With a royal history dating back to the 1920s, The Pavilion Hotel Phnom Penh has a Cambodian-French colonial charm that is simultaneously peaceful and decadent. Nestled in the heart of Phnom Penh’s historic district, The Pavilion is the perfect place to leave the chaos of city life behind and escape into a tropical oasis. The main building within the complex, which serves as the Reception Villa, was built as Queen Kossamak’s personal residence for it’s proximity to the Royal Pagoda, where she liked to pray. It is just a few minutes stroll from the Royal Palace, the official residence of the King, and across the road from Wat Botum, a pagoda founded in the 15th century, making for an unusually quiet setting in the bustling capital. It is well preserved with the original tile floors covered in intricate designs, high ceilings, and a sophistication fit for royalty. Over the years The Pavilion complex has expanded to four buildings, all built in Khmer and French-colonial style.
Arrival and Check in at The Pavilion Phnom Penh
The Pavilion’s privately chauffeured classic Jaguar XJ6 will pick you up at the airport, ensuring you arrive in style. The distance to the hotel is around 11 kilometers, and you’ll get lovely views of the city along the way. The driver was happy to chat and answer our questions as he expertly navigated Phnom Penh’s rush hour via shortcuts through various districts, past outdoor markets, and around the iconic Independence Monument.
When we arrived, a friendly staff member outside immediately took our bags and led us through the tall wooden doors, understated and elegant. When you enter The Pavilion you are immersed in a tropical paradise. Palm trees, tall bamboo and flowering buds surround you, while the shimmering turquoise pool at the center of the oasis beckons. The pool is lined with large, colorful umbrellas and Cambodian-style wooden platforms with inviting sun beds, secluded below the trees. We walked along the lush, tropical tree-lined walk up, past a stoically zen stone Buddha to the Reception Villa. We were greeted with big smiles from the staff and invited to sit on a comfortable sofa. Refreshing lemon welcome drinks and cold jasmine scented towels were brought over, and we immediately felt at ease. The check in process was completed in a few minutes. Again, our bags were scooped up by the staff, and we were escorted to our gorgeous studio suite.
The rooms at The Pavilion Hotel Phnom Penh
The Pavilion has several room types to choose from within the four buildings on the property. Some of the rooms have private pools, jacuzzis, garden terraces and balconies. We were stunned at the palatial feel of our studio suite room. It is like several rooms within a continuous space, including an office, two day beds, a large canopy bed, a couch and lounging area, a well stocked minibar and refrigerator, and a private terrace off the back with sunning chairs and a breakfast table. The bathroom was spacious with a rain shower and secondary Cambodian-style nozzle shower. Beautiful details like locally crafted natural soaps, a blow dryer hanging from a silk bag on the door, and oversized, plush towels were truly decadent.
The New House, originally added to the property in the 1960s as the Royal Palace’s veterinarian residence, houses luxurious rooms with private pools. Although the building is just steps from the Lush Pool, you may find little reason to leave your exclusive tranquil space.
In the back of the property is the New Villa, the former residence of a senator. The rooms in this building are spacious, light and beautifully decorated. The Sun-Pool Villa, hidden away at the back of the property, is the latest addition at The Pavilion. The rooms inside are airy and elegant, and the pool just outside gets more sunlight than the Lush Pool and is surrounded by sunning beds and a bar. There is beautiful Buddhist and Southeast Asian art throughout the property. The rooms are decorated with Khmer statues of Buddha or Apsara dancers, bright colourful accents of Khmer silk, and large, comfortable throw pillows on the day beds and couches.
The Pavilion’s on-site restaurant provides a bottomless breakfast menu each morning. Bread and pastries are served with locally made fruit jam, butter, seasonal fruits and juice like passionfruit, mango and pineapple. You can order anything you’d like off of the breakfast menu, made to order, which might be the true meaning of luxury.
The lunch menu has a range of popular Cambodian dishes, salads and curries. You can eat right alongside either pool, in the restaurant, or in your room. The Pavilion’s partner restaurant, Chinese House, is highly recommended for dinner. It is located in a 112 year old building and is a unique remnant of Phnom Penh history. Iron Chef Amy serves a bold and flavourful menu of East meets West cuisine that utilises fresh, organic ingredients and is consistently delicious. The drink menu is equally impressive.
The spa at The Pavilion Hotel Phnom Penh
The Pavilion has an onsite spa just off the Reception Villa, in a private and calm corner of the garden. The scent of fresh lemongrass and jasmine gently awakens your senses when you enter. Simple decorations of stones, dark wood and fresh lotus flowers create a peaceful environment. The staff are friendly, experienced masseurs who can provide a range of services including energising Khmer massage, foot reflexology, deep tissue, oil and aromatherapy massage. All guests are offered a 25 minute complimentary welcome massage. We combined this with an additional hour-long oil massage in the couple’s massage room, and were in total relaxation heaven. The natural oils leave skin feeling soft and smooth for days after.
The activities and facilities
There are two pools on the grounds, the Lush Pool and the Sun Pool. The Sun Pool is in a more secluded area in the back of the property. The Lush Pool sits along the restaurant, with trees filling the view, and flowering branches overhanging the pool. There is also a gym onsite with everything you need to maintain your workout routine. Bamboo bicycles are available to borrow.
If you are looking for a night out, Phnom Penh is a fun city. For a classy sunset rooftop bar check out Angel Sky Bar or Kolab Sor Sky Bar. I particularly love The Mansion. If you want to feel the time gone by, the Foreign Correspondents Club, also in Siem Reap, has a great relaxed colonial vibe. Or have fun at some of the many gay-friendly bars and clubs in Phnom Penh. Read more about Phnom Penh’s gay scene to find out more.
The Pavilion’s staff were professional and helpful at every turn. Some have been trained and brought in through Phnom Penh based NGOs that specialise in hospitality training. They are able to work their way up internally to positions within the hotel, gaining hands-on experience in a luxury setting. The staff provide an atmosphere of stress-free relaxation by taking care of the details.
The Pavilion is also a part of the ChildSafe Movement, and work with a selected group of ChildSafe certified tuk tuk drivers to take you around the city.
The Pavilion is a paradise getaway for a weekend or an extended trip in the city. It is the perfect base to come back to from the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh with all of the amenities and service to keep you comfortable and stress-free throughout your trip. And above all, know that you are contributing to a good cause, Cambodia needs more businesses like The Pavilion.
This review has been written by Jen, from Two Can Travel. Jen is an expat and English teacher living in Phnom Penh and she stayed at The Pavilions on a complimentary basis. All opinions are her own.