Far more than a bird house

A few days before we were set to arrive in Siem Reap, we received an email from the management of the Aviary Hotel with some exciting news: they were arranging a complimentary airport transfer for us. Seeing that we landed just as the daily monsoon was rolling in, we were really happy that we didn’t have to find our own way to the property. The driver who met us in the arrivals hall was a hotel employee, and he was kind and welcoming. He took our bags and offered us bottled water and cold towels… all before we settled into the van! In hindsight, we shouldn’t have been so surprised by the high standards of service; such hospitality is the norm, not the exception, at the Aviary.

The Aviary Hotel enjoys a central location right in downtown Siem Reap. It sits right off one of the main roads in town, and is only about a 15 minute drive from both the airport and Angkor Wat (and the surrounding temples).

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The Aviary Hotel, right in the center of it all! Click the map to see more.

The outer facade of the Aviary is modern, but otherwise quaint and humble. It doesn’t have a grand “wow” factor like the Okura Prestige does, but then again, none of the other contemporary structures in Siem Reap do either — it’s a quiet river town, not Bangkok. Unfortunately, it was still pouring rain when we arrived at the Aviary, so I wasn’t able to get a great shot of the hotel’s exterior. Thank God for promotional materials off the internet…

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The exterior of the Aviary Hotel, courtesy of the hotel website.

When we walked ran in to the lobby, we were greeted by an eager doorman who promptly offered us a smile and cold towels. While they may not have been necessary then in the middle of a storm, it’s standard practice to give them to guests. My father and I really came to appreciate that simple refreshment after long, steamy days wandering around in the jungle, and sorely missed getting them when we returned to the Okura later in the trip. Kudos to the staff for setting such high standards for the hotel’s accommodations; it’s a fabulous first impression!

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The reception desk

To the right of the main entrance is the reception desk. In keeping with the hotel’s more relaxed, personalized approach to service, incoming and departing guests are invited to sit at the table across from associates. While you confirm your arrangements with the host, other staff members will serve you your choice of tea or freshly squeezed juice. By this point, you’re starting to feel fresh and rejuvenated after being out in the tropical weather — it’s a great experience all around.

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The reception desk, with fresh apples.

The Aviary’s management should be proud of the vibe that it has created for the hotel — you never forget that you’re at a hip, young boutique. The public areas are particularly deserving of recognition. They’re unique in their designs, but nothing feels pretentious or out-of-place. Moreover, they’re places that I actually enjoyed spending time in; usually I prefer to rest in my room after hours.

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A reading nook adjacent to the reception desk.
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Bird sculptures adorn one of the walls in the lobby.

Some spaces, for instance, are not entirely inside. You’re under cover from the elements, but the interiors blend in to the outdoors. The reception area, for example, is missing a wall and is open to the courtyard and the pool. The feeling of being outdoors, with fresh air and nice breezes, is appropriate for a property like this one, at least given its name and location. Even though Southeast Asia is notorious for its humidity, you seldom feel oppressed by it within the confines of the Aviary. The lobby sets a high standard, and is definitely worthy of meetings, games of cards, and just hanging out.

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A seating area in the lobby

After we checked in to our room, another friendly employee escorted us to where we would be staying for two nights. We had been assigned a standard room with two twin beds on the second floor, complete with a balcony overlooking the street. On the walk there though, my father and I couldn’t help but admire the interesting decor.

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Bird cages hang in the hotel’s main stairwell.
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Elephants on an end table
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Bird “facts!” These blurbs appeared next to all the guest rooms. They were more spiritual than educational, but appropriate nevertheless for a hotel named the Aviary.

The guest rooms are located along open-air corridors that face the interior courtyard. This architectural feature really enhances the Aviary’s “natural” aura, and thanks to the ivy on the dark wood railings, you might even feel like you’re staying in a tree house nest.

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Seen on the way to our room!

Our room was stylish in a minimalist kind of way. There were a lot of dark grays, browns, and some whites, mixed with other bright splashes of color. I like the design a lot, but some might find it to be a little bit too spartan. It’s not haute-y or glamorous in the slightest, but I’d go so far to say that it’s better off that way. If the interior design was more “foo foo,” it would detract from the overall vibe of the hotel.

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View of the room from the front door

The avian-themed artwork guarantees that you won’t be forgetting the name of your hotel either.

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A big decal of a feather is positioned above one of the twin beds…
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…and birds fly above the other bed!
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A small sculpture of a bird serves as an accent piece from its perch on the desk

Straight out of the far door of the room is the large balcony overlooking the street. There was some built-in seating, but because it was the beginning of the rainy season, it was secured under a tarp. It’d be a shame to ruin the upholstery, after all…

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The balcony

During the dry season, I bet it’s quite relaxing to sit out, have a drink, and people watch from above.

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The view from the balcony. While the street below was consistently bustling, it was usually quiet from this perch.

The beds at the Aviary are noteworthy. Despite being marketed as twins, they felt much larger than that. I’m tall (6’3″), but never once felt cramped. The linens were always fresh and clean and wrinkle-free, and the mattress was firm and the pillow supportive. Even though I usually prefer my bedding to be softer, I’ll happily make an exception for what they have here.

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Ahh, such a restful place!

Beyond those features, the room is fairly standard, but I don’t mean that in a bad way: it’s mostly well executed. Across from the two beds is a built-in desk and sofa, as well as a flat screen mounted on the wall. Beneath it is a minibar. The whole set up could best be described as “crisp.”

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Room features in the Aviary Hotel

The quality of the high definition television could also be described as “crisp.” I was surprised by the number of channels that were offered in English, but my father and I didn’t have a lot of time to watch it during our stay. We would catch up on current events for about 30 minutes in the evenings courtesy of CNN International and the BBC. But while the cable worked perfectly, the same couldn’t be said for the wifi. It’s not that the internet was unreasonably slow, but it was wildly inconsistent. Our devices were booted from the network on a number of infuriating occasions. It’s only a simple fix, but it’s disruptive nevertheless.

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The desk in our room at the Aviary Hotel

While I appreciated having the desk built in to the wall, I do think it could have been designed a little bit better. It’s rather narrow, and it’s nearly impossible to see the television without twisting your head hard to the left. There aren’t any drawers either, and depending on how much stuff you have with you when you travel, it might soon get cluttered (which would drive me crazy).

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A close up of the desk

But again, at least there is a dedicated work space with a few functional outlets. The desk chair is surprisingly supportive and comfortable to sit in for extended periods of time too.

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A small couch built in to the wall. Notice the feather decals above it!

A lot of the criticisms that I have for the desk also apply to the sofa opposite it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a worthwhile addition to the room and it’s comfortable for lounging and reading, but it’s not all that practical. You can’t see the television from it, and you might find it awkward if you’re having a (side-by-side) conversation with someone. You could move the desk chair over so that way you could sit face-to-face instead… or better yet, use the seating options in the lobby!

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The minibar underneath the television

The minibar was one of the better ones that I’ve seen in my travels. While there weren’t tons of choices, everything was complimentary, including the cold Cambodian beer options: Cambodia Lager and Angkor Beer. The price is right, and even if they weren’t, I would still recommend drinking them. They’re so refreshing after being out in the steamy climate all day.

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Inside the minifridge

Complimentary bottles of water were provided daily on the night stand between the two beds, in addition to what is already provided in the fridge.

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There was fresh water waiting by our beds every time we entered the room.

The Aviary Hotel boasts its own water purifier too, so the tap water is safe to drink. I tested this and can confirm: no horrible water-borne illness for me!

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Another source of water in the Aviary Hotel

The bathroom otherwise is quite similar to the rest of the hotel room: stylishly spartan. There are a lot of dark grays — the counter and flooring is made out of smooth concrete, and the drywall is painted in the same color — and some splashes of bright colors.

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The bathtub
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The bathtub is extra long — it fit my 6′ 3″ frame just fine.
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The toilet

The bathroom isn’t the biggest, but it isn’t uncomfortably small. That said, it seems spacious thanks to some windows located above the shower. I hadn’t thought about this before, but in many major hotels, standard bathrooms are on the interior of the rooms and, as a result, are lit exclusively by artificial sources. Having some natural light was a minor but welcome addition; I appreciated this design feature!

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Lots of light from these windows made the bathroom seem bigger than it was.

The shower otherwise was pretty good. I had no issues with the temperatures, and while I’ve found that most rain-style shower heads have weak water pressure, that wasn’t the case here. It felt great! The only thing I would change: you have to reach across the stream to turn it on. Getting doused with cold water before every shower isn’t fun, although I guess some might find it refreshing…

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I wish those knobs were in a different location…

The toiletries are stored in ceramic dispensers. They have mild, agreeable scents; I have no qualms about them, but they’re not anything to write home about.

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Shower toiletries at The Aviary

Finally, an ample sized closet is built in to the wall across from the bathroom door. There was plenty of space for our suitcases and so much more, should we have needed it.

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The closet, across from the bathroom and adjacent to the door.

For the two days we had in Siem Reap, my father and I followed a set morning routine. Breakfast was included with the room rate, which we took advantage of everyday.

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The breakfast spread

In addition to a buffet comparable in size to that of a mid-level hotel in the United States, the restaurant staff would prepare eggs, pancakes and waffles, and some Cambodian dishes made-to-order. The waiters were friendly and hospitable, proactively offering refills and seconds, even for items that we picked up at the buffet. I have never experienced table service quite like this at a complimentary hotel breakfast before. It’s yet another example of the Aviary’s dedication to personally helping its guests, and that ambition is what elevates the property to a standard above its competitors. The food was delicious and filling too. There aren’t a lot of options available — as is to be expected in a smaller place like this — but what’s available is remarkably well-executed. The service and food is one of the many things that the Aviary does so right.

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A made-to-order meal from the Aviary’s restaurant. Image courtesy of the hotel website.

After breakfast, my father and I would meet with the employees manning the reception desk. Everyone who helped us was knowledgeable about the attractions in the area and proficient, adept organizers; they know how to get things done! For example, we told them one morning that we wanted to see Angkor Wat. They said give us a few minutes, and so we went upstairs to brush our teeth and watch the news. Five minutes later, someone called to say that a guide and a driver were waiting to take us on an all-day tour of the complex’s most famous temples. Similarly, they called a tuk-tuk on our behalves to take us, for free, to Angkor Wat Putt, a mini-golf course inspired by the nearby temples (it was whimsical!). I’m grateful for everyone’s kindness and resourcefulness during the stay, we would have been so lost in Siem Reap without the staff’s help.

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Swimming at the end of the day

When we got back from our daily adventures, my father and I were entertained by a number of the features at the hotel. The pool, for example, was a beautiful space. It wasn’t very big, but that’s okay, it was so zen.

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Looking out at the pool in the Aviary’s courtyard
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Looking in to the lobby from the pool

There are also some seating areas and lounge chairs. There’s a wait staff, and they bring cheap mango daiquiris, among a number of other refreshing treats, to the guests.

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Some tables near the pool…
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…that enjoyed this view!

The Aviary Hotel also has its own spa, The Amret, which is located on the top floor. It features wide windows adorned with plantation shutters, which keep the space cool and breezy and dark. It’s also high above the street so that you’re removed from the noise, the pollution, and all the other grime. My father and I both got massages one afternoon, and we found them to be exceptional values. For under $100, we got a two-hour-long traditional Khmer massage. It was more of a really intense stretching session than an oil-based rub down; it’s very similar to a Thai massage, and I typically prefer the former over the latter (I don’t like feeling greasy, no matter how nice I might smell). It’s not an exaggeration when I say that what I got here was one of the best massages I’ve ever had. My father agrees.

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The Glide Bar, image courtesy of the hotel website.

Across the hall from the spa is the Glide Bar, the Aviary’s (successful) attempt at a rooftop bar. Like the other public areas on the property, namely the lobby and the pool, the management did an impeccable job here, creating a space that’s worthy of your time. The vibe is trendy, the drinks are tasty, and the indoor/outdoor layout is a smart design choice that allows visitors to take advantage when its nice out, or hideaway when its downpouring. My father and I twice had nightcaps here before going to bed, which were mixed well and incorporated local ingredients. They were the perfect ends to our days.

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Such a cool bar! Image courtesy of the hotel website.

On its website, the Aviary Hotel in Siem Reap promises its guests luxurious and welcoming accommodations, and I’m happy to say that it delivers on that. Although the facility is by no means grand, opting for understated minimalism instead, it outperforms even the highest expectations you might have. What undoubtedly separates the experience from others is the hotel staff though. They are genuine and kind, welcoming you to a place that they clearly take pride in. Their sentiments are justified; the Aviary is a winner, blending comfort and value to create an elite higher flyer experience for all.

The good, the bad, the ugly of The Aviary Hotel, Siem Reap

  • The Good
    • The staff! Everyone was so kind, helpful, and accommodating. The hotel itself is nice, but the people who work there make the place special!
    • The room was comfortable and stylish, and most importantly, clean.
    • Public spaces, like the lobby, the pool, and the rooftop bar are unbeatable places to pass the time.
    • Unbelievably cheap room rates make for tremendous values.

      aviary hotel booking page
      Our room cost only $55 per night. That’s a remarkable value!
  • The Bad
    • The wifi was iffy; it was so annoying to have to reconnect to the network so many times.
    • You won’t earn any program specific points here (but the consistently cheap rates mean you’ll still fly higher!).
  • The Ugly
    • It’s a small hotel, so it lacks some common amenities like a fitness center. I can’t say that I missed having that though…
    • If you hate birds, you’ll probably find the decor to be too “fowl!”

“Southeast Asian Summer Vacation” Trip Report

Have you stayed at the The Aviary Hotel in Siem Reap? What were your thoughts?