Phnom Penh : Like Royalty at Raffles

Phnom Penh : Like Royalty at Raffles

Phnom Penh

Like Royalty at Raffles

Christophe Chommeloux

30 January 2018

Elegant fusion of Khmer, colonial and Art deco architectural styles, The Royal Hotel was opened for the first time in 1929. Over the course of the 20th century, it has been the symbol of refinement in Cambodia, praised by many celebrities.

Writers and royalty have stayed there, including the general de Gaulle, in addition to many other remarkable figures. Nowadays, their portraits in black and white adorn the walls of the hotel, which was inaugurated a second time in 1997 as “Raffles Hotel Le Royal” after huge renovation works. Outdoor sculptures, ceiling paintings, hammered copper pieces were recreated by local artisans, to preserve this major piece of Cambodian heritage, while also providing all the comfort that one expects from a luxury hotel of the 21st century.

During this transformation, the Raffles was also extended. Now the hotel has a private central courtyard and two sublime outdoor pools surrounded by frangipani trees and tropical shrubs. A spa, a sauna, a gym, two restaurants, two bars and boutiques that sell Khmer fabrics complete the site, ideally located a stone’s throw away from the Wat Phnom.

The Elephant Bar, with its muffled atmosphere and its signature Femme Fatale mix, created for Jackie Kennedy in 1967, is a city favorite and a popular spot for happy hour. For fine-dining, Le Royal is Phnom Penh’s only restaurant serving Royal Khmer cuisine, recipes handed over by the royal family. Finally, Café Monivong hosts evening buffets and themed nights such as a Cambodian cultural show as well as excellent breakfasts. Therefore, the nearly hundred-year-old institution honors the past and embraces the future of the capital city by having a central position on the social and professional scene.

Staying in the suite André Malraux, who was controversial in Cambodia but renowned writer, the Latitudes team met the princess Sita Norodom, the Raffles Ambassador. She enlightened us on the prestigious establishment history: “The royal family is closely linked to the Royal. King Sisowath Monivong was present at the Royal grand opening in 1929. After that, there was King Sihanouk, my grandfather, a proud promoter of the Royal. For example, he invited Jackie Kennedy to stay there. Still today, we see pictures of him quite everywhere in the hotel. Furthermore, my uncle Prince Ranariddh supported the Raffles when he was the Prime Minister, by granting the concession in 1993. Lastly, female personnel dresses are my mother’s personal touch, Princess Buppha Devi. It is therefore natural for me to be associated to this establishment rather than other hotels, which are prestigious but lack history, in my opinion. I spent my whole childhood in Paris and I profoundly love Europe. I do not understand this purely Asian change which consists of abandoning historical colonial buildings and chaotically constructing new ones. It is perfectly feasible to reconcile modern with the ancient, this is not contradictory, the Raffle Hotel Le Royal offers striking proof of this!”

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