Heritage Suites Hotel is a visual of Cambodia’s tumultuous history. An amalgamation of French colonial, Cambodian and western style, this boutique hotel is a must stay in Siem Reap.
Photos: Ryan Ammon
I don’t know what I was expecting when I booked my flights to Siem Reap. Heat, temples, beautiful locals, and an incredibly rich culture I guess? I booked the trip on a whim. By the time it came around, I had barely had a chance to pack, let alone do extensive research into every facet of Cambodian life. The basics I had covered, but beyond that, Siem Reap was mine to explore free of expectation.
One thing I definitely wasn’t expecting of Siem Reap was all of the gigantic, generic looking hotel chains. The imposing buildings were everywhere. They looked cold and impersonal to me, and definitely felt out of place in the barren countryside. After learning that Siem Reap is a tourist hot spot for the Chinese and Korean market, the prevalence of these mega hotels made more sense. While not necessarily something the Gen Y traveller from Australia would go for, they definitely have their market. The giant hotels cater to Siem Reap’s main tourist markets’ preference for travelling in tour groups, and staying at large, full-service hotels.
Me? I prefer a more personalised stay. The big corporates are great in their own right – and I would never turn my nose up at a place to call home while travelling – but I personally prefer to book my stay somewhere that tells a story. My favourite hotels are those with character, charm and a unique point of difference.
As soon as I saw Heritage Suites pop up in my email inbox, I knew it was a hotel I had to see for myself.
The French colonial facade and collection of vintage cars was enough to win me over, but there was so much more to love about Heritage Suites.
Space is a luxury when you travel, and that is something that Heritage Suites has a lot of. With just 26 rooms and suites, they may lack the numbers, but they make up for it in floor space. The rooms and suites are quite generous in size (I could literally cartwheel in my bungalow suite); and the lobby is lofty and spacious. The compromise in the number of rooms and suites, means more public space throughout the lush, resort style property. Combine more space and a smaller maximum capacity, and you have a relaxing stay with only the occasional sighting of other travellers.
Located across the road from a local wat (Wat Polanka), the faint sound of children playing can often be heard. It is quite beautiful to hear such cheerful play over breakfast, or while you are reading by the pool. Aside from that and the buzzing of the cicadas, the property is as peaceful as can be.
It is tucked away in a back street so you escape the hustle and bustle, but it is close enough to town that it takes no more than a 5 minute tuk tuk ride to get you there.
Heritage Suites may be a little bit out of town, but there is still a lot to explore nearby. As mentioned, there is a wat across the road where you can get friendly waves from the children and staff. To your right there is a yoga studio, and at the other end of the street, a culinary school and restaurant. In between, it is local life; a seamstress, a fuel station, and a whole lot of hole-in-the-wall cafes.
If you aren’t leaving the property and exploring, a day at Heritage Suites has a lot to offer too.
While I am all for getting out and exploring the local cafe and restaurant scene, I will always make a point of ordering at least one meal from the hotel restaurant.
Breakfast is on the mezzanine level of the lobby and bar. Part continental buffet and part a la carte, you are quite spoilt for choice. The a la carte menu excited me the most, with the Cambodian chicken noodle soup and traditional pumpkin sweets getting a big thumbs up from me. I always love eating breakfast like a local when I travel, it sure beats oats or toast!
Come lunch time, the mezzanine transforms from buffet to Heritage Restaurant. Heritage Restaurant has won a number of awards in recent years, and it isn’t hard to see why. Chef Vibol has seamlessly fused traditional Khmer cuisine with modern fine dining. From tom yam soup and beef lok lak, to fois gras and Australian Beef, the restaurant menu has something for every taste. The dishes are refined, but still pay homage to the traditional Cambodian dishes and flavours.
The bar menu is much the same, with an impressive list of well thought out signature cocktails (my pick is the coriander, chilli and tumeric martini!). I was even more surprised by the wine list! Good wine was always hard to come by in Bali, so finding a delicious rosé on a wine list in Cambodia had me jumping for joy.
Everything about Heritage Suites has been thought through carefully. It is charming, warming and oozes character.
The most warming part about the hotel isn’t the beautiful infusion of culture, nor the blissful grounds; it is the staff. If it wasn’t for the GM Jam, I don’t think I’d have left Cambodia with as much knowledge as I did. Her hospitality and conversation added so much more dimension to the trip. I learned so much about Cambodia and Cambodian life from her. We conversed about everything from where to find the best Khmer curry, to how delicate the issue of poverty in Cambodia really is.
She also advised me that Heritage Suites is involved with a scholarship program that provides opportunities in the hospitality sector to people residing in rural areas. Each year they sponsor a select number of young people from farming families through hospitality school, in an effort to give them career opportunities other than farming. They are highly sought after scholarships as they provide opportunities that rural families may not otherwise see. Essentially, they are doing their bit to try help education levels within Cambodia.
A lot of the staff members are actually trainees and graduates from this program. Sure, there might be the occasional language barrier while they are still learning, but it becomes irrelevant when you know their story. It makes their smiles, friendly disposition and hard work all that more warming. It makes me happy to think that the dollars we spend on such beautiful accommodation is actually going to a good cause.
I said it before and I will say it again, there is so much to love about Heritage Suites.
It is a beautiful hotel, rich with history and culture. It is comfortable, convenient and peaceful, and I would stay again in a heartbeat. But, very much like The Andaman Resort in Langkawi, it is the team of staff and social agenda that really made me fall in love with my stay. Knowing that a luxury product or service has a philanthropic agenda, takes it away from purely being a big money making exercise. Knowing that you can play a small part in that agenda means a lot.
Near Wat Polanka, Slokram Village,
Khum Slok Kram, Siem Reap
Kingdom of Cambodia