Situated in Siem Reap, the cultural capital of Cambodia, just 10 minutes from the entrance to Angkor, Amansara was once the guest villa of King Norodom Sihanouk. Today the walled garden compound serves as a tranquil 24-suite Angkor Wat luxury resort with the ambience of a gracious home.
Amansara derives its name from the twinning of the words ‘aman’ (Sanskrit for ‘peace’) and ‘apsara’, the heavenly nymphs of ancient Hindu texts. The apsaras, it is said, emerged from the primordial churning of the oceans with the power not only to change their form at will, but also to bestow luck on those they favoured. So all-embracing was their influence on Cambodian mythology and its numerous expressions, that delicate apsara bas-reliefs decorate practically every Angkor temple.
Once known as Villa Princière or Villa Apsara, this former royal retreat was built by French architect, Laurent Mondet, in 1962 for King Sihanouk to accommodate visitors unable to stay at the royal residence nearby. Quintessentially ’60s in character, it featured cool, low-slung chalets spaced around an irregular-shaped swimming pool and a shady lawn.
Dignitaries like former French President Charles de Gaulle, Jacqueline Kennedy, former Yugoslavian President Josep Broz Tito and actor Peter O’Toole (who stayed here while filming Lord Jim) graced this architectural gem in its heyday. In 1965, Prince Sihanouk handed over Villa Princière to the Ministry of Tourism and it was turned into an exclusive, four-suite hotel. With the advent of the Khmer Rouge in 1975, the villa was officially closed as a hotel, although it continued to serve as a state guesthouse. Occupied by the military during the 1980s, it was later converted to a 12-suite layout and reopened as Villa Apsara in 1992. Amanresorts acquired the property in 2002 and meticulously reconstructed it drawing on old photographs and local knowledge. Amansara opened in December 2002. In 2006, 12 new pool suites, a lap pool and a spa were added.