I finally visited Cambodia for the first time. Yes, it was my third time in Southeast Asia, but now I got to see the magnificent and otherworldly temples in Siem Reap.
After a one-hour flight from Bangkok I landed at Siem Reap’s airport. The arrival process was easy and didn’t take a long time.
I left immigration and customs with my visa in my passport, and met Ms. Sopheak, a guest relation’s officer from Hillocks Hotel, and the driver at the airport.
My first impressions from the car on the way to my hotel was that Siem Reap is very different from Bangkok or any other city that I’ve visited in Southeast Asia. There aren’t big buildings or traffic jams, and most of the locals are riding bicycles or motorbikes. The unsophisticated and laid-back lifestyle made me feel good and relaxed, and I immediately liked the city.
Less than twenty minutes later we arrived at Hillocks Hotel & Spa, a brand-new up-scale luxury boutique hotel that opened in November 2016.
Ms. Sopheak invited me to sit down on one of the couches in the lobby, and while we proceeded with my check-in, another member of the staff came with a small cold towel and some refreshments.
Hillocks Hotel and Spa, located in the heart of the ancient city of Siem Reap, has 38 suites and villas with a charming Khmer-inspired design.
She escorted me to a 60sqm villa set on a hill and surrounded by graceful gardens. My splendid villa with an elegant interior had a king-size bed, a couch, writing desk and sitting area, huge widows, and a big bathroom with windows and a bathtub separate from the shower.
I loved my private balcony with garden view, the mix of colors used by the interior designer, the stylish lamp above the desk, the unique bathtub with a hammock-womb shape, and especially the subtle lemon-grass fragrance in the air.
My villa also had a flat-screen HDTV; luxury mattress, linens and custom pillows; fine toiletries; bath-robe and slippers; hair dryer; complimentary tea, coffee and mineral water; minibar and fridge; in-safe room; AC; and free Wi-Fi. There was even a lotus flower and a welcoming card on my bed, and a fruit platter on my desk when I arrived.
That morning I woke up very early to take my flight, and after leaving my belongings in my room and walking around the bosky hotel’s installation, I stopped by the Green Hill Restaurant to have Khmer food for the first time in my life.
The restaurant had a superb atmosphere, glass walls, white globe lamps, wood seats with black leather cushions, and fancy table settings.
I ordered one of the most traditional Khmer dishes, A Mok: steamed fish curry with nano leaf and spices and coconut milk, served with steamed rice. The dish had an exquisite presentation and was tasty (I love dishes with coconut milk), and I was glad that I did not have to leave the hotel in order to have a good meal.
Only after taking a nap on my very comfy bed, did I leave the hotel to wander around Siem Reap.
There are two famous markets in Siem Reap’s city center: Siem Reap Art Center Night Market and Angkor Night Market. They are located only a 5min tuk-tuk drive from Hillocks Hotel & Spa, and boasts an array of Cambodian goods, especially silk and woodwork products.
Close by the markets is the noisy and less pleasant street Pub Street. Full of touristy restaurants and carts playing loud music, Pub Street with its “Westernized” look is loved by tourists, specially the young ones but not by me. I preferred to leave it behind and go back to my cozy room.
The next day I woke at 7:00 AM, had my breakfast at the Green Hill Restaurant and took my first tour, “The big tour”, which visits the temples far from Siem Reap’s center. Those temples are nice, and The Lady’s Temple is very beautiful.
When I came back to the hotel the sun was still out, and I did not miss the opportunity to cool down at the salt-water swimming pool, and soak in tranquility and relaxation on a sunbed located under tropical trees.
I entered my room and the smell of lemongrass made me feel so good and even more relaxed. As on the first day, there was a plate with cookies (OMG, I love cookies), two bottles of water on the night tables, and my bed was made again. But this time, the housekeeper left the TV and AC remote controls exactly on the side that I picked on the bed. She even placed a pair of slippers for me there. I felt so special with those extra examples of care, because great service definitely makes a difference to your stay!
The next morning I woke up at 4:00 AM, picked up my breakfast at the reception, and headed to Angkor Wat to see the sunrise. I joined hundreds of other early birds just to find out that that day the clouds would not let the sun make our visit to Angkor Wat even more special. Maybe next time…
Even so, Angkor Wat, Ta Phrom and Bayon were some of the most impressive sights that I’ve seen in my life. I was truly amazed and speechless during my whole visit.
Visiting the temples is a must, but I can confess that it’s very tiring because you have to walk a lot in the heat. I don’t know how some people can do it by bike.
Those two days exhausted me, and I treated myself to a full body massage at Kravan Spa, the therapy Spa at Hillocks Hotel. The authentic Thai massage was really good, and I still had time to admire the stunning sunset from the pool.
To finish this remarkable day, I had Khmer BBQ at Green Hill Restaurant, and it was hard to decide what to eat and what sauce to choose (there were over 10 options). The food was very tasty and I loved the soft and well-cooked lamb with gravy and rosemary sauce, and the good selection of local fruits.
I went to bed extremely happy having visited Cambodia for the first time and staying at Hillocks Hotel & Spa.
I still spent a few more days in Siem Reap and visited a marvelous waterfall, a very interesting silk farm, unique communities, and even learned how to make sugar out of palm juice.
Every time I arrived at the hotel I felt like a “celebrity”, with all the staff members greeting me, and calling me Mr. Rosa.. I was always welcomed with a small cold towel (very useful after riding a tuk-tuk in the countryside), and a smile.
Unfortunately I did not have a chance to dine at the rooftop restaurant or use the fitness center. But I did spend quite a lot of time at the pool, whether doing some work or swimming.
Besides the villas, Hillocks Hotel & Spa, also offers Deluxe, Jacuzzi, Resident and Presidential Suites; bike rentals; The Lounge and Pool Side bars; concierge service; airline transfer and currency exchange.
While many travelers visit Siem Reap for just a few days, I opted for getting a much better sense of the Cambodian lifestyle and culture, and Hillocks Hotel & Spa definitely was a plus during my stay, with its contemporary and superb infrastructure, and distinguished service and hospitality.
I don’t doubt that the next time I come back to Siem Reap, I will stay at the Hillocks Hotel & Spa again.
Safe travel and enjoy Siem Reap.