10 Sep 2012
For most tourists, a trip to Cambodia begins and ends in Siem Reap. While the amazing history of Angkor Wat is certainly a must for every traveller to see at least once in a lifetime, Cambodia is a country on the rise with appeal in other parts of the country as well. The capital, Phnom Penh, is experiencing rapid growth; for now, the low-rise cityscape is punctuated by only a few skyscrapers, but this will change as time goes on.
Travellers who are looking for an Asian experience recalling a more relaxed pace of life in the less frenetic times will enjoy a stay at Raffles Hotel Le Royal, Phnom Penh's premier hotel. The Raffles expertise in recreating the genteel ambience of times past is especially appropriate in this city, and the property is certainly an excellent base for exploring such sights as the National Museum Of Cambodia, the Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda, and Wat Phnom, located just a few hundred metres from the hotel. Phnom Penh's lively riverfront restaurant and bar scene is close enough to be convenient but far enough not to be disruptive when at home in the hotel.
Now supplemented by a wing added in the 1990s, the original building's historic Personality Suites are named for other famous guests who have visited, including Mrs Onassis, French writer André Malraux, Charles de Gaulle, and Somerset Maugham. Regardless of location within the hotel, all accommodation reflects the history of the city in a chic and comfortable style.
First opened in 1929, Raffles Hotel Le Royal has seen some of the world's most famous people pass through its doors. One of them was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, for whom the hotel's signature drink, the Femme Fatale, was invented. A special set of glasses with a unique shape was created for the Femme Fatale, which is a blend of champagne, cognac, and creme de cassis; the hotel's legendary Elephant Bar still serves the drink in glasses of the same shape used for Femme Fatales and no other drink. Another US First Lady recently stayed at Raffles Le Royal, though in her capacity as US Secretary Of State, Hilary Clinton had less time for sightseeing than did Jackie O.
No one should pass up a visit to Raffles' spa to take up the opportunity for a Khmer massage, which incorporates pressure-point stimulation into a treatment that also includes gentle stretching and muscle movement that leaves the beneficiary with surprising reinvigoration. Follow up a spa treatment with a fine dining experience at Le Royal, the hotel's deluxe restaurant, where the finest in Khmer and European cuisine is served to guests. Khmer cuisine is a superb balance of distinctly fresh and flavoursome ingredients. As in Thailand, Cambodia has a special cuisine reserved for the royal family, and Le Royal is the only restaurant in the country authorised to prepare royal cuisine for its guests. Less formal but no less appealing is Café Monivong, where a bountiful buffet breakfast is served each morning. Lunch and dinner are also served here, though the Sunday Personality Brunch is perhaps the most famous of its meals.