Pavillion Hotel, Cambodia
This shady heritage hideaway is a ray of sunshine in the bustling city of Phnom Penh. Hidden on a small backstreet opposite the royal pagoda (Wat Botum), a small entrance opens into a yellow colonial house the colour of sunshine. Shaded by palms and lush gardens, various outer buildings of different eras make up this boutique sanctuary. Centrally located it is a short stroll to the palace, museum and waterfront.
The main building was built in the 1920’s by Queen Kossamak so she could be closer to Wat Botum to pray. French colonial architecture combines with Khmer style to create a calm and refined space in the main house. Most of the rooms and villas are housed in the adjoining 1960’s deco building and are understated and comfortable in vibrant silks, with cool breezes passing through the windows the gardens. There are two newer private vills on the grounds that has its own swimming pool and are a small sanctuary within this already idyllic property. The property is a blend of Cambodian antiques and French 20th Century bourgeois chic.
If you can drag yourself away from the comfortable day beds dotted around the pool you can take a tuk tuk or one of the hotels complimentary bamboo bicycles to explore the surrounding sites. The Royal Palace is a short stroll and is a stunning insight into the rich history of the modern capital and its monarchy before the dark days of communism and the khmer rogue. The National Museum is also close and is housed in a rich auburn hued wooden building that is a piece of art in itself.
A modernising Asian city and former French colony create an oxymoron of styles from the wide lush tree lined boulevards to large modern hotels and super charged Range Rovers jamming up the broken roads. Traditional street food lines the waterfront and small streets lined with patisseries and the strange fusion the foods have evolved in the middle. The location of this lovely hotel is perfect for meandering around the streets and scooters exploring the centre of town and also a welcome respite to come back to from the city heat. Within walking distance is the glittering palace complex and the beautiful wooden National Museum.
A small spa specialising in local massage techniques and therapies is a cozy space that is calming and every guest receives a complimentary massage to to give you a taste of the traditional Khmer therapies that are designed to clear the bodies energy channels and clear the mind. This is a fantastic way to end the day of wandering the sights or simply soaking up the atmosphere of the hotel and surrounding area. Traditional Khmer massages are performed 'dry' without oils or creams, this is designed to clear the body and clear blockages with more intense pressure on the skin. Although it is a different sensation to what you expect from a massage it does seem to penetrate deeper into the muscle creating more of a 'lightness' in the limbs.
In addition to The Pavilion Hotel to preserve this colonial building, the group work tirelessly to find and renovate and maintain historic buildings in Phnom Penh. This includes what was probably the last Chinese Merchants villa in the city that has been preserved as the Chinese House with the Tepui restaurant upstairs. Between all the properties of the group they have acquired over a hectare of green spaces that is home to forty-five plant species. Sugar palm trees have been made into most of the furniture in the hotels meaning that the properties are not directly contributing to deforestation.
The Pavilion is dedicated to creating a responsible attitude to its community and adult only guests. An adjoining fair trade shop sells clothing and accessories, produced by a woman’s co operative, and is surrounded by many others a short stroll away. A very clear sign on the door states that no sex workers or exploitation of minors will be tolerated on the premises, giving a reassurance to guests that this is one of the establishments that is working hard to support and eradicate the exploitation that has marred this countries reputation in recent years. The hotel partners with the NGO Mith Samlanh Friends and its Childsafe projects against sexual abuse of children and all our staff receive specific and regular training.
The Pavilion is the perfect ethical escape in the middle of the fascinating and frantic centre of Phnom Penh. In the stunning shaded courtyard of this colonial building you can step back in time in the lush garden. It is a property that is committed to the cultural heritage of the city, but very much combating the community crisis in Cambodia, such as exploitation. A beautiful property with an equally compassionate ethos, it is the ultimate choice for any conscious traveller.
Photos Courtesy of Electra Gillies & The Pavilion Hotel
Words by Electra Gillies