Siem Reap saw the opening of the stunningly renovated Foreign Correspondents Club Angkor in late 2019. And this year the boutique hotel is set to welcome children, with family-sized suites nearing completion. Carolynne Dear files copy from the historic hacks’ hang-out.
The Mansion at FCC Angkor.
The FCC Angkor, Cambodia, emerged gleaming last year following an extensive and thoughtful renovation.
The heritage building was taken over by Avani Hotels & Resorts and was closed until late 2019 for renovation work. It re-opened as a boutique hotel and has this year added family rooms.
The original building, which was formerly the French governor’s house, has been transformed into The Mansion, an elegant restaurant complete with verandah, huge rattan wing-backed chairs, ceiling fans and an eclectic menu.
The hotel counts 80 guest rooms and suites split between two wings, each with its own saltwater pool nestled beneath the branches of the property’s fragrant frangipani trees.
The mansion house was built in 1917 and was home to the governor during the final decades of French colonial rule, until Cambodia was granted self-rule in 1946.
At this point it became a popular hang-out for celebrities and journalists, although it was never actually a foreign correspondents’ club. The FCC moniker came about when the FCC Hospitality Group acquired the building in the 1990s. The group also owns the Phnom Penh FCC, which was a former Foreign Correspondents’ Club.
The stunning garden pool is a welcome retreat from the heat.
The hotel is located more-or-less in the centre of town, adjacent to the Siem Reap river and opposite the Royal Residence and Royal Independence Gardens. The cafes, galleries and homeware and jewellery boutiques of Kandal Village are minutes away by tuk tuk, as are the temples of Angkor Wat.
The hotel itself is a gorgeous combination of tropical modernity and classic French colonialism. The ‘new bits’ segue sympathetically with the old and the Phnom Penh-based architects have succeeded in maintaining the cultural foundations of the property, with the historic mansion remaining the focal point.
The modern guest room wing to the rear of The Mansion is just two storeys high and decked out with plenty of trickling water features and gorgeous foliage - some of the trees are centuries old.
I was hosted in a gorgeous ground-floor Deluxe Courtyard room, which opened out onto one of the pools and was within waving distance of the pool bar and restaurant.
Hand-pressed Khmer tiles have been used in the bathrooms.
The clean, modern lines of my room were complemented by quirky nods to the hotel’s past. On the desk was a manual typewriter, a typed welcome note from the general manager curling out from behind the carbon ribbon. Other details included a Bakelite rotary telephone, an old-fashioned wireless, Khmer arts and Cambodian hand-pressed geometric tiles. The bed runner and chair cushions had been woven in neighbouring villages as part of the hotel’s outreach programme committed to empowering local women.
Having checked in, had a stretch in the pool and a wander around the the cute boutiques of nearby Kandal Village, it was soon dusk.
Scribe, a ‘new bit’ located at the front of the hotel in the beautifully lit gardens of The Mansion, is the place to be for cocktail hour. Tropical foliage, trickling water features and a deliciously mixed gin and tonic made for an entirely relaxing pre-dinner drink.
The menu at The Mansion covers all bases, with western favourites as well as local dishes. And the elegant interior is conducive to much lingering over after-dinner drinks.
On my second day, following a sumptuous breakfast at The Mansion (don’t miss the French pastries) I was collected bright and early by tuk tuk for a tour of the Angkor Wat complex. At that time of day, crowds were minimal and by the time the heat set-in at midday, I was ready to escape back to my lounger beside the frangipani-shaded pool.
Siem Reap is an easy weekend escape and FCC Angkor makes it rather special.
The new, family-size suites at FCC Angkor will be available later in 2020.
Asia Family Traveller was a guest of FCC Angkor.
This feature originally appeared in the February/March 2020 issue of Asia Family Traveller.