Welcome to Cambodia.
I beamed when I heard it, a now familiar phrase. This was my fourth trip to Cambodia and my third to Siem Reap, the city whose airport we had just landed in from Bangkok. There are plenty of unticked places on my Southeast Asia to do list. So why return to the same destination again and again? Well, it’s no secret that I’m obsessed with Thailand’s neighbor to the East. While I wasn’t planning on visiting this year, the stars just kind of aligned for me to do so.
Ian and I had just been flirting with the idea of turning our first visa run of the season into a mini-vacation of sorts — likely to Penang, Malaysia — when a wellness resort called Navutu Dreams reached out with an invitation to visit, and the universe — and our visas — aligned for us to accept their offer.
And as our tuk tuk pulled in to our final destination, I knew those stars had situated for a reason. The fantastic thing about returning to old favorite destinations is that the pressure is off to do heavy sightseeing. As this was Ian’s first trip to Cambodia we did plan to do some light exploring, (Angkor Wat, we wouldn’t skip ya!) but for the most part our itinerary consisted of rest, relaxation, and taking advantage of all the recharging activities and amenities on offer at Navutu Dreams.
Including luxuriating in our gorgeous, Mediterranean-inspired suite, one of twenty-eight rooms on the boutique grounds.
I knew I was going to like this place when our smiling bellhop told us that Navutu’s version of a “do not disturb” sign was a golden coconut left outside the front door. It was one of a dozen small details that made me swoon.
And while we were technically in the hotel’s most modest room category, you could forgive us for thinking we’d been upgraded to a penthouse. We had so much space, and every inch was so thoughtfully designed.
The rest of the place wasn’t too shabby either. Navutu Dreams boasts not one, not two, but three beautiful pools, none of which ever felt even close to crowded — perfect for two guests who had budgeted ample time to be beside them.
Everywhere we turned, there seemed to be a smiling staff member who greeted us by name and with a friendly smile.
Navutu Dreams is situated a short tuk tuk ride outside Siem Reap proper, which puts the pressure on their onsite Niam Niam Restaurant to be really good — after all, there are no easy alternatives. Thankfully, the food was truly fantastic, and with several different menus to work off, it would take ages to get bored. One day, we sampled the Khmer platter and other local specialties by the pool; another, we ordered pasta and pizza — cooked in an onsite wood fired oven! — for lunch. Breakfast, which is included at the resort, was a gorgeous array of fruits, breads, eggs and other local treats.
Our most memorable meal at Navutu, however, was a special romantic dinner on a rooftop terrace. We’d requested the wellness menu in order to sample some of the health-focused resort’s most specialized offerings. The detox salads, macrobiotic platters and fresh juices and fruits a refreshing break from the usual Southeast Asia fare, and we were touched when the head chef stopped by the terrace after our meal to introduce himself and ask how we’d enjoyed our meal.
I only wish we’d had time to take advantage of the cooking classes or culinary tours offered with Chef Bunchhou himself, especially after being so impressed with his work.
A wellness resort wouldn’t be a wellness resort without a spa, right? You know I wouldn’t dare spend three nights at Navutu and not drop by the Honeycomb Spa! I decided to shake up my usual massage routine with a Good Enough To Eat Facial, described as ” delicate papaya exfoliation, a gentle massage, a fresh yogurt mask, and finally a rich banana mask.” Maybe I was just hungry when I booked it. Either way, it was a treat, and Ian described the Royal Facial for Men as one of the best spa treatments he’s every received in his life (and this is a man who really knows how to indulge.)
In additional to the usual array of scrubs, wraps, massages and facials, Navutu also offers alternative treatments such as acupuncture, cupping, reiki, and more — Ian and I both received acupuncture treatments while on site, his to help with pain from his dislocated shoulder, and mine to bring relief from my allergy suffering. Specialized programs are available for those who really want to lean into this aspect of Navutu Dreams.
Fitness was also a huge part of our stay at Navutu. I’d intended to treat our visit as a mini yoga retreat of sorts, a plan that was foiled when the resort’s primary two yoga instructors were injured in a motorbike accident the night before our arrival (we were assured they’d be back to work soon, though understandably needed a few days to recuperate).
While I still did attend yoga, in light of the circumstances I mixed it in with use of the small but much appreciated fitness center and a fun round of aqua zumba — um yes please I would like to dance to the latest pop hits in the pool!
Motorbike accident induced interruptions aside, classes are typically held three times a day, with offerings including ashtanga, vinyasa, hatha, restorative, kundalini, iyengar, and more. Two unique classes I spotted on the schedule were a kids yoga class and a Khmer community class — the later I’m so bummed we left the day of.
Classes are $8 for a drop in and $60 for a ten class pass, and come with free use of the fitness centers and pools, making them a great deal if you’re staying elsewhere and need a little dose of luxury. A yoga class, a green juice and an afternoon by the pool? I’d say that’s worth skipping one day at the temples for. There are even free round trip tuk tuk shuttles to some classes — call the resort for more details.
When our four days at Navutu Dreams were over, we were truly sad to go. It was the perfect holiday indulgence! At with rooms starting at $65, it’s an affordable one.
Navutu Dreams is the perfect pick for health nuts, yoga addicts, Southeast Asia expats in need of a retreat or repeat visitors to Siem Reap. Truly the only discernible downside is that it’s about a fifteen minute tuk tuk ride from town, though with a free tuk tuk driver at your disposal for twelve hours a day and a resort with so many enticing reasons not to leave, we didn’t find it a bother in the slightest.
Navutu Dreams, I’ll be dreaming about you.
Stay tuned for posts about Angkor Wat and our cocktail tour of Siem Reap!
Last chance to ask me anything! Want to submit a question? Ask here, or in the comments, or privately via email. Nothing is off limits to ask, though I exercise the right to be choosy in what I answer
Also — Many thanks to Navutu Dreams for their hospitality. As always, you receive my honest opinion regardless of who is footing the bill.
This place looks fantastic! I’ll add it to the 500 other places I’m going to see one day. Can’t wait to hear more about Cambodia- will we be hearing about Brazil soon?!
Trying to catch up as quickly as I can 🙂
You had me at aqua zumba!! Well, actually you had me at golden coconut. What a beautiful property, looks so lush and serene. I would totally do a visa run here!
PS. your html at the end by the ask me anything bit is showing up a lil wonky 😉
Ah, thanks for the heads up! Fixed 🙂
I would love to return to Siem Reap one day! It was my favourite city in South East Asia! It was so quaint and cosy. I wonder how much of that quietness is left now after 7 years have passed since I visited!
It’s definitely a little crazy in the town center but out there at Navutu it’s as serene as can be! Love it!
Oh my GOD. This place looks incredible!! Only $65?!? I’ve gotta get my butt to SE Asia real quick..
Cambodia represents amazing value when it comes to travel! It’s a great place to indulge in great food, massages, and all the other things that you might be priced out of back home.
Navutu Dreams is my home away from home! I visited this resort back in October last year and I really had a relaxing time. The staff were so friendly and yeah just like what you have mentioned, they will call you by your name with a big smile! I really enjoyed the serenity of the surroundings. I’m so glad to have come across your blog. Take meeee back. Heading over Cambodia next year again.
A friend who lives in Cambodia and I were discussing that Cambodia really missed out not nabbing the “Land of Smiles” slogan. It fits them better than Thailand!
Just came across this. Awesome write-up. Thank you so much.
Thank you Sarah! More to come!
Ha, love the golden coconut touch too! This place looks unreal!
Such a cute little detail that just makes all the difference! Love when resorts go the extra mile.
Oh man, I wish I had heard about this when I was in Siem Reap! This place looks absolutely beautiful!
I definitely wish I’d known about it on earlier visits too — even just to have popped over for a yoga class and a swim!
Veery nice indeed!
I haven’t yet been to Cambodia although I’ve been to Thailand & Vietnam, but I can see that this resort would be a place to “recover” from all the travels before moving on lol!
And what a great price!
Indeed! Navutu is an awesome spot for a vacation from a vacation 😉
You’ve shown me a very different side to Cambodia than I normally see or read about. I could do with being here right now as my muscles are aching from Golf and Yoga! 🙂
A really thorough article with beautifully shot photos. Would love to explore the menus and enjoy some cupping! Haven’t been fortunate enough to try that yet.
I haven’t either, actually! I have to be honest, I don’t love the visible marks it leaves. (I’m sure they fade, but I’d be self conscious about them while they were there.)
All that for $65 a night? What?? Oh southeast asia…take me back! Gorgeous photos as always.
Thanks Lauren! It was a pretty photogenic place!
That coconut as the dont disturb sign is really unique haha! And I think this is the first time I heard a spa in a resort also provides acupuncture! That’s really nice 🙂
Yeah, it definitely sets them apart from the usual hotel spa!
This spot is gorrrgeoussssss. I am so insanely jealous that my travel budget is booked with weddings this year – it seems pretty clear this would be worth jetting across the world for! 🙂
Ah, weddings — I’m glad I’m still at the age where there’s only one or two a year! I’m sure that won’t last long…
Oh, I’m longing to go! Questions:
What are those fruits? I recognize banana and, I think, papaya. What are the other two?
And what is in the petal dishes? Salt and spices? Or something to do with the massage?
To be honest, I’m not sure what’s in the petal dishes! I don’t think they are used — just herbs and spices that make the spa smell good, I think. The fruits are banana, mango, passionfruit, and dragon fruit 🙂
Oh this looks so incredible! Are the mattresses really hard even in the beautiful hotels and resorts that you visit?
Another thing I’m always wondering is how to do you handle your cell phone situation while traveling?
These mattresses were a dream 🙂 They are more very hard in residences and in cheap hostels and hotels, not nice resorts like this one. As for the phone, when I’m in Thailand I have a second cell with a local SIM. When I’m elsewhere I just use my iPhone with wifi.