I genuinely believe that accommodation should be an experience. A culturally immersive and authentic affair, that transcends the idea of being just a place to rest your head.
In Mongolia, that means staying in yurts (portable, round tents covered in skins and felt, still used by Mongolian nomads); in Tunisia, an ancient cave house. From reed houses in South America, to igloos in Scandinavia, and turf houses in Iceland, traditional living has never been cookie cutter.
So why should our hotels?
Hotels in Siem Reap are ridiculously cheap. But I wasn’t looking for something forgettable this time around. I had traveled more than 5,000 miles to immerse myself in ancient temples of the Khmer Empire, and I didn’t want to shatter the experience by returning each night to a bland, generic hotel.
But where do you search for authentic accommodation? Through Glamping Hub we found an eco lodge with Unique Bungalows near Angkor Wat Temple, Cambodia, luxuriously refurbished inside, with perfectly preserved architectural heritage on the out.
We would stay in a traditional Khmer stilt house.
Stay in Traditional Khmer Bungalows Near Angkor Wat
This is Siem Reap’s Most Authentic Hotel
With swaying sugar palms, rice paddies, and banana trees, eleven traditional Khmer houses sit on stilts in a lush tropical garden. Traditionally these wooden structures are called salas; each bungalow an authentic Cambodian house with its own unique history.
Despite being only 5 minutes from the chaotic modern center of Siem Reap, once you step through the gates to the property you would swear you had stumbled into an idyllic Cambodian village.
Locals in straw hats tend to the gardens, full with harvest and flavors of the region, and a luxuriant botanical path connects a community of rustic-style houses. Seasonal fruits, veg and plants from the garden provide produce for a menu of excellent Khmer cuisine.
In season, guests of the lodge can help with the harvesting and sowing of the rice if they wish to. This is, after-all, authentic Cambodian living, but with luxury standards.
Traditional Salas From Across the Country
When the Swiss owners arrived in Cambodia, they instantly fell in love with the country’s heritage. They were inspired by the traditional wooden houses found throughout the Cambodian countryside, so bought eleven of them.
Spotted in rural villages from three different provinces, the 11 wooden stilt houses that now make up this eco lodge were dismantled, transported and beautifully restored to offer a comfortable and truly authentic homestay for travelers.
Having been sourced from all across the country, each house has its own unique style and character, and their varying sizes mean there are bungalows available whether you’re traveling as a couple, or as a family; there are 9 one bedroom houses, and two which can sleep up to 5 people.
While the inside of the homes feature luxury amenities you would expect from 4 star experience; modern bathrooms, air conditioning, and plush mosquito netted bedding, these are otherwise fully preserved traditional family homes – very much in the same shape as they were originally.
The lodge takes a lot of care to retain each houses’ original character, and while there may now be antique furniture, a complimentary mini bar, and huge, comfortable beds, immense care has been taken to preserve the architectural heritage.
Each house is celebrated for their individual history, and in choosing existing Khmer houses instead of having constructed imitations, the lodge allows you to immerse yourself into a world that is genuinely Cambodian.
House No. 9, “Bram Boun”
Our Sala was house no. 9, “Bram boun” in Cambodian. Built in 1984, this house comes from Peak Snèng Thmèy, a village in the Peak Snèng commune. A spacious house with clean lines and high ceilings, the 42 m2 bedroom captures the traditional ambiance.
Bram boun was delivered to the lodge in December 2011. The owner, Peng Chay, and his wife, Sam Cheam, lived there with their family. They were farmers who were happy to relinquish their home as they wished to build a new, larger one.
It was christened “view of the sacred tree” as its charming 11 m2 terrace opens on to an abacus in front, where local villagers would often come to lay their offerings. According to their faith, this Buddha tree shelters good spirits which must be cherished and cared for.
The bed sits in the main room in an open plan design, and an adjoining room, which traditionally would have been the kitchen, is now equipped with a spacious bathroom and rain shower. The furnishings are beautiful Cambodian antiques; it retains its rustic character, but with an infusion of luxury.
During the day, the air conditioner and fans are a godsend from the heat and humidity of the country. Or you can relax on the balcony, with a comfortable lounge setting that looks directly into a lush private section of the gardens.
A Tour Inside
The Inclusions Are Next Level
The inclusions for staying at this property are next level, everything you need and didn’t realize you needed.
All houses at the lodge come with a welcome drink and cool towels on arrival, complimentary breakfast, complimentary WiFi (which works perfectly), and a nightly turndown service where the staff let down your mosquito netting.
There are books in each room with detailed histories of Angkor Wat and the surrounding region, for sale at reception if you wish to take them home with you (we did), and you’ll also receive a local SIM card with $5 credit (you have to request it).
They provide you with mosquito repellent (because my money says you forgot to pack it), a tuk tuk service from 7 am – 5 pm for traveling around town, early check-in, and late check-out (subject to availability). There are also bicycles.
At its core, this is an eco lodge, committed sustainability; they gift you with refillable metal drink bottles as part of a “refill not landfill” initiative. These aluminium water bottles can be safely refilled in locations around Siem Reap and other cities for free – refill locations are written on the bottle.
Around the Grounds
The resort is a tranquil oasis, constructed to feel like a genuine Cambodian village. The lush gardens are stunning to stroll through, and you’ll likely pass staff collecting herbs and spices for this evening’s Khmer menu.
Indigenous flora attracts local birds, geckos and other wildlife, and the eco-friendly property is fringed by palm trees and rice fields, offering a real sense of country life. Wooden bridges and stone pathways lead through the gardens to the houses, which are well spread out.
Between the houses, there are spacious communal areas, which, in contrast, are contemporary spaces where guests can unwind. There are two dining options (serving both Western and Khmer), with the main restaurant and bar set at the entrance, and an open air lounge that serves snacks set in the heart of the village.
At the back of the grounds, a 20 meter infinity pool filled with saltwater looks toward the sunset. This is the ideal place to escape the Cambodian heat, and is set up with shaded sun-loungers underneath swaying palm trees.
While there isn’t a spa on site, you can organize treatments in your room via reception; Bodia Spa therapists offer a menu of massages from the comfort of your own private house.
Photos from the Grounds
Food & Drink
While the Lounge bar, next to the pool, serves tapas and snacks, the hotel’s restaurant focuses on local Khmer dishes, and each day they create a menu which features the best of Cambodian cuisine.
Each morning, the chefs wander through the local markets to select the best produce. Smells of seasonal fruits, vegetables and plants from their garden waft through the grounds from the kitchen. The dining spaces are open air, and overlook the garden and villas.
The raw beef salad with mixed herbs is a great starter, as is the yellow lentil soup. Our main course: sauteed shrimp and green kampot pepper, with an international wine list to compliment the dishes.
In Cambodia, there is a tradition to assign a color for each day of the week based on the God that protects that day. The Khmer tradition was influenced by Hindu mythology, and nowadays, Khmer people wear these colors in traditional dresses (Sampot) for special events.
The bar proposes daily cocktails and healthy juices which represent the color of this tradition. The color on our first day was purple, allowing us the choice of a purple flower cocktail, or healthy beet packed with vitamins.
Breakfast is complimentary, but this is no ordinary hotel breakfast. You’re served an à la carte menu with Khmer and western choices, including great fresh juices, fruit salad, fresh French pastry, and eggs made to order. Local honey and jams are served with your pastries, and the coffee is fresh.
Photos of the Dining Spaces
Photos of the Food
Overall, not a single review I read of this eco-lodge did the experience justice. And perhaps I haven’t even managed to. The ever smiling staff are so friendly and welcoming, that they make you feel as though you belong instantly.
For a few glorious days, we were living in an idyllic Cambodian village, just down the road from the ancient temples of Angkor Wat. We would explore the temples by day, losing ourselves in a world of magic and mystery, and return to a Khmer home, hidden away in a tropical jungle.
The mysticism, beauty, and imagination that is Cambodia never stopped.
The experience was quaint, but luxurious. It was authentic, but modern. It was an oasis of calm, yet exciting. It was grand, yet minimalist. Flavors were both local and multicultural.
Words, nor photos, manage to do this experience justice. Because that’s what it was; an experience. Tourism doesn’t have to be cookie cutter.
Staying in a traditional Khmer house, on a stunning private property, has left an impression that will likely remain one of my most cherished Cambodian moments.
To check rates and availability, look for Unique Bungalows near Angkor Wat Temple, Cambodia on GlampingHub.com. Trust me when I say that this is a property you want to splurge on.
OUR FAVORITE GUIDES TO CAMBODIA: CLICK PHOTO TO LOOK INSIDE↓