If you’ve been following my recent series of travel posts documenting my time in Cambodia, you’ll know that I fell in love with Battambang, Cambodia’s charismatic, sleepy city. Originally intended as a short visit, almost like a palette cleanser after spending time in hectic, tourist-centric Siem Reap, I ended up falling for Battambang’s ramshackle French colonial charms and staying for longer than I planned to. Often touted as ‘the real Cambodia’, it’s almost as if the mass wave of tourism over the last decade or so has completely washed past Battambang, I felt like I really got under Cambodia’s skin and experienced the real country rather than just the dichotomy of modern Phnom Penh and ancient Angkor temples. Needless to say, I strongly suggest taking a stroll off the beaten path to experience the real Cambodia when you visit.
As I was travelling solo and off the beaten path, I decided to play it safe and stay in a hotel rather than a guesthouse or hostel. This was me being cautious rather than out of necessity; Cambodia is one of the safest countries I’ve travelled in, I was troubled way more in Malaysia and even Spain! My caution did serve me well, as it led me to Bambu hotel. Located a short walk to the East of the tranquil Sangkae River, the boutique hotel is easily one of the best hotels in Battambang.
Designed in traditional Franco-Khmer style, beautifully combines local Khmer and French colonial architecture which is reflective of the aesthetic of Battambang. The reception is inviting, drawing your gaze through the room and out to the serene pool area, which is one of the highlights of the hotel. The pool is literally the heart of the hotel, sitting between the 16 luxury bedrooms and the restaurant and reception areas. It serves as an idyllic oasis of calm in the city. Every time I needed some respite from gallivanting around the city I popped back to the pool to put my feet up, it felt like a little inside secret.
If the pool was an oasis of calm, my room was a sanctuary. After the eight hour boat journey, it was a sight for sore eyes! The wooden interior and rustic feel made it feel like a very luxurious tree cabin while the gorgeous, cool tiling was a nod to the Franco-Khmer design. The stone inlaid bathroom was minimal but beautiful, like the rest of the room it was understated luxury which reflected nature. The one word I would use to describe the room is sublime; I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
I also have to mention the service at Bambu which was impeccable. Each member of staff was warm and helpful, from the tuk tuk driver who collected me at the boat dock to the reception staff and housekeeping. Nothing was too much trouble – day trips, restaurant recommendations, tuk tuk drivers and extending my stay were all handled within the blink of an eye. The owner, Pat, is fascinating and has a wealth of knowledge on the local area. I obviously picked his brains about the best places to eat and ended up eating at a local night market for the princely sum of $5 as well as David Thompson’s world class Jaan Bai restaurant for $15.
For me, Bambu is the epitome of what a boutique hotel should be. It oozes understated luxury but is sympathetic and reflective of its surroundings. Luxury hotel chains are lovely but often clinical in feel, there is usually little difference between staying in the Istanbul property and the London property. Bambu is inherently Cambodian and totally channels the charm and charisma of Battambang.