Tuesday, November 11, 2008

the villa siem reap: pleasant digs in siem reap

our trip to siem reap certainly had its fair share of discouraging moments--pesky touts, overcharging vendors, and impending scams. but our entire stay was made pleasant by the villa siem reap.

the three-hour road trip from poipet to siem reap rocked and rattled us, and even though we were mostly inside the car the whole time, we found our pants and our faces caked with dust and red earth.

that experience was erased from our minds the minute we entered the villa. one of the staff served us a tray of cool white towels to wipe our hands and faces with. this, and the refreshing welcome drink, immediately put us in high spirits after being on the road for nine hours.

package inclusions
we initially wanted to book the 3-night super value package, which was priced at USD 130 per person, but, unfortunately, their standard rooms were all booked (serves us right for waiting too long). so we upgraded to the 3-night lots of luxury package at USD 155 per person, which included 3-night accommodations in a deluxe room, daily breakfast, an arrival pack of wine and chocolates, a sunset pack of wine with a selection of cheeses and olives, temple tours, 1-day guide, tuk-tuk and driver for 2 days, khmer dinner for two, cocktail vouchers (2 cocktails for 1), khmer buffet dinner with apsara performance, pool passes, and massage vouchers.

all packages are good for two.

it bears noting that breakfast at the villa is just superb. selections range from simple cereal meals to heavier, bigger breakfasts of toast, ham, sausages, eggs, and bacon.

we ran into some trouble with our reservation, because we didn't receive immediate feedback about our booking, even after several attempts using email and the enquiry form at their website. fiona, the manager and owner of the villa, apologized for the delay, and everything went smoothly from that point on.

booking rooms with the villa siem reap is done through their online booking form, and after they get in touch with you, you will have to fill up their reservation form and send it via email. no down payment is required to secure your room, but you will have to provide your credit card number. this is to ensure that they can charge you for your room in case you don't show up at the last minute. i was a tad concerned about credit card fraud, what with the internet being one of the most dangerous places on earth today, but i'm happy to report that the credit card info i submitted was not compromised.

the tours
i found it a nice touch that a representative of the villa would take their time to discuss your tour options with you on the day you arrive. after giving you time to rest, one of their consultants will show you your options, and let you decide what you would like to do. they also offer their recommendations. everyone we encountered at the villa was friendly and accommodating.

we made a good choice going for a packaged tour, since we hardly knew anything and didn't know anyone in siem reap. getting a tour also minimizes your chances of spending more than your budget will allow, since most of the things you'll be needing, such as meals and transportation, are already included. no need to haggle for your tours and guides, since everything is already taken care of.

the villa tours were an exceptionally good choice, since they seemed to have handpicked pretty outstanding guides and drivers to maximize the short time you have in siem reap. they were also very accommodating, letting us change the tours around to our liking. we all warmed up immediately to mr. han, one of our tuk-tuk drivers, because he was genuinely interested in showing us the best of siem reap. he would supplement the information that thia, our guide provided, and mr. han also went the extra mile to make sure that we were comfortable and safe.

tours at the villa doesn't have that detached, hurried feeling that you usually get from packaged tours. you don't feel rushed at all at any time, and you're given your own guide to make sure that you get the most out of the siem reap experience. most guides in siem reap are well-trained and highly knowledgeable in the city's history, telling you little interesting bits and pieces about the different temples, and giving you the best photo vantage points during your tour.

aside from this, every tour at the villa comes with lunch packs, which usually consist of sandwiches and a drink that you order the night before, so they can prepare it ahead of time. for gourmet seekers, this might not be that appealing, but for us, who were so enamored with the temples that we couldn't really think of food that much (except for sarah), having such simple sustenance did the trick during our tour.

we experienced a few bumps in this category when we arrived. when we checked in, susie and i were told that instead of a deluxe room, we would have to stay in a standard room for the first night, because our supposed room had faulty plumbing, and was still being fixed. it was fine, though, because a standard room was decent and spacious enough.

on our second day of touring, we also didn't have our lunch packs with us, but that was probably our fault, since we submitted our lunch packs orders too late the previous night.

overall, though, the staff was pretty efficient, and everybody was always ready to give a hand.

this is the best part of staying in the villa. this place is the best budget hotel i've ever stayed in. for starters, the standard room that we had to "suffer through" was humongous for a basic room in a budget-boutique guesthouse. it was elegantly furnished, complete with traditional carvings on the ceilings. we had a shoe rack, a luggage rack, television, air conditioning, and a small refrigerator with refreshments. our private bathroom had a separate shower facility with hot water, and we were given toilet paper and soap, and a large bottle of dove shampoo was provided for "in-house use only." we certainly couldn't complain at all!

the bigger deluxe room had a couch, a full-length mirror, and more closet space. we experience some airconditioning problems at night though. the temperature changes by itself even without us tinkering with it--it's either too cold or too hot.

other comments
one other feature of the villa that we weren't too pleased with is their shoes off policy. i'm actually quite used to this, as we have such a policy at home, but it gets problematic because of the brick floors. we'd often feel the dirt clinging to our feet while walking along the hallways. but this is but a speck of criticism in the overall pleasant experience that we had in this nice, cozy place. this is definitely outweighed by the friendly service, the well-thought-out tours, delicious meals, comfortable rooms, and spanking great prices of the villa.

so if you're ever traveling to siem reap and want the whole shebang, the villa siem reap is one of your best bets.

have a look at my photos of the villa siem reap.

travel information:
the villa siem reap
pleasant rooms, great tours, friendly people!
153 taphul road, siem reap, kingdom of cambodia
website: http://www.thevillasiemreap.com
for bookings and enquiries, please use the online booking form

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