Beyond the food scene mentioned in my last post, I also explored the hotel options during my 3-week stay at Phnom Penh. Without the lengthy intro this time, I will go straight to the list. Again, there is no doubt that the known, international hotel chains offer great accommodation and service, but I prefer boutique design hotels and focus my short list on the local gems with affordable price ($$ level). Hope that's your cup of tea too.
Aquarius Hotel sits at the end of the city’s’ main shopping and dining area-the street 240. Thus, it's convenient (walking distance to the major attractions) and tranquil (no crazy motorbikes dashing across or tuk-tuk drivers touting). Easily, you will spot the building from afar: at day time, the concrete and brick outer walls present a modern rustic look that's unseen in Phnom Penh; at night time, the string lights at the rooftop stand out against the dull, empty city backdrop, making you wonder what fun it is up there.
The signature of the hotel is its "aquarium" infinity pool. It looks like a fish bowl from the side, so your friend can snap a picture of you posing like a mermaid. However, I personally fount it a little creepy when I looked at the outside from the pool beneath the water. Everything is twisted like from a fisheye lens, and I can see people talking and moving but it was completely silent on my side. It stroke me as some kind of nightmare. But it's my own problem and my friend was completely loving the pool!
Everything else was on point during my stay: The room was modern and clean, although a bit small. The breakfast was at the rooftop with chill winds constantly blowing through. The staff was friendly, but that's quite common at Cambodia.
All in all, the whole branding really impressed me so I would makeAquarius Hotel my top recommendation in Phnom Penh.
If you like the clean aesthetics, you will like the look of White Mansion. Previously the US embassy, the site is now turned into a boutique hotel. You can find some clue of the past from its architectural style and color selection. The hotel rooms, presumably the old offices of ambassadors, are huge with connected balcony around the floor. The hotel per se is not too impressive but the old time glory definitely add the charm to this place.
There is an Eric Kayser cafe adjunct to the hotel. It's a really chilled place get the morning caffeine boost while getting some off-site work done.
I was initially attracted to its entrance (sucker for modern, clean look) and surprised with its low price (35USD/night). However, the old saying never goes wrong: You get what you pay. After checking in, I realize the hotel was not that well kept and there was no elevator (although the staff helped me carry the luggage up). My room was quite dark and worn, and the common area looked abandoned with no staff on duty.
Nonetheless, with all the negative aspects, given its price, H hotel is still a good option for low budget traveller. A brownie point is that, it's next to my favorite cafe at Phnom Penh (my rave here) and 5 mins walk to the Royal Palace. I just hope that its management can take better care of the place, as I could totally see how nice it looked at the very beginning.
These are my 3 recommendations for Phnom Penh hotels from my personal experience. I still had a handful on my wish-list that I didn't get the chance to try. With the fast development of the city, I'm sure there will be new interesting hotels coming up every year, which will soon outdate this post. Can't wait to go back and if you have your favorite, do share with me! :)