- Siem Reap
Combining Cambodia’s exciting history and ancient culture, this enthralling excursion takes you to the charming capital of Phnom Penh and then on to Siem Reap, home to the world’s largest religious monument. For further information, please visit our website: www.discovermekong.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org DISCOVER MEKONG Address: 99 Ba Trieu str., Hai Ba Trung dist., Hanoi, Vietnam Tel: +84-4 3943 9211 Fax: +84-4 3943 9209 Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.discovermekong.com Discover Mekong is managed by HG TRAVEL
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Tel: 800 477 9180 (toll-free), Tel: 855 63 760 333
This modernist guesthouse, commissioned by King Sihanouk in 1962, is the place to stay in Siem Reap. Like most of the Amanresorts, Amansara is intimate, luxurious, and relaxing. When you arrive at the serene compound—likely in the hotel's 1965 Mercedes limousine—you'll be welcomed "home." The concept sounds gimmicky at first, but with just 24 suites (half clustered around the slate pool; the others, each with a plunge pool, flanking a grassy courtyard), a staff that has mastered the art of hospitality (leave muddy sneakers outside your door, and they'll be scrubbed clean), and a pervasive "as you wish" attitude (no need to make dinner reservations—the kitchen's ready when you are), it does start to feel like you own the place. In the suites, an unembellished design of dark wood, ivory fabrics, terrazzo floors, and a subtle bas-relief wall decoration makes for a meditative space—one that's best for couples, given the open plan (the soaking tub is within view of the king-size bed) and glass-walled shower open to the private courtyard. The highlight of staying here, however, is entrée to Amansara's exclusive temple excursions—you'll be outfitted with a private guide and remork (moped-powered pedicab) driver. Hotel manager Siddharth Mehra enables guests to see the Angkor sites in as adventurous a way as they can handle: by motorcycle, by balloon, by helicopter, you name it. Want to dig deeper into the local culture? The library is stocked with books on Khmer civilization; scholars and artists give house talks and performances; the spa utilizes Cambodian techniques and products; and both Khmer and Western menus are available in the dining room. The tariff at Amansara can be breathtaking (rooms start at $750 per night, not including the compulsory half-board charge of $100 per person, per day); yet when you're welcomed back from a sunset outing by smiling staff proffering chilled, lemongrass-scented towels, and find intricately folded lotus blossoms floating in the bathtub, you have to admit, it's a pretty magical place.—Updated by Lynn Suhrie
La Résidence d'Angkor, Cambodia
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Tel: 855 63 963 390
This Orient Express hotel is a deluxe all-wood compound modeled on the centuries-old Khmer style, with gorgeous gardens, pitched roofs, and wide terraces. The 54 guest rooms (and one suite) have colorful silk pillows, bamboo screens, and oversize bathtubs. It's a luxurious, serene oasis by the Siem Reap River in the center of town. And if the lovely deck off your room or the calming, shaded saltwater pool area (adorned with 45,000 green tiles) get boring, you can always play a game of chess or read in the hotel's cozy library, or head out into the Old Market, which is a ten-minute walk or $1 tuk tuk ride away.
FCC Angkor, Cambodia
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Tel: 855 63 760 280
The FCCwhich stands for Foreign Correspondents Clubis probably the best deal in town. Set in the grounds of a former French ambassador's vacation home along the west bank of the Siem Reap River, it's a very pleasant mix of colonial and contemporary styles. The main building is a breezy two-story structure that houses the very popular restaurant and several boutique shops. The 31 modern rooms are simple but elegant, with polished concrete floors, modernist furniture, and open airy bathrooms.
See + Do
With its stonework strangled by vaulting silk-cotton trees, jungle-choked Ta Prohm will make any visitor feel like Indiana Jones. Even though it has been looted in recent years, Ta Prohm still looks like it must have when French explorer Henri Mouhot "discovered" it in 1860. (Tomb Raider fans should look out for the tree where Angelina Jolie picked some jasmine, the earth opened up, and she was dropped into a studio thousands of miles away for another ass-kicking scene.) Since most visitors enter from the west, avoid the throngs by having your driver drop you at the rarely visited eastern gates, the ceremonial entrance to most temples, and then walk through. The crowds at this popular attraction are thinnest in the early morning and late afternoon, when flocks of chatty red-breasted parakeets return to roost.
See + Do
The most exquisite carvings cover the Bayon. Like Angkor Wat, this masterpiece was constructed in the 12th century; it's topped by 54 stone towers, each bearing four smiling, enigmatic faces and clad with intricately carved bas-relief panels. The Bayon stands at the exact center of the walled city of Angkor Thom, the final capital of the Khmer Empire. To avoid the crowds, visit Bayon in the early morning or afternoon. For a total Lost City experience, proceed for one mile on the unpaved paths heading due east or west from the Bayon. They both lead through forest to massive, rarely visited gates crowned with the same happy faces. Well worth the brief detour.
See + Do
The apotheosis of Khmer civilization, 12th-century Angkor Wat remains the national symbol of Cambodia. It's well worth spending at least half a day here. Make sure to see the Churning of the Ocean of Milk along the East Gallery, an epic bas-relief describing a tug-of-war between gods and demons to turn the ocean into an elixir of immortality. Like Ta Prohm and Bayon, Angkor Wat is on the heavily traveled tourist circuit. Ask your driver to take you to the eastern gates instead of the busier western gates.