This colonial-style hotel is a timeless landmark in Siem Reap
Siem Reap will always be a special place for me since my first visit there back in 2005, though I didn’t have the golden opportunity to stay at Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor until 2008. Ever since, it has become one of my all-time favourite luxury hotels in Southeast Asia.
The Grand Hotel d’Angkor first opened its doors in 1932 to provide luxury accommodation for the growing number of affluent tourists visiting Angkor Wat. Raffles International acquired the hotel in the 1990s and introduced the “Raffles legacy" to the property. Recently, the property was closed for six months due to renovations and refurbishments. After it reopened last October, I was thrilled to be one of the first guests to experience this landmark again. (The hotel is currently closed due to the COVID-19 situation but expected to resume operations again soon.)
As I had expected, from the moment I arrived I was immersed in its legendary service and welcoming touches like the beautiful scent of a jasmine garland. In the car taking me to the hotel, the cold towels, a crystal glass for drinking water, some chocolate and cute macarons with the Angkor Wat symbol on it, made me smile. Located in the Old French Quarter of town, the hotel is just 15 minutes away from the airport. As the car entered the driveway and the crunching sound of gravel brought back a sense of nostalgia for the horse-drawn carriage rides, I was greeted at the door like royalty. The Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor team welcomed me with warm smiles, along with a welcome drink and the traditional apsara dance. Indeed, all guests are treated to this kind of welcome.
I stayed in the newly renovated State Room with a view of the French garden. Since the renovations every room now has a writing desk and vintage rotary telephone. The biggest change, and my particular favourite, was the enhanced bathroom, which now has new Italian tiling and fixtures, including separate oversized rain showers.
The dining outlets have also been refurbished. Contractors David Grace Designs have brightened up the Café d’Angkorand refurbished the interior design in the conservatory, known for its afternoon teas and baby grand piano. With executive chef Angela Brown at its helm, the hotel offers a new fine-dining concept in the 1932 restaurant, named after the year that Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor first opened. I was fortunate to be invited to attend the launch late last year when all the guests in attendance were treated to a parade of traditional Khmer specialties with a contemporary twist. I really enjoyed Chef Angela’s interpretation of Khmer recipes with a modern approach. One of her signature dishes, “Braised wagyu beef with ma-om infusion and quail egg," was pure artistry.
Apart from Cafe d’Angkor and 1932, the famous Elephant Bar serves the best cocktails in town, with its signature “Raffles Singapore Sling" being my favourite. The hotel also offers a Champagne brunch, with free flows of champagne and cocktails, and a variety of oysters. Other highlights are a live jazz band and views overlooking Cambodia’s most iconic swimming pool.
For guests who would like to explore more of Siem Reap, the hotel offers an enticing series of Raffles Curated Journeys. Guests also have the opportunity to explore the ancient Angkor Archaeological Park on a vintage Vespa scooter and to be one of the first visitors to enter the temple each day. Food lovers can eat their way through Siem Reap on an exclusive Khmer Culinary Discovery via Tuk Tuk, while art aficionados can visit Siem Reap’s illustrious artists at their galleries, to which only Raffles Curated Journeys can offer exclusive access.
At the end of a day of exploration, guests can look forward to the legendary service that is both prompt and formal, effortless and unobtrusive. Throughout the hotel, the staff are all very well trained, professional and service-minded. When I asked the hotel manager, Vincent Gernigon, how he finds and trains the staff to provide this great service, he said that they choose the staff members who best match the identity of the Raffles brand.
For me, this property is absolutely perfect from the moment I arrived until the moment I sadly had to head home. I loved every minute of staying here. My home away from home, the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor will always have a special place in my heart.