Late last year the Siem Reap airport lounge got a complete overhaul. This may not concern many Move to Cambodia readers, but if you, like me, got one of those snazzy new credit cards that includes worldwide select lounge access through Priority Pass, you’re all about hanging out in the lounge, pretending to fly business class when you’re actually going to spend the flight stuck in coach.
If you’re a lounge lizard such as myself, you know that the quality of what’s available to Priority Pass members varies widely from airport to airport. Of course they are always better than sitting at the gate the hoi polloi, but some of the lounges haven’t been updated in a decade or two and only serve tiny crustless sandwiches made with semi-stale white bread.
I’ll admit, I didn’t have high hopes for the new Siem Reap lounge, just because, well, you know. At this point there are only a few major airlines serving Siem Reap—Star Alliance seems to have picked up and left, with only Singapore Airlines (via SilkAir) remaining, and good luck getting any award tickets there. OneWorld has a decent showing with Cathay Pacific (via Cathay Dragon) and Malaysia Airlines, and SkyTeam is holding on with Vietnam Airlines and China Southern. So not a lot of big players flying through REP these days.
And maybe that’s part of the reason that the Siem Reap lounge is almost always empty, despite being a jewel in the Southeast Asia Plaza Premium crown. Upon entry you are sometimes given two drink tickets and the wifi code. Other times they just give you the wifi code and let you have as many drinks as you please. The lounge is tastefully decorated, with a nod to its geography in the display of photographs of the temples of Angkor. I was pleased to see that they didn’t overdo the Cambo-decor; there were no colorful silk throw cushions or apsara statues anywhere in sight.
The lounge, which is managed by Plaza Premium and accessible by those traveling in business or first class as well as Priority Pass members, has several seating areas, including individual honeycomb-style cubicles with tables and power outlets. To the right there are rows of armchairs and televisions, although the lighting in that area is always uncomfortably bright, so I try and avoid it. There’s no need for overexposure right before a flight.
But what we really care about is the food, right? Again, the Siem Reap Plaza Premium lounge outdoes most others in Southeast Asia. They have a noodle bar where you can get a bowl of pretty good noodle soup made to order, with a range of optional toppings. They also have a cook-on-demand pasta bar, but I haven’t tried it. It just seems unlikely that they’ll be serving excellent pasta in a Cambodia airport lounge, but stranger things have happened, I guess.
In addition to the cook-to-order area, there are always a few hot dishes, including fried rice, steamed vegetables, and a strangely addictive chicken teriyaki. I travel often, but am still incredibly anxious before every flight. I find that the process of mastication soothes me, and in the past I’ve hit this teriyaki pretty hard before a flight. They also have a range of nibbles, including tiny French -bread pizzas which I think are revolting but another in my party has enjoyed several times.
The only thing that’s missing food-wise is dessert. They always have a few underwhelming options that made so little impression that I can’t remember what they are. Cambodia is not much of a dessert country, to be fair.
At the bar you can redeem drink tickets for beer, wine, or soda. Although they only give two drink tickets, I suspect that if one gave a gentle nudge they’d give you a drink anyway. The staff are always incredibly friendly, very polite, and pretend to believe that I am flying business class when I clearly am not.
They do not do flight announcements in the Siem Reap lounge, but there are screens showing flight departures. One of the particularly nice things about the place is it’s almost always empty, except when I use my Priority Pass card to bring four guests with me (yes, they let me in). They also have paid massage services and apparently showers, although I’m not sure why anyone would want them because Siem Reap is most definitely not a transfer hub.
Overall, Siem Reap is one of my favorite lounges in Asia, both in terms of style, food, and (low) traffic. If you don’t have a Priority Pass card but want a little taste of business class, you can pay $39 for two hours of lounge love.