12 Dec Thailand & Cambodia – Part Two
After a short journey back to Bangkok, I connected to a 45-minute flight to Siem Reap. We were greeted upon landing by a hysterically large number of border officers at the new airport, passing my visa application along a line to get the final stamp of approval like ‘pass the parcel’ – I was allowed in!
Siem Reap is a small town in the northwest of Cambodia, known predominantly as the gateway to ancient ruins of Angkor Wat, which are most definitely THE major attraction. However, the town itself had an authentic local feel, with dozens of scooters weaving their way between traffic and the cows, and, alongside stalls of steaming street food, with everyone co-existing so naturally.
The Anantara Angkor Resort is just a 10-minute transfer from the airport and my arrival was one of my most memorable. The custom in Cambodian houses is to greet guests with a foot bath ritual which Anantara beautifully recreate on check-in for their guests.
The hotel has a boutique feel with just 39 suites built around the central salt-water pool. It has just undergone a complete refurbishment and the team are excited about the possibilities of exclusive use groups. The service levels were second to none with my personal butler always on hand in such a discreet way.
Although I was dreading the 4.30am alarm call, it was soooo worth it to see the sun rise spectacularly over Angkor Wat. This Unesco World heritage protected temple complex is the largest religious monument in the world and just WOW!
I was taken by my guide in an open sided jeep to travel the short distance to the site. Yes, there are a lot of tourists, but I was taken away from the crowds and got to experience the sun rise in the heart of the temple.
A young monk was offering blessings and I’m afraid I couldn’t resist. I nimbly (I wish) sat on the floor with my feet facing away from him, brought my hands together in front of me and closed my eyes. I sneak one eye open as I feel splashes of water over my face and quickly close them again as I realise the blessing has started. The brightly coloured cotton bracelet he tied around my wrist stayed firmly in place until I was home. Surely keeping it on meant that my blessing too would remain in place??!
Heading back to base camp (the stunning Anantara) I realised why I was in a Khmer Jeep – we were about to go off -road and visit some hidden ruins that were very much off the tourist path. Hold on tight and lean to the right!
That evening, I was treated to the Chef’s table, hosted by the charming GM of the hotel. Chef has managed to source some great local producers and uses their food in his creative fusion dishes. A real taste sensation.
Once again like the rest of the Anantara group, this hotel provides that great mix of luxury and authentic destination experience. You can travel in their dedicated tuk tuk around the streets of Siem Reap; delve deeper into Cambodia’s culture with private tours of the markets and alleys with their resident Streetwise Guru or get a richer taste of Khmer culture with spa, dining and cooking class.
For those seeking adventure, Anantara provides a number of exhilarating options; bicycle, vespa, jeep, quad bike or on horseback. Take your pick. I quite enjoyed my open sided Khmer Jeep, which bought out the Indiana Jones in me!