Sleep: Phnom Penh's charming boutique hotels

I've had a few people ask me where to stay in Phnom Penh lately.  I tend to think that people who live in a place are often not the best people to give advice on where to stay, given that you don't often stay in hotels in your home city.  But,having had to give this advice more than once, I've pulled together a little list of highly recommended boutique hotels to forward to friends who as for suggestions. 

Phnom Penh seems to be bursting at the seams with charming boutique hotels.  Of course there are many guesthouses that you can stay in for less, but, if your budget allows it, I'd recommend trying out one of the following little gems. (These are places that friends have stayed at or have been recommended to me - or both.  But I haven't stayed myself - although I'd love to!)

The Pavillion

Image from here
Image sourced here
The Pavillion is always my number 1 recommendation.  Friends have stayed here and not been disappointed.  The colonial building oozes charm.  There's a gorgeous pool, surrounded by lush gardens and daybeds.  You could easily while away an afternoon here with a book and a drink, taking a dip whenever you got a bit too warm.

There are a variety of room sizes and the ones I've seen are not big, but they are nicely fitted out.  And, let's face it, how much time were you only need a place to sleep, right?  The location is great, in a quiet street, but walking distance to many attractions (National Museum, Palace, Independence Monument) and just around the corner from the cute boutiques and fabulous cafes (like here and here) on Street 240.

If you are planning to stay here in high season, make sure you book early.  Rooms start from $55 per night including breakfast (more in high season).

The Blue Lime

Image sourced here
Image sourced here
The Blue Lime is a 'sister' hotel of the Pavillion.  It's slightly cheaper, starting from $40 per night including breakfast.  The location, a small alley behind the National Museum, is as good as the Pavillion.  The design is much more modern and urban, and lacks some of the charm of the Pavillion. But, like its sister hotel, it also has a great pool with lots of lovely shady sun beds. 

If you've got kids, try the Kabiki, part of the same group of hotels.

Villa Paradiso

Image sourced here
Image sourced here
I wrote about the Villa Paradiso's lovely pool and spa here. But the hotel itself is lovely too.  It's housed in a grand villa with lovely spacious rooms, and each room is individually furnished with a specific theme.  Our friends have stayed in the music room, which has a large bathroom with a huge bathtub (a rare treat in Phnom Penh), and a lovely balcony. 

They've also got a large selection of inhouse movies and you'll find your own little espresso machine in your room so that you can get your caffeine fix before you leave the room. And of course, there's the shady pool and huge jacuzzi perfect to recharge those tired muscles after traipsing around in the heat all day.

The location is a few blocks or a short tuk-tuk ride from all the sights and action.  Rooms start from $70 per night including breakfast.

Raffles Hotel le Royal

Image from here
Image sourced here
Okay, so this is not technically a boutique hotel, but if you want to splurge, this would be my pick.  It is expensive, but as far as I'm concerned this is the hotel in Phnom Penh.  I haven't checked out the rooms but the building's Colonial charm won me over the first time I set foot in it.  There's a great pool, and don't forget happy hour at the Elephant Bar.

My only complaint about Raffles is it is a bit out of the way (near Wat Phnom).  But there are plenty of tuk-tuks waiting outside at any hour of the day.

Room rates typically start from around $240, but they often have special offers on their website, so keep an eye out if you're interested in staying here.

If you're looking for more ideas, check out my posts on White Mansion or the Governor's House.
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Eat: Working my way through the menu at Taqueria Corona

Yes, it is.
Have you ever discovered a restaurant and loved it so much that you went back at every opportunity just so you could work your way through the menu?  I have. 

I finally made it to Taqueria Corona for what is supposed to be some of the best Mexican food in Phnom Penh.  Now let me say right now that I am far from an expert on Mexican food, and a total wimp when it comes to chillis, so I am in no position to tell you how authentic the food here is. But what I can tell you is that it tastes great (and it looks like the real deal). 

They also serve my favourite summer drink, Sangria, in huge glasses (the Mojitos aren't bad either).

Since first discovering this place a few weeks ago, I have used every excuse I can find to go back and try as much as I can on their small but good menu.  Most dishes come with your choice of meat and I am a huge fan of the Barbacoa - slow-cooked marinated beef.  I even get it on my nachos (by special request).

I know it's a big statement, but I'm pretty sure these are the best (and prettiest) nachos I've ever tasted. The purple corn chips are crispy and fresh, as is the salsa, there's a few jalapenos thrown in to give it a little kick and it's all covered in generous amounts of meat, sour cream and cheese (and beans if you want them).

In my many visits I've also tried the excellent red enchiladas, and the soft tacos.  The Boy has been working his way through the burgers which are also great.  Unfortunately most of the photos I've taken look like they were taken by a ballerina mid-pirouette (I blame the mood-lighting), but if you're interested take a look.

A main course here will set you back around $6-8, but the servings are generous.  My only complaint is that there are no sweets... but you could always grab ice-cream at the Blue Pumpkin afterwards ; )

You'll find Taqueria Corona on Street 51 between Streets 242 and 254 (just a couple of blocks from the Independence Monument).

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Eat: Feeding my addiction at Chocolate by the Shop

I used to be a chocoholic. I didn't eat it every day, nor did I eat a lot of it, but we always had chocolate in the house.  I just needed to know it was there when I needed it, y'know.

Then we moved to Cambodia. Although we brought a stash with us, I was worried about what we would find (or more importantly, wouldn't be able to find) in Phnom Penh. Fortunately my fears that Phnom Penh would be a desolate wasteland as far as chocolate was concerned were totally unfounded. It's quite easy to source good quality chocolate here. But my favourite place to get a 'fix' is here:

I actually stumbled on Chocolate by The Shop (yes, the same crew responsible for my favourite lunchtime haunt) just after they opened on my first visit to Phnom Penh.  They were at the old shop a few doors down from The Shop on Street 240.  The Belgian girl behind the counter eagerly showed us the chocolate making equipment, explained where the ingredients were sourced and about the chocolate maker.

The chocolate factory is still on display at the new store on Street 63.  The new store is gorgeous, but the most beautiful part is the single display cabinet, packed with chocolates of every variety imaginable. All as attractive sounding and looking as each other.

Choosing my spoils is almost as much fun as eating them. Bars are sold for around $3 (my favourite is the Praline), and the individual chocolates and truffles are about $6/100g (try the Kampong Speu caramel and the passionfruit), making them an affordable treat.

The only challenge is getting them home in the heat without having them turn into a soggy (but very tasty) mess.

If you get a craving, you can find Chocolate by The Shop on Street 63 (between Streets 322 and 334) in BKK.

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