Those who know me know the fraught relationship I have with my hair. It is thick, curly, unruly, and regularly threatens to throttle me in sleep. It has been particularly badly behaved since I moved to South East Asia, developing a surly, frizzy personality and the appearance of an angry nest of spiders. In the past year I’ve approached hair salons with a  mixture of healthy fear and rampant optimism, with varying results.

In Siem Reap the choices are varied. Fancy getting your bicycle serviced or shirt tailored while you’re getting a trim? Head for the little streets behind L’Hôtel de la Paix. Don’t mind the smell of raw meat, or catfish making a desperate flop for their lives at your feet? At Psar Chas you’ll find tiny salons in the market’s dark alleys, inches away from the fresh  produce and fly ridden butcher stalls. Or if you’re feeling flush, you could try Soul Hair Design, the Western owned hair salon above the Wild Poppy Boutique.

My recommendation? The (ahem) originally named Angkor Salon & Spa, a cheap and sanitary alternative to the above. It sits on the little no name street by the side of the Angkor Trade Centre, near Psar Chas, in a little shophouse that’s just been renovated.

The genius of Angkor Salon & Spa is in the washing of the hair. It’s a prolonged, relaxing affair that takes place in the back of the salon, at washing stations that are like little beds. The hair gets washed twice, thoroughly, and they give you a very pleasant head, ear, and neck massage too. Is there anything more relaxing than thick soapy foam on the back of your  neck when you’ve been battling the sweat and red dust of the roads?

I like the retro charm of this place. There’s a lot of plastic and leatherette but the girls are handy with a blowdrier. It feels like a neighbourhood salon, the sort of place where women go to pamper themselves and gossip while getting their hair done. They also offer spa services – there’s a mysterious large jacuzzi in the back – as well as manicures, pedicures, and something called “spa hair”, which seems a bit dear at $15.

The hairdressers don’t speak any English, so make sure you bring a picture of exactly what you want, or a Khmer speaking friend. During my last visit a miscommunication resulted in the boss lady attacking my bangs with thinning shears, so beware. But for $5 a haircut, who can complain?

Where: Opposite Angkor Trade Centre

Opening times: 7.30 am to 9.30 pm

Do you know any good hairdressers in Siem Reap?


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