Siem Reap highlights

Although often immediately identified by ancient temples, one of Cambodia’s biggest assets is its people. Living in a country still recovering from the Khmer Rouge, the people are impressively resilient, friendly, and welcoming. Their spirits and pride blew me away and made the experience extra special. Worth noting: I went in August during the thick of summer monsoon season and although the rain was minimal, the heat and humidity were oppressive- not the most comfortable conditions for outdoor excursions. [Nic]

[DO] Floating Villages

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It’s a little bit of a hike, but a fascinating experience. At the recommendation of our official guide, we drove about 45 minutes from town to the dock. Only accessible by water, we bought a ticket for about $20 and then boarded a boat to tour the “town” on stilts. Everything- homes, schools, stores- are built in the water. You need to see it to believe it.

[DO] Temples of Angkor

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We spent 2 days seeing Ankor Wat, the Bayon Temple, and “Tomb Raider” with a private and official tour guide. The hotel arranged for the guide and car. It sounds extravagant, but very reasonable- $70 total for both for the day in addition to the entrance fee- money well spent for the educational experience.  One benefit of visiting during the rainy season is that the surrounding natural pools created beautiful reflections and picture taking opportunities. Although it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, sadly many statues have been vandalized and are missing their heads. The effort to restore and maintain the site is impressive and ongoing.

[STAY] Shinta Mani

One of my favorite, if not my favorite hotel my entire trip in SE Asia. It’s a luxury boutique resort that is committed to responsible tourism and giving back to the local community. Through it’s “Open Doors, Open Hearts” philosophy, a portion of the nightly room rate is donated to the Shinta Mani Foundation for education, small business start-ups, and healthcare. The grounds are beautiful and modern. The food and cocktails are delicious. We sampled almost all the handmade cocktails at Bensley’s Bar- how could we resist when they were only $5 each?! We stayed at the Club since the Resort across the street was still under construction. I am confident that you can’t go wrong with either property.

http://shintamani.com

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