Luxe Holidays to Cambodia


A land of magic and mystery with awe inspiring temples a blend of ancient and modern worlds from watching the sun rise over the fabled temples of Angkor to tropical landscapes and of course the mighty Mekong River coursing through the country like a vibrant ribbon.

Kep

Playground to princes, politicians and pleasure-seekers, the palm-fringed headland formerly known as Kep-sur-Mer was Cambodia’s most glamorous beach resort for the first half of the 20th century.

Knai Bang Chatt Kep, Cambodia with Smith Hotels (Shop Now)





Kep-sur-Mer was the beach destination for French colonials and Cambodian high society to hang out back in the day and the spirit of a bygone era is elegantly recaptured at Knai Bang Chatt. With bold modernist architecture set on the simple but stylish seafront, this design-savvy retreat puts Kep right back on the map.
Knai Bang Chatt has devised a creative selection of experiential tours to get the most out of fishing village Kep and the surrounding region. Kick off by getting active at the nearby Sailing Club(+855 (0)12 349 742). Get nautical on a Hobie Cat, learn to fish with a seafaring local or ride the waves aboard a windsurfer. If terra firma is more your thing, go native on a 110cc motorbike and tour the countryside; borrow a helmet before you zoom off though – roads can be ropey. Several of the area’s best beaches are actually on Koh Tonsay, an island just off the coast; you will need to commandeer a local boat to take you there. If Kep whets your appetite for the Cambodian coast, continue west to the beach capital of Sihanoukville where the sands are squeaky soft and the islands still surprisingly undeveloped. For something a bit more sophisticated, switch countries and cruise to Phu Quoc, a Vietnamese island ringed by shimmering beaches.
Koh Rong Islands
In a pristine pocket of the Gulf of Thailand, off the coast of party-primed Sihanoukville, lie Cambodia's Koh Rong Islands, a handful of isles that are piquing the interest of luxury hounds around the world.

Song Saa Private Island Koh Rong Islands, Cambodia with Smith Hotels (Shop Now)





Cambodia's Sihanoukville may top the backpackers' hitlist, but it's what lies offshore that's caught our eye. Song Saa Private Island hotel in the Koh Rong Islands is an eco-luxe escape spread over a pair of pristine isles, with thatch and stone villas dotted among the jungle canopy or lolling above the sea. Being green-minded has never been so glamorous.
Aquatic pursuits should be at the top of the list, with a host of chilled-out activities included in your room rate. Take a snorkelling tour of Song Saa Islands (equipment is included in your room rate), exploring the reefs, seahorses and rainbow-hued fish of this protected pocket. Jump in a kayak and mosey around the mangroves, led by your personal guide. Sea kayaking around the archipelago is also on offer, often teamed with a picnic lunch on a deserted island. If you're staying with the all-inclusive package, all non-motorised watersports are included and you'll get a 10 per cent discount on motorised watersports too.
By night, don't miss the bioluminescence swim – a speedboat will whisk you out into the sea where you can splash in the sparkling waters. Ethereal stuff. Come back to the island for a stargazing session with your private host, who'll explain the constellations and star map, and share drinks and Ayurvedic snacks.
On dry land, local village tours to the nearby fishing village of Prek Svay can be arranged. Nature safaris on Koh Rong – access to this nature reserve are included in your room rate – offer the chance to spot rare bird species and a series of waterfalls, before returning to the resort by longtail boat. One free longtail boat excursion to Sala Song Saa Village Tour is included in your room rate too.
In-room distractions are also available for a fee, including cinema screenings on your private deck, and romantic baths with champagne and chocolate.


Siem Reap

Thronged by adventurers and travellers since the 1900s, this once-sleepy Khmer village is now a bustling tourist hotspot.

Shinta Mani Angkor Siem Reap, Cambodia with Smith Hotels (Shop Now)





Sophisticated Shinta Mani Angkor​ boutique hotel in Siem Reap seduces with soft lighting, fragrant scents and made-you-look, mod-Cambodian design, care of US interiors whizz Bill Bensley. Mission out on tailored tours to Ankgor's dazzling temples, then retreat to your spacious suite or savour the cool pool, soothing spa and dreamy swing-seat dining.
At Shinta Mani Angkor, be sure to sample the soothing spa, cool pool or try a yoga or cooking class. Bonalai Library offers a chilled out spot for reading style mags or playing board games. You can also visit the hotel's development foundation to find out more about local life, with two classrooms for hospitality workers upstairs, as well as off-site charity projects. Our Smith24 team can also arrange half- or full-day tours by tuk tuk or air-conditioned car to visit the famous Angkor temple sites on the edge of town (buy a one-day pass for US$20, a two- or three-day pass for US$40 at the entrance to the Angkor Archaeological Park, open 5am until 6pm). Sunset trips to Phnom Bakheng hilltop temple are also atmospheric, although you may find yourself dodging the tourist crowds. You'll need at least two days to make a good dent in the temples, and be sure to catch the carving-coated, massive Angkor Wat itself, the many-faced Bayon and surrounding Angkor Thom complex, and tree-hugged Ta Prohm. If you have more time, take a trip to the outlying delicate, pink Banteay Srei temple, about 16 kilometres north-west of Siem Reap.
Fancy a break from the temples? Head to the Angkor Silk Farm (+855 (0)63 5555 768), in Puok, about 16 kilometres from town. You can see the whole process from silk-worm cultivation through to textile dyeing, then snap up gifts to take home. Organise a guided tour to local villages, Kulen Mountain, or the Tonlé Sap Lake, where you can see communities living on the water. You're also near the Angkor National Museum if you're a fan of artifacts, and want to find out more about the history of Angkor.
The Old Market (Psar Chaa) is a short walk away if you fancy perusing packed stalls of local fruit, veg, fish, meat and spices, as well as jumbles of clothing and knick-knacks, and tiny food stands. For souvenir-friendly scarves, bags and Buddha figurines, make for the nearby Angkor Night Market, west off Sivatha Street, buzzing from around 6pm until midnight. Divided into several covered areas, it also plays hosts to bars, massage centres and the ever-popular, if creepy, Dr Fish foot baths, where small fish will nibble the rough skin off your feet. Artisans Angkor is a good bet for authentic craft finds, with the chance to see artisans at work. This fair-trade Cambodian studio supports stone- and wood-carving, lacquering, silver-plating and silk-painting workshops. For more hot shopping, walk up to the FCC Angkor complex, just five minutes from the hotel on Pokambor Avenue, surrounded by tempting boutiques. Try Tiger Lily for covetable Khmer antiques, Buddha figurines and tableware; WA Gallery and Wanderlust for funky accessories, jewellery and bags; and the McDermott Gallery for moody black-and-white photos of Angkor.

Viroth's Hotel Siem Reap, Cambodia with Smith Hotels (Shop Now)





All sharp lines, crisp whites and eye-catching vertical foliage, Viroth’s Hotel has taken a leaf out of the book of New Khmer Architecture, a local take on the modernist movement of the Fifties and Sixties. Open to the outdoors thanks to balconies, patios and a leafy courtyard restaurant, this bold but laid-back bolthole is the talk of the town: expect a smart pool, a pampering spa and sleek mid-century stylings just a hop and a skip from Siem Reap’s buzzy nightlife.
You’d be forgiven for hiding away in Siem Reap’s up-and-coming East Bank, the verdant, still sleepy quarter just across the bridge from the Old Market. Wat Bo and Wat Damnak pagodas are both worth a gander. The latter, a former royal palace, now houses a centre for Khmer studies where the curious can pore over maps, guidebooks and journals; its frangipani-scented gardens are a peaceful spot for a stroll for those of less scholarly disposition. Meander down the serene, calming backbone of the river for glimpses of life in what was once a small provincial town: wooden houses on stilts, monks chatting in their saffron robes, children skipping stones on the water. There’s much in town to please shopaholics, too: bright, textured couture from Eric Raisina (you’ll find samples in his shop at FCC Angkor as well as at Le Bon MarchĂ© in Paris), delicate ceramics and hand-dyed scarves at Prolung Khmer near Bakong temple, or wild honey and fragrant Ratanakiri coffee at Senteurs d’Angkor. Nearby Angkor Night Market is good for a bargain. Most visitors, of course, are here for the captivating splendour of Angkor, a sprawling complex of pink-hued granite temples, carving-lined river beds and mirror-smooth reservoirs; staff will happily organise passes, tours, drivers and picnic lunches.

Amansara Siem Reap, Cambodia with Smith Hotels (Shop Now)





For many an Aman pilgrim, the resort is the destination. Formerly the guest residence of King Sihanouk, Amansara continues this noble tradition, welcoming the fortunate and famous for a unique boutique experience at Angkor. A Sixties designer delight from the halcyon days of new Khmer architecture, this is Siem Reap’s retro-chic masterpiece.
The compulsory board and touring charge includes twice daily private tours of the Angkor temple complex by remorque (moped-powered trishaw) with an English-speaking guide. Be sure to sample some of Amansara’s original trips that take in sights and sounds at Angkor and further afield. Try a romantic dinner for two in a traditional wooden house overlooking the royal bathing pond of Srah Srang, indulge in some spiritual cleansing with a blessing at Wat Athvea, which blends a modern pagoda with an ancient sandstone ruin, or explore the jungle temple of Beng Mealea.

Phum Baitang Siem Reap, Cambodia with Smith Hotels (Shop Now)





Tucked away among the paddy fields in Cambodia’s picturesque countryside, Phum Baitang hotel is a world away from the bustle of nearby Siem Reap town. Perched high on stilts in luxuriant tropical gardens, this all-villa resort has the rustic charm of traditional Khmer wooden houses, albeit ones with hand-picked antiques, freestanding baths and private plunge pools. Surrender to the ministrations of its expert mixologists and spa therapists – should you ever feel compelled to leave,
ancient ruins, vibrant markets and a lively nightlife are just a short tuk tuk ride away.
Temple tours are de rigueur in Siem Reap. Make the most of your jet lag by catching the sunrise over Angkor Wat: staff can arrange a 4.30am wake-up call and breakfast bites to beat the tripod-toting crowds at Bakheng Hill, which overlooks the temple’s distinctive spires. Classic Grand Circle tours of the Angkor complex are also on offer; pick up a three-day pass (US$40) to explore the heritage park at your leisure. The hotel can recommend a tried-and-tested English-speaking guide, but make sure to book well in advance – they’re in high demand. There’s plenty to see further afield: climb Phnom Kulen to the linga-lined river at Kbal Spean, meander through floating villages on Tonle Sap Lake, or hop on a Vespa to experience daily life in the shadow of the temples. In town, Phare Circus holds nightly performances in a distinctive big top. This social enterprise supports an arts training centre in Battambang; visitors can learn to tumble and juggle with the pros before the show. For something a little more sedate, join the free yoga classes at the hotel or practice your swing at Angkor Golf Resort’s award-winning 18-hole course just around the corner.
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