Arriving in Cambodia as part of my overland journey from London to Sydney I decided I had been slumming it for long enough through Vietnam & it was high time for a bit of luxury & in Phnom Penh that has to be Raffles – Le Royal hotel.
Driving up the sweeping drive of Raffles in an unprepossing three-wheeled tuk-tuk the the liveried door staff didnt bat an eyelid but unloaded my bag with the same grace & welcome as they had shown to the occupant of a gleaming black limosine in front of me. Looking scruffy & unkempt after a 6 hour bus ride from Saigon I was ushered to a comfortable lounge chair, given a welcome drink, a cool flannel & someone else took care of all the check-in details for me. That's what I call a welcome reception.
Opened in 1929 the French colonial Le Royal has always been THE place to stay in Phnom Penh & suites are named after notable guests including Somerset Maughan, Jacqueline Kennedy & Charles de Gaulle.
It saw some rough times during the Khmer Rouge era in the 1970's but it has been returned to its former glory with new extentions & renovations that update facilities but retain as much of the original fabric as has been possible.
Rooms are spacious with balconies, sumptuous fabrics, exotic fruits on the table, fresh orchids & after a deep luxuriating bath I felt quite rejuvenated & ready to continue my travels. I didnt get to use the spa but the secluded outdoor pool has one of the most attractive setting I've seen & you don't need to leave your lounger for a drink as staff are always discreetly close by.
Breakfast was on a verandah, with whirling ceiling fans, birds chripping in the tropical trees & staff buzzing around to ensure that everything was perfect – which it was. It really is a haven of lazy charm, reminiscent of days gone by, but with just the right level of pampering that every tropical traveller needs.
Cambodia is the true land of smiles, regardless of what the Thai Tourist Boards says, & at Raffles there's a real pride in their country & culture which comes through as the most genuinely friendly & hospitable welcome you could imagine.