Marissa Carruthers checks in to a deserted Hyatt Regency Phnom Penh, the latest and most expansive five-star offering in the Cambodian capital.
If there’s one thing the current pandemic has taught us, it’s that we have absolutely no control over the future. Back in 2017, when terms such as “Covid-19”, “coronavirus”, “quarantine”, “lockdown” and “social distancing” did not form part of our daily vocabulary, Hyatt Regency Phnom Penh proudly broke ground in the Cambodian capital.
Tourism was booming – that year, the country welcomed 5.6 million international visitors marking an 11.8 percent year-on-year increase – and showed no sign of slowing. Major global chains were clamouring for a slice of the Cambodian pie and the pandemic’s normality of global travel bans, border closures and economic meltdowns were fictitious scenarios consigned to sci-fi movies and far-fetched Hollywood hits.
Fast-forward to Hyatt Regency’s slated opening of January 2021 and, in spite of the pandemic showing no sign of slowing and Cambodia having not welcomed a single tourist across its borders since April 2020, Hyatt decided to plough ahead – albeit on a scaled down level.
While filling the capital’s largest international five-star hotel’s 247 rooms may be a struggle, its various restaurants, meeting spaces, function rooms and bars have been put to good use by locals and expats wanting to try out the new five-star kid on the block.
Where Old and New Phnom Penh Collide
Sitting on leafy Street 178 in the heart of the city, the hotel sees old and new Cambodia seamlessly collide. The exquisitely renovated villa serves as the lobby and sets the tone for the rest of the property – sophisticated, modern and chic.
We checked-in at the King Palace View Deluxe room, walking from the lobby through the bustling Market Café. The lofty glass courthouse dotted with foliage serves food from breakfast until dinner and connects the lobby with 10- and 14-storey contemporary towers that house rooms, suites and rooftop restaurant.
In stark contrast to the lively Market Café, we pretty much have the accommodation side to ourselves. We step inside empty lifts and stroll along eerie still corridors akin to a scene from The Shining – the first time in my life, and I hope the last, I’m to experience this in one of Hyatt Regency’s vast properties.
Our 49sqm-room is perfectly adapted to both business and leisure travellers. Soothing soft tones feature throughout with our floor-to-ceiling windows that spill in light looking out on the nearby Royal Palace and confluence of the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers. A delightfully soft king-size bed dominates the room, with an additional work station and living area with sofa and table. A large marble bathroom houses a deep bathtub and separate rain shower and toilet.
Drinking and Dining at the Hyatt Regency Phnom Penh
In addition to the Market Café, drinking and dining options take in The Attic in the eaves of the colonial villa. The evening spot is reminiscent of an elegant 1920s’ whisky bar, with moody lighting, low ceilings and snug seating that caters well to privacy. A menu of hand-crafted cocktails, snacks and sharing platters is served.
Alternatively, FiveFive rooftop restaurant and bar sits on the 14th floor and offers an indoor or outdoor dining experience. While the menu is pretty meat-heavy, there are seafood and vegetarian options, all serviced to sweeping vistas of Phnom Penh. The Metropole Underground was slated to open in Q1 2021 as a 20th century metro-themed bar. However, the recent Covid community outbreak in the country – although nothing compared with western standards – will likely push this back.
Staying Safe at the Hyatt Regency Phnom Penh
Other amenities include a large swimming pool on the third floor. The oasis of tropical foliage, sun loungers and gazebos make it easy to forget you’re in the centre of chaotic capital life. Sadly, during my stay the spa wasn’t yet open. However, Jivapita Spa is now welcoming guests – dependant on any Covid restrictions in place. Catering to the business crowd, the hotel also features 1,400sqm of flexible meeting and conference spaces for up to 1,500 people.
Hyatt Regency Phnom Penh Photo Gallery
I guess one minor bonus to opening during these unprecedented times is you can design the hotel towards keeping coronavirus at bay. Hand sanitisers dot the property, social distancing has been well considered, QR code menus are available for in-room dining and throughout F&B outlets, and sticker seals reassure rooms have been sanitised as well as other items, such as remotes. Temperatures are taken on arrival and staff wear masks. Oh, the times we live in.
While Hyatt Regency’s dreams of further stamping the Cambodian capital on international visitors’ maps may have been temporarily shattered, I’m in no doubt that once travel resumes its corridors will be alive with chatter, lifts will irritatingly stop at every floor and its lobby filled with guests from across the globe checking-in.
Hyatt Regency Phnom Penh Cambodia
55 Street 178, Sangkat Chey Chumnas, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
W: click here.