My All-Time Favorite Hotels

When I was in Cambodia, I fell in love with my hotel and started thinking about how many hotels I’ve stayed in and which ones were truly memorable.  I love staying in hotels, especially nice hotels, but there are definitely a few standouts that make the cut as my all-time favorite hotels.  Many of these aren’t even fancy, but there was something special about them that seared them into memory.

Le Meridien Angkor; Siem Reap, Cambodia

This is the hotel that spawned this list in the first place.  From the second I walked through the entrance and was greeted by a cool washcloth and cold juice, I was smitten.  A gorgeous oasis to retreat from the heat of Cambodia.  Beautifully designed pool and spa area, excellent service and good food, too!

Le Meridien Angkor

Le Meridien Angkor

Renaissance Carambola; St. Croix, US Virgin Islands

My mom and I stayed here two Christmas vacations in a row!  After a late night arrival, waking up to this ocean view was such a treat!  I love a hotel room with outdoor space, and these screened in porches were perfect, not to mention the hammocks and uncrowded beach. This place is a great destination for a quiet escape from the real world.  I know we’ll be back again!

Davis Bay

Hacienda la Jiminita; Quito, Ecuador

We stayed here before and after our Galapagos cruise, and it was so charming, especially the resident French bulldogs, Francois and Maya.  I wish we’d had more time to explore the grounds, but it was another whirlwind trip! This is a place I’d love to return with a pile of books and just relax.  (we know my trips are never relaxing, but maybe someday they will be!)

Casa de Hacienda "La Jimenita" - we spent the first two nights at this cute hacienda near the Quito airport

Breakfast at the hacienda - the food was delicious, and fresh squeezed fruit juice!

Flanigan’s Inn; Springdale, Utah

Oh, Flanigan’s!  Someone on a backpacking forum recommended this place for its proximity to Zion National Park and I visited with my friends in 2008.  I then spent the next 8 years dreaming of a return until I finally made it back in 2016 after my Grand Canyon rafting trip.  On the 2nd visit, I also got to experience the spa and the hilltop labyrinth, which was pretty cool.  Honestly, I think there’s something in the air here that just captivates me.

Flanigan's in Springdale, UT - awesome place to stay!(Photo Credit:  Amy)

The pool at Flanigan's - I love that view!

Redstone Inn; Redstone, Colorado

We’ve been visiting the Redstone area for many summers, and in 2005, my mom, sister and I decided to fly out for Christmas at the Redstone Inn.  What a treat, and I think this started the Christmas travel tradition for us.  We had all our meals in the gorgeous lodge, enjoyed stunning views of the night skies from the hot tub, and even a horse-drawn sleigh ride to nearby Redstone Castle.  What an experience!


Photo Credit: Aspen Valley Film

Christmas Eve sleigh ride at the Redstone Inn

Freestone Inn; Mazama, Washington

My sister and I stayed here on a trip to Washington State, after seeing Dave Matthews Band at the Gorge.   The cabin-like rooms each had their own patio, the lodge was gorgeous, the location remote. I would love to come back here sometime.

Lake outside our deck at Freestone Inn

Heaton’s Guest House; Dingle, Ireland

I don’t even have a photo of Heaton’s, but the Dingle Peninsula was just stunning.  I think we only stayed at Heaton’s 1 night, on a whirlwind trip across Ireland, but it had the perfect location near town right on the water.  I remember saying it would be the perfect place to come back and just relax with a bunch of books.  It’s been 13 years, and I haven’t made it back there yet 🙁

Honorable Mention:

Indian Lodge at Davis Mountains State Park, Texas

This place looked so great, and I really, really want to go back and give it a proper visit.  Unfortunately, when I visited I came down with a cold/flu and spent pretty much the entire time in bed.

Sunset from Skyline Drive(BW)

Far View Lodge at Mesa Verde National Park

I guess I have a thing for lodges?!  This was a short visit on a road trip to Utah and Colorado.  Super cute rooms, good food at the restaurant and of course, stunning scenery and history.

Mesa Verde - my last National park of the trip, and where I would meet my mom.

I have a feeling I will be adding a few more to this list soon!  Any suggestions?


Favorite Hotels


Solo in SouthEast Asia

If I’m being totally honest, Asia was never high on my travel wish list – I pictured steamy hot crowded cities, and a very long flight to get there. I’m past the age where I want to budget backpack and stay in hostels. There were just a lot of other places much higher on my list, and easier to reach. And then, friends of mine moved to Shanghai. Having a local to visit totally changes the ballgame and is a great excuse to go someplace you normally wouldn’t. So, in the summer of 2015, planning began.

By Winter 2015, my friends had been called back to the States much earlier than expected. Oops! I was too far into planning and booking to cancel my trip, but I had also done enough research that I was getting excited about the things I had planned. I had only scheduled a few days in Shanghai at the end of my trip so that was easy enough to cut out. No need to deal with the red tape of China this time around! This is my SouthEast Asia itinerary for two weeks of solo travel.

I was pretty relieved that my ATM card worked with no issues!

Hong Kong Arrival

Again, not keen on big, crowded cities, I intended to avoid Bangkok or spend very little time there. I had a friend who told me about an elephant sanctuary outside Chiang Mai, so I knew I had to get there and it seemed as good a place as any to start my trip! I found a good deal on a flight to Chiang Mai, with an overnight layover in HongKong. Even with a hotel cost, it was still cheaper than the next cheapest option. (With no direct flights from Chicago to Bangkok, I was also trying to avoid a 3-legged start to my trip) My overnight in Hong Kong gave me just enough time to visit the Big Buddha on Lantau Island before catching my late morning flight to Thailand.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

I spent three nights in Chiang Mai.  A food tour, photography tour and full day spent at Elephant Nature Park didn’t leave much down time.

Bangkok, Thailand

I then took an overnight train to Bangkok, where I stayed at the Aloft Bangkok for two nights. My first class sleeper car came with a pet roach, so I got no sleep that night! Originally, I only planned 1 night in Bangkok (mostly so I could sing the song!) but when I found out about Sak Yant Tattoos at Wat Bang Phra outside the city, I changed my itinerary to work this in.  An evening tuk tuk tour was the only other thing I managed to do in Bangkok! The heat was oppressive!

First class car (First Class is a relative term here)

Expique - Bangkok Night Lights TukTuk Tour

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Next, I flew to Siem Riep in Cambodia to visit the Angkor Wat temples. I planned to take a bus from Bangkok just for adventure, but at the last minute found a flight for $70 and decided I had better ways to spend 8 hours than on a chicken bus. (After my first class train experience, I’m so glad I opted to fly!) In Siem Reap, I spent 3 nights at Le Meridien Angkor, a full day touring the temples, and a whole lot of time at the pool!  (Who can blame me, it was gorgeous!)

Angkor Wat

Le Meridien Angkor


At this point, I originally planned to fly to Shanghai, but instead doubled back to Thailand for some beach time in Phuket.  Here, I stayed 3 nights at the Westin Siray Bay, with a full-day kayak tour and again, lots of pool time!


From Phuket, I flew back to HongKong for 1 more night before my morning flight back to Chicago the next day. I hoped to visit Victoria Peak, but it was rainy and cloudy and I was exhausted at this point, so the rest of Hong Kong would have to wait for another trip.

Trip Budget

Overall, my itinerary got a little wonky with changes, and I was somewhat limited due to the fact that I originally purchased a flight home from Shanghai using miles (luckily I was able to change it from HongKong for $5 but not Bangkok which would have been much easier), but overall, it worked out pretty well!

  • Total trip Cost ~ $4200
    • Flights (5) – $1723 + 40,000 United miles
    • Hotels (13) – $717 + 30,000 Starwood Points
    • Tours & Tips – $662
    • Food – $365
    • Taxis – $237
    • Souvenirs – $200
    • Spa Visits – $67
    • Laundry – $40
    • Overnight Train Bangkok- 1st class sleeper – $50
    • Cambodian Visa – $30
    • Dog Boarding $100 (only 2 nights…thanks, Mom!)

For those wondering about all the Starwood points, I use a Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card for most of my daily expenses.  I don’t travel constantly, or stay in hotels all that often, but when I do, I try to stay with one chain to maximize my points. Most of my points are earned through everyday purchases like gas, groceries and take-out…so much take-out!  The $95 Annual Fee is well worth it, given how many free nights I used on this trip alone!


SouthEast Asia Itinerary


3 Days in Siem Reap, Cambodia

I had always heard great things about Cambodia (and Cambodians), so I made sure to include 3 days in Siem Reap on my SouthEast Asia Itinerary. In hindsight, 3 days was much too short and despite the heat, Siem Reap is the one place I would like to return to for a deeper exploration.

I contemplated taking the bus from Bangkok, but ultimately, wisely, settled on a flight, which was under 1 hour and less than $100 on AirAsia. Even the airport felt exotic, with a distinct Polynesian feel. Cambodia was the only country which required a visa on this trip, but even that process was relatively quick – thankfully, I’d done my research and had extra passport photos on hand (and cash!)

Siem Reap

Upon arrival, I went straight to the transport desk and booked a $7 car to my hotel. Shortly after, I was checked into what may be my favorite hotel of all time! I absolutely loved Le Meridien Angkor! I arrived well before check-in, and while I waited for my room, was given a cold towel and mango juice. (Cold towels were a hit everywhere I went in Asia…so refreshing!)

Siem Reap

Siem Reap Street Food Tour

I had a bit of time to relax before I was scheduled for a food tour that I’d booked through Viator. For $47, I joined the Siem Reap Street Food Evening Tour. Various moto-taxis collected 5 of us from our hotels to meet our guide, Kim, at a local street market. Rather than warming us up to “weird” food, we started off right at the bug table, which included crickets, grasshoppers, cockroaches, beetles, worms, and frogs. One brave soul (the only man in our group) tried everything while us girls were a bit more squeamish. I did try the frog and snail, as those didn’t seem too exotic. (I’ll also note the cockroach involved a peeling of the shell, which pretty much made me throw up in my mouth)

Siem Reap

We then moved on to more palatable tables, such as fruit and sweets. I was excited to try jackfruit and durian, as well as other exotic items like rambutan. All of the fruit was good, although the texture of durian takes some getting used to. (Jackfruit is becoming a popular meat substitute in the States and I recently sampled it at the taco bar of Whole Foods!)

Siem Reap

After a bit of browsing and snacking, we headed to one of the grills, where Kim loaded up plates and we sat down for a picnic. Here we tried a little bit of everything, including quail, duck, more frog (this time stuffed with sausage.)

Siem Reap

Sweets are always my favorite, especially when they are coconut and rice-based…yum!

Siem Reap

After all of this eating, we jumped back in the taxis for a sit-down meal at a local restaurant. I was already stuffed at this point (not much appetite when it’s 100-plus degrees) but it was fun to try Amok, which is the local Cambodian coconut soup, served in a coconut shell.

At the conclusion of the tour, everyone headed over to Pub street, but this old lady had a 4am wake-up call for the next day’s Sunrise tour of Angkor, which you can read about here.

After the bike tour, I essentially had one day left in Siem Reap before flying to Phuket.  I didn’t have anything planned, but I woke up early (after pretty much going to bed at 3pm the day before!) and caught a ride into town to wander around and do some shopping. Until now, I was still traveling out of a small carry-on and hadn’t done much shopping, so this was my chance to buy any souvenirs as I knew I wouldn’t be going into town in Phuket.  As I strolled around, I was lured into a $4 foot massage while I sipped a fresh coconut shake.  As I relaxed into the chair, the masseuse’s sister excitedly talked me into a manicure as well.  They were both so sweet and filled me in on the “neighborhood gossip” before her husband drove me back to the hotel in his tuk tuk.

Siem Reap

As it began to heat up, it was time to head back to the hotel pool for the day. I also indulged in a facial at the spa, given that my skin was quite unhappy in this climate, but otherwise spent the day in the shade of a pool umbrella.

Le Meridien Angkor

In the evening, although room service was tempting me, I decided to head to the Foreign Correspondent’s Club for cocktails and dinner.

Siem Reap

The next morning, it was time to re-pack and head to the airport, for my final vacation leg in Phuket.

I loved everything about my 3 days in Siem Reap….except the weather! I really don’t do well in high humidity, so I spent a lot more down-time at the pool than I would have liked (even if it was a gorgeous pool!) The people I met were all incredible – despite a dark history as recently as the 80’s, they just seemed like wonderful people.  I would love to go back for another visit, and spend more time exploring.

For all of my Cambodia pictures, click here!


3 Days in Siem Reap

This post is part of The Weekly Postcard over at Two Traveling Texans. Click the photo below to check out other great posts this week!


Two Traveling Texans