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Whether delving into city life in Phnom Penh, exploring the ancient temples of Siem Reap, wandering the idyllic beaches of the south coast or trekking in deep jungle, tap into the very best the Kingdom has to offer

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BEST OF GUIDE

SIEM REAP

No visit to Cambodia is complete without laying eyes on Angkor’s ancient splendour, making Siem Reap the country’s most-visited destination. Also home to some of the Kingdom’s finest hotels, brightest culinary minds and most exhilarating countryside excursions, a trip to Siem Reap is always so much more than temple gazing
HOTEL  |  RESTAURANT  |  BAR  |  ACTIVITIES

HOTELS

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AMANSARA

Once the royal villa of Cambodia’s legendary late King Father Sihanouk, Amansara is unquestionably Siem Reap’s luxury resort par excellence. Unsurprisingly, then, this regal residence remains fit for a king, with 24 private suites and a striking circular restaurant serving both Western classics and superb Cambodian cuisine. Despite the lavish 1960s-style surrounds, though, the staff maintain a relaxed and welcoming relationship with the guests, offering visitors the chance to make meaningful connections beyond the cloying hospitality of lesser resorts.

aman.com/resorts/amansara

Photo of JAYA HOUSE RIVERPARK
JAYA HOUSE RIVERPARK

A relatively new addition to Siem Reap’s high-end hospitality scene, Jaya House RiverPark’s 36 elegant rooms are spread out over a three-storey structure that pays homage to the ancient temple of Prasat Thom in the Koh Ker temple complex. The rooms are incredibly well-appointed,
while staff are among the best we’ve come across in Cambodia – a hallmark of establishments run by general manager Christian de Boer. A monumental breakfast buffet that includes free-pour prosecco, as well as complimentary tuk tuk rides for the duration of your stay are just a couple of those extra touches that make all the difference.

jayahouseriverparksiemreap.com

Photo of PHUM BAITANG
PHUM BAITANG

From the lazily ambling buffaloes to the fully functioning rice paddies, Phum Baitang is about the closest you can get to a rural Cambodian experience without compromising on exquisite taste. Wooden walkways curve around the property and the subtle scent of lemongrass fills the air, adding to the sense of countryside living provided by Phum Baitang’s location a short drive out of town. The 45 villas are careful replicas of traditional wooden houses, containing artfully scarred floorboards and antique furniture alongside large terrazzo baths and beds so restful that a day spent luxuriating in them becomes a very real consideration.

phumbaitang.com

Photo of SALA LODGES
SALA LODGES

Proving once more that there’s no substitute for the real thing, Sala Lodges’ marvellous accommodations are the result of an astounding feat of planning: eleven traditional wooden houses were found across the provinces of Cambodia, uprooted and reassembled in the green grounds of the hotel. This breathtaking attention to detail makes Sala Lodges unique among Siem Reap’s hotels, giving guests the chance to leave behind the unflinching perfection of other resorts for a glimpse of life in one of the Kingdom’s iconic stilted houses – though with no expense spared on the luxury front.

salalodges.com

SHINTA MANI

Located on Oum Khun Street in Siem Reap’s verdant French Quarter, Shinta Mani Angkor features the effortless grace and comfort typical of legendary hotel architect and designer Bill Bensley. With a vast pool shimmering in the shade of swaying palm trees and expansive spa suites offering aromatherapy massages for temple-weary travellers, Shinta Mani combines tropical ease with unmistakable refinement – helped in no small part by some of the finest staff in the industry.

shintamani.com

Discover TIP

For a fun yet ecofriendly way to explore Siem Reap’s famed temples, check out Green e-bike, which rents electric bicycles to tourists, with charging points strategically located around Angkor. The company also offers eco-tours, which include lunch and take in the beautiful countryside just a short hop from town.

 


 

Dragon fruit is a popular ingredient in fruit salads across Cambodia. For a flavour boost, seek out the variety with dark pink flesh, which is a touch sweeter and more flavoursome than the white alternative. Ask at your hotel for dragon fruit choum po, which means pink.

RESTAURANT

Photo of BANG BANG BAKERY
BANG BANG BAKERY

Owned by trained German pastry chef Jana Walter and Khmer-Canadian self-taught baker Zita Long, Bang Bang Bakery began life as a stall at a farmer’s market before morphing into Siem Reap’s best independent bakery. The funky modern interior provides plenty of space to dine-in, with Zita’s bagels a particular hit, but be sure to
save some space for the sublime New York-style cheesecake. Also available is a variety of breads, from multigrain sourdough to rye, as well as other goodies including quiche, doughnuts and what could well be the Kingdom’s first offering of Cornish pasties.

fb.com/BakeryBangBang

Photo of CHANREY TREE
CHANREY TREE

With exceptional modern takes on Cambodian cuisine very much on trend in Siem Reap right now, sometimes a more traditional approach is welcome, and in that regard it doesn’t get much better than Chanrey Tree. Set along the river, this pretty little spot is on point with its jungle sour soup and eggplant with pork ribs, but it’s the prahok that really stands out here. Cambodia’s staple fermented fish is usually a challenge for most foreign palates, but here, served with minced pork and thus transformed into prahok ktis, it’s a wonder that every self-respecting foodie should sample.

chanreytree.com

Photo of CRYSTAL JADE
CRYSTAL JADE

Housed in the plush T Galleria shopping mall in the centre of town, Crystal Jade offers quite possibly the best Chinese food in the Kingdom – and that’s an extremely packed field to operate in. This Cambodian outpost of the Michelin-starred Singapore eatery, which was founded more than 20 years ago, turns out the classics with aplomb, from dim sum and yang zhou fried rice to expertly roasted duck and wok-fried hor fun. However, the highlight has to be the Hakka-style braised pork belly with preserved vegetables – quite simply some of the best pork we’ve ever tasted.

kh.crystaljade.com

Photo of CUISINE WAT DAMNAK
CUISINE WAT DAMNAK

Most connoisseurs of high-end Cambodian dining would agree that Cuisine Wat Damnak remains the best the Kingdom has to offer, despite some notable challengers of late. French chef Joannès Rivière has spent years working with local ingredients, and it shows, with Cuisine Wat Damnak still the only Cambodian eatery to be featured on the respected Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Two regularly changing tasting menus are on offer every night, both of them stacked with the best produce the country has to offer, from Tonle Sap croaker fish and bamboo shoot broth to the incredibly seasonal Koh Kong scallops.

cuisinewatdamnak.com

MAMMA SHOP

Mamma Shop became so popular that it had to move to a larger space – a fact that says it all about this wonderful Italian eatery located in Siem Reap’s Kandal Village shopping area. The design centrepiece is undoubtedly the spectacular ceiling crafted from curved, sloping rattan, but it’s the hefty portions of simple, home-style Italian food that has tourists, locals and expats alike raving. The homemade pasta is a definite highlight – the tagliatelle with cep mushrooms and pancetta we tried
provided a creamy, salty assault to the tastebuds that we haven’t forgotten months later.

fb.com/mammashop.italian.restaurant

Photo of MIE CAFÉ
MIE CAFÉ

There aren’t many more exciting Cambodian chefs in the country right now than Pola Siv at Mie Café. Discover has been visiting the restaurant for the past four years and the steady improvement and refinement has been a privilege to witness. Set in a traditional wooden house, this place is so much more than the ‘café’ suggested by its name. The bargain tasting menu is undoubtedly the way to go and shows off Siv’s talents to the full. The beef laab is especially order-worthy, and if his take on the Khmer classic of minced pork with eggplant is on the menu, order it – it’s the best version of this dish we’ve tasted anywhere in the country.

miecafe-siemreap.com

Photo of SPOONS
SPOONS

This lovely outdoor restaurant is run by the non-profit EGBOK, which provides hospitality education, training and employment to young Cambodians from underprivileged backgrounds. Aside from supporting this worthy cause, though, Spoons is also well worth a visit on its own terms. The incredible bamboo architecture provides a noteworthy conversation point, as does the creative Cambodian cuisine, which includes a delicious take on the street food staple of num krok (rice cakes) and the ludicrously hearty ‘forest sausage’ made from beef, pork, mung beans, garlic and more.

egbokmission.org/spoons-cafe

Photo of THE LITTLE RED FOX ESPRESSO
THE LITTLE RED FOX ESPRESSO

Still the go-to in Siem Reap for excellent coffee, the Little Red Fox appears to be going from strength to strength. This populr spot is plastered with paintings of famed Cambodian singers from the golden age of Khmer rock’n’roll and plays their tunes on vinyl for added atmos. Get the particularly delicious omelette or the char slak bah – chickpeas and spinach on toast – but, really, it’s all about the coffee here. Most of the usual suspects are present and correct, but our favourites are the speciality lemongrass and ginger latte or the coconut and cinnamon mocha.

thelittleredfoxespresso.com

VIBE

The home of 100% vegan food in Cambodia, Vibe has cafés in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap that turn out delicious plantbased and health-focused meals. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as an array of sweet treats, Vibe throws more chia seeds, living sprouts and spirulina into its dishes than you can shake a stick at. Start with the barbecue buffalo cauliflower bites, move onto the ‘explorer’ quesadilla and finish with the aptly named chocolate dream bowl – eating well never tasted so good.

vibecafeasia.com

Discover TIP

Critter cuisine is the order of the day at Siem Reap’s Bugs Café, where diners can feast on tempura tarantula doughnuts, scorpion and green papaya salad and a homemade
insect burger known, rather excellently, as the ‘bug mac’.

 


 

Down Siem Reap’s Alley West lies Gelato Lab, a tiny spot that turns out comfortably the best ice cream in the country – although the owners, true aficionados, wouldlikely bristle at the term ‘ice cream’. Whatever you want to call it, their produce is wonderful and an ideal way to cool down in the heat of the day – or well worth saving a bit of space to enjoy after dinner.

BARS

Photo of BALTHAZAR
BALTHAZAR

This cosy little wine bar on the Siem Reap river emits a welcoming amber hue that is matched only by the hospitality of French owner Fred Bouvet. The wine list is excellent, and Bouvet is happy to give recommendations whether from the regular menu or the ‘gold selection’ – a premium range of seven bottles that cost from $110 to $600. Drinks can be enjoyed inside or al fresco with the pleasant sights and sounds of the river just a stone’s throw away.

fb.com/fred.siemreap

BARCODE

Siem Reap’s premier LGBT venue has been providing raucous parties and a comfortable spot for the town’s thriving LGBT community for years now. Is it a bar? Is it a club? It’s somewhere in between, really, but it’s decked out with fabulous chandeliers and plush armchairs along with a small dancefloor for those moments when the music takes control. The drinks list is extensive and includes a number of expertly made cocktails along with beer, cider, wine and more.

barcodesiemreap.com

Photo of MISS WONG
MISS WONG

The long-time queen of cocktail bars in Siem Reap, Miss Wong’s red lanterns and old-Shanghai stylings continue to draw a sophisticated crowd. This secluded hideaway, tucked down one of the lanes next to the raucous Pub Street, specialises in craft cocktails with a focus on the classics and home-infused gins. Our favourite, though, is the Ang Pau – a truly unique combination of gin, mandarin orange marmalade and mint with a pinot noir float on top.

misswong.net

ACTIVITIES

APOPO VISITORS CENTRE

In Cambodia, the consequences of a decades-long civil war are still keenly felt. Roughly four million landmines remain buried in the Kingdom, hidden to the untrained eye, and removing them is slow and painstaking work. Since 2015, however, the country’s brave deminers have been helped by a troupe of African giant rats able to sniff
out TNT explosives. Visitors can see the furry unsung heroes in action – and learn about the impact of landmines and the history of conflict in Cambodia more broadly – at the Belgian demining NGO Apopo’s Siem Reap visitor centre.

fb.com/apopovisitorcenter

Photo of ARTISANS ANGKOR
ARTISANS ANGKOR

Since 1998, Artisans Angkor has offered apprenticeships in traditional crafts to thousands of underprivileged youth, simultaneously preserving a key aspect of Khmer culture and facilitating the economic integration of rural communities. Visitors who drop by the centre can see the artisans at work, or arrange to join staff on a tour of the countryside to meet the Cambodians breathing new life into the Kingdom’s ancient art. Unsurprisingly, the pieces produced make for wonderful souvenirs, which can be found at a number of stores in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

artisansangkor.com

Photo of PHARE, THE CAMBODIAN CIRCUS
PHARE, THE CAMBODIAN CIRCUS

Beneath the big top in Siem Reap, jugglers, trapeze artists, clowns and contortionists share the limelight in a series of performances showcasing graduates of Battambang’s Phare Ponleu Selpak arts school. Shows to watch out for include Sokha, a retelling of the school founder’s journey through the Khmer Rouge years and Same Same But Different, a tongue-in-cheek take on feckless foreigners’ follies in Cambodia. If you’ve only got time for one evening of entertainment in Temple Town, make sure it’s this unmissable display of daring and physicality.

pharecircus.org

PHNOM KULEN

Translated as ‘mountain of lychees’, the holy site of Phnom Kulen contains a treasure trove of historical and natural wonders. Housing numerous temples, a gigantic reclining Buddha and a towering waterfall, steady streams of pilgrims are drawn to these jungled slopes. The plateau also has huge national significance, with ‘God- king’ Jayavarman II believed to have birthed the Khmer Empire here. Indeed, the vestiges of Angkor are still evident, with intricate carvings etched into the stone bed of the ‘river of a thousand lingas’.

Photo of SACRED DANCERS OF ANGKOR
SACRED DANCERS OF ANGKOR

Founded in 2007 as an offshoot of the Nginn Karet Foundation for Cambodia, a sustainable development NGO that helps underprivileged families, the Sacred Dancers of Angkor is the brainchild and passion project of Ravynn Karet-Coxen. Her young charges are exclusively children from the area surrounding Chhouk Sar, all of whom train for four hours per day in addition to attending school. The Sacred Dancers can be seen at various Siem Reap venues for full dress performances and at their Banteay Srei Conservatoire. Check their Facebook page for details of upcoming shows.

fb.com/SacredDancersOfAngkor

Discover TIP

Siem Reap is rightly famed for the wonders of Angkor, but temple lovers should try to check out the complex at Koh Ker and/or the majestic Preah Vihear. Each can be explored via day trips from Siem Reap.