There are certain hotels that capture a sense of history and become synonymous with global events, turning them from mere buildings into landmarks. The Raffles Hotel Le Royal Phnom Penh is one such hotel. It set the scene for the darkest chapter in Cambodia’s history, being used in the filming of The Killing Fields. It is understandable why the movie-makers chose to use The Raffles; it is arguably the grandest building in this low-rise city with a first impression taking in a large gated entrance, sweeping gravel driveway, neat lawns and broad steps leading up to the pillared hotel entrance. It creates an imperious first impression in a city not overwhelmed by beautiful architecture.
As in many Indochinese cities, it is the French colonial influence that shines through. Large shuttered windows, arched verandas and balconies give a subtle glamour to the exterior, while inside the high ceilings, broad fans and streaming natural light give the hotel a relaxed, tropical atmosphere. The quadrangular hotel surrounds a large central pool area – a shady, green courtyard providing the perfect place to relax away from the noise of this ever growing city.
All of this colonial elegance is very much in keeping with what you’d expect of a Raffles property, and the hotel’s 170 rooms, suites and apartments are no different. Free-standing tub baths and large poster beds, classical wooden furniture and floor-to-ceiling windows with long, draped curtains maintain the old-world charm. In fact it is easy to imagine being in a hotel room in Paris or London, until stepping out on to the balcony to be greeted by warm tropical air and the cicada chorus.