The Treeline, Siem Reap, Cambodia

The Treeline Urban Resort

a exceptional art centric hotel

I was extremely intrigued by the Treeline when I first discovered it nestled on the banks of the placid Siem Reap River on the last day of a previous visit to Angkor. After a bit of research back at base, I was really excited to find it to be an owner-operated hotel with an emphasis on sustainability, local communities and Khmer Art. I decided an in-depth visit was a must!

The Treeline people were very accommodating in arranging a visit, loving our photography and interest in the Treeline as more than just a hotel.

Being a uniquely Cambodian owner-operated and designed hotel of such outstanding quality makes the Treeline truly exceptional in Siem Reap. The Hotel’s great location on the relatively uncongested east bank puts it within easy distance of the Central Market and many excellent restaurants, shops and galleries nearby.

Behind an ancient stone Buddha head enshrouded in the roots of a tree,  symbolizing the hotel’s concept of Civilization integrating with Nature,  lies the bright airy lobby with a major artwork by Pich Sopheap as a centrepiece.

The lobby is flanked by HOK Asian Restaurant and BROWNS, a high-end cafe. Named after the founder, HOK serves Asian classic and fusion dishes until late. while BROWNS is the perfect place for a coffee and a digital nomadism. 

Canopy the roft-top Bar and the infinity pool overlooking the lazy Siem Reap River provide an urban retreat from the hustle and bustle of Siem Reap that is an ever growing tourist destination. Its riverside position gives you a more open and green experience than downtown hotels.

Cascading greenery on the building and the courtyard reinforce the feeling of spaciousness and oneness with nature.

The Treeline is far more than a simple hotel project, however. Build-in from its foundations up is its philosophy of engaging with the local community on many levels through Sustainability and Creativity.

Firstly as a gallery and incubator for Khmer artistic talent, the Treeline has ambitious plans to play a significant role in the national and international art scene.

Built around a courtyard containing several permanent art pieces from internationally acclaimed  Khmer artists such as Sothea Tang, the porticos provide hanging space for ongoing exhibitions or fresh local talent. 

The rooms also feature permanent artworks by Sothea Tang made with local materials that organically blend with the interiors.

The brainchild of architect and entrepreneur Hok Kang, founder of HKA & Partners and co-founder of Browns Cafes, he is a firm believer of sourcing local materials and designing for the Khmer climate in a sustainable way. Having been brought up in a dark stuffy traditional shop house he is determined to bring a mastery of light and airflow to his projects. He has certainly achieved this with the Treeline.

The dedication to sustainability and the environment is more than a nod to modern convention. It's a deep-seated founding principle of the Treeline and Hok’s own. Single-use plastics are not to be found in the hotel, toiletries are eco-friendly, organic and locally sourced. Everything possible is recycled and food waste composted. Hot water is solar and building materials are local timber and stone. Local ceramics are used throughout, the staff uniforms are designed locally using organic fabrics. Even the hotel muzak playlist is curated by a Khmer project supporting local musicians.

Joni Aker, the GM, was involved in planning at the early stages of the project. A fellow Kiwi, Joni has a long history in the Siem Reap NGO scene and had spent the years previous to joining Treeline involved with luxury cruise experiences on the Mekong and Amazon RIvers. Keen to get back to her beloved Siem Reap she was an unusual but ultimately perfect choice for GM of the Treeline adventure.

Joni with her beloved Art installation by Sothea Tang

Together with stylist Natalie Lee the team created and fleshed out the concept of a project focused on local communities, environment and art.

The staff are encouraged to break out of their Khmer shyness and engage with the guests. Everyone from the cleaners to the day manager is super friendly and helpful. It reminds me of the ACE HOTEL staff that are hip young locals with their own knowledge and interests. I was chatting happily with one young man at the front desk about analogue photography.

The art aspect of Treeline is not just an initial design consideration. The group has plans to launch a Treeline Art Foundation and provide Artist in Residence opportunities at the hotel, to encourage local artists and give them a platform to showcase their work. The hotel is already attracting a serious art clientele for this very reason.

The Treeline is not in isolation in Siem Reap for art and is active in spreading the roots of the artistic community. Several new galleries of international standard have opened recently, including the MIRAGE Contemporary Art Space headed up by Servey Sry who is also involved with the not-to-miss ANGKOR photo festival. The focus of this new space, a short tuk-tuk ride from Treeline, is exhibitions of local artists works and art residences of regional Asian artists to mix up the local and international scenes.

Servey Sry co founder of MIRAGE gallery

Batia Sarem Gallery, also a recent arrival on the local art scene that had an excellent show by Khmer Photographer Sovan Philong, was established by Lyvann Loeuk and Yves Zlotowski after a three-year gestation in late 2018. The owners’ respective neighbouring art galleries in Paris have given them an international perspective and curatorial skills. Lyvann Loeuk told us during our visit that they see Siem Reap as a key developing hub in the S.E. Asian art scene and a great step in the door for emerging Cambodian artists.

Lyvann Loeuk co founder of Batia Sarem

The Treeline provides a Peaceful Haven in the bustling Angkor Wat centric Siem Reap while offering exciting insights and connections to the new emerging Creative Siem Reap.

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Robert shopping at the local market for the evening meal.

Morrison & Robert