Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Travel: Cambodia, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh: Beaches & Pepper Crabs

It was back in 1997 that I first went to Cambodia.  There were only a handful of small hotels that were family run and Raffle Chain Hotel was the hotel to stay at.  Then, only small, hut-like vendors were open and only for a few hours, providing very few Khmer dishes.  The seaside was not safe and walks along the beach were unheard of back them. Now, there are over 300 hotels on the popular strip in the city Siem Reap; from Starckish to affordable boutique inns.


A 5-star luxurious private home with secluded ambiance.

Hotel De La Paix
Another centrally located 5-star boutique hotel with a stunning architectural fusion of ancient Khmer with contemporary art exhibits.

The One Hotel
The Passage, Old Market Area
With only one suite available, you literally have the whole hotel to yourself.


Sugar Palm - Ta Phul Rd
Great traditional Cambodian cuisine; Amok is a must!

The Blue Pumpkin Hip, affordable and delicious. A One stop shop bakery, restaurant, lounge and ice cream with locations in both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. The Ginger Black Sesame and Durian ice cream are the winners.


Body Tune Two-hour massage just flies by.


Alley West – Colorful shopping lane filled with more artsy and unique wares.

FCC (Foreign Correspondent’s Club) – Home to gorgeous boutiques and galleries with great drinks before sunset.

Eric Raisina (various locations in Cambodia) - Famous designer of Cambodian silk scarves & couture.

Local Artist Studio

Phnom Penh


Le Marais Boutique Hotel & Paris Fashion, #33 Street 222
An alluring mixture of high French fashion meets hospitality, with five comfortably spacious suites and great service by the staff located close to the Royal Palace and National Museum.

Plantation Hotel #28, Street 184
Quirky mix of 30’s, 60’s, 80’s and 90’s architecture situated at the back of the Royal Palace and the National Museum.


Artisans Angkor Chantiers-Ecoles, Stung Thmey Street
Dedicated to train young artisans to help bring back traditional arts; they offer teaching workshops and artwork and sculptures for sale.

Water Lily
Lovely hand-made pearl jewelry, bags, scarves and tchotchkes

Le Lézard Bleu - 61 St. 240
Gallery of local artists' work and a collection of small antiques, souvenirs and gifts.

Couleurs d'Asie, #33, Street 240
Fine silk and woven souvenirs.

Monument Books, #111, Norodom Blvd
The largest bookstore chain in Cambodia for a great selection of coffee books to antique books on Asia.


Located inside the Chinese House in a beautiful colonial setting. At the moment, the owner is serving Mediterranean & South American cuisine and cocktails with Asian flair.

Le Comptoir, 25 Street 240
This trendy bistro serves excellent French food and salads.

Rubies Wine Bar, Corner of Streets 19 & 240
A local favorite wine bar is Cambodia’s equivalent to “Cheers”.

Kravanh No.112 Sothearos
Newly opened Cambodian restaurant serving the best Amok I ever had!

Girl with Snake on the Tonle Sap River

Take a 5-hour bus ride or rent a motorbike and head to southern Cambodia to Kep and Kampot; two small charming towns sparely populated and untouched by tourists, save those seeking to avoid the traffic and dust of Phnom Penh. Both towns have the charm of an old French colonial era by-gone surrounded by a lush, natural landscape. The best time to visit is during the cool and dry season from November to February.

Kampot is a very laidback town and the gateway to Bokor Mountain where once a French resort town flourished. The town named Boker Hill Station was populated in the 1920s by French settlers. They produce the best aromatic and complex pepper in the world in Kampot from their plantations.

Nearby is Kep with its unremarkable beaches, with a few beachside restaurants and markets along the main street. But the specialty dish of this province is the crab with fresh Kampot pepper and why one would travel here.