The immense Kymer temple complex of Angkor Wat has been cited by many as being the world's "8th wonder"- with good reason.
It's vastness and grandeur envelops you from the moment you exit the canopy of the long, straight road from Siem Reap and you can't help but feel you've stepped far back into a magical time.
This magnificent sensation was enhanced when I decided to hire a bicycle and set off at 4am from Siem Reap to reach the temple while it was dark dark. It was incredible being able to sit back and watch the entire sunrise unfold with the temple's silhouette slowly coming into view, hearing only the flutter of dragonflies hovering over the pond in front of me.
Google map: bit.ly/AaogXn
This hotel cost more than other accommodation we chose while spending three weeks on holiday in Thailand and Cambodia at $110 per night but was money well spent and felt like a real treat. Any hassle or stress was taken away with careful thought and faultless customer service as our every need had been considered and included in the room rate. We were collected from the bus station by a driver with air-conditioned car and taken to the airport at the end of our stay. A tuktuk driver was assigned to us for the duration and we could call on him all day and throughout the evening for lifts into town or to visit the Angkor Wat temples. Dawud was friendly and attentive with good English, telling us to relax and enjoy our holiday and waiting for several hours at times while we went shopping or on a boat trip. On arriving at the hotel to check in we were given cold flannels and refreshing lemongrass tea. The outskirts of Siem Reap away from the main tourist streets are scruffy with lots of litter. The hotel is a short drive out of town but walking in through the gate you find a leafy calm oasis in colonial style with tasteful décor and attention to detail. The swimming pool is small and simple with a waterfall wall. Our room was large with a ground floor balcony, stylish furniture, a modern bathroom with rain shower, flatscreen TV and free wifi albeit with a low signal. The bed had a mosquito net probably more for romantic effect than genuine need and at turndown they left a bedtime story each night which was a sweet touch. It was a haven to return to after a hot day exploring. Breakfast was excellent with fresh fruit, yoghurt and gorgeous home-made chocolate brownies! They used lovely local crockery and the buffet was kept clean and refreshed throughout service with a further option to order hot food cooked to order such as an omelette. Each table was given a plate of four croissants daily which we always took with us for later as they made the perfect picnic!
We only had a few days in Siem Reap but wanted to see more than Angkor Wat so decided on a different day out and were so glad we did. There are various organised tours to visit floating villages but many are said to take you to places on the Tonle Sap lake which are now overly touristy and therefore not very authentic. We got a tuktuk to drive us to a point where we could pick up boats for Kompong Phluk which is only accessible by water. Even the drive out of the city and through more rural villages was interesting and took about 30 minutes. We reached the pontoon where the boats depart and paid $20 each at an office where it looked like a visitor centre was being built. We had the whole boat to ourselves and only saw a few other tourist boats during the day. You travel up the river and reach a village where all the houses are on stilts in the water. It was fascinating to see how the local people lived. We then paid a man $5 to take us on a canoe and paddle through a flooded forest which was amazing and so peaceful and calm. Then we headed back into the village and saw children playing in the water and paddling home from school in canoes. Everyone was very friendly and didn’t seem to mind us being there as hopefully tourists help the local economy. We were taken to a local house which had set up as a restaurant and paid $5 each for a nice fresh lunch. The only downside to the day was on the return leg on the boat when we stopped at the temple and school which would have been a highlight had we not felt pressured by hawkers trying to sell us stuff. They approached us as soon as we set foot on the banks and then followed us round asking us to buy a bundle of exercise books for $6 or a pack of pencils for $3 saying they would be given to the schoolchildren to help their education. Other tourists seemed to have fallen for the scam, not realising it was just a money-making scheme as there is no way the materials would have cost that amount of money and even if the stationery ended up at the school, the cash was destined for the pockets of the local women who were peddling it. Enterprising maybe but we felt it spoiled an otherwise pleasant day out. We made an offering in the temple instead and would rather have given a cash donation directly to the school so be prepared and perhaps bring stationery supplies yourself instead. Otherwise we had a wonderful day out with an incredible insight into another lifestyle and the total round trip from Siem Reap took about four hours.
An amazing vegetarian restaurant in Siem Reap. Fresh tasty food, best food I've had ever, and I'm not even a vegetarian!
Street 26 off River Road, Siem Reap, Cambodia.
From Old Market, cross the bridge and turn left,
follow the river and turn right at the second street.
(+855) 063 965210
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