Travel Smart:
Southeast Asia’s Colonial Past

Gourmet’s Asia correspondent seeks out the romance of a bygone era in Singapore, Cambodia, and Burma.

There’s no shortage of colonial influence in Southeast Asia, but there is a lack of faithfully maintained architecture—with a few exceptions. Next time you’re in the neighborhood, check out these gems for a sip, a nibble, or a night.

The Amara Sanctuary Resort, Sentosa, Singapore
Most travelers see Sentosa as Singapore’s answer to Disney World. But long before the rides and water games were installed, the island served as a British military fortress. Today, this beautifully restored hotel, a melding of formal British tradition with the best of contemporary design, is home to the city’s finest Japanese restaurant, Si Bon, which is set in an old British chapel. 1 Larkhill Road, Sentosa, Singapore (011-65-6825-3888;; from $600)

The Fullerton, Singapore
Though dwarfed by skyscrapers, the Fullerton Building remains as stately a beacon in Singapore as it did in 1928, when it first opened. It was the city’s largest and most ambitious architectural venture at the time, housing the General Post Office, The Exchange, the Singapore Club, and various government offices. No other hotel does such a good job of marrying Colonial Singapore with its modern persona; book a balcony room overlooking the harbor, and see for yourself. 1 Fullerton Square, Singapore (011-65-6733-8388;; from $429)

Le Royal, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
One of Phnom Penh’s finest accommodations (ask for a room with a claw-foot tub), the French colonial hotel was refurbished and reopened under the Raffles name in 1997. The Andre Malraux and Somerset Maugham suites honor two of the numerous personalities who drew inspiration from Cambodia. You’ll find today’s expats and visiting celebrities at the nightly two-for-one happy hour on the ground floor Elephant Bar. 92 Rukhak Vithei, Phnom Penh (011-23-981-888;; from $425)

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
The “F,” as it’s known, isn’t really one of the dozens of officially recognized journalistic outposts worldwide. But that didn’t stop reporters and photographers from making it their home during the years of war, a coup, a coronation, and several elections. Today, the FCC attracts more tourists than scribes, but its prime riverfront location, in an old open-air French colonial villa, boasts some of the best people watching in town. Sisowash Quay. Phnom Penh (; from $60)

The Strand, Yangon, Myanmar
Stepping into the calm, cool lobby transports you instantly from the bustling Yangon riverfront, with its squeaky rickshaws and shouting vendors, to an oasis of serene formality. Even if you don’t stay at this classic, built in 1901 in Victorian style, you should pop into the Strand Bar for a drink and the unexpectedly fancy hors d’oeuvres. 92 Strand Road, Yangon (011-951-243-377;; from $550)

Sertl Says: The Hotel d’Angkor in Seam Reap is another colonial gem. It’s especially noteworthy now that so many cookie-cutter hotels, few of which come close to the grandeur of this old place, have sprouted up near the incredible Angkor Wat ruins. What other hotel can boast suites named for Jackie Kennedy and Charles de Gaulle, two former guests?

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