PHOTOS BY HENG CHIVOAN
The structure that is now Raffles Hotel Le Royal was constructed between 1923 and 1924. Designed by architect Ernest Hebard, the original building contained 54 rooms and was part of a larger civic plan designed to turn what was a small Cambodian-French colonial township into a bustling city. The plan was a success and the hotel known simply as Le Royal was officially opened in 1929. Towering four stories, it was the tallest structure in the capital aside from Wat Phnom.
Hotel Le Royal flourished throughout the 1930s and into the 1960s, attracting such celebrities as Charlie Chaplin, actress Paulette Goddard and American first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. The hotel remained essentially unchanged until architect Henri Chatel made extensions and improvements between 1957 and 1958. These included two-storey studio-bungalows, an outdoor restaurant and a swimming pool. He also transformed the entrance hall and revamped the furnishings.
In 1996 the hotel was completely renovated by architect Koh Say Wee, overseen by Raffles International Ltd out of Singapore. Three new wings replaced the bungalows and the main building was restored to its previous grandeur, after having survived the Pol Pot era. Today Raffles Hotel Le Royal is a remarkable display of new architecture emulating classic colonial beauty. Black-and-white floor tiles from inside the original building were faithfully copied and laid in the same configurations in the new wings, and great care was taken to update the rooms without diminishing their historic charm.