Southeast Asia is notorious on the travel circuit as a location where it’s likely your money will go quite far. For a little over $100 USD a night you can often secure a very comfortable room at a five star hotel from well-known global hotel brands that would cost you five times as much in other parts of the globe. When I found myself spending a few days in Siem Reap, Cambodia with the goal of exploring the vast ruins of the Angkor Archeological Park, I quickly hit the internet to find the best value for money spent hotel in the area. Despite some solid price offerings from famous hotel brands like Le Meridien, Sofitel, and Raffles, it was the local Best Western property that caught my eye.
I’ll freely admit – it wasn’t the flashiest hotel. The linens weren’t made from the finest unicorn hair, nor did Tibetan virgins perform the housekeeping in my room each day. At the end of the day what I’m looking for is the most bang for my buck, so I had to look past the allure of a brand name and seductive loyalty program and realize that I was getting more value at the Best Western Suites and Sweet Resort Angkor (BW) property than anything the Le Meridien or Raffles could offer me.
I booked the BW for $90 USD per night including all taxes and fees and free breakfast. Contrast that with the $152 rate offered by the Le Meridien or the $176 USD rate offered by the Sofitel, neither of which included breakfast. I had some concerns prior to arriving at the hotel as to whether I’d made a solid investment, but those fears were washed away as soon as I stepped into my room.
Location & Check-In
One of the biggest concerns I had with the BW was that it wasn’t located within the main tourist core of Siem Reap. While normally that would be an ideal location for my style of travel, the website and reviews for the hotel seemed to indicate it was in a rural area on the outskirts of town. I was worried I’d be trapped at the hotel with very little ability to explore on my own or find food and drink other than what the hotel was offering me. This concern was somewhat alleviated when I learned that the BW offers complimentary tuk tuk service from the hotel into Siem Reap after 6 PM. This meant that I could spend the day exploring the Angkor Wat ruins, come back for a quick shower, and then head into town to find a bite to eat and explore without having to worry about paying for or arranging my own transportation.
Another perk of booking with BW was that my rate included complimentary airport transfers to and from the property. After clearing Cambodian customs and immigration I was met by one of the hotel’s managers, a friendly Filipino man named Rudy, who quickly took my luggage and ushered me into the hotel’s passenger van. The ride from the airport to the BW took approximately 10 – 15 minutes. The road from the airport is quite modern and paved but you quickly turn off that road and onto unpaved dirt paths to reach the hotel. It is indeed in a bit of a rural setting. There are a few farms and homes located within walking distance of the BW’s gate. The tuk tuk ride from the hotel into the main tourist core of Siem Reap seemed to take an additional 15 minutes. That being said, the location was very quiet and peaceful as there as very little noise and absolutely no hawkers patrolling the street looking for a sale.
When we arrived at the property Rudy escorted me out of the van and into the BW’s lobby building. This housed the check-in desk as well as the restaurant. The formalities required across the globe to receive my key were handled a little slowly by the staff member at the desk, but I didn’t mind as someone else had already dropped off a chilled moist towel and a cold orange juice to nurse while I waited. After about 10 minutes I had my room key in hand and the desk agent escorted me from the lobby to my villa.
What I didn’t realize before arriving at this property was that they only offer one type of booking – villas. The entire property is centered around a small lagoon with individual villas encircling it. There didn’t seem to be any upgraded facilities or fancier digs (variations on bed types excluded), just a simply property offering the same product to all visitors. The villa I was provided was almost directly across the lagoon from the restaurant and administrative building.
Upon entering the villa I was immediately pleased with my purchase and had no lingering regrets about refusing to ponying up for the more expensive properties in Siem Reap. The front door of the villa opened into a living room. A couch was pushed up against the wall and directly in front of the couch was a small sitting area with two chairs and a table.
On the table was a complimentary bowl of rambutan.
On the opposing wall from the couch was a cabinet with a television that also seemed to double as a desk. The television featured both local and international programming and appeared to be satellite-based. The stools weren’t very comfortable for sitting and writing, but with a full couch and several other seating options, it wasn’t a very big deal to me. The cupboard directly under the television set in the picture featured a mini-fridge stocked with several complimentary bottles of water since the tap water is not potable. On top of the table were were also a few additional bottles of complimentary water and provisions to make your own tea and coffee.
The villa featured some small but interesting artistic features – wooden Buddha statutes, paintings, alcoves with sculptures, etc.
Directly off the living room was the bedroom area. Quite simple and a bit understated. The bed mattress was firmer than I prefer, but that tends to be quite common in Asia when you’re staying outside of luxury name brand hotels. Besides the bed and some end tables there wasn’t much to the bedroom. It was functional and reasonably comfortable, enough that I did use the complimentary wifi to surf the net while lounging in it quite frequently.
An off-shoot from the bedroom led to the closet/storage space as well as the bathroom. The short, stubby “hallway” into the bathroom featured both a traditional closet on one side and shelving units on the other. I was only staying a few days but there was certainly more than enough space to hold all of my belongings. I could have easily unpacked for a week’s stay with the amount of room provided.
A functional safe was included in the room as well as some fuzzy slippers which never did manage to make it onto my feet.
The bathroom in the villa was quite spacious and luxurious, though it ended up being the most disappointing part about the accommodation. The bath amenities were rather low quality but I typically travel with my own personal care products since I have sensitive skin.
The bathroom also provided ample towels for use in the bathroom and around the villa, as well as a serviceable robe should you wish to lounge about after a refreshing shower.
The disappointing thing about the bathroom was the shower. It had the potential to be quite awesome since it was open air and came with loads of space. So if you’re interested in a wet and wild ten person dance party in a shower, I know a place you can do just that. But in terms of actually washing away the sweat, grit, and grime that comes inherently with physically being in Cambodia? This shower gets a D – from the teacher.
The major issue here was the water pressure. There was absolutely none for the entirety of my stay. Despite having more than enough space to frolic under the shower jet stream, I found myself huddled against the wall trying to get the meager stream of water to coat my body. Yes, physically smooched against the wall at times. The pressure was so bad that despite the massive shower head, water only came out of the first few nodules closest to the wall. The water temperature was excellent, and despite being an open shower inside the villa, it never got too steamy. If the property could just find the ability to raise the water pressure, this would have been a flawless stay.
My favorite feature of the villa was the small outdoor space that was provided. Through the sliding glass doors in the bedroom you’d find a small wooden veranda overlooking the lagoon. It featured a small seating area upon which you could watch the sunrise or set, or simply read a book while enjoying the cooler Cambodian evenings (bring your mosquito repellent though!).
Depending on your villa, you can enjoy quite a bit of privacy or be on full display to your neighbors or those dining in the restaurant. Sadly, as mentioned previously, my assigned villa was directly across from the lobby/restaurant building, so using my area meant I was on full display. Luckily the restaurant was only busy for the breakfast hour and the occupancy at the hotel was relatively low, so I never encountered any privacy issues that would have made me considering asking for my location to be moved.
The last, and perhaps best, feature of the BW are the small plunge pools attached to each villa.
This was quite the popular feature on my trip. The late September temperature was brutal at times, and slipping into this relaxing pool helped release a lot of the stress I had accumulated while trekking through the jungle and releasing enough sweat to equal my body weight daily. Since the pool is outdoors you have to check it to make sure its clean and safe to enter. The wind often would blow small leaves or other plant material into the water, and a few times I found a lizard or two camping out dangerously close to the water. The housekeeping staff did a great job of cleaning up each day, including the pool and veranda area.
Service & Staff
I was extremely impressed with the professionalism and friendliness of the staff. When Rudy picked me up from the airport, I could immediately tell that he would be easy to talk to and get along with. Before we arrive at the property we had already discussed my tentative plans in the area, had his suggestions on how to execute or modify the plans, and even started a small discussion on his impending move back to the Philippines to take over management of another Best Western property. This friendliness would translate over to the majority of the staff I encountered.
I happened to take breakfast a fair bit later in the morning than the rest of the hotel’s occupants, so the entirety of my stay I dined alone. The friendly waitstaff and the cook would take care of whatever food product or beverages I needed and them come stand near or sit at my table and chat me up about how I was enjoying Cambodia and what my life was like back in Chicago. They shared with me their stories of coming to work at the BW property and their childhoods growing up in a booming tourist town. It was a great, human touch to my stay and I learned a bit about everyday life for people living in the area.
Speaking of breakfast, let me share a few pictures with you to give you an idea about what it included. Unlike other properties, the complimentary breakfast at this BW was not a buffet. You would come in the morning and sit at table. The waiter would ask you how you’d like your eggs cooked and then run off to tell the chef. He’d return with a plate full of fresh fruit and some fruit juice. You’d have your choice of hot tea or coffee as well.
The eggs would be brought to your table along with some type of meat (usually a sausage or hot dog). The chef who was working my entire stay for breakfast really had an affinity for french toast, so every morning he’d ask me if he could make me a slice. The hotel didn’t have any maple syrup, but it seemed to make him quite thrilled that I was interested in the french toast, so I ate it every day with a little bit of jam. The final touch for your breakfast was the large bread basket they’d place at the table featuring a croissant and various types of toasted bread. A choice of strawberry or orange jam was placed on the table.
While many folks would love the freedom to gorge at a buffet, I never left the BW for my day of exploration at Angkor Wat with anything but a full belly. A bit of variety would have been nice but ultimately it didn’t negatively impact my stay.
The BW staff also helped me locate a local tuk tuk driver who would cart me around the area seeing the various sites within the vast Angkor Archeological Park. He offered his services at approximately $20 USD per day. I’m not sure whether that’s a steal or a rip off, but it seemed reasonable for my budget and I didn’t bother to haggle or try to locate another driver. He spoke very little English but just enough to get the job done. He was amiable about where I wanted to go, and never really pressured me to go to any specific sights or restaurants, which was impressive in a way.
As you can see, he was even a pro at navigating the tuk tuk through a torrential downpour on dirt roads:
The complimentary tuk tuk driver after 6 PM was indeed offered every night and not difficult at all to schedule. When I returned from trekking at Angkor Wat the desk staff would ask me what time I wanted to head into town. They’d have a driver waiting for me promptly at that time. The driver would ask me where I’d like to go and he’d drop me off at that location. He’d then notify me what area nearby he’d wait for me, and I was free to wander the town on my own and return to find him when I was ready to return. No payment was asked for on any of my trips, but I did offer a nice tip at the end of each night.
The BW was one of the best hotel choices I’ve made in the past year. I received a solid villa property with only a minor water pressure issue during my entire stay. Wifi worked without issue and I even got my own veranda and plunge pool for a total cost of $90 USD per day. Even though I could have stayed at a larger name property, I definitely feel like I got more bang for my buck at the BW and don’t regret staying at all. If I were back in Siem Reap, I’d definitely consider staying again.
All villa property offers free wifi, complimentary breakfast, and a plunge pool with every room.
Lower cost than more luxurious properties in the area but still offers a solid product.
Distance from the city core makes finding alternative shopping and food options difficult without a journey.
Water pressure in the shower was the most abysmal offering I’ve seen in all my years of travel.
Breakfast is tasty but a bit repetitive.