Thursday, August 17, 2017

Step Back In Time At The 1920 Hotel

In accordance with the name, 1920 Hotel in Siem Reap has retained it’s charm of days of yore and has magnified the majestic Khmer culture in the process in each of its offering. It is a beautiful hotel set up at the heart of Siem Reap.

The hotel has a fancy appearance from outside, somewhat indicating the past dating back to Indo China era. Later I learnt, a sprawling shop it was during the French reign, later transformed into a boutique abode.The smart and helpful hotel crew ensures check in and check outs are breezy, further promoting no delay while exploring the city!

It is one of the few luxury hotels of Siem Reap that is located at a stone’s throw away from the happening Pub street, yet has successfully evaded loud music of eccentric crowd. By walk, Pub Street may be reached with five to ten minutes however the noise is far from reaching you at night.

It is not unusual to wake up to the chimes of morning prayer from nearby temple, Wat Preah Prom Rath, an ultimate soothing experience. The strategic location of the property intrigues the guest to explore the town at ease, by walk or tuktuk, arranged at the earliest on your request by hotel help desk.

You can also soak in leisure with a storybook at the calm and quiet corner of the cozy accommodation for a pleasant experience. Distance from airport to 1920 hotel adds up to roughly nine kilometers. Guest arriving by the airport can avail the complimentary pick up services for smooth transit. Just inform the hotel beforehand of your flight details and rest will be taken care of.

The rooms of 1920 Hotel was distinctive in style, bearing a semblance to the past identity of a French shop. They are intricately designed with modern amenities and tastefully done. I loved the rainshower model from bathroom.

However, the winning piece was the outdoor Jacuzzi in the hotel’s third floor suite room. Who will not want to book a stay in a place like that?

You will be presented with few complimentary bottled water, a much needed respite for your day’s sojourn while exploring the ancient temple complex of Angkor Wat.

Apart from the regular in-room amenities, the hotel authorities have thoughtfully devised a method of providing a SIM card with 3G internet connectivity for foreign travelers. This indeed, saves up a lot of time and haggling with street vendor.

There are no restaurants in the hotel premises. But the Khmer Kitchen restaurant which is just a few steps away from the hotel, is owned by the 1920 Hotel.

Khmer Kitchen restaurant, one of the best rated and favorite among the diners, runs a lucrative offers for the guests of 1920 Hotel. A flat 10% discount is applicable all day for diners.

They serve few of the authentic Cambodian dishes as well as contemporary dishes. I recommend prahok fish, beef lok lak and deep fried pork ribs among them.

The romantic ambience plays a perfect abode for couple travelers. Rooms are void of smoking facility promoting responsible tourism.

For guided tour to Angkor temple, you may ask the hotel for arranging a wise tour-guide.

After a day’s walk at the Angkor Archaeological Park, the weary travelers can find respite at Temple Massage Spa with the complementary one hour foot massage. There is also a 25% off coupon on other spa services at Temple Massage while staying at 1920 Hotel.

The 1920 Hotel offers a sumptuous spread of all inclusive American, Asian and continental breakfast. The hearty set menu serves great for a day long expedition at the Angkor Wat.

From the bouquet of service offerings, I cannot stress enough on attentive, hospitable and warm service the crew from the front desk to housekeeping to the concierge.

In short, they made my stay beautiful. I recommend 1920 Hotel for every travel enthusiast who wants to succumb to the great past of Khmer rule in a quiet corner of Siem Reap.

* The free sim card, one hour free foot massage and 25% discount on spa services are only for guests who booked directly with the hotel.
* Also, the rates are almost 10% cheaper when you book on the hotel’s official website, than on any other hotel booking website.


Sai Karthik Reddy Mekala

Karthik Reddy has been traveling around the world since completing his M.B.A in 2012. He is passionate about photography, trying out new food, meeting new people, experiencing different cultures and explore places solo.

Friday, August 11, 2017

1920 Hotel: A Modern Retro Chic Hotel in Siem Reap

The three o’clock afternoon sun was draining all our energy. Our ride halted in front of a shophouse building that seemed to be stuck in a time warp. The narrow road was lined with trees and the quiet neighborhood was in stark contrast to the busy downtown goings-on. We were immediately greeted by the manager who led us to the receiving area; a modern retro chic space which echoed throughout 1920 Hotel, our home for two days in the heart of Siem Reap, Cambodia.

It was our third day in Siem Reap and after spending two nights on a resort which is far from the city center, me and my buddy decided to spend our last two days in the Old Market area so we could party all night at Pub Street. And we’re dead serious about it ‘coz all of our Pub Street memories were about loosening up and meeting great travelers around the globe.

Me and my buddy were on the first city on our second stop of Same Same Summer Trip 2017, our annual two-month summer backpacking trip. We've covered our favorite spots in Malaysia with our moms and carried on with our trip to Cambodia as we bid farewell to them. We flew for a four-day jaunt shying away from the usual Siem Reap temple hopping tours as we had covered almost all of it during our past two visits (check here for discounted tours, transportation and activities in Siem Reap).

Coming from a three-day staycation on a resort away from the city center, we were shuttled to our new home in Siem Reap for an overnight stay. Refreshing view of lush trees lined the street as we were dropped off right in front of 1920 Hotel.

Located in the heart of the city, 1920 Hotel provides comfort and ease with its charming location at the heart of downtown Siem Reap. The hotel itself is set on an old yet preserved shophouses commercial building along Street 9 in Phum Mondul 1 area that were used during the French Protectorate in 1920s hence the name (like the ones in Singapore and Penang in Malaysia).

1920 Hotel has this charming feel with vintage cinder blocks used as partition on the foyer. It evoked an airy feel and added character to the old school shophouse. The decorated tiled flooring in mustard yellow and grey gave a unique and colorful play to the neutral finish of the walls. Following the shophouse concept, floral and geometric patterns were chosen for the encaustic floor tiles which were all imported from Europe.  Fresh plants added a natural touch to the entrance hall as well.

We were given lemongrass iced tea as welcome drinks and were led to the indoor patio where the modern vintage theme was still evident. Handmade bamboo straws were utilized on the drinks indicating that 1920 Hotel is eco-friendly as well. We chitchatted a bit with the very hands-on manager as we filled out the form to complete the checking-in process.

The boutique hotel offers a wide range of accommodations that will suit all types of travelers. There are 10 well-appointed rooms with only one funky stairwell that leads to all of the rooms. An airwell was also utilized to open up the space with its natural lighting on the indoor patio; it looked like a mini version of a Chinese courtyard.

Natural breeze, fresh plants, airy feel and relaxed vibe; I immediately felt at home as we enjoyed the drinks at the courtyard. Heeding the call for an afternoon siesta, the fun conversation was cut short as we needed to settle in our room.

Billeted on a Premier Room at the third level, we entered our home for two days and were transported back in time. A floating wood platform bed frame rested on a wall with an edgy headboard. A floating night stand completed the clean finish with a night lamp and a vintage telephone.

A wooden ledge across the bed served as the entertainment rack and work table. There were also a coffee and tea-making amenities, complimentary drinking water, and a wardrobe closet with mini fridge and in-room safe.

The layout and design was conceptualized and executed pretty well as everything is in perfect harmony to the modern retro theme of the hotel.

The en suite toilet and bath was a unique space in itself. You wouldn’t imagine that wood, encaustic floor tiles, granite shower floor tiles and moss green brick wall tiles would work together right? But 1920 Hotel, with its formidable design team, incorporated everything very well; a cute pink lotus flower completed the overall look.

I pushed aside the heavy drapes that revealed our yet-to-be favorite spot in the room. The spacious private veranda offers a great view of the neighborhood as well as a nearby temple. My buddy immediately prepped up some coffee (amidst the afternoon heat) as I started lounging on the veranda.

That same afternoon, we went to Preah Prom Rath Pagoda (which is literally a stone’s throw away from 1920 Hotel) and walked further to the riverside where we had afternoon snacks before heading to the Old Market. It was our first time to stroll around this part of Siem Reap even though we had two prior visits in the city. Well, those two visits in the past were dedicated to our great temple hopping tours.

It was rewarding to have a downtime in Siem Reap with nothing to worry about which temple to visit or not. We had more time to chill on the open parks leading to the Night Market where some locals were enjoying traditional games such as jianzi (which is very similar to the game sipa in the Philippines).

We also had a lovely local dinner at Khmer Kitchen Restaurant (which deserves its own blog post)and then headed towards the famed Pub Street to enjoy 50-cent beers (US Dollar is mainly used in Cambodia). We reveled like we were paid to like teeners with raging hormones. Pub Street is one of our favorite party streets in Asia and almost all the time, we get to mingle with other backpackers who share the same vision with us.

Going back home was easy as it took us only 5 minutes by foot. We were greeted by a staff when we reached 1920 Hotel and were asked of our preferred breakfast for the next day. That night, I slept like a baby while my nerves were still grooving to the rave party music at Pub Street.

I woke up to the beaming morning light passing through the sheer drapes. It was our last day in Siem Reap and we have all the time to chill before we head out to our next destination.

We went downstairs where the staff met us with their morning greetings as we settled on the foyer for breakfast. My plated meal of fried rice and sausages looked perfect. My buddy opted for fried noodles and was satisfied as well.

I went back to bed and lounged some more before we leave. When our tuk tuk driver was there to pick us up, everyone bid their farewell with hopes of our return anytime soon. And I wouldn’t mind, really, if I go back to a lovely place over and over again. Khmer hospitality and tradition were truly exemplified by 1920 Hotel. My only regret though was that we only had two days here, hopefully next time it will be longer.

1920 Hotel
Street 9, Phum Mondul 1, Sangkat Svay Dungkum,
Krong Siem Reap (Old Market), Cambodia
Contact Number: (+855) 63.969.920 | (+855) 99.915.917
Email Address:


She is a student of life. She loves to read, sing, swim and drink black coffee. Adores the sunset and the sand on her feet. Hates conformity. Loves individuality. She has the most amazing day job - being a public high school teacher.

Friday, August 4, 2017


ចូលស្ទឹងតាមបត់ ចូលស្រុកតាមប្រទេស ។ …… johl steung dtaam baht, johl srohk dtaam brahteh

“Negotiate a river by following its bends; enter a country by following its customs.” – Khmer proverb


From a breezy table at 1920 Hotel’s forefront, I survey the breakfast spread before me and postpone my first sip of coffee. It is a French roast, I’m sure, and I know it will be delightful once I dip in, a welcome refuge from the usual Khmer brew I’ve trained myself to enjoy every morning. Beside my mug winks a small dish of mango jam -  freshly made, the hotel manager discloses to me, from Cambodia’s most generous and iconic crop – and a sumptuous croissant. In a moment I will wed the two, the sap of Khmer spring harvest and the emblem of French gastronomy, the bright nectar from the backyard and rich butter from somewhere down the Silk Road, but first I will reflect on the many ways that such a marriage has already been consummated on this visit to Siem Reap.


For the past year I have called a small village in rural Takeo Province my home and have hung my hat up every night, post-rice, among my host-Khmer family. I estimate that for whatever mental image you’ve just conjured about village life, our actual lives in the countryside are twice as bucolic and more toilsome by at least half a degree. It is my home and my heart lies there but it can be all-consuming and for the stretches I’m there, I forget that my Takeo bubble is not Cambodia-complete, not a thorough sample of this rich pocket of Asia. It is only when I leap out, usually of a bus in another province, that I remember Cambodia’s extraordinary depth and pace. This dichotomy is what I pondered as my travel companion, Caroline, and I stepped out of our moto-drawn carriage on the cusp of sunrise at the Angkor Wat temples.

The previous 24 hours had been a gratifying graduation from village life. It involved congenial bargaining in the Siem Reap market, tenuous string serenades from traditional Khmer quintets, half a dozen samples of street food, and finally retiring at 1920 following my first Italian gelato indulgence in months. The gelato sugar still hummed through my fingertips as we sat and watched the sun creep up behind the ancient edifice across the water. On the stone steps to our right was a menagerie of sightseers lured to the temples from every corner of the globe. Between snapping photos, their faces opened with that thrill of those who have travelled and discovered the collectable scale of our grand planet. I fixate briefly on the teeming display of shoulders and knees of all ages and hues before noticing that mine are not the only village eyes helpless but to skim the exposed bodies. To our left were several Khmer men and women of venerable age and that this was their first ever sojourn to the Mecca was evident in their reverent silence, the fresh kroma scarves under the grandmothers’ chins, and the modest wrists scarcely peeking from the grandfathers’ crisp white cuffs. Just then Caroline thumbed the spot on her ankle where yesterday a young Khmer gentleman had painted a heart with oil while telling us of how he divides his time between a village teaching job and giving expert foot massages in town for pocket cash. His bright laugh had been like that of my beloved Khmer uncle who operates our village van and who still jumps out of his skin with embarrassment whenever our limbs accidentally brush.

By late morning we found brief respite from the temple bustle at a vacant guard station in the undergrowth of the Royal Palace grounds near Bayon Temple. It was the first unoccupied locale of the day and so we tugged the rice mats down from the rafters and lounged. It was there that I breathed, stepped beside myself, and recognized the day’s endeavor for what it was: one of those experiences for which you are not necessarily present, but rather awe-struck and half-blind, amassing a coffer of impressions you will cogitate over and over forever after you’ve left. Eventually we meandered down a sandy path circumnavigating the Royal Pond. It became gradually more still and bordered on silent by the time we reached Preah Palilay temple, tucked deep in the undergrowth.

Its central chimney rose boldly, unperturbed by its utter ruination, and had made peace with the several defiant trees rooted about its apron. Of the whole scene, these trees would leave the greatest impression. Each tree had survived the insult of beheading sometime within the last decade and their broad bases were completely incongruent with the tender limbs that now sprang hungrily from the site of vivisection several meters up. It was at this silvery seam that we stared, the scar of a trial wherein death had been delivered but dismissed - and life persisted.

Depleted and brimming by turns, we located our tuk tuk driver, a kind man with whom 1920 had arranged us for the day. Despite his impassioned protests – It was barely noon! We must see some of the northeastern structures! – he finally yielded to our implorations and transported us back to town. We buzzed through time on his carriage and landed at last in present day where we were greeted warmly at 1920, the staff conscious of the toll temporal travel can take on the body. In our hushed room we unfolded, thankful for the fresh linens and familiar surroundings. In the shower – cleansed in lemongrass essence and natural light from above – I finally landed back inside of the moment. When I stepped out Caroline had opened the drapes to survey the dips and peaks of Preah Prom Rat Pagoda opposite our balcony. I exhaled, prostrate on the bed, as the purr of monks and dulcet cymbals made the glass door hum.

A few bites into a warming dish of stir-fried pumpkin at Khmer Kitchen that evening, we were caught again in absorbed silence and contented sighs, each reflecting privately on our days as all temple-goers must do. From the vantage point of our second floor table I combed through streets below to find the Khmer faces amid the tourists. Here they swatted at grandchildren and swept their shop fronts vigorously. Here they snapped selfies with friends, faces painted and bare limbs flashing in the streetlight. Here they grinned and raised arms to attract travelers to their tuk tuks’ or motos’ many merits. Here they smoothed out their aprons and asked if the mademoiselle would like anything else to drink. There below us on the streets of Siem Reap was Cambodia in miniature – bisected but prevailing, heedless of its seams.


Kelsey Swalwell is a community health education volunteer for Peace Corps Cambodia in Takeo Province, originally from Oklahoma in the States. She came to teach about nutrition but stayed for the Khmer grandmothers and banana rice cakes.