Listen to the rustle of the breeze through the trees in Swiss-owned Sala Lodges’ gardens and imagine what it would have been like to live in one of these traditional houses in rural Cambodia. This unique Siem Reap hotel has saved, dismantled and restored eleven wooden houses from across Cambodia, and re-created a village of hotel suites like no other.
While the houses look traditional on the outside, inside they’ve been adapted into hotel suites. As much as possible of the original has been maintained. Our suite is House Number 1 — “mouy” in Khmer. We check-in with frangipani-scented cool towels and lime ginger drinks on the front porch of our house. We learn that it was the last to arrive on the property and that it’s from Ta Prom, a village about 60 km from Siem Reap. It was built by its first owner, a master carpenter, in 1957 and he added quality and embellishments that many houses of the same era lack.
Inside there’s a small sitting area, a large main room complete with king bed, a separate toilet room and a large bathroom area with shower. Rooms are equipped with a safe, mini-fridge and telephone, but not a television. In the evening, turndown staff come to close the wooden shutters, arrange the mosquito nets surrounding the bed, and prepare your room for a comfortable sleep. While the hotel sprays for mosquitos weekly and suites do have air conditioning and fans, the nature of the old wooden buildings means a mosquito could sneak in through a crack in the floorboards, though we saw none. Earplugs are also provided to protect against noise from the restaurants, fellow guests and neighbours who rise early to start work when the day is still cool.
As one would expect in a hotel that has gone out of its way to protect the archeological heritage of Cambodia, Sala Lodges also makes efforts to protect Cambodia’s environment. It treats its tap water and participates in the Refill not Landfill program started by a group of Siem Reap hoteliers and restauranteurs. They provide guests with aluminum water bottles that can be refilled for free onsite or in 20 locations in Siem Reap. Lotions and potions to make you feel and smell pretty are by organic Bodia Nature line and are also in refillable containers.
The traditional houses are sprinkled over Sala Lodges’ bright green grounds dotted with small rice paddies and other trees and plants used in the kitchen. Sala Lodges’ saltwater pool is at the back of the property, past a secondary outdoor restaurant ideal for breakfast or cocktails. The main restaurant is near the entrance to the hotel. Common areas have contemporary lines and modern chairs and couches, mixed with traditional tables and lanterns.
Befitting its traditional village atmosphere, Sala Lodges is outside of the built-up part of Siem Reap. It’s about a half hour walk or a short tuktuk ride to downtown Siem Reap.