Relaxed Refinement at Raffles Hotel Le Royal
Raffles Hotel Le Royal
An imposing statement of Khmer, Art Deco and French Colonial style, Hotel Le Royal originally opened its grand doors in 1929. It reopened as Raffles Hotel Le Royal in 1997 after a sensitive extension and refurbishment. To protect this piece of Cambodia’s heritage, local artisans were commissioned to recreate painted ceilings, decorative beaten copper crests and outdoor sculptures.
Raffles Hotel Le Royal is built around a central private courtyard, with two swimming pools fringed by Frangipani-lined tropical gardens.
Raffles is very much part of the history of Phnom Penh. It has stood for 90 years and its walls reflect many of the times it has witnessed, yet while it honours its past, the hotel embraces the city’s dynamic future, continuing to be a focal point of the capital’s business and social scene.
The official opening, attended by HM Sisowath Monivong (reigned 1927-1941) and a host of expatriate guests took place on the evening of 20 November 1929. The party included a lavish buffet, dancing and performances by an orchestra brought especially from what was then Saigon. The Director of the hotel between 1929 and 1931 was M.L.F. de la Pousardière. On 22 December 1931, L’Echo du Cambodge announced the departure of M La Pousardière and a new direction for Le Royal under the supervision of M. Jean Baluteig.
In 1930, it was proposed that a boutique would open in the hotel, which would market and promote traditional Khmer handicrafts. The museum at this time actively functioned in the training, support and marketing of traditional Cambodian arts. It is refreshing to read in Fables (1998, vol.3), a Raffles International publication, in a feature titled ‘Fragile Fine Arts’, that the hotel sought to restore this link with artists from this very institution, now known as the Royal University of Fine Arts.
The matinee idol Charlie Chaplin, accompanied by his co-star of ‘Modern Times’ Paulette Goddard, visited Phnom Penh in April 1936 on their way to Angkor. They stayed at Le Royal with an entourage that included Paulette’s mother, Mrs. Goddard and a Japanese valet and secretary.
In addition to the rooms on the upper floors of the main building there were now some 30 bungalow rooms and 6 studios available. The bungalows were arranged to the sides and across the rear of the property. Architect Henri Chatel was responsible for the extensions and improvements which came between 1957 and 1958. He added the studio-bungalows; an outdoor restaurant called ‘Le Cyrène’ (The Water Nymph), a swimming pool and terrace and transformed the entrance hall and furnishings. The studio suites were double storey groups of rooms to the west and east of the main foyer (what is now Restaurant Le Royal and the hotel’s boutique arcade).
At the end of 1965, Le Royal was offering single air-conditioned rooms with bath for 465 Riels (in April 1966, one US dollar would buy you 35 Riels), but special rates of exchange operated for the Hotel Le Royal, the Grand Hotel d’Angkor in Siem Reap and other select hotels. These favourable rates made the hotels much more competitive
Buoyed by the Sihanouk years, the early 1970s saw a boom in tourism that ended abruptly with the Lon Nol period (1970-75) and subsequent Pol Pot regime that swept to power in April 1975. His reign of madness would last three years, eight months and twenty days, overseeing mass starvation and genocide. In his first 48 hours as leader, Phnom Penh was evacuated and remained virtually unoccupied until 1979.
After the fall of the Khmer Rouge, the hotel reopened in 1980 as ‘Hotel Samakki’ (Solidarity Hotel) and was taken over by international aid agencies. In much the same manner UNTAC personnel, during the United Nation’s presence in Cambodia, occupied it in the early 1990s.
The hotel gained a new lease on life when renovations began in May 1996 under the supervision of Raffles International Limited. The surrounding bungalows were demolished and replaced by three new, more substantial wings. The main building was left intact and completely refurbished. The capacity and functions of the hotel were dramatically increased and improved, a necessity for what would be a great new destination hotel of Southeast Asia.
After its extensive renovation, Raffles Hotel Le Royal reopened on 24 November 1997. Approaching 90 years of history, it remains Phnom Penh’s most prestigious hotel.
Raffles Hotel Le Royal
Legendary service since 1887. Our reputation travels.
Raffles Hotel Le Royal
A grand historic hotel with timeless traditions.
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