(Siem Reap, Kingdom of Cambodia)
Replica can sometimes look nicer than original. The best five-star luxury urban resort in Siem Reap, a direct competitor to the neighboring Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor, has been designed in a refined colonial architecture without any “faux pas”. This is remarkable. It would have been so tempting to boost some marble here and there, alternating old and new, vintage and high-tech. Easier, and surely cheaper. But the French investors at the origin of the project initiated in the 1990s were maybe also little bit poets: they let the architect play with the time, redistributing the 1920s into the 21st century.
The result is bluffing! The façade
reflects the retro charm of the
Belle Epoque, and guests picked up at the airport by an original
Citroën C6 model 1930 are welcome with iced towels by anticipating,
super-efficient staff. The lobby is not air-conditioned, but pleasantly
swept by a natural draft, coming from the magnificent pool area and the
Royal Gardens, located just in front the hotel. The boutique are
smarts, some young and ravishing Khmer girls gently smile while working
behind their silk waving loom, and a groom comes to show you the way to
your room via one of the two sublime lifts made of mahogany in the
1900s…or much more recently. Some said they have been imported from
France by steamboat; others, from South Korea, by Jumbo Jet.
Never mind: we are indeed in the colonial atmosphere of French Indochina, and nothing could interfere with this impression. Even the bathrooms which some would call shabby (lots of wood, and an old tub), and which actually pair the lustrous rooms -and top-notch suites- opening to a pleasant balcony with a pool –or Royal Park- view. Of course, the flat-screen TV, telephone, and high-speed WiFi are here to reset our clock when needed; but travel into time started, and won’t stop until check out.
We spent much time at pool-side. Large, nicely designed with a safety level for children (who can also enjoy the entertaining kids-club while the parents rest on their sun-bed), it is reputed top-5 best pools in Siem Reap. We loved the flowers and old trees carefully preserved by the architect. As much as we loved the worth-the-visit atrium, with its trees, fountains, pounds hosting fishes and turtles, and where the manager grows up lovingly a couple of young yet creepy crocodiles destinated to receive the rare claims from the clients... The hotel is very much involved in the protection of the nature in the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Discovering the ruins of the temples in a sputtering torpedo is something so unique, that words are not enough to describe our experience in one of the authentic, amazingly well kept Citroën cars, parked in from of the hotel. No need to stay at Victoria Angkor to hire them (at around USD 250 per half day; can be negotiated): the concierge can manage a tour for you, depending on availability. Just make sure that you book a few days in advance, and never forget that you need to purchase a pass to Angkor Park before your visit. You can do it the same day; but this would make you lose one precious hour, or more, standing in a queue.
We embarked from the hotel, sat in the back of our rutilant bordeaux Citroën B14 (they have also some C6 in the garage). Built in 1928, it has still its original “Made in France” engine. It looked like freshly imported from the “Quai de Javel, Paris” Citroën factory. Amazingly maintained, the 1.6L 4-cylinder 22Bhp engine started from the first attempt, with its signature “puff-puff” melody and some shakes from another time. A four seater, we recommend this car for a couple: because a large cool box, filled with Angkor Beer, Coca, fruit juice, and fresh water, occupies part of the back seat.
Don't believe that you are the center of the locals and visitors' attraction: everyone is interested in your car! Its obvious popularity gave us the opportunity to have our picture posted hundreds of times on the social network... Married men visiting Angkor with their girlfriend might receive a unexpected "welcome" back home... This is the unique and marginal disadvantage of the amazing experience.
VICTORIA ANGKOR RESORT & SPA: Central Park, PO Box 93145, Siem Reap
PHONE: +855 63 760 428
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