In 1967, Jackie Kennedy made a private pilgrimage to Cambodia to see the temples at Angkor. The wanderings of the wife of the recently assassinated US President John Kennedy charmed the world, with Life magazine chronicling her tour in photos that have since become classics. Those pictures show an ever-stylish Kennedy in a post-colonial idyll, a place yet to be ravaged by the horrors of the Vietnam War, the Killing Fields of Pol Pot and the devastation of the Khmer Rouge.
One of Kennedy’s stops was the iconic Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor in Siem Reap, with its six hectares of lush gardens and glorious, glistening centrepiece, a 35-metre swimming pool that is almost as wide as it is long.
Today, Cambodia is an Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) tourism powerhouse, with visitor numbers growing rapidly. To maintain its position as a grand dame of Cambodian hospitality, Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor closed for six months to undergo an extensive renovation. Now reopened, the 1932 property retains the old-world French colonial charm of Kennedy’s visit, but with its landmark facade spruced and primped, and original features such as the teak and wrought-iron cage elevator carefully preserved.
At the same time, technical and luxury standards have been heightened to meet high-end 21st-century expectations, particularly of the venerable Raffles brand, with the 119 rooms and suites now offering Segafredo coffee machines, USB charging stations, Simmons pillow-top mattresses and rain showers.
But the mod-cons come alongside traditional ceiling fans, brass rotary telephones and claw-foot bath tubs, meaning those who seek to relive the glamour of Kennedy’s legendary sojourn can still happily lay their pillbox hat here, and enjoy a new restaurant, swish bar, kids’ club and a range of fabulous on-site activities such as culinary garden tours and Singapore Sling masterclasses.
From about $400 a night. See raffles.com