Like to boogie? With Egyptian-cum-Angkorian architecture, the elaborate new Pyramid Club steps up the nightlife options on the outskirts of Siem Reap
Photo by: PETER OLSZEWSKI
General manager Ray Kirit sits atop the Pyramid.
IT stands out like a mercurochromed thumb on the outskirts of Siem Reap, and it can't be ignored because it's so huge, so garishly coloured, so bizarrely architectured.
It's King Tut meets King Jayavarman, and it's the newest thing in town: the million-dollar Pyramid Mega Entertainment Club, a one-hectare-plus nightlife and leisure complex that will comprise a 350-person-capacity uber-flash disco with 16 VIP rooms, a bistro, a seafood restaurant, a beer garden and the ubiquitous karaoke lounge. Plus a first, not only for Siem Reap but also for Cambodia: an outdoor paintball centre.
As part of this year's rapid urbanisation of Siem Reap, the Pyramid complex is the first new kid on the block off and running in what is shaping up as an entertainment venue surge.
As for the King Tut-King Jayarvan architecture, Pyramid general manager Ray Kirit explains, "There is a law in Siem Reap that you cannot have a building without a touch of Cambodian culture in the design.
"We first started building it with an Egyptian pyramid theme, with the sphinxes, the King Tut mummies. We even brought papyrus scrolls from Egypt to copy for all the murals on the walls.
"But then we learned that we had to adhere to Siem Reap law, and that's why a different roof was built, to respect the culture. After we added Cambodian roofing and other touches, we discovered we even had to change the fencing in front of the complex."
The complex is now almost ready for phase one of its launch, and October 31 has been earmarked for the disco and karaoke hall grand opening, with a golden Halloween costume party.
Ray Kirit, who served a two-year stint as general manager of Phnom Penh's Riverhouse Restaurant and Lounge, said the centre has cost "over US$1 million to date and that will probably double by the time it's completely finished".
The complex is owned by five Cambodian brothers, led by chairman Rithy Sear, who also owns Thai Cargo at Phnom Penh's Hong Kong Centre. Youngest brother Tony is the CEO.
Target market is mainly the young Cambodian professional class, a recently-emerged sector in Siem Reap that's once again linked to urbanisation and the swing away from Siem Reap being just a tourist town. Ray Kirit wants to attract add-on niches at both ends of his core market.
"One of our niche markets is one that only we are catering to in Siem Reap - Cambodian rich people. There aren't many places for them to go in Siem Reap. There are a few high-end restaurants, and after that it is just karaoke. They don't have a classy disco where they can hang out. Plus we will also provide VIP comfort. These people want their privacy, and they don't want to mingle. They want to be pampered.
"And even though that rich market is limited, mainly businessmen and officials, I think it's a market worth attracting."
At the other end of the spectrum, Kirit wants to attract "colours" - expats of different nationalities, including backpackers.
"Yes, even backpackers although they only want discounted drinks or will sit on one cocktail for three hours. But they know how to party, they know about disco clubs.
"And this is attractive to Cambodians who like to be in a party atmosphere where there are different colours, different cultures."
Fun and games
When it comes to new entertainment centres in Siem Reap, that's not all folks.
Also on the drawing board is the $75 million Hollywood-style The Kingdom of Dreams, an Angkor-themed water park and night-time entertainment venue that's a joint venture between Cambodian-based Creative Entertainment Ltd and US-based Bridge Capital LLC.
Soon tourists can come to Siem Reap to not only see Angkor the temples, but also to view Angkor the movie via an "Angkor Special Wide Screen Film Experience" in a 400-seat air-conditioned theatre. The $10 million "IMAX-type" movie, an historical opus, will be produced by Brad Krevoy's Motion Picture Corporation of America, best known for feature comedies a la Dumb and Dumber.
The theatre will be part of a 35-hectare complex that will feature yet more hotels - a five-star, 400-room hotel and a three-star, 200-room hotel - plus yet another shopping gallery, an indoor and outdoor foot massage area, a bar, a food court, a ten-screen multiplex cinema and the Lost City of Angkor Water Park. By day, this will be a "river' that takes tourists through Angkor-themed caves and stone carving outcrops, and at night a digital laser that will be projected onto the water.
Ground breaking for this venture is scheduled for January 2009.