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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Siem Reap Scene 19 Mar 2009

Siem Reap Scene 19 Mar 2009

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PETER OLSZEWSKI

Nest founder Joe Polito at the site. 

NEST BEING BUILT

Siem Reap's flash new night spot, Nest Angkor cafe bar, is now scheduled to open on dusty Sivutha Boulevard on Monday, April 6. The driving force behind the project is former Hotel de la Paix general manager Joe Polito, who lives in Bali and runs the acclaimed Nest in Bangkok.

He told the Post on the weekend, "We are looking at April 6, and we're fairly confident that's going to happen. We did the same project in Bangkok and it was three months from design to opening, but this one has taken much longer."

The Bangkok Nest is on top of an existing building and did not require foundations to be laid. But Nest Angkor, an innovative open-air garden-style cafe constructed from PVC-canvas sails, needed a foundation and also  required the construction of a two-storey building behind the bar as a back-of-house support area with toilets and washrooms.

The newly appointed Nest general manager is Ivan Comizzoli, an Italian national who arrived in Cambodia in January.  He's had extensive international experience in cruise ship and hotel management, including a stint with Disney in the United States and some unusual African postings.

Director of Nest is Socheat Cheng, who oversees the Angkor Mondial restaurant near FCC Angkor.

KIDNAPPING  MEMORIES

The March 6 kidnapping of the daughter of Siem Reap's military police chief rekindled expat memories of the dramatic school siege in Siem Reap on June 16, 2005, when gunmen held terrified students hostage.

This month's kidnapping, a bungled Oceans Eleven scenario, didn't garner international attention, but the 2005 drama, in which a child was killed, was a global news sensation, and CNN's coverage  propelled photographer John McDermott into a new , albeit short-lived career path, as an international news correspondent. "Yeah, well, that was just one of those things, something that happened really fast, and the whole CNN thing came out like a fluke. They called me and the next thing I knew I was on. It was remarkable. It went all over the world," McDermott said.

CNN's Mark Colvin reported that McDermott "was a witness to what happened when armed security forces broke the siege".

McDermott then reported, "I'm inside the compound now, where the hostages were on the ground. Two of them, it appears, are dead. One is injured. It looks like they're trying to get information from him. The fourth hostage-taker, as I said, three hostage-takers on the ground - not hostages - three hostage-takers on the ground.

"The reports are that there was one young girl, possibly a Canadian girl, that was killed, but nobody knows who killed, whether it was friendly fire or whether it was a cold-blooded... there's no, I have no report on that whatsoever. I just ... one girl it appears has been killed."

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PHOTO SUPPLIED

Christian Izard, founder , the Suites and Sweet Resort.

MIRACLE ON HOTEL ROW

Whether Siem Reap's hotel row on National Road 6 needs another large hotel is open to debate, but several more are under construction and another newbie, Angkor Miracle Resort and Spa, has set its opening date for April 12, according to its front office manager, Chan Picheth.

Director of sales and marketing is Kelly Dara and the general manager, as previously reported in the Post, is Australian Darryl Hissey, the former GM of Prince D'Angkor hotel.

The hotel has 247 rooms and suites, and will feature a 270-seat a la carte restaurant, a balcony restaurant, a lobby coffee shop and executive lounge, mezzanine lounge and poolside bars.

Siem Reap is underserviced with conference and meeting faculties, and the Miracle hotel has targeted this shortfall with three theatre-style conference rooms seating 200, 240 and 300 people, respectively. The hotel also has a 20-seat boardroom and a business centre.

Another hotel, the Suites and Sweet Resort, scheduled to open on July 1, has a new take with its architecture, designed along the lines of a floating Cambodian village.  Siem Reap architect Alain Hely drew up the plans and design work for furniture and decor was rendered Khmer-style by Theam Leam.

The boutique hotel, with 18 poolside suites, is the brainchild of founder, 52-year-old Christian Izard, a former human resources honcho who, in 1988, won Le Figaro and TMP/Hudson's HR Manager of the Year award. Izard arrived in Cambodia in January last year intent on starting a "second life" in a new field.

CENTRE MARKET REVAMPS

Part of Siem Reap's Centre Market has been revamped with new signage, banners and coloured lights.

But the southeast corner of the market has been emptied, leaving many stallholders disgruntled and out of pocket, as previously reported in the Post.

But now Leang Peou, assistant at Super Market Centre, has revealed that some stallholders were given the heave-ho to make way for larger food shops, as part of a strategy to diversify the market. Leang Peou said that construction work on the new shops started earlier this month and is scheduled to finish in May.

Leang Peou said the market's new stores are designed to compensate for the financial crisis, which has thrown cold water on the throng of souvenir shops selling identical wares at Centre Market.

Some stallholders said that the launch in recent weeks of three new night markets has also detracted from trade. The redesigned shops in the southeast corner are the first stage in a larger plan to expand the market, Leang Peou said, adding that future development will be influenced by the success or failure of the new food stores.

WATER WORKS, POWER ON

Siem Reap's public utilities dramas have abated ... seemingly.

The water supply is now almost back to normal. Most of the businesses that were without water for most of six weeks report that water supplies are now normal about 90 percent of the time.

Meanwhile, the sidewalk cafe seating saga has subdued with compromise being reached - cafes can still use half the sidewalks but walking space has also been freed up for pedestrians.

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