The best things about The RiverGarden are the people and fantastic service. That's not to say the facilities weren't awesome as well! :O)
We requested for the RiverGarden to arrange a tuktuk transfer for us from the airport to the hotel for our morning flight. The transfer cost USD6 and we met our lovely tuktuk driver, MrSok, who ended up being our personal tuktuk man for the entire trip. That was definitely an unexpected, delightful surprise! Like I said, this hotel does not fall short on anticipating service for you before you even knew you wanted it.
We had booked online, but payment was only taken at the desk iteslf upon checkin, so you should be prepared for that if you had secured the booking online on someone else's credit card. Checkin was very quick and we were shown to our room within 10mins of arriving. The receptionist took us all the way up to our room (Room 10, with private terrace, over the restaurant, looking out to the pool), showed us all the facilities and a refreshing lemongrass-lime juice drink was brought up to our room for us to settle in in comfort.
The saltwater pool is small, but wonderful cooling down on steamy, muggy Siem Reap afternoons.
We didn't eat at the restaurant apart from breakfasts, where home-baked bread & jams were served. Do give the tropical fruits jam and lime marmalade a try... utterly delicious with the multigrain loaf! And what with this being an Australian-run management, Vegemite was served as well, to the utter delight of my Australian partner. The vegetable omelette (made fresh for you and served in a skillet!) was also delicious.
Something I do recommend: do take the Cooks on TukTuks class with the hotel (USD25), and take the morning slot (two slots available: 10am/2pm). This tour will have the in-house cook (we had a beautiful little lady called Saroun as our instructor) will take you first to a nearby Buddhist temple, then on to the wet market about 400m from the hotel for a tour. Saroun spoke English well (self-taught!) and took us around the market, showing us the local foods and produce used in standard Khmer cooking. The best part of this market visit for me was trying out local snacks sold off pushcarts: fried & seasoned bugs (crickets & water beetles - delicious!) and tiny boiled clams.
The tour took a total of maybe 1 hour, then we had a leisurely stroll back to the hotel along the river, with Saroun pointing out the local businesses and stopping to point out a thing or two to us occasionally.
Back at the hotel, Saroun proceeded to instruct us in making a banana flower salad, fish amok, coconut milk & sago dessert as well as hibiscus tea. The session ended at about 12.30pm, whereupon we then got to enjoy the fruits of our morning labour (which, if I may say, was utterly delicious!)
Oh! And a little more on the tuktuk: charges for MrSok's services, despite him being the tuktuk driver exclusively for the hotel and us the entire trip, was market rate. In fact, he pretty much charged us very fairly ( No extra charges for being exclusively our private driver the entire 4 days, come rain or shine, to catch sunrise/sunset/late nights out.. whatever. Any time we wanted to go anywhere, MrSok would be there.
All in all, the RiverGarden was definitely one of the more expensive places to stay in SiemReap (although the cost was inconsequential for us) and it was a bit of a distance from the "town" area of the Old Market, but it was worth every penny. The staff were amazing, the room was comfortable and gorgeous. I would recommend it to anyone who asked me about accommodations in SiemReap in a flash.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The River Garden Hotel comprises 2 large Traditional Khmer style Villas set in jungle gardens opposite the Siem Reap river. We are 2 minutes to the city center, 10 minutes to Angkor Wat and 20 minutes from the airport set in a vibrant local village area. The rooms are a mix of classic design and beautiful Khmer furnishings. Formerly the painting studio of world renowned french artist Michel Delacroix, the rooms are spacious, with a large en-suite and feature a wide private balcony looking over the tropical jungle gardens. Amenities: Spacious well presented, Large comfortable bed, Air conditioned, Ceiling fans, Cable TV, Free WIFI, Large private en-suite, Shower. facilities. Immaculately clean. Rates include breakfast for 2 persons. Airport, bus station or boat dock pickup $7 per 2 persons ... more less
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