The Bale Phnom Penh opened in 2018 as the first property of the boutique resort chain Lifestyle Retreats outside of Bali, Indonesia. The 18-suite stunner is located some 15 kilometers from Phnom Penh’s city center, an easy 20 minute drive but feels like a world away with its placid and zen-like ambiance. I have been to Phnom Penh 4 times and have witnessed how this city has grown over the years. To date, there’s probably no other property like it not just in Phnom Penh but in all of Cambodia.
To get to The Bale Phnom Penh from the airport requires nearly an hour’s drive as the airport is located in the opposite side of the city. It’s a scenic journey along the outskirts where one can appreciate a bit of rural life juxtaposed with the burgeoning skyline of Phnom Penh in the distance.
The Bale Phnom Penh is located in a nondescript small road in a riverside residential area. It’s quite secure as it’s surrounded by a gate and relatively tall fence – you can’t see what’s inside unless the guard opens the gate.
The walkway leading to reception serves as a prelude for things to come. Clean lines surrounded on one side by vines and with industrialist finishings on the other lead to a Buddha statue. Unlike most luxury hotels in Cambodia, The Bale Phnom Penh doesn’t blatantly showcase the now overdone Angkorian designs. These are still used however, though in a way that blends excellently with its zen-like surroundings.
The small sitting area where guests check-in is lightly furnished, with clean white edges and the tiled flooring serving to accentuate the mood and proposition of the resort. I was greeted with a welcome drink – tamarind juice – as well as fresh towels.
The resort itself has just 18 rooms so it doesn’t really feel crowded even when the property is at full occupancy. There are two room types with both having roughly the same 110 square meters size. The lead-in category is the Courtyard Suite while the Riverview Suite, which comes with its own plunge pool, faces the mighty Mekong.
For this instance, I stayed in a Courtyard Suite. At 110 square meters in area, it is certainly deserving of the name but one notable thing here is that there are no partitions between the spacious living area and the bed. Delightfully clutter-free and decked in mostly gray except for shades of wood, there is something of a SOHO bachelor pad vibe in the rooms.
The living area comes with modern creature comforts including a selection of movies, internet streaming on the HDTV as well as bluetooth speakers from Yamaha. For those who prefer traditional media, there are also a number of magazines and books for guests to choose from.
I don’t imagine why people would come to a resort to work but if ever the need arises, the spacious work desk gets the job done – multiple power outlets included. This contrasts to how the layout usually is in other resorts where the desk becomes something of an afterthought.
With the mattress situated freely on an elevated wooden plank, the bed here looks as if it’s floating especially when the night light is turned on. Again, you’ll find a number of power outlets here. What I particularly love about the bed is how the wooden plank is extended and makes for something of an unofficial seating area around the edges. This is especially suitable for people like me who absolutely dislike having outside clothes come into contact with the bed.
A sliding door separates the bedroom from the bath. One of the highlights of the room and perhaps its most photogenic area, there is a palpable space age theme here. The tub is notably rectangular and is set against the window overlooking the shrubbery of the courtyard. Just beside it is the gorgeous rainshower which is separated through a glass panel. The shower area too, faces the window leading to the courtyard outside. It’s notable how the tub and shower’s window doesn’t come with curtains. But this isn’t much of a privacy issue as the courtyard itself is enclosed and visible only to the room occupant/s.
The courtyard itself is quite spacious and makes for a nice area to read (for those who don’t prefer air conditioning). For yoga enthusiasts, the hotel even provides yoga mats. Bells and whistles such as private dinners can also be arranged at the suite’s courtyard.
Dining at Theato
The resort comes with one restaurant called Theato. The venue serves local and western cuisine with a slight focus on wholesome options. Guests get to enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner here with a view of the pool and the Mekong River behind it. I like how, as with the rest of the resort, there’s a deliberate effort to use natural lighting for public spaces.
Given the capacity of the resort, breakfast is offered here on ala carte basis rather than buffet which suited me just fine. While guests are tempted to try the usuals like Eggs Benedict (they prepare eggs 5 ways), I recommend checking out local items such as the Kuy Teav (noodles in pork broth) and Lort Char (stir-fried noodles with wagyu beef).
Health buffs will be pleased at the menu which offers dishes such as avocado toast while imaginative interpretations of traditional dishes such as the Mekong River Lobster and Grouper Fillet with Amok Sauce serve as good counterpoints to local staples. From time to time, there are also seasonal specialties in the menu – especially apt for repeat guests.
For an 18-room hotel, I was pleasantly surprised at the facilities available. Aside from the relatively large swimming pool, there is also a gym which has quite a number of exercise equipment and even a spa. As an added tip, it’s recommended to book in advance should you wish to avail of a treatment as spa personnel are usually there on a standby basis.
In a hospitality scene where hotels usually come in predictable themes, The Bale Phnom Penh is a breath of fresh air where hotels in Phnom Penh are concerned. There is no other hotel like it in the city and prior to its opening, the city lacked a proper resort. The property is fast gaining attention especially with expats based in Phnom Penh who are looking for a quick getaway and travelers from nearby countries who are looking for something different. Given the room size, The Bale Phnom Penh also offers tremendous value. One initial concern I had was the location and distance from the city but after moving between this hotel and the city with ease in 20 to 25 minutes, I didn’t think it was an issue at all. Personally, I visit Phnom Penh once every two years or so. I will definitely consider staying here again.
The Bale Phnom Penh
8, 6A National Road Number 1
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
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