Hotel Imperial: Palace-Turned-Hotel in Vienna

Usually, our rule for travel is to keep accommodation pretty inexpensive.  We don’t plan on spending much time inside the room, so it really just needs a bed and a bathroom—everything after that is an unnecessary extra.  Keeping this in mind, though, LeeAnne and I figured our honeymoon should also include a few special nights, so we decided to stay at the Hotel Imperial in Vienna: a former palace converted into a 5-star luxury hotel.

Now, lest you think we went totally overboard (which, come on, it was our honeymoon, we can do that), we happened to have a friend who worked for Starwood and was able to get us an incredible deal on the room.  We went with an Imperial Junior Suite, which was the best room we could get that, with the friends and family discount, would still be somewhat in our budget.

We arrived at the hotel feeling just a little out of place with our backpacks and jeans—and would feel more out of place the next day, when there were suddenly heavily-armed guards stationed in front of the hotel, as the president of India was also staying at the Imperial.

Getting into our room was one of those giddy joys that happens very seldom with hotels—seeing all the goodies, all the things you didn’t expect.  There was a piano.  There was a chaise lounge.  Bulgari products in the marble bathroom.  In addition to the welcoming bottom of champagne and small chocolate petit fours, our friend had also arranged for the hotel’s famous Imperial Torte to be waiting for us—a chocolate cake with six layers of crunchy almond and cacao cream covered in marzipan and a milk chocolate glaze.  I tasted it, even though I don’t like chocolate, and the remainder was left to LeeAnne.

At turndown, we were given bottles of water and even more chocolates.  The following day, after sleeping in two twin beds pushed together to make a king bed, we decided to order breakfast in the room, as one of the items on our honeyfund had been a room service breakfast.  This “breakfast for two” was wheeled into the room on a full-sized table and could have well be a breakfast for two families.  Two omelets with ham and sausage, French toast, pancakes, pastries, breads, fruit, yogurt parfait, juice, and coffee—the only problem was we were planning on saving half of it for later, but the top-notch service cleared it as soon as we’d left the room that day.

We had plenty of sights to see, which was a shame because this is one of those hotel rooms you should spend a lot more time in.  And while I did get plenty of use from the robe and the marble bathroom, I could have definitely spent some more time practicing the piano (since I don’t know how to play).  Maybe next time, though at the regular prices, a next time is doubtful.  If you are looking for a luxurious stop in Vienna, though, this would be the place to do it.


Unexpected Luxury in Cambodia

At the end of our Vietnam trip, we’d worked in two days in Siem Reap in order to check Angkor Wat off the bucket list. We were to fly there from Ho Chi Minh City, through Phnom Penh, but immediately ran into a snag upon entering the airport and seeing our flight – the last one to Phnom Penh that night – had been cancelled.

We immediately went to the airline counter to see what options we had. There was a flight for Phnom Penh scheduled to leave in about 20 minutes. It would be a miracle, but there were going to try to get us on it.

First, we had to sign some forms, and I noticed they said “$50 USD x2” – clearly, a charge to switch to the earlier flight for each of us. Whatever; we didn’t want to lose a day in Siem Reap. But, after we signed the forms, we were each handed a brand new, crisp $50 bill. WE were being compensated for the flight mix-up.

Our main concern with the flight was getting through security, which also turned out to be no problem. The airline worker helping us escorted us to an empty desk, called over a security agent, and he get us through in probably two minutes. We were then escorted to our gate and taken to the flight, which had probably 10 people on it.

We happened to be in an exit row, and the flight attendant came up to give us the rundown.

Flight Attendant: “This is the door in case of emergency.”

Us: “Yes…”

Flight Attendant: “Don’t touch it.”

Full stop. And she walked away. I’m curious as to how often this is a problem for them, but needless to say we move away from the exit door as soon as we could.



A selection from the complimentary cocktail hour

We were staying on the Privilege Floor at the Borei Angkor. It was no more expensive than your standard hotel room in NYC, and we figured the place looked nice and we would treat ourselves after staying in homestays, small hotels, and overnight trains throughout most of our trip. We didn’t realize just how much we would be treating ourselves. We had read about the place to book it, of course, but I don’t think we really registered what the extras would entail.

The spa

One of those extras was a private ride from the airport, which we now had to somehow work out, since we had arrived on a different flight and at a different time than we had provided to the hotel – all without a phone or internet connection. We eventually figure it out, and our van arrived with our personal concierge, who would be taking care of us for the length of our stay.  He arrived with fresh garlands of jasmine for us to have a pleasant smell on the ride to the airport.

We arrived to cold, wet face towels to help with the stifling heat, even at night. We were checked in to the Privilege Floor, which was clearly the luxury area of the hotel; they must have been surprised to see two dirty backpackers roll in.  

After being shown to our room, where there was fresh fruit and a bottle of champagne waiting, we took advantage of a few of the amenities: we got a certain amount of free laundry each day, and a complimentary refillable mini fridge.  We took the beer out and hid it so they would refill it when they came back in the morning. We checked out the pillow menu (yes, the pillow menu) and decided to just go eat dinner at the restaurant on our floor.

pf-dishIt was here that I first experienced lok lak, a stir fried beef dish borrowed from Vietnam.  And while it was only hotel food, this hotel was pretty legit, and the lok lak was absolutely delicious.  The other two things I remember about the dinner was our server, who was jovial, hilarious, and had one of the best laughs I’ve ever heard, and the fact that the hotel seemed to have only a Phil Collins’ greatest hits CD and played it repeatedly.

Our first full day included a massive breakfast buffet included with the room, which I couldn’t take full advantage of due to some tummy struggles left over from Vietnam, and which I still regret to this day.  We also went to tour the Angkor ruins with a guide and driver provided by the hotel. We also took advantage of the spa, which was also included in the price of our room.

The spa experience was…something else.  LeeAnne got a regular massage while I opted for the traditional Khmer massage – might as well experience the local stuff, right? Well, after the massage therapist came in and mimed that I needed to strip down and change into a pair of underwear reminiscent of the disposable socks that give you at shoe stores, she proceeded to use knuckles and elbows to work over basically every point on my body except my dick.  It was simultaneously the most relaxed and most beat up I’ve ever been.

The pillow menu, though you had to be careful not to accidentally dial Satan

Our stay was wonderful.  It was a great splurge after spending nights on bumpy trains and in small hotels, and the service was second to none.  Our personal concierge made sure we were always looked after, the rest of the staff was incredibly helpful, and the air conditioning was wonderful (which it had to be, as it was 116 degrees outside at one point – the staff couldn’t fathom that where we came from, it hit 0 Celsius).

The price, which as I mentioned you would pay for basically any mid-level hotel in New York City, was an absolute steal for everything that was included.  And while I did feel a bit out of place at times in my t-shirt and hiking boots, I would go back again in a heartbeat. If you want to see the Angkor Temples and you want to have every bit of your stay taken care of, The Privilege Floor at the Borei is the place to do it.

And check out that UV index