Siem Reap, Cambodia

Photo: sam garza (originally posted to Flickr as Angkor Wat) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: sam garza (originally posted to Flickr as Angkor Wat) [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
The day started early in Siem Reap. When the alarm started buzzing before sunrise, you considered turning it off and going back to sleep, since your bed, with its antique carved headboard, was so comfortable. After finally convincing yourself to get up, you stubbed your toe—twice. First on the couch in front of the bed, and then on the stone tub in the bathroom. But you pulled yourself together, emerged from your wooden villa, and walked through the sweet-smelling gardens and by the infinity pool toward the entrance of the resort. Coffee and croissants magically appeared. Soon you were off to the capital of the ancient Khmer Empire.

That would be Angkor, the home of hundreds of temples, including Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. You wanted to beat the heat and, more importantly, the crowds. You started at Phnom Bakheng, a temple mountain with stunning views of Angkor Wat and the surrounding jungle. It was a breathtaking moment to see the sandstone formations as the sun rose, the sky changed color, and the mist dissipated.

After taking in the beauty and the scope of Angkor, you headed down to Angkor Wat and crossed the moat toward the temple, which is dominated by five towers. The hours disappeared quickly, but the throngs of people and the humidity ultimately did you in. Before reaching Angkor Thom (the fortified city) or the Bayon temple, you had to escape.

Photo: Zannier Hotels
Photo: Zannier Hotels

But, unlike most of the day-trippers, you can return tomorrow and the next day, if you wish. Phum Baitang is just a few miles from both the World Heritage Site and the center of Siem Reap. It feels worlds away from everything, though. The “green village” looks like an authentic Cambodian village. Its buildings are made of local stone and wood. Rustic villas, built on stilts, are full of handmade wooden furniture, lanterns, and cool linens. They all have wide terraces. Some, like yours, have private plunge pools. Sun loungers, daybeds, and baskets of thick towels are outside, too. While rice paddy fields, lemongrass, and grazing water buffalo surround the property.

Upon returning to the resort, you’re tempted to join a cooking class, during which you’d learn how to make three Khmer dishes. But that would entail a trip to the local market to pick out ingredients and spices. You consider the Spa Temple, as well. A Touch of Cambodia massage, featuring strong kneading to focus on your energy lines, sounds amazing. But you’d have to stay awake. The only thing you can handle right now is a nap. You sink into a sun lounger by your plunge pool, sip a fresh-lime soda, and gaze at the frangipani trees. Within moments, you can’t keep your eyes open.

When you wake up, the humidity has slightly subsided. After stretching, you go inside your villa and take a long bath. You feel completely refreshed and ready for a real drink. At the Cigar & Cocktail Lounge, you find rattan chairs and Oriental rugs in a 100-year-old farmhouse. You slowly sip a glass of Sancerre, while you watch the sun set over the rice paddies. Then you move to Bay Phsar to taste Cambodian dishes. You start with crisp ban chave and peppery bangkia bampong. You eat Khmer curry and fish amok with lots of lemongrass, turmeric, and galangal. And you linger over onde-onde dumplings for dessert. It’s been a long and satisfying day in northwestern Cambodia. You’re glad you didn’t rush this trip.


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