I love to travel and wanted to learn how to travel in a more conscious and rewarding way. In 2013 I took an MSc in Responsible Tourism Management which gave me a new set of eyes with which to look at travel and at the tourism industry. It has led me to choose carefully when I travel.
So, when I made my trip to Siem Reap in Cambodia earlier this year I spent some time before I left researching projects that were happening there. I picked accommodation and restaurants based on how I assessed they potentially maximised the positive benefits of economic, social and environmental impacts for the local community.
I chose two different places to stay in Siem Reap. The first was the Soria Moria boutique hotel and the second was Sala Baï Hotel and Restaurant school which is a hotel and restaurant that trains underprivileged children in the primary professions of the tourism industry.
The Soria Moria hotel is located on Wat Bo Road which gives easy access to the main centre and market of Siem Reap while being a quiet retreat at the end of the day. The hotel practices employee ownership. This means that 51% of the business is owned by local employees. The staff were friendly, helpful and happy to chat about the training they had undertaken in hospitality while with the firm.
The rooms included information about the responsible tourism practices at the hotel and how to be a responsible tourist. I enjoyed my stay, the rooms were spacious, and the hotel was happy to recommend and make restaurant bookings and organise pick-ups from the hotel.
Address: Soria Moria Boutique Hotel, Wat Bo Road, Salakamrouk, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Sala Baï Hotel and Restaurant school
Sala Baï Hotel and Restaurant school is located about a 20-minute walk from the centre of Siem Reap. It was set up by the French NGO Agir pour le Cambodge in 2002 to, “fight poverty and human trafficking in Cambodia through social and professional training of young underprivileged Cambodians.”
The hotel has six guest rooms and allows Housekeeping and Front-Office students to work every day in a real environment. Breakfast is included in the room rate, and the restaurant also offers a lunch menu to the public. The Front-Office students were chatty and helpful, and it was lovely to hear the stories they told of how and why they chose to come to the training school and what they hoped to achieve going forward.
The rooms were immaculate, housekeeping discrete and the breakfast delicious and beautifully presented. The food had been prepared with great care and with attention to detail.
I spent a couple of nights at the hotel and would happily stay again. The hotel is open from mid-October to mid-July and is located on Tonle Sap Road a short tuk-tuk ride back to the centre of Siem Reap.
Two restaurants that I ate at were Spoons and Haven.
Spoons Cafe is a beautiful bamboo structure that serves lunches and dinner. I went with a friend for lunch and would recommend booking ahead. Spoons is a training facility for EGBOK students, allowing them to gain, “hands-on experience while providing guests with authentic Cambodian cuisine and hospitality.”
The staff explained the purpose of the cafe and were happy to show me around the newly installed raised beds and herb gardens that had been planted up. The herbs were used in the drinks and the food. It was lovely to see this edible space as part of this cafe.
The drinks and the food were tasty and well presented, and unfortunately, we did not have enough appetite for a dessert! I would go back and eat there again.
Spoons is located at 0142, Group 5, Pave Road, Wat Damnak Village, Siem Reap and is open Wednesday to Sunday, 11.30am to 10pm.
I loved the motto that Haven has, “where helping tastes good.” The restaurant has seating available both inside and out. We opted to have dinner outside at the first evening sitting. They have two evening sessions for dinner, so if you go for the early sitting, they will let you know what time you need to free up the table. There is plenty of time to eat and enjoy having a wander around the restaurant in the time available. I recommend taking the time to have a read about the social enterprise, and the training Haven provides.
There was a good range of Cambodian cuisine to choose from, and I enjoyed the food and the setting. On this occasion, there was also an appetite to try some traditional Cambodian desserts.
Haven is located at Chocolate Rd, Wat Damnak area and is open for lunch Monday to Saturday from 11.30am-2pm and for dinner Monday to Saturday from 5.30pm-9.30pm.
Staying at these hotels and eating at these restaurants in Siem Reap was a real pleasure and something that I enjoyed. The staff at all of these establishments were happy to chat about the purpose of the hotel or restaurant. People were also glad to share personal stories. All told it was great to be able to stay in lovely hotels, eat lovely food and be supporting these experiences.
Cambodia is a friendly country to visit, and I will cherish the opportunity to return and learn more about the cuisine and culture of this country.