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Luxury flats fetch high-end prices

Siem Reap suffers from a chronic shortage of rental flats, and while the release this weekend of a dozen newly-built luxury units, some still for sale, won't put a dint in the demand, it could prompt further apartment development because sales have been brisk.

The 12 luxury apartments in a four-storey complex known as The Butterfly Residences are on the increasingly-trendified East River Road, also known as Archa Sva Road.

Only four of the apartments remain for sale: two "cheap" ground-floor units at $206,000 each; one first-floor  unit at $229,000; and one third-and-fourth-floor penthouse duplex at $446,000.

The large single apartment on the fourth floor was rumoured to have fetched $550,000 plus.

The complex, originally scheduled to be completed in March of this year, is developed by the Frangipani Property Group, a Hong Kong company.

The international sales representative is Simon Barstow, of Sucellus Consulting in Ho Chi Minh City. Cambodian representative is Phav Proeun, managing director of Angkor Territorial Adventure Travel.

The design is by architect Joshua Levine of O2 architecture of Ho Chi Minh City and includes a "shared communal yoga studio".

Barstow said, "We have seen around a 40 percent capital growth on the value for all of the initial buyers.... Land prices have risen over 300 percent since we started this project and this has been reflected in the growth of the value of the units that we have developed.

"Our group had planned to hold onto the balance of four units, but as we are seeing great demand and with the high season now coming, we have decided to release the balance units and expect they will be sold by the end of the year."

Rumours have been circulating in Siem Reap that actress Angelina Jolie has bought the fourth floor penthouse, but Simon Barstow told Scene, "If you have her details we would love to offer her a deal on the penthouse."

Discarded paper becomes art

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PHOTO SUPPLIED

Artist Kchao Touch makes her unique artworks from discarded paper. Her new exhibition opens tonight.

One of Cambodia's leading women artists, Kchao Touch, who is a particular favourite amongst the French set, is in Siem Reap in preparation for the launch of her new exhibition of her paper-rendered sculptures at the French Cultural Centre tonight.

The French organisation has essentially nurtured her career, organising her first exhibition at the Comme a la Maison restaurant in Phnom Penh.

Her first overseas trip was to France for an exhibition in Bordeaux of what she calls "dreaming painting".  

But Touch is also well known in Siem Reap, having been born in neighbouring Battambang and being one of a clutch of leading Cambodian artists who graduated from Battambang's art school of Phare Ponleu Selpak, an NGO that also trains circus performers.

Her Siem Reap exhibition features sculptures made from paper, some of it from rubbish picked from the streets to help spread the message of  keeping the environment clean.

She said, "I saw too many tissues being thrown on the street by people, so I began collecting thrown-away paper everywhere I went. But I cannot make big sculptures out of that paper and I had to think of hygiene because a lot of it is not clean.

"So again I received support from the French Cultural Centre because they gave me clean paper for the big sculptures."

Vietnam invades siem reap by air

Siem Reap's tourist numbers this season will be boosted by an influx of travellers arriving either from Vietnam or via Vietnam.

Last week Jetstar Pacific, a joint venture between minor partner Jetstar Asia and Vietnam's Pacific, announced its first international foray by scheduling daily direct flights to Siem Reap from Ho Chi Minh City, starting on November 3.

Depending on which press statement you read, flights to Siem Reap are promised for as little as US$32 or $40, but excluding surcharges, fees and taxes which these days can deliver quite a wallop to the wallet.

Next air company off the runway was Siem Reap Airways International, sister carrier of Bangkok Airways, which this week said it would launch a new daily service between Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh City on October 26 to cater to connecting traffic demand from the southern Vietnamese city.

The airline said it sees a rising demand from long-haul passengers who travel to the former Saigon and then fly farther to see the Angkor temples.

But the Vietnam invasion of Siem Reap will not be confined to just the air -  more tourists will also arrive by water.

Australia's leading independent holiday company, Creative Holidays, has launched its 2009 Vietnam and Cambodia program which includes Mekong delta cruises from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap and back.

Creative Holidays general manager of sales and marketing Andrew Yell said, "The interest in travelling to Vietnam and Cambodia has grown significantly over the last 12 months."

Carpet-making NGO takes up residence

PETER OLSZEWSKI

David Bacon cuts a rug with his Carpets for Communities project.

Carpets for Communities, a community fundraising project run by 28-year-old Australian David Bacon, which late in August moved from boring Buddha-forsaken Poipet to downtown Siem Reap, is now trying to expand and establish itself as a regional foundation.

"We've been working under a partner group, the Cambodian Hope Organisation, which is a regional foundation."

Bacon decided to quit Poipet because he couldn't recruit management or volunteers who were prepared to live there.

His move has been partly funded with a $5,000 prize for winning the Ashoka`s Changemakers competition, Ending Global Slavery.

His mum and dad are also raising funds with a horseriding endurance trek across Australia, previously reported in Scene.

His organisation helps rural women set up rug-making businesses, producing odd-looking fluffy rugs from scraps of material and left over pieces of discarded T-shirts, which are sold in Australia.

He's now talking with the Minister of Women's Affairs who, he says, likes the project, and he hopes this will lead to funding through the Asian Development Bank.

"Women's Affairs have got women's developments centres in Siem Reap and out the back of Angkor Thom, and they would like us to be part of that. But we are still negotiating."

Author francois bizot retires

Francois Bizot, whose book The Gate is a seminal tract on the Pol Pot period and was hailed as an "original classic" by John le Carre, has this month retired from his position as head of the  Ecole Francais d'Extreme Orient in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He has been named professor emeritus.

Bizot is well-known to Siem Reap literature lovers because much of his book is a rare and evocative insight into life in Siem Reap during the early days of Pol Pot.

In the book, he describes the beginning of the war in June 1970, when he lived in the village of Srah Srang, at the Angkor site, 13 kilometres from downtown Siem Reap. At that time he was working at the Angkor Conservation Office, restoring ceramics and bronzes.

"When I arrived in Cambodia in 1965, the gibbons' exasperated complaint would cut through the muffled hum of the villages every morning. Sunlight hovered on the still pools streaked with green and gold, dispersing the sleepy vapours of the night. I thought this renewal was ineluctable," he wrote.

New high-quality photo print service

Colorhouse Prints has installed a new hi-tech printer designed exclusively for top-end photo printing and reproduction. It can produce very large prints. Owner Dennis Rowley said, "This machine simply provides the best possible quality pigment-based photographic prints for black-and-white, colour, and archival purposes. It uses 12 inkjets and is designed purely for superior photographic reproduction." Rowley said, calling this "the only service of its kind in Cambodia".

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