Beautiful, traditional Cambodia. This country body slams me every time I think of its sunburned grassy hills, dusty landscape, jungle-covered temples and the smiles and joy of the Khmer people. I was not prepared for how hard I would fall for it and I want to explore the every inch of its intriguing, heartbreaking and inspiring land.
We’ve explored the Cambodian jungle, staying in wooden huts with cold water, we’ve stayed in homestays and in beach huts and little guesthouses…and this trip, well this trip we experienced the delicious luxury of the Anantara Angkor Resort.
Mum was visiting us in Hoi An, and as it was my birthday and mum has never seen Angkor we decided to take a long weekend trip to Siem Reap - a birthday morning watching the Angkor sunrise - what could be better? I grabbed some flights from Da Nang in Vietnam to Siem Reap and off we went.
We flew into Siem Reap after Em finished school - being from Australia it’s still amazing to me how quickly we can be in an entirely different country here in Asia.
As we left the airport terminal and wandered into the steamy evening heat we were met by a lovely smiling Anantara staff member with a name sign and a house car with cold face cloths and bottled water - because oh yes, that’s how the Anantara rolls.
The Anantara Angkor Resort in Siem Reap is stunning resort just a few minutes outside of the bustling town. At the gateway to the ancient city and temples of Angkor and beyond, the Anantara Angkor Resort allows you a much needed luxe escape after dusty, hot days spent climbing and roaming temples, jungle and waterfalls. With its smiling staff, old-school service, luxurious suites and attention to detail it is the perfect spot to come home to after a long day of templing.
Arrival at the resort
After a short ride from the airport we arrived at the Resort’s private entrance. The heavy gate was opened and our car entered a circular driveway.
“Welcome home Miss Farrell!’ We were greeted by the super efficient Panjak the Front Office Manager and the lovely Kong who would be our Experience Butler (more on this in a minute) and look after us during our stay.
We were immediately ushered into the spa where we were treated to a foot ritual - our feet were bathed and cleaned in frangipani water before we were escorted along a softly lit gallery to our suite. On the way we talked with Pankaj the manager about the following days’ plans that he had arranged for us: an adventure out to temples outside of main Angkor park area- Beng Mealea, Preach Ko and Bakong. We would leave early and hire the resort’s recommended minivan, driver and guide. We decided to treat ourselves and confirmed the booking as Kong led us to the door to our suite.
Oh my gosh we were saying in a suite! Well it was my birthday after all so it was only fitting. Our suite was absolutely beautiful and first thing I noticed was the thoughtfully printed and framed photo of Emmie and me on the side-table alongside a selection of delicious sweets.
How amazing - I was so overwhelmed that the resort would go to so much trouble for us and it was such a lovely touch and indicative of the level of care guests receive here. We were also given a traditional scarf each to use to respectfully cover our shoulders at the Angkor temples - such lovely gifts and beautiful warm welcome.
The oversized twin beds were large with bright white sheets and covers, and Emma’s rollaway bed was super comfy too. And yes, the pillows were so soft - it’s my number one marker when reviewing hotel rooms and my most important requirement for a good night’s sleep. And with such big days ahead touring the temples you need a good sleep when staying in Siem Reap.
The bathroom divided from the main room by plantation shutters, and was decorated with a freestanding basin and vanity, plants and a large shower. It was bright and functional and very handy when traveling with kids so you can keep an eye on them at all times.
Sliding doors led out onto a sitting area with its own plunge pool, overlooking the main swimming pool which was beautifully lit in the evening darkness.
This is a special touch that makes a stay at the Anantara Angkor even more wonderful. Kong was our Experience Butler, (oh my gosh, oh my gosh was this real life?!) and look after us during our stay. At the Anantara Angkor Resort each guest is assigned an Experience Butler like Kong who makes sure their stay is first class - helping with their itinerary, making sure their needs are met and ensuring every little detail is taken care of. Kong would remind me to take my Anantara phone with us when we went out (more on this coming up) and generally looked after us. Oh we felt special that is for sure!
Complimentary Anantara tuktuk - return trip each day
Kong pointed to a mobile phone and advised me that the phone was to be taken with us when we left the resort so we could call for a complimentary Anantara tuk took to collect us.All we needed to do was to call the front desk from our room a few minutes before departure to arrange our tuk tuk from the resort and then call on the Anantara phone when we were ready to leave to arrange pickup.
Into Siem Reap town
After checking out our room I convinced mum and Emmie to head into town to wander around Siem Reap, grab some local food and soak up the evening atmosphere…I had an ulterior motive though as Angie Jolie was in town and I was determined to catch a glimpse of her. But I failed.
We picked up or Anantara Bat Phone and off we went, taking the complimentary Anantara tuk tuk into pub street - it was so busy! It had been much quieter when we were last in Siem Reap - this time there was so much music pumping, girls in bikinis and shirtless men walking around withbeers in hand. It was crazy…not at all like we remembered. So we aborted hat mission and I led mum and Emmie back to the little street food stall where Emmie and I had eaten six months ago and we sat in the quiet.
Mum and I ate amok chicken and eggplant, Emmie had her favourite, pork and rice all washed down with some fresh lime and coconut juices. Then it was time to call the Anantara, arrange a meeting point (Burger King) and by the time we had walked there our tuk tuk was waiting.
Inside the Anantara’s walls is a serene, light-filled series of open rooms, secret tropical pathways, fountains and patches of soft grass alongside water features overlooked by sculptures and artworks. The light colour palette is calming and the world moves slowly within the Anantara’s grounds. Its grounds are inspired by royal Khmer architecture, from the light filled spaces, to the open walkways, symmetrical swiming pool and straight edged plunge-pools and sun-lit courtyards.
My birthday lunch was at Chi, the Anantara’s signature restaurant and it was divine - it was quiet, we overlooked the fountains and water features. The food is Khmer fusion and it was delicious with dishes including INSERT….Mum and I both chose wines - I had a rose and mum a sauvignon blanc and both were delicious and in fact, I need to get a copy of that wine list so I can buy up!
A massage at the end of the day after climbing and wandering temples, a visit to the Anantara Spa should be on your list. I’ve written before about the value of a proper massage by trained therapists and my massage (and I admit Ive had a lot on this trip) was up there with the best. It ended with a 10 minute head massage and I could hear myself snoring all the way through it - to me, that is the sign of a top tier treatment!
I didn't work out, but I checked out the gym and it’s really well equipped although if you’re walking around the temples all day you’re not going to need to work out. But…if you’re staying by the pool all day and relaxing then you can visit in the morning for a guilt free lazy day.
Our days were spent exploring temples, getting about town and laying by the beautiful Anantara pool. The weather was perfect and hot and the pool was the perfect spot to cool off and Emmie also swam in her little private pool at the front of our suite, feeling like a princess.
During our stay our driver took us into town, out to putt putt golf and over to the Bambu Theatre where we saw an incredible show about the history of Siem Reap in photographs. Nowhere was too far or too much trouble, and retuning ‘home’ each evening and afternoon was so special.
Every time we walked past the front desk we would be greeted by name and asked if there was anything we needed. Every time we returned from an adventure Kong and the rest of the team would ask how our trip was and would talk to us about what we had done. It really felt like being welcomed home each day, just as we had been greeted with on arrival our very first day.
Breakfast is in the Chi Dining Room and is such a decadent, personalised experience. As the Anantara is a boutique resort with 34 rooms theres no overcrowding and breakfast is an intimate affair.
The Food and Beverage Manager, Sheldon, and his team prepares breakfast freshly each morning based on the resort occupancy, reducing waste (which always worries me) and including both a small buffet and an a la carte menu where you can order any other breakfast items including your choice of eggs (with asparagus and tomato…my fave) and local dishes. Each table is given a delicious basket of fresh pastries including croissants, pain au chocolate, bread rolls and French butter. I could have sat there all day. The coffee was wonderful too! And they have takeaway cups!
Breakfast was nice and quiet and such a beautiful way to lazily start the day - when we weren’t leaving early for the temples. And when we did set off early we were treated to a breakfast basket with fresh pastries and fruit - it’s how I discovered longan berries. We had a huge bunch in our base for breakfast at Angkor and I ate them all.
At the far end of the Anantara’s beautiful swimming pool is a sculpture of a female form holding a small child. Graceful serene and peaceful this is the mood at the Anantara pool. Surrounded by frangipanis, lounges and with cold cloths and water delivered directly to you as you slip into your chair it is definitely some kind of bliss.
Emmie loved the pool and so did I and we spend hours here when we could. On my birthday I ordered a glass of champagne and sat in the sun, sipping my bubbles in the calmness and pinching myself.
Emmie also loved the little plunge pool outside our room.
Anantara Discovery Adventures
The Anantara Angkor offers more than tours of Angkor and surrounding temples, it offers personalised experiences with one of the best guides in town - the knowledgable, friendly and kind Hann.
Once a monk and English teacher, Hann has researched the temples for years and truly made our adventures so much more interesting and rewarding by connecting us to the Khmer history through his stories and insights. You can take a look at the experiences and download the Discover Guidebook here.
Panjak had coordinated our two-day itinerary for us in consultation with Hann. Bespoke experiences are a signature of the Anantara - from a champagne breakfast in front of the temples to jungle bike-rides and culinary adventures, the Anantara will take care of your needs and coordinate your dream adventure for you. You can read all about making the most of Angkor with Kids here.
All too soon it was time for us to leave Siem Reap and our luxurious stay at the Anantara. The staff came to the car to wave us goodbye and as usual we felt sad to leave this beautiful land and the incredible, dreamy world of luxury at the Anantara Angkor Resort.
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We stayed at the Anantara Angkor Resort & Spa as guests of the property.
BUY FOR KIDS: LEAP & HOP KIDS GUIDE
Emmie loved her Leap & Hop Cambodia kids guidebook. It's a fabulous guide to Sri Lanka for kids with puzzles, drawing challenges, beautiful pictures and so much fin you're kids won't even realise they're learning so so much about this beautiful country. Buy yours here.