We flew Biz class from Beijing on Air Asia to Seoul (a 55 minute connection at ICN that included a huge line at security and some frantic running) and then on to Siem Reap, using Lufthansa Miles for K and United miles for myself.
Our driver, Bunthy (email@example.com), had a little accident so he sent his friend Puthy (firstname.lastname@example.org), another driver, to pick us up at the airport. I got Bunthy’s name from Travis at www. extrapackofpeanuts.com and he was very prompt in responding and answering questions. I hired Puthy to drive us around for 2 days at $30 per day ($8 extra for early pick up to see Angkor Wat). Air Asia provides the requisite visa, entry and departure forms so we had those ready and an extra passport photo to present for a visa upon arrival ($30 cash). I have to say the officers were pretty crabby and had absolutely no patience when we arrived late in the evening. The 15 minute ride to the Park Hyatt Siem Reap was $7. They pretty much prefer US dollars everywhere here so no need to change to Cambodian Riels.
The Park Hyatt is in the middle of town – a great location, but I did hear a lot of traffic from my room. We paid $100 per night plus 7500 Hyatt Gold Passport points per night and used a Diamond Suite upgrade to score a very nice suite. Upon arrival, we were offered these delicious iced emongrass ice teas – yum! The service was very good, as usual for a Park Hyatt. I said, “uh oh” when I saw a can of raid in the closet and found out why the next day – somehow, little bugs and/or mosquitos were making it into the room and I found some of these little creatures under the sofa cushions in the living room (K was bit when he slept on the sofa and they were underneath, so we got rid of them and put the sofa cushions and bedding in the closet, where K ended up sleeping for the next 2 nights.)
We walked to Pub Street for some meals and visited one of several night markets, haggling for a good price. Khmer Kitchen near Pub Street was cheap and delicious. There is a small supermarket down the street from the hotel where you can grab snacks, drinks and special coffees and teas (lemongrass, ginger, etc.). Everything is pretty cheap by US standards.
Malis (Jasmine in Khmer) was a beautiful restaurant, a short tuk tuk ride away from our hotel – the traditional fish amok was good, and the fresh stir fried vegetables were very good, but another traditional fish dish (I forgot the name but was warned it was “very strong”) – I should not have ordered – it was too strong!
On certain nights, guests can see Traditional Cambodian Dance at the Park Hyatt – they offer set meals at the restaurant for this ($25 and up) – we ate at the overpriced restaurant, but no need to do this to see the show – just show up and see the show, then walk or tuk tuk to a local restaurant to eat for 1/10 to 1/2 the price!
The temples of Siem Reap were amazing. After buying the one day ticket at 4:45pm for the next day, we enjoyed a quick trek through Ta Phrom (Tomb Raider) until they kicked us out at 5:30pm – it was great going at that time of day because it was less crowed (better pictures!) and cooler than mid-afternoon.
We got up and left the hotel at 5am to see the sunrise at Ankor Wat. The view is amazing. So are the crowds. But you still have to go to catch the reflection of the 5 temple towers off the waters at sunrise- you can only see this entering from the west side. Immediately afterwards, I recommend you go through Angkor Wat and get picked up on the other side (East Side) and you will avoid the crowds and the heat.
The next day we visited Angkor Thom, which is a collection of smaller temples, including Bayon and the Terraces of the Elephants and of the Leper King. We did this at 7am to avoid the crowds and the heat.
We stayed at the Park Hyatt for 4 nights – it was great to be able to retreat to the serenity of this hotel and its pools during the heat of the day – we had 3 full days to hang out in Siem Reap, and I think that was the perfect amount of time to experience much of this ancient city!