Sala Lodge, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Sala Lodges is a stunning sustainable property within easy distance of the grandeur of Angkor’s temples and the colonial charm of Siem Reap. Eleven traditional Cambodian houses from the countryside create an aesthetic of rustic elegant charm in the midst of a serene tropical garden. The property is the perfect eco haven to explore the area and authentically experience the beauty of Cambodian culture. Guests have an appointed tuk tuk driver with their homes for ease of exploration.
All of the traditional wooden houses here differ in design and character to give the guests a truly intimate feeling when staying within this little enclave. The Bram Muoy, or Fishmongers, Suite is a lovely stilted home that dates back to 1958 and is from the Sang Vouey Commune, sixty miles from Siem Reap. Its original owner, Mao Heng, was a retired fishmonger who sold it to Sala Lodges, as he wanted to build a bigger and ‘prettier’ house for his retirement. Such rich tales infuse all the houses here. These carefully curated cottages have created their own stories by changing the lives of the characters that inhabited them before, adding to the enchantment of this hideaway.
The lodge has nine small houses for two to three guests, and two large houses for four to five guests that have two bedrooms. The largest house on the compound is Pi & Bei means 2 & 3 in Cambodian to reflect how many people can sleep in each bedroom. It is the perfect house for families and couples travelling together. This house was built in 1972 and belonged to Colonel Ly Chheang who used it for the army of the Stong District. As a barracks it was too small for the soldiers so he sold it build a bigger barracks for his men. Now spacious and elegantly decorated in muted neural palettes that create a balanced and calm space reminiscent of a 1920’s Asian deco style. The interior designer, Marina Cardis, explored the unique décor of the region and collaborated with architect, Claire Campens, to give the property its individual identity.
The Long Table Restaurant is the perfect place to enjoy a traditional Cambodian dining experience with intimate touches, such as special menus created by the Chef or one off talks by local artists or experts of South East Asia. These soirees are particularly fascinating as you can hear from people who have expertise in the people, country and fascinating and multi layered history of majestic Angkor and its rise to the most powerful rice based city state in South East Asia. Amongst these beautiful surroundings and with only the rustle of the wind and clicking cicadas, Sala Lodges really feels like you are staying in a Cambodian rural village from a bygone era.
Siem Reap and the surrounding area is naturally the gateway to discovering Angkor Wat and it’s surrounding temples. Personalised tours to discover Angkor with an archaeologist and the surrounding countryside are available for guests individual interests. A motorised Tuk Tuk can zoom between the temples with an experienced guide to discover the myths and history of the amazing jungle hidden in the city. However there are hidden temples away from the main complex too.
Fifty kilometres north of Siem Reap in the Phnom Kulen National Park you will discover the mythical carvings along the riverbed, a staircase of symbolic phallic lingum and the feminine yoni after a forty-five minute walk through the jungle and traversing wooden staircases. Glimpse into hidden stories, histories and untouched areas on this wonderful adventure. There are also stunning waterfalls here where you can dip and cool off if the jungle trekking gets a little w
This area was where Jayavarman II, founder of Angkor, was officially declared the King of Kings in the sacred waters. This area was called Mahendraparvata during this area and was discovered to be a temple mountain by the French archaeologist Phillipe Stern in 1936. In 2008 the Phnom Kulen Archaeology Project was founded to further map and explore the area in conjunction with building sustainable development projects with local communities. These areas away from the main Angkor complex are fascinating and immersed in nature.
Sala Lodges offer a range of bespoke excursions with a heavy emphasis on nature for those who want to get off the beaten path and explore beyond temples and town. Explore the Cambodian countryside with Stéphane De Greef, a local expert who will guide you on two to five hour treks into the countryside. Once back at the lodge relax by the pool or have an in house massage is a great way to relax after a day in the jungle. Experience a traditional Cambodian massage using aromatic oils and hot herbal poultices to ease aching muscles and joints. Dinners on your terrace can also be arranged according to your tastes and personally prepared by the chef.
Vegetables and rice that are served have been harvested locally and the gardens were created by Stephen Caffyn, who is Singapore based and worked on the city’s famous Botanical Gardens. The fresh produce is then turned into delicious culinary creations dreamed up by Manuella Magnin who is a maestro at creating European and Asian fusion dishes. These talents combined create a memorable and fresh dining experience in the modern Monolith Restaurant. Specialities include Tonlé Sap fish fillet with avocado puree and wild mango rice salad. For those with a sweet tooth the tart passion fruit crème brulée is a must to finish off any meal.
Through careful and considerate appreciation for Cambodia, its heritage and countryside – a beautiful boutique experience has been created at Sala Lodges. For an authentic experience combined with European elegance this is the ultimate eco escape for travellers who want to really discover Siem Reap, Angkor and its environs in comfort and style.
Photos Courtesy of Sala Lodges & Words by Electra Gillies