Other than being known as an art-hub, Battambang province is also famous for its beautiful colonial buildings, as well as being the setting for the Angelina Jolie-directed blockbuster First They Killed My Father.
During shooting, the Hollywood actress spent several days staying in a peaceful traditional Khmer house located on the outskirts of Battambang town – Maisons Wat Kor.
Today guests can be seen snapping pictures in the same place where Jolie had just a few years earlier on the wooden terrace perched on a lotus pond at Maisons Wat Kor.
Two pictures of Jolie with her former husband Brad Pitt, posing with owner Kem Nou and hotel staff, are still displayed in reception and in front of the room in which the stars spent several nights.
“Angelina Jolie stayed here with her former husband Brad Pitt for 10 days when she was filming First They Killed My Father in 2016,” said Nou, owner of Maisons Wat Kor, which opened in 2013.
The peaceful traditional Khmer houses, the environment and the friendly neighbourhood attracted the Hollywood stars, according to Nou.
The traditional Khmer houses have been built and decorated using recycled wooden materials, and they are surrounded by nearly half an acre of lush greenery, a pond and a swimming pool.
Named after the Wat Kor pagoda, a Buddhist temple located nearby, the homestay offers visitors a taste of local customs and cuisine.
Nou, a veteran of the tourism industry, told The Post: “We have three houses; Peth, Kantaing and the Khmer house. We are building two more houses, Raung Dorl and Raung Doeung.”
According the Maisons Wat Kor’s website, the name Peth comes from the Khmer word banhchheth which means oblique, referring to their hipped roofs. Kantaing, a name which is an adaptation of China’s Guangdong province, are commonly seen on the edge of the Mekong River where Chinese settlers established themselves. While Khmer houses were once reserved for high-ranking officers or monks living in Buddhist monasteries.
Former Institute of Technology of Cambodia student Nou launched the boutique hotel in 2013 based on the principle of providing authentic and pleasant hospitality based on local culture and an eco-friendly ethos.
“When I graduated from the institute, I opened a tour company with French partners. After leaving the group, I launched the boutique hotel in Battambang,” Nou recalled.
“When guests come to visit a place, they want to know that place. So if we build a hotel similar to what they have in their homeland, it won’t be appealing. So we stick to local customs but we create a more comfortable environment, such as providing a high-end bathroom and good quality authentic Khmer food,” he said.
One such Khmer food set menu costs $12, and includes a chicken salad, beef sour soup, fish amok and dessert Num EE.
Nou said that he hopes to keep traditional Khmer architecture alive through his hotel.
“People who come here say ‘It’s beautiful’ and I reply ‘Yes! In fact the houses look more beautiful than mine’. I want to inspire them to preserve their houses. Modern homes are becoming hybrid designs with other countries’ style,” he said.
“We also want to show Khmer style hospitality. We make friends with our guests rather than provide a five star service. We do it the traditional Khmer way – the staff communicate with guests like they are friends so they feel that they are in their own homes.”
Though the hotel has plenty of land, it does not have a parking lot, preferring to dedicate the space to plants, a lotus pond, traditional wooden boats, bicycles, fishing instruments and a salt water swimming pool.
Nou said that Jolie has returned to visit once since the culmination of filming for First They Killed My Father.
“Last April, she came to produce a commercial photo shoot for a French perfume. She came with teams of photographers from France and Hollywood. But Jolie did not stay here that time, only her team members, while she stayed at her home in Samlout district.”