselves for an hour. Later we visited the elephant sanctuary deep in the park, where we joined the mahouts in helping the magnificent animals to bathe.
Eating and drinking
They anticipate your every wish at Amansara. As you arrive back from a hot day of templetrailing, the most refreshing lime sodas are served in the dining room, a cocktail and bowl of fruit awaits in your room. The ability to pre-empt your every desire is uncanny, and we sometimes wondered if we were being spied upon. Yet you’ll never see them, for this is service at its most unintrusive. The dining room offers afternoon tea with delicious orange and almond cakes, chocolate tarts and tarte tatins with a proper cup of English tea, and in the evening it’s transformed into an elegantly understated restaurant. The Khmer dishes – similar to Thai cuisine – are packed with delicate spices. Curries, noodles and even the standard morning glory vegetables are mouth-wateringly moreish.
Don’t miss the opportunity to take a ride in the official Amansara car: a 1962 black Mercedes with pristine white interiors. The drivers wear white uniforms and driving gloves. As Stylist left the resort, they gave us a beautiful black and white print of the temples, one we had been eyeing in the gift store (we knew someone was watching). But the vehicle itself has you feeling like Jackie O for 45 glorious minutes as you leave to catch your flight home. Hardly surprising, given that this very car apparently drove the lady herself to the airport decades ago.
Suites at Amansara from £489 per night, plus a daily charge for meals and tours (includes all meals, house drinks, house outings twice daily with an English-speaking guide, driver and airport transfers); amanresorts.com; 00 800 2255 2626