When it came time to return to Bangkok after visiting Siem Reap, we were preparing for another ordinary, unremarkable experience courtesy of AirAsia. We certainly weren’t expecting something luxurious during any part of the leg, and we didn’t anticipate anything more after we learned that there is a Priority Pass lounge at the Siem Reap airport. Discovering its existence was a pleasant surprise — we figured something is better than nothing — but we didn’t get our hopes up. “How good could a contract lounge at a regional airport in the middle of a jungle really be?” we thought to ourselves. Turns out, we were in for another surprise.
From afar, the Siem Reap airport isn’t a particularly impressive building. It’s small, low to the ground, and, aside from a roof that reflects regional architectural tastes, has no other distinctive features. It just seems to be yet another nondescript airfield.
The recently renovated interior makes up for any potential qualms regarding the exterior. The terminal has a neat aesthetic to it, as it clearly draws influence from contemporary airport design, but it also pays homage to the rich Cambodian heritage that Siem Reap is famed for. High ceilings feature ornate chandeliers associated with haute Southeast Asian culture, and huge windows look out on to stone carved statues similar to what you might see at and around Angkor Wat.
It’s hard to get lost here; after clearing security, you’ll be forced to walk through duty free. Once through, turn right, and walk to the end of the hallway. There’ll be signs directing you to the lounge, and the Plaza Premium will be on the right, across from a Bangkok Airways club. You’ll be greeted at the door by receptionists, who’ll scan you in and issue you a couple of drink passes (more on this later). Walk down another hallway, turn right, and you’ll find the main, “great” hall. Priority Pass uses this photo for advertising purposes…
…and that’s pretty much what it looks like in reality! With the high ceilings, dark stone, and wood accents, it feels almost as if you are in a temple; it definitely is a sanctuary within the airport. When you first enter the space, you’ll find private loungers arranged in a honeycomb-like arrangement.
I love the concept behind these chairs, as they are particularly useful for solo travelers and business people. They offer those who seek a quiet hideaway a place to do just that. Add in ample amounts of electrical plugs and USB jacks, plus a fast internet connection, and you have a serviceable mobile office to be productive in and/or recharge in.
Just beyond this “nest” of seats are a couple of communal tables. Thanks to the lights above and electrical outlets at every seat, it’s a nice place to get some work done. I’m not sure I would like it as much though if someone was sitting in every chair… it might start feeling cramped after a while.
Thankfully, there are plenty of other spaces to sit too. At the end of the great hall and off to the sides are more traditional seating areas. On one end, there are tables and booths…
…and there are chairs more typical of other lounges opposite the tables.
Those arm chairs are serviceable: definitely above average, although not very supportive. I wouldn’t want to nap in one for an extended period of time. But the upholstery feels very soft, which I appreciated, plus there are plugs next to every chair, which is convenient. I sat here for a little bit as my laptop charged, and I admired the view out of the floor-to-ceiling windows.
And, if all those seating options aren’t enough for you, there’s also an outdoor patio featuring couches, tables, and umbrellas.
While I appreciate the concept, it wasn’t a place I wanted to hang out during my stay. It was so humid outside, and I can’t think of anything worse than getting all hot and sweaty and then boarding an airplane. If I had a flight departing in the evening, then this would be a much more attractive place to chill for a bit. Too bad there aren’t any meaningful views either, but again, something is better nothing; I shouldn’t be complaining about this feature! It is, after all, a pleasant surprise.
When my father and I first arrived at the lounge, the staff was transitioning between serving breakfast and lunch, and as we got closer to boarding our 13:10 flight, we decided to have a small midday snack.
Don’t let the above photo fool you; there are a lot of options at this buffet that include local Khmer and Western options. I had some freshly prepared spring rolls, and they were crunchy and flavorful without being too filling.
I hesitate to call these snacks “fine dining” — this is a Priority Pass lounge, after all — but I know that I wouldn’t be disappointed if I were served something comparable to this in a restaurant during happy hour. The smoothies too were juiced and blended on demand using local tropical fruits. If that isn’t enough, there are a number of chefs on staff who will prepare meals something for you made-to-order.
I didn’t have a customized meal, but another patron did. When it was done cooking, a waiter brought the dish over, and it looked delicious! If I had more of an appetite, I would have definitely ordered something. All of this is free… although drinks are not.
I should clarify: soft drinks have unlimited refills, which is good (but otherwise unremarkable), but as I alluded to earlier, guests are only allowed two complimentary alcoholic beverages. I get that there’s a premium, but for a lounge that goes above and beyond in every other aspect to enhance the guest experience, this move seems cheap.
At least the beer tasted nice…
While I was eating and drinking, I noticed a nearby display board and literature rack filled with Cambodian newspapers and magazines (and duty free catalogs).
…And a few other monitors streamed CNN International, although the visual fidelity was poor and static-y. At least the volume wasn’t overwhelmingly loud.
In another area of the lounge, a number of artsy photographs featuring local landmarks adorn the wall. I admired the work prior to departing, and it was nice to reflect on what I had seen in the days prior…
While I typically find lounge art to be of the tacky and corporate variety, I thought this collection was well-curated. It, along with the statues outside, gives you a sense of place in the heart of Cambodia. It’s tastefully done without being too “extra.”
I used the restroom one last time before boarding my flight, and found that it was spacious, clean, and had private, fully-enclosed stalls.
One other thing: I walked by a “Wellness Spa” as well as a shower suite…
… but unfortunately, they were both closed. It’s nice that the facilities are there in the lounge, but based on others who I’ve spoken with about the lounge, it seems that they’re frequently closed. In the event that they’re open, be prepared to pay to use them. For a massage, that’s understandable, but for a mere shower? C’monnnnnnnnn.
That’s cheap and it would’ve left a bad taste in my mouth, but the tasty food ensured I left the lounge happily.
The Plaza Premium Lounge in Siem Reap offers everything a higher flyer could want and more. There’s seldom a large crowd, and those who do pay a visit will find ample room to spread out in a space that’s remarkably well-designed. There are private loungers for those looking to rest in peace, (communal) tables for those who want to work and eat, comfortable yet “vanilla” armchairs, and even an outdoor patio for those yearning for fresh air. The food selection is ample and delicious. I have a few qualms, sure, but because everything else is executed so perfectly, it soon becomes impossible to notice shortcomings. I never thought I’d say one of the best Priority Pass locations is tucked away in the jungles of Cambodia, yet here we are. Kudos to the Plaza Premium Lounge in Siem Reap!
The good, the bad, the ugly of the Plaza Premium Lounge in Siem Reap
- The Good
- The Plaza Premium in Siem Reap is among the most beautifully designed lounges in the world. You feel as if you are in a temple.
- In addition to the visual aesthetic, there is a lot of space to move around. There are nice privacy divisions that help keep everything relatively quiet too.
- The catering is varied AND delicious, with well-done Khmer and Western options available. I was a big fan of the spring rolls, and the other canapes are good too.
- The Bad
- There aren’t a lot of drinks available in terms of selection, and the reception desk issues tickets for alcoholic beverages. That move seems remarkably cheap.
- The shower suite was closed, as was the spa, which sucks. Even worse is that it costs a bit to use them.
- The Ugly
- The thermostat was set a little bit higher than what I would’ve liked. It was especially stuffy near the floor-to-ceiling windows.
“Southeast Asian Summer Vacation” Trip Report
- Introduction: Southeast Asian Summer Vacation
- United Club, Tokyo Narita (NRT), Japan
- Okura Prestige, Bangkok, Thailand
- Photo Series: Bangkok
- Air Asia Hot Seats (Economy Plus), Airbus A320, DMK-REP // REP-DMK
- The Aviary Hotel, Siem Reap, Cambodia
- Photo Series: Angkor Wat
- Plaza Premium Lounge, Siem Reap (REP), Cambodia
- Thai First Class Lounge, Bangkok (BKK), Thailand
- Thai Airways Royal Silk (Business Class), Boeing 777-300ER, BKK-PEK
- United Airlines Polaris First (First Class), Boeing 777-200, PEK-IAD
Have you visited the Plaza Premium Lounge in Siem Reap? What are your thoughts?