Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia, is having its moment – the Lonely Planet recently voted the world's largest religious monument the best sight in the globe, and celebrities including Beyoncé Knowles and David Beckham have already flocked to experience the 1,000+ breathtaking temples for themselves. Angelina Jolie famously appeared at Ta Prohm as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider – which is now commonly known as the "Tomb Raider temple" and has since also been renamed the "Angelina Jolie Temple", and she has recently confirmed she will be directing a film in Cambodia in the near future – which will no doubt put the country's famous temples and its less explored gems even more firmly on the tourist map. HELLO! Online's Lifestyle Writer Miriam Foley explores...
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Angelina Jolie starred as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider; pictured here at Ta Prohm
Begin your magical experience of these ancient Khmer Empire ruins – home to the eighth wonder of the world, Angkor Wat – at the five-star oasis of Anantara Resort & Spa. Designed to resemble a grand Khmer villa, the boutique retreat features exquisite rooms and suites overlooking a beautiful courtyard and pool that will have you feeling like the ancient royalty it was inspired by.
Settle in with Anantara's signature massage for two, which comes after a welcome drink, fresh fruit and a mini-foot scrub, before freshening up in your enchanting room. Here you'll find a blend of Cambodian heritage, refined contemporary style and a host of modern comforts – think elegant hardwood floors, colourful hand-woven mats, chaise longue, handcrafted teak wood furniture, rich local textiles and unique Khmer-style Apsara dancer sculptures carved from sandstone.
The Anantara Suite at Anantara Resort & Spa, which has been designed to resemble a grand Khmer villa
When you go to see the world's greatest temple to the Hindu god Vishnu, Angkor Wat, beat the crowds by taking one of Anantara's specialised tours. At 4.30am, your personal chauffeur will drive you in comfort to the heart of the 1,000 temples, shrines and tombs, and the guide will teach you the secrets, tales, legends and carvings of just a few of these treasures hewn from thousands of sandstone blocks. Ice-cold water and fresh towels will be waiting for you between temples for you to freshen up on the road.
With your guide's expertise, discover the crowning glory of a complex that forms a virtual city of spires in the jungles of northern Cambodia as dawn breaks, and fellow tourists try to capture its silhouette against the sunrise. Apart from Angkor, which served as the seat of the Khmer Empire from approximately the 9th to 15th centuries, don't miss some of the other magnificent monuments, such as Ta Prohm, Bayon, Banteay Srei and Ta Keo.
David Beckham visited the Angkor temples in June
Once you've explored the temples – passes are sold for one, two and three days and one-day passes include entry to see the previous day's sunset – don't worry, you won't be at a loss for things to do. The Angkor temples draw over two million tourists each year, so it's little wonder the quaint Cambodian town of Siem Reap has plenty happening.
Try your hand at a traditional Khmer cooking class, when Anantara's family-like staff will give you a glimpse of living like a local with a trip to the town's market (not for the faint-hearted!), followed by a personalised class for foodies. Learn the secrets to Khmer, or Cambodian, dishes – from spring rolls to sweet and sour soup and ginger chicken, and then the best part – tucking into the three-course meal prepared by yours truly (although the hard labour is put in by the kitchen staff ahead of your lesson).
While in Cambodia, be sure to learn the secrets of the Khmer cuisine with a personalised cooking class
For dinner head to Anantara's in-house restaurant The Sothea, where fine international and Khmer dishes are lovingly prepared and served. At breakfast, don't miss the pastries freshly-baked every morning served at The Gallery – just an accompaniment to the plentiful à la carte breakfast.
Other activites not to be missed include the daily complimentary tuk-tuk that takes you to town, a bike ride through the surrounding paddy fields and villages and a trip to the circus. Phare, the Cambodian Circus, makes the perfect end to a mystical stay in Siem Reap with its Cirque du Soleil-style performance that will take your breath away. The theatre uses music, dance and modern circus arts to tell uniquely Cambodian stories and provide opportunities for local disadvantaged children and youths.
Anantara's enchanting courtyard and pool was designed to resemble a grand Khmer villa
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN SIEM REAP
1. Visit the Angkor temples. As well as the famous Angkor Wat, make sure you get off the beaten track to explore some lesser known ones.
2. Enjoy some pampering with a signature massage at Anantara Resort & Spa.
3. Head to Phare the Cambodian Circus for a Cirque du Soleil-style performance.
4. Go for a cycle through the paddy fields with an Anantara guide.
5. Take a traditional Khmer cooking class with charming chefs.
Don't miss out on a spa treatment while in Cambodia
6. Check out famous photographer John McDermott’s photography exhibition for Anantara Resort & Spa guests, or for those who aspire to take direction from the photographer, take a bespoke tour.
7. Sip a cocktail at the cool and trendy Miss Wong Cocktail Bar.
8. Take a tuk-tuk ride to town complimentary of Anantara.
9. Enjoy some post-temple R&R feeling like ancient Khmer royalty overlooking the pool.
10. See how the locals shop with a trip to the market.
A deluxe room at Anantara Resort & Spa starts from £145. Visit Anantara.com for more information.