When I visited Bali last year, my friends practically had to unchain me from my iPhone and shove me onto the plane — I was that stressed and that lacking of perspective. But the moment I entered Alila Villas Soori — a strip of villas overlooking the Indian Ocean — I settled, and found my way to quiet in a way in which I find difficult to describe. From a blanket of stars to sleeping in silence, I vowed to find my way back to this wonderful chain of luxury hotels and resorts.
So when I was planning my annual sojourn to Asia/SE Asia, my hotel of choice was clear: Alila Sothea in Siem Reap, Cambodia (note: As of April 1, the hotel has reverted to local management, and is now known as The Sothea). And believe me when I say that my stay was nothing short of extraordinary.
Borne of a man’s undying devotion to his wife, Sothea, the boutique resort offers 40 luxurious suites — from the 700sq foot Deluxe (my room) to the airy and spacious 1400sq foot King — each matched with a personal butler. The rooms are designed in the minimalist SE Asian style (neutrals and teak and dark woods) and are outfitted with extravagant claw foot tubs, a personal library and the ultimate in beauty amenities (lemongrass lotions, anyone?). When you’re not crawling under the covers, you’re lounging poolside, or having itineraries created just for you, or taking rides into town with the hotel’s personal tuk-tuk and driver, who, gives you a cell phone for easy pick-up.
But can we PLEASE discuss the food? I had the privilege of taking a cooking class with The Sothea’s ex-pat Executive Chef, who brings his culinary point-of-view to traditional Cambodian cuisine, and not only did I appreciate the complex, layered flavors of Khmer cuisine, I savored mango salad, chicken amok and noodles that practically made me faint. What I loved most about the food was the fact that it was fresh from the local market. From tender, rich eggs to savory chicken, everything was flavorful and affordable. And yes, you can enjoy a Western menu.
The service at The Sothea was first-rate and accommodating, which brings me to my only gripe with my stay. I know I may sound INSANE, but I am INCREDIBLY UNCOMFORTABLE with having a butler. I prefer not to have someone attend to my every need (or anticipate it), and when I go on holiday I want to be ALONE. Unfortunately, I found the staff a bit TOO attentive (cripe, should this even be a gripe?) when all I wanted was to be ignored.
Other than that minor quip, I would absolutely recommend The Sothea. And you can’t beat the price: $260/night!!