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
La Maison is a lovely boutique hotel with a real garden feel. It's a bit out from town (although you can get tuk-tuks), but you really feel apart from the crowds around "Pub Street". Food is really good, and a great pool. Would definitely stay here again.
Happy Ranch is a great riding centre just outside of Siem Reap town, costing around a 120Baht return journey in a tuk-tuk from the centre.
It’s the only one of its kind in Cambodia so don’t be fooled if your hostel owner tries to persuade you to go somewhere else or that it’s closed down.
Rides can last from an hour to half a day, starting from around 30USD.
The owner used to work in the US and England so speaks fluent English and on the whole it’s a very professionally run place. He also employs English speaking guides.
The horses are all very healthy and well looked after, and rides can cater for any ability. It is important to call in advance to book and so they know your level of ability.
Most importantly, the rides are a unique and unforgettable way to see the surrounding villages, rice paddies and isolated temples.
Travel services with a difference - Andrew Booth, the founder, aims to bring education to the rural areas via profits from providing great travel services. Very warm local and foreign staff who understand luxury travel well. Great itineraries - well-researched routes allow you to view the temples unhurriedly and without the usual tourist crowds. My friend travelled alone with three kids and they provided a nanny! Thumbs up for making a real difference to travellers and the local communities.
This hotel is located a short walk away from the clamour and frivolity of Pub Street and the Old Market. The rooms are wonderfully clean and spacious, while the decor is tasteful and elegant. The staff are wonderful. There is also the additional perks of free internet and unlimited use of wifi as well as use of the rooftop gym
Group 10, Psar Kroung Street, Vahear Cham Village, Svaydankum Commune, Siem Reap www.mandalayinn.com
Look out for local free guides such as 'The Siem Reap Angkor Visitors Guide' from Canby publications and 'Out and About (O&A)' and 'Drinking Dining (DD)' from Cambodiapocket guides.
You'll pick these up in bars and restaurants. Huge amount of info on pubs, restaurants & things to see as well as invaluable maps.
Night market with over 200 units open between 4pm and midnight every day.
Plenty of goods worth purchasing in a relatively hassle free environment.
Off Sivatha Boulevard, one of main roads in Siem Reap.
Tok Vanna is a Cambodian in his 40s supporting a wife and two children by selling books from a stall on the street in Siem Reap.
He lost both his hands as a result of a landmine after which he became a beggar in Phnom Penh.
However through the help of an aid worker he got back on his feet.
We got some interesting books on Pol Pot from him for $5- $6 each which will help towards his medical expenses and his children's education.
Pokambor Avenue which runs parallel to the river. Near Old Market Bridge outside Shadow of Angkor guesthouse.
Google map: tinyurl.com/yg9ewkw
This is the hotel we stayed in while we were in Siem Reap.
Very central with a nice pool. Staff were friendly.
In addition an hour long reflexology session in the hotel only cost $10.
Suggest using one of hotel booking websites to get best deal.
Oum Khun Str, Module 1, Svay Dangkum, Siem Reap District, Siem Reap, Cambodia.
(855-63) 760 500
Google map: tinyurl.com/ykc3yl2
Our visit to Cambodia was made the moment we walked into Mom's Guesthouse in Siem Reap because of Chhay, who runs Mom's with good humoured professionalism and is interested in ensuring his guests see and experience Cambodia from multiple perspectives.
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