If U Go To Cambodia

Taken from New York Time Newspaper 

If You Go

GETTING THERE

You can fly from Newark to Siem Reap on Singapore Air, 800-742-3333, www.singaporeair.com, (with a stop in Singapore, a 22-hour trip). Fares start about $1,760 for executive economy and $6,365 for business, with taxes.

GETTING AROUND

The telephone code for Cambodia is 855.

Since Siem Reap has no formal taxi service, the most common means of transport is the tuk-tuk, or motorized rickshaw, which offers little protection from rain, dust, noise and heat. Still, they're convenient. Most rides around town cost less than $2 (generally, dollars are preferred to riels).

Renting a car is far more relaxing. Your hotel can arrange anything from a four-wheel drive to a vintage limousine. A Toyota Land Cruiser with driver will run $17 an hour at Hôtel de la Paix; the BMW at the Raffles Grand is $400 a day.

To see the temples by helicopter, contact Angkor Scenic Flights, near the Old Market (12-814-500 angkorscenicflights.com). An eight-minute Angkor Wat flyby costs $68 a person (three to five people); a 14-minute flight is $120. Charter flights can get you quickly to temples that might take all day to reach by land, for $1,375 an hour, plus taxes.

WHERE TO STAY

Outside Phnom Penh, Cambodians are not big on addresses. Once I asked a receptionist the name of the street her hotel was on. "I forget," she said after a moment, "because I don't care."

At the 74-year-old Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor, the past is on display everywhere you look: the white-gravel driveway, the iron-cage elevator, the colonial-style bathroom fixtures and ceiling fans. The restaurant requires men to wear jackets at dinner. Still, it's far from stuffy, with visitors drinking gin and tonics in the Elephant Bar. The hotel is at 1 Vithei Charles de Gaulle, Khum Svay Dang Kum, 63-963-888, www.raffles.com. Doubles start at $360, but for an extra-special time, book the 3,180-square-foot villa ($1,900 a night).

Though Hôtel de la Paix (Sivatha Boulevard, 63-966-000, hoteldelapaixangkor.com) is new, its roots run back a half-century to the original Paix, an Art Deco hotel that stood on the same spot; its owner was a guerilla fighter -turned-businessman named Dap Chhuon. The $400-a-night duplex suites have rooftop terraces the size of a Manhattan one-bedroom and, of course, every room has an iPod. Standard doubles from $195.

The Amansara, on the road to Angkor (63-760-333, amanresorts.com), may be the anti-Grand: Modern rather than Classical, intimate rather than sprawling, casual rather than formal. The suites, starting at $650, are big enough to have their own courtyards. Twelve new suites have plunge pools ($850). Two meals a day are included, as well as a car and driver for visiting the temples.

WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK

While Cambodian food looks a bit like that of neighboring Thailand and Vietnam – curries and stews, noodle dishes and lots of rice – it's rarely as tasty. Still, the most ambitious restaurants in town like Meric, at Hôtel de la Paix (63-966-000) are trying to resurrect Cambodian fine dining. Paul Hutt, Meric's chef (and a friend of mine) is devoted to digging up unusual ingredients, like dried snake, and glamming up traditional peasant food, like rice flakes and prahok, the ubiquitous and pungent fish paste. The Khmer set menu is usually $35 a person (many restaurants price in dollars).

For classic Cambodian food, Khmer Kitchen, in an alley near the Old Market called the Passage (12-763-468), may be the best in town. It's not fancy, but the menu of simple curries, fried pumpkin and spicy meat salads called larb was good enough for Mick Jagger and, at about $12 for dinner for two, cheap enough for his fans.

Dead Fish Tower (Sivatha Street, 12-630-377, talesofasia.com/cambodia-deadfish.htm) is a bizarre Cambodian take on dinner theater. Upstairs, you can watch traditional dancing and downstairs, you can feed the crocodiles. (They get their fish raw – happily, you get it curried.) Dinner for two is about $15.

In a more modern vein, there's Abacus (Om Khun Street, 12-644-286). Get a table amid the silk lanterns in the garden, and sample entrees like the ostrich in red-wine sauce ($13).

There are a million bars in Siem Reap, many of them on what has come to be known as Pub Street, and most filled with Australian backpackers. But nearby there's also Laundry Bart (276 Group 10, Module 1 Village, east of the Old Market, 16-962-026), a slick, dark lounge that feels like the East Village circa 1995.

Linga, near the Old Market Across from the One Hotel (12-246-912, lingabar.com), is a straight-friendly gay bar with expertly mixed cocktails.

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