THE BALE PHNOM PENH (*****): When Bali meets Phnom Penh. This growing business city was missing a relaxing resort on the enchanting Mekong riverside. Of course, there is still the too large and corporate Sokha; but the legendary river merited more inspiration and sophistication. Lifestyle Retreats, managing a prestigious collection of privately owned resorts, located principally in Bali, seized the opportunity: inaugurating in 2017 the first five star luxury riverside hotel in Cambodia.
Situated 25 kilometers from the city center (a 40 minutes comfortable PassApp taxi ride), The Balé has the great singularity -and advantage- to be close enough to Phnom Penh for those on a tour or business trip, and far enough for locals or expats, who can now resource without traveling to Kep or a distant National Park.
A flagship brand for Lifestyle Retreats, The Balé provides wellness in style, with an almost invisible, yet obvious touch of luxury. Don't try to find some bling here; this is not a tacky place. Walking along the Zen path with a contemporary infinity pound and a statue of Buddha, separating the almost anonymous entrance door from the peaceful courtyard and the carefully kept gardens, gave us the impression to step in a monastery for a couple of spiritual, resourcing days. We could smell the voluptuous fragrance of the spider lilies, frangipani trees, lemongrass, and vivid-green Lee Kuan Yew plants. This haven of peace looks like everything but a hotel.
We booked a Courtyard Suite, with a soothing garden view, and a partial Mekong view from our super large writing desk. Balé means “small hut” in Balinese language. It is positively misleading, as the 18 suites are all extremely spacious. 100 sq.m at least. The Riverfront Suites are only 10sq.m more, but they extend with a great terrace with a Jacuzzi, from where guests can contemplate not only a cinematographic panorama on the river and the provincial Koh Dach Island, but also the water activities on the most dynamic way of transportation throughout Indochina and China. Making the Silk Road a stone's throw from our sunbed! There are only 4 Riverfront Suites, which need to be booked much in advance, as the difference of rate between the two categories is slim.
Our suite had plenty of bonuses. It was extremely quiet. For more intimacy, we had a private courtyard with a large sofa. Right after the sunset (a must: when all the guests stand outside with their camera), a maid discreetly visited us to light some candles. So romantic! The living room is nicely appointed. Displaying Khmer artefacts and nostalgic pictures of Phnom Penh, it has a deep sofa, and a Smart TV with a collection of 800 movies, plus YouTube, etc. It made our nights entertaining; staying in such a Paradise didn't give us the envy to face the traffic and dust of the city. It seems that all the guests stay at The Balé, and don't risk themselves outside after dark. We were looking a place for cocooning, and found it!
The dining experience at Theato restaurant is obviously ignored by the guests, preferring to order room service. At least during our stay. So we skipped the fine dining experience, but gladly enjoyed a perfect breakfast in a well designed, high ceiling room, ventilated naturally by widely opened windows and elegant wooden fans which have been specially handmade for Theato. It is served a la carte, in classy glassware, by the stylish local staff, assisted by two employees from Bali. The offer is perfect: alternating classics like “Royale Eggs” or “Cold Cut Platter” (the ham and sausage by “La Tradition” are succulent), and Asian favourites like “Miso Soup” and Khmer “Kuy Teav” (Mekong river lobster in a pork broth, with rice noodles). We liked the Ricotta Pancakes. The service isn't the fastest in town, but how could we be in a hurry at The Balé. We noticed that, if the bill is on par with the local five star hotels when it comes to the food, beverages are so affordable that we forgot how much we paid a beer at the poolside: but far less than in the Royal Raffles or Rosewood, for instance.
Guests can join the Khmer cooking class, visit the SPA for a soothing massage. The fitness is nicely equipped, and stretching / aerobic sessions are scheduled complimentary. It is located next to the 30 meters pool, which has such an awesome setting that we would say that this is the most pleasant in Phnom Penh. Though the Sokha riverside pool, in the nearby Chroy Changvar peninsula, is certainly more impressive, it doesn't have the same proximity with the Mekong and its environment, nor one inch of its umatched charm.
THE BALE PHNOM PENH: National Road 6A, Bridge No. 8, Sangkat Bak Khaeng, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia
PHONE: +855 23 900 425
RAFFLES HOTEL LE ROYAL (*****): A landmark, located along the former “boulevard du Maréchal Foch”, an aristocratic arterial road concentrating the French colonial administrative buildings, not far from the railways station (closed since the red Khmer epoch) and the “Art Nouveau” National Library, French Embassy, this is the kind of hotel you like to visit and, why not?, to stay in: which is, actually, an unforgettable experience. Kennedy, De Gaulle, Malraux and many celebrities did it, and their distinguished ghosts still haunts the walls of this timeless turn of the last century colonial building. Now operated by the Raffles group of hotel, it reminded us very much of their legendary hotel in Singapore. Same stylish comfort, unmatched level of service and luxury. Same impression to be “someone and somewhere”: a selfish and exciting privilege, which has a relative cost. This is not, certainly not!, an expensive hotel compared with the western standards. In Paris, you would hardly book into a decent three star hotels for less than USD 200; this is approximately what Le Royal charges for the lowest category of double rooms. Since, this is twice the price of a high end hotel in Phnom Penh.
The hotel offers so many bonuses, and it is so magic that travellers dropping their luggage in the superb guest-rooms, decorated in a timeless colonial-tropical style, don't mind the rate so much. The executive staff comes from the best hotel management schools in Lausanne or Glion, in Switzerland; local staff is fluent in English, and even French or Japanese; the barman at Elephant Bar uses the best Champagne brands from Reims and Epernay and the best French Monin syrups to alchemically prepare splendid cocktails.
We have visited some of the 170 rooms and suites, and liked them all; with a slight preference for the new “Balcony Suites”. Created in 2011, following the completion of a refurbishment programme at Raffles Hotel Le Royal, they are conveniently large (48 sqm) and features a private balcony furnished with a rattan shell chair and patio seating, overlooking the pool-side. The four, much wanted “Personality Suites” are also quite lovely, and contains memorabilia and artefacts associated with their namesakes. They cover the same surface than the “Balcony Suites”, and are little bit too much formal from our personal opinion.
The restaurant Le Royal is quite formal also; this is not our favourite in Phnom Penh, though tourists loves its nostalgic atmosphere (western expatriates and wealthy Cambodian prefer La Residence, Van's or The Foreign Correspondents Club). The cuisine remains little bit too international: mixing French and Indo-Chinese cuisines at the same place.
One of the most legendary hotels in Asia.
RAFFLES HOTEL LE ROYAL: 92 Rukhak Vithei Daun Penh,
Sangkat Wat Phnom, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia
PHONE: +855 23 981 888 FACSIMILE: +855 23 981 168
LA ROSE SUITES (*****): We liked La Rose Boutique Hotel & SPA; we loved its five star version, La Rose Suites, targeting the same category of clients like Raffles Le Royal or InterContinental. The crop of the cream! Just push the discrete entrance door of this hidden treasure nestled on a quiet street near Independence Monument, and exquisitely immerse in a colonial style heaven of luxury. The young and active staff is already waiting for you with a glass of fresh juice or tea, just like if a secret signal announced your arrival. You are VIP, of course, and Many, the smart general manager, welcomes you like a statesman, inquires about your trip and gives you precious tips to discover his city. This is a special place with a special treatment, visited by travellers and not tourists. No groups, no queue at check-in / out; but a residence tailored made for those who want to feel as unique as they always dreamed to be once in their life.
We felt like at home. With all the facilities available for our very personal use. The salt water pool, for instance, one of the most pleasant in Phnom Penh, quite large for a boutique hotel, was shared by us and one couple during our stay. This seems to be a place for celebrations and honeymoons, with a small table allowing a romantic lunch or dinner (the restaurant opens to the pool area) paired with Champagne. We are travelling that way since decades, and this is always exciting to see people sharing our philosophy. Travel should be classy, and hotels alike.
Lots of the 25 spacious (from 45 sqm), non-smoking rooms and suites, with high ceilings, overlook the pool area and the lush tropical garden. We booked in one of them. With twice the size of a standard boutique hotel room in Phnom Penh, designed in a modern Cambodian style, Zen and elegant, they all feature traditional contemporary furniture. Bathrooms copy the successful model of La Rose Boutique & SPA: we like the king-size tub in concrete stone, the discreet yet efficient lighting, the complete toiletry kit. The quality of the soap, gel shower and shampoo, made in Cambodia from natural, anti-allergic products, is excellent. A great deal of bonuses come to all guests: free daily room minibar (mineral water and soft-drinks), high-speed Internet and, which we found fantastic, complimentary 1-hour traditional Khmer massage in an elegant massage-suite. SPA treatments at La Rose Boutique & SPA and La Rose Suite are highly reputed among expats and members of the Khmer society. Quality of the treatments and level of services are actually first class. The hotel recently opened a lavish 43 room extension, just accross the street. This is where we enjoyed our last stay, in April 2018. Booked in a spacious family suite, with one king size and one queen size bed, and a large terrace with a pool-bar view.
We had a-la-carte breakfast at Banana Tree restaurant, still in a complete intimacy though the hotel was full house. Quality is great. Opt for the Asian breakfast, with wokked yellow noodles, fried rice with seafood, and fresh tropical fruits: this is a Khmer restaurant (with Apsara music for diner, and also a violin solo player who can come on special resquest to provide a romantic atmosphere to honeymooners), offering the hygienic and comfortable opportunity to discover this interesting cuisine. Don't miss Amok (seafood / fish curry with coconut milk). Banana Kitchen serves spicy original Thai and Khmer cuisine. We really like this simple, yet classy place. Alternatively, gourmets will like to walk along the animated Street 21 and discover by themselves some local restaurants still ignored by mass tourists. We were for instance the unique “barangs” seating at Sovanna (just a two minutes walk), one of the best BBQ and seafood restaurants in the country.
Like its sister hotel, La Rose Suites supports “Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE) — For a Child’s Smile” international programme: employing children lifted out of poverty to acquire the skills and education to secure a more prosperous future for themselves and their family.
LA ROSE SUITES: #4B, St. 21, Tonle Bassac 12301, Chamkarmon, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia
PHONE: +855 23 - 222 254 / 222 264 , +855 12 940 304 / 77 666 345
FACSIMILE: +855 23 210 531
THE PLANTATION (****L): Reflecting the glorious past and engaging present of Phnom Penh, this atmospheric, ravishing boutique & SPA hotel stands behind the Royal Palace and the National Museum. In the historical heart of the city. The Plantation occupies a luxuriously and tastefully reconstructed 1930's French administration building, which became the Ministry of Labor after the independence. Further buildings date back from the 1980's-2010s (with the latest addition of a top comfortable wing in 2017), carefully designed by Ivan Tizianel in the nostalgic French post-colonial architecture.
Spread over a hectare of lushly pounds and gardens, this four star luxury property offers the comfort, style and services of a high end urban resort: 2 lovely swimming pools, two bars (try the delicious pizza at poolside Restaurant/Bar), gym, a lavish SPA, a lovely meeting room, not to forget one of the top 5 best French restaurants in Phnom Penh (fine-dining La Pergola, by French Chef Olivier Guillon). Covering about 22 sqm, the 70 non-smoking rooms with open contemporary bathroom, and small balcony, include all four-star amenities: A/C and ceiling fan, mosquito nets (on main beds only), safety box, mini-bar, IDD phone, 32-inches flat screen TV, and kettle with tea and coffee. High-speed WiFi is available, free of charge. We loved the rooms with a pool view, indeed: they all have a large terrace shadowed by tropical trees. Some have a high ceiling, providing more volume and comfort.
The new wing has been erected to welcome more corporate guests. They don't lack charm at all; the smart furniture, precious fabrics and generous superficy, plus the supervision of a dedicated buttler service, make them competitive compared with business-oriented hotels like Sofitel or InterContinental. We particularly liked the panorama on the Royal Palace and pagodas at sunrise from the not so large, yet conveniently designed balcony of our suite. This is the ad hoc product for those looking to mix business and relaxation.
The room rate is great value for the money. Starting from around USD 70 per night for promotions during the low season; this explains why The Plantation is almost always full house... More expensive (approximately USD 400), extremely spacious (200 sqm) and luxurious, the one and unique Rooftop Suite -with views on the Royal Palace's roofs, the Independence Monument and the Phnom Penh city-scape- boasts 3 terraces, a private bar, 2 separate rooms with 2 bathrooms, and a Jacuzzi. It can host small parties for up to 30 guests, or families that wish to live in the same apartment with sufficient space for all.
Supervised by one of the most efficient general managers in town, trained in Amansara, Como and Four Season resorts until he joined The Plantation, the hotel offer a five-star luxury service, which much staff (addressing us by our name), and a dedicated attention to the returning guest's tastes and habits.
The Franco Cambodian join-venture operating The Plantation (and more fine properties like Teahouse, Templation...), is much involved in the preservation of urban green spaces. It campaigns also again sex-tourism, and guests cannot receive last-minute visitors in the room.
The must-be-seen places and main attractions are all concentrated a short walking distance: it takes a couple of minutes to get to the National Museum, the Wat Botum (Royal Pagoda), the riverside with its bustling nightlife and the lively Street 240 (one of the most animated shopping and dining districts downtown). Plantation operates a classy, somehow eccentric limousine service, transporting its guests in a vintage Jaguar XJ 6.
THE PLANTATION: 28, street 184 - Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia
PHONE: +855 (0) 23 21 51 51
PAVILION (****L): A jewel in the distinguished MAADS hotels' catalog, this colonial property, englobing Queen Kossamak's former residence, reminds us of the nostalgic time when Phnom Penh was still referred as “The Pearl of Asia”. To cope with the legend, the guest is treated lavishly upon arrival at the airport: picked-up by a so British Jaguar XJ6 (a limousine shared between Pavilion and its slightly more luxurious and expensive sister hotel The Plantation).
We always loved hotels which don't look like hotels... Pavilion is one of them. The period architecture made us feel like officially welcome at the residence of an ambassador. Our check-in was discreet and fast, enforcing this impression. This is the secret of all MAADS hotels, whatever their category: from the three-star superior Teahouse, till the elitist Plantation, not to mention Templation in Siem Reap (our favorite): hospitality comes first.
This is the type of lodging which we like to review, but dislike to describe. This is all about the sensation, the essence of good Karma waving from the ancient walls, the exuberant flora, the soothing atmosphere of the public areas and the monastic austerity of the rooms. Those looking for a tacky expression of luxury should find plenty of more gilt hotels in Phnom Penh. Here each room is different: some as small as a cell, and other purely palatial. Yet, coming all with much allure.
We would recommend the 90 to 120 sqm suites, with 20 to 40 sqm terrace or balcony. This is the roomiest type of accommodation, consisting of two communicating rooms, separated by thick curtains or a partition wall. Much wanted, those suites should be booked much in advance. Surprisingly, they are just a little bit more expensive than the tiny (20 sq.m) but extremely pleasant Private Pool Rooms. We would prefer them for a honeymoon: each of them opens on a private, extremely romantic patio, and its cozy cool water pool. We stayed in one of them, and they do reflect the residential atmosphere of Queen Kossamak's palace.
The hotel has two swimming pools, actually. The modern Sun Pool, perfect for those looking for some tanning and a hotter water (it is exposed all day to the sun); and the refreshing, more intimate Lush Pool, with lots of greenery and a delightful colonial atmosphere.
The SPA and gym are so small... But remember: you are not in a hotel! The tranquility of the guest does matter: children under 16 are not accepted. The reception filters the visitors. So bring your wife or girlfriend: she will be delighted. But not a local girl, who would be rejected courteously. MAADS is well known for its campaigns against sex tourism.
This all makes a quiet, secure, ideal retreat a few steps from the Royal Palace and Wat Botum (Royal Pagoda).
PAVILION: 227 Street 19, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia
PHONE: +855 23 22 22 80
PENH HOUSE & JUNGLE ADDITION (****L): Situated 200 meters from Pavilion (under the same global Khmer-French management), we visited this enchanting property, showing two concepts at one place, during its soft opening in October 2018 (Jungle Addition), then in April 2019 (Penh House). Feeling like experiencing two totally different hotels, indeed. Though, they are linked: sharing multiple facilities (guests can use both swimming pools, the Penh House gym and rooftop terrace...).
The Jungle Addition, housed in appealing 1950s pavilions amongst a lushly tropical garden, is amazingly reminiscent of Pavilion. The 18 cozy rooms (vs 52 in the boutique Penh House), very simple, yet amazingly nice looking, reflect a transcendent colonial atmosphere. Hard to find in the new urban architecture of Phnom Penh, mushrooming with the same concrete and glass high-rise as in London or Singapore.
Each room is different in size and display of simple, homey Indochinese handicrafted furniture. Our poster bed was very comfy. We slept serenely: lulled by the harmonic song of the insects and frogs. An atmosphere already found in the sister hotels (Pavilion, Plantation, Tea House...), with a concept targeting the traveler more than the tourist. Those choosing the Jungle Addition are attracted by an exciting approach to an almost forgotten way of living in a fast developing Asian city.
The soul of the hotel, the pool is classic and classy. Displaying a yesteryear’s atmosphere and elegance. With a small, discreet bar, and a most pleasant shadowy restaurant. The menu is actually very local, inexpensive, and convenient for a light dinner al fresco. It can be served at no extra cost in the room. An option which will please the couples on a honeymoon, as the particularity of the Jungle addition is the nice terrace attached to each room, whatever the category. Those located on the garden floor are actually pleasant. For more intimacy, prefer a room on the first floor, with a huge colonial terrace displaying awesome colorful tiles.
The Penh House gains in comfort what it lacks in charm compared the boutique Jungle Addition. It has a modern, hip residential concept, and much space in the rooms and the public areas. His highlight is the salted-water swimming pool: one of the largest panoramic pools in town, it embraces the whole city and its surrounding. It has a plunging view over the Royal Palace, the temples all around, and the Mekong river. We like it for the all-day breeze sweeping the roof: this is particularly pleasant during the hot season, which started at the moment of our visit. Should we come back at The Penh House, that would be for the pool, indeed.
Still on the rooftop, we liked the restaurant where our breakfast was served. Again, it hasn't the charm of the Jungle Addition, but the buffet offers a better selection of food, due to the larger number of rooms. There are 52 (including 5 suites) in total. Spacious (35sq.m), with a trendy design and plush bathrooms, they have a balcony where we liked to relax after dinner. There is a sophisticated (maybe too...) Internet TV system, allowing to watch thousands of streaming movies free of charge. WiFi is faster than in many hotels in Cambodia. The room rate starts from USD 70, which is more than reasonable in Phnom Penh.
Should we come strictly for business, we would prefer to stay at The Penh House; for leisure, we would go straight to the Jungle Addition more fitted for the dolce vita.
The most noticeable temples, palaces, monuments, and parks are located next door. The riverside can be reached within a pleasant five-minute walk. This is the departure place for the can't be missed 5pm complimentary Sunset Cruise, which remains one of our best souvenirs from Phnom Penh!
A very unique fairly value concept, with a dedicated service making you feel like in Indochina more than in Cambodia...
PENH HOUSE & JUNGLE ADDITION: 34A Street 240 & 70 Street 244, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia
PHONE: +855 23 212 200
LA ROSE BOUTIQUE & SPA (****L): Though the classy white facade had been vaguely inspired by the French-colonial style, this distinguished hotel reflects a Zen adaptation of Angkor Wat architecture, with a modern, soothing touch.
Opened in 2012 in one of the rare wealthy areas of Phnom Penh, neighboured by colonial mansions, embassies, ministries and international schools, with a central but not really touristic location (the Quays are a 10 minutes tuk-tuk ride away), the hotel is perfectly convenient for a successful stay. Though Norodom Blvd is reputed one of the busiest streets in Phnom Penh, silence and relaxation are the two principal qualities at La Rose.
The service is unique, indeed, as expected in a four star luxury, very boutique hotel. But it comes with a bonus: many guests don't know that they do a good action upon booking at La Rose: the young, smiling and enthusiastic staff comes from the poorest regions of Cambodia, and much better than donated money, received the PSE (“Pour un Sourire d'Enfant”) complete training by the best hoteliers to proudly join this quick developing industry. This made anticipating receptionists with a more than decent knowledge of English language, kind waiters in the delicious restaurant & bar, supervised by a friendly, permanently available general manager.
The 7 rooms and suites are not very large, but so well designed that you won't notice it. Simple and elegant, recently refurbished with a chic colourful flooring, they looked like an oasis of tranquillity back from our exhausting walks in the dusty and rumbustious Phnom Penh. Hyper clean, well air-conditioned, featuring a SPA-like bathroom (with a strong water pressure... a bonus in Phnom Penh!), and surely the largest tubs in town: we couldn't expect more from a small but definitely well planned hotel. There is a plasma TV, safe, tea/coffee facilities and all other four star amenities. Each floor alternates guest-rooms and treatment rooms; there is also one suite equipped with massage table.
The spa is well know in all Phnom Penh. Qualified therapist with years of experience offer medical and relaxation massages, using top quality Ytsara creams, flower essences, and signature organic oils. Cambodia traditional massage traditions date back to the glorious ages of Angkor, and is well perpetuated at La Rose: last but not least, treatments are not so expensive compared with further luxury hotels downtown (a complete treatment costs less than USD 30).
We liked the intimate 50 seats restaurant, where traditional Khmer cuisine remains so authentic. Too blend in many international hotels, it is home-cooked by La Rose chef with the original herbs and spices which make all the difference. The curries, “Fish Amok” and other seafood specialities are yummy. Vegetables and fruits from the unspoiled Cambodian countryside are profusion: should you be vegetarian or not, don't miss the vegetable spring-rolls or the green papaya salads. Set menus rank between USD 10 till 20, which is more than reasonable.
Though most of the guests are tourists, we can recommend La Rose to business travellers: lots of banks and companies headquarters are located nearby, and the hotel is convenient for meetings. The Internet speed is not so bad compared for Cambodia (we could even use Skype...), and WiFi is complimentary.
This new, original, recommended boutique hotel is ranking on the top of Tripadvisor and offers very attractive rates from USD 100 per night.
LA ROSE BOUTIQUE & SPA: 164B, Norodom Blvd, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia
PHONE: +855 23 211 130 FACSIMILE: +855 23 210 531
HAMPTONS APARTMENTS (****L): Looking for plenty of space for a family or a few days stay? The first serviced-apartment which we experienced in the heart of Phnom Penh is the ad hoc place for you. Established a decade ago, Hamptons Apartment is a reputed property, offering 1 till 3 rooms plans, ranging from 120 sq.m to 190 sq.m. Unless travelling with a large family, you will need one room only, like us.
We have been positively surprised by the volume of our apartment. Particularly the living-room / dining-room, with a separate, XXL fully equipped cuisine (with washing machine/dryer). Just like many serviced-apartments, extra decoration is managed by the guest; this is the reason why those staying only a few days might find the display very comfy yet impersonal. This is actually a small detail, compared with the bonuses provided by the pleasure of living in a presidential-size suite booked at the price of a double room in a four or five star hotel in PP.
Spotless clean, our apartment was equipped with a family sofa, a large screen TV, and a dedicated WiFi access allowing a super high-speed, secured connection. We liked the bedroom with its attached bathroom (thumbs up for the chic Chopard toiletry), and a balcony with a city view: it embraces the most wanted area in the city. Sangkat Boeung Keng Kang I is the place for expatriates. It is not touristy, though located a two dollars PassApp rickshaw ride to the Riverside. We personally preferred to entertain ourselves near the hotel. Rue Pasteur and the parallel streets are partly dedicated to international gastronomy, with also plenty of fashionable bars everywhere. Ways better than the cheapy, touristy Riverside option. Safer also... This is one of the most privately securized areas of PP.
There is a pleasant swimming pool, a small yet richly equipped gym, and sauna / steambath. Parking is extremely safe (with some Rolls Royce and Maserati, plus many diplomatic cars showing the quality of of guests).
If few the rooms dedicated to shorter stay are not fully booked, the kind reception staff if very flexible on check-out time. We left the residence at 8pm, and this was no problem.
There is no restaurant, and therefore no breakfast. But plenty of coffee-shops all around.
HAMPTONS APARTMENTS: #24-26, 322 street corner of 57 street, Sangkat Boeung Keng Kang I. Khan Chamkamon,
Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia
PHONE: +855 23 726 606 FACSIMILE: +855 23 216 175
H/P: +855 12 808 500, +855 11 852 242
SUN & MOON (****L): Should all urban hotels have such an interesting architecture, Phnom Penh would gain in reputation for the inventiveness of its buildings. Adrien Desport did a splendid job, designing one of the most noticeable hotels in a city mushrooming dull high rise constructions. The French taste characterizes this unique landmark of hospitality, with a geometric, colorful facade attracting the eye of the passer-by. The electric lobby, trendy bar, bistro style restaurant with open kitchen and quiet atrium with a view of a family of peacocks (symbolizing power and health in Cambodia) make the public areas actually fancy. The signature of Sun & Moon is its incredible swimming pool, topped with a designer roof equipped with a sophisticated fluorescent lighting. Already a symbol of Phnom Penh, that infinity pool captured us during our stay: no hotel, even the best, can offer such a panorama on the roofs of Phnom Penh, and the nearby Mekong. The whole city was at our feet. We could hear the noise of the street activity, with plenty of pubs, restaurants, and discotheque everywhere in a district where the heart of city beats; feeling preserved and privileged in this oasis of sensuality and luxury. Guests visit Sun & Moon for this unmatched feeling of intimacy, in the center of one of the most vibrant cities in Asia.
The rooms must be seen. Those liking orange color will love Sun & Moon at first sight! They offer a four-star comfort, adjusted to the needs of the modern traveler. We occupied a “Deluxe King Size”, with plenty of natural light, and an adjustable blue light bathing the room in a relaxing, somehow psychedelic atmosphere. Like in many cool hotels, there is an open cabinet for hanging clothes, and an open bathroom. It is artistically minimalist, nice looking and well though for all categories of guests. Those on a corporate stay will appreciate the large writing desk, and the quietness of the well-soundproofed rooms; they might even prefer the lovely and spacious “Suite King Size with Balcony”, tailored made for a successful business trip. Those 97sq.m suites offer a great panorama on Phnom Penh, and are our favorite rooms in the exuberant Sun & Moon.
The WOW factor extends to the restaurants and bars. The “Cloud 9 SkyBar” actually wakes up after dark, with daily live-music parties cooled by the pleasant breeze from the Mekong. Bringing some sophistication in a part of the city well known for its rough pubs. Reputed for its poolside BBQ parties and signature cocktails, the bar closes down between midnight and 1 am.
Cigar aficionados may prefer the cozy and jazzy “#8 VIP Lounge”, with a very dedicated service and view. Mixing the chic of a French restaurant, the warmth of an Italian Trattoria and the ambiance of a British Pub, “Salt'n Pepper” is a “gastropub” offering international cuisine, and also one of the best breakfasts that we has experienced in a Phnom Penh boutique hotel. Opposite to the restaurant, the Unplug Bar is also a cool place to grab a bite, quickly and anytime. At a fair price, as F&B is very accessible at Sun & Moon.
There is a good gym on the 9th floor, and an excellent SPA, with sauna, steam bath, and hot/cold Jacuzzi.
Surely the most surprising boutique hotel in town, Sun & Moon makes all the landmarks and business accessible by a short and pleasant walk in the heart of Phnom Penh.
SUN & MOON: #68, corner of street 136 and
15 Phar Kandal 1, Phnom Penh
Tel: +855 23 961 888 | Fax: +855 23 922 888
SOKHA PHNOM PENH (****L): The newest and largest hotel in Phnom Penh (and Cambodia) boasts 523 amazingly large and luxurious rooms and suites, at the cape of the exclusive and breezy Chroy Changvar peninsula: a high-end residential area, and one of the safest places to stay in the congested and dusty Phnom Penh.
The pharaonic lobby, with its impressive sky light dome and tropical hard wood flooring covering thousands square meters, is a landmark of architecture which you will like or not. It reflects much of the Khmer civilization, with carved walls and columns, and a collection of souvenirs from late King Sihanouk. It is cool, with lots of large seats and deep sofas to relax at ease, kind though discreet staff, and the pleasant Champa Café.
Each room is super-large (starting from 52 sqm for a Deluxe Room) and has a river Mekong view. The panorama on the majestic Royal Palace, the animated Sisowath Quay, and the new high-rise buildings close to the Central Market, alternates with a 180° view of the sleeping rural beauty opposite of Phnom Penh (a five minute local ferry cruise transports you like hundred miles away from the capital city). We liked very much the wood flooring and the majestuous bathrooms with Japanese high-tech washlet. The largest and most exclusive room in the hotel (not to say in the city) is called “Royal Sokha Suite”. Located in the upper residential floor, it covers 318 sqm of unmatched western luxury balanced with a discreet Khmer influence. Its guests enjoy exclusive benefits: such as access to the Mohori Lounge with daily happy hour, complimentary cocktails and canapés, and a private breakfast facility.
The pool is one of the largest and most pleasant in Phnom Penh. It makes you feel like swimming in the Mekong, and seems deserted during the day, when hotel guests are touring the city or joining their business meetings. A lot of Asian travelers (from Korea, Japan, Singapore…) stay at Sokha, and carefully avoid exposition to the sun: Westerners often have the pool for their almost private use… Such a serene and relaxing poolside atmosphere is hard to find anywhere else in the city. Complement it by a visit to the world class Jasmine SPA.
We like the restaurants, providing a fastuous F&B for a great value for money. They would be full day and night if the hotel was logically linked by shuttle boat to the Sisowath Quay; which is not the case, and looks totally odd. It costs a 20 minutes ride via the Japanese Bridge -while it would take 2 minutes only by boat- to discover the succulent seafood and BBQ buffet al fresco at 20th floor Tonlé Sap Bar, agremented with a breathtaking panorama. All Phnom Penh would also visit the China House, seating 200 persons, which recently imported the best chefs from Sichuan for a regional cuisine featuring also specialties from Guangdong, Hunan and Beijing (including the famous Peking duck and roasted meat platters, fresh seafood and seasonal specialties as crab, abalone, sea cucumber and lobster). Or the warm, intimate and guaranteed authentic Takezono Japanese restaurant, with ultra fresh hand-craft sushi, maki rolls, and fresh sashimi from premium seafood.
The 1,255 sqm Wave Club spreads out over the 19th panoramic floor. Chic and cool, it alternates a cool lounge ambiance with electric nights animated by famous DJs and live bands.
This top luxury hotel is operated by the Sokha Group.
SOKHA PHNOM PENH: Tonle Sap St, Chroy Changvar, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia
PHONE:+855 23 685 8888
ALMOND BASSAC (****): By definition a business hotel, a short stay is enough to discover the hidden leisure aspect of this ideally situated property managed by the Almond Group. The lobby is shared with one of the top 5 best seafood restaurants in Phnom Penh: Sevensea by master chef Luu Meng, is from noon until midnight one of those exclusive fine-dining locations allowing Rolls Royce, Bentley, and Lamborghini spotting on a parking lot transformed into a million dollars car exhibition.
In such a gastronomic heaven, the hotel features more qualities than a standard business hotel. First, all rooms are different. Not ritzy but still fancy, they remain more than enjoyable thanks to an unmatched comfort. With a view over the greenery of the neighboring Sofitel or, better, on the legendary Mekong River and residential Koh Pich Island, most of the rooms have got a verandah bathroom with a panoramic tub. We loved the Khmer atmosphere of our room: with hand painted river-themed murals, and Sorkhum carved items. A nice, yet discreet decoration, indeed.
This section of the Bassac district ranks amongst the safest in Phnom Penh, due to the presence of many embassies. Guests will appreciate a lot the presence of the cyclopean Eon Shopping Mall, a five-minute walk from the hotel: it has many restaurants for a quick bite, and a concentration of the best first-class brands.
Special offers available all year long make this fine hotel particularly attractive.
ALMOND BASSAC HOTEL: #N2 Next Sothearos Blvd,
Sangkat Tonle Bassac, Khan Chamkarmon,
Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia
PHONE: +855 16 31 87 77
A successful transposition of Las Vegas on the Mekong Riverside, the
largest entertainment centre in Indochina proposes
non stop casinos, live music and shows, restaurants, bars, and hosts an
impressive four star hotel.
A world on its own, Nagaworld
could both attract and somehow frighten the traveller: wouldn't it be
too noisy, too crowded... too amok? It will,
indeed; but only in the public area, bustling of life and enthusiasm.
Lots of music, plenty of gamblers (most of them are Asian; but,
officially, not Cambodian, as locals are not allowed to play in
casinos). The lobby pairs with the scale of the complex: it is
cyclopean, with all that bling attached to casinos and Asian
large hotels. We loved it so much! Live bands, gambling rooms
everywhere our eyes could see, and a large reception desk with a young,
smiling, experienced staff who checked us in without a couple of
minutes, before sending us to our room. Then we entered a world of
preserved luxury, comfort and silence. Hospitality at Nagaworld comes
with all the Asian bonuses: large rooms
(starting from 39.24 sqm in the Deluxe category) furnished in modern
Khmer style, amazingly comfortable beds, brand new electronic equipment
(large plasma TV, complimentary broadband Internet), and ritzy
marble-floored bathrooms. Among the plenty of details which
would make us come back without hesitation, is the best view ever over
the Tonle Mekong river. Waking up, observing the tourist boats and
merchant cargos transiting over the muddy waters of the mystical river
is on its own well worth the long trip from Europe or America to Asia.
We felt like somewhere: in the heart of Indochina, spoiled the Asian
way by a remarkable and so discreet staff. Those who visited Vegas will
notice the huge difference between Nagaworld and any other five star
hotel in Nevada “Sin City” : the service, much better than what we were
expecting after checking some reviews in Tripadvisor, is much more
anticipating, kind and smiling at Nagaworld. Local staff, proudly
working in that new jewel of the Cambodian tourism, anticipates any
request. We stayed three days: the second one, the waitresses
already knew our habits and spontaneously came to us with a double
espresso, some wafers and freshly mixed orange-passion fruits juices.
We have been so much impressed by such a good memory, knowing that the
Nagaworld hotel has a total of 500 guest-rooms (further rooms and
suites were under construction on the 14th storey, during our
stay; but we hardly noticed it, as there was no noise nor disturbance
OMANA BOUTIQUE HOTEL (***+): Still referred by taxi and tuk-tuk drivers as Hotel Nine, this recently re-branded and upgraded boutique hotel was originally constructed in 1994 to house officials from the United Nations in the most secure and attractive area of the city: close to the National Assembly, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and a short walk to the Royal Palace, Nagaworld casino, and the riverside. The hotel has a view to the Independence Monument, and Wat Botum Park is the dreamed place for jogging. Moreover, there is a small street food market just a few meters away, and the excellent, yet cheap Sovanna I and II restaurants are located in the parallel street 21. There can't be a better location, and lots of our reviewed hotels stand in this district.
The hotel oscillates between three-star superior and four-star, depending on the room category. We stayed in a Superior Double room, which we found ideal for a one night stay. The rate was unbeaten over all the booking platforms, at only USD 35 at the beginning of the high season (November). Contrary to the higher category rooms, it has only an atrium view which resulted as very quiet. Featuring a Queen-Size bed with spring-mate mattresses and high-quality linens, our room had a quite small flat screen TV, with integrated DVD player and selected satellite channels. The bathroom was very nicely equipped for a standard room. There was a laptop-sized safe. We liked the ceiling fan, though each room is air-conditioned of course: it creates a breezy atmosphere during the night.
The Deluxe Double rooms are not much more expensive. We would recommend them to business travelers, and tourists on a longer stay. With a street view, they are more trendy with a personal touch, and have a larger flat TV screen. Still four-star category, the Superior-Suite has been designed for families. It has 1 Queen and 2 Twin Beds, hosting five people at ease.
A buffet breakfast is served at “Table 8” restaurant breezy terrace, with a street and pool-view. We enjoyed there the best French croissants and “chocolatines” in Phnom Penh. This is a dreamed place to meet the other guests along the long table, and exchange travel tips. The Omana Boutique hotel is frequented by a mix of travelers, NGO agents, and businessmen. Which made our morning discussion enriching.
The pool-side is charming, with its bamboo tree protecting the relatively small but pleasant swimming-pool from the sun. We felt like nestled in a tiny oasis, though the noisy and crowded Phnom Penh was just behind the wall. It is connected to the Bamboozle Bar & Lounge, with a convivial night atmosphere.
Most recommended to those looking for a simple, pleasant stay in a great location at a low cost.
OMANA BOUTIQUE HOTEL: 41, Street 9, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia
PHONE: +855 23 676 3001
SIM BOUTIQUE HOTEL (***+): A new generation of trendy, yet splendid value for money hotels starts mushrooming in Phnom Penh. This is the newest one, nestled in the peaceful Street 143. A stone's throw from the Orrusey largest local market in the city. It has the Olympic Stadium and Pool almost opposite, and all the attractions at a cheap, five minutes PassApp taxi ride.
We almost inaugurated the hotel. Efficiently managed, served by very kind staff (particularly smiling and enthusiastic at the Sky Bar), it was totally full the day of our visit. Yet, we have been astonished by the quiet swimming pool atmosphere. This is a tourist hotel, and the guests spend most of their time exploring Phnom Penh. We could relax the whole afternoon, swim and contemplate the city from the 17th floor. It is open-air, and the breeze makes the experience most pleasant. What we also liked is the price of F&B: only USD 2.5 for a local beer or a cocktail.
Same advantageous conditions at the 18th floor Sky Bar: this is, with the pool, what would make us chose to stay at the Sim Boutique again. Or just visit this contemporary, refreshing, entertaining and really safe bar with friends. The music is eclectic and local, not too loud contrary to the Phnom Penh fashionable terraces. We received our order within a minute. The staff was happy to chat with us. A nice place, indeed. Even for a family.
The 48 rooms are suitable for a tourist and a businessman alike. We occupied a Superior Room. This is the first, cheapest offer, at less than USD 50. Warm with a modern wall-pannel, cozy but spacious enough (25sq.m) for a couple, efficiently air-conditioned, it was like all rooms equipped with clothespress, safety box, bathroom amenities, hairdryer, fridge, slippers, cable TV and Free internet Wi-Fi/ Cable. We didn't expect that much at such a valued price. The Deluxe Rooms are larger (45sq.m), and ideal for a family. The two Sim Sunset Suites are not much larger (50sq.m), but their 12th and 13th-floor location provides a million dollar view of the city.
Breakfast is served in the Mezzanine Restaurant. We found the buffet surprisingly good and generous for a three-star superior hotel. The Sim Boutique hotel is definitely one of our best addresses in this category, both in terms of value and location.
SIM BOUTIQUE HOTEL: No. 26AB, Street 143, Phum 11 Veal Vong District, Khan 7 Makara,
Phnom Penh , Kingdom of Cambodia
PHONE: +855 12 703 711
hotel and restaurants illustrate themselves by an anticipating service
by a motivated young staff. This is one of our favourite addresses in
Phnom Penh for corporate travelers...and foodies.
TEAHOUSE (***+): Low-cost by Maads doesn't mean cheap, hostel style hospitality; but stylish treatment in a boutique hotel with character. Those who can't afford amazing sister hotels like Plantation, will find a good value alternative in this exquisite Chinese-style mansion. We liked the welcoming little garden at the gate of the Teahouse, airy open reception, cool restaurant extending to a nice shady pool, colorful collection of tea boxes, and the offer of the best blends at the old tea house style bar with large sofas.
The hotel is interesting from many factors. Its global concept makes it quite unique, and rooms are different in size and design from each other. We have a preference for the pool view rooms. We booked in one of them: a two bedroom suite, hosting a family of five (using one extra bed), and opening on a romantic balcony. The design is tasty, yet simple: no rich fabrics nor fancy furniture, but a relaxing simplicity which made us feel like at home. There is a flat screen TV (two sets in the suites), safety box, WiFi, minibar, free tea and coffee facilities. All rooms are air-conditioned, of course, with a ceiling fan which we used by night for a most pleasant sleep. This is a three-star superior hotel, and it should cost just a little improvement to upgrade it into four-star. Some recently refurbished rooms are more of this standard, and the swimming pool copies the model of high-end boutique hotels: stylishly made of tiled stones instead of mosaics.
Everything is affordable at Teahouse. The drinks at Tea Lounge / Tea Garden, the restaurant serving a traditional Cambodian cuisine and signature Chinese tea soups. This is the place for buffet breakfast, which we found surprisingly good for a hotel of this category, where double rooms sold out between USD 40 and 50 the day of our visit, still in the relatively high season (a few days before the Khmer New Year, when the demand is high).
The small SPA doesn't cost more than the local massage parlors, and use better oils: Maads is reputed for its natural toiletry and oils/creams.
The management is French, very much adjusted to the western guests' demand. The location is ideal, in a residential area with fine restaurants and chic bars all around. So, those wishing to save USD 50 at least from luxury boutique hotels, now have a good alternative place to experience either on leisure or business.
TEAHOUSE: #32, Street 242, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia
PHONE: +855 23 212 789
SUNWAY (***+): This super well located hotel sits within the former colonial “Residence” area, where the French administration and governor mansion stood, this middle-sized hotel occupied a strategic location in the diplomatic “Green Belt”. Opposite the US Embassy, one of the safest neighbourhood in Phnom Penh, it conveniently allows its guests to visit the city without hailing a tuk-tuk. Crossing by picturesque and historic Wat Phnom Pagoda, going along the high walls of the National Bank, we could reach Van's (the best restaurant downtown), the Central Post office and the touristic quays within less than five minutes. The Central Market (Phtar Thmei) and the Sorya Shopping Center (one of the largest malls in Cambodia) are a stone's through away.
The Sunway hotel remains quiet, in an amazingly noisy and dusty city. Businessmen and travellers, looking for some rest they way back from long negotiation or a tiring walk through the overheated city, will love at first side such a peaceful atmosphere. The staff is as discreet as friendly and anticipating. The Cambodian smile is priceless; moreover when it spontaneously comes from employees feeling like so happy to work here, and to serve you the best they can do. We actually felt surprise to find a four star service in a three star superior hotel.
The 138 little bit dated rooms (31sqm) -plus one presidential suite- are simply, yet nicely designed. We immediately felt like at ease. This is a homey hotel, with comfortable beds, conveniently appointed bathrooms and, if you book on the highest floors, a dramatic panorama over the city centre of Phnom Penh: forget the cold architecture of the US Embassy, and look the Phnom Temple, the Central Market and the high rise buildings which will change the face -and unfortunately also the authentic atmosphere- of Phnom Penh in the next decade. Well soundproofed and air-conditioned, with LCD TV featuring more than 60 channels, safe, minibar and complimentary coffee & tea-making facilities, the rooms are worth the international four star... at a very local rate: you are expected to pay approximately USD 100 per night (including breakfast and WiFi in the public area). Sometime less, catching the opportunity offered by attractive packages and promotions. Note that some rooms, with a private terrace, are very pleasant; though located on the lower floors.
The Sunway has no swimming pool, surprisingly for a hotel of this volume; but a pleasant SPA with a steam-bath and a large, powerful Jacuzzi (male locker only). It is complimentary for hotel guests. The spacious meeting rooms and business centre are well appointed, and quite popular among the local businessmen.
We have been impressed by the F&B high and affordable quality. The breakfast is one of the best which we had in Phnom Penh: maybe because we came after 9am, the open-kitchen Sun Café Restaurant displayed a Zen atmosphere, and the buffet was generously appointed with fresh fruits, yummy Asian and international dishes, fine cheese... and the best, freshest Danish pastries one can find in Cambodia. We purchased some croissant each evening, at the small deli shop in the lobby. The hotel was full house, but the waitresses did their best to take care of us, and this was a pleasure to have a morning discussion with those young, attractive Cambodian ladies, happy to promote their country and their hotel. We admired their perfect command of the English language.
This warmly recommended, amazingly well managed and good value for money hotel, is part of the Sunway group operating fine hotels in South East Asia.
SUNWAY HOTEL PHNOM PENH: No. 1, Street 92, Sangkat Wat Phnom, P.O. Box 633, Phnom Penh 12202, Kingdom of Cambodia
PHONE: +855 23 430 333 FACSIMILE: +855 23 430 339
OF THE BEST RESTAURANTS