After a year of renovations, the long-awaited Park Hyatt Siem Reap finally opens on Monday, boasting 108 rooms and suites, two swimming pools, a revamped café-deli and a new-look bar lounge. Insider was given a sneak preview into what lies behind those white walls.
While the main exterior of the hotel remains the same and the entrance still on Sivutha, the walls are a new addition, hiding the hotel somewhat from the street – and, perhaps more significantly, hiding the busy street views from the hotel.
“I think the hotel has become more residential,” says newly-appointed general manager Sholto Smith, recently joining from Park Hyatt Melbourne. “It’s become more private as well with the walls, a sort of inner sanctuary.”
“There are more colours and more natural lighting,” says director of sales and marketing Sarah Moya. “It has a stronger resort flair this time round, I think we just took it up a notch… There’s a lot of play with nature.”
Perhaps the most eagerly-anticipated feature is the former Hotel de la Paix Arts Lounge, now reborn as the Living Room. Walking into the lobby, the bar-lounge is still on the right-hand-side but designer Bill Bensley has created an open-air covered walkway and bar area which borders the glassed-in room. A bit like a wraparound veranda, this “indoor outdoor space” as he describes it, allows a refreshing breeze to flow through and lets in plenty of natural light. Beautiful heart-shaped, antique, silver fans waft back and forth along the ceiling.
Inside, the Living Room feels a bit like a posh library or private club, at once cosy and luxurious. The colour scheme is black and pink and Bensley has filled the room with plush rose coloured velvety sofas, ornate antiques and vases of fresh lilies. The designer’s vision was to create ‘mini living-rooms’ and to this end, eight tall, dark bookshelves divide up the room into individual spaces.
“It’s like walking into a jewellery box basically,” says Smith. “It’s plush, it’s quite opulent, it’s very homely.”
“Everyone who’s been here wants to come back,” adds Moya, “And one of the ladies said she’s now found an excuse to wear high heels.”
Smith observes that the residential feel is reflected in the names of the hotel restaurant, lounge and café – The Dining Room, The Living Room and The Glasshouse respectively.
“These are all things you have at home,” he says. “It’s very cosy. I think The Living Room is a very cosy place and the clever use of these bookshelves does almost create rooms. When you sit here in the evenings you don’t really see through the bookcases to the other people. You know they’re there but you don’t really tune in on conversation. It’s all very private.”
The artifacts have been chosen to reflect the local culture. Each bookshelf displays in its centre a striking pink and black elephant tapestry by Weaves of Cambodia, a silk-weaving centre staffed by victims of landmines near Preah Vihear.
Lining the bookshelves are actual, fabric-covered books in various hues of pink, grey and hound’s-tooth patterns. Smith plucks one off the shelf to reveal a tome about Myanmar. There are vases, bowls and picture frames, and a pair of elegant white swans faces each other on one shelf while on a table, a large silver peacock perches on top of yet more books next to a bowl of green apples.
A living room, yes, but a living-room belonging to a wealthy, well-read aunt with impeccable taste perhaps, or a well-travelled ambassador or minor royal.
Like the Arts Lounge, the Living Room will be open to the public as well as hotel guests. Art-lovers will be pleased to hear that Sasha Constable has been retained as art curator, with exhibitions taking place in the outer walkway area and the hotel’s gallery. The first exhibit is set for September 2013.
Park Hyatt will also continue to support the charitable initiatives formerly backed by Hotel de la Paix – the Life and Hope Association Sewing School and EGBOK (Everything's Gonna Be OK) Mission.
In terms of the rooms, Moya says the hotel has reinvented the suites. “What used to be duplex spa suites all have a new look and a new feel,” she says. “We’ve got suites with plunge pools now. We’ve got these fabulous rooftop garden suites which have private gardens.”
A second swimming-pool has been added, so in addition to the first-floor pool there is now also a smaller lap pool beyond the courtyard, and an iconic 100 year-old Banyan tree remains.
“We’ve built a pool downstairs and I think immediately it says Bill Bensley – the design’s very him,” says Smith. “Colonnades, and all built from sandstone. And then alongside that are the four pool suites, a two-bedroom suite and three one-bedrooms.”
The spa also remains, providing massage and treatments using Pevonia Botanica, the all-natural skincare range favoured by the likes of Angelina Jolie and Cameron Diaz.
On the dining side, The Glasshouse deli-patisserie replaces the former café, and as the name suggests, it includes a conservatory-style extension. The original pastry chef remains, so expats hankering after the sweet treats of yore will once again be able to enjoy delights such as the cappuccino cream-filled profiteroles, and chocolate brownies.
“This time we’ll have fresh pizzas,” says Moya. “Also we made a list of things that people like so we’ll have the profiteroles, homemade ice-creams, coffee. The breads are really going to be a must-have – all fresh, all made in-house.”
The Dining Room restaurant will have an open kitchen and serve a mix of Khmer and French Provencal food, while high tea will also be available in The Living Room..