Think about Cambodia, and what jumps to mind first is Angkor Wat – as the world’s largest religious monument and a frontrunner for eighth wonder of the world, it’s unsurprisingly Cambodia’s pride and joy and a tangible symbol for the country itself.
By Wanida Tardivel & Luxury Society Asia team
Siem Reap, a small city in northwest Cambodia, is the closest point of entry, and the entire worship grounds as well as other nearby ruins are conveniently known together as Angkor Archaeological Park. There is much spotlight on this site for its mysticism, Buddhist architecture and pop culture cred (Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones’ Temple of Doom were both filmed here), but the secret is out: there’s more to visiting Siem Reap than just relic-hopping.
Siem Reap is a city that is highly nuanced, charmingly historic while with a strong sense of modernity and laidback while still kicking up an energetic buzz. There is much here to sweep you off your feet, whether it’s traditionnal Khmer dining in bucolic colonial buildings, market shopping sprees or a refreshing creative scene that spans performance to handicraft.
Here is a guide to the best overall experience:
Sunrise Angkor Wat Tour
Feeling small next to colossal monuments, marvelling at rich Hindu and Buddhist etchings and escaping the powerful Cambodian sun beneath cool sandstone – no visit to Siem Reap can be complete without experiencing Angkor Wat in all its intensity. Cambodia’s national treasure offers a wealth of hidden corners and wide-open stretches worth exploring. Make sure to take a full day or two to soak it all in.
Spend a day with “Temple Guru”
Discover the hidden treasures and cultural gems of the Khmer temples with inside knowledge. Tong Hann, or Hann, as he is known amongst the team, has been a professional guide in Siem Reap for more than a decade, educating guests with his generous manner and wealth of knowledge about nearby temples and the country as a whole. Spending some of his life as a monk and an English teacher before switching careers, Hann has intimate knowledge of the history and intricate details of Angkor and presents the rich history of his country in a warm and engaging manner. Designed to showcase the hidden gems, little known secrets and tucked away places of the many temples, his informative excursions reveals unique glimpses of timeless local life for a truly immersive experience.
Visit Angkor Thom Complex
Ultra-Light Flights Roluos Group – Fly over the Cambodian countryside and around the Roluos Group of temples including the magnificent Bakong dating from the late 9th Century and the first significant Temple-Mountain pre-dating Angkor Wat by at least two centuries. Tonle-Sap – Ideal for seeing and enjoying the beauty of real Cambodia including a unique floating village on Tonle Sap Lake together with the mountain temple of Phnom Krom before following the winding Siem Reap river back towards the town. Temple Tour – A “must do” experience if you have come to Cambodia to see the temples and appreciate the magnificence of ancient Angkor. Enjoy breathtaking views that you will never forget.
Floating Life: Go for a serene day trip to Tonle Sap Lake, where moments are paced delightfully slow. You can visit floating villages via boats, offering a peek into everyday lives of locals living in over-water homes. These clusters of wooden structures, erected with stilts, are fascinating to explore, especially with a good guide. Pick a reputable tour group for a pleasant experience, and also to ensure that money spent in floating villages contributes to the local community.
Hot Air Balloon Tour: Angkor Wat and the plentiful other Khmer ruins of Angkor Archaeological Park can also be seen from a distance in a thrilling bird’s-eye view. Hot air balloons are not allowed to fly directly overhead for safety reasons, but there’s still plenty of amazing scenery in Siem Reap’s surrounding countryside to take in, from lush greenery to roaming wildlife. Treat yourself to a fresh perspective on local life, gliding overtop of farms and children riding their bicycles along dirt roads. Helicopter TourIf you’re still set on sweeping views of Angkor Archaeological Park from up above, there’s always helicopters, which are allowed to fly closer to ruins than hot air balloons. Scenic flights range from just eight to 30 minutes or longer, with packages including vistas of Angkor Wat, Ta Keo mountain, floating villages and more.
Make Merit: Step into a temple and take part in an ancient Buddhist tradition – making merit, or the act of doing good deeds. You can make merit simply by purchasing some flowers and incense inside the temple, with fund going towards the grounds’ upkeep. You can also provide monks with alms, or food offerings, which they seek on streets in the mornings. Simple bites, such as rice or fruit, are welcomely placed inside of their bowls.
Spa Pampering: Traditional Khmer Massage was originally created to revitalize monks after long periods of meditation. By harnessing the body’s ability to moisturize itself, this unique massage style uses no oil and offers a wealth of holistic benefits, including enhanced flexibility, a freer flow of energy and circulation, to a relaxing balance between body, mind and spirit.
Shopping: Siem Reap is a buyer’s paradise, with outdoor venues such as the Old Market and Angkor Night Market made for endless exploring. Don’t miss also checking out the Well Made in Cambodia Market, a showcase for local design and unique craftsmanship such as silk scarves, sustainable wallets, gorgeous vegetal lacquerware and more. Noon Night Market also offers a range of fair-trade decorations and handicrafts, with 10 percent of proceedings going towards a local orphanage.
Dining: Khmer fine dining at Chi Restaurant – the restaurant serves vibrant Cambodian and pan Asian cuisine with divine flavour pairings. Intricately layered creations are created with passion by experienced chefs, combining fresh, organic produce with inventive combinations of spices, herbs and seasonings.
Colorful breakfast from local farms
Eat Like a Local: Khmer boiled rice – Breakfast time
Experience Angkor National Museum: Enter the “Gallery of a Thousand Buddhas” and explore a dazzling collection of traditional artwork and artefacts as you embark on a captivating journey through Khmer history, civilization and cultural heritage. Conservation d’angkor: Gain exclusive private access to Conservation d’Angkor’s stockpile of hidden treasures. Originally charged with protecting all of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer artefacts and Angkorian temples, Conservation d’Angkor houses and safeguards 6,000 valuable sculptures that originally stood in the Angkorian Temples. Cambodian Cultural Village: Immerse yourself in Cambodia’s history as legends and folklore come to life at Cambodian Cultural Village. The 210,000 square metre attraction is a celebration of the individual traditions, history and practices of the various ethnic groups of Cambodia and a charming feast for the senses.
Where To Stay: Following an extensive renovation that transformed Anantara Angkor Resort into a premier all-suite retreat, the 39-key boutique resort is delighted to unveil Siem Reap’s plushest presidential suites inspired by explorers of old – the brand new Henri Mouhot Suite pays tribute to the French naturalist and explorer who alerted the West to the ruins of Angkor in 1860, and the interiors of the Anantara Explorer Suite are inspired by another intrepid explorer, Jim Thompson.
Two Bedroom Henri Mouhot Suite – Master Bedroom: Meticulously designed to accommodate the requirements of the most discerning clientele, the suite is reminiscent of a Khmer summer home and is the epitome of richness and old world sophistication with imported Thai silk and fabrics overflowing throughout.
Two Bedroom Henri Mouhot Suite – Private Spa Room with Jacuzzi: The suite features a private spa room with a Jacuzzi bath tub, deep plunge and massage area for guests to enjoy complimentary in-suite spa treatments.
Two Bedroom Henri Mouhot Suite – Private Garden with Plunge Pool: The lush tropical garden complete with plunge pool, oversized double sun lounge bed and dining table offers a luxurious welcome respite after an adventurous day of exploring, whether savouring a decadent Champagne high tea or al fresco dining on progressive Khmer cuisine under the stars.
One Bedroom Anantara Explorer Suite – Dining Area: The ruby coloured abstract Pomare design from the coveted Jim Thompson’s Leo De Janeiro collection on the wall coverings gives the space a cosy feel and seat covers in pewter coloured bold Marquise cut velvet fabric are used for luxurious eye catching beauty.
All guests at Anantara Angkor Resort enjoy complimentary chauffeured roundtrip airport transfers; foot ritual upon arrival; Experience Butler service to create bucket list adventures; unlimited private tuk tuk transfers to and from city centre; personal mobile phone; complimentary in-suite bar; automatic coffee machine and tea making facilities; bottled water; daily fresh fruit, savouries and sweets; and complimentary drinks during the daily Lounge Hour in the resort’s traditional courtyard that evokes Angkor’s monumental heritage.
Guests residing in the Henri Mouhot and Anantara Explorer Suites additionally enjoy complimentary laundry service; in-suite spa treatments; and a daily hour long treatment at Anantara Spa. Rates for the Henri Mouhot and Anantara Explorer Suites are available on request. For further information or to make a reservation contact +855 63 966 788 or firstname.lastname@example.org