#TBT: Review – Raffles Hotel Le Royal, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Score 90%Score 90%
- #TBT: Throw back Thursday to start next week
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- #TBT: Review – Raffles Hotel Le Royal, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
- #TBT: Hotel Review: Knai Bang Chatt resort, Kep, Cambodia
I was spending one night in Phnom Penh, on my way to Kep for a friend’s birthday celebrations.
Content of this Post:
The Cathay Pacific/Dragon Airlines flight from Hong Kong arrived on time at about 5:40pm. I traversed customs and immigration, and with a car transfer already arranged I reached the hotel at about 7:00 pm. Having commenced my journey about 15 hours earlier with a pre-dawn start back in Sydney, I was pretty tired.
US Dollars rule. Doh!
I made one big mistake at the airpot. I changed some money into Cambodian currency – the Riel.
I was soon reminded that the whole of Cambodia works on US currency. Using local currency, especially as a non-native is an incumbrance that would dog me for the whole week long trip. Every time a price was quoted, it was in US dollars. When you then ask what the price is in local currency – it is usually more. I spent a lot of annoying time getting rid of my Riels, before using that USA currency I had also (fortunately) brought along.
As an experienced traveller having been to Cambodia before and knowing about the preference for US currency, I can only put my mistake down to tiredness and the lack of my partner to remind me.
Stay: 12 March 2016
Room: Landmark pool view Room
Size: 32 sqm (345 sqf)
Address: 92 Rukhak Vithei Daun Penh, Sangkat Wat Phnom, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Phone: +855 23 981 888
Email: [email protected]
Let me apologise in advance for the quality of some of these photographs, taken on an old iPhone. That model didn’t do so well with low light – as you can see.
Location & Arrival
Having been to Phnom Penh before, I was familiar with how the Tonle Sap River – the only river in the world that seasonally reverses its flow – dominates the city. Restaurants and bars, and some hotels are concentrated along the river banks. Back in 2005 during our ‘Swimming to Cambodia’ tour, we had stayed on the river bank at the Amanjaya Pancam Suites Hotel.
Raffles, is away from the river, in a smarter tree lined boulevard, surrounded by the National Library, various government buildings, and the US embassy. It’s not far from major sites like the Royal Palace, National Museum, and the Russian Markets.
It takes about 45 minutes to travel the 10 kilometres from the international airport. On arrival, my luggage was whisked away, and I was shown to reception.
The hotel originally opened in 1929 as Le Royal, boasting notable guests such as Somerset Maugham and Jackie Kennedy. It combines Khmer, art deco and colonial styles, to provide a light spacious interior feel, around a main courtyard including two swimming pools. The hotel survived the tortuous Cambodian civil war and the resulting regime of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970’s and was renovated and expanded in 1997 to its current 175 room elegant proportions.
Check-in was smooth, and while I waited for my passports to be copied and returned, I was offered a rather lemony-ginger style drink that was extremely refreshing.
Key in hand, I was conducted to my room by a porter, who briefly introduced me to the amenities of the room.
I was a bit knackered, and indeed had a quick bath, and went to bed, not even really unpacking. Except I did manage to leave, the only thing I really did unpack – a pair of jeans – in the wardrobe. More about that later.
The space was generous, and had already received turndown service. I love the placement of slippers and a mat beside the bed. It’s the kind of touch that screams ‘5 star’ to me. Otherwise, the room had all that was required including an easy chair, desk and wardrobe.
The faux panelling gave it that colonial touch, and the celadon lamp bases – that asian feel. The hint of deco was provided by that bedhead, and the wall mounted side table. The umbrellas and holder along with the touch of greenery in a vase were much appreciated.
Adjacent to the window was a desk along with phone, writing materials and power point. Although the chair at the desk was not really office appropriate, the cushion provided would be a useful back support for writing or computer use.
All you really desire in a bed is good length and width, and the perfect degree of resilience somewhere between firm and pillowy soft. This bed was on the Asian side of firmness. A little firmer than preferred, but I adapted quickly. The light, probably cotton doona (comforter) was more than sufficient against the room air conditioning.
Crisp white sheets, feather pillows, and a breakfast order card completed the turned down bed.
While relatively compact, it contained all the usuals, plus a bath. There was only a single basin – but since I was travelling alone, that was enough. The clawfoot bath was just what the doctor ordered after my longish trip, and relaxed me before bed. Bright white tiles and porcelain competed the ‘colonial’ look.
Bottled water and a small selection of fruit were available on the bedside tables, and next to the lounge chair. The fresh fruit was perfect for this weary traveller, and given it was Asia, the bottled water, a necessity.
There was a small notepad and compendium on the desk. I love this figurative traveller palm hotel logo made of curlicues, water marked on the paper, and embossed on the compendium.
Public Areas – Bars, Restaurants & Gyms
I did not visit the famous Elephant Bar, but did breakfast in what is now the ‘Le Phnom 1929’ dining space. It looks like it has been redone since my stay, but with its many French windows onto to the internal courtyard, it was a very enjoyable light and bright space to have breakfast.
The hotel also sports a Royal Khmer cuisine restaurant – Le Royal, and dining at the poolside terrace. Having arrived late in the evening, and given my 11:30am car to take me on to Kep, I didn’t have a chance to sample the other dining options, or the pool and gym.
Although my stay was a brief at around 17 hours, I found the hotel extremely comfortable amongst the hustle and bustle, not to mention the heat and humidity of Phnom Penh.
I would happily stay here again, preferably for a few nights to enjoy the pool and other delights of the hotel. It was certainly an oasis of green and cool white amidst the tuk tuk chaos of Phnom Penh streets. The room nights here, aren’t cheap at over AU$300 per night, but you are getting generously proportioned rooms, privacy, and a French colonial lineage that can’t be beaten by other hotel options.
Is this the best hotel in Phnom Penh? I don’t know. There is a Sofitel and Rosewood if you are into large chains, and a couple of other smaller hotels such as the Plantation and the La Rose Suites if you prefer something more boutique. I stayed at La Rose on my return from Kep, so you can check that review later.
What happens when you leave your pants at Le Royal
Well you call the hotel, don’t you.
In my haze of arrival, I had hung up the jeans I had worn on the flights from Australia, in the wardrobe, assuring myself that I wouldn’t forget them. For the next week in Kep, I only needed shorts and swimmers, and light linen pants, so I didn’t miss my Mavi jeans. It was only on my return to Phnom Penh, when I was checking what I would wear on the plane back to Hong Kong that I realised my forgetfulness.
After leaving a message, I got a call back saying that they did have my jeans, and where could they delivery them? The delivery person called me, and in a very inscrutable way, made it plain that he would be wanting a generous tip – which he was going to get anyway. My Mavi’s and me were successfully reunited before nightfall and my next morning departure for my Hong Kong flight.
All’s well that ends well.
Summary Revitalised deco colonial remnant in the heart of Phnom Penh
A human scaled colonial pile. History, asian deco features, good service, and oasis qualities. What's not to like?