Among the Ruins

The Sofitel Royal Angkor offers welcome comfort for weary explorers

By: Eleanor M. Wilson

SIEM REAP, Cambodia From that first drive up the long curved entrance to the Sofitel Royal Angkor Hotel, peacefulness takes over. Perhaps it’s the prime location closest to those famous Angkor Wat ruins or the smiling, bowing greeting that awaits you at the door. Somehow, the feeling of sanctuary connects very well with those ancient temple mysteries nearby.

The comfortable yet elegant lobby, a beautiful Cambodian silk scarf across your bed, massage mats draped in soft cotton curtains, the ever-present attentive staff, all these elements contribute to the feeling of Asian dignity so prevalent here.

Rooms in three-story blocks with elevators are set to the back of the property, while lakes, lagoons, ponds, bridges, fountains and broad lawns form a centerpiece with the lobby and restaurants. The pool, spa and fitness center occupy an adjoining landscaped niche. In one lake, a traditional Cambodian sala (pavilion) invites relaxation and meditation.

“Most American guests come as an extension of a trip to Thailand or Vietnam,” said Franck Loison, Executive Assistant Manager at Sofitel Royal Angkor. “They book a three- or four-night package, which includes two days of guided explorations at the temples of Angkor Wat, and wish they’d stayed longer.”

Angkor Wat, an amazing display of 72 major monuments, is the largest temple complex in the world, and indisputably, the most impressive site in Cambodia. Several tour operators offer hotel/tour packages here.

Founded in the early 9th century as the capital of the Khmer State, the “Lost City of Angkor” was rediscovered in the late 19th century and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.

By this time, the entire collection of temples, monuments, palaces and statues had fallen into ruins. These years of neglect are accentuated at Ta Prohm, where tall trees and vines grow right out of the ancient walls. Yet intricate carvings remain remarkably intact, particularly at a few of the sites.

Today, international archeologists are hard at work restoring these treasures, a daunting task from the standpoint of size alone.

At sunset, if the sky is cloudless, the view from Phnom Bakheng Mountain reflects the sun’s golden glow on Angkor Wat’s five temples. Getting to this vantage point is quite a climb, but tours can include the option of an elephant ride to the top. It’s a unique experience clients won’t forget, and very popular, so be sure to reserve it for clients in advance.

Books, maps and CD-ROMs on Angkor ruins are stocked in “The Sanctuary,” Sofitel’s corner library overlooking the tropical garden.

Angkor Spa, a tranquil oasis, offers the perfect treatment after a day’s exploration. Guests choose from an exotic menu of scrubs and wraps. Note: In addition to the price of the massage, guests pay extra for the use of couples rooms and other special treatment rooms.

Sofitel’s gracious attention doesn’t end at the hotel. The Royal Angkor Lounge is now open at Siem Reap airport. Clients can await their flights in comfort, with a full buffet meal and drinks, for $6 per person. This could make a nice gift to your clients, supplementing their superb Sofitel Royal Angkor stay in exotic Cambodia.

Sofitel Royal Angkor

Vithei Charles de Gaulle, Khum Svay Dang Kum, Siem Reap, Kingdom of Cambodia 800-221-4542, fax: 855-63-96-46-10 E-mail:

Hits: Stylishly appointed rooms. Five-minute drive to Angkor temples. Dining choices from Leaf of the Stone Teppenyaki or French delicacies in Mahout’s Dream, to a pizza bar and bakery case. Shopping on premises for local art, crafts and souvenirs.

Misses: No shuttles around property, but provisions made for guests needing assistance.

Plugging In: Rooms have IDD phones, Internet access and satellite TV. In-room fax machines are available. Communication Center offers secretarial service, computer, photocopying, translation and Internet access.

Be Aware: The Angkor complex involves walking over crumbling walls, tree roots and uneven stairs. Clients should pack sturdy shoes. Ground tours are available through the hotel that include car, driver and English-speaking guide. Book when reserving the room, and ask for the elephant ride as part of it.

Clientele: Travelers interested in seeing the world’s wonders while enjoying four-star accommodations. The hotel is fully equipped for groups and meetings of up to 200 persons as well.

Rates: Superior and deluxe run $280 to $340 single/double, including daily breakfast and government tax. Junior suites are $420, and executive one-bedroom suites, $605. The Presidential Suite is $1,815.

Commission: 10 percent on direct room reservations. Book hotel and tour package through wholesalers for full commission on both segments.