Since 1969, restaurant, hotel, travel & other witty reviews by a handpicked, worldwide team of discerning professionals—and your views, too.

Le Meridien Angkor
Vithei Charles de Gaulle
Khum Svay Dang Khum, Siem Reap
Kingdom of Cambodia

Going to Temple
Romantic Lodgings Near the Angkor Wat Temples
by Kim Fay

Mini Angkor Wat "ruins"

When we first visited Cambodia's Angkor Wat temples nearly ten years ago, lodgings at the bordering town of Siem Reap consisted mainly of cheap, shabby guesthouses. Except for the swanky, historic Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor, luxury hotel groups had yet to invade this sacred corner of the world. My, how times have changed. Today you’ll find collections as diverse as Sofitel and Aman Resorts represented here, but none claim a closer location to the temple complex than Le Meridien Angkor.

Emphasizing the prime setting, just three-and-a-half miles from the entrance to the Angkor Park, is the transfer in from the airport, which follows a back route that takes you directly past Angkor Wat. No matter how many times you have seen this monument, the view upon approach—as you catch a glimpse of the towers rising from the jungle—will move you. This is a clever strategy. It ensures a strong first impression, and prepares you for the hotel’s expat-in-the-tropics atmosphere.

Colorful Khmer-style fabrics

Low-lying buildings sprawl over the level grounds and are connected by airy corridors and al fresco walkways flanked by tall, willowy palms. An old school mood is also set by the property’s inspiration: the nearby temples. With its four-sided architecture, surrounded by a moat and featuring a large inner courtyard, the layout mimics Angkor Wat. At the swimming pool, pillars and wall fragments are scattered around the water to recreate the romantic effect of the nearby ruins.

From the vast lobby to the 223 guestrooms, décor is neo-tropical. Colorful Khmer-style fabrics and striking black and white photography complement the contemporary design. The well-equipped bedrooms and suites are particularly attractive, with their dark wood floors and furnishings. The only drawback is the noise. Three evenings a week, a Cambodian Cultural Show is performed on The Terrace in the courtyard. Prepare to be serenaded, even if your room faces the other direction. Of course, one pleasant way to solve this problem is by attending the show.

Exterior of the property

For dining, Angkor Royal Café serves Asian and Western specialties, and cozy L’Angelo offers surprisingly innovative Northern Italian cuisine. The buffet breakfast is notable, catering to the varied tastes of the many international visitors who check in here. In addition, Le Meridien offers spa services, the classy Naga Bar, an efficient business center and two meeting rooms (although if we were hosting a conference, we would take advantage of the outdoor spaces).

A concierge will make arrangements for touring the temples; we suggest requesting a map and bicycles with baskets. The ride into the park is leisurely, past monkeys playing on the side of the road. The earlier you start, the better, to avoid the multitudes and enjoy the quiet roads. You can easily bike to all the major temples in the area, and then—when the crowds are at their peak—cycle back to the hotel for a massage, cocktail or dip in the pool.

(Updated: 06/25/08 HC)

Sip your way through wine country with GAYOT's list of charming inns and resorts, featuring vineyards from Napa Valley to Long Island, New York.
Go off the beaten path and explore GAYOT's Top 10 Extreme Hotels, which feature one-of-a-kind accommodations for a truly unforgettable experience.