We visited southeast Asia in September. This itinerary used Hong Kong as the gateway city with a series of one-way flights from Hong Kong to Hanoi to Luang Prabang to Siem Reap and then back to Hong Kong. Siem Reap is a challenging destination to take in over a short stay, but we felt the below itinerary
Day 1: Srah Srang Dinner
Our flight to Siem Reap departed at 2 p.m. and arrived at 4 p.m. Amansara picked us up at the airport in a vintage Mercedes limousine. That evening, we had the special private dinner (additional cost) at a traditional house owned by Aman – Srah Srang. Musicians entertained us while we sampled many local delicacies overlooking the house’s garden. This house is in a village, though, and the neighbors were playing loud music that somewhat detracted from the otherwise pleasant ambiance. The food at both Srah Srang and the main dining room was excellent.
Day 2 Morning: Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, and Killing Fields
The primary reason millions of people journey to Cambodia is to see the amazing ruins of Angkor Wat. We departed the hotel for Angkor Wat at 5 a.m. in an Aman remork. This is an open-air carriage pulled by a motorcycle (see drive below).
Our Aman guide took us to the back side of Angkor Wat, where we had the whole ruin to ourselves at sunrise. It was worth the early start!
As soon as the doors opened to the temple proper, we were among the first to enter. Once inside, he guided us to quiet corners before they were overrun with tour groups.
The scale of the overall Siem Reap complex of ruins was much larger than we anticipated. Angkor Wat is huge, but it is only one of several adjacent ancient cities, any one of which would itself qualify as a World Heritage Site. When the tour buses descended on Angkor Wat, our Aman guide moved on to Ta Prohm, which many will recognize from it being used as a set for movies such as Tomb Raider. Giant trees and their roots interlace the ruins of Ta Prohm, creating great photo opportunities.
On the way back to the hotel, our guide—a survivor of Cambodia’s killing fields—took us to the site of his family’s murder and told us his heartbreaking story. You can hear it for yourself here.
Day 2 Afternoon: Angkor Thom and Bayon
We returned back to the hotel for a late lunch before journeying back to the archaeological complex for an afternoon visit to Angkor Thom and Bayon. We hiked along the walls of Angkor Thom and had one of its imposing gates entirely to ourselves. Then we climbed through the main temple in the low light of sunset. This is the temple of many faces, and the late light was perfect for viewing them.
On the way back to the Amansara, we stopped at two smaller and older temples to learn about the evolution of temple architecture.
Day 3 Morning: Banteay Srei
For our morning excursion, we headed to one of the more remote sites, Banteay Srei. It was much smaller than the others, but made of intricately carved sandstone.
We also stopped off for a tour of a silk worm farm and factory, which we would recommend avoiding.
Day 3 Afternoon: Tonle Sap Lake Cruise
From there we headed to the Tonle Sap lake, which is a basin flooded by the Mekong River. During the flooded period, the size of the lake increases six-fold. Amansara has its own boat on the lake, which we chartered for a private tour (additional charge). The first stop was a flooded forest. We hopped in a small boat with a woman who paddled us through the canopy. Our guide explained that the canopy had once been full of monkeys but they were hunted to extinction by a nearby restaurant that specialized in serving monkeys to Chinese tourists.
The Amansara’s boat then sailed across the lake for an hour to a floating village, where fisherman lived. It was a scenic place, and worth the trip and additional expense.
Day 4: Flight to Hong Kong
The next morning, Amansara took us back to the airport in their vintage Mercedes limo, and we flew back to Hong Kong, arriving at 2 p.m. This time, we were staying at the Peninsula Hotel, which picked us up in a forest green Rolls Royce. We spent the afternoon walking along the waterfront and shopping on the nearby piers. That night it was Chinese National Day, and the largest fireworks display of the year was planned for Hong Kong. The Peninsula Hotel’s rooftop restaurant, Felix, offers a panoramic view of the harbor and offered a special multicourse dinner to go along with the fireworks. It was by far the most incredible fireworks display we have ever seen, and it went on longer than any we had ever seen.