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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Siem Reap Scene: 22 Jan 2009

Siem Reap Scene: 22 Jan 2009

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NEW HANDICRAFT FAIR

The inaugural Handicraft Trade Fair starts today in Siem Reap at Riverside park in front of the Raffles Grand Hotel D'Angkor, and finishes on Saturday.

This fair precedes the former Angkor Silk Fair that's been held in Siem Reap for the last three years.

The Phnom Penh-based Artisans Association of Cambodia is the new organiser of the fair, and its members decided to expand it to encompass all kinds of handicrafts, with the proviso that the goods are all high-quality, Cambodian-made from natural materials.

The fair is jointly supported by the European Union and the Cambodian government.

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Awen Delavel

Awen Delavel, director of Samatoa, is a member of the organising committee in Siem Reap and said most exhibitors will be from Phnom Penh, although a few Siem Reap businesses will also display their wares.

Entertainment for the fair will be provided by Phnom Penh-based circus Sovanna Phum, which will perform at the top of the hour both days between 2pm and 5pm.

 GOLF GREENS

The new Siem Reap Lake Resort Golf Club, developed by KTC Leisure Co Ltd, opened Monday with a little help from its friends - or more precisely, it's cross-town rival. Angkor Golf Resort came to the rescue by providing 4,500 square metres of turf, enabling the new course to establish its fairways.

Angkor Golf Resort's operations manager Adam Robertson said there is an absence of suitable turf in Cambodia. He said Angkor Golf Resort originally imported Seashore Paspallum turf from the US and began cultivating it in a nursery.

SIEM REAP IN VOGUE

Siem Reap continues its transformational repositioning to the new "capital of cool", as it was described in a Thai airline magazine in 2008.

In the relatively recent past it was fashionable for travel writers to opine that Siem Reap was a town robbed of its former charm by tourism, describing it as a dusty, disappointing appendage to the famed temples.

But over the last 12 months, Siem Reap's image has changed. The spotlight has shifted from only the temples and the town itself is now in vogue. That trend continues this month with the Asian edition of American Express Publishing's upscale magazine, Travel + Leisure.

The January edition's front cover plug promises to reveal 10 Siem Reap "buzzing bars and restaurants" and the buzzing scene theme is carried through to a two-page article which extols the virtues of the "Khmer vogue"  to be found in temple town.

Siem Reap businesses that get the tick in the article are Elephant Bar, McDermott Gallery, The Red Gallery, Angkor Candles, Kokoon, Senteurs d'Angkor, Sugar Palm Restaurant, Cambodian BBQ, AHA and the Linga Bar.

ROMANCING SOTHEA

Siem Reap's new luxury resort, which bills itself as "eco-chic", is gearing up for its Valentine Day's launch, which is perhaps fitting given the rather romantic nature of the hotel's naming.

The hotel has been built by Phnom Penh-based business tycoon Khun Vuth as a tribute to his wife Sothea on her 50th birthday, which of course explains the use of the name Sothea.

The hotel's general manager, Sarah Moya, said: "With the lady, Sothea, in mind, the whole property has been created to showcase natural beauty as evident from its landscaping, which features intimate gardens, fountains and water accents, as well as hints of her Cambodian heritage with Khmer artisanship subtly infused in the architectural and interior design."

The hotel has also released more details of its wining and dining features.

Its main restaurant, Chatra, is based on a "marche" concept where the resident chef cooks a signature dish based on the day's freshest market produce.

Chatra in ancient Khmer means Chandeliers - referring to the glittering lamps that decorate the restaurant's ceiling.

Terrace will be an all-day cafe that will also serve breakfast for in-house guests starting  at 4:30 am.

The hotel's bar is called Flame - so called because of the candles which dominate the decor.  Drinks and tapas will be served to a musical accompaniment in the evenings.

The Courtyard will be the rendezvous for entertainment, which will include classical dance performances, musical interludes and performance-art

The Gallery at the Courtyard will feature art, photography and craft demonstrations such as silk-weaving or bead-making. Opening hours are from 8 am to 11 pm.

The hotel will also feature a spa with a saltwater pool designed after the ancient royal bathing pool, Srah Srang, and underlain with gold leaves that make it shimmer.

 CHINESE TEMPLE RESTORED

The temple restoration by the Chinese Government Team for Safeguarding Angkor has now moved into a new phase with the beginning of work this month on the Takeo temple, near the just-completed Chao Say Tevoda temple project.

The eight-year restoration project of the Chao Say Tevoda temple was officially declared completed in a ceremony on December 5.

Archeologist So Chheng said the project suffered setbacks when the team first conducted its study of the stonework and its plans were criticised by a French archeology committee.

He said, "They didn't agree with our restoration methods including replacing missing stones with new ones".

"But we have done good work because we had the right team and analysts," he added.

He said he hopes the team will receive more support with the Takeo temple restoration that begins this month.

So Chheng said that "about 90 percent" of the Chao Say Tevoda temple team will work on the Takeo project, but the preliminary work of studying the stonework and positioning of missing stones that begins this month won't be completed until January 2010.

Jia Quing Lin, a director of the Chinese Government Team, said China  will continue to fund the restoration of Takeo temple.

 The Chinese government has committed about 15 million yuan (US$2 million) to the restoration program so far.

VIVA MEXICAN

The battle for the Mexican food market in Siem Reap is about to get hotter than a Jalapeno chili, with Viva Restaurant's stranglehold under challenge.

Viva, with two outlets in prime locations - one smack in the middle of pub Street and the other just around the corner opposite the Warehouse - was the only provider of Mexican food, but this week sees the opening of a fancy new Mex joint, El Camino, in The Alley, just behind Pub Street, next to Linga Bar.

Alex Sutherland

This new Mexican restaurant is part of Angkor What?, part of bar owner Alex Sutherland's ever-expending empire. He's certainly been busy having only recently opened Central Cafe, in which he is majority owner.

Sutherland is running El Camino together with X Bar co-owner Scott Interdonato, and this partnership is a further challenge to Viva.

Interdonato was initially the consultant for the setting up of Viva, where he advised regarding the menu and other Mexican-oriented accoutrements.

There's been a parting of the ways between Interdonato and Viva's Khmer proprietors, and Interdonato's expertise will certainly give El Camino an edge.

Meanwhile, Tell Restaurant owner Thilo Krueger, having sold his Sihanoukville business interests late last year, is soon to open a new tapas bar, also near the Pub Street precinct.

Architects are to start planning the new bar this week.

Incidentally, the long running debate about whether Pub Street should be referred to by the Anglo term Pub Street or by the American term Bar Street has finally officially been resolved - late last year the street sign went up officially designating the busy strip as Pub Street.

EROSION SHOES

A Khmer company, CCK Corporation, is recruiting sellers to flog "erosion protection shoes" to tourists at the temples.

Meanwhile, to test the market for these shoes, the company has started a two-week trial by providing free shoes to tourists.

Company representative Kompheak said the shoes have soft rubber bottoms to reduce friction that causes erosion when tourists trample around the temples.

Kompheak said, "The shoes are tested to have less impact on temples", adding that the company devised the idea in response to Apsara Authority's initiative to find new ways to protect the temples from tourist damage.

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