Maison Polanka is for those who prefer the serenity of a haven, something authentic and real, intimate and independent. The boutique hotel is just as elegant as the Intercontinental in Danang, as carefully and imaginatively conceived, but way, way smaller, just five rooms to the many villas and suites on Intercontinental’s water-front acreage on Monkey Mountain. Down to the smallest detail, the design and style of the hotel is a reflection of the owners’ life, that is to say, intricately linked to Asian and Cambodian crafts for over 20 years: a private collection of paintngs and photographs from Khmer, Asian, and European artists, the Art Deco and 1950s furniture and objects sourced since 1992, all found their natural home and function in the renovated “Maison” and “Khmer House.” The whole hotel is just two those Cambodian-style – read stilted – teak villas set inside spacious, lush, tropical, and best of all, secret gardens that sit behind a tall wall, which shuts out the hullabaloo that marks the start of high season.If what you are after are the temple adventures Siem Reap has to offer, Angkor Wat the crown jewel, then Maison Polanka is just a short drive from that UNESCO World Heritage Center.Upon your return home you will be tired (very, the wake-up call is generally 4 a.m. so your guide can get you there for sunrise) and sweaty (when it’s not pouring frogs, Cambodia is hot and humid), so a restorative dip in the hotel’s cool, crisp infinity pool will feel great. Or a massage.The spa is a temple within this temple. Is it possible to square serenity?The restaurant sala is next to the pool, its menu, owner Nathalie assured us, features authentic family recipes, largely her own. She also told me an aunt owns a restaurant in Boston and a cousin wrote a Cambodian recipe book. Meals at Maison Polanka are prepared by Pich, a woman who has been the family chef for 20 years.We found the menu choices all so good – a perfect caesar salad, fried spring rolls, steamed rice, stir-fried squid with peppercorns, a Khmer chicken curry, caramelized pork with an egg and rice, stir-fried eggs and veggies for breakfast, beef loc lac– we chose to eschew the many fine options Siem Reap has to offer foodies and instead, have all our meals, including several candlelit dinners, at Maison Polanka next to the pool, which at night is lit by votive candles.

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