Hedonistic with the Gods - Amansara, Angkor - Part 1

  • Curtis Marsh

  • 30 Aug 2016 | Travel

Curtis Marsh explores hedonism, both spiritually and physically, in the heart of Cambodia's jungle and the lost civilization of the Khmer, with glass in hand! Sometimes it can be the place you are actually drinking wine that heightens the senses and pleasure.  

Hedonistic - "1822, in reference to the Cyrenaic school of philosophy that deals with the ethics of pleasure, from Greek hedonikos "pleasurable," from hedone "pleasure," related to hedys "sweet," cognate with Latin suavis. A hedonist is properly the follower of any ethical system in which some sort of pleasure ranks as the highest good. The Epicurian identifies this pleasure with the practice of virtue."

Angkor had been at the top of our list of places to explore for many years but only at a stage when our daughter would be able to comprehend the significance of this lost city, the Khmer empire and its remarkable civilization; equally, appreciate the multifarious religious and cultural complexities, apart from the more perceivable visual splendour.   


No question a field trip to Angkor is 'right up there' in the school geography stakes, little lone the countless explorers, theologians, archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, scientists, engineers, scholars and writers who have been fascinated, if not baffled, by the mystery of Angkor for centuries­—and still to this day­—click here to read National Geographic article 'Divine Angkor', by Richard Stone.  

And you might well say staying at an Aman resort is hardly adventure-seekers doing it rough, perhaps even a little bit over the top for a 11 year-old, but trust me, she fitted in perfectly to her surrounds; I might add she is extremely well-travelled and counts the Connaught in Mayfair, London is one of her favourite hotels!

I can also tell you from our Amansara stay, and more the fact that we were only there two nights­—barely one and half days exploring—not only is this resort experience unparalleled in Siem Reap, it is unquestionably the best place to stay to effectively maximise your time. In as much as a good hotel concierge in Paris is a lifesaver, the Amansara teams intimate knowledge of Angkor and Siem Reap along with their organizational talents and dedication to every detail of your visit will justify your whole stay alone.

We were greeted on arrival by the worldly, long-serving Amansara General Manager, Sally Baughen, a most charming and engaging New Zealander. You can be assured she is already totally up to speed on your stay and vetted all your arrangements and the bespoke excursions, exploring, shopping, eating and relaxing are all in hand! 

Whilst many Aman resorts encompass mesmerizing surrounds and spectacular views, Amansara is more of an oasis from the bustling clutter of the main road to Angkor, hidden behind its walls, an encapsulated space of serenity that quietly embraces you with its majestically tall trees and eye-soothing black-tiled pool. 

It was originally called Villa Princière, built in 1962 for King Sihanou, in the ‘Golden Age’ of Cambodia’s independence from France, as state guest house and created as modern intimate space to make both Western and Cambodian dignitaries feel at ease.  The villa has been through many changes since, some tumultuous with the advent of the Khmer Rouge and subsequently occupied by the Cambodian Military in the 1980's. Eventually it was returned to its villa guise and opened as Villa Apsara in 1992 with Aman acquiring the property in 2002, hence the combining of Aman and the shortened sara—Amansara.


At this point, it is relevant to grasp the difference between an apsara and a devatas as you will see many of them in Angkor.  Apsara are beautiful supernatural female beings, the heavenly nymphs of ancient Hindu mythology and Indian dance depicted in the fascinating stone bas-reliefs throughout the temples of Angkor. The Khmer female figures that are dancing or are poised to dance are apsaras; the female figures portrayed individually or in groups who are standing still and facing forward in the manner of temple guardians or custodians are called devatas.


Both are captivating if not very suggestive and will know doubt preoccupy ones time and mind as your explore the temples; last count there were 1,976 devatas at Angkor Wat, so if your children's interest wanes or your partner is showing signs of lethargy, send them off to count up all the asparas, but you might want to mention these nubile nymphs only entertain and sometimes seduce—gods.

More articles from this author