Monday, August 27, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 - Le Méridien Angkor (Or How I Was Violated In My Own Room)

***This post is part 9 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

My stay at the Le Méridien Angkor started out wonderfully. It then devolved into the most surreal and downright terrifying experience I've ever had at a hotel. When I later met with the general manager, he commented that in his 22 years of working in the industry, this was an incident he'd never even heard of.

I arrived at the Le Méridien Angkor around early evening, and was immediately taken by the beautiful lobby area. The high ceilings and modern, yet stately, architecture really made for a good first impression. Check-in was smooth, as I was asked to relax in the sitting area while they prepared the paperwork. A cold welcome drink was also served.

As a Gold member, I was informed that I had been "upgraded" to a Starwood Preferred Guest room, although I believe these rooms just have a slightly better location or perhaps a better view. The interiors were identical to any standard room at the hotel. While I wasn't blown away when I entered, I was very happy with the elegant decor and spaciousness of the layout. I could have asked for a king bed since I was staying by myself, but the double beds were perfectly fine, and quite comfortable I might add. A nice welcome amenity, consisting of a fruit platter and sweet bread, was left by the sitting area.

I really liked how much space there was in the bathroom - enough for a separate tub and shower. However, one thing I really didn't like was the open window into the bedroom. A lot of hotels seem to think that an open window with wood shutters is chic or modern (or with the W mindset, even sexy)... but seriously, if I'm staying with a friend or acquaintance, I really don't want to hear their bowel tendencies amplified by the bathroom tile while I'm lying in bed, especially when they've eaten something bad! Luckily, I was traveling alone and didn't have to be concerned with such a scenario, so I went ahead and left the shutters wide open. Unfortunately, this would later come back to haunt me...

My room faced the central courtyard, and I had a nice view of the lush vegetation outside. However, because of the large overhangs outside every window, the room was consistently dark, and I found myself turning on the lights even during morning hours. You'll notice in the pictures that I had to turn on every light in the room to get a decent shot.

The breakfast buffet was held at the Angkor Royal Cafe, down a large hall from the main lobby. I thought the price was very reasonable for the great selection and variety. My favorite was the Asian noodle bar, which offered a delicious rice noodle soup cooked to order with any of the ingredients on display. There were plenty of pastries, fruits, cereals, and typical Eastern and Western hot breakfast items like bacon, sausage, french toast, congee, dim sum, etc. An omelet station with all the trimmings rounded out the wonderful buffet.

On the last night, I also had dinner at the Angkor Royal Cafe. Prices were quite a bit higher, and there were far less people dining. The food turned out to be just alright, which was a little disappointing. The French onion soup was a slight variation of the traditional serving method in a ramekin with melted gruyére. Strips of toast replaced the typical croutons, which was a shame because they turned into a soggy mush far too quickly. The grilled pork chops with mangos were quite good, but a little too sweet for my taste.

I really enjoyed the outdoor pool, which was surrounded by a "moat" filled with lotus plants. It also featured some cool Angkor-inspired sculptures. Behind the pool was the small gym, which I used a couple of times during my stay. There were two treadmills and one elliptical trainer, as well as a large set of free weights and some machines.

I was very satisfied with the Le Méridien Angkor throughout the four-night stay... that is, until the day prior to my departure. I had arrived back at the hotel early, after the last day of touring Angkor Wat, and I had planned on spending a quiet afternoon reading in my room. It turned out to be anything but.

I took a quick shower first, and was still completely naked in the bathroom when I suddenly heard a loud knock on my door. At first, I didn't bother answering since I remembered putting the privacy hanger on outside. However, a second, even louder, knock followed immediately. At that point, I managed to yell out, "I'm in the bathroom, come back later!" But before I could even finish my sentence, the door swung wide open and I was face to face with a male hotel employee.

Of course, I instantly covered up my privates with my hand as best I could, and just sort of stood there shell-shocked for about three seconds. The next couple of minutes are now just a blur in my head, but I do remember shouting out a few sentences resembling "What the hell are you doing?!" and "Get out of my room!" Logically, any hotel employee faced with this type of situation would have backed out immediately and shut the door right? Well, that's not what happened. In fact, he proceeded to yell back "I need to check mini-bar!" and barged straight into the room, while I was standing in the bathroom - naked.

All I remember was screaming at him to get out, but he just kept walking into the hallway towards the bedroom and yelling back that he was going to check the mini-bar. I was now becoming hysterical, throwing out all sorts of curse words, but nothing was working. This guy would not leave. Next thing I knew, he appeared in front of the open window between the bedroom and bathroom, staring straight at me while I was still covering my privates with my hands. I literally screamed at the top of my lungs, "I'M NAKED, GET THE #@*% OUT OF MY ROOM!" Yet he just kept pointing at the mini-bar, saying he needed to check it.

Maybe it was the sound of my ear-splitting voice filling the entire hotel floor, or perhaps I looked like I was about to clock him in the face, but the employee finally started to walk himself back towards the front door. I was able to get a towel wrapped around me and made a beeline for the telephone while telling him that I was calling security. My heart was still pounding at this point and my hands were shaking, but I picked up the phone and dialed the front desk.

The employee still had not left my room and was now standing at the entrance with the door propped open, begging me to not call. I screamed at him to shut the door at least three more times before it finally closed. After someone picked up the phone, I let loose a profanity-laced stream of consciousness that probably sounded more like someone having a psychotic episode than a guest making a complaint. But I eventually got the fact across that an employee had barged into my room while I was naked and had refused to leave. I demanded to speak with the general manager immediately, but I could tell she became nervous very quickly. She said she would call back in ten minutes.

Ten minutes passed and nothing. By now, I was still shaking from the anger, but I had regained a bit of composure. I called back and was resolute in demanding to speak to the general manager. I felt like she was playing games, saying that she was still trying and that she'd call back later. Right after I hung up, there was a knock at the door. When I opened it, a female employee, most likely the floor supervisor, started apologizing profusely. Perhaps if another hour had passed and I was in the right state of mind, I would have just let it go. But the adrenaline was pumping and I was still furious with what happened. Again, I demanded to see the general manager.

After a few more minutes with no sign of a phone call, I decided to go downstairs to the lobby and make my intentions clear. However, before I even reached the stairs, I ran into a large group of employees huddled around a senior-looking gentleman in the midst of a discussion. He stopped me and introduced himself as the assistant general manager. I firmly recounted the situation to him and stated that it was simply unacceptable for something like this to happen at any hotel, let alone a Le Méridien. Unfortunately, his response infuriated me even more, since it in no way resembled anything close to an apology. In fact, he proceeded to state that there needed to be an investigation to find out what exactly happened. Seeing that I was getting nowhere with him, I told him if he wasn't going to help, I would go downstairs and demand to see the general manager instead. Which is exactly what I did.

I charged down the stairs, with an entire contingency of hotel employees and the assistant general manager chasing after me. I went straight to the front desk and said in a loud and clear voice that I would like to see the general manager. Not wanting to cause a scene, the assistant general manager assured me that he would immediately ask the general manager to come out and see me, but that he was "injured" and would need some time. To be frank, I didn't believe him.

About ten minutes later, an older gentleman in crutches came hobbling out to the lobby, and I genuinely felt terrible about it. Maybe at that moment, I was knocked back into a sense of reality and my hot temper was finally diffused. The general manager's demeanor also helped immensely. He was calm and collected, with his first words to me being that he had heard about what happened, and no matter what the reason, there was no excuse for the hotel employee's behavior. I think that one remark set the tone for the entire conversation we had afterwards.

He listened intently while I detailed exactly what had transpired, and only stopped me at the end to say how sorry he was, and that he fully understood how violated I must have felt in the privacy of my own hotel room. Sensing that I was still a bit unsettled from the events, he suggested that I head up to my room to rest for a little while, and that he would meet with me at the Angkor Royal Cafe later in the afternoon. I agreed.

About two hours later, I went back downstairs and had a long and engaging chat with the general manager over coffee. He was extremely cordial and empathetic throughout the conversation, and I actually started to feel slightly embarrassed about the huge commotion I raised earlier. I even apologized for forcing him out of convalescence from his recent foot surgery. Finally, I told him that I certainly didn't want to see the employee fired for what happened. I understood that there was a misunderstanding, and he had simply entered the wrong room. The room whose mini-bar he needed to check was actually one floor directly above mine, and obviously nobody should have been inside at the time. In any case, he told me that the employee in question would clearly need to be retrained, and may be transferred to a different position for the time being.

Before I left, he offered to take care of the bill for my entire stay, including all meals and incidentals. Not only that, he would return the Starpoints I had used for my cash and points redemption as well. I was absolutely floored by his offer, and I felt a bit uncomfortable accepting it. He was emphatic about this resolution, however, so I thanked him profusely for the kind gesture.

I wasn't exactly sure how I should feel after returning to my room. Uneasy would probably be the best word I suppose. I began to realize how absolutely surreal and absurd the whole situation was. I simply could not believe something like this had just happened. On the bright side, I had perhaps the best hotel story of all time to tell my friends once I returned home!

And despite these crazy events, I would still recommend the Le Méridien Angkor in a heartbeat to anyone visiting Siem Reap. If anything, my positive experience with the general manager just solidified this view.


  1. "It's not what happens, but how you respond to it!".

    Nice work by the General Manager. Please don't feel uncomfortable about accepting his offer. A lot more has been offered and received for a lot less trouble.

  2. Violated?! Bahhhhh !!!
    Just another very good and typically american way to get rid of the bill! One doesn't complain in order to get a free stay: one does complain in order to get things right for the next guest and situation (it could even be yourself).
    Where's your fairplay or even your sense of humor? Couldn't you see that the employee was probably much more terrified than yourself? Haven´t you got a clue about how difficult it is in SEA to get staff to absorb let alone the occidental hotel parameters, not to speak about thinking twice about not complying with an order a superior gave him, in this case to check a minibar?!...
    Many times did I come through not so agreable moments in several hotels allover the world, but never ever did I authorize any complaint to be balanced with the hotel taking care of my bill! A gesture of appreciation from the GM (a bottle of wine or champagne sent to your room)is much more a gentleman's apology acceptance than the "pay my bill thing".
    And believe me, they will take your complaints much more seriously!
    Yours truly,
    Rodrigues Pereira
    (SPG Lifetime Platinum)

    1. Rodrigues, I appreciate your comment. I'm sure your definition of being violated is quite different from mine, but having a hotel employee refuse to leave my room while I am butt naked certainly qualifies in my book. In addition, you seem to make several assumptions about myself and the employee when you clearly don't have first-hand knowledge of the situation. If the employee was truly terrified, he certainly didn't show it when he barged into the room despite my initial protest. It was only after I began to yell at the top of my lungs that he started to remove himself. The reason why I was so adamant about seeing the GM was because I knew this would get swept under the rug if I didn't. The same failures in employee training would continue, and the next hotel guest may go through the same thing. That is not how ANY hotel should operate, let alone a world-class Le Méridien. And if you actually read my report carefully, you would have noticed that I took pains to protect the employee, because I certainly didn't want to see him fired for the offense - which is what the GM initially said would happen. Finally, I genuinely felt awkward about accepting the GM's offer, but he was insistent about this resolution. I certainly didn't request to have my bill taken care of, nor would I have raised any fuss if it wasn't. Thanks for reading.

  3. you´re an idiotic american indeed. In SEA countries hotel staff are asians, did u know it? Shouting just makes everything worse and asian people just tend to freeze.
    You as might have caused this poor man loose his job or at least get warning. For what? Because he saw your small penis or vagina?
    Surely nobody gives any credit for your actions. You should stay home in alabama!

    1. Why so angry? :) If you read my post carefully, you'll know that the employee certainly didn't "freeze". He barged right in and was even protesting as I yelled. The only reason why he left my room eventually was because I was yelling at him.

      And again, if you read carefully, you'll know that I made sure to tell the GM that I did NOT want to see the employee fired. However, you don't think his behavior at least requires some retraining or a warning? He's working at an international luxury hotel, you don't think he should abide by international standards since probably a majority of the guests are foreign? Your logic makes no sense.

      And finally, I am from California, and I am Asian myself. You should think before you spew vulgar and racist comments. Thanks for reading.