Architecture / Interior /

Southeast Asia’s 7 Unique Luxury Hotels

Each year, I try to explore many parts of the world to see and experience the various types of their luxurious hotels. This year my interest falls into Southeast Asia region, from Singapore to the Indochina region such as Cambodia and Laos. For centuries, history has taken note that the region was home to some of the most opulent kingdoms in Asia. During my first visit to Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Luang Prabang this year, I was impressed not only by their glorious historical past but also by the presence of the great luxury hotel establishments. Here is my selection list of seven unique luxury hotels in the region this year!

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Raffles Le Royal:
A Grand Historical Landmark


One simply cannot talk about Raffles Le Royal in Phnom Penh without sharing the rich history of this grand landmark. First opened its doors to the public on the evening of 20 November 1929, this hotel with its 55 rooms has had many affairs throughout different times, from the communism and war periods to the glamorous era of Hollywood celebrities all the way to the digital present time. The hotel has had different names from Le Royal (1929), Le Phnom (1970 – 1975), Hotel Samakki (1979 – 1993), Hotel Le Royal (1993 – 1996), to finally Raffles Le Royal (1997 – present).

The hotel was built by French architect, archaeologist and urban planner Ernest Hebrard, who is renowned for the reconstruction plan of the Greek city of Thessaloniki after it was destroyed by fire in 1917. Situated in the fashionable European quarter, Le Royal Hotel was built in a French colonial style using elements of traditional architecture.


The original hotel building featured sloping tiled roofs punctuated by triangular dormer windows, airy uncluttered corridors, shuttered windows and covered walkways that echoed traditional local architecture, so as to keep with the tropical climate.

The hotel originally had 54 bedrooms, 41 of which had private bathrooms, 13 with showers only. In addition, there were four communal bathrooms. When Raffles International Limited involved in the hotel’s revamp in 1996, they demolished the surrounding bungalows and replaced them with three new, more substantial wings; while the main building was left intact and completely refurbished. Under the supervision of architect Koh Say Wee, they also commissioned a traditional Khmer artist studio to create painted ceilings, decorative beaten copper crests and outdoor sculptures. Following this makeover, the hotel now boasts a total of 175 guest rooms and suites.


Design highlight here includes the black and white floor tiles at the main building, the elegant arched lobby known as The Conservatory, the famous Elephant Bar, and a magnificent garden crafted by landscape architects from Belt Collins International. Approaching 90 years of history, Raffles Le Royal remains as Phnom Penh’s most prestigious hotel with a long list of guests from Charlie Chaplin, Jacqueline Kennedy, Charles de Gaulle, Jon Swain, to Angelina Jolie and Barack Obama.

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