Saturday, 5 July 2014

Rest & Relax: French-Khmer hotel union

Cosy elegance: The interesting facade of Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra.

Cosy elegance: The interesting facade of Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra.

River and city vistas and a classy stay full of warmth is what awaits you at this hotel.

Phnom Penh's Sofitel Phokeethra staff had a genuine warmth and an air of professionalism about them when I first walked through the hotel’s entrance. As the weather was a bit stuffy and hot outside, being served a drink of cool lemongrass juice, and given a cold hand towel, was the start of a great stay that progressed to becoming a fantastic one.

While my wife and I were being checked in and showered with greetings of bonjour, the ambience of the hotel was hard to ignore. The architecture of the hotel is a marriage of 1920’s French colonial building style, and traditional Khmer art and design.

I was greeted by high ceilings and leather chairs in the lobby, which blended perfectly with lovely carvings and statues. This ambience was made even more attractive with an ongoing art exhibition called Galerie des Arts which featured 100 pieces by local artists and foreign talents as part of the hotel’s endeavour to promote art and culture.

The hotel's opulent lobby.
The hotel’s opulent lobby.

The room we were booked into was one of the hotel’s Luxury rooms with a balcony. The view was a sight to behold – boats along the Mekong river and the bustling atmosphere of Phnom Penh. While the capital is experiencing a development boom, there aren’t many tall buildings around, thus giving an almost unobscured view as far as the eye can see.

The room was spacious yet tastefully done – brown furniture accents, black marble, cream walls, and white and yellow tiles made for a modern yet majestic room. Being more knowledgeable on luxury goods, my wife noticed that the room’s toiletries were from Les Notes de Lanvin (available only in the Superior and Luxury room categories).

The hotel possesses a total of 201 rooms which includes five categories, all equipped with an LCD TV, with 68 channels in various languages. My wife became an instant Korean TV soap addict and now swears by KSB. For those of you who need to be online all the time, free Wifi is available in all the rooms.

The luxury room offers good views and plush, spacious comfort.
The luxury room offers good views and plush, spacious comfort.

The room’s king size bed was truly a delight to sleep on. The combination of the thick mattress overlay and duvet made for an incredibly good sleep. For guests staying in the suites and club floor rooms, a selection of pillow types are made available for added comfort.

Known as the MyBed programme, this is a service which offers natural, synthetic and adjustable pillows which are filled with special hypo-allergenically treated goose down feathers. For those with bad necks, shoulder injuries, this service is a godsend.

For the first night’s turndown service, we received a small jar of Cambodian spice powder which is used to make the local fish amok dish. This was a pleasant difference from the usual chocolates, fruits and liquors served in other hotels. The gifts given are changed regularly and may include items like the traditional Khmer “Krama” chequered scarf or the White Monkey balm (an ointment to relieve external body pain).

Italian fine dining with a French twist at Do Forni.
Italian fine dining with a French twist at Do Forni.

When it comes to food and beverage, the hotel does provide a good mix of restaurants and bars to patronise. La Coupole is the hotel’s opulent all-day dining restaurant offering both western and eastern cuisine to suit one’s palate. The breakfast buffet line as was lined with culinary delights of Korean, Chinese, Western, Japanese, Cambodian and Thai origin. For those with an early morning sweet tooth, the buffet line included an ice cream parlour.

The other restaurants included the Fu Lu Zu, with its traditional Cantonese fare; Hanchi, serving Japanese food, teas and sakés; and Do Forni, for Italian fine dining with a French twist.

Dinner at Do Forni was a lovely three-course meal based on the recommendation of the hotel’s well-trained staff. I tried out the Insalata Di Rucola Con Pomodorini, Parmigiano E Aceto Balsamico Di Modena, which was a salad of rocket leaves, parmigiano cheese, organic cherry tomatoes, balsamic vinegar dressing. The vegetables had bite; none were wilted and soggy.

My main meal was Tartar Di Salmone E Branzino Con Condimenti, which was fresh salmon and sea-bass tartare with condiment. What was unusual about this was that it teased the senses – one moment, it tasted like sushi, and then it tasted rich and creamy.

For chocolate lovers, Chocolat will make you salivate as the restaurant offers an extensive menu of chocolates and patisseries. For Cambodians, Chocolat offers the ultimate in sweet treats as the locals are known to love sweet food.

If you're an ice-cream lover, you're in for a treat at the La Coupole.
If you're an ice cream lover, you're in for a treat at the La Coupole.

My wife tried out the So Spa, and found the menu to be varied. Body treatments were a combination of French and Khmer healing, where aromatherapy and acupressure were applied. She also found it refreshing that she could choose and create her own spa package, unlike in KL where one would have to choose from pre-determined packages. Pricing is slightly above KL hotel spa prices, but the offerings are different.

The hotel possesses two swimming pools and two gyms, with one of each located at Phokeethra Sports Club. While the hotel has always been a haven for the business community, both locally and regionally, families are fast becoming regulars as well.

Besides the attraction of the Phokeethra Sports Club as a social activities club, the hotel’s popular Sunday brunch is another reason for families to visit. There is a babysitting service available for families staying at the hotel and provides an opportunity for parents to just get away for a while.

Local attractions such as the royal palace, Independence Monument and national museum are less than a 10-minute drive away when using the local taxi or tuk tuk. The Phnom Penh international airport is just a mere 15 minutes’ drive away from the hotel as well. Would I come back again? Yes, I would.

The long pool at night appears all the more enticing.
The long pool at night appears all the more enticing.


26 Old August Site, Sothearos blvd, Sangkat Tonle Bassac, Khan Chamkamorn, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia. Tel: + 855 (23) 999200. Email:

Tags / Keywords: Travel , Lifestyle , Hotel , Rest Relax , Phnom Penh , Sofitel Phokeethra


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