4pm. It’s a clear, big sky, tall clouds late afternoon in Siem Reap and jovial yet consummately polite staff in the pared down reception shelter is much needed refreshment in the punishing heat. Staff in all white linen lounge top and wide-legged pants gracefully sweep the timer flooring and hands you a cold, jasmine scented towel. Khmer for “green village,” Phum Baitang is an elegant contemporary hideaway sprawled in eight acres of gardens and rice ponds and I’m here for less than a full-day transit visiting the management team. Down the wooden plank stairs and off to my villa 17, buffalos are lazily grazing on grass in the late afternoon sun.
7pm. It’s sunset at the cocktail lounge and Diane Schuur is in the air. A cigar lounge in green village is a jarring concept but nevertheless the vantage point from my rattan chairs on the balcony is spectacular. Sweltering heat gradually replaced by gentle breeze and my Old Fashioned is pitch perfect. When one bothers to print da Vinci’s motto “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” on the inside cover of in-room guest guidebook, that guiding principle must mean something to the creators. The owner’s, Zanier clan from Belgium, understated sensibilities mask its ambition – three more properties are under development in Belgium, Menorca and Vietnam. Raw sophistication, color palettes and texture in the materials conjure up elegant yet restrained luxury traditions of Antwerp six. There’s certainly a lot of simplicity here. Muted tones in the upholstery, unembellished wicker chairs, loosely woven basket lamp shades, incandescent bulbs hides not reveals, and almost no landscaping – just narrow timber plank walkways crisscrossing irregularly shaped rice paddies. It’s borderline humble.
Accessories are comparatively robust and with character. Light switches, bedside and table lamps are rugged industrial shaped with intricate details. But is all comes together harmoniously. In simplicity there’s ingenuity. One long pillow as a replacement for seat and back cushions… brilliant.
730am. I wake up to a cool draft from early morning shower and cacophony of birds and frogs crying. A pair of garden staff (their official designation, I’m told) and buffalos are plough in the small rice pond just outside my patio. Luxury is not in the product but in the experience and this is the genuine luxury at the Green Village. It feels more than a voyeuristic theme park set up but rather a meaningful attempt at recreating an authentic farm-to-table experience.
10am. Villas are ultimate manifestation of simple sophistication. Using the wisdom of traditional Khmer techniques which had to (and still does) fight the annual flooding of Ton Le Sap lake, the villas stand on stilts to protect from the elements and to allow for storage and ventilation (in today’s parlance – air conditioning units). Wooden case-goods in the villas like wardrobe and cabinets are assembled from solid wood in all its natural, unvarnished and aged glory. Amply proportioned bathroom features one piece cast bathtub perched at the end of the suite with a view out onto the vast garden.
3pm. The pool and the Spa temple, as it is appropriately named, reflects the stone carvings of its renowned neighbors in Angkor Wat. The gym, treatment rooms, relaxation area, sauna, and yoga pavilion are laced with green spaces and open areas. It’s a much needed antidote to the hustle and bustle of Siem Reap town and, to many visitors, temple visits which start as early as 430am in an attempt to beat the crowd.
Krong Siem Reap