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Cambodia in July - How much help do we need?

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My wife and I are traveling to SE Asia in July and August and we've returned to this forum for some more help.
Here is our first question. We've booked our long haul flights open jaw NYC - BKK, SIN - BKK. We've also booked most of our short flights. We are now trying to get our long haul flight switched so we arrive in Siem Reap or Phnom Penh instead of Bangkok. We're hoping to skip Bangkok and avoid any problems due to the political changes. We weren't doing Bangkok or Thailand any justice with only three nights planned anyway and now we will have a pressing reason to return soon and spend some quality time in Thailand.
So now we hope to find ourselves with 3 extra nights in Cambodia. I think we will do 2 or 3 nights in Phnom Penh (probably 3 since we will be bouncing back from our long flight), travel by ferry or bus to Siem Reap and then spend 4 nights in Siem Reap. We already have a flight booked from Siem Reap to Yangon on July 16th.
Here are my questions:
1. How much help can we expect a good hotel to give us with our plans? Do we need to enlist a local travel agent when taking a trip outside of town or arranging a good driver or guide? I have been in email contact with several agents helping me with Myanmar and Vietnam and they have begun offering suggestions for Cambodia. I normally prefer to make my own arrangements, but love to have a knowledgable local person or agency for support when it enhances our experience or convenience greatly. We will probably find and book our own hotels so do we need them at all. We would like to explore the temples and villages, experience the Khmer people and culture, take a boat ride and cooking class, learn some history, see local art and artisans, check out the markets, relax by a pool, go for a bike ride, eat good local food. I'm thinking most of this can be handled on our own or with the hotel, but I don't want to always be directed to the hotel's "guys" who may or may not be genuine especially in regards to experiencing the villages.
2. Which Phnom Penh neighborhood to stay in? We don't know much about the city. I'm thinking near the Royal Palace and the water. If anyone has any hotels they love in the $30 - $60 range, post or message me privately please. Location near the things described above (especially nice food markets), helpful English speaking staff and a pool are the priorities.
3. Siem Reap hotel suggestions? Old Quarter or French Quarter a few blocks away from Pub Street the best area to look in? Same criteria as for Phnom Penh.

4. Myanmar, Hanoi, Bali and Singapore are our next stops. I will be posting several questions shortly about some of our decisions in these places. With these other destinations in mind, I think Cambodia is the best place to go for a more upscale hotel. Myanmar is more expensive and not as tourist ready. Hanoi - maybe, but we are going to be to busy exploring, eating and kayaking Halong Bay to be in the hotel much. Bali - maybe but busy time and more expensive I think. Singapore - much more expensive. Am I correct in thinking Cambodia will be the best value for a more upscale experience? It would be nice to be able to treat my wife with a nice hotel when we first arrive after our long flight.

Thank you for any help you can provide. I will post some questions about our other stops soon.
Sean

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