FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Amansara Review

by Richard Newton

Apr 17, 2024

© Amansara

eFlyer Reviews

It was more than a car journey; it was a transition between worlds. At our first hotel in Siem Reap, huge coaches constantly pulled up outside the lobby to deposit or receive international tour groups; we departed in very different style, in a 1965 black Mercedes limousine once owned by King Sihanouk. The mundanities of mass tourism were left behind. We progressed through the chaotic Cambodian streets in regal comfort and soon arrived at a solid gate.

There was no obvious signage and little hint of what lay behind the white perimeter wall. The gate slid open and in we went. At the end of a short, shaded driveway was Amansara, meaning “heavenly peace.”

This would be our third stay at an Aman hotel, qualifying us as bona fide Aman junkies (the affectionate term for those who travel the world specifically to stay at these properties). What makes Aman hotels such a contrast to other high-end brands? Why are they so addictive? In part, it’s a question of scale. Amansara has just 24 suites. It’s more like a residence than a hotel. With a staff to guest ratio of up to six to one, your needs are seamlessly attended to, though never intrusively.

Amansara, Cambodia

© Amansara

The setting is immaculately serene. The food is flawless. The beautifully appointed spa completes your physical and spiritual revival. This masterpiece of New Khmer Architecture was built as King Sihanouk’s guesthouse in 1962 and subsequently became a glamorous outpost for the jet set, hosting the likes of Jackie Kennedy and Peter O’Toole (who stayed here while filming Lord Jim). Then came civil war and the murderous rule of the Khmer Rouge.

By 2002, crumbling and overrun by vegetation, the abandoned property resembled the ruined ancient temples of nearby Angkor. It was then Aman stepped in to restore it beyond its former glory. Amansara initially opened in 2003 with 12 suites. An extension in the same style added 12 pool suites in 2006, one of which would be ours for two nights.

Amansara, Cambodia

© Amansara

Our suitcases preceded us, complete with newly attached Amansara-branded leather luggage tags. With every Aman hotel we stay at, we add to our collection. The suite was open plan with a vast bed, writing desk, chairs and sofa, freestanding bath, and his-and-hers sinks. A separate room contained a shower; and an all-singing, all-dancing Japanese toilet. There was a sound system (playing resonant Buddhist chants when we walked in), but — this being Aman — no television. Instead, the suite looked out onto our private courtyard and plunge pool. The far wall was inlaid with a limestone relief inspired by the ancient bas-reliefs of Angkor Wat. The relaxing interplay of watery reflections and dappled shade satisfied our visual needs.

Amansara, Cambodia

© Amansara

The suite was instantly our haven, and we could quite easily have remained in it for the duration, with all meals brought to us. But that would be to miss out on Amansara’s holistic ambience and attractions outside its walls. Pool suites are arranged on either side of a rectangular lawn interspersed with venerable trees. At one end, behind a wall, there’s a long swimming pool ideal for laps and, at the other, the main communal area. The focal point is the cylindrical dining room, once King Sihanouk’s screening room. There’s also a boutique, library, spa, original suites (minus private pools) and a strikingly shaped swimming pool. Everywhere you look there are photogenic curves and angles.

On our ventures beyond the gate, we traveled in Amansara’s remork, a motorbike-drawn carriage. Siem Reap is a fascinating city, with its bustling market and numerous active Buddhist temples. A short ride to the north lies the main attraction, Angkor Archaeological Park, a complex of 1,000-year-old ruins scattered across a jungle site the size of Paris. The centerpiece is Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious structure. Within the park, facing an ancient royal reservoir, Amansara maintains the Khmer Village House, a traditional wooden stilted building at which you can enjoy breakfast or dinner between sightseeing. You can even take a cooking class.

Amansara, Cambodia

© Amansara

We opted for meals at the hotel. Aman hotels always make a virtue of connecting with the local culture, and that was reflected in the menu. We enjoyed specialties of Khmer royal cuisine, including sour soup, raw fish salad and saraman curry. These dishes can be traced back to the heyday of Angkor.

Before long we would return to the black Mercedes for the journey back to the real world. But for three days we experienced the state of well-being enshrined in the hotel’s name.

Amansara

Road to Angkor Wat
Krong Siem Reap 93101, Cambodia
tel 855 63 760 333

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