Travel/Experiences  •  Dispatch

Dispatch: Siem Reap

International runway sensation-turned designer Philip Huang shares with 2Mag his secrets for enchanting UNESCO Heritage site, Siem Reap.

Text & Photography
January 28, 2017
Philip's distinctive look makes him instantly recognizable as the first Asian male supermodel. His years as a globetrotting model refined his traveling skills and he shares with us Dispatch from Siem Reap. “With decades of war and the brutal Khmer Rouge behind it, Siem Reap, Cambodia has emerged with hope and is flourishing in every way. Over our three days there we got a glimpse of life in this town.

Eat
Cambodian cuisine reminds me of Thai cooking in some ways–minus the burning hot spices. Modern Khmer food is refined and cutting-edge and the overall dining experience in Siem Reap is refreshing. The traditional amok is ubiquitous but there is so much more to the local cuisine. Cuisine Wat Damnak is a prime example for showcasing the best cuisine Cambodia has to offer. We also really like Chanrey Tree and the adventurousness of Marum. Little Fox Espresso Café has great coffee.

Sleep
We stayed at a retro-inspired hotel with subtle Southeast Asian details that made us feel like we were dropped into Palm Springs, CA in the ‘60s. Furnished with restored antiques, superb finishings, and a killer saltwater pool (with perfect pH for the eyes), Viroth’s was a very comfortable home base for the trip. The staff were extremely helpful with recommendations and it’s always nice to start the day with a delicious breakfast. Give a shout to Sai if you pass by: he’s the man!!
Ride
We took a tuk tuk (a ramork in Cambodian) mainly to dinner and places near the hotel (which was basically everywhere as the hotel is in the center of town). But it’s better to take a car temple hopping or for longer trips to keep cool and dust-free.

Explore.
The main temples of course, but you will inevitably find your own favorites. Ours were Pre Rup and Banteay K’dei.
The Land Mine Museum – a moving insight on modern Cambodian history founded by Aki Ra, a former Khmer Rouge child soldier.

Temples
It is fascinating that the temples still stand after 1000 years. A strong presence from this ancient culture still remains, and exploring these breath-taking structures makes me wonder what life was like back then. We took a temple bike trip with Grasshopper Adventures and our guide Sambo had an answer to everything.
Tip: Bring plenty of sun block and water if you plan on going the distance, whether solo temple hopping or on a tour.
Shop
Kandall Village – Think New York’s West Village and Notting Hill (as it used to be) combined in one.
Louise Louboutieres - Louise has an interesting take on Southeast Asian artisanal craft and a great eye. Cotton ikat scarves and lacquered bowls are a must.
TRUNKH - Doug Gordon is a character—worth a visit! Vintage fabric shorts and bags, and quirky one-off souvenirs, such as a mud sculpture of a buffalo.
Weaves of Cambodia – Carole Cassidy works with victims of landmines to make  beautiful fine silk creations with proceeds benefitting the local Children’s Hospital.
Artisans d’Angkor – Equipped with a school to train impoverished youths to become master artisans, Artisans d’Angkor has the finest artisanal crafts in town. artisansdangkor.com

Tips
Once around the temples, don’t expect the great cuisine we've mentioned; everything in Angkor is a tourist trap with not great Cambodian cuisine —the local’s definition of “local” will not match yours. If you can, pack a picnic!