Many hotels call themselves urban escapes but when you’re in the heart of Siem Reap, not quite a sprawling urban commercial jungle, does it really necessitate an escape? Hence, when it comes The Aviary Hotel, a boutique hotel inspired by nature and Cambodia’s rich heritage of traditional crafts, the luxuriousness of this sophisticated Cambodian oasis is purely incidental, coming by way of celebrating the beauty and diversity of the kingdom’s avian creatures and the immensely talented artisans residing within the 20 kilometre radii of the Old Market (aka city centre).
Siem Reap was little more than a village when French explorers such as Henri Mouhot “re-discovered” Angkor in the 19th century, and it still remains relatively unchanged today – even if a growing body of tourists have made the existence of Pub Street a contemporary contrivance; it takes nothing away from the city nor the hotel in which it resides.
Similar to but quite unlike the Park Hyatt Siem Reap which sits merely across a shared traffic intersection, The Aviary Hotel is polished like many of the 5-star hotels LUXUO has experienced during our travels, yet down-to-earth thanks to a gorgeously appointed interior filled with locally commissioned artworks.
A turquoise salt-water pool at the heart of The Aviary, hidden behind the lobby and adjacent to the restaurant, lending itself to the general atmospherics as a relaxing sanctuary in the heart of a rapidly gentrifying Siem Reap. Ably supported by picturesque vines and flowers that drape over the balconies in the boutique hotel’s central “air well” (really the hotel’s two separate wings) rising above the pristine waters.
43 eco-friendly rooms await guests to The Aviary, the entirety of the hotel is thematically decorated according to the reputation of Siem Reap’s Prek Toal bird sanctuary located within the Tonlé Sap Reserve, a birdwatcher’s dream given the area’s rich biodiversity and rare waterbirds. Designed with a Franco-European aesthetic with a uniquely Cambodian twist, The Aviary is designed as a reprieve from the heat and perhaps, the overbearing tourist traps that sprung up at a result of Cambodia’s fast growing tourist industry.
That Peaceful Aviary Vibe…
LUXUO called the Sarus Crane Suite, one of three luxurious suites situated on the top floor of The Aviary, home for three days. Naturally light filled and airy (should one deign to leave the windows and balcony doors open – though one wouldn’t advise that given the natural abundance of mosquitos in a developing city), the 60 square metre suite is warm in its welcome and intuitively laid out – a large bedroom upon a platform, a living area, a private balcony and a large en-suite bathroom with his and hers wash basins and mirrors. Again, while the experience is luxurious, its not central to The Aviary, the true pull of the hotel is its serene, relaxed atmosphere. It begs to be explored but the focus your peace of mind (supported by the cutest kitten who often sought me out for snuggles) and comfort (from the snuggness and tactility) of the high backed armchairs and the fluffy throw pillows complete the sensation of utter relaxation.
If one is of the prayerful or meditative variety, the balcony overlooking the fabulous pool area simply sets you in a state of exquisite zen. Balcony and wall planter gardens similar to those of the hanging gardens of Babylon bustle with the peaceful chirping of insect life accompanying your mantra, yoga or rosary, evoking a spiritual commune unlike any other. When other hotels tout eco-friendliness, they usually mean sustainably sourced materials and organic food. The Aviary embodies this ethos right down to its art, decorations and fittings. Case in point: avian statues are papier-mâché treated and finished to look like ceramics and the various bronze-cast bird cages and assorted knick knacks are actually up-cycled materials from the local artisan community like French artist Philippe Brousseau who heads up Jayav Art Gallery.
Experience Siem Reap with The Aviary at its heart
Located a stone’s throw from the fore-mentioned Pub Street, Kandal village, Night Markets and the river. most of the city’s main attractions are either located within walking distance or affordably within tuk-tuk reach through ride-hailing apps like Grab. Suffice it to say, there is an abundance of local Khmer cuisine – both of the stir-fried and grilled variety but the real surprise is the existence of some of the finest French, fusion cuisine and croissant pastries outside of Paris, a throwback to some 82 years as a French colony (tip: Do ask General Manager Joffrey Thin-Gris for dining and sightseeing recommendations – he was spot on for Chanrey Tree, a French-Khmer fusion restaurant).
Thoughtfully designed, the beauty and diversity of birdlife native to the Kingdom of Cambodia are celebrated through decorative interior motifs found in all tiers of rooms (there are fo.ur: Tailorbird, Kingfisher, Sambok, Sarus) at The Aviary, from the standard to the suite, each room is fitted modern mods & cons like flat-screen satellite TVs and air conditioning but charmingly, instead of an espresso machine, you get a French press coffeemaker. Some units offer a balcony while other units like the Sarus Crane suite have a private patio.
In house wellness and hospitality
We would like to report that Siem Reap has more than just temples (wats) but beyond its main attraction, Angkor, each subsequent wat that you would visit is a unique but ultimately indistinct (to civilian eyes) temple from the tens to hundreds that you can potentially visit. Beyond the various night markets and the market square, once you’re done shopping, there’s really little else to do and see; thankfully, The Aviary has quite a few features of its own.
Breakfasts at Plumage Restaurant
Adjacent the brilliant blue waters of the pool, Plumage serves guests from 6:30 to 10:30 in the morning and the service is attentive – while the spread appears limited, the menu offers a variety of main courses (the beef stew is a definite must try – lightly petter spiced and sweet) and the egg station offers all manner of eggs including a delicious, high difficulty level benedict variety topped with hollandaise sauce. The coffee and fresh fruit platter is excellent and aromatic.
AVIARY HOTEL- May 2016
The Aviary’s rooftop bar: The Glide
On the same floor as the Sarus suite, the Glide Bar offers a rooftop view of Preah Sangreach Tep Vong Street and while there isn’t much to see now as the road undergoes urban rejuvenation, its the perfect venue to watch the sun set upon Siem Reap, the only other place better to experience dusk would be at the temples located just 6km away from the hotel. Its a sophisticated place for drinking and bar grubs.
Try the smoothies at The Flock Café
Relaxing by the salt-water pool, LUXUO managed to try a selection of smoothies and iced lattes from the Flock cafe and while there might be well warranted concerns of overpriced drinks from an in-house cafe, the quality and standards of what The Aviary serves up makes it well-worth the bill. It’s a welcome respite from the heat as you plan your day’s itinerary.
Wellness at Amret Spa
Run by the same guys who manage Sokkhak Spa River Side (a famed Siem Reap wellness centre), the Amret Spa at The Aviary provides a wellness experience unexpected of most boutique hotels. Equipped with two beautiful massage rooms, and one salon room, Amret Spa is great for an hour or two of pampering. Indulge in a variety of massages, wraps, scrubs, facials & spa packages, these treatments are professional executed by trained, and highly experienced therapists perfect after a long day of temple adventures..
Guests can approach the 24-hour front desk at the property for tour and ticketing services, currency exchange and car rentals.
Angkor Wat is 6 km from The Aviary Hotel, while Angkor Night Market is 400 m from the property. Siem Reap – Angkor International Airport is 7 km away. Shuttle services can be arranged at an additional charge but are unnecessary.