Hotels of Cambodia - Navutu Dreams

Welcome to the first of a new series, where we examine Cambodia's best hotels, look at the pros and cons of staying, and introduce the all-important club sandwich rating

Name: Navutu Dreams Resort & Wellness Retreat

Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Date of Stay: 29 June-2 July 2020

Good for: Wellness types, families

Pros: Three pools, relaxing atmosphere, yoga studio

Cons: Transport needed to town

Club Sandwich Rating: 3/5

Summary: Despite being a little ways outside of town, the Navutu Dreams Resort & Wellness Retreat is a lovely little oasis, offering a cooling sanctuary for families after a hot day out at the temples, a menu of fantastic food, and a green retreat for wellness.

Siem Reap probably has the highest concentration of hotels to people in Cambodia, mainly due to its proximity to the ruins of Angkor, just a short drive to the north. As always, the backpackers came first, followed by adventurous families, and finally the established global travelers. With an international airport, which was until recently the kingdom’s busiest, it has been easy for people to get here, and hoteliers took notice.

In recent times ‘Temple Town’, as local foreigners know it (despite sounding like a slightly disparaging nickname, the moniker is actually a translation of Angkor Wat - ‘Temple City’), has become more of a ghost town, with once busy Pub Street now home to mostly shuttered businesses and ‘For Rent’ signs. Nevertheless, while many of the large name-brand hotels have temporarily closed for the duration, small boutiques with strong local followings have plowed on, places like the Navutu Dreams Resort.

Despite being just 2.5km southeast of the city centre, Navutu nevertheless feels like it’s in the distant outskirts, located as it is down a dirt road on the edge of town. That’s really a reflection of just how small Siem Reap is, dwarfed by the immense size of the ancient city that is the reason for its existence. Upon arrival, you’re greeted at an open-air lobby by friendly polo-shirt wearing staff, before being led through lush vegetation to the first of three pools. There’s the lap pool, presumably for exercise, the family pool for, well, families, and the lounge pool. At one point during our stay we were the only guests, and so had the enviable opportunity of sharing three pools between four of us.

Around the pools are 28 rooms and suites, from the entry level 45 sqm Explorer Rooms that face either the garden or lagoon pool, to the rather larger Grand Tour suites, each featuring a private verandah facing the lap pool, and finally the largest room category the Grand Suites, which are 100 sqm and feature both a bedroom and living room - the latter can also become a second bedroom. With a special Cambodian residents rate, we opted for the latter, loving the extra space, though the shady vegetation did leave the room a little dark. However, we spent most of our time hanging by the pool(s), that is if we weren’t enjoying the excellent menu on offer at the on-site restaurant, Niam Niam.

Indeed, the entire resort seems to revolve around the dining room, a circular open-air space that serves guests their breakfast, lunch and dinner. As much as possible, the ingredients are sourced locally, with the herbs and spices grown in their own garden. The menu, meanwhile, is a mix of local specialties like fish amok, comfort food such as pasta and burgers, and pizza made in the nearby wood-fired oven. Of course, there are also whole range of healthy options like detox juices, salads and soups, catering to the wellness types drawn to the onsite yoga studio (indeed, some of the only other visitors while we were there were locals coming specifically for the resorts’ daily yoga groups).

All this talk of eating and drinking neatly brings us to our final category of judgement: the Club Sandwich Rating. Sure, all hotels have some sort of star rating, sometimes judged on an international basis, sometimes locally, while the online booking sites each have their own standard categories. However, for me, the true litmus test for a hotel is the quality of their club sandwich. This lunchtime staple is a mandatory go-to for many when on holiday, and in many ways is the ultimate in vacation comfort food.

Apparently invented at social clubs in the United States sometime around the late 19th century (club is short for ‘Clubhouse’), the most common modern lineup is three layers of toasted white bread spread with mayonnaise, and filled with turkey, bacon, lettuce and tomato, accompanied by fries and sometimes coleslaw, potato salad, and pickles. We loved the Navutu club sandwich for its large size, addition of cherry tomatoes, and the homemade crinkle-cut fries, with extra points for being served on a chopping board. However, the bread unfortunately was just unable to hold the fillings together, resulting in a very crumbly, if highly satisfying sandwich and a 3 out of 5 star rating.

Have you stayed at Navutu Dreams? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.