Dec 29 2012
Located in the mostly residential Tonle Bassac area, The Willow offers just 16 air-con rooms in a building shaded by a series of tall trees — hence the name — and is a good option if you want to spend a little more than a backpacker for a touch of luxury, but still enjoy the vibe of a friendly traveller joint.
The Willow is in an older-style building, and although it was fully renovated it retains some of the original quirky design features, such as slightly precarious but prettily ornamented spiral staircases and, shall we say, enthusiastic wood panelling, which ends up lending a charming and quite unique atmosphere. Rooms themselves have been completely refurbished, with lovely cool tiles underfoot — some colonial-style patterned ones add to the ambiance — and are in tiptop condition.
The mattress and bed linen were rather sumptuous for the price point (by far the best we luxuriated in during a recent stay of four places in Phnom Penh in a week, including The Plantation, where you’ve got to extract the duvet from the cupboard if you’d like to use it). Amenities include tea- and coffee-making facilities, wall-mounted flat-screen TVs, drinking water, minibar, safe and free WiFi (which works). Bathrooms have walk in rainfall shower and streamlined basin and bench, and though they don’t have too much character, they are in pristine condition. Beds are four-poster, mosquito-net covered affairs, with wall decorations minimal but tasteful.
Grab one of the rooms with balconies if you can; they’re very compact but hidden behind trees, and a pleasant vantage point to listen to the hum of popular Sovanna restaurant just across the road, which barbecues beef, pork and whole fish on the pavement outside — it’s a local-style joint so popular with locals and expats alike a second outlet has opened down the street. We didn’t find it noisy in our room though.
The downstairs bar and restaurant, with its batik-cushion-clad lounges, is a calm place to relax and savour a good glass of wine, and we were impressed when the friendly staff unaskingly followed us to a new table to turn on the right fan to keep us cool.
Room prices vary a bit as they come in quite a few flavours, but they generally start at around $58, including breakfast — we left too early for a flight to this though. Most rooms can take an extra bed ($11 if for someone aged over seven,including breakfast).
If you’d rather something cheaper, Monument Hotel and Hotel Nine are good options; restaurants aside from Sovana in the vicinity include Java Cafe, where the coffee and drinks are particularly good, and Ngon Vietnamese restaurant, which has a view of the Independence Monument (and great fried spring rolls, even if you usually prefer fresh).
The Willow Hotel
House 1, Street 21, BKK1, Phnom PenhT: (023) 996 256
Disclaimer: While our resident Phnom Penh correspondent is a pal of the Australian half of the Australian-Khmer couple who own Willow, this piece was not written by her.
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