Cambodiana Hotel, Phnom Penh - review by Rusty Compass
Phnom Penh | hotels guide

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Cambodiana Hotel, Phnom Penh

| 07 Feb 2011

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Cambodiana Hotel, Phnom Penh
313 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
(85523) 218 189, (85523) 426 392

Map

Price guide: Around US$100

Our rating
Location
Design
Ambience
People
Facilities
07 Feb 2011

Sprawling, tired and quirky, the  Cambodiana makes our selection based on its perfect location, history and kitsch value.

Note: The information provided in this review was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service

Review

Including the Cambodiana in our selection of Phnom Penh hotels was a big stretch - tired rooms, demotivated staff, peculiar architecture and a scale that we normally try to avoid. But the Cambodiana wins us over with its quirkiness, a perfect location right on the river and its close tie up with modern Cambodian history.


Location

The Cambodiana may well enjoy the best location of any hotel in Phnom Penh. Its absolute riverfront positioning avails guests of the best river views in town without the noise that accompanies many rooms on Sisowath Quay. The Royal Palace and the National Museum are a short walk away as are the restaurants and bars of the riverfront. Let’s hope that the location is put to better use with an upgraded hotel soon!


Architecture, ambience and people

The Cambodiana Hotel was conceived in the 1960s as part of Sihanouk’s programme of building ambitious modern structures across the capital. It was intended to stand on stilts providing views through to the river as part of a wider cultural and entertainment precinct.

Cambodia,Cambodiana Hotel,Phnom Penh Hotels
Photo: Mark BowyerCambodiana Hotel, Phnom Penh


By the 1970s, Sihanouk had been deposed and the original plans for the site abandoned. Lon Nol’s government made the hotel a military barracks.

During the Khmer Rouge reign and up until the late 1980s, the Cambodiana was left in virtual ruin.

By the early 1990s, the Cambodiana had been resurrected just in time for the arrival of UN officials, NGO personnel, journalists and international officials presiding over the UN mission that ushered the beginnings of the modern Cambodian state. The Cambodiana was the only show in town and everyone stayed here from celebrated journalists to Prime Ministers and Presidents.

When foreign governments decided to reestablish their embassies in Phnom Penh, the Cambodiana was the logical place to get things started. Phnom Penh was a tough place to operate in those days and stories of terrible food poisoning and pool borne infection are legion.

Cambodia,Cambodiana Hotel,Phnom Penh Hotels
Photo: Mark BowyerCambodiana Hotel, Phnom Penh


By the start of the new millennium, the Cambodiana’s role in the nation’s political affairs was subsiding. Tourism became the focus - as it is today. And not much has changed at the Cambodiana during the past decade.

Rooms are large but tired - though river views are some of the best vistas in the whole city.  The pool and its riverside setting are also nice.

Don’t expect too much from the Cambodiana - and don’t pay too much to stay here either. Under 100USD per night and you hopefully won’t feel too bad. This place is all about location, reflection on the past and an experience of a totally quirky hotel.

Cambodia,Cambodiana Hotel,Phnom Penh Hotels
Photo: Mark BowyerCambodiana Hotel, Phnom Penh


It’s the kind of hotel that wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in Europe or elsewhere in the West where bland hotels are common - at even higher rates. In Asia however and especially Phnom Penh, we’ve been spoiled for choice and quality.

Staff are mixed from friendly and helpful to chronically disinterested and demotivated.


Facilities: Pool, sat TV, gym, charged wireless internet.

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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