The wide thoroughfares of Siem Reap’s delightful French Quarter, without doubt, bear many tales. This is especially true of the tree-lined Pokambor Avenue where the FCC Angkor (rooms from RM500++) is located. As buzzy motorised remorks (from the French word ‘remorque’) swoon past, one gets a funny sense that the past never goes away totally even after several fresh coats of paint. The remodelled the building (at the cost of US$7 million) with its prettily cultivated gardens and open-air terraces was the former residence of the French colonial governor and later, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club.
Now, the 80-key FCC Angkor, which is managed by Avani Hotels and Resorts, still retains the generosity of space and natural light imagined by architect Gary Fell. The outdoor Siem Reap River-facing Scribe is a classy reinvention of the original bar where journalists hung out, nursed gin and tonics, and jostled for career-making scoops.
The updated rooms sport quirky throwback fittings such as rotary dial telephones and old school typewriters. Besides these, Bangkok-based designer Malee Whitcraft’s collaboration with Cambodia-based Bloom Architecture on the interiors at the FCC Angkor results in artworks from ancient Khmer, quaint clocks, varnished sandstone, and gleaming bronze and earth colour palettes that are as much a style statement as they are a visual tribute to the region’s fertile red soil.
At The Mansion with its sophisticated tropical bistro setting, diners are served presumably favourite dishes of journalists who once were regulars. What’s on offer: precisely nuanced dishes that could range from delicately prepared fish and chips, tasty cous cous with stewed vegetables, commendable beef burgers as well as riffs of local fare like kampot pepper calamari, and wild arugula and banana blossom salad.
Things to do in Siem Reap, which seemingly is a city on the cusp of something great, include the unforgettable Angkor Wat as well as a nearby Kandal Village’s blossoming café, arts and crafts scene. Then again, one can just sun by FCC Angkor’s rectangular tree-fringed swimming pool. A good splash about is what memorable holidays are for.