Ultratravel U.S.

Summer 2014

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With a new generation of hotels, shops and restaurants, Siem Reap has much more to offer than just the unforgettable temples of Angkor Wat. BY ONDINE COHANE On a weekend night in Siem Reap, Cambodia, tanned and well-heeled travelers mingle with stylish locals over a cocktail at Chanrey Tree, the new locally owned eatery offering an outdoor lounge scene that seems more Miami than backpacker enclave. "Siem Reap is having that special moment when it still feels tranquil and under the radar," says Adrien Ruffy, the general manager and partner of Sala Lodges, which opened last year, "but there is a great mix of local and foreign businesses coming together here. It's a wonderful time to visit." Ruffy's new property embodies the type of intimate lodging going up here alongside more international hotel brands. The owners of Sala Lodges found 11 original Khmer houses around the country and, along with the designers, painstakingly reconstructed them on a property at the edge of town alongside the pristine countryside that borders Siem Reap. The restoration both preserved the original details of the villas and added luxe amenities like large rain showers, king-size beds and an infinity pool surrounded by newly planted tropical gardens, plus a sleek restaurant that highlights local dishes, like Tonlé Sap fish with avocado purée and wild rice mango salad, alongside more international cuisine. The boutique hotel isn't the only property that has recently opened its doors in Siem Reap: Park Hyatt could be credited for bringing Siem Reap into the spotlight again when it opened what was formerly the Hotel de la Paix after a years-long restoration of the Art Deco landmark. And the new Anantara Siem Reap on the edge of town features traditional-style suites with private terraces facing a dramatic pool. But it's the town and surrounding countryside that provide the main attractions of the area. After discovering the gorgeous complex of Angkor Wat, (preferably at dawn or dusk), take a bike or tuk-tuk ride to explore the fluorescent-green paddy fields and nearby villages. Don't miss restaurants like Cuisine Wat Damnak, with its seasonal and local food presented within a gorgeous space, and the Sugar Palm, where the chefs have revitalized Khmer classics—try the pomelo salad with shrimp and peanuts, stir-fried chicken with ginger, or one of the restaurant's spicy curries. If you are looking for keepsakes, make sure to stop by Alley West: an attractive street with excellent shops. Wanderlust showcases fashionable light-cotton dresses and tunics made by local women, while Smateria features funky accessories made out of recycled materials. At Bambou Indochine, pick up pretty beachwear, and locally made bed throws, bags, and home furnishings at Tendance Khmere. Meanwhile, native Eric Raisina, a haute couture designer, born in Madagascar and trained in France, has made Cambodia his home. Three namesake shops in Siem Reap stock his sumptuous textiles, fashion and accessories, and are another example of the cross- cultural creativity here. And the dreamy sepia photos at the McDermott Gallery in town make the perfect momento of the temples themselves. After all, its the surrounding countryside that provides the main attractions of this area. After discovering the gorgeous complex of Angkor Wat, preferably at dawn or dusk (Ta Prohm temple is one of the highlights), take a bike or tuk-tuk ride to explore the fluorescent-green paddy fields and nearby villages alongside. The friendliness of the people is a heartening sign that tourism is proving a boon here, despite this country's ongoing poverty. 56 ultratravel THE NEW SIEM REAP Clockwise from top right: The Park Hyatt incorporates local style into its decor; tour the temples at Angkor Wat by elephant; the swimming pool at Sala Lodges; the courtyard at Anantara Siem Reap. Contact your travel agent today to explore the new Siem Reap. City Spotlight IMAGES COURTESY PARK HYATT, SALA LODGES, ANANTARA

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