Oozing French colonial elegance with a stunning Khmer twist, and surrounded by lush gardens, endless stone paths, wooden bridges and lotus strewn lakes, the five-star Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort is not only one of Siem Reap’s most beautiful resorts, but quite possibly its most family friendly and ideally located for touring Siem Reap with kids.
Far enough out of town to avoid the noise and offer space, but still only a five-minute tuk tuk ride away from Siem Reap’s restaurant and market strip, and just ten minutes from the Angkor temple complex , the resort’s convenient but quiet location is a huge bonus. But it is the incredible service that leaves us wonder struck.
From the moment we enter the resort’s high-ceilinged lobby, the welcome is so warm we feel like rock stars.
While we enjoy a welcome drink, the kids are offered floral wrist garlands and bamboo hats.
Already amazed at the thoughtfulness, I am gobsmacked when I am presented with an enormous bunch of lotus flowers, which are just about my favourite things on earth.
The warm welcome continues when we entire our lavishly appointed rooms, where a platter of cakes and an extravagant fruit bowl packed with mango, banana, longan, rambutan and other assorted tropical loveliness awaits.
The adjoining rooms are enormous and jaw dropping with high ceilings, old-fashioned ceiling fans, comfortable period furnishing, enormous beds, and hardwood floors that are polished to mirror-like perfection.
Both rooms are deliciously air-conditioned and provide respite from the humidity, but Raff and Sugarpuff elect to explore the non-air conditioned verandah, lazing in our private loungers and running about in the tropical garden, collecting fallen coconuts and hunting for geckos.
But if I’m being honest, the kids are more interested in exploring the pool, a sprawling lagoon style extravaganza that is the biggest in Siem Reap.
Raff lolls decorously in hammocks between laps, while Sugarpuff slips on the slide and dances through the water features, before kicking back in Villas des Enfants – an airy wooden pavilion alongside the pool, packed with toys and games to entertain little guests.
But the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort has more surprises in store for the kids. The sweet staff prepare a couple of traditional fishing rods, made with bamboo sticks, and a basket with bread.
Patience not being a great virtue of either of them, they didn’t catch any, but they certainly had fun trying. There’s also an Explorer’s Challenge, a hunt through the resort that leads to a secret treasure, which had the kids racing about in a frenzy of puzzle solving and excitement as they wandered past lovely lotus-ponds and curious statues hidden amongst the gardens.
There are several restaurants and bars including French restaurant Mouhots Stream and international buffet, Citadel Restaurant, which had my hungry boy in a spin, especially at breakfast. Should he go for the French pastries? Should he get eggs to order? Or should he dive into a big bowl of traditional Cambodian soup? The answer is obvious. He eats them all. Then adds a bowl of noodles and some fresh fruit for good measure. The amount of food he packs into his tiny body is extraordinary but at least he won’t be short on the energy required for a day of temple running by tuk tuk.
After a long morning of temple adventures, we decide on a leisurely afternoon in, the kids splashing about in the amazing pool until the sun goes down, stopping only for (virgin) mojitos and a quick snack of Cambodian Spring Rolls and a spicy salad from the swim up Serpent Bar.
As darkness falls candles and torches transform the garden into a nocturnal fairyland. We feast on Cambodian-style barbecue as we watch the Apsara dancers Sugarpuff has fallen head over heels for in temple carvings, come magically alive during a mesmerising performance in the resort’s courtyard.
By the time the show is over, she has decided she too wants to become one of the graceful dancers when she grows up, and falls asleep with a coy apsara-like smile on her face.
With a stupidly early start the next morning to see Angkor Wat at sunrise, the hotel kindly organises take away breakfast boxes packed with freshly made pastries, fruit and yoghurt which we eat in our tuk tuk.
It’s just another way the hotel goes out of its way to ensure our stay is tres magnifique.
Back in our suite after our day of adventuring, the kids, enchanted with Siem Reap, ignore the TV, which is the usual hotel room go to and instead laze on the suite’s floor cushions to pour over guide books as they choose which enchanting temple will be the first stop on tomorrow’s agenda… after another dip in that magical pool.
Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort
Vithei Charles de Gaulle
Khum Svay Dang Kum, Angkor
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Tel: (+855) 63 964 600
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