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The Golden Book: Checking out who's in

VIPs from around the world have checked in to one hotel in Bandung for years

Photo by: Michael Hayes

Signing in: Chou En-lai, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Momolu Dukuly, delegate from the Gold Coast, Sovag Jung and then Norodom Sihanouk check in at the Hotel Savoy Homann.

When the heads of state from Africa and Asia rolled into Bandung in April 1955, they all checked into the Savoy Homann Hotel.

Having built up a reputation since the late 1880s as the city's most prestigious hotel, there really wasn't any other choice.

Since the early 1930s the art deco-style establishment was known as one of the fanciest hotels in Asia.

It wasn't the first time well-known personalities would put up at the Savoy Homann, nor the last.  

Thailand's King Chulalongkorn stayed there in 1901. Charlie Chaplin enjoyed his first visit in 1927 so much that he decided to stay again in 1935. More recently, Miss Universe Riyo Mori spent a few nights there in August 2007.

In the early 1950s the hotel's management decided to set up a special guest ledger for its VIPs. Still in use, what the hotel calls "The Golden Book" is a catalog of Who's Who from around the world.

Special pages were set out for the 1955 Conference as so many dignitaries were expected.  First to check in was China's Premier and Foreign Minister Chou En-lai.  Fifty years later his signature was deemed so historic that the Chinese government tried unsuccessfully to buy the book from the hotel.

Chou was followed by Gamal Abdel Nasser, president of Egypt; Momolu Dukuly, Liberia's acting secretary of state; an adviser to the Gold Coast whose name is indecipherable; and Major General Sovag Jung Thapa, foreign secretary of Nepal.

And then, in penmanship so readily recognisable to Cambodia watchers over many decades that it almost jumps off the page, is "Norodom Sihanouk Prince of Cambodia", listing his position as "Chef du delegation du Cambodge".  

Hotel manager Budi Sasongko says there are no records of what room Sihanouk stayed in.  His delegation included Norodom Montana, minister for National Education; Penn Nuoth, member of the Royal Supreme Council; Son Sann, governor of the National Bank; Prak Sarinn, undersecretary of state for Foreign Affairs; Mau Say, secretary general of the Royal Supreme Council; and Dhamavara, counsellor.

Many pages and many years later, Sihanouk's name appears again. Listed under September 5, 1992, is "HRH Samdech Norodom Sihanouk, President of SNC, Cambodia".  He was attending the Tenth Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) that was being held in Jakarta at that time.

Another famous Cambodian graces the pages of the Golden Book. In 2005, dozens of world leaders gathered in Bandung to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Asian-African Conference.  Checking in at the Savoy Homann on April 24 was: "Hun Sen, Prime Minister, Kingdom of Cambodia".

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