Socheata loves Alaya
Socheata Poeuv stops in her tracks in Siem Reap
Excerpted from To Cambodia With Love: A Travel Guide for the Connoisseur, available from ThingsAsian Press.I will never forget the day I arrived at the HanumanAlaya Hotel. I had been shooting a documentary film for over two weeks throughout Cambodia. We had visited former Khmer Rouge cadres, Pol Pot’s grave, and even the site of the refugee camp where I was born. We had been bumping and rolling for more than five hours over the notoriously broken-down Cambodian back roads from Anlong Veng to Siem Reap. My back and bottom felt like they had been treated with a meat tenderizer.
Parched, sweaty, and cranky, the crew and I crawled out of our cars. We stopped in our tracks. Beyond a lush green patio was the HanumanAlaya. Named after the home of the monkey king, Hanuman, the hotel was inspired by a traditional Cambodian teak house. Before we could walk inside, we all paused simply to admire the place.
Every square inch of the hotel is accented by traditional Cambodian handicrafts, including luxurious silk bedspreads and exquisite bronze figures of dancing apsaras. In the open-air dining room, we were greeted with a tray of Cambodian ice tea, a special blend that came straight from the owner’s private plantation. It had the natural sweetness of almonds—the best tea I’ve ever tasted in my life.
Nearby are the sprawling five-star monoliths known as luxury hotels in Siem Reap, but compared to the exquisite intimacy of the HanumanAlaya, those other places seemed like a fraud. After two hard weeks on the road, immersed in the tragedies of Cambodia’s not-so-distant past, it felt good to find this oasis, which captures the real beauty and the real soul of the country.
This boutique hotel is located in a quiet corner of Siem Reap, near to the Angkor Conservation Depot. (063) 760-582 website