Although the ‘urban grit’ of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, is relatively low-key, like most Asian capitals it’s hardly a tranquil city and the exhilarating buzz of day can be the bane of nights. The best places to stay offer easy access to the pleasures of the city and shelter when it’s needed. From modern skyscrapers to heritage villas, the hotel havens here have also never been more varied, colourful or offered more choice.
Floating above the Cambodian capital in the top 14 floors of a 39-storey skyscraper, the Rosewood is as much a landmark as a five-star hotel. Styled as a rising dragon, the striking steel and glass edifice is a curious mélange of ultra-modern design with satisfying nods to Khmer artistry and aesthetics. The cantilevered rooftop ‘sky bar’, high-end French and Cambodian cuisine plus the patronage of local grandees and glitterati give it a certain cool and pizzazz.
The unassuming white-washed exterior barely hints at the charming unobtrusive city-centre oasis within. Beyond the row of stone lion statues and a decorative pond, a principal pale yellow mansion-like building stands flanked by several wings and courtyards. Gleaming through the shrubbery and potted plants is a particularly appealing swimming pool framed by loungers. Rooms are simple and practical. There’s a spa and a fine restaurant marrying French and Khmer cuisine.
The severe lines of this modern downtown hotel are offset by quirky, almost jungly, gardens that sprout and hang from every nook, patio and terrace. Various pools, an elevated jacuzzi, spiral stairways, lattice screens and a ‘Cambodian cocoon’ spa lend an appealing blend of whimsy and sophistication. Matching a contemporary décor and design, the rooftop bar, which hosts occasional live music, gives the Baitong a youthful buzz.
A behemoth among the hotels of the city with more than 1,600 rooms, this mall-like property features restaurants and eateries, from Japanese to Korean and Italian to French, a 2,000-seat theatre, shopping centre and a huge casino. Contemporary rooms and suites feature bold pops of colour with Chinese accents. It’s all rather flashy without being kitsch and is all the more interesting for resembling a showpiece of new – and bold – Asian money and ambition.
In the heart of historic Phnom Penh, the four garden villas of the PAVILION date from the 1920s through to the 1990s. Their royal and diplomatic connections bolster a distinctly heritage feel reinforced by quality curios, objets d’art and antiques. Each of the 36 rooms is different but four-poster beds and faintly art deco furniture maintain the charming retro ambience. A child-free policy ensures a squawk-free atmosphere around the two small pools.
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