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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Man about town: 28 Jun 2013

Man about town: 28 Jun 2013

Siem Reap has suffered a slight fall from grace in the new TripAdvisor list of ‘Top25 Travelers’ Choice World Destinations.’ Last year Temple Town starred, coming in at a heady Number 9 on the list. But this year Siem Reap has slipped out of the Top Ten, and just scraped into the Top 25, coming in at Number 23, sandwiched in between Shanghai at Number 22 and Chiang Mai at Number 24.

But at least beating Chiang Mai once again in the ranking softens the blow somewhat.

According to TripAdvisor the fifth annual awards “recognises 412 outstanding destinations in 38 markets across the globe,” and is based on, “millions of valuable reviews and opinions from TripAdvisor travelers.”

But questions are being asked in town of just how credible TripAdvisor ratings and rankings really are. Earlier in the year, TripAdvisor released its ‘Top 25 Hotels in Cambodia’ listing. Heading the list was Hotel de la Paix at Number 1, but the hotel had actually been closed for about six months before the list first appeared. And now, many months later, it is still listed as the top hotel in Cambodia.

This despite the fact that several people claim they contacted TripAdvisor informing them of this gaffe. Plus a contributor to Trip Advisor told Man About that she wrote to the site informing them of their error, only to receive a punitive response – and no action taken in changing the listing.

At times, Siem Reap hotels and guesthouses that can best be described as questionable and/or marginal regularly surprise with high ratings on TripAdvisor lists. Even the owner of one guesthouse was surprised to see his establishment ranked so highly when, due to business disputes, the guesthouse had been dysfunctional before the ranking was released – and shut its doors within days of the favourable ranking appearing.

Indeed many questions are asked about how hotels are reviewed and savvy general managers go to great lengths to ensure that friends, acquaintances and even guests are roped in and convinced to write glowing reviews. And some charlatans in the trade stoop to planting bad reviews against opposition establishments. This practice was partly responsible for an outbreak of lawsuits in October 2010, when NBC News reported, “More than 700 hoteliers and vacation agencies have joined KwikChex, a British company now threatening to file a series of defamation lawsuits in both the UK and US against TripAdvisor on behalf of travel businesses.”

But all the same, questions of legitimacy and fairness aside, good reviews on TripAdvisor help fill hotel rooms, and so the game is played regardless.

Man About just wishes the site would remove the now-defunct Hotel de la Paix from its best hotel in Cambodia ranking as it’s an embarrassment.

At the risk of continually banging on about the severe water rationing that has hit large swathes of town, Man About still marvels that while water taps run dry inside houses, outside the houses are lashed by monsoonal rain deluges.

Go figure. But Siem Reap isn’t alone in suffering such water restrictions: France seems to be short of water at times as well. At least that’s according to author David Sedaris, who in his tome titled, When you are Engulfed in Flames, writes, “In Paris they warn you before cutting off the water, but out in Normandy you’re just supposed to know.”

He adds, somewhat curiously, “You’re also supposed to be prepared, and it’s this last part that gets me every time. Still, though, I manage to get by. A saucepan of chicken broth will do for shaving, and in a pinch I can always find something to pour into the toilet tank: orange juice, milk, a lesser champagne.”



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