Tour or custom trip – what to choose?
Whether you decide to do a tour, or think it’d be best to make it on your own, the decision is not the easiest one. There is a lot that you need to consider.
Are you short of time? The decision is impacted by factors that arrive even before you head into the beyond. If you’re short on free time during the days leading up to your vacation, as most of us are, the idea of a tour can start to sound particularly appealing. Someone else does the research for you, books everything, and ensures that you won’t get lost, or miss out something important. Pertinently, relinquishing the reigns comes at cost. You will not have the feeling of accomplishment when you’re staring at something that was once just a two-dimensional, flickering image on your laptop. This may, of course, not matter to you at all.
Are you ready to research in advance? Similarly, the effort and energy required to plan a holiday, should you decide the make it on your own, is significantly more than tagging along in a group. Travelling, even if it is in luxury, requires your attention at many moments. These moments can have a big impact on the rest of your day. In this regard, tours are just so much easier.
Do you enjoy improvisation? Maybe the biggest thing that you need to consider is, what is your idea of fun? Do you enjoy getting lost, and being found? Do you enjoy traipsing through forests and stretches of land with no idea of what awaits behind the next bend? Or, do you enjoy knowing exactly what the day holds, where you will have lunch, and how long you want to spend at each of the places that you’ll visit? The answer to this question will make your decision much easier.
Well... Are you a misanthrope? A question that you may feel kind of guilty for admitting the answer to, is whether you like other people or not. There is nothing wrong with not enjoying other people’s company. Shallow conversations and the luring presence of others can ruin a moment. Some people enjoy solitude, secrets, and the feeling of having a place to yourself.
- Are you ready to splash even more cash? The last thing you need to consider is your budget. While you are already spending a lot for a luxurious holiday, the cost of a tour will be significantly more. Consider whether the tours you are interested in provide you with what you are looking for. Otherwise, it may be best to spend more time and effort, but less money, to make your ideas come to fruition on your own.
Siem Riep is an iconic name uttered all over the world every day, by those who have been, or those who are waiting to go. The city is a bustling one, with so much to keep you busy. Visit The Royal Gardens, side streets with dangling electricity wires and everyday people. Stroll on over to Pub Street by night to feel electrified and entertained.
Angkor Complex is, of course, on the itinerary of every traveller in Siem Riep. The archaic temples can be explored and experienced in so many different ways. One of the most interesting ways of enjoying the temple, albeit a little extravagant, is with your head hanging out of a helicopter.
After all the gallivanting around town, a visit to the Mudita Spa wouldn’t go amiss. Unwind with a massage, treatment at the salon, dip in the jacuzzi, or just sit back in the generally very soothing ambience. Once the day is up, grab a room at the Belmond La Résidence d'Angkor – a truly beautiful oasis in amidst the bustle.
Phnom Penh is the centre of all the cultural sights in Cambodia. History lessons abound and there are museums packed with Khmer artefacts and artwork. Many remnants of the years of persecution under the Khmer Rouge are scattered around the city. Take the time to explore the sobering artefacts and sites. Be sure to visit The Killing Fields and The Toul Sleng Musuem of Genocide.
Kick back a little with a visit to the Foreign Correspondents Centre when you’re through. Get some delicious local and imported lagers in you while you keep one eye on the views from the balcony. You can also grab some pretty decent Western food here. But, if you’re looking to splash out, head on over to Van’s – a French restaurant operating out of a converted 150-year-old bank.
In Phnom Penh, deciding where to stay isn’t easy. Of the best, and unparalleled in its offering of a 360 degree view of the city, is the Rosewood Hotel. The hotel sits on top of the tallest building in Cambodia, which makes for some pretty magical stuff come sunset time.
Sihanoukville and its islands are a critical part of any trip to Cambodia. It provides a diversity that allows for a greater appreciation of each city, activity or landscape. Coral Beach is well worth a visit, but where you really want to be spending some time is Sokha beach. Head off the far left of the beach for some snorkelling amidst the corals. There are many day trips and potential ferries to some incredible surrounding islands. Consider exploring Koh Pos, or Koh Tonsay.
You could stay at the Independence Hotel Resort. Take in the views from their own private pier, or from one of their many infinity pools. Otherwise, spend a few a hours there, get a soothing massage with unreal views, and then head on over to Sokha Beach resort for your night’s stay.
Best luxury hotels in Cambodia
1. Phnom Penh – Rosewood Hotel
The Rosewood Hotel really is a special piece of real-estate. Located on top of the tallest building in Cambodia, it offers incredible panoramic views of the city and the Mekong River below. Guests can enjoy the gobsmacking views from a rotating sky bar terrace.
However, the views don’t stop there. Take a swim on the 33rd floor, and peak over toward the horizon between strokes. There aren’t any papers about it online, but exercise must be confused with fun all the time up there. The rooms are furnished with large windows that let light stream in and offer the same views of the city below. The rooms vary in amenities, but are all finished with a chic and sensible design.
2. Phnom Penh – Sofitel
The rooms at the Sofitel hotel are designed with the most classic pictures of luxury in mind. Neutral tones, claw-footed furniture, wooden trimmings, and a perfect balance of minimalism and tasteful decoration bring a calming ambience into the space. Enjoy this colonial style in the heart of Phnom Penh for anything between KHR 900,000 and KHR 3,000,000 a night.
3. Phnom Penh – Raffles Hotel Le Royal
The incredibly designed Raffles Hotel Le Royal is fit for a king. It has been the premier hotel of Phnom Penh for over a century, delivering a level of refined enchantment that is unparalleled by any other establishment. The rooms look like the inside of the Queen of England’s bedroom with an almost unimaginable level of decadence. Words, especially in their black and white dullness, struggle to paint the beauty of them. Rooms begin at around KHR 800,000 if you book in advance, and peak at around a staggering KHR 12,000,000.
4. Siem Reap – Phum Baiting
Phum Baiting makes it onto the list because of the serenity it offers in amidst the bustle of Siem Riep. The resort is a few minutes outside of town, surrounded by palms trees, all the browns and all the greens. The architecture is almost entirely wooden, decorated with calming and luxurious fittings and upholstery. It is made even more enticing by the comforting mood lighting. The resort has both garden and pool villas, each of which bear a tasteful resemblance to traditional Cambodian architecture. The bathrooms look like something you have only seen in pictures of home magazine’s or on MTV Cribs, but never experienced in the flesh. Welcome to the good stuff.
5. Siem Reap – Privilege Floor
The Privilege Floor is a supremely tranquil hideout right in the heart of Siem Riep. It is just a few kilometres from the airport, and has an impressive list of services to ensure that you are comfortable and independent during your stay in Siem Riep. Many of the rooms have these incredible balconies with a traditional bed-like couch. It is the ultimate set-up for watching the sun move down the sky and out of sight. Rooms begin at around KHR 600,000 and cost around KHR 3,000,000 at the top end.
6. Siem Reap – Belmond La Résidence d'Angkor
Incredibly well located to just about anything that you could want to do in the area, the Belmond La Résidence d'Angkor is the perfect place for the person looking to do some real exploring. The hotel is just a few-minute walk away from the vibey nightlife, peaceful temples and Royal Gardens. The rooms offer a fantastic integration of ancient Khmer design with contemporary style. They are also incredibly beautiful, blurring the lines between where the rooms end and nature begins. After exploring the nearby attractions, the gym, spa, pool, and high-class restaurant will ensure that you are never left wanting.
7. Sihanoukville – Sokha Beach Resort
Sokha Beach Resort is worth writing home about. The resort is set amidst palm trees and shrubbery immediately off the beach. The rooms are so very wistful with light streaming in through the large balcony windows all through the day. Wooden floors and furnishings and long flowing curtains finish the rustic yet elegant feel of the rooms. The resort has several swimming pools, poolside swim-up bars, a spa, a fitness centre and even a salon. While the resort isnt cheap, the views and atmosphere are easily justify the price tag. Rooms start at KHR 650,000 and head up to around KHR 8,000,000.
8. Sihanoukville – Holiday Villa Nataya
While there really isn’t anything that comes close to the splendour of Sokha Beach Resort, Holiday Villa Nataya is hardly a shabby night’s stay. At a fraction of the price, the list of amenities is impressive. The rooms are small but well done. The balconies either hover of the pool or look out toward the nearby coastline and Ochheuteal beach. Rooms begin at around KHR 250,000 and top out at around KHR 1,200,000 for the President Grand Villa.
9. Sihanoukville – 360 Resort
360 Resort offers their guests exactly what you would think – incredible views over the expansive city. The outdoor infinity pool is jaw-dropping and makes for a pretty special photo any time of the day. There are also several BBQ’s near the pool if you’d like to cook up something you caught out at sea. Some of the lower end rooms are quite simple. However, the Royal Suite Villa is absolutely stunning. Wood furnishings and a fantastic balcony make the price tag worth it. Rooms begin at around KHR 300,000 and head up to a maximum of KHR 750,000.
How much to budget
Your budget is something that is very difficult to take advice on. Better than doing that, is establishing what you are able to afford, and then working out your intended expenses from there. A day of travel, including activities and entrance tickets, meals at a mid-range or luxury restaurant, private transportation within the city – without accommodation can cost anywhere between KHR400,000 (USD100) and KHR1,200,000 (USD300). This broad range couldn’t really give you any bigger ballpark to work with.
Cambodia is, without a doubt, one of the greatest places to visit in not just South-East Asia, but the world. It’s diversity, rich history, and abundance of high-end resorts and restaurants make this the perfect place to spend your time off this year. Make it happen!