No sooner had Siem Reap’s latest boutique hotel opened for business, than it became a haven for, of all things, Finnish tourists.
Pippeli Pension is the labour of love of Australian Elke Weeks and her partner, Chanrith Wee, who were surprised to discover Finnish people turning up before the hotel was even finished to check it out.
This followed a surge of publicity in the Finnish media. Elke says, “We’ve been in the newspaper and on blogs in Finland. Most of the people who like our Facebook page are from Finland.”
So what’s the deal with the Finn’s?
“It turns out Pippeli is a really cute name for a little boy’s willy in Finnish,” Elke explains.
And the funny coincidence that’s attracted all the attention is just that: a coincidence. The hotel’s name is in fact a rather personal choice for Elke and Wee: a coming together of their two children, Pippa and Eli.
And the couple’s gorgeous nine-room hotel is bursting with charm and personality. The building is quirky in its design, leaning on the softer side of geometric. A friendly bar doubles up as a welcoming reception area, and an inviting poolside makes you want to dive right in.
“When I was growing up, my brother and I used to design hotels. It was just a dream that I thought wasn’t possible,” says Elke.
She credits her partner Wee for making that dream possible in Cambodiabecause she could never have done it without his local knowledge.
But it wasn’t an easy project to get off the ground. The project took about 14 months in all to finish, with brief hiatus’ for the birth of the couple’s second child, and of course the infamous flooding which the hotel in Wat Damnak saw the worst of.
But the location is certainly an up and coming spot, and Elke says, “I love this side of town, it’s my favourite part. It’s not so busy, but it’s still really close to town.”
The hotel is certainly different. Each room in the hotel is differently decorated, while tasteful throughout. Walls are designed with quirky stencil prints, stunning stone baths feature in superior rooms, and the architecture stands out among the straw and wood of neighbouring properties.
While still applying the finishing touches to the hotel, Elke and Wee have already attracted many guests. “We opened over Chinese New Year. Many hotels had double booked and we had people walking in off the street,” says Elke. “Even now, it’s better than I thought it would be considering we’ve just opened.”
So after years of dreaming, two babies, a minor international incident and a 14-month build, is her very own hotel as Elke imagined? “It’s pretty close to it,” she says. “I’m very, very happy.”
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