Monday, November 3, 2008

Siem Reap

The staging town for visiting the Angkor Wat temples, Siem Reap is becoming something of a destination in itself. We spent a few days there. Here are some of our take-aways.


We were REALLY pleased with Viroth’s Hotel. Tinny, stylish, and comfortable, it felt like our own little oasis tucked into a corner of the cacophony. The price was reasonable and the quality of the rooms and service was high (“Tsai” is a particularly great resource for arranging anything in town). Moreover, we really dug the location. Many of the growing number of international standard hotels are on the outskirts of town along the main road. That’s fine, but being right in town proximate to the Old Market was much more fun. The croissants they serve for breakfast on the roof top are brought over from the Blue Pumpkin bakery in town and are particularly yummy.

Viroth's hotel

#0658 Wat Bo Village

Siem Reap Cambodia.

063 761 720

016 951 800 (Mobile)

Honestly, if I were going to consider spending more, I’d go all out and stay at either the Hotel de la Paix ( or the Amansara ( These are both beautiful ultra-high end luxury joints in the

center of town and I’m sure they’re worth the $$. We had dinner one night at the restaurant inside Hotel de la Paix (“Meric”). It was probably equal to what we spent on every other dinner in town combined and it was absolutely lovely. The food was world class. The setting was spectacular, and the service was great.

However, high end dinning is not why we were in Siem Reap. We really enjoyed several other places.


Khmer Kitchen: There are several places called “Khmer Kitchen”. Not sure if they’re all under the same ownership. The one we liked was along “Pub Street Alley”/“Food Alley” which runs between the Old Market and Pub Street (northwest of the market - the side opposite the water). All the dishes were fresh and crazy cheap. We particularly liked the morning glory w/shrimp.

Angkor Palm: We had a great dinner at this joint facing the Old Market on the northeast side

( It’s just an air-coned version of pretty much the same Khmer food served elsewhere (with the addition of a wine list), but it was all good. The owner was engaged, hands on, and made sure we had everything we needed. It’s people like him and our guide John Teng who are going to build an economic future for Cambodia.

Aha: This place looked like exactly the kind of joint we didn’t want. At the southwest end of Pub Street Alley connected to the McDermott Gallery. Highly hip and far too slick to be much about their food. WRONG! They’re doing great fusion-ish food in their little glassed-in central kitchen. These are global “tapas” that are more than just a mishmash. Moreover, the service was impressive. Kind and easy going, but on-the-ball attentive. Found out later that they’re owned by the crew from Hotel de la Paix.

Viroth’s Restaurant: Around the corner from the hotel along Wat Bo Road, this place serves Khmer food done to a high standard in a lovely setting. After a hot & sweaty morning exploring the ruins, it feels like an oasis for lunch. (

FCC Angkor: We never got over to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club ( We heard it was a great place for an evening cocktail and perhaps dinner. Looked really fun.

Snack: Across the street from the Old Market on the southwest side, there’s an open front store doing these palm sugar, tapioca, coconut, black sesame cookie/pancake-things. Thin pancake done on a hot griddle, then rolled into a tube. They sell them in packages, but buy one off the griddle to nibble as you walk the market. Yummy.

No-go List:

Chamkar: Veggie place in Pub Street Alley. Inconsistent, SLOW (as in 1.5 hours between order and service). We had a seriously shitty interaction with the French manager.

Cambodian BBQ: Cute spot in Pub Street Alley. The food was boring with relatively high



The damn temples are so beautiful that it’s hard to come up with a list of must-go places. We certainly enjoyed Les Artisans d'Angkor school ( It’s a French backed facility that recruits rural kids, teaches them traditional Khmer craft, and then employs them making stuff to fund the school. If you want to do some shopping, buy here; both to support the program and because of the quality and price.

I felt that the Cambodian Land Mine Museum & Relief Facility ( was extremely well done. Our guide mentioned that there was a government run “official” museum that was crappy so I’d make sure to get to the one run by Aki Ra.


I can’t speak highly enough about the guide we hired, John Teng. He was

knowledgeable, reliable, flexible, and very reasonable. If you think you could use a guide for the temples, for transport, etc., John’s the dude.

John Teng

(+855) 12 995 977, (+855) 16 518 888

*Note: Many of the photos here were taken by our friend Ken Girardini. As a rule, the good ones are his. If they suck they’re mine.

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