Cambodia is a very special country; and anyone who knows me well will know just how special the country is to me. – A country which, after centuries under Vietnamese and Thai siege and the devastation during Polpot’s Khmer Rouge Regime, rightfully still wears its heart on its sleeve; it’s heart-centre being the soulful Siem Reap.
As the country’s heartland, home to the famous Angkor Watt temples, Siem Reap has seen a huge increase in tourism in the last couple of years, bringing with it an equal increase in beautiful boutique hotels with frangipani-fringed swimming pools. However only one can lay claim to giving as much back to its local communities as it does for its guests – and that place is the stunning Sojourn Boutique Villas.
Nestled in the authentic Treak village, a short drive out of the dusty bustle of Siem Reap’s town centre; Sojourn Boutique Villas combines style with substance by offering guests an experience that stretches so much further than excellent exotic cocktails sipped at its swimming pool’s bar.
Opening visitors’ eyes to its soulful surroundings, Sojourn Boutique Hotel stands out by offering guests walking tours around Treak Village ($5 per person), and ‘A Day in the Life” tours in Komphein Village, as part of its community enriching work through HUSK, an NGO lovingly set up by the hotel’s owners in 2009, following Typhoon Ketsana.
The fee for the walking tour goes directly to HUSK, whose remit is to help people help themselves, give children access to education, improve basic hygiene, provide access to food and better nutritional knowledge, and help establish programs so that the villagers derive income through sustainable projects and tourism.
Treak Village is also brought to life with even more vibrancy thanks to Sojourn Boutique Villa’s hands-on Cambodian Cooking Class* in its bamboo pavilion. Unlike any other Khmer cooking courses, this one starts with a short visit to a local family’s home to learn about food customs and beliefs within the village.
Taking this new-found knowledge back to the hotel’s beautiful Bamboo Pavillion, sunkissed in the morning light; here under the guidance of Sojourn Boutique Hotel’s Head Chef, up to eight people will learn how to make three traditional Khmer dishes – followed by a sit down lunch together to enjoy your three courses of your own creations.
Continuing to give back to its community, the majority of the hotel’s team of incredibly warm and smiling staff are those who live locally, walking the short distance to the utopian setting of Sojourn Boutique Villas each day.
Taking upmost pride in their roles, the team here go above and beyond to make your stay as special as possible, whether it’s squeezing a different fresh fruit juice for you each morning, shaking cocktails in the atmospheric lantern-lit restaurant or poolside bar or turning down your bed every evening and leaving chocolates on your pillow.
Not a trick is missed at Soujourn Boutique Villas: Pick up to the hotel is arranged from wherever you require and on arrival fragrant Jasmine “welcome” bracelets and cooling face towels are lavished upon you.
Guests are spoiled further with the beautiful, winding palm and banana tree-lined walk to its villas, greeted by fluttering butterlies and perfectly-timed falling Jasmine flowers on route, adjacent to an ocean blue swimming pool surrounded by loungers, day beds, water features – and it’s in-pool cocktail bar.
A family-friendly hotel; here children splash, sunworshipers worship, shade-dwellers seek shelter under the light cover of the Bedouin style double loungers, and those in full holiday mode sup sun-kissed cocktails, very reasonably priced at $4.50 or $3.50 during the 4pm-6pm Happy Hour.
Quicker than you can say “Happy Hour,” your bags, fresh lime juice and sweet, toasty coconut pancakes will have been spirited into your luxury villa, prolonging the welcome even further.
With almost as many Jasmine flowers dotted around your heavenly holiday home as you’ll find in the grounds, beautiful attention to detail runs throughout.
Coffee, English Breakfast, Earl Grey & Darjeeling Tea sit atop your well-stocked minibar; the rooms are adorned with statues of Buddha and local photography; the rain shower alone (let alone the stylish stone bathroom) was about the same size as my Hackney studio flat and locally sourced, ethically made beauty products sit alongside your giant stone sink waiting to be used.
If the azure of the pool can’t lure you over for a sunset apéritif at the bar, each villa has its own balcony on which cocktails and light bites will be brought to you – and in a little more seclusion thanks to the dense tropical garden surroundings.
Dinner here is atmospheric, the restaurant romantically lit by tea lights in Chinese lanterns, with the ripples of the swimming pool still in sight or sound. – And the food is exquisite.
Little is known about the diversities and subtleties of Khmer Cuisine and at Sojourn these delicately spiced flavours are played out in a sophisticated menu which offers the likes of a light, tangy Crab & Coconut Salad (easily the best salad I’ve ever eaten) and the delicious national dish Amok, the option of a daily special such as John Dory Fish steamed in ginger and local spices. France’s colonial heritage in Cambodia has shaped an impressive wine list of Bordeauxs, sparkling wine and champagne.
The restaurant is open from 7am-10am for breakfast, included in your room rate and offers the likes of perfectly cooked omelettes or decadent French toast dusted with cinnamon and honey; all accompanied by perfectly your choice of tea or a barista blended Flat White. The restaurant re-opens at 11:00am for the rest of the day.
Huge thanks to the wonderful, dedicated and philanthropic Fiona and Anthony for having us. A stay at Sojourn Boutique Villas really is the perfect oxymoron of altruistic luxury.
- Room rates range from $165 / night in a Terrace Room through to $240 / night in a Temple Villa. Be sure to check their bookings page for any deals.
- Treak Village Rd,Treak Village Siem Reap
- (+855) 12 923 437 / firstname.lastname@example.org
- Donate to HUSK
*Cambodian Cooking Classes are $24 per person for the half day class and $35 for the full day class. There is a maximum of eight participants involved in any class. Classes are run daily at 9.30am and 12.30pm and take around 2.5 to 3 hours per class. Bookings are essential and can be made at reception. – Full review to follow.