“One of these temples…erected by some ancient Michelangelo might take an honourable place beside our most beautiful buildings. It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome.” So wrote the French explorer and naturalist Henri Mouhot of the staggering majesty of northern Cambodia’s Angkor—the world’s largest religious complex (at over 400 acres) and the seat of the Khmer kingdom from the ninth to 15th centuries.
Having explored the ruins beginning in 1859, Mouhot is credited with alerting the West to Angkor’s existence, spurring a new wave of visitors and leading the French to play a pivotal role in its preservation. Yet guests of the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor might never know of him if not for a characteristically exceptional amenity delivered to their rooms: a delicate chocolate bird’s nest—a nod to his avid interest in ornithology—accompanied by a magnifying glass, signifying his exacting attention to detail in his exquisite, photo-like sketches of the temples.
The Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor first opened in 1932 to serve the growing wave of luxury travelers bound for the enchanting ruins of Angkor. Courtesy of Raffles Grand Hotel d’AngkorA temple of luxury
Such singular gestures are the norm at Siem Reap’s most luxurious hotel, primely positioned just five miles from the Unesco-inscribed Angkor Archaeological Park. Having debuted in 1932, the 119-room resort reopened in October following a meticulous, six-month renovation that cemented its standing as northern Cambodia’s grande dame of hospitality.
The refurbishment seamlessly marries the Raffles’s storied history with chic modern updates. Carefully preserved elements like its original teak-and-wrought-iron birdcage elevator, floral-motif Art Deco railings—their intricate metalwork painstakingly restored—and black-and-white marble floors underscore the hotel’s enduring French Art Deco flavor. Au courant improvements to guest rooms include bathrooms redesigned with rain showers and Italian tiling, new hardwood floors, and Simmons pillow-top mattresses. Lighter, brighter common areas teem with oversize flower arrangements, richly patterned rugs, and chinoiserie accents, while the iconic swimming pool—Cambodia’s largest—and 15 acres of gardens provide a revitalizing respite after long hours hiking the temples.
The hotel’s 119 rooms boast lighter, brighter interiors, refurbished wood floors, and wholly redesigned bathrooms following the recent six-month renovation. Courtesy of Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor
Initially conceived in response to the dearth of accommodations for wealthy travelers bound for Angkor’s architectural marvels, the Raffles quickly lured the global cognoscenti with its soigné charm and world-class service. Charlie Chaplin and actress Paulette Goddard visited together in 1936—the same year British author H.W. Ponder described the hotel in her book, Cambodian Glory, as an “immense and dazzling white concrete palace that would look far more at home on the Côte d’Azur.”
These days, Raffles’s renowned hospitality partly manifests in a range of exclusive guest experiences. Jet-lagged or not, it’s worth rising at 4 a.m. for a sunrise tour of the sprawling stone city of Angkor by chauffeured Vespa scooter, the hotel’s most memorable adventure. Beginning with entry to Angkor Wat via secret passage well before dawn—when you’ll have the astounding monument virtually all …read more