Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Grand old dame

The Hotel Renakse - a decade ago
One of the grand old dames of Phnom Penh, the Hotel Renakse is in the news todays as it looks like this ageing French colonial relic is up for sale, alongwith just about everything else in this city. It's owned by the ruling Cambodian People's Party, as it was the original headquarters of their predecessor, the Kampuchea People's Revolutionary Party in 1979 after the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge, and although leased to the hotel manager, it seems someone somewhere is trying to make a fast buck. I haven't had time to do any research but my recollection is that the Renakse was built in the late 1800s and was previously the main Cambodian Court. It's located directly opposite the Royal Palace and occupies a prime piece of real estate of some 6,500 square metres between the royal residence and the Tonle Sap River. As one of the city's oldest hotels, it has been showing its age for many years though some of its large rooms have been renovated and the outside walls given a lick of paint in recent times. I stayed there many moons ago, actually looking back it was a decade ago and it was very run-down at that time. I remember vividly going to use the toilet for the first time just as another power-cut struck, and as I shone my torch into the murky bathroom, I could see a long trail of ants scurrying across the toilet seat. It was not a good introduction to the hotel - which on first, second and last impressions was pretty dilapidated with peeling walls, broken furniture, non-existent staff and a musty smell that goes with something old and not looked after. I keep meaning to pop my head in again to check its current status, but keep forgetting.


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