Cambodia sparks images of ruins of ancient temples (especially the iconic Angkor Wat), dazzling rice paddies and the picturesque white-sand beaches. Seamlessly blending modern urban culture with its ancient heritage, Cambodia remains an authentic adventure.
Nestled in northwestern Cambodia, the city of Siem Reap is home to the famous temple ruins and is a popular tourist destination
Places to Stay:
Shinta Mani Club
Soak in the Angkorian experience at this luxury boutique hotel. Located in the French Quarter, it is a perfect oasis of tranquility and verdure. Savour the authentic taste of Khmer cuisine as you gently float about the ground on the Khmer swings. Take advantage of their poolside rooms and relax with a refreshing swim after a day of sightseeing. When we reluctantly left on the last day of our stay, the staff presented us gorgeous Cambodian scarves as a parting gift!
The Privilege Floor
The ultimate experience in luxury, from the moment you arrive at the Privilege Floor at the Borei Angkor, you are pampered rotten. A personal host greets you at the airport and welcomes you to your private hotel lobby. The lounge restaurant oozes charm and grace as you delight your taste buds with the finest Cambodian cuisine.
Golden Temple Residence
An elegant hide-away, it offers some very unique experiences that steep you in the romance of Khmer. Enjoy a picnic lunch at the temple area with a personal chef and butler, la di da! Sway to the lilting music of the Apsara dance as you are treated to a Royal Khmer dinner. Round out your perfect vacation with a relaxing massage.
The famous temple of Angkor Wat is the largest temple in the world with a volume of stone equalling that of the Cheops Pyramid in Egypt. Built during 879 – 1191 AD, this mother of all temples is an awe-inspiring blend of spirituality and architectural sophistication. Be sure to make it to the temple for the magnificent view at sunrise (5 AM to 8-9 AM) that brings out its raw beauty and splendour. The imposing grandeur and delicate decorative flourishes of the temple complex bring to life the romance of the ancient Khmer empire. The cardamom sanctuary of Prasat Kravan and Ta Prohm, a jungle temple are also must-visits close to Angkor Wat.
Entering the south gate of the ancient city of Angkor Thom, the spectacular Bayon Temple rises to greet you. It is the main temple of this ancient city and is primarily Buddhist, but also incorporates elements of Hindu symbolism as well. A multitude of 216 serene smiling stone faces on its towers awaken peace and joy in your heart as you traverse the complex.
Also visit Baphuon Temple, a major religious temple during the Khmer Empire and Phimean Akas, the Sky Palace. Continue to the famed Terrace of Elephants and then on to meet the Leper King.
Preah Khan temple
Located only 2 kilometers from Angkor Thom, the Preach Khan temple complex nestles among vines and trees, and exudes lost-world charm. Built by King Jayavarman VII, the temple’s name translates to ‘sacred sword’ and provides the ideal backdrop to live out your Indiana Jones or Lara Croft fantasies. Long alleyways, amazing sculptures of events and characters from Buddhist and Hindu mythology, a complex of secret chambers and passages, a walk around Preah Khan reveals many surprises. Later, head to the Neak Poan temple and revel in the beauty of this ‘island temple’.
For a languorous dinner after a tiring day of sight-seeing, head to the ‘Red Piano’. Inaugurated by Angelina Jolie in 2000, their famous ‘Tomb Raider’ cocktail is a must. The menu at Red Piano has something for everyone with a wide selection of Khmer food, as well as other European fare. Sip at the delicate bouquet of wine as you watch the bustle of the city pass you by. Or head over to Siem Reap’s original bar ‘Angkor What?’ on Pub Street and share a coupe of beers with tourists from all over the globe.
You could also take in a show at the ‘Temple Club’ and be enthralled by an ‘Apsara’ dance! For the perfect meal, head to ‘Haven’ located on Chocolate Road. The smell and taste of the freshest and best ingredients, all MSG-free, transport you to a different world. The menu is enriched by incredible Fusion specials, some Swiss favourites and many vegetarian creations. They also run a training programme for disadvantaged youths, who learn the art of crafting meals that delight and excite the palate.
Cycling and Floating Village Tours
Explore the beautiful countryside of Siem Reap that many travellers miss out in their “temple run” by booking a cycling tour adventure. Breathe in the relaxed atmosphere of country life, connect with the ever-smiling locals and even take part in the local fish market. On to Kompong Khleang, one of the most impressive floating villages; where houses, school, shops and even a local hospital float with the river current. Follow this up with a scrumptious lunch of typical Khmer fare in a stilt house.
Flight of the Gibbons
Your Siem Reap adventure gets into full swing with this tree-top escapade that offers spectacular views of the jungle canopy and a chance to see gibbons in their natural habitat. Climb up seven staircases, across four hanging bridges and ride along 10 zip-lines through the jungle. This magical 2-hour course is professionally managed with knowledgeable guides or ‘Sky Rangers’, who ensure your safety at all times. It is an exhilarating experience and one I would recommend you do not miss!
Where to Shop:
Angkor Night Market
The Siem Reap Night Market sports more than 240 souvenir shops that sell local handicrafts and silks. Bounded by a Balinese-themed garden, it is the soul of Siem Reap. The stalls are made with natural raw materials such as bamboo and wood. Be sure to stop by the Khmer Boutique, boasting a vast array of traditional images and statutory carved in stone or embellished in metals like silver and brass.
This vibrant little lane is lined with chic boutiques, jewellery and accessories stores, interior décor shops, art and photography galleries, a handful of cafés and bars, and even a boutique hotel. Stores feature great finds for vintage clothes, avant-garde fashion, recycled jewellery, silk quilts, eco-friendly bags and so much more.
Old Market (Phsar Chas)
No vacation memory is complete without trinkets and souvenirs and you will find the biggest selection of souvenirs here. The south side of the Old Market has several vendors selling silk, souvenirs, Cambodian handicrafts, materials and statues etc. This is also where you will find post cards, DVDs, books, t-shirts and other memorabilia.
Head down to the islands that dot Cambodia’s southern coast for days spent lazing on the beaches.
Koh Rong Island
Koh Rong is the second largest island of Cambodia and is the exact beach paradise you have been looking for. With 23 white sand beaches to choose from, they offer great opportunities for diving and snorkeling. The best attraction is the phosphorescent plankton in the water which shine like a star-filled sky at night. Other activities include jungle-trekking, kayaking as well as fishing tours if snoozing on a hammock and swimming in the turquoise waters become too boring. Expect all-night beach parties and dancing from dusk to dawn especially on full moon nights.
Koh Rong Samloem
The island of Koh Rong Samloem is the main beach resort of Cambodia. The island is a peaceful getaway, more serene and also much less developed than its larger companion island of Koh Rong. It measures barely 9 x 5 kilometers, and the distance from Saracen Bay on the sunrise side of the island to the sunset side is little more than a pleasant 1 kilometer walk through the jungle. Also sometimes spelled as Koh Rong Sanloem, it translates to “drowsiness” which aptly describes the relaxed atmosphere of the beach.