Back in ’05, I was in a bit of a dilemma as I could not head back home for Christmas due to certain permanent resident issues (with the US government), so I was in need of a destination to spend the final two weeks of ’05. Having just watched the Killing Fields and read a book about SE Asian history, Cambodia quickly came to mind and I booked the trip.
While my main itinerary included basic accommodations, I did make one tweak to my plan and arrange to stay at two historic, colonial hotels: the Raffles Le Royal in Phnom Penh and Grand Hotel D’Angkor in Siem Reap. The history that filled these hotels is incredible: great adventurers, statesmen and royalty made these places their home.
The Le Royal in Phnom Penh triggered the most interest for me as it was the headquarters for foreign photojournalists during the Khmer Rouge reign from 1975-79. In the movie the Killing Fields (highly recommended before any travel to Cambodia), several of the scenes were shot in the hotel.
Staying there was a very strange feeling, as it is truly living in the lap of luxury: nicest place I have ever, and probably will ever stay. Yet the hotel also holds such a strong link to colonization and perhaps most important to Cambodians, the time of the Khmer Rouge rule where some of the worst atrocities of genocide and persecution have ever taken place.
Over the next few days, I will post some basic photos I took during this time, and how I walked away from Cambodia with an uplifted spirit. The people of this country have persevered and live life with a passion and love that I have rarely seen. Include this with a beautiful country full of mystery, historical building and ruins, and I will return.
The below photo is of the LeRoyal Hotel in Phnom Penh, and I did take as much joy as possible at this hotel.
FYI: while I did splurge and stay a night at each of these hotels, I would not recommend it unless you have the cash…quite expensive, and with all the beautiful sights to see I spent minimal time back at any hotel. When I do a photography trek, I prefer to stay at very modest hotels – as long as they have electricity (to power my computer & recharge batteries) and a bed, I am happy as I generally only spend time at the hotel to sleep & recharge. 1 and 2-Star guesthouses are generally perfect for serving this purpose. When traveling with friends or loved-ones, go to at least a 3-Star unless they too want to share the adventure 🙂