Of course, your best plan of action may be to make like me and quickly dispense with Bangkok and get on a flight to Siem Reap! If nothing else, you will be able to tell people you are going to Cambodia.
A few people will have been – and they will tell you that you will love it (that will prove to be very accurate J). Most people will still be channelling the Dead Kennedys even if they don’t know the lyrics to “Holiday in Cambodia.”
But, of course, they will just be a couple of decades out of touch… I, on the other hand, have been dreaming of Cambodia for a couple of decades. I don’t know what took me so long! Working all the time and going nowhere exotic…
But of course that has all changed in the last five years as I resolved to quit postponing all those “trips of a lifetime”. Angkor Wat certainly was one of them.
For me, though, getting to Angkor Wat was much more personal. Over twenty years ago, I had been in the hill tribes near Chiang Mai wondering if I was going to be randomly killed by the Khmer Rouge and hearing about the wonders of Angkor Wat while settling for Sukothai as it was still risky and complicated to cross over the border to Cambodia.
But things were changing and I knew I would get there. In 2013, I gathered, going to Cambodia was no big deal so I booked a hotel, found out how to get a visa, made sure I had a flashlight, scored some malaria tablets and braced for the weather.
And Cambodia turned out to be Claridges… you just need to know where to stay 😉
There is really only one place to stay when you come to Angkor Wat (unless you are on a tight budget – you can definitely do it cheap too and it will still be wonderful). But if you can afford a decent night’s hotel room in the developed world, you will live like a princess in Siem Reap.
My room cost about $300/night (including all the crazy taxes) but it was palatial so you can spend less and still have a great time. I stayed in the Shinta Mani Club where the rooms are larger. They now have a sister property across the street, Shinta Mani Resort. As a guest, you can spend time in the public facilities of both.
For $15, someone will come and collect you from the airport. Dan started my visit on a high note. He told me Shinta Mani was the number one hotel in Siem Reap. I knew he was biased – but after six nights there, I can’t say he was wrong 🙂
The level of service is astonishing – on par with very few other places I’ve stayed (it really is a Cambodian version of Claridges). There is a lap pool at the Club, a big pool at the resort, bar and restaurant facilities at both, a spa… and gorgeous spaces that make you feel like you’re in the Caribbean.
I still wasn’t healthy when I arrived so my first evening was low key. I had some lovely food in the hotel restaurant and had an enthusiastic, charming hotel staff member organize an Angkor Wat tour on my behalf.
The hotel really is so wonderful it’s tempting to just hole up there and never see a temple… but that would be wrong! And then I wouldn’t have anything to write about 😉