7 DAYS SIEM REAP, PHNOM PENH & SONG SAA, CAMBODIA
Getting around: best to fly from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh as it is only 45 mins and costs approximately USD 100 one-way; it is otherwise a car ride north of 4 hours long. To get to Song Saa, Bespokcracy opted for a private car to Sihanoukville instead and it took about 3.5 hours and it is a 35-45 min boat ride to Song Saa thereafter. The propeller plane option looked a little too rickety for our liking. Boat rides are courtesy of Song Saa Private Island while the private car can be arranged with them directly.
Leg 1: 3 days
Siem Reap - Angkor Wat
To stay: Heritage Suites Hotel
Combining French colonial architecture with sleek contemporary interiors, this almost all-suites property is an easy charmer. Its airy layout together with its gorgeous lake of a pool puts you immediately into that relaxed vacation mode you came precisely here for.
Wat Polangka - Phum Slok Kram | +855 63 969 100 | website | fr USD145 for a classic room
You only come here for one thing: the Angkor Wat temples.
Built in the early to mid 12th century, these magnificent temples are dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. This huge temple-mountain, built by King Suryavarman II is considered as the masterpiece of Khmer architecture and art. Amongst many sites, we visited Ta Prohm, featured prominently in Lara Craft: Tomb Raider, Angkor Thom and Banteay Srei Temple. 2 days isn't exactly enough to cover the largest religious complex in the world but will put you in good stead with most of the important sites.
Must-eat: Cuisine Wat Damnak
Voted the best restaurant in Cambodia, and we suspect by a large margin going by what we had. It reinvents traditional Cambodian/Khmer food by using modern cooking techniques and only using local produce, like fish and shellfish unique to the Mekong and Tonle Sap lake, and fruits and vegetables like ambarella and kuy fruit. And housed in a traditional Khmer house, chef Joannès Rivière is sure to give you a culinary experience like no other here.
Wat Damnak Village, Sala Kamreuk Commune | +855 77 347 762 | website
Leg 2: 1 day
To stay: Raffles Le Royal Phnom Penh
The grande dame of hotels in Phnom Penh (and even dare we say Cambodia) lives up to every honour bestowed upon it through and through. Opened in 1929 as part of French's vision to make the region a more palatable tourist destination, it has received its fair share of celebrities and dignitaries. Its signature drink, Femme Fatale, is even named after Jackie O, after her 1967 stay. Try staying at one of the four Personality Suites if budget permits- the Jackie O one, we are very partial towards.
92 Rukhak Vithei Daun Penh, Sangkat Wat Phnom | +855 23 981 888 | website | fr USD250 for a State room
To see: Choeung Ek Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
They are not exactly the cheeriest of sights to take in but they are no less important if you want to understand Cambodia's painful path of searching for its self-identity. Tuol Sleng used to be one of the most notorious high-security prisons where the Khmer Rouge perpetuated their atrocities while Choeung Ek was a mass grave for the executed where close to 10,000 bodies were found after the fall of the bloody regime. A memorial tower was recently erected there and has 5,000 skulls in the stupa. A grim reminder of what heinous actions humans are capable of- and never to repeat them.
Song Saa Private Island
For the ultimate relaxation after all the sauntering about the Angkor temples, Song Saa would be the perfect final destination to close your Cambodian trip. And the islands cannot be more aptly-named- Song Saa means "the sweethearts" in Khmer and is bought and developed by real-life sweethearts, Australians Rory and Melita Hunter. They fell in love with the region after a sailing trip around the Koh Rong Peninsula, so much so that they bought this island practically on impulse. They redeveloped the island after consultations with the five villages on the island with Melita at the helm of designing; and the result is 27 environmentally-sensitive (but in no way any less spectacular) villas and Cambodia's first marine reserve. The actual experience was even more magnificent with immaculate service and truly luxurious living that you can definitely write home about.
Koh Rong Peninsula | +855 23 886 750 | website | fr USD1440 for a jungle villa*
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