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Amansara, Siem Reap, Cambodia (combined thread)

Amansara, Siem Reap, Cambodia (combined thread)

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Old Feb 3, 15, 1:27 pm
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Amansara, Siem Reap, Cambodia (combined thread)

Amansara

Map| 7 Reviews | 86% Recommended

Amansara

Road To Angkor Siem Reap, KH

Amansara, Cambodia (0 Photo)

Amansara

Arriving in Siem Reap was a pleasant surprise. We did not expect much from an airport in a country with so much poverty. But it was lovely. And all check-in, immigration and baggage services were very efficient.

Our complimentary airport pick-up was done by a classic 1960s Mercedes limousine. The resort owns two of them and they were formerly owned by King Norodom Sihanouk as was the villa that makes up the main part of the resort. The drive to the resort revealed Siem Reap as a city undergoing tremendous growth, but there were so many new hotels under construction that we were glad we saw the temples now rather than waiting for all these additional tourists to arrive.

Room

We booked a pool suite for 3 nights. The room was beautifully designed in a more modern style than the other Amans weve visited. The best part of the room was probably the wall of windows separating the living areas from the private outdoor courtyard and plunge pool. And while the suites were all under one roof unlike other Aman villas, the resort added a great deal of privacy by building very tall concrete walls around each suites courtyard. You could occasionally hear traffic noise since the suites were on the edge of the property, but this is probably unavoidable in a town as bustling as Siem Reap.

Local School, Wat Bo

Our first day in Siem Reap was spent at a local school called Wat Bo. Before our trip, we made a donation to the Ponheary Ly foundation (www.theplf.org) which was used to send 68 Cambodian children to school. Ponheary and her driver picked us up at Amansara and drove us to what we later learned was the finest school in Cambodia and one that our designated kids were very lucky to attend. We were greeted by several teachers, the principal, and hundreds of smiling children. In an unexpectedly formal presentation, we handed out 68 pre-packaged bundles of school supplies, uniforms and flip-flops to some very cute and appreciative kids. Seeing their smiling faces was the most rewarding part of our trip, so much so that we hope to find similar charitable venues for our future vacations. And because the organizers of the charity (thank you Ponheary Ly & Lori Carlson) donate so much of their time, 100% of the donations go right to the children. In fact, our donation was originally budgeted to send 50 children to school and yet they managed to stretch the money to accommodate 68.

Dining

Food at Amansara was definitely up to Aman standards and the restaurant was great at accommodating my (mental) fish allergy by eliminating all fish and oyster sauces from the traditional Cambodian fare. On our last night, the chef arranged a private barbecue for us on the rooftop with a customized menu. Sitting cross-legged under the stars and surrounded by candles was very nice. Also, two daily meals were included with the nightly package rate, as were house wines (during the time of our stay, they were mostly South African and Australian).

For our first temple-related activity, we chartered a helicopter to Beng Melea and enjoyed an Aman-style sunset picnic. The flight was amazingly beautiful with spectacular views of Angkor Wat, many temples, small and large, Tonle Sap Lake and the Mekong River. The helicopter was not air conditioned, however, so be prepared for the heat. Our Amansara guide (who was extremely knowledgeable about all of the area temples, knew where to get the best photos and how to avoid crowds at all locations) was with us to explain what we were seeing and ultimately take us through Beng Melea. Beng Melea is best described as a temple utterly subsumed by jungle. For the more adventurous, park rangers literally lent us a hand through ancient windows and up to the highest points of the rubble which, in our case, provided for some great photos.

Temple Visit

We also visited the main temple of Angkor Wat at sunrise, Ta Prom (the temple now famous for being featured in Laura Croft: Tomb Raider) and Bayon. I especially enjoyed the more ruined of the ruins like Ta Prom which seemed to appeal to my romantic notion of what Siem Reap would be. Sadly, we learned that the park fees charged for seeing these temples doesnt stay in Cambodia but goes to a management company in Thailand.

Overall

Overall, service at Amansara was very efficient and extremely friendly. To ask for anything was to have it done, as is the case with all of the Aman properties in Asia. For the diehard Aman-junkies, however, we feel it necessary to provide a short list of annoyances. For all of Amansaras merits (and there are many), this list reminded Mr. Ericka and me that were not in Indonesia anymore.

- Our first morning, we were out of the room for a couple of hours and yet housekeeping failed to clean our room. While we did not participate in an Amansara activity that morning, the front desk knew we left the resort and could have notified housekeeping.
- We were asked our room number a handful of times, even after we had volunteered our name.
- There was a note in our room from the GM encouraging us to generously tip our guides and drivers since gratuities make up the bulk of their income. While this sounds like a nice gesture on the surface, it made us wonder why the resort wasnt paying them enough in the first place and why theyre not getting a generous piece of the service charge.
- The resort was charging $10 to attend a Khmer dance performance in the library. $10 is no big deal, but we dont recall other Amans charging for performances of this kind.
- Our rooftop dinner wasnt ready when we arrived (candles werent lit and no one was there) and we had to literally go find someone to get things started. As such, the dinner started late and we missed the above mentioned dance performance even though the people we scheduled dinner with knew we intended to join the performance for dessert and coffee.
- The GM didnt greet us on arrival or departure. To his credit, when he bumped into us on the property, he knew who we were. But when we told him about the great experience we had at the school that morning, he was more interested in scolding us for not signing up for any of the complimentary house outings (temple tours). While he was absolutely right that our helicopter tour wasnt as good as visiting on foot, his choice of words and tone felt condescending. We ended up following his advice (pushing ourselves despite the jetlag) and are grateful we did but it was awkward nonetheless.

Amansara, Cambodia

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Old Feb 3, 15, 1:41 pm
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Amansara

Amansara

Map| 7 Reviews | 86% Recommended

Amansara

Road To Angkor Siem Reap, KH

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Amansara

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Amansara

Short Review

I just returned from Sri Lanka on the 6th of March and the "we're not in Indonesia anymore" was used on our trip as well. The has been the case in the last year at Amankora, Amanyara, and Amanwella. In Sri Lanka the resorts biggest problem comes with design, the rooms offer little privacy. Housekeeping does not come into your room more then twice and many times you would come back to the room with it looking like you left it. Room service had to be called twice or more to come get the dishes and you would find them still there hours after you returned from an outing. At Amangalla you had ten towels in the room and at Amanwella you had four and you had to use one to wipe up the water that ran out of your shower, flooding the bath area.We hated this resort and could'nt wait to leave. The food was not good and lack of a chef was not acceptable. I know the person in charge of the food was trained well in Sri Lanka and was very nice but the selection and choices where not good. You felt like the resort was about to close and they just had the minimum selection. The fruit was not great either. I'm ranting again but I will wait to tell the rest when I hear back from Amanresorts which has been about two weeks now since I was told I would hear from the office in Singapore.
At Amanyara housekeeping had to be told and shown to place towels on the cushions located on the sundeck over looking the beach outside the room. Room 128 has am amazing beach thats yours alone, somone should have placed towels on the rocks so you can grab a towel when you exit the water as well. The main pool had problems keeping the lounges with fresh towels and dirty dishes remained for hours.


I'll just keep going back to Indonesia as thats where I was first wowed by Aman and have been so happy ever since. 
I think this reads like some cranky guest who can't be pleased but I'll leave it up since Ericka brought it up.

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Old Sep 5, 17, 1:40 pm
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Amansara (June 2017)

Amansara

Map| 7 Reviews | 86% Recommended

Amansara

Road To Angkor Siem Reap, KH

Amansara (June 2017) (0 Photo)

Amansara

Check In

Check in was exactly as expected.  We were met airside by the Aman rep, who completed the visa process for us and escorted us to the classic Mercedes for our unhurried journey to Amansara.  Even after the short flight from BKK, the cold towels and iced water were very welcome, and the trip in was interesting and relaxing.  The somewhat anemic air conditioning in the car was not a problem, even for those (like me) who sweat when the word "humidity" is even mentioned in passing.

Upon arrival, Astrid (GM) and Daniel (Chef) greeted us and we were escorted to our room.  As this was low season and a special occasion (our 15th wedding anniversary), and because she is just a wonderful human being, Astrid upgraded us to a Pool Suite.  After a brief tour of the facilities and the room, and a couple of edits to our itinerary, we settled in very quickly.  Astrid's actual greeting to us was "Welcome home!" which sounded a tad corny at first, but really grew on us.  Amansara became our better-than-actual-home for the next four nights.

Room

The Pool Suites are lovely and, at least in our experience, spacious (ours compared very favorably in terms of space to suites we have had at PHNY and Pen BH).  The room is open plan, so perhaps "studio" is a better word than "suite" - there is no divider between the sitting area and the bed, for example.  I for one much prefer the open-plan layout, but then again my wife and I have much the same habits in terms of bed and waking up times, so it is not an issue for us.  I very much liked the layout, with the notable and welcome absence of a television.  We did not come to Siem Reap to watch TV!

The bed was firm but very comfortable, the wifi was fast and stable, and the air conditioning worked beautifully.  We could have our room meat locker cold at night, as we generally prefer, and a more comfortable temperature during the day.  The pool itself is very private and while small, was a lovely way to relax after temple visits.  The weather was quite hot, so the shaded areas of the pool were much more inviting to us than the full-sun of the main pool area.

We found that there was adequate storage in the room for clothes both hung and folded, although a couple of times we had to hunt around a little for outlets to charge various devices (there is one behind the mirror at one sink, but not the other, for example).  The bedside clock held an Aman iPad mini but also charged my own iPad perfectly well using the thunderbolt connector.  

Service

Service is where Aman is meant to shine, and service is what I felt like I was paying for.  We were Aman newbies, so maybe that colors my impressions, but .... wow!

Service quality was apparent in so many ways: the laundry done beautifully every day, and the room cleaned by invisible angels; the mini bar kept stocked and the towels folded just so; the small gifts that ran from the incredibly useful (a scarf each, which was a counter-intuitive necessity in the heat) to the delicious (kampot pepper cookies) to memorable (a matted B&W photograph).

Nothing was a problem.  I mentioned to Chef Daniel that we had loved calamansi limes for limeade when we were in KUL some years ago.  True to his word, he bought several kilos and made delicious limeade for us at all times during our stay.  He even sent some with us on our picnic lunch journey and made sure it was available during our village breakfast.

We made tweaks to our itinerary and activities a couple of times, and those were accommodated without question or fuss.  We were greeted by name by Astrid and Daniel every day, and later by the F&B manager, Roman, who had been away on business the first couple of days of our stay.  Service really came to the fore for us on our outings, which I will cover below in some more detail.

Dining

I am a food snob.  I own it, and don't apologize for it.  Overlaying that, I had a terrible, terrible, TERRIBLE experience in KUL some years ago and am still to this day suffering its extremely unpleasant after-effects.  Suffice to say that I was more than a bit ginger about going back to SE Asia, specifically from a food perspective.

Chef Daniel did an outstanding job.  The food was daily offered in both Westerm and Khmer forms.  I have no mode of comparison for how "authentic" the Khmer food is, but it certainly was delicious.  He made this utterly lovel sambal to go with some ribs one night, and gladly made it available for me to have with poached eggs for breakfast.  (Try it, if you haven't experienced sambal and eggs before!).  It was much more citrus and kaffir-limey than the Indonesian sambal that I have had most often before, and just wonderfully spicy.

The Khmer food ranged over both vegetable and meat-based dishes, and we tried many of them.  I can't think of a one that we thought was less than delicious, and many of them would feature highly on the "Best Things I Ate in 2017" list if I were pedantic enough to keep such a thing.  From the light and flavorful summer rolls to the young pumpkin curry to the utterly delicious green breakfast curry (which really is the best thing I have eaten so far in 2017), the food was a real highlight.

The breakfast pastries and coffee before we set out each day were fresh and light, and the fruit an unending source of joy.  The picnic lunch was ample the day we went out, and the snacks provided on the boat for our Tonle Sap ride were similarly wonderful: just a thoughtfully-crafted and sized amount of food, tasty and sufficient without being so filling that you longed for a Tums and a good lie down.

A couple of practical notes:  we were on a package that included breakfast and either lunch or dinner daily.  As a practical matter given our itinerary, we had some pastries, fruit and coffee delivered very early before we set out, and ate dinner each evening at Amansara.  On one day we came back from our touring in time for a late breakfast, and had that as well.  I think Amansara rightly takes the view that the package gives a generous interpretation of what "counts" as breakfast (i.e. pastries if that's what you want, and/or a full sit-down breakfast in the restaurant).  We tend not to eat lunch while on vacation, so found the food inclusions to be ample, tasty and an absolute highlight of the trip.  The alcohol costs were a little striking (my wife's Tanqueray and tonic was US$18, I recall) but I spied some spirits at the airport that were

The dining room itself is very attractive, too, it must be said.

And my long-suffering stomach was extremely grateful that food hygiene is taken seriously, and did not punish me for going back to SE Asia.

Location

Amansara is well-situated in terms of proximity to the temple complexes, and the markets and tourist areas.  Area traffic noise was not a problem, even on the day they held an election while we were there.  Amansara felt like it was very secluded, even though the street on which it sits is quite busy.

Activities/Excursions

Again, wow!

We had arranged each day to visit some temple areas, using a variety of transport (Jeep, remork, mini-bus).  Our guide, Bunthan, was wonderful and his in-depth knowledge of the history and the culture really brought to life the many ages of Khmer history that can be seen in the various temples.  His pacing of the tours was very good, and he was extremely obliging in terms of answering questions.  He clearly was on excellent terms with a variety of guards and others, as we were consistently ushered to a more desirable location for this photograph, or to use that entrance in order to avoid a Chinese tour busload, or to take this other approach to seeing something.  I really felt like the excursions, with the dining, were the highlights of our trip.  My wife had tried to visit Angkor Wat in her backpacking days some 20 years ago (the border closed on them unexpectedly, so they never made it), and accordingly this trip was freighted with meaning for her in particular.  If I were to handicap the various temples, I would say that Banteay Srei and Ta Prohm were the most interesting - perhaps even more so than Angkor Wat itself - but really they were so different and, thanks to Bunthan, separately interesting, that I was glad that we opted to "see more" rather than "take it easy" so to speak.  In the four days we were there, we had plenty of relaxation time, but felt also that we saw the temples and culture we had come so far to see.

Speaking of culture, we loved a couple of other experiences: on our way to Tonle Sap we mentioned to Bunthan that we were interested in silks.  He arranged for us to visit a silk farm where we had a tour of how the silk is grown and woven, which was utterly fascinating.  The day trip we took out to Koh Ker was fascinating not just for the temples, but also because of the countryside and the life of the Cambodians.  We discussed politics and economics with Bunthan, and stopped at a market to look at some of the products we had talked about - from baby pumpkin to fried water scorpians - and really just had a great impromptu view into daily life.

The Tonle Sap boat ride was amazing.  The wet season was late arriving, which meant we had excellent weather while we were there.  As we drifted around, watching the fishermen and spotting water birds, a storm arose on the other side of the lake.  It was specatcular to watch, with black clouds riven by white lightning, and all at a distance safe enough not to cause a ripple in our frosty beverage glasses.  This was a special memory for us, and I am glad for the suggestions of others to do this.  I can't recommend it enough.

I know from reading these boards that there are various strongly-held opinions about Aman and tipping, so let me just quote directly from the card that was handed to us on our first day: "Amansara's guides and drivers are an integral part of our temple excursions.  They are trained by Amansara but are not employed directly by us.  Your appreciation of their services is valued through gratuities that you are welcome to pass directly to them.  For a general guide as to a suitable amount we suggest $30 per day for your guide and $10 per day for your driver."  We felt like Bunthan was a real asset, so gladly gave him a tip on the last day that reflected the time we had spent with him, and tipped our tour drivers as we went.  We did not tip the housekeeping staff or airport drivers as Aman's rate included a service charge that I felt should have covered them. 

Overall

Amansara was 11/10 for us.  Really I am not the gushing type and tend to leave most of that to my wife.  But Amansara was everything I had hoped it would be, and more.

My wife and discussed a comparison that we thought was useful (others may snipe, of course...).  We live in Nashville, and love Blackberry Farm.  The last time we went to BBF, we spent $1200/night.  Amansara was roughly the same amount, for frankly a better room and food that was at least as good, likely much better.  Both rates included meals, and service expectations commensurate with that pricing.  Amansara is obviously in a lower-cost area in terms of labor, but with the excursions included in our rate, the entire experience at Amansara was better value than BBF.  It might seem like I am comparing dragonfruit and moonshine, but if you travel enough, and value luxury experiences enough, I hope you understand the comparison: how would I rather spend my $1200/night??

I suppose we could have spent less by staying elsewhere, but for this special occasion Amansara blew it out of the water in terms of both a memorable set of experiences and, for us, value for money.

Amansara (June 2017)

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Old Sep 5, 17, 1:44 pm
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Not sure why the section on Dining reads the way it does. There looks to be a sentence or two cut off that should read, in full "The alcohol costs were a little striking (my wife's Tanqueray and tonic was US$18, I recall) but I spied some spirits at the airport that were <$80/bottle duty free, so I think that the pricing at Amansara is a function of the cost rather than a rapacious intent. Unlike the spirits, we found a couple of very reasonably-priced bottles of wine and spent 2 or three days working our way through them at dinner."

Apologies but on the edit screen I see the full text but it somehow got cut off in the posting. I am open to questions and comments, with apologies for how long it has taken me to write the review.
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Old Sep 5, 17, 1:45 pm
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Great great review!

thanks for sharing and happy anniversary. Astrid really is just a good person. I know Amanjena was sad to see her leave but Amansara sounds like a perfect place for her.

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Old Sep 5, 17, 2:33 pm
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It sounds like Amansara continues to be in excellent hands. Thanks for the review...and welcome to the Amanjunkie family!
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Old Sep 5, 17, 3:09 pm
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We have already started saving for an "Amans of Bhutan" trip in 2022, our 20th anniversary. My wife is hooked on Amans! What have I done?!?!
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Old Sep 5, 17, 4:54 pm
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Originally Posted by eamus View Post
We have already started saving for an "Amans of Bhutan" trip in 2022, our 20th anniversary. My wife is hooked on Amans! What have I done?!?!
It'll never end... my wife has long ago stated that she will go anywhere there's an Aman... it's the reason they call them "junkies" (do I qualify; probably...)

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Old Sep 5, 17, 7:38 pm
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Originally Posted by eamus View Post
We have already started saving for an "Amans of Bhutan" trip in 2022, our 20th anniversary. My wife is hooked on Amans! What have I done?!?!
Better than expensive handbags!
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Old Sep 5, 17, 10:35 pm
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Thank you for the wonderful review, and welcome to the #Amanjunkie world!
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Old Sep 5, 17, 11:46 pm
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Thanks a lot for your review which brings back good memories. Just curious about the Tonle Sap excursion: Since you were there in the dry season (and we at the end of the rainy season): Was the floating villages on dry land? I have heard that the lake is many times larger during the rainy season so I guess this is the case, but hard to believe since they were far from land when we were there.
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Old Sep 6, 17, 11:27 am
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brilliant, and very well said at the end!
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Old Sep 6, 17, 12:07 pm
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Musken, the floating villages were still floating, although the lake was (Bunthan said) quite low. To us it still looked absolutely massive so it is hard for me to really picture what it must be like in the wet season when it swells 5x. We were extremely lucky with the weather in that the week we were there is generally when the end of the dry season - the locals call it the "hot" season, without irony - turns to the beginning of the wet. The relative lack of water did not diminish our lake excursion.

Another interesting side note from the lake excursion was the ride home at night. All along the side of the road there were small tarps set up with fluorescent lights at the top and rectangular pail of water at the bottom. Bunthan explained that these are locals catching insects: crickets mainly, but also scorpions, black beetles and assorted other creepy-crawlies. They rise at midnight to harvest the bugs and sell them to market vendors, who cook them for food the next day. It really was fascinating to see, and a reminder that for all the long days I put in, I really have no idea what hard work looks like compared to these small villagers.
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Old Sep 6, 17, 12:54 pm
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Thanks for taking me back to Sara... what a wonderful report! Surely won't be your last Aman?
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Old Sep 7, 17, 1:05 am
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Originally Posted by eamus View Post
Musken, the floating villages were still floating, although the lake was (Bunthan said) quite low. To us it still looked absolutely massive so it is hard for me to really picture what it must be like in the wet season when it swells 5x. We were extremely lucky with the weather in that the week we were there is generally when the end of the dry season - the locals call it the "hot" season, without irony - turns to the beginning of the wet. The relative lack of water did not diminish our lake excursion.

Another interesting side note from the lake excursion was the ride home at night. All along the side of the road there were small tarps set up with fluorescent lights at the top and rectangular pail of water at the bottom. Bunthan explained that these are locals catching insects: crickets mainly, but also scorpions, black beetles and assorted other creepy-crawlies. They rise at midnight to harvest the bugs and sell them to market vendors, who cook them for food the next day. It really was fascinating to see, and a reminder that for all the long days I put in, I really have no idea what hard work looks like compared to these small villagers.
When we landed and looked down at Siem Reap from above, there was so much water everywhere that we for a moment thought that there had been some sort of a massive natural water disaster which the European newspapers had forgotten to write about. We were scared for a moment that our holidays would be ruined completely. But of course, once on the ground, we discovered that this was not the case and we had a great time (and lots of sunshine as well).
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