As a complement to our Perfect Gamer Holiday, we found the most exclusive destination available in Siem Reap, Cambodia. This is a review of our chosen stay for the day, a part of the world-famous Aman resort group. If you are familiar with the chain, you probably know it’s a pricey stay, but it is worth it for once-in-a-lifetime trips.
Aman Amansara Resort Review in Siem Reap, Cambodia
You can enjoy your Perfect Gamer Holiday without staying in Amansara, using other affordable local hotels and guesthouses that can be as cheap as USD 10/night. If you are doing this holiday as your honeymoon or anniversary, however, I recommend you consider this thoroughly!
Aman Amansara Details
- High Season: November – April
- Medium Season: May -July
- Low Season (cheapest): August- October
- Accommodation: 21 suites, 12 with pools, 2 outdoor pools
- Facilities: pool, restaurant, room service, spa, steam rooms, in-room safe, boutique store, library
- Extra value: Airport transport, local transport and dedicated drivers, tour guides and itinerary organization, wake up calls, custom-order food, ipad and iDock on the rooms, in-hotel entertainment such as art performances, history lessons and daily live traditional music
- Pricing: USD 700/night low season, 1300/night high season (fluctuates with packages)
- Cheapest stay includes:
Arrival and departure transfers to and from Siem Reap airport, or other entry and departures locations within Siem Reap town
Daily excursions to the Angkor temples, with an English-speaking guide and transport
Remork transportation within Siem Reap town
Daily breakfast and choice of lunch or dinner
Daily seasonal fruits and selection of cheese
Freshly baked cakes and cookies
Laundry (excluding dry cleaning)
Wifi everywhere within hotel
I recommend going in Medium Season as even when hot it will allow you to explore Siem Reap when it’s lush and green, with fewer tourist and cheaper prices. You should also check out the special hotel packages that do “all included” deals: From setting your itinerary to every single meal you’ll have with drinks. Overall, we budgeted for our special occasion and went for an expensive base package, and were surprised to find the bill had almost not increased despite our orders of champagne to the room and visits to the spa.
Honeymoon & Anniversary at Aman Amansara
The hotel is the now renovated guesthouse of King Sihanouk, and features within its list of visitors the likes of Jackie Onassis and Charles de Gaulle. As you can expect from a 60’s residence, there are white rooms and square shapes everywhere, but the recent refurbishing has made each individual suite into a beautiful destination.
The hotel staff is made mostly of locals, with a French manager and western chef, so you will enjoy the beautiful smiles of the staff and get to eat French cheeses if you like it. Khmer people and Asia in general can be wonderful destinations as local hospitality customs have great synergy with resorts and hotels.
Amansara has fantastic multilingual staff that is honestly dedicated to the happiness of the guests, and that added a lot of value to our stay. There’s nothing quite like the hotel staff trying to make sure you ate enough breakfast, makes you feel your mother is at the table reminding you to bring a sweater. I was even encouraged to take some free cookies with me when I was full because “they are so good you must have one later!”
Following this trend, the staff will inquire about special days and organize small surprises such as cake baking and free champagne for your holiday. Special touches such as souvenirs on your bedroom are arranged without your say-so, and the staff accommodates requests and special needs swiftly. If you plan on making a destination wedding, for example, keep in mind they can organize events at the very temples!
Restaurant at Aman Amansara
Even with our hectic schedule, the resort’s kitchen staff was perfectly ready to deliver a “wake-me-up” breakfast at 4:30 AM that consists of coffee, fruit and bakery goods. Then upon our return from our first excursion, sweaty and sore from climbing at 9AM, a free “second breakfast” would be provided full with anything we may have wanted including just-baked bread.
The restaurant features a rotating daily dinner menu with all Western, Asian and Khmer dishes, which means if you are not feeling so adventurous you may just eat a more familiar dish. The tenants of South East Asian cuisine don’t always agree with me, so I was relieved to be able to pick some more “neutral” dishes on my more tired days.
The catering staff was on point with drinks, from beer to wine to spirits past fresh orange juice, and in providing ever-so-delicious tiny baguettes.
Traditional Khmer Breakfast
This specific activity happens at a designated villa built in the traditional Cambodian style, with the livable quarters elevated by large poles to protect from the flood season. Hidden away behind a nice yard and gate, it was a welcome respite from our very early morning rising. You can also book this location for a Khmer cooking class and romantic dinners.
Bento Box in between temples
Amansara prepares takeaway food if your days are too packed. We took a respite from the heat of the day at a local restaurant, and ate a delicious Bento washed down with some Angkor beer.
Activities at Aman Amansara
The thing I loved the most about this packaged deal, was that the Amansara staff helped us identify our interests and make reservations accordingly. This removed a lot of the hassle from the holiday, and provided a sense of purpose to every day that fueled a really packed schedule.
Besides the tours and visits to temples and shopping areas, the resort also invites famous performers and others to do small private events at the hotel’s library. These activities were surprisingly enjoyable, and were catered with drinks and snacks. You can do different activities depending on the time of the year, and rainy season has the least amount of outdoor performances.
Not to be forgotten is the value-add of the hotel’s drivers. They will take you to all of the temples and any outing you want, wait for you and be ready with ice-cold water and a really cold wet towel to take away some of the heat and dirt that you surely accumulated in your Tomb-Raidering.
Sophea Kagna at Aman Amansara
Born in 1966, Sophea was 8 years old when the Khmer Rouge rounded her family up and removed her from the city, alongside all other residents. They were then made to walk for three months all the way to Kompong Chan province, where they would be used as forced labor to plant rice and do farm work for 12 months. Her brother was taken from them not to be seen for 13 years, and then they moved the family to another province to continue the labor that would net them no more than 1 rice bowl a day. This continued until the Vietnamese takeover of Cambodia in 1979, when Sophea’s family returned to the capital.
When she was 13, Sophea discovered the beautiful Apsara dancers in a promotional poster by the last remaining traditional Troupe. This was the inspiration for her to escape the grips of communist forced labor and give her a dream and aspiration. She began to train whilst the dance was still forbidden, until it was too dangerous and forced to change to “Soviet Trapeze”, but her passion would not be denied so she took secret French lessons and eventually escaped to Paris. In Paris, she organized a troupe of exiled Khmers and taught Princess Buppha Devi, eventually opening a restaurant.
At Amansara, we had the chance to meet this wonderful woman and see her perform. We could also ask questions regarding the dances, their meanings and symbolisms, as well as her life. This was one of my favorite experiences in Cambodia, and would not have happened at another hotel.
Visit to local Crafting Enterprise
This activity is not exclusive to Amansara, but I would not have known of it otherwise. Our Tuk-Tuk drove us to “Artisans Angkor”.
Artisans Angkor is a semi-public and social Cambodian company that was originally created to help young rural people find work near their home village. As the offshoot of an educational project called Chantiers-Ecoles de Formation Professionnelle, aiming at providing professional skills to communities with little schooling, Artisans Angkor has maintained its actions in education by developing its own training program in the handicraft sector.
Cambodian Circus “Phare Punleu Selpark”
The local youngester’s take on Cirque Du Solei. Called “The Brightness of the Arts”, this non-profit Cambodian association aims to improve the lives of Cambodians through educational artistic programs and social support since 1994.
Social circus is a form of intervention that uses circus to empower at-risk youth. Beyond just teaching circus skills, social circus uses the subtle benefits of circus to transform lives. In fact, the primary goal of social circus is not to teach circus skills and create circus performers, but something more.
The circus was a fun experience, and Amansara reserved the best seats in the house for us: right up and front of the performers but decidedly in the “do not pull into stage” category.
The show had some impressive displays of strength and agility, and at some points the performers looked like they were having a real lot of fun. However the performance we saw had an unfortunate anti-foreigner slant, which could probably be attributed to inexperienced travelers getting too much into their cups and not respecting local customs. Still it was odd to see as it clashed with the fact 90% of the audience was non-cambodian.
A surprising program for one evening was the invitation of a well-traveled Australian historian for an informal lecture. The focus was on Cambodia in the 60s, which brought up some great points about the hotel’s architecture and previous looks. The lecture extended into colonial Indochina, full with galleries of postcards and posters, and gave us a very interesting chance to ask an expert about some of the mysteries of the Khmer.
Thoroughly enjoyable as an informal chat, we got to discuss what could have brought about the Khmer Empire’s collapse, and some interesting details about modern-day Cambodia and the current state of government and affairs.
Tonle Sap Sunset Cruise
This outing is also covered on our Siem Reap Day 5: Conservation d’ Angkor, Tonle Sap Sunset Cruise post, but here are some pictures of the beautiful vessel and arrangements exclusive to Amansara
The Amansara Spa
If you make the most of your holiday and go to all the temples, you’re going to be aching in muscles you didn’t even know you had. For those of you who are in shape and think you can handle it, consider you’ll be waking at 4 AM for a 4 hour trek and sweat up steps that are taller than your knees and around tree roots thicker than your obese neighbour.
Naturally, this made me book a relaxation session at the spa, which was fortunately rather empty and ready for me to enjoy it in all its glory! The staff is kind and attentive, and will welcome you with the cold towels you have learned to love everytime you’ve gone outside. The masseuse was proficient and succeeded in making me half fall asleep, and I could enjoy the background tranquil music and incense throughout.
Traditional Dance & Music
We had the incredibly beautiful experience of seeing a group of young trainees perform alongside their revered 60 year old master. Describing mythical stories of Khmer tradition, men and women performed traditional theater music and dance, including singing.
Fortune telling at Amansara Spa
Whilst not necessarily superstitious, I always enjoy visiting a fortune teller in the countries I travel to. The point of the visit isn’t really to be told you’ll find something you’ve lost or you’ll have all the good fortune in the world, but to see what method of divination is used and trusted by locals. I value this insight into local culture and it costs as much as a couple of drinks so count me in.
I was surprised that our fortune teller, who spoke not one word of English, was a delightfully sweet old lady who could not have been younger than 65 and wore no pomp or adornment. Clad in simple and humble clothes, with no makeup or marks to indicate any sort of special power, she used a deck of cards to answer any questions you may have.
It was a fun experience to converse with her through the Amansara translator, and apparently there’s no immediate misfortune in my future so yay!
You can also go to our other articles for this series:
- Introduction to Cambodia
- Tour Guide to Siem Reap: Day 1
Uncharted East of Angkor & Khemer Dance
- Tour Guide to Siem Reap: Day 2
The Faces of Bayon and Angkor Thom, The Great City
- Tour Guide to Siem Reap: Day 3
Angkor Wat at Sunrise, Ta Prohm Tomb Raider, and Traditional Khmer Breakfast
- Tour Guide to Siem Reap: Day 4
Lost Temples of Banteay Srei, Beng Mealea & Koh Ker
- Tour Guide to Siem Reap: Day 5
Conservation d’ Angkor, Tonle Sap Sunset Cruise
- Tour Guide to Siem Reap: Day 6
Museum, Shopping, Bargaining and a Spiritual Water Blessing