WHAT TO DO IN SIEM REAP
There's much more to Siem Reap than being the often overlooked neighbor of Angkor Wat. While it's not a bustling metropolis like Hong Kong, there's plenty to do to fill up your days and nights.
STAY AT THE SHINTA MANI I absolutely adore this hotel! Shinta Mani Club serves up delicious cuisine morning, noon and night at Kroya and Bensley’s Bar has a cool vibe where you can chat with locals. There’s also the oh, so refreshing pool that is open till 11PM.
COCKTAILS AT FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS CLUB / FCC Just a few blocks from Shinta Mani is FCC, an airy colonial building that was the former French governor’s mansion. It’s a breezy spot to kick back ice cold Angkor beers and you can peruse the galleries downstairs with colorful Buddhas and prints for sale.
DRINK KHMER SPIRIT It is a smooth liquor that I find it to be quite tasty (and I never say that about straight alcohol). It also states that is doesn't cause headaches or make you sick. How can you go wrong?
ANGKOR THOM It’s not as famous as Angkor Wat, but Angkor Thom’s “Great City” was the final and longest-lasting capital of the Khmer empire. As you approach the grounds there is a massive stone entrance that opens up to the Bayon ruins and the intricate detail of the faces on Prasat Bayon were simply mind-blowing! Try and get to Angkor Thom early, by the time we got there at 8AM it was flooded with buses of tourists.
BOUTIQUE SHOPS AND GALLERIES There is a lovely row of boutique shops and galleries on the corner of Oum Khun and Shinta Mani Street filled with unique homewares made by local artisans. We picked up saffron-hued placemats and a bright wooden red gecko. On Saturdays and Sundays from 4-9 PM there is the MADE IN CAMBODIA street market with stalls featuring everything from clothing to khmer spirit, and there is also food and live performances.
FISH PEDICURE I know what you're thinking, and you're absolutely right! The fish pedicure is an odd, strange beauty treatment, but it actually works. Warning, it does tickle like crazy, but your feet will be as soft as butter. There are a handful of spas where you can do the fish pedicure near Pub Street and it costs around $3 for 30 minutes.
QUAD BIKING SIEM REAP Four wheeling through the countryside of Cambodia was a heart-warming experience. As you drive kids wave and yell ‘Hello’ as you whiz past miles of rice paddy fields. However, the tour at times can feel quite generic. Our guide took us to an open field where we met up with other groups taking endless jumping photos, while others sat on a water buffalo so emaciated that it looked like his legs would buck at any moment. Looking back, it may have made more sense to book with a private operator instead of one of these larger tour groups.
THINGS TO AVOID IN SIEM REAP
SHOOTING GUNS Shooting guns in Cambodia is shady business. You get picked up in a nice, air-conditioned SUV and drive an hour out to the countryside. But when you get there, it is a dark, run down bunker that looks like an abandoned subway tunnel. The guns were woefully under-maintained and jammed on every other shot.
SUGAR PALM Suggested by many as the best restaurant in Siem Reap, we found the overall experience a bit lackluster. While my curry dish was delicious, the cocktails were unoriginal and our server was an erratic mess.
ANGKOR WAT AT SUNRISE There’s something about sharing this majestic experience with five thousand of your closest friends. I joke, but it’s similar to going to the Louvre in Paris and attempting to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa. Watching people take pictures of other people taking pictures of the Mona Lisa. I have heard through the grapevine that sunset at Angkor Wat is less crowded. If you get there a few hours before you should have plenty of time to explore all levels. Unfortunately, you can’t ascend to the top levels of Angkor Wat till 8:00/8:30 in the morning.
COCKTAILS BY THE POOL
KHMER GINGER AND OPEN HEART ARE PURE DELICIOUSNESS!
WE ATE LUNCH AT THE POOL BAR EVERYDAY ...
FRESH PRAWN SPRING ROLLS, STIR-FRIED NOODLES AND THE LEMONGRASS CHICKEN SANDWICH AND VEGGIE BURGER WERE OUR FAVORITES.
KROYA SHINTA MANI
WE LOVED EATING BREAKFAST FROM THE GIANT SWINGING TABLES AND THE WAFFLES WERE THE BEST I'VE EVER HAD ...
WE ALSO WENT TO KROYA IN THE EVENING FOR THE SEVEN-SET TASTING MENU.
IT'S REALLY NO WONDER WHY SHINTA MANI CLUB IN SIEM REAP IS RANKED ONE OF THE BEST HOTELS IN THE WORLD ...
From the chic interiors to the fresh flowers placed in your room every morning, every aspect of this intimate boutique hotel is simply delightful. The team at SHINTA MANI CLUB is the best I have ever encountered! Everyone is incredibly friendly and goes above and beyond to make you feel at home in this tropical slice of heaven. The rooms boast oodles of character and top-notch amenities, such as in-room Illy espresso machines and mini fridges with delights such as Angkor Beer, fruit juice and water. There's also a giant TV accompanied by a DVD player and surround sound speakers, so you can relax in the comfort of your air-conditioned room after a long day of meandering around the Angkor temples.
We spent most of our time at the pool, quite simply it was hard to pull ourselves away. The pool was covered under a blanket of towering palm trees, so we never needed to reapply sunscreen every twenty minutes ( much like we did in Phuket). Plus, there was a massive pool bar menu, delectable cocktails for 5 USD and daily rounds of ice cream cones and shoulder massages. It's not just the amazing amenities that make SHINTA MANI so special, but it's the people who became our friends and the lasting memories that will be with us forever.
If you ever find yourself in Athens, you should absolutely make a stop at NEW HOTEL, a boutique bolthole just steps from Syntagma Square. Housed in the former Olympic Palace Hotel, this mid-century structure was stripped down and decorated using many re-purposed materials from the original interior. This hotel perfectly encapsulates the history of this ancient city while incorporating cutting-edge design and technology.
NEW HOTEL ATHENS is one of those places that know how to do everything right. As you walk into the beautifully-decorated lobby, you are greeted by friendly and eager to help staff and a plate of sweet treats. The check-in is a breeze, and then, you take the never-crowded elevator to your floor. The halls are dimly lit and reign decadence with dark wood walls and gleaming gold accents, a perfect contrast to the bright, sun-splashed rooms - courtesy of the floor-to-ceiling windows.
The beds are soft as clouds, the geometric bathrooms are a design lover’s dream and the views are Instagram #nofilter worthy. Not only are the accommodations simply divine, but the amenities and restaurants - New Taste and Art Lounge - deserve a notable mention. The fitness center downstairs is fantastic, armed with new cardio machines, weight equipment, a large stretching area and bright blue graphic panels that make you think you're hanging out in a seashell at the bottom of the ocean. New Taste restaurant serves just-picked produce and dishes that will make your mouth water. There was only one issue with NEW HOTEL ATHENS, that we didn’t stay longer.
Imagine a place where you can roam among an endless trove of palm trees, indulge in scrumptious Moroccan delicacies and take in millions of stars from your semi-private plunge pool.
Nestled in Marrakech’s Palmeraie region, a 15-minute drive from Jamaâ El Fna square, DAR SABRA is an intimate boutique hotel consisting of 20 individually designed rooms and suites. From the moment you enter the property, which is hidden behind a mammoth wooden gate, you will be welcomed by an intoxicating sense of relaxation. Pour yourself a glass of mint tea and roam the property to discover modern art sculptures, a you just want to touch cactus garden and mid-century meets Mexican-inspired architecture.
Take a moment (or several) to admire the blazing orange sunset, the many shimmering pools and dancing palm trees. You can't go wrong with any of the rooms and suites at Dar Sabra, each is designed with modern specifications and unique themes. We had the opportunity to stay in the African Suite, a dark red room with traditional artwork, an almost pool-sized bathtub and an entire wall of floor-to-ceiling windows that overlooks the glowing aqua pool.
Not only is the property spectacular and incredibly well-maintained, but the entire staff treats you like family. From the team at breakfast to the concierge, everyone goes above and beyond to make you feel as if DAR SABRA is your home.
Getting to Bath:
We took the bus to Bath, but got caught up in traffic for about 35 minutes. On the way back to London we took the train, which was lighting fast and really quite comfortable.
What to Eat in Bath:
Venture to Sally Lunn in the center of town. It is the oldest house in Bath and therefore, very popular with tourists, but the experience overall is quite delightful. Dare you ask What is a Sally Lunn Bun, in my opinion, it is most closely resembles a challah loaf, but it can take on new identities depending on what it is topped with.
Bertinet Bakery (there's two) is a gem! It is home to the best pain au chocolat I've ever had.
Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Bath's busy streets is The Eastern Eye, a delicious Indian restaurant housed in a majestic Georgian building.
What to Do in Bath:
Grab a glass of wine or a pint and head to the balcony at Graze and take in a view of the town.
Relax in the baths, while in Bath. The Thermae Spa, despite being incredibly busy is both tranquil and fun. When we first walked up to the recently remodeled spa there was a line 70 people deep, including a boisterous group of girls that couldn't tame their excitement for their matching engagement rings and Le Pliage bags. We both thought, "Should we leave?", but once we went past the turnstiles we never saw the sorority girls again and embarked on what was truly a relaxing experience. Head up to the rooftop at dusk with a few noodles in tow (supplied by the spa) and get ready to fall into a trance.