Using the ratings here in Trip Advisor as our guide, my son and I proceeded to book a Junior Suite for two nights. As the other reviews already confirmed, the outstanding ratings that the hotel regularly gets is no mere fluke. It only proves that it is not only the "hardware" (i.e. the facilities) that make a hotel but more importantly, the warmth & service of the staff. They are truly the ones who make the stay memorable. After being picked up at the airport at the ungodly hour of 11pm, our car driver brought us to the property (Note: transfers were included) where we were welcomed by a male reception staff who was just as fresh, friendly and lively as if he just came in for work. He actually even offered to check us in while already inside our reserved room as our flight came into Siem Reap in the late evening; however, we were fine as we were and just checked in at the desk (nice touch though). Our junior suite looked truly cozy and decorated in the old colonial style that its website advertises. Sometimes I get wary of these 'professional' photos as they are usually made up to look really nice but what you actually get is short of the expectation. Not so with this hotel. WYSIWYG > what you see if you get..(thumbs up). The following day and after a good breakfast with attentive service at Le Planteur (hotel restaurant), we decided to start with the furthest temple (Beng Mealea with Tonle Sap lake tour as a side trip), so we wisely booked the car instead of a tuktuk for the trip (even though the tuktuk was part of the package). Now the temple/lake are not exactly far, but the pace of driving in Siem Reap is quite leisurely compared to the pace of driving that I am normally accustomed to. It was my son's second trip to Siem Reap but this was my first. And he told me before the trip that Beng Mealea was his best attraction as the temple remains unrestored and probably the most underrated of them all. There are no tour guides here (at least that we noticed) and there were actually only 2 hawkers of scarves and other light apparel. If dramatic photography is your type of activity, then this is one temple you should not miss -- you only need to sit in the car for about an hour to get there. All throughout Beng Mealea, there are a lot of vantage points that offer dramatic shots. And you are only limited by your creativity (and your fitness) as you are free to climb/crawl anywhere and everywhere as you dare.. (PS: you must be fit and agile though and not have any qualms about getting a little dirty). After seeing the temple all over (and I am not kidding), we went back to the car and the driver had cold mineral water and cold disposable wet wipes (napkins) to freshen us up before we had a quick lunch nearby and the next trip to Tonle Sap lake. The private boat tour (US$20/person) is the perfect way to see how locals live up close. The photos we took of the "slice of life" of the people whose livelihood depends on this huge lake are precious. We even have photos of 7-year olds and up using aluminum basins and styropore coolers as makeshift boats in the lake. Amazing... On our return to the hotel, the cool waters of the pool were such a treat.
The next day, we rose at 0445 in order to catch the sunrise and photo opportunities at Angkor Wat. Only a few other hundreds had the same idea.. hahaha. At around 0730, we were on our way back to the hotel for breakfast and a quick rest before resuming the tour. Of course, Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Prohm, Angkor Thom, etc. are all what they promise to be - astounding and the well-deserved main attractions. This was the final day of our trip and we had expected to check out at the customary 12 noon; however our flight back home was still scheduled at 2230 so we were figuring out what/where we would spend our time till we needed to depart for the airport. Fortunately, Claudia (the hotel's guest relations officer) overheard that our flight was still at 2230 later that night and soooooo very graciously offered us a complimentary room to stay in till we were ready to leave for the hotel. Of course, she said that we would have to check out of our Junior Suite and transfer to the regular room - what a surprise! Notice that this happened only because she overheard us talking about it and not because we made a request. And this is exactly what defines delightful and memorable service: not only being able to meet your guest's needs, but to exceed them. Gosh, did she exceed them! Yet there was still other surprises awaiting.. While in the Junior Suite, I particularly noticed a decorative piece: a well-made papier-mache replica of an apsara (female face). The hotel then made arrangements to retrieve the piece from the room and I was able to happily take it back home as a memento. Claudia also told us that we were free to keep the luggage in our temporary room until we returned from dinner before proceeding to the airport so that we would not have to keep toting around our hand-carried items. I was hoping to meet Sebastien, the GM of this exceptional property, to personally thank him for such a wonderful experience but unfortunately our timings were different. But then again, the staff handled everything so well that the hotel ran by itself. To summarize: in any service industry, it is the software (the people) who can make the difference between an experience to forget, one that was so-so and one that you remember positively for a long, long time. In this case, the positive experience is no longer a question of how much you paid for your room or whether the door knobs or whatever were made of gold.. there was a very real, warm and gracious human element in the experience of this property that many other hotels who were many times bigger will have a difficult time in surpassing. As a wise one said: "it is not how big you are, but how you make yourself big". With this, I can only end with my finals words that this was truly the ideal vacation, short as it was.. Definitely, this hotel deserves a revisit when we return.
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- Also Known As:
- Pavillon d`Orient Boutique Hotel Siem Reap