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Monday, November 12, 2012

Fashionista's Hotel Review: MyHibiscus Hotels and Resort, Siem Reap

There's a story behind our trip to this hotel. Oh, let me confess, it took us two days to get here. Yes, literally two days.

So here we were, two Malaysians who did not speak a word of Khmer, running around (or at least walking in circles) in Siem Reap (with no heads or tails as to our whereabouts to say the least) with our crisply printed out list of halal food outlets in Siem Reap (downloaded faithfully from Zabihah.com). On our second day in Siem Reap, we decided to ask our tuk-tuk driver (who wasn't very fluent in English and didn't know a word of Malay) to bring us to MyHibiscus. He drove us in circles (literally) and we couldn't find the place. So we decided that enough was enough (after 30 minutes of driving pointlessly from here to nowhere) and took off for Angkor Wat. The very next day, we decided to try again (you can say that we're very determined or strong-willed but either way it's who we are).


After another 30 minutes of driving in circles (but this time our driver was more determined than we are to getting us here), we've finally arrived! 


And just in case your driver is kinda like ours, show him this photo, I'm sure he'll understand Khmer =). Or alternatively, you can tell him that it's located at Taneuy Street, Wat Bo Village, Sangkat Salakamreuk.


The view of the hotel from the road. By the way, the hotel is only about 5 - 10 minutes ride away from the town center, but it's just that maybe the directions in Zabihah are not that clear, that's why our driver couldn't find the right street to turn into.


The hotel lobby.


And reception area.


Maybe one of the reasons why our tuk-tuk driver couldn't find the place is because the hotel is formerly known as Angkor Monarch. There's the website address of the hotel or alternatively, you can also click [here].


The hotel complex.


And here's the restaurant, located at the first floor, right on top of the lobby.

We were fortunate enough to have met the manager, Mrs Sally. She was kind enough to share with us a little bit of information on the hotel. The hotel is owned by Malaysians (thus the name hibiscus, a direct reference to Malaysia's national flower). Even Mrs Sally herself is a fellow Malaysian. The hotel aims to position itself as the hotel of choice for Muslim travelers. The hotel offers halal food at their restaurant and should you need the services of a tuk-tuk driver, they'll also recommend you a Muslim tuk-tuk driver (who would be handy to bring you to all the halal food outlets in town, right?).


And this is what we had, fried rice topped with fried egg sunny side up adorned with slices of tomatoes and sausages and a dish of stir fried kangkong for lunch. It does not look like much but I assure you, it was absolutely delicious!


And this is hubs with the hotel's marketing exec.


Here's hubs with one of the hotel's directors. 


Managed a shot with some of the Muslim crew =).





A view of the hotel compound. 

Basically there are several types of rooms available (tailored to different traveler's needs):


The usual double bed for the couple traveler (like us!).




Twin sharing.



Or the family room. This room actually consists of two separate rooms, twin beds for the kids and if you notice in between the beds there's an open door...


This door leads to a private bedroom for the parents to retire at night. Cosy, right?


Triple room (just in case you're traveling in groups of threes). 


Oh, I almost forgot, the bathroom.

And these are the facilities provided by the hotel:


Free wifi. This is a must for me every time before I book a room at any hotel, I'd be checking to see if it provides free wifi service. 



Your staple supply of soap, comb, sanitary bag and tooth brushes.


The direction of the kiblat (for solat). 


Your staple supply of coffee, tea and mineral water. 


And a praying mat in each room for the convenience of Muslim travelers (how thoughtful is that, right?).


Hibiscus flowers adorning the beds =).


Before we left, we met a group of students from the nearby international school enjoying their swimming lessons at the hotel pool. The squeals and shrieks of laughter almost made me want to jump into the pool myself *gosh*.


The hibiscus, the national flower of Malaysia in which the hotel is named after. 

For Muslim travelers who are looking for a comfortable place to stay and easy access to halal food (and not to mention access to the pool), we'd totally recommend you for a stay here. It was a tad unfortunate for us that we didn't know of the hotel prior to leaving for Siem Reap, otherwise we would have certainly booked a room at the hotel.

Til our next trip or blogpost (whichever comes first), cheerio!


xoxo Mrs Fashionista

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Fashionista's Travels: Ta Phrom Temple

Before you read this, I would like to apologize for not writing/ blogging as often as I would like to. Work has been rather manic so my time devoted to blogging has been limited to weekends (it used to include weekday nights but now that I'm preggers, I've committed myself to an earlier than usual sleeping time thus no blogging during weekday nights).

Ta Phrom temple is also known as the Tomb Raider temple (due to it being in one of the shooting locations of the movie) but despite the nickname I've noticed that Angkor Wat and Bayon Temple are also featured in the movie. So the nickname could be due to the very distinguishing feature of the temple, which is a tree growing and molding itself to the temple walls and roof (just scroll down and you'll see the photos), and I must admit, seeing it (the tree and all) is absolutely breathtaking.

So, as an amateurish traveler, I have to admit, Ta Phrom temple is definitely one of the best temples in the Angkor Wat complex I've ever been too (and unfortunately I wasn't able to visit all) and I'll show you why in this blog.


Oh, before you start reading, you might want to refresh your memory on the Tomb Raider movie. Let's see if you can notice which one is Ta Phrom temple.


And this is how the plan of the temple complex looks like. The temple is not that big, there are other temples that are bigger, but it's quite a walk from the entrance (where your tuk-tuk driver would be leaving you). It really does look like a hidden temple in the middle of the forest (considering that you have to walk about at least 10 minutes to reach the temple). 


And this greeted us (after then 10 minute walk that is). A pretty sight, isn't it? I still can't believe that a temple like this would exist right in the middle of the jungle and I could understand why it was chosen as one of the movie locations. It looks almost deserted and in a way, for a moment (before the hordes of tourists come crashing in anyway) you could really believe that you are in another time, transported to the past. The temple was built about a century ago, you know. 


A temple in ruins (and a little walk further you'll find that some parts of the temple is currently being restored too). Come to think of it, if you've been around for hundreds of years you'd be in ruins too.


A carving of the dinosaur on the temple walls? Interesting...


Moss covered temple walls.


Here's the first tree (there's quite a few apparently) that we saw that had already attached its roots quite firmly onto the temple walls. I wonder if it's the trees that's holding the temple structure together...


This really reminded me of the scene in Tomb Raider where Angelina Jolie was running away from the temple as it started to crumble. Looking at the size of those stones, I wouldn't want to be stuck in this temple during a storm for sure. 


Here's another tree and I must admit, this is among my favorite photos of Ta Phrom, the ruins of the temple in complete disarray in comparison with the firmness and stability of the tree.


Carvings on the temple walls.


This is actually the center of the temple complex, its ruined stone walls arranged (most probably by the temple caretakers) at the left and right of the temple walkway.


This is what happens when you're looking up to take a shot and rain starts pelting on your camera lens. September is not really a good time to visit Siem Reap (it was raining almost daily when we were there, thus explaining why we weren't able to visit more temples than we should have), but we were lucky enough to have visited at least the three main temples in the Angkor Wat complex (i.e. Angkor Wat, Bayon temple and Ta Phrom temple).


Decided to take another shot with my iPhone. 


And took refuge inside the temple corridors when the rain got heavier (lucky for us the rain lasted for only about 10 minutes).


If you like, you can get these paintings as a souvenir of your trip (don't worry, you can find these paintings being sold all over Siem Reap).


Temple restoration in progress.



And this is how the temple looks like from the back entrance. The best thing about walking to (and back from) this temple is that you don't need to turn back the way you walked in. So in a way you can actually explore the whole temple and walk to the other end of the temple (your tuk-tuk driver will most probably be waiting for you there). But still, the walk out of the temple complex is almost as long as the walk in so wear comfortable shoes (or in my case, I took to wearing flip flops due to the unpredictable weather).

I must say that Siem Reap is a wonderful place to visit. It's a complete contrast to Phnom Penh (but I'll get to that in my future posts). The history and culture is amazing (and it's even more amazing to find out that these rulers of centuries past actually came from Indonesia; made me kinda proud to be part Indonesian, Javanese to be exact). For those who plans to visit Siem Reap, I do recommend a visit through the Angkor Wat complex as well as the Angkor Museum (preferably visit the museum first so that you'd have a better appreciation of the temples and their history). 

Let's travel more, shall we?


xoxo Mrs Fashionista