Sunday, May 12, 2013

In Review: Dara Reang Sey Hotel, Phnom Penh

Dara Reang Sey Hotel, Phnom Penh

~ My flight from Athens, Greece, got me into Phnom Penh, Cambodia (by way of a transit stop in Bangkok, Thailand), at 6:00am local time early in February 2011. The haze that hung over the country as the plane approached Phnom Penh, provided plenty of warning for the heat and humidity that assailed me as I left the plane at the modest Phnom Penh International Airport.

After passing quickly through Customs, and paying twenty American dollars cash for a Cambodian visa, I was ready to begin my month long visit.

Thankfully, the driver sent to pick me up from the airport (for a $10 fee), was ready and waiting, and in no time at all he was weaving his way through Phnom Penh’s teeming streets towards the first of my five nights at the Dara Reang Sey Hotel.

Phnom Penh was chaotic. There were few traffic lights, lots of uniformed police, military, and other official types standing around, but few of them seemed to be doing much of anything―other than keeping a watchful eye on the passing river of tuk-tuks, bicycles, trucks and buses, vans and pedestrians, and the multitude of motorcycle riders. What few automobiles I could see, appeared to belong mostly to international non-government agencies of one type or other.

Large, comfortable bed in air-conditioned room.
I had booked a ‘Superior Single Room’ at the hotel, at the princely sum of US$26.67 per night. This included taxes and service charges, although breakfast would cost me an average of three dollars extra per day.

While many new international hotels are appearing on the skyline around Phnom Penh, the majority of the city’s hotels are for the most part, ‘housed’ in old, generally run-down looking buildings that may not seem like much at first glance, but which turn out to be quite well appointed given the general poverty that surrounds them.

The Dara Reang Sey Hotel is no exception. My nightly room fee of $26.67 is more than most Cambodians make in a month, so I had no reason to complain as I settled into my accommodations. While writing this entry, I thought it wise to check current prices at the hotel, and to my amazement, there has been no change in pricing since my stay there more than two years ago.

Bathroom was clean and well stocked
The Dara Reang Sey offers rooms in two categories: Standard, and Superior Rooms. Standard rooms range in price from $20/night (single occupancy), to $40/night for three people. Superior rooms range in price from $26.67/night (single), to $43/night for three guests.

Room amenities across all categories appear to be exactly the same, namely, air conditioning, mini-bar, telephone, Cable-TV, and bathroom. However, you should check specifically that these facilities and room rates are correct.

Under the Facilities section of the hotel website they write:

“There are 3 triple rooms, 33 double rooms and 7 single rooms all with air conditioning and 6 fan rooms, most of the rooms have a bathroom with hot shower, cable TV, mini bar and some with balcony Prices range from US$15-$35 all with air-conditioning room.”

The bold emphasis in the above quote is mine. I suspect some things have been ‘lost in translation’, which may account for the discrepancy in prices and facilities, so again you are advised to check with the hotel when making your booking.

The hotel does not have WiFi, or even wired Internet access in the rooms, but access to the Internet was free via computers located near the reception area. Numerous Internet caf├ęs can be found near the hotel, and these all seem to charge a very modest $1.00 per hour.

Restaurant
Image courtesy of hotel website
The hotel has its own restaurant, which is open daily from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm. The restaurant serves inexpensive Khmer, Chinese, Vegetarian, Western and Thai dishes. I ate breakfast here each morning, and rarely paid more than $3-$4 for a very generous meal.

The restaurant is at street level and has plenty of seating arranged on the sidewalk, from where you can watch the unfolding tapestry of street life in Phnom Penh. One of the drawbacks of sitting this close to the public however, are the beggars that will inevitably approach you while you are relaxing or eating. These unwelcome approaches are not confined to this hotel of course, but are a daily fact of life for western visitors wherever they may be in Cambodia―which is, after all, one of the poorest countries in South-East Asia.

Most of my evening meals were also taken here and I can certainly vouch for the ‘inexpensive’ claim. One of my journal entries notes: Dinner tonight was chicken salad, beef and noodle stir fry, two Heineken beers, a bowl of free peanuts, and some papaya fruit slices – all for just $10.00.

Modest facilities in my Dara Reang Sey hotel room
I rarely spent more than $10-$12 for an evening meal, and often spent less. As for the chicken salad and fresh fruit slices: I know, I know, don’t eat fresh fruit or salads while travelling in Asia―let alone other strange and exotic meals.

To heck with that, though. Sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind and immerse yourself as much as possible in the local culture, and if you do end up suffering from the local equivalent of Delhi Belly or Montezuma’s Revenge (which I did), put it down to experience―and have another fried grasshopper!

Finally, most of the staff at the hotel spoke English, with their proficiency ranging from basic to very good. All staff worked hard to ensure that my stay at the hotel was pleasant, safe and incident free―which it was, and I will conclude by stating that I would have no hesitation staying at the Dara Reang Sey Hotel again.

Note: There are two Dara Reang Sey hotels in Cambodia, with information about both available from the same website. The one reviewed here is in Phnom Penh, and the other is in Seam Reap. To book either of the hotels, select ‘Seam Reap’ or ‘Phnom Penh’ from the drop down menu under the Hotel label on the website’s main page.

More Information
Dara Reang Sey Hotel, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Skype: dara.reangsey.hotel.pp
Email: booking @ darareangsey.com 

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