Clients can reach Siem Reap conveniently from Bangkok via Bangkok Airways and from Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi via Vietnam Airlines. Direct international flights are also available from Laos, Malaysia and Singapore.
WHAT TO DO
Cambodian Orphan Save Organization
Some of your clients may feel a need to give something back to Cambodia, one of the world’s poorest countries. To do so, the hotel can arrange transportation for interested guests to a local orphanage. When I visited, approximately 30 children there shared only one room, which doubled as both school and dormitory. The school hopes to complete construction of a new dorm and buy traditional Khmer dance costumes for the children. Donations can be made through the hotel. For more information, clients may inquire at the front desk or contact general manager Manfred Ilg at firstname.lastname@example.org
WHERE TO EAT
Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC) Angkor Kitchen
The Kitchen serves meals that fuse traditional Cambodian flavors with global influences. 855-063-760-283
Khmer Kitchen Restaurant
Mick Jagger is just one of many who frequent this hole-in-the-wall establishment for its Khmer- and Thai-influenced cuisine. 855-063-964-154
Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor
Raffles offers various dining options, from the formal Restaurant Le Grand to the more casual Cafe d’Angkor. The Elephant Bar serves up exotic cocktails. 800-768-9009
WHERE TO STAY
La Residence d’Angkor
Doubles start at $275 during high season (Oct. 1-March 31) and at $175 during low season (Apr. 1- May 19 and Aug. 1-Sept. 30). Agent commission is 10 percent. 800-237-1236
WHEN TO GO
Low season kicks off with some of the hottest months of the year, and progresses to the equally hot monsoon season that lasts from June to September. However, during most of the rainy season, it rains very hard in the morning and late afternoon, with clear skies in between. An advantage to the off-season is that the ruins are less crowded. During high season, some parts of the ruins resemble New York City subways during rush hour. Still, Angkor Wat is one of the world’s greatest monuments, worth seeing no matter how crowded.
These days, the road from the airport into Siem Reap, Cambodia, is lined with big, international-style budget hotels and construction sites. Aside from a lion here, a Boddhisatva head there, the hotels could be anywhere. They’re just way-stations for busloads of tourists who come to tour the ruins of Angkor, capital of the Khmer empire from the 9th to the 15th century.
So, it’s a considerable relief to enter the still bucolic downtown, cross a bridge over the tree-lined river and stop at the door of the 54-room La Residence d’Angkor, an Orient-Express hotel that’s like a fortress of character and good taste in the high seas of homogenization.
In addition to the hotel’s architectural appeal and its impeccable green credentials — they recycle waste water and give old linens to hospitals — it is now sponsoring an orphanage.
The hotel’s entry is a wooden bridge bordered by moat-like reflecting ponds that mimic the barays (reservoirs) that surrounded Khmer temples and palaces. La Residence’s structures are fortified with wood, as Khmer private homes would have been hundreds of years ago. The cool rosewood floors and pillars in the lobby have a rich, high-polished glow, and the wall behind the reception desk is a reproduction of temple bas reliefs. The dining room opens onto decks surrounded by ponds filled with lotus and lily pads. At night, the croaking of toads reaches an infectious, almost syncopated beat.
La Residence is completely serene, walled to keep out the roar of tuk-tuks and bustle in the streets outside. It’s built around a long, rectangular swimming pool tiled in varying shades of deep green, fed by a water-spouting lion and surrounded by gardens dense with palms and bougainvillea ranging from cerise to red. Upper-level rooms have balconies, while groundfloor rooms have terraces, with the exception of street-side rooms which overlook walled gardens.
My room had a reproduction Apsara relief in the entryway and a king-size canopy bed with artfully draped, gauzy mosquito netting. The desk, chairs and bed frame were all dark wood, while white walls and floor-to-ceiling windows flooded the room with light. Bright, jewel-colored pillows and a long, shawl-like checked textile swathed dramatically across the foot of the bed. The bathroom had a nearly plunge-pool-size, free-form green terrazzo soaking tub and large terrazo bowl sink with a long, wood counter that ended in a makeup table. Closet space was ample and the toilets had a separate room.
La Residence has an airy bar-lounge furnished in tropical wicker upstairs in the reception hall and two boutiques. Spa treatments can also be arranged. Three nights a week, a small troupe of young dancers in elaborate costume performs traditional Khmer dances during the dinner hour. Food is quite good, with both European and Khmer dishes and a nice wine list.
All things considered, La Residence d’Angkor is a peaceful, relaxing retreat in the middle of bustling Siem Reap, made all the more special because of its commitment to its local community.