Cambodia is still recovering from the devastating effects of the Khmer Rouge, so French-owned Zannier Hotels was taking a chance on the country in 2015 when it opened Phum Baitang, its first resort in Asia, set on the outskirts of Siem Reap, close to the immense temple complex of Angkor Wat.
After the 15-minute transfer on red-dirt roads from the airport, we were ushered into the open-air reception area. Taking its cue from traditional Khmer farmhouses, the lobby’s thatched roof, wide-plank wood floors and slatted timber wall screens exude a simple “less is more” elegance that is echoed throughout the property. As we checked in, we were offered a cold towel and a refreshing natural lemongrass juice that, over the course of our stay, I would reorder again and again.
Upon entering the sliding glass doors, we immediately relaxed. The understated design relied on organic elements: Stone, wood, linen and jute in soothing natural beiges were offset by a pop of persimmon on the slipcovered sofa. Vaulted ceilings and wood beams made the already large bedroom-living area seem even more spacious (Pool Villas are 1,400 square feet). All the modern amenities were available: air-conditioning, a 42-inch flat-screen TV, Wi-Fi, docking stations, an integrated sound system. A graceful touch was the just-picked lotus flower set in a bowl of water.