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Just returned from Siem Riep....here is some information

Just returned from Siem Riep....here is some information

Mar 30th, 2003, 09:31 PM
  #1  
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Just returned from Siem Riep....here is some information

and 15) just returned from a 3 day visit to Siem Riep. Of that time, we spent two and one half days touring, and found this to be the perfect amount of time to see everything on our list, without rushing. This included Angkor Wat, all of Angkor Thom, including Bayon, Elephant Terrace, Leper Terrace etc., Ta Prohm, Banteay Srie, a boat trip on the Tonle Sap, and a tour and shopping at D'Artisans D'Angkor. There are those who say you need much more time there, but I think we gained an excellent understanding of the ancient Khmer culture, without getting "templed out."

Part of the reason we learned so much was our guide, Ponheary Ly, who we found by a posting on this board. I can't say enough about how much Ponheary enhanced our experience with her knowledge of Khmer history, religion and culture. She pointed out so many things that we might have missed on our own, even with a good guidebook in hand. She had a great sense of humor and she was sensitive to our needs in the pace of her tour, making frequent rest stops in the shade, if she saw the kids were getting tired. You can reach her at [email protected] and tell her Lindsey sent you.
The only real disappointment of the trip was our first night accommodation. We stayed at the Angkor Village. I chose it because it was the only place that seemed to have some local flavor, as it is built in the style of a Khmer village. And it definitely has good "drive-up" appeal. The lobby, restaurant and grounds are quite lovely. The problem was when we got into the room. The smell of mildew nearly knocked me over. This is most likely because the air con can only run when you are in the room and have your key inserted in the controls. The bed is a thin foam pad on a wood platform. I like a firm mattress, but this was ridiculous. The pillows were little matted square cushions. The bath towels had holes in them. There were mysterious red streaks on the bathroom window (probably mold of some sort.) The only reading lamp in the room did not work. I know some people on this board really liked this hotel. My guess is that due to slow business in the past few months, the maintenance has gone straight downhill. It was the most miserable hotel experience I have had in a long time. We checked out the next day and headed for the Sofitel.
Sofitel is very expensive compared to many 4-5 star hotels in Asia, but it was worth it. We had lovely pool view rooms for $US165 per room, per night, plus tax and service charges. This included a buffet breakfast so huge that we only ate snacks for lunch. The facilities and service were awesome. The kids loved the pool, which was a great place to cool off during our midday break from touring. (to be continued).

Lindsey is offline  
Mar 31st, 2003, 02:16 PM
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Lindsey-
I'm so glad you used Ponheary and liked her. I found out about her on this board also and my husband and I hired her when we were there in July 2002. We stayed in her guesthouse as well, which was clean and comfortable with A/C, but basic. We are still in contact with her and recommend her often.
If anyone wants to see pictures of her guesthouse (or the temples of Angkor for that matter!) you can see them on my website at
http://www.wired2theworld.com
Kristina is offline  
Mar 31st, 2003, 03:14 PM
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Yipes! It sounds like Angkor Village Resort has really gone downhill since our stay a little over a year ago. While the mattresses were hard (and are traditional in this part of Asia), we had no mildew and none of teh maintence problems you cited. We also appreciated having a pool.

I'm glad you enjoyed the temples.
Kathie is offline  
Mar 31st, 2003, 06:17 PM
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in the last several months i have posted quite a bit about siem reap here, but i am glad that you wrote this the way you have....we loved the angkor village "scene"...our room was very disappointing for over $100/nite (middle price room)..the bed was so hard that i could hardly walk the first day and spent 3/4 of it in the a/c car while my wife toured with our guide....we had a small smell but not bad--room 13...what was bad was the 24 hours of loud music from over the fence---we were told it was a wedding....
we did not like the food except the breakfasts which were not included....i think you got a bargain at $165, incl. breakfast at sofitel....the pool was lovely but there were too few chairs and the mgmt. could have cared less....

all in all we might stay there again but probably not...i could not risk the bed problem again...my wife was perfectly comfortable however....
i agree that 3 days is perfect, even 2.5 days....
rhkkmk is offline  
Mar 31st, 2003, 07:33 PM
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RHKKMK,
My husband would certainly sympathise with you about the beds at Angkor Village. He was taking painkillers all the next day, because of the horrendous pain in his neck. We did not eat any meals at Angkor Village, except the one breakfast which was included in the room rate of $US115++. We had a choice of 3 fixed menus, with no variations, but the food was pretty good.

I agree that the rate we got at Sofitel was excellent. March is normally still considered high season in Siem Riep, and I think the regular rate on our rooms would have been about $230++. But
business is so slow at the moment, they are cutting rates like mad. Even so, the pool and restaurants were pretty empty. My guess is they may only have had about 30-40 rooms occupied.

Forgot to mention one other new restaurant in Siem Riep, where we had lunch. It's called Dead Fish Tower. (That is not a typo.) Most bizarre and funky place I have ever been. You really have to see the decor to believe it. The menu is Thai, the food is good and the prices very low.
Lindsey is offline  
Apr 1st, 2003, 09:57 AM
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i enjoyed your response....our driver took us to a pharmacy and the lady offered us morphine, which my wife declined (she is a nurse) but we took vioxx --all instructions written in french...i tried to translate it but could not find anything about dosage and my wife didn't know so i took two before lunch...when we went back to the hotel we went into the office and had a french manager translate for us...no dosage info so he called his doctor friend at the hospital who said one in 24 hours....i was overdosed needless to say...it did not touch the pain but advil did and by mid-afternoon i could at least hobble around....funny when we think back on it but not so funny to loose one day of a limited time slot....i missed going into the terraces and a full walk through of angkor thom---i later returned for 10 minute run through thom...
rhkkmk is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2003, 12:43 AM
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I loved your vioxx story because I had a similar experience in Bangkok. (Amazing how the regulation of pharmaceuticals varies from country to country in Asia. I live in Singapore and you need a prescription for Advil here!)
I had a really bad head cold and was given a decongestant by a pharmacist. I took what I thought he said was the dosage. When I got back to the hotel and had an English speaking concierge translate the package, I discovered I had taken about 3 days worth. Fortunately no bad side effects to ruin my trip.
Lindsey is offline  
Apr 6th, 2003, 09:44 AM
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My husband & I also recently returned from Siem Reap - I think 4 days is necessary to really fully experience the place without rushing around just to hit the sights. however, I couldn't overstate the lousy experience we had on our first night at the Angkor Village Resort - miniature bed, massive mosquitos, drum noises from theikr apsara performance, and the HOT water was out. Unbelievably pleasant - we left the next day and found a brand new beautiful teak lined Cambodia hotel called Kompoul Pich (very close to entrance of Angkor) where we got a stunning room for $60 inclu. tax and b/fast. The staff couldn't have been nicer, there was an excellent TV, nice bathroom and endless Hot water, king size bed, all decorated in teak and pale yellow linens. The Cambodians are pretty poor - I now realize that I would prefer not to give my money to foreign operators when it's completely possible to stay in an equally beautiful place like the Kompoul Pich for less money and get better, more attentive service. ( I wish I had known before we went!) If anybody is interested in staying at this property, please feel free to let me know and I will send their contact info.
celeste1023 is offline  
Jun 26th, 2003, 08:10 AM
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My husband and I are headed to Siem Reap in mid July and have corresponded with a number of Cambodian travel agencies regarding 2-3 Angkor Wat tours. This goes against our grain as we usually like to do things independently but I was warned it would be too difficult/dangerous to handle things ourselves. How did you all handle your arrangements, e.g. transfer from airport, dealing with hotels, transfer to temples, etc. If I contact Ponheary Ly can she help with these arrangements and what are her fees? If we can do this on our own I'm very interested in the Kompoul Pich. I'd love their contact info. Also, how did you handle mosquitos? Did you bring your own nets for sleeping? Thanks!
tomnanne is offline  
Jun 26th, 2003, 09:29 AM
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We also stayed Angkor Village in November 2001. The rooms were as disappointing then as it sounds in the current descriptions. I can't remember the room number, but it was close to the lobby area. Unfortunately, we didn't make a change since we were only there two nights and didn't spend much time there.
Nicci is offline  
Jun 26th, 2003, 10:36 AM
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we did it all on our own...we used bangkok air's nyc office and found them very cooperative, but expensive....we stayed at angkor village but did not like the dinners or the beds (about $105/nite in nov 2002)...would look at other places....angkor village arranged our driver and guide---excellent and $20/each per day...you need min. of 2.5 days to scratch the surface unless you plan to tour all day everyday (aslmost physically impossible---heat and humidity)...
nothing to be scared about---it is a friendly place....have someone meet you at airport however...it is out of town and there are people yelling to help you over the fence....once you are away from that you are ok....i'd have my hotel before i go however....
rhkkmk is offline  
Jun 26th, 2003, 07:02 PM
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To Tomnanne - We have booked with Ponheary for the beginning of August. I originally thought I'd book a car through the guesthouse where we are staying because they also did the airport transfers. Talked to Ponheary by email and she has organised her driver for us - he has had very good reviews on this site too. Obviously it is to their advantage to help their friends but I also worried that if you got a guide that doesn't particularly like or even know the driver it might make for a less successful and happy time all round. Ponheary will work with others but certainly is much happier with her regular driver - she says sometimes it can be a problem with drivers she isn't use to but that the hotels never really hear of this.

As for transfers she and the driver are meeting us at the airport the day before we are booked to tour with no charges. Can't ask for more. They pick us up from our guesthouse each morning. Her fees are the same as all the other guides ($20per day and $20 per day for the driver but $10extra for outlying temples)

We booked our accommodation through the net - also had very helpful responses from all we contacted. We've decided on the Red Piano - its also a restaurant that friends have recommended. Mid range guesthouse - certainly nothing fancy but have heard lots of not so good comments about so called better places. Nothing bad about the Red Piano yet so we shall see.

Hope you have a great time - please post when you get back.
MaryW is offline  
Jun 26th, 2003, 07:19 PM
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the red piano is right in the center of everything in the town...we ate there twice and enjoyed it quite a bit....i believe it is quite basic...i am not sure if there is a/c, as the restaurant/bar part does not have a/c...you really need it, i'm sorry to say...you might want to re-think that part....
we really like the La Noria Restaurant, although some people have not liked it....it is just across the river from the right hand end of the grand hotel...al fresco dining and very good and reasonable....
rhkkmk is offline  
Jun 28th, 2003, 05:52 PM
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Red Piano does have air-con in the bedrooms - in fact quite new units so hopefully fairly quiet. I agree that you really do need - at least I do - the air-conditioning - after a long hot day, its a great relief to get a cool nights sleep.
MaryW is offline  
Jun 29th, 2003, 07:14 PM
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With regard to tomnanne's comments above, I wonder what the source for the idea that visiting Siem Reap and touring Angkor is "too difficult/dangerous" is?

I spent eight nights in Siem Reap a couple of years ago without booking anything in advance at all, except a couple of nights at the Grand Hotel d'Angkor, after which I simply moved to a comfortable hotel about ten minutes' walk away, for US$20 a night. Of course prices when booked from abroad will be greatly inflated, and the hotel did indeed at first ask for US$60 a night. Transport was arranged on a daily basis, depending on what we felt we wanted to see the next day. We had no difficulty finding cars (and sometimes used mopeds), negotiating according to the time we wanted to spend and the temples we wanted to see. I felt that eight nights was just about enough, allowing for trips to a few further flung temples, and for an entire day at the end just spent revisiting the highlights.

There was not the slightest danger at all, and if you are used to travelling independently and making your own arrangements as you go, there's no reason why you shouldn't do it in Cambodia, too.

I don't remember whether it was at PP or Siem Reap, but I remember there was a cabin selling tickets for the taxi ride in from the airport for a flat rate. I certainly have no memory of any difficulties in getting in from the airport or back out to it again.

The perfect preparation for a trip, as well as practical guide when there, and sumptuously illustrated enough to be a good souvenir afterwards, is Micheal Freeman and Claude Jacques "Ancient Angkor" (Thames and Hudson).

Peter N-H
http://members.axion.net/~pnh/China.html
PeterN_H is offline  
Aug 15th, 2003, 09:44 AM
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This is a quick "thank you" to everyone in this forum for letting me know about Ponheary. I sent an e-mail to her([email protected]) and got a response the next day with all the information I needed to book a driver over a four-day period that caters to my schedule. Very impressive.

Thanks again to all.
MikeBuckley is offline  
Aug 16th, 2003, 12:27 PM
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I was just in Siem Reap last week and I have a question. I see people referring to the Sofitel for 100++ a night. I stayed at the Apsara...a stunningly beautiful brand new hotel with gorgeous pool and excellent service for $45 a night. A hotel with similar amenities would easily command 300++ in any major western city. Am I missing something here? I couldn't imagine a Four Seasons having much more to offer me. Is the Sofitel that much better and worth that much? Someone please enlighten me.
hammail is offline  
Aug 16th, 2003, 12:32 PM
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Just wanted to add, I do stay at expensive hotels...in Bangkok I stayed at the Peninsula which is incredible...but I have to say the Apsara made me feel just as comfortable as I'm sure many of the other 50/nite places would have. And in a city like Siem Reap I felt like I was spending too much but I was too tired to go bargain hunting.
hammail is offline  
Aug 16th, 2003, 12:42 PM
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The Sofitel rates usually include breakfast and dinner in any of their restaurants (including the outdoor buffet with a full-scale Cambodian dance performance on a traditional stage). Above that you're paying for (adapted) period elegance, for following in the footsteps of Chaplin, Somerset Maugham, Andr?| Malraux, and others. There's also a splendid palm-fringed pool overlooked by the balconies of the rear rooms (which have lots of period fittings but also all modernities such as A/C), and views of Angkor in the distance.

Previous experience suggests that views on whether this is worthwhile vary considerably, and a lot of people may post to say that their hotel was better, even though they stayed nowhere else. The opening of several new hotels is probably why the Sofitel (Grand H?tel d'Angkor) has come down from the US$300 it was asking and getting before.

I stayed a few nights there, and enjoyed it immensely, then moved to something spotless and pleasant nearby for only US$20 a night (its first asking price was $45).

Peter N-H
http://members.axion.net/~pnh/China.html
PeterN_H is offline  
Aug 16th, 2003, 04:17 PM
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The Sofitel and the Grand Hotel d'Angkor are two different places. The Grand (an elegant old French Colonial Hotel) is usually listed at $300-400 per night. The Sofitel is new (about 2 years old) and is frequently listed at $200-250 a night.

Hammail, it sounds like you found a nice place, especailly at that price. I was last at Angkor in December, 2001 and there was lots of building going on. So the Apsara wasn't there at that time.
Kathie is offline  

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