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Siem Reap: Unparalleled Service & Value @ Khmer Mansion Boutique Hotel

Angkor Wat had been on my bucket list for the longest time, but it was always placed on the backburner due to safety concerns. Pickpockets, motorcycle snatch thefts, drug trafficking, abduction of foreigners by scam rings, etc have given Cambodia an unsavoury reputation of being a cesspool of crime.

Nevertheless, the draw of Angkor Wat remained and Siem Reap came into focus in my viewfinder when I was looking for places without COVID-19 testing and quarantine requirements to visit during the September 2022 school holidays. Cambodia had progressively lifted its COVID-19 restrictions and had become hassle-free to visit by mid July 2022. I finally took the plunge to book flights to Siem Reap and plan a 5-day vacation there.

Knowing that the Pub Street area in downtown Siem Reap was where eateries, watering holes and shops were concentrated, I was determined to find a nice hotel with all the frills near there, so we could easily walk to the heart of the action without running the risk of getting ripped off by tuk tuk drivers, or worse, getting abducted by them!

My search led me to Khmer Mansion Boutique Hotel, which was just round the corner from Pub Street. Listed as a 4-star property with 22 rooms, it had a long string of glowing reviews in Google, Tripadvisor and various booking portals. At the time I made my booking, the hotel was running a flash deal in Agoda and HSBC was offering 20% off all hotels in Agoda. I ended up paying an incredulous S$37.70 per night for a pool-facing double room (choice of king or twin beds) with complimentary airport pickup, welcome drink, fruit platter and daily breakfast for 2!

At that price point, I expected the airport pickup to be in the form of a rickety tuk tuk, so I was pleasantly surprised when we were met at the airport by a neatly dressed gentleman holding a welcome sign with my name on it. In fluent English, he greeted us and explained that the hotel had sent 2 mini-vans to pick our group of 10 up, then promptly escorted us to the air-conditioned vehicles. Cool towels and bottles of water were distributed to us as we settled into the vehicles.

The ride to the hotel took less than 20 mins. As we entered the hotel, the staff on duty quickly brought out chilled jasmine-scented towels, drinks and traditional snacks to welcome us. The check-in process was efficiently handled. Senior staff, Dalin, then handed out maps of the area and the temples of Angkor, and briefed us on the hotel's facilities and discounts for inhouse guests, before showing us the way to our rooms.

Our rooms were bright, airy, clean and comfortable, with a pool-facing balcony. Delicate fragrance from lotus flowers scattered about perfumed the room. A small fruit platter and complimentary coffee/tea/water were thoughtfully left in the room for us.

There was some wear and tear in the fittings and furnishings, and the bathroom didn't have a separate shower stall; just a shower curtain. However, these were minor issues; nothing we couldn't live with for a few days.

I didn't see many images of the hotel's breakfast online, and didn't quite know what to expect. When Dalin produced the fairly extensive breakfast menu with 15 different options and asked our group to indicate our choices for the following day in advance, it rendered us speechless. For S$37.70 per room per night, how many more surprises were they going to pull out of the hat?

Breakfast was artistically presented each morning, and there didn't seem to be a limit as to the amount one could eat either. When you ordered a particular breakfast set and wanted to add items from a different set, they were most happy to oblige. Refillable coffee, tea, water and 3 types of juices (orange, mango and pineapple) were offered daily. We could choose to enjoy breakfast indoors at the dining area or al fresco by the pool, and they'd set the table accordingly.

Nothing seemed to be too much trouble for the excellent hotel staff. Their warmth and sincerity were palpable and could be felt the moment we set foot into the hotel. They'd brave the rain to rush out with umbrellas for our group to shelter us back to the lobby when they heard us returning. Without fail, they'd sprint to bring chilled towels and cold glasses of water to us each time we returned. They made sure that our breakfast bento boxes were packed and ready for collection at 0430 hrs sharp on the morning we went to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. The chambermaid even spelt our names with cut flower stalks in our rooms to welcome us on our second day there, and our rooms were kept spotless throughout our stay. When we asked for breakfast at 1030 hrs which was beyond their usual timing, they willingly agreed. When we requested for late checkout at 1330 hrs so we could complete our massage at the hotel spa, it wasn't a problem at all either.

Finally, the General Manager of the hotel, Chet, approached us on several occasions to find out how everything was and whether there was anything else he could do for us. The hotel's attention to detail and personalised touch were simply in a league of their own.

The hotel had its own restaurant with an a la carte menu for lunch and dinner. We ordered deep-fried calamari, spaghetti carbonara, Hawaiian pizza, Khmer fried noodles, and Khmer chicken and cashew nuts with rice for lunch by the pool one afternoon. The portions were generous and everything was delicious. Although it was more expensive than cafes on the street, the hotel's prices were still very reasonable. The hotel charged USD2.00 per can of beer, whilst cafes on the street charged USD0.50 for a pint of draft beer and USD1.00 per can. Yes, beer was ridiculously cheap in Siem Reap!

The hotel also had its own spa house by the pool, but we only found out after booking the massage sessions with them that they didn't have any inhouse masseuse. When bookings were made, they'd arrange for the therapists to come over to the hotel. Massage parlours on the street were advertising USD1.00 body massages, but a check revealed that those were mere gimmicks and the hourly rate for full body massage was between USD10.00 to USD15.00. Our hotel charged USD17.00 per hour, and USD25.00 per 1.5 hours for traditional Khmer full body massages. We were happy to pay a little extra to have ours done at the hotel, as some of the massage parlours on the street looked somewhat dodgy.

After a long day of sightseeing, we always felt relaxed when we returned to the warm embrace of the calm oasis at Khmer Mansion Boutique Hotel. The impeccable service by the whole crew at the hotel contributed in no small part to how our entire group of 10 fell in love with Siem Reap.

Pre-pandemic, the tourist dollar was a major contributor to Siem Reap's economy, and many local families suffered when borders round the world stayed shut and tourism was decimated. COVID-19 forced Khmer Mansion Boutique Hotel to close as well and it only reopened its doors in late July 2022. With the gradual return of tourism to Siem Reap, the locals are extremely happy and relieved to see tourists once again. The locals we encountered deep in the countryside and in town were all friendly and kind, and their strong command of English from young kids to adults greatly impressed us.

Perhaps places like Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville may tell a different story of the crime situation in Cambodia, but Siem Reap is definitely safe and tourist-friendly. At no time did we feel threatened or unsafe during our visit. Although we did encounter groups of vendors and barefoot little children selling souvenirs following us about at certain places of interest, they would move away after we decline to purchase or show disinterest in their products. None of them were begging for money. They were just trying to make a perfectly honest living by selling souvenirs like postcards, clothing etc.

The people of Siem Reap may not have as much as big cityfolk in terms of material comfort, but what we witnessed was a youthful, diligent population full of promise, ambition and smiles. I hope with all my heart that more people will cast aside their misconceived notion that Siem Reap is unsafe and experience for themselves the wonders of this scenic country, and the exceptional hospitality of Khmer Mansion Boutique Hotel.

On the day of our departure, Dalin and her crew had one more surprise for us up their sleeves. After checkout, as we waited for our airport shuttle to arrive, they brought us cakes and fruits, and presented each of us with a colourful Khmer scarf as a parting gift. A perfect memento for our first ever trip to Cambodia. Thank you Khmer Mansion Boutique Hotel for an amazing stay.


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