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Olivier Roulin at his new on-land venue, Harbour.
Olivier Roulin at his new on-land venue, Harbour. NICKY SULLIVAN

All the fun of a sea harbour on land

Tattoo artist Olivier Roulin is renovating a site near Sok San Road for The Harbour, his ambitious new venture with a strong maritime theme that will feature a tattoo studio, shop, bar, beach hangout, cinema, events venue, resting place, refuge, exchange and anything else that might come to the mind of the restless Frenchman. The only thing that will be missing is an actual sea.

But for Roulin, the sea is not a question of geography. It’s a notion that encapsulates a readiness for adventure and a willingness to share, and these ideas underpin his plans for his Harbour venue.

But the naval aesthetics are there too. The building is in a flood-prone area so, as part of a rather ingenious flood management system that Roulin devised, visitors enter the site across bamboo pontoons built on artificial causeways that deliver them dry-footed to the main building, or to the beach bar and lounge area, or to the upstairs ‘deck.’

There are also two ‘beaches’ and the smaller is the latest resting place for Roulin’s famous boat, which used to ply the Tonle Sap but which lately served as a sofa in Roulin’s tattoo studio.

Now it is being re-rigged with a mast and sail to act as a beacon, calling in travellers or passers-by.

The other bigger ‘beach’ will be an open air bar and lounge area that will function as a venue and will also later have a large screen outdoor cinema, although Roulin reckons the cinema won’t be ready until November.

On the other hand, the tattoo-studio and shop in the main building have just opened. There is room for two tattooists to work here, and Roulin is looking to recruit an apprentice to work alongside him.

The shop will mostly sell jewellery which Roulin will source from visiting travellers, and he’s also talking to designers in town retailing their products too.

“I want to create something like the old comptoirs that they had in ports where people used to exchange ideas, advice and things they needed,” he says. “They were treasure chests of everything you could want for your journey.”

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