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POTW - Home is where the pools are

By: Alison Jarvis Posted: July-27-2011 in
Alison Jarvis

Just two blocks south of Le Royal on Street 102, lays two adjoining buildings. One was built in 1998 and the second completed only this year. Whilst the first captures a genteel English colonialism, the second offers international designer chic. Both offer accommodation aimed at the increasing numbers of expatriates working in Phnom Penh.

These complementary structures greet you in a space that was formally an exclusive restaurant. It is now a reception area, overarched by a white gothic ceiling, which, against the blue backdrop of the first of three swimming pools give the place a quasi Mediterranean ambiance. Pictures of Cambodian history deck the walls and take the chill off the perfect white.

The reception desk is positioned to the left so that the guest’s line of vision is drawn to the pool behind the entrance foyer. Tables and chairs befitting afternoon tea, and sun loungers border the water. Green, well tended foliage decorates the walls of the surrounding apartments, adding moisture and vibrancy to an otherwise hot climate. This lush epicenter of what is known as Colonial Mansions is just one of the reasons an expat might move into this competitor on the serviced apartment scene.

Frederic Chan of CBRE is unhesitant as he confirms that “Quality, knowing what expats need and charming architecture” are the Mansions’ unique selling points. After all, there is a glut of serviced apartments in Phnom Penh all vying for the attentions of foreigners and Frederic has the credentials both as an expat and property manager to be able to analyse market demand.

Frederic is French Vietnamese, and has lived in Cambodia since 2007 having left a role at Savills in Vietnam to take up the challenge of overseeing the construction of the new part of the Mansions, appropriately named CM II.

His role for me however, was as a guide to accompany me around this complex, which he runs like a high calibre hotel. With his daughter in tow, Frederic led me past the elegant aesthetic of a spiral staircase, and into one of three lifts which serve the flats.

Our first (very smooth) stop was the Penthouse.

The Penthouse is a luxurious space, with its own bar, and balcony garden. As you recline and survey the unmistakable skyline of Phnom Penh’s Wat Phnom, Raffles or the US Embassy, you can forget about the practicalities of a more regular existence. Trained staff clean your apartment daily, maintenance is carried out weekly and your very own gardener tends to your balcony garden plants. And all this whilst your vehicle sits safe in the underground car park.

The American furnishings and fittings are unabashedly expensive and seem apt for a building that French Khmer architects labored for five years to complete.

I was invited to sample a 7th floor three bed apartment for the night. The concierge showed me to my room and deftly demonstrated how to use the air conditioning unit, the DVD player and the phone, which links you umbilically to the 24 hour reception service. There is a reassuring consistency to the decor and facilities in the suite compared to those in The Penthouse. Frederic also offered a reminder that the 5th floor pool, smaller and more private than its ground floor sister, is available for all residents.

Each bedroom has its own wall-mounted, flat-screen television and a digital alarm clock. The master bedroom has an ensuite bathroom with power showers. The free standing shower has a temperature gauge to allow you to select just how hot you want your shower. The second unit is identical but is in the bath, a rare feature in anything but a hotel here in Phnom Penh. Toiletries are provided as standard and the often missing hairdryer is at your disposal.

The bed, with its white sheets and six pillows is symbolic of the overall comfort that Frederic is keen to provide. You don’t actually need six pillows and a downy duvet to sleep, but you would have to be seriously distracted not to notice just how soft those pillows are and how orthopedic the bed is. CM II does not strive for ‘good enough’, it strives to create a life style for the expat that enables him or her to actively enjoy, rather than cope with the other frustrations that living in the developing world brings. And that means living to international standards of excellence.

The lounge, kitchen and dining room form the open center of the apartment. When you are not relaxing on the chez longue, you can prepare your food in the kitchen which comes equipped with cooker, microwave, rice cooker and toaster, together with all conceivable cutlery and crockery and a fridge freezer.

Where often, Door to Door, Phnom Penh’s takeout bible is the daily routine, at CMII, home cooking is possible. Instead of D2D on the coffee table, a copy of Pocket Book Cambodia’s ‘’Elite’’ publication, which advertises exclusive high end products and services, including Raffles Hotel takes pride of place. CMII, whilst
aiming primarily at the leasehold market, also welcomes short term visitors to Phnom Penh and does not, it seems, shy away from competition from its better established rivals.

The flooring, both wooden and carpeted, is sound proofed so any noise activity from surrounding flats is muted. And so, suitably refreshed, I woke up naturally and looked outside over the pool to the sight of a cleaner sweeping the dust away from the water.

It appears that the pristine veneer of CMII is backed up by hard graft. Beneath the artifice of French design lie a manned car park with 16 spaces for cars and a moto park together with a washing room where the Cambodian staff does the tenants’ washing and ironing. The car park also houses a power generator which kicks in when the power cuts in Phnom Penh affect Street 102.

Expats do not necessarily need a lift, a bath, a pool or to be waited on hand and foot to function. However, the expat bubble offered by Colonial Mansions, could very well be the respite from an otherwise tough environment that that they want.

Colonial Mansions


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