Jason and I enjoy traveling to warm weather destinations so during the festive season that usually means we’re headed to Asia. For this trip we paired Siem Reap, Cambodia and Luang Prabang, Loas – two new countries for us both that have been on our travel hit list for a while. You can check out my review of our stay in Luang Prabang here.
We scored an unbelievable points deal at the Park Hyatt Siem Reap, which at the time was 15,000 Hyatt points per night since it was a category 4 hotel. The World of Hyatt program requires if a standard room is available as a paid rate the hotel must also offer it for points redemption. Since these are base rooms, they typically get snagged up quickly, so I couldn’t believe it when I found the availability for our dates over the busy festive season. We canceled our several thousand dollar reservation at Amansara, which looks epic but doesn’t beat a free points stay, and stayed at the Park Hyatt instead. Tough choices, I know 😉
Both Cambodia and Laos require visas for tourists but Cambodia allows you to pay for and print the visa at home ahead of time. Laos only allows visas applications on arrival. I applied for our Cambodian visa ahead of time, and I’m really glad I did. When we arrived at Siem Reap International, there were long lines of confused tourists at the visa counter that we got to skip entirely and proceed straight to customs.
The website to pay for your visa does look a little sketchy, so I’d double check your source. We received our visas within a few minutes after applying, which was great.
Check-in and room
A Park Hyatt driver picked us up curbside and it took about 20 minutes to get to the hotel, which is definitely in a “city” location. Outside the hotel there is a lot of foot, scooter and car traffic but as soon as we stepped inside it is very calming and peaceful. During check in, they brought us welcome drinks and confirmed our pre-arranged excursions over our 4 night stay.
The rooms were nice but nothing special. I wouldn’t say the furniture was particularly comfortable or luxurious but it was a nice room to come back to after touring the temples. The hotel was decorated nicely, felt spacious, and had a great rooftop “free form” pool with pool service and a lot of private areas for lounging.
The breakfast buffet was a highlight. Jason prefers American breakfast and he loved everything. I enjoy a mixture and loved that they had local dishes to try as well as dim sum. The juice and coffee selection were great as well. We found ourselves taking leisurely breakfasts most mornings.
Most people visit Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat, which was the main attraction for us as well. Logistically, it’s beneficial to get your pass for the park the night before you’re planning to go so you can head straight to Angkor Wat for sunrise. It’s a very early wake up call but totally worth it, and I’m happy we got our pass the night before because it got crowded quickly once the sun came up. The Park Hyatt can arrange both the pass pick up errand the night before as well as a guide for the day you’re visiting. They drove us around in a tuktuk, which we found fun but bumpy. You can pay extra to be driven in an air conditioned car.
Our guide was friendly, informative, spoke good english and wasn’t a bad photographer either. We really enjoyed his commentary and learning about the history of the country and the importance of Angkor Wat.
After Angkor Wat, we went to two other lesser known temples that weren’t as crowded, but after a while we were pretty drained by the early wake up call and decided to head back to the hotel around for lunch.
I always reference the NY Times 36 hours articles before trips and this one for Siem Reap provided a real gem of a recommendation, Siem Reap Food Tours. We loved our guide, Jen, who arranged tuktuk drivers and the food stops which are all included in the price of the tour. We ate at several stops trying different dishes at each place. We loved some dished more than others but there was always a reason we were eating a specific dish at a specific stop. At the BBQ stop, I was able to try bbq frog for the first time… it was chewy! And at our last stop, I tried a fertilized developing egg – a staple for farmers making their way back into the city after a day of work. I learned from Jen that we actually have a Cambodian restaurant in the Bay Area, Nyum Bai, which was fun to after we returned home.
When we weren’t touring the temples, we got massages at the nearby Frangipani Spa, coffee at The Little Red Fox and tried food spots like Maybe Later Mexican Grill. The location of the Park Hyatt was great because it was easy to get out and explore, but it was also pretty chaotic. We were pretty stressed out crossing the major intersection in front of the hotel because there were so many cars and scooters and no obvious rules of the road.
We spent a total of 4 days in Siem Reap, and I think two days would have been an ample amount of time. It really is a temple town and after spending the majority of our time visiting the sites our first two days, we were ready to head to our next destination. The Park Hyatt was a great base for exploring Siem Reap, and I’d definitely recommend it, especially on points!