Maison Polanka, Siem Reap, Cambodia

We arrived at Maison Polanka after three weeks travelling – flying, driving, sailing – around Vietnam and Cambodia. We moved every couple of days, the longest being the sail up the Mekong [in the remains of a typhoon, so no sun]. Siem Reap is where you’ll find a few of the famous Cambodian temples – think Angkor Wat, for example.

Angkor Wat, in its beauty and state of preservation, is unrivaled. Its mightiness and magnificence bespeak a pomp and a luxury surpassing that of a Pharaoh or a Shah Jahan, an impressiveness greater than that of the Pyramids, an artistic distinctiveness as fine as that of the Taj Mahal.

Apparently there are maybe hundreds of temples lost in the forests in Cambodia. Angkor Wat was only rediscovered in 1908 and restoration started. It wasn’t until 1992 that it was awarded World Heritage status and since then tourist numbers have increased. Hotels have sprung up everywhere and the bus park is simply enormous. The ‘best’ time to see it is at dawn and you’re encouraged to get up early and enjoy the spectacle [we did]. Lots of people taking selfies with the temple in the background.

Two other temples were, in their own way, equally impressive. Angkor Thom, a huge temple with stunning sculptures, and Ta Prohm, hidden and overgrown – and used in the film Tomb Raider.

The trees growing out of the ruins are perhaps the most distinctive feature of Ta Prohm, and “have prompted more writers to descriptive excess than any other feature of Angkor. Two species dominate, the most notable being Ficus Gibbosa, or strangler fig.

We’re shown to our “room” – well, a small house on stilts, one of only seven set in a green haven in the centre of this typically scruffy and dusty town [in a nice way]. The staff are welcoming and serene – there’s no other word for it [and english has plenty, believe me]. Calm, relaxed…you know. Nothing is too much trouble and, almost immediately, you declare you want to live here for ever. A small open air restaurant to serve the guests for breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks. A small pool for relaxing and even swimming [careful – no over exertion]. Mid afternoon and the tea arrives at the side of the pool, with a little basket of delicious things – pancakes maybe, or little buns. All warm out of the oven.

We like the large shower – so big you don’t need a screen or curtain [1.2m x 1.8m if you’re interested] and the bedroom opens out onto a large deck, overlooking the garden. They have bikes, adjusted and ready with a basket with water and snacks, left outside your room. We use these to head off through the town to explore.

We see Mr and Mrs Smith have found it…

Maison Polanka is a cluster of traditional Khmer villas on stilts, nestled in an idyllic garden estate near Siem Reap – a hip hub of Cambodian culture and gateway to the ancient temples of Angkor Wat. The chic, colour-coded suites feature handpicked antiques, art deco furniture, and wooden verandahs overlooking the grounds. Sample authentic local delicacies at the intimate restaurant, then learn how to make them with a chef-led market food tour and cooking class – or just focus your energy on cooling dips in the pool and deep-tissue massages at the palm-leaf–lined spa.

Maison Polanka started as a house…

Maison Polanka was born in 1992 as a place of peace and refinement, when Jean Pierre moved from his native France to Cambodia to found the esteemed Chantiers Écoles, a social public institute that re-taught underprivileged young Cambodians building techniques and traditional arts and crafts, such as wood and stone carving. Along the way of this great adventure, he met and fell in love with Nathalie, a French-Cambodian woman who had returned to her homeland to rediscover her roots. Before it was transformed into a luxurious boutique retreat, Maison Polanka was the couple’s much-loved home and was where they went to to raise their two children. The property has hosted magical family gatherings and countless parties. After the family moved to Phnom Penh for the children to pursue their studies, it was decided they should find a new life for the house and its staff.

Hotel and your perfect place to live for ever Maison Polanka, Siem Reap



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