Our family have been living in Asia now for nearly 7 years, and yet last weekend was our first time to visit Cambodia. And what a weekend it was. Our delay in visiting the country was in no part to do with Cambodia itself, rather we have been waiting for the kids to be old enough to do a city break. I know some parents are all zen and can take their kids to interesting destinations from the moment they are born, but after a failed attempt at a city break when my son was one, we decided to put “interesting” travel on the back burner until we could all enjoy it. And that moment came last weekend. My only regret is that we didn’t have longer than a weekend.
It was a special occasion so we decided to stay somewhere fitting for the occasion, the very special Amansara.
Amansara is an exceptional place to stay with an equally exceptional history. Originally built in the early 1960’s for the royal family, it somehow survived Cambodia’s tumultuous intervening years of civil war and Khmer Rouge reign but was left in a total state of disrepair. Undaunted Amansara’s designers sensitively restored the buildings to their former glory and the 1960’s architecture of clean lines, pared back, low profile buildings and open courtyards were once more brought to life.
Amansara is truly beautiful. The exterior design allows nature to shine, with natural stone pillars and white rendered walls providing the backdrop to the grass courtyards and soaring trees. It is calm, contemporary and elegant. It is also incredibly discreet. Hidden behind a low wall, there is no sign from the street of what lies behind the black sliding gate.
The colour palette for the open plan suites is simple – sleek black predominates with flashes of white and touches of natural texture. There are no unnecessary flourishes and it pays homage to a sleek Asian modern look without being stark.
The beautiful aesthetic of Amansara extends to the various modes of transport provided to the guests. Emerging from the airport we were greeted with a beautifully restored vintage Mercedes – our visits to the temples were via immaculate ‘remorques’ (complete with wicker basket holding ice cold towels and water) and we even had a trip to the markets in a vintage jeep.
On our last day, having witnessed the sunrise at Angkor Wat, we were whisked to a traditional Khmer house for breakfast. The simple wooden stilt house was the perfect spot to sample a Khmer breakfast (the kids were overjoyed with the Khmer version of a donut – ground rice fried and dipped in caramelised palm sugar). Owned by Amansara, the house has been simply but beautifully presented to represent a traditional Khmer home.
I completely fell in love with the design of Amansara and although this is a blog that focuses on design, it would be impossible to not include in this post the other elements of Amansara that are equally compelling. The staff and service were exceptional. You are made to feel at home during your stay – like a part of the Amansara family. The children were embraced and we had no need to tip toe around the fact we had children with us.
Finally, and perhaps most important of all, Amansara is closely integrated into the Siem Reap community. As a result, if you or the family are seeking another dimension to your experience there is the opportunity to engage with and contribute to some of the tremendous charitable efforts that are being undertaken locally. For many people, ourselves included, supporting local communities in areas we visit is an important aspect of travel in the region. Amansara’s chosen partners are carefully considered and this local engagement and support forms a wonderful compliment to their role as custodian of this very beautiful and important building in Siem Reap.