Experiential travel, Cambodia
Get up close and personal with elephants, learn kitchen secrets from a chef, hurl yourself down a snowy mountainside, paraglide into paradise – if you're after an eye-opening, mind-expanding or pulse-quickening experience, these are the hotels for you.
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You’ll never be far from sustenance in snack-loving Cambodia. Street food is king: on Phnom Penh’s rue Pasteur, try crispy nom pain pâté sandwiches or ansam (grilled sticky rice parcels stuffed with bananas or jackfruit). Kep’s cove-perched market shacks pack a culinary punch; Kimly's coconut-laced green-pepper crab, fresh from the sea, is the stuff of foodie daydreams. In Siem Reap, make like the locals and order plates of sticky lemongrass ribs in Nouveau Pho de Paris, or sample Cuisine Wat Damnak’s delectable Khmer tasting menu – Raymond Blanc is a fan. Whatever you do, don’t leave without getting a taste of The Blue Pumpkin’s salty-sweet caramel cashew nut ice-cream.
You’d be mad, of course, to miss the enigmatic splendour of Angkor, a sprawling complex of pink-tinged granite temples, carving-lined riverbeds and mirror-smooth reservoirs. Laid-back colonial Siem Reap is sleepy by day and heady by night; it pays to spend a day or two sampling its sybaritic pleasures (Heritage Suites’ Bodia Spa is a Smith favourite) before venturing further afield. Phnom Penh beckons with its dizzying mess of bars, daredevil motodops and charming Mekong riverfront; beyond, sugar-palm dotted paddy fields extend to stretches of idyllic beaches, sleepy seaside Kep and Mondulkiri’s unspoilt jungles and waterfalls.