Six of the best: Siem Reap boutique hotels

SHINTA MANI CLUB

A true boutique hotel with just 39 rooms in the quiet French quarter of Siem Reap. Interiors  by architect and design star Bill Bensley feature carved donkeys, mirrors and  daybeds along  open and  airy corridors. Recover from a dawn trip to Angkor Wat on a lounger in the internal courtyard that surrounds the black-tiled lap pool (day spa staff stop by for 10-minute shoulder massages) or plan your next trip in the restaurant Kroya​ over lemongrass panna cotta where the Bensley touch is a map of the ancient city on the ceiling. Don't miss a traditional  Khmer tasting menu on swing-seat, dining alongside pools of lotus. Rooms from $423 a night.

See mrandmrssmith.com/shinta-mani-club.

NAVUTU DREAMS RESORT & SPA 

While Siem Reap is the gateway to the ancient kingdom, wellness is also making a name for itself with Navutu Dreams leading the way. Ideal for those wanting to go off the grid (don't panic, there's Wi-Fi) the  hotel-cum-retreat has three pools set around an open dining area with plentiful ceiling fans and raw food and fresh juices on the menu. Optional yoga classes are held three times daily and airy rooms are tucked behind greenery throughout the property. Other healthful pursuits include rooftop sunset yoga, reiki sessions and "forest bathing", a walk in which guests can tune in to the sounds of nature with a guide to lead the way. While Cambodia is not quite on the wellness map, Khmer massage pre-dates Thai as the culture is older, says the hotel's general manager Sarah Moya​. Rooms cost from $220 a night.

See mrandmrssmith.com/navutu-dreams-resort-and-spa

HERITAGE SUITES

Behind the colonial-era facade, intimate balcony dining overlooks a bar and lounge of dark wood and comfortable, plantation-style furniture. Triptychs and coffee machines feature in every suite, all of them recently renovated. Some have private courtyards and outdoor spa pools. Book a private dinner in the poolside gazebo or head to the lobby every Thursday night for jazz – sometimes infused with 1960s Cambodian rock – that's become an institution. For an arrival in style request an airport transfer in the hotel's vintage black Mercedes. Rooms cost from $315 a night.

See mrandmrssmith.com/heritage-suites-hotel 

AMANSARA​

While Aman junkies might instantly recognise the minimalist style of the resort group,  the thick scent of frangipani must be a unique touch at the former royal compound of King Norodom Sihanouk. Designed by French architect Laurent Mondet​ in 1962 for visitors of royalty, the "new Khmer" architecture remains intact, including the curved swimming pool and dining area, once used for private movie viewings by the king. The serene day spa, with bas-relief artwork, is eye-wateringly beautiful, as is the weaving of silk and gold for sale for $US12,000 ($16,500). For a workout there's a lap pool, hidden behind a six-metre-high wall to dramatic effect. Rooms cost from $1565 a night. See mrandmrssmith.com/amansara​ 

VIROTH'S​ 

In the Wat Bo area off a quiet alleyway the newly minted hotel, and now big sister to the smaller but just as charming property around the corner, features1950s-inspired furniture sitting alongside antiques sourced by its proud manager Mr Saay. Vertical gardens surround a large outdoor bar area and 20-metre saltwater pool. If you can't take the heat there's an airconditioned glass-encased restaurant. All guest rooms have polished concrete floors and private terraces to take in the green of the vertical gardens around the property.  

Rooms cost from $120 a night. See mrandmrssmith.com/viroths-villa 

BELMOND LA RESIDENCE D'ANGKOR​

 The greenery  wrapping Belmond's 35-metre pool  makes it one of the most photogenic in Asia. Time at the spa relaxation area that overlooks the indoor lap pool is also a must at this property, which has heavy teak and basalt exteriors. Suites have a separate lounge, oversized bath, separate rain shower and private terrace. Enjoy a cocktail at the elevated and outside-inside Martini Lounge that overlooks Siem Reap River and the hotel's substantial garden. Photographer John McDermott's classic Angkor images are on display. 

Rooms cost from $345 a night. See mrandmrssmith.com/belmond-la-residence-dangkor

The writer stayed as a guest of Mr and Mrs Smith.

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