Time Travel Through Cambodian History At The Raffles Hotel, Siem Reap
Enjoying a night in a good hotel is one of the joys of travel. But how many sparkling new resorts and ultra-modern skyscraper hotels can you stay in without feeling a little bored? Now and then you need to find a more interesting place to end your day. If you are looking for a property that’s steeped in history, the iconic Raffles Grand d’Angkor in Siem Reap, Cambodia is where you can call off your search. This regal old hotel has not only stood up to the Cambodian war but has also hosted luminaries such as Charlie Chaplin, Somerset Maugham and the Clintons. Even if you are not staying here, it’s worth a visit for an insight into Cambodian history and its delicious Khmer cuisine.
Raffles Grand was originally named The Grand Hotel when it first opened its doors in 1932. The four-storey building with the King’s personal seal as its logo instantly became an icon. The hotel was actually closed during the war period and was used as an administrative office and prison. In 1997, Raffles took over the building, restoring it to its original glory as the Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor.
The uniformed doorman in royal attire at the entrance sets the tone for a grand welcome at this iconic hotel. The lobby with its marble floored hallways, antique finger dial telephones and John McDermott’s seminal photographs of the Angkor Ruins takes you further into the colonial flair. But the piece de résistance here is the original wooden elevator that is still gleaming and efficiently tows guests to their floors. The colonial-style hotel with 15 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens also comes with creature comforts like a frangipani fringed pool which is the largest in Cambodia and a beautifully calming spa.
Stay Well: Art Deco black-and-white tiled halls lead you to very splendid rooms with views over the Royal Gardens or the pool. The vintage light switches, retro desk lamps, fresh orchids, white marble flooring in the bathroom and four-poster beds add a charming edge to the sophistication.
Eat Well: Khmer cuisine should be high up on the list of every foodie on a visit to Cambodia. That coupled with Apsara dance performance is a match made in heaven. The bright and baroque Café d’Angkor at Raffles is one of the best places in town to sample Khmer delicacies. Some of the chefs here come armed with work experience at the Royal Palace. Don’t miss the fabulously drool-worthy breakfast comprising of the quintessential Khmer noodles. Baked goodies like banana cake, carrot cake, blueberry muffins, apricot danishes, brioche, almond croissants, chocolate danishes, sourdough rolls, etc. land piping straight from the oven to your table. Wash it all down with champagne. If alcohol in the morning is not your thing, try the Cambodian coffee or exotic smoothies. After a languorous breakfast, head out to Angkor Wat temple complex which is only 8km from the hotel. Or the Royal Palace. The old markets and Pub Street are walking distance away.
Drink Well: The very swish and atmospheric Elephant Bar is the best place for a pre-dinner drink. Happy hours run between 4-6 pm, when drinks are at 50 percent off. Don’t miss the martinis, especially the Chillitini - chili-infused vodka, ginger and lime juice. The Femme Fatale cocktail here was created specifically to commemorate Jacqueline Kennedy’s visit to the hotel in 1967. It’s champagne-based with a dash of Cognac. Be warned that the dress code is smart-casual. Gentlemen are expected to wear a collared shirt and trousers and leave their flip flops at the hotel.
Where: 1 Vithei Charles de Gaulle, Siem Reap, Cambodia
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