The Kingdom of Cambodia has had a fascinating and bloody history. The once prosperous and powerful Khmer empire that ruled and occupied the lands mysteriously declined and vanished. Centuries later, French imperialists signed a protectorate treaty to colonise the country in order to expand their economical influence and interests in the surrounding regions. After decades of liberation from French colonial rule and a brief Japanese occupation of Cambodia, the communist insurgent group the Khmer Rouge seized control during the Cambodian civil war and their reign of terror devastated and impoverished the former French Indochina country.
Over 1.5 million innocent Cambodians were slaughtered in a senseless genocide at the command of the infamous, nefarious and deranged dictator Pol Pot. The killing fields are a grim and gruesome reminder of the historical tragedy and monumental impact of the Khmer Rouge’s wrongdoings and crimes against humanity from which the country still adversely suffers; and is still recovering from even till today. Thankfully, there is a glimmer of hope and shining light that rests on the shoulders of the nation’s surviving youths, as well as the enthusiastic international expat community that call the capital city of Phnom Penh their home.
For our virgin sojourn to the economic powerhouse of Cambodia, we decided to stay at the luxurious and opulent Rosewood Phnom Penh, which occupies the top 14 floors of the ultra modern and visually striking Vattanac Capital Tower. The avant-garde looking building complex, complete with an attached high-end luxury shopping mall, is shaped like a mythical naga serpent dragon and happens to be the tallest building in all of Cambodia. An artistically striking metallic wired statue of the Hindu monkey God Hanuman stands sentinel in front of the entrance as the hotel’s celestial guardian protector. Hanuman looks ever vigilant and ready to smite any evildoers with the foolhardy audacity to cross his path like he had in the Sanskrit epic Ramayana.
Soaring 188 metres above the bustling heart of this rapidly flourishing and burgeoning city, the Rosewood Phnom Penh features 175 spaciously capacious rooms, 6 fine dining restaurants, and was recently declared the “Best City Hotel in Asia 2023” as voted by the readers of Travel & Leisure magazine.
We were flabbergasted at how every floor of the hotel offers jaw-droppingly stunning 360 degrees views of the entire city, as well as panoramic vantage points overlooking the surrounding confluence of both the mighty Mekong and Tonlé Sap rivers. During our brief weekend stay, we never got tired of gawking at the majestic sunrises and surreal sunsets accorded by the surrounding wall-to-ceiling windows of our suite, as well as at all the various public areas of the hotel such as at the popular Sora rooftop bar.
Centrally located just 25 minutes away from Phnom Penh International Airport, the Rosewood Phnom Penh is the premier choice of decadent comfort for all luxury-seeking travellers, celebrities, ministers, and urbanites. Glamorous socialites and stylish urban elites clad in the latest seasonal fashion all convened together at the palatial ballrooms of the hotel. We were even fortunate enough to be invited guests at the Prestige Magazine’s launch party, held at the hotel in celebration of the magazine’s foray into this swiftly developing country. Esteemed guests at the party sipped on free-flowing imported champagne, and nibbled on delicate canapés and succulent hors d’oeuvres as they rubbed shoulders alongside Cambodian royalty as well as the list of who’s-who of Phnom Penh’s high society. This was a clear sign and signal that Phnom Penh has come of age.
During our stay, we also witnessed high profile celebrities, politicians, members of royalty and VIP guests come in and out of the lobby, lifts, and entrances. Chinese government dignitaries and a large contingent of Indonesian military personals and their families deliberately chose to stay at the Rosewood Phnom Penh due to the high security rendered and provided by the hotel’s efficient system that strictly limits public access to guest floors except to those staying on those floors.
Gastronomy is an enormous part of the Rosewood Phnom Penh experience. The hotel is a gourmet destination onto itself for those seeking to wine and dine in style. With six diverse culinary establishments to choose from, visitors and guests are spoilt for choice. Guests can essentially eat and drink their way throughout their stay, and never ever need to leave the hotel complex in search of good food.
The most popular restaurant is Iza that serves Japanese izakaya-style foods but in a less casual setting. Zhan Liang offers contemporary Chinese cuisine focusing on Cantonese, Sichuan, and northern Chinese dishes. Brasserie Louis caters to those seeking French cuisine, as well as classic Khmer dishes such as snakehead fish amok and the restaurant’s sumptuous beef lok lak that is a top favourite pick for many, including us.
For sundowners, and the place to see and be seen, head up to the swanky rooftop sky bar Sora for the ultimate views of the city below. The restaurant Cuts supplies succulent steaks and boast a collection of 279 different varieties of wines. The sophisticated steak and seafood grill eatery was named the “Best Restaurant in Cambodia” by Travel & Leisure magazine.
Nicole Xu, who is the hotel’s graceful director of F&B suggests and recommends guests to try their latest culinary offerings of freshly imported chocolate marbled wagyu beef steak from Australian cattle that were fed with bits of chocolate as part of their overall diet, which is largely due to the cattle farm’s close proximity to a Cadbury chocolate factory.
The hotel’s Sense Spa was conferred the “Best Spa in Cambodia 2022” title at the World Spa Awards. Sense focuses its ethos around naturopathy and centuries old natural medicinal remedies utilising indigenous herbal ingredients that are endemic to the region. The spa’s classic “Phnom Penh Signature” massage or their “Khmer Herbal Poultice” massage therapy sessions are highly recommended treatments to soothe away jetlag or stiff muscles. For some extra special sky-high pampering, guests can cap off their spa relaxation session with a signature hand and foot pampering at the renowned Pedi:Mani:Cure Studio by Bastien Gonzalez.
Not to be missed, and complimentary for all hotel guests staying at the Rosewood Phnom Penh, are their city tours in one of the hotel’s bevy of environmentally-friendly remorks, which are akin to a Cambodian version of a Thai open-air Tuk Tuk motor taxi. The hardy yet comfortable remorks traverse within a 2km radius of the hotel.
Expect to whizz past nearby local tourist attractions such as the dazzling royal palace, red roofed national museum, art deco central market, charming chedis, traditional Buddhist temples, the imposing looking American embassy, as well as the old French colonial style Raffles Hotel Le Royal which are all a mere stone’s throw away.
The social impact manager of the hotel is responsible for spearheading and managing the upcycling of over 400 sleeping bags that are made from used towels and decommissioned bed linen to give away to impoverished orphaned school children who would otherwise have to sleep on the cold hard floor.
The management of the Rosewood Phnom Penh also hosted and sponsored a charity gala dinner and show in collaboration with a Siem Reap based NGO circus that raised US$100,000 over two nights for school children from border refugee camps by selling tickets and auctioning art, of which 100% of the proceeds went directly to the corresponding charity.
Experienced and award winning managing director Mr Daniel Simon enthused about the hotel’s myriad of social and charitable causes, “Most people walk past our art gallery without paying attention or thinking much of it. The art gallery only features Cambodian artists, or those who have contributed substantially and considerably to the Cambodian community. We also give back to the community by paying our trainees five times more than the industry norm and provide them with housing, accommodations, full uniforms and an allowance. We do this because we want to uplift them and accord them with dignity. At our hotel, we treat each other like family members and people call me on a first name basis. We operate a luxury 5-star property, but we do all these things to invest in and build a base for the future of Cambodia.”
Images: Luke Elijah