Beyoncé Knowles, David Beckham and, most recently, Angelina Jolie have put Cambodia and the town of Siem Reap back on the map of must-visit destinations.
Cambodia will always hold a special place in Angelina Jolie's heart. It's here where the star filmed her 2001 box office hit Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and a year later, where she returned to adopt her son Maddox.
In 2015, as North Cambodia's Temples of Angkor were named the best sight in the world by Lonely Planet, the 40-year-old actress was pictured returning to Maddox's birthplace with her whole family to direct her next film.
So why is this Southeast Asian nation so popular and what does it have to offer? Here we take a look at the most adventurous spots in Siem Reap and the top places to stay and eat.
David Beckham, Angelina Jolie and Beyoncé have all visited the country in 2015
WHAT TO DO
- Explore the temples: Angkor Wat, Bayon, Banteay Srei… With around 1,000 temples to visit in Siem Reap, visitors are spoilt for choice. Even those who are not Lara Croft fans, couldn't fail to be impressed by the famous Ta Prohm temple which appeared in Tomb Raider and is a favourite amongst tourists. Make sure to hire a tuk-tuk for the day and explore them from sunrise to sunset. To get off the tourist trail, hiring an experienced guide gives the best chance of discovering the more lesser-known and remote temples, often free of tourists.
Cambodia has thousands of temples, the most popular ones in Siem Reap
- Discover the floating villages on the great Tonle Sap Lake: There are three main floating villages, but Kompong Khleang is considered the most authentic. During the dry season homes tower over the water line on tall wooden stilts but during the wet season, the water laps at the floor boards of the houses and locals use their boats to get from A to B. It really is a must-see.
Tonle Sap Lake in Siem Reap
- Enjoy a night at the circus: Locals will proudly tell you to visit Phare, the Cambodian Circus. This one-hour Cirque De Soleil-type show features young Cambodians who have all come from difficult social backgrounds – from the streets, orphanages, and struggling families – and who are now expressing themselves and healing through the performing circus arts.
WHERE TO STAY
Amansara: This stunning five-star hotel is at the threshold of Angkor Archaeological Park, and is housed around central lawns on the former guesthouse estate of King Norodom Sihanouk.
The hotel has 24 open-plan Suites with glass doors that open onto light-filled gardens
It features 24 Suites that offer a combined bedroom and living area which steps down into a light-filled bathroom with an island bathtub. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors open on to a private garden courtyard with sun loungers, a reflection pond. For those looking for a little more luxury, the hotel’s 12 suites all feature private pools. The fine dining on offer at the circular restaurant consists of Cambodian-centred cuisine, with an emphasis on simple flavours. Its daily-changing menus feature organic produce direct from the nearby market and local suppliers.
In Amansara's own Khmer village house you can enjoy a traditional Khmer breakfast or morning cooking class
Those looking to fully explore Siem Reap should consider splashing out on an Amansara Suite, which each come equipped with a remork tuk-tuk and driver at their guests’ disposal.
Each Amansara suite is provided with its own custom-fitted remork and driver for explorations throughout the area
Heritage Suites: After being picked up at the airport by a vintage classic car, travellers will be taken to the wonderful Heritage Suites, nestled in tropical gardens within a Cambodian village, a few paces from the peaceful Siem Reap River.
This elegant boutique retreat has 26 suites and rooms, a large salt-water pool and most importantly for those wanting to relax, an intimate and stylish spa.
Heritage Suites has 26 rooms uniquely decorated in a blend of Asian and Art Deco themes
Heritage Suites is handily located just 6km from the Angkor temples and 15 minutes from the airport. It’s also very close to the popular Old Market, the National Museum and the lively Pub Street.
The beautiful hotel features a large salt-water pool, very popular with guests
WHERE TO EAT
ABBA Café: Since opening at the beginning of the year, this restaurant has become a hit with gastronomers thanks to their tasty local dishes, generous portions and reasonable prices.
Heritage Restaurant: Part of the Heritage Suites hotel, this eatery is considered one of the best dining experiences in town. The chef is constantly innovating and re-creating traditional Khmer dishes, with a touch of western cuisine. Try to visit on a Thursday, their very popular live Jazz night.
The Heritage Restaurant is a very popular restaurant in Siem Reap
Book your boutique hotel with Mr & Mrs Smith for the best available rates, money back with every booking and a free extra on arrival. Ring the expert Travel Team 24/7 on +1 800 464 2040 or visit www.smithhotels.com.