elegant period furnishings and traditional artworks. However, the kids are most interested in the pool, a sprawling lagoon-style extravaganza that is the biggest in town. Rafferty lolls decorously in a hammock as he sips mocktails, while Marlo slips on the slide before kicking back in Villa des Enfants – a breezy wooden pavilion packed with toys.
Mountains and monks
Phnom Kulen is a place of ancient secrets and the birthplace of the ancient Khmer Empire. Of deep significance to Cambodians, it is home to the sacred River of a Thousand Lingas and the giant reclining Buddha of ancient monastery, Preah Ang Thom. There’s also a pretty waterfall flanked by ruins, where Rafferty and Marlo paddle happily as ribbons of orange-robed monks snake their way through the ankle- deep waters, stopping only for selfies with my curly-haired cuties.
The lure of another temple proves irresistible. The ridiculously pretty Banteay Srei boasts some of the most elaborate stone carvings in Cambodia and its rose-hued stone beckons warmly in the afternoon sun. Marlo adores the girliness of the temple’s dancing Apsaras, who she’s thrilled to see come alive later that night in a magical performance at our hotel. I’d heard that an influx of tourists had “ruined” Siem Reap. Instead, I find it has lost none of its charm, but has shaken off its traumatic past to transform itself from a small, laidback town into a flourishing city.
That’s not to say that there aren’t sights that cause some confusion for my children, but we turn our experiences into positives by demonstrating that we can help our new friends in sustainable and practical ways. Rather than giving money to beggars, we make a donation to the Cambodian Children’s Trust, the kids adding their pocket money, and give blood at the Angkor Hospital for Children.
The result is my children leave Siem Reap eager to return, subtly changed and as determined as their mother to give a little something back to a place that has given them new perspective on their privileged lives.