An art oasis
Treeline Urban Resort is at the forefront of Cambodia's sustainable movement
One of a handful of hotels in Siem Reap, Cambodia, spearheading the sustainability movement is Treeline Urban Resort. The urban resort, which gets its name from the Angkorian trees dotting the pathways of the city, opened in November 2018. It is right on the beaten path and off it. Best described as designed for the eco-conscious traveller, Treeline makes sure the balance between nature and urbanisation coexist in artistic harmony. Built by pioneering Cambodian architect Hok Kang, the resort promotes environmental consciousness while maintaining the luxury.
This is the Cambodian city of the world-famous Angkor Wat and in other words, though not to make little of it, a city where the jungle wraps itself around the carved stones of ancient temples. This is embodied in the stand-alone tree right in front of the resort's main door. The tree roots cradle Buddha heads and is the cornerstone of Treeline.
Since it is art-driven, it is next to impossible to not notice the artwork all around. The lobby is graced by Ordette, an installation resembling a seed, by Cambodia's most internationally-prominent artist, Sopheap Pich. Taking a further step into the green environment, the minimalist lobby also showcases a water egg, an egg-shaped water dispenser in copper.
Urban and busy in the front, Treeline is the exact opposite -- tranquil and resort-like -- once you walk through the lobby. The lobby leads into a square courtyard and Treeline Gallery, an exhibition space where the artwork changes monthly. The gallery showcases the rich artwork of Cambodian artists from different generations and divergent practices. The courtyard is home to a couple of sculptures, Forest IV by Thang Sothea and the Cosmic Wheel by HKA & Partners, the architect firm behind Treeline. Not to be missed are the cute family of elephants scattered around the plants -- Elephants by ASASAX.
A stay at Treeline is like coming home. From the get-go, staff are friendly, address you by your name and are always helpful. The 32 deluxe rooms, four deluxe living, nine junior suites and three executive suites, are big and my Junior Suite was so spacious, I could live in it. However, the one thing that caught my eye immediately was the art installation in the room, which is Under The Tree by Thang Sothea, a self-taught Cambodian artist.
I am a bit fan of bright spaces and the suite did not disappoint. The big window, complete with window seat, looked out to the courtyard and the pool and trees. A rather green view of things (wink).
I am a massive sucker for bathtubs and my bathtub was so big, it could have fit four! For those who don't like soaking in water, there is a separate rainshower and hand shower. All the basic toiletries are available and are organic and green. No plastic here! Even drinking water comes in refillable glass bottles and the suite comes with a fancy coffee machine (though a manual on how to use it could be handy) and a choice of teas. There are also jars of local snacks and the mini bar has all the usual items and a glass jar of M&M's! (insert emoji with heart eyes) for that in-bed, late night craving.
The infinity pool is on the third floor, in direct line with the tree tops and lush foliage. Lounging around the rooftop pool and bar area gives you the feeling that you're in the countryside, enjoying the bright blue skies, swaying trees and the cool breeze, while directly below lies a main street.
After exploring the temples of Siem Reap, head back to rest for a few hours (or day) at Suri Spa. Don't miss Sothea's sculpture Apsara, made from palm leaves, copper, steel, stone, hemp and St Thomas beans, which are used to play traditional games during Khmer New Year, in the spa. All treatments at Suri are based on Ayurveda and the spa only uses natural and locally-made organic products. Many of the wraps, scrubs, oils and facial masks are made daily by the therapists. The 90-minute Suri Signature treatment I had was a luxurious aromatherapy massage and I found it difficult to keep my snoring under wraps. This was largely due to the soft, yet firm hands of my therapist and the Suri Spa Signature massage blend called "Relax", which has calming, balancing and nourishing properties sourced from bergamot, lavender, frankincense and ylang ylang.
Treeline has two restaurants: Seed Restaurant serves daily breakfast and offers a scrumptious choice of Western and Cambodian delicacies. Do opt for one of the Cambodian breakfasts, they are delicious.
Hok Noodle Bar is a visually stunning restaurant on the riverfront and is also open to the public. A rather popular dining spot for locals, the place sports funky, colourful and cheery illustrations by Mathew Wong under the direction of HKA & Partners and an art installation that is a combination of colourful threads (to resemble noodles) and wooden chopsticks, which runs the length of the restaurant. The installation was crafted over two months and took 5,381 chopsticks and 18,000m of rope to construct. The menu is Pan-Asian and even though I am not a fan of fusion, Hok was a far cry from the usual run-of-the-mill stuff. I can see why their best-seller, the Fried chicken buns with Sriracha aioli, was being ordered like hot cakes. Delicious fried chicken doused in the sauce, served in a soft bao. What's not to love?
Treeline's in-house cordials -- pineapple-clove, spicy ginger and lime -- served with soda, make excellent thirst quenchers on a hot day. Their in-room dining menu is completely different and serves up devilled eggs, toasted farro and root vegetable salad, pastas, steak, burgers and sandwiches. Like I said, I could live here. Permanently.
Given the fantastic location of Treeline, exploring the city centre is best done on two feet. Though rickshaws are just US$2-5 within the city. If it is your first time in Siem Reap, the hotel will bespoke your temple tour to make sure you miss nothing. But Siem Reap is a lot more than just temples and Angkor Wat. The resort also offers customised tours that give you a taste of the real Cambodia. There are bicycles, which can be borrowed, for tours or you can use them to explore the city on your own.
If you're staying at Treeline for the art, then explore the art scene -- Theam's House, Khmer Ceramics, Artisans d'Angkor and Silk Farm are just a few places which can be visited. The Cambodian Ceramics Fine Arts Center lets you design your own Angkorian bowl.
To sample the best of Cambodian food, the fine dining and once an Asia's 50 Best Restaurant Cuisine Wat Damnak is a 12-minute walk or a $2 rickshaw ride away. I highly recommend it as chef-patron Joannès Rivière has been championing the cause for Cambodian cuisine for the last nine years. Miss Wong is an institution for drinkie poos and is a must-visit. Asana Old Wooden House is where you can learn to make Khmer cocktails in-between sipping a few.
The night market and other shopping districts are all walkable from Treeline, as are a few good bakeries and coffee shop, including the famous Cambodian chain Brown, which is attached to the front of the resort.
One of the first things that I noticed at Treeline is the genuine hospitality, which fills the property with soul. You're always greeted with a smile and a feeling of warmth. Modern conveniences blend masterfully with Cambodia's rich art and culture at Treeline Urban Resort, making it a boutique hotel unlike any other in Siem Reap.
Treeline Urban Resort, Achasva Street Wat Bo Village, Siem Reap, Cambodia Call +855-63-961-234 Visit treelinehotels.com.