Spas, shopping & seers in Siem Reap

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First published 21st March, 2005

Take your pick: spas, shopping and seers. Some super alternatives are springing up in Cambodia's Siem Reap so you don't have to feel too guilty for bowing out of rambling through Angkor Wat's endless ruins when you've had your fill.


As wondrous as Angkor's splendour is, different people have varying capacities for appreciation and after a few hours of intense concentration in the tropical blazing sun, I say it's time for some serious relaxation. And with more and more spas flinging open their doors to be welcomed by the tiring masses, it seems I'm not alone.

The swishest standalone spa for now - probably in the country - has to be the lush oasis of Visaya, set in the Foreign Correspondents Club complex by the river. It's priced to match, although by international standards, for the quality it's still a steal.

Whatever treatment you choose, make sure you arrive for your appointment an hour or so early so you can have a swim and a steam first. I slunk in a little late through their glorious amber-bead curtain - from Thailand, unfortunately -to slip into a comfy robe and be escorted out past the gurgling FCC pool, possibly Siem Reap's coolest spot, and into the calming, hushed private treatment room.

Lolling by the FCC pool in Siem Reap -- massage or facial next?

My soothing aromatic facial set me back 40 US dollars, lasted an hour, used Australia's Jurlique products and was truly world class. From the thick towels draped over me to the sumptuous d?cor and the therapist's skill, this was the sort of indulgence one seeks after days on Angkor's grand circuit.

Also on offer are four types of massage, a body scrub or wrap, baths and various packages. The latter represents the best value, so drop by beforehand to work out what you'd like and set up an appointment.

Shinta Mani's Sanctuary spa is another splash-out option, set in the hotel of the same name. It's not quite the five-star lavishness of Visaya, but prices are lower and the 90-minute aromatherapy massage (42 dollars) I succumbed to was excellent.

Sanctuary offers a large range of massages, scrubs, facials, baths and hand and foot treatments, but their half-day and full-day packages are again far better value - excellent justification for taking a day off sightseeing.

Their treatment rooms come with outdoor showers and are set off the hotel's small and stylish pool, which you can also have a dip in beforehand.

A budget but chic spa alternative is Frangipani, located on the narrow arthouse alley running behind the ever-popular bar street. They've been open for several years and also use Jurlique products, but their treatments are far more affordable. Their 15-dollar, hour-long aromatherapy massage in their open-air treatment room was great value.

If you're climbed the Bakheng at Angkor, you've earned a massage...

Nearby, the homespun Opanissai offers treatments along with an array of natural health and beauty products. Their four-dollar pedicure was just the ticket for feet in need of some TLC. But their secret weapon in the burgeoning spa sector is their fortune teller, who for eight dollars (with translator) will see what the cards have in store for you.

Me? The pack of playing cards she dealt in all sorts of baffling combinations showed that my work colleagues were jealous of me at the moment and would be talking about me behind my back. If I could get through the next month, I might be alright. If your short-term outlook is as grim as mine was, she may offer to take you to a temple to be blessed by monks. I risked it.

Don't be surprised if the fortune teller predicts bad finances on your horizon: shopping is another tempting alternative in Siem Reap, with boutiques boasting more and more interesting Cambodian items by the month. Check out the array of shops around the Old Market area, where you can snap up lovely silks, Kampot's famed pepper, massage oils infused with essential oils and aromatic coffee from Cambodia's highlands.

A long-time favourite is Artisans D'Angkor. Visit their workshop first, where you can see artists at work carving, sculpting, sketching and weaving their gorgeous masterpieces. Prices here are high, but the quality is exceptional. This is the spot to pick up a souvenir of your Cambodian trip that will last a lifetime.


About the author:
Samantha Brown is a reformed news reporter. She now edits most of the stuff you read on Travelfish.org, except for when you find a typo, and then that's something she wasn't allowed to look at.


Read 3 comment(s)

  • frangipani spa (www.frangipanisiemreap.com) is now located on no.615 Hup Guan Street, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Please update your information. Thank you.

    Posted by ning on 24th April, 2009

  • And the cheapest treatment now at the frangipani spa is around $22 dollars.

    Posted by Cinnamon on 7th June, 2009

  • On the note of spas and beauty treatments, do these kinds of places do waxing too? And if they do offer waxing, do you know if they do it properly? A friend had her legs waxed in Vietnam and it turned out to be a less than enjoyable experience!
    Thanks!

    Posted by Nicola on 3rd December, 2009

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