Tucked away among the paddy fields in Cambodia’s picturesque countryside, Phum Baitang hotel is a world away from the bustle of nearby Siem Reap town. Perched high on stilts in luxuriant tropical gardens, this all-villa resort has the rustic charm of traditional Khmer wooden houses, albeit ones with hand-picked antiques, freestanding baths and private plunge pools. Surrender to the ministrations of its expert mixologists and spa therapists – should you ever feel compelled to leave, ancient ruins, vibrant markets and a lively nightlife are just a short tuk tuk ride away.
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One bottle of Zannier wine; GoldSmith members also get a dinner for two
2pm, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, noon.
Double rooms from £179.64 ($232), including tax at 23.42 per cent.
Rates usually include the à la carte breakfast of home-baked breads, pastries, jams and chocolate spread, as well as cooked-to-order eggs, bacon, sausages, congee and noodle soup.
Phum Baitang’s cookery workshops take aspiring chefs from the paddy fields to the dinner table: pick herbs from the kitchen gardens, experience the hustle and bustle of a local market and rustle up authentic Cambodian recipes to savour with a bowl of the resort’s own rice harvest.
At the hotel
Spa, gym, yoga pavilion, bikes to borrow, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD player, minibar, kettle, Nespresso machine, organic Phum Baitang toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
Inspired by traditional wooden Cambodian houses, each of the private villas is a sanctuary on stilts, furnished with elegantly crumpled linen, enormous oval tubs and inviting day-beds on the terrace. Pool villas have a refreshing plunge pool and a low-slung sala overlooking the grounds; if you’re after more privacy, opt for a terrace villa instead.
Clad in rough-hewn black stone, the curvaceous freshwater infinity pool is a 50m stunner overlooking the resort’s paddy fields. Inviting sunloungers are lined up on a long wooden deck; thatch-roofed salas at either end make good hideaways for sun-shy (or canoodling) couples.
An (almost) literal temple to wellbeing, the hotel’s spa takes its visual cues from the exquisite carvings and elegant columns of Angkor Wat. Seven treatment rooms – two are for couples – are housed in wooden pavilions amid luxuriant tropical foliage. Treatments make use of organic, indigenous ingredients such as ginger, mango and raw honey. The massage menu spans the globe: try Japanese Shiatsu to improve energy flow or the herbal-infused Tibetan oil technique. Don’t miss the traditional Khmer massage to stretch and knead aching muscles to a blissful state of total relaxation.
Pack light: adaptors and iPads can be borrowed from the hotel, and you’ll want some space to take home handcrafted wares from the stylish boutique. Frogs and dragon flies keep mosquitos to a minimum here, but bug spray is always handy in the tropics.
The two resident water buffalos aren’t merely decorative pets – they help out with the rice harvest too. Borrow a bike from reception to whizz around the estate’s zig-zagging paths.
Welcome. Extra beds and cots can be added to all villas. Babysitting is available for US$10 an hour (US$15 for two children).
There’s plenty of space for tots of all ages to enjoy, but lengthy temple adventures are best suited to older children.
Pool villas are large enough for families of four and kids can splash away to their heart’s content in the private plunge pool.
The free kids club welcomes 3–12s. Opening hours are flexible and there’s no fixed programme; staff will help kids make the most of Cambodia’s glorious countryside with temple tours and walks through the paddies.
The main pool is 1.50m deep and there’s no shallow end, so you’ll need to keep an eye on little swimmers.
The restaurants have high chairs and child-friendly menus; kids can choose their own culinary adventure at Bay Phsar’s street-food dinners. Staff will happily heat up milk for tiny Smiths.
Babysitting is available for US$10 an hour (US$15 for two children).
No need to pack
You can pick up baby food and nappies at supermarkets in town.
For an intimate dinner, ask for a corner table overlooking the gardens.
She’s a regular at Phum Baitang, so channel Angelina Jolie’s effortless style with loose trousers, impeccable silk tops and practical sandals.
At lunchtime, poolside Bay Phsar serves zingy salads (try the avocado and pomelo number), moreish spring rolls and pizzas straight from the garden oven. Dinner here is a celebration of street food: pick a selection of fresh seafood, home-grown herbs and spices for the chef to whip up to your taste. Housed in a wooden villa on stilts, Hang Bay’s fusion cuisine takes inspiration from local ingredients and Cambodian’s colonial past: sample sea bass baked in a salt and Koh Kong pepper crust, a rich foie gras terrine with mango chutney or a simply grilled Australian steak served with a fragrant Thai sauce.
The laid-back Pool Bar is a good spot to compare archeological notes over a sundowner. Set in a 100-year-old farmhouse, the Cigar & Cocktail Lounge is decked out with rattan chairs and oriental carpets; cubans can be savoured on the terrace. Cocktails are mixed from home-grown botanicals and syrups: try a refreshing aloe vera and mint margarita or a smoky peppercorn-infused Apsara.
Breakfast is served 6.30am–11am, lunch noon–5pm and dinner 6pm–10pm. Tipples are poured until 11pm.
The restaurants’ menus can be served in your villa from 6.30am to 10pm.
Set in acres of peaceful gardens and verdant paddy fields, Phum Baitang is a rural escape just a 15-minute drive away from the buzz of Siem Reap.
International flights from Asian hubs land at Siem Reap airport, a 15-minute drive away; visitors travelling on to Cambodia’s capital or coast can hop on to domestic flights to Phnom Penh or Sihanoukville. The hotel offers free airport transfers to guests.
Visitors aren’t allowed to drive, so you’ll need to hire a driver to explore Siem Reap’s temple-dotted countryside. The hotel has its own fleet of eight tuk tuks, which can drop guests in town for US$5 each way.
Worth getting out of bed for
Temple tours are de rigueur in Siem Reap. Make the most of your jet lag by catching the sunrise over Angkor Wat: staff can arrange a 4.30am wake-up call and breakfast bites to beat the tripod-toting crowds at Bakheng Hill, which overlooks the temple’s distinctive spires. Classic Grand Circle tours of the Angkor complex are also on offer; pick up a three-day pass to explore the heritage park at your leisure. The hotel can recommend a tried-and-tested English-speaking guide, but make sure to book well in advance – they’re in high demand. There’s plenty to see further afield: climb Phnom Kulen to the linga-lined river at Kbal Spean, meander through floating villages on Tonlé Sap Lake, or hop on a Vespa to experience daily life in the shadow of the temples. In town, Phare Circus holds nightly performances in a distinctive big top. This social enterprise supports an arts training centre in Battambang; visitors can learn to tumble and juggle with the pros before the show. For something a little more sedate, join the free yoga classes at the hotel or practice your swing at Angkor Golf Resort’s award-winning 18-hole course just around the corner.
Riverside Chanrey Tree is a sophisticated spot to discover traditional Khmer cuisine such as stir-fried frog legs, fermented prahok dip or a delicately steamed fish amok. Cuisine Wat Damnak is a regular fixture on lists of top restaurants in Asia; Raymond Blanc is a fan. The tasting menu changes every two weeks – a tantalising feast of dishes such as Mekong langoustine, eel jungle curry and jackfruit crème brûlée.
At the heart of the vibrant Kandal Village, The Little Red Fox Espresso celebrates Cambodia’s contemporary art and music scenes. Stop by for a light lunch or a perfectly brewed coffee.
Siem Reap has a vibrant night life: amble down Pub Street and the Lane to see what catches your fancy. Drop in to 1920s Shanghai at Miss Wong Cocktail Bar for a China White, an exotic mix of jasmine tea syrup, lychees, gin and cinzano. Sip on a sundowner on the terrace at the FCC, a chic former governor’s mansion by the river. Fancy taking things into your own hands? Asana runs cocktail-making classes using fresh local ingredients.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this luxury hotel in Cambodia and unpacked their carvings and kramas, a full account of their relaxing break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Phum Baitang in Siem Reap…
We challenge you not to fall in love with traditional Khmer houses: perched high on stilts in rural idylls of paddy fields and sugar palms, they’re as eye-catching as they are practical. Phum Baitang’s tasteful recreation of a Cambodian village has kept their beautifully weathered wood, tropical foliage and pared-down style, but added generous lashings of luxury. Gone are the cold bucket showers and unavoidable creepy crawlies of the originals: guests at this tropical outpost of the Zannier group (their other property is a rustic-chic chalet in Mègeve) can indulge in king-size comfort, freestanding baths and private plunge pools or terraces. The hotel has taken inspiration from the country’s gourmand traditions: Cambodia’s spices, produce and penchant for the good life can be found in the kitchen’s tempting cuisine and the spa’s pampering menu. A stay here is all about gentle contemplation – the perfect foil to days spent clambering through the temples of Angkor and nights taking in Siem Reap’s vibrant bars and restaurants.