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Siem Reap Scene...

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New academic year for tourism school

The Paul Dubrule Hotel and Tourism School officially opened its 2008-09 academic year last week with 249 students.  

The opening ceremony was presided over by Siem Reap deputy governor Mao Vuthy; Dirk-Jan Rijks, vice president-human resources for Sofitel Asia Pacific; and Didier Lamoot, general manager of Sofitel Angkor Resort and Spa, patron of this new academic  year.

Mao Vuthy underlined the importance of such a training school in enhancing the standard of service for visitors to the Kingdom, and in providing the best level of education to Khmer youths in hospitality and tourism, a big employment sector.

In July, 192 students graduated from the 2007-08 academic year, and the school now reports that 90 percent of those graduates have found jobs in four- and five-star hotels in Siem Reap.

The school's aim is to contribute to the sustainable development of tourism in Cambodia by offering hospitality education through various nine-month to two- year training programs such as front office and housekeeping, restaurant, wine and bar, cooking, pastry and bakery, and tourism and travel industry services, as well as through short-course training programs that cater to small hotels and guesthouses, or locally run restaurants.

Paul Dubrule Hotel and Tourism School received its first batch of students in October 2002 and so far has trained more than a thousand students in the hospitality and tourism fields.

International school  enrolls 50th student

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Photo by: Peter Olszewski

International School of Siem Reap director Henry Kernick upholds standards.

The International School of Siem Reap, not to be confused with the Siem Reap International School, has just broken what it calls the "50-barrier".

The school's director, Henry Kernick, said the school, which officially opened in June 2007, now has 52 students.

Kernick claims the facility is one of only two schools in Siem Reap providing a "genuine internationally-accepted curriculum" but points out that, in some ways, the high standard has hindered the commercial success of the school.

He said a lot of schools "cheat" by providing easy courses and quick certificates for small financial outlay, and the more rigorous learning discipline at his school, which teaches both Khmer and expat kids, deters some parents from handing over tutelage fees.

"We maintain a standard by teaching a British curriculum, and this makes it difficult for some Khmer students," he said.

Kernick has faced further difficulties in recent months by losing the financial backing of an influential Khmer businessman, which included rent-free premises. The loss of business backing was stressful, and Kernick said he's been forced to fund operating costs from his own finances.

The school has yet to achieve economic sustainability, but he's obviously hopeful that will soon change and adds that some Khmer families of students have been generous.

Event launches angkor wat legend

The new season for The Legend of Angkor Wat stage spectacular, produced by Bayon TV and Bayon CM Organiser in Siem Reap, will be launched on Saturday night at the Angkor Palace Resort and Spa ballroom.

The show will run for six weeks, from December 5 to January 31, and launch night includes a behind-the-scenes insight into the making of the show.

There will be a five-minute preview of the opening stage performance and a 15-minute talk about the Angkor Wat legend by Proeung Chhieng, vice rector and dean of the faculty of choreographic arts at Phnom Penh's University of Fine Arts.

After that, guests will take to the dance floor to bop away the evening with tunes provided by a live DJ.

Halloween party promises to thrill

Tomorrow night is horror time for expats, particularly those of American persuasion, and Angkor What? Bar's legendary Halloween costume party promises to be as messy as usual.

The bar's promotional poster is about as scary as it gets, featuring a Thriller photo of a real live horror, Michael Jackson, with bizarro fight-night make-up.

Just to make sure that everybody ends the night well and truly tanked, Angkor What? has organized a  warm-up pre-party pub crawl that starts at 7pm at the X-Bar and then "swiftly haunts" a variety of bars in the old market area.

The trick-or-treating will then continue at the Angkor What? Bar until late. But this year the bar hasn't got the night all to itself - the Pyramid Mega Entertainment Club is sure to steal some of its thunder with its grand opening night spectacular - a golden Halloween costume party that will rage from 8pm until dawn out on National Road 6 near the Zhong Kao Su bus terminal.

Woodworking shops get the ax

Gentrification has struck downtown again, this time purging riverside's Pokambor Avenue of the series of small woodworking shops near the Angkor Trade Centre.

The shops all mysteriously vanished this week, and the shop fronts have been covered with yet more tin.

A forest ranger, who declined to be named, told Scene the shops had been moved out because they were deemed not in keeping with the nature of the tourism-oriented area.

The shops have all been banished to nowheresville, somewhere out back of beyond the Zhong Kao Su bus terminal near National Road 6 on the edge of town

The ranger said he believed no decision had yet been made about what will happen to the sites, but it's a fair bet they will be snapped up by developers because such riverside sites are prime property.

Granted the shops were sawdust ridden and messy, but they also provided a glimpse of Khmer cultural life, and tourists would in fact often pause and watch woodworkers carve ornate bed heads, chairs and cupboards with little more than hammer and chisel.

Ree hotel opens amid tourism slowdown

News from the Siem Reap hotel circuit is becoming increasingly grim, with managers reporting a spate of cancellations in the last week and Pub Street looking deserted some nights.

Still, several new hotels are scheduled to open into this gloomy atmosphere.

The Ree Hotel, for instance, tentatively scheduled to open on October 1, will have a soft opening on Saturday with a "grand launch" on a date yet to be determined.

This large four-star hotel was formerly known as the Preah Khan Hotel on National Road 6 and for most of this year has been closed.

But in May the renovators moved in, preparing the imposing 140-room four-year-old hotel's façade for a major makeover.

At one stage the hotel was advertised for sale for $US16.2 million, and an agent said this was due to "financial difficulties".

But this week, financial controller Kim Nararith told Scene that the hotel was still under the ownership of Singapore's 3T Investment Holding Co Ltd.

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