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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Siem Reap Scene: 23 Apr 2009

Siem Reap Scene: 23 Apr 2009

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TIM PAGE MEET-AND-GREET

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PHOTO SUPPLIED

Tim Page, pictured in Dili, East Timor. 

Award-winning war photographer Tim Page will be meeting and greeting guests this weekend at an exhibition of his most famous work at the new 4Faces cafe and gallery in the Pub Street precinct.

The new cafe is a joint venture between "four faces", namely Siem Reap photographer Eric De Vries, his wife Lida, Ho Chi Minh City teacher Tom Blackey and his Khmer fiancee Chanton.

Blackey, originally from the UK, plans to relocate to Siem Reap in the coming month.

The 4Faces cafe  officially opens at 2pm tomorrow, and Tim Page will be on hand to discuss his photography exhibition on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, from 7-10pm.

Also tomorrow night, Cambodian Living Arts will perform a shadow puppet show at Angkor Hospital for Children for hospital patients and their families, but guests are also welcome.

The new Friends Centre on the grounds of the hospital will host a reception before the show, serving wine, beer, soda and snacks. Guests will have the opportunity to win the photo book Sacred Places of Asia, by the founder of the hospital, Kenro Izu, plus other prizes.

The reception kicks off at 6pm Friday night, and the puppet show starts at 7:30pm.

BEER COMPANIES BLASTED

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PETER OLSZEWSKI

Professor Ian Lubek in Siem Reap. 

Canadian professor Ian Lubek has again blasted beer companies for the poor working conditions suffered by beer promotion girls in Siem Reap. The professor and NGO Siem Reap Citizens for Health, Educational and Social Issues (SiRCHESI) released the latest results of their ongoing study into beer girl health on April 9.

Lubek and SiRCHESI found that women who peddle brew at bars and beer gardens are still making barely half of what they need to live, drinking to dangerous levels on the job and prostituting themselves to earn an adequate wage, with an estimated 21.7 percent of them contracting HIV. The findings come three years after Heineken, Carlsberg, Angkor, Guinness, Tiger, ABC and Anchor established a code of conduct for Cambodia's beer girls and formed the Beer Sellers in Cambodia organisation, promising to address the severe health concerns facing their workers.

But Lubek said that while profits have gone up for Heineken, Carlsberg and Tiger, health conditions for the women who work to sell their products have gone down. Lubek said that in contrast to the code of conduct, health training is not sufficient, salaries have not increased, employee contracts are not provided, self-esteem has decreased, drinking on the job remains a problem and transport home is not provided to roughly half the girls.

Lubek said that in addition to better health care and training, beer companies should double the salaries of beer girls to $140 to stop their dependence on prostitution.

COOL AWARD FOR HOT HOTEL

One of Siem Reap's newest luxury boutique hotels has picked up a 2009  Hot Hotels listing in Conde Nast's Traveler magazine's Hot List.

In an unusual write-up, Traveler magazine says "this all-suite hotel [the Sothea] offers an almost maternal experience".

This observation is apparently based on "the waterways that flow throughout the grounds (representations of water are the Khmer symbol for woman) to the white sandstone sculpture of a mother and child by the pool".

Traveler adds:  "In the 39 suites, claw-foot tubs, bouquets of red roses and thickly upholstered settees with silk roll pillows create a romantic ambience. There's even a bedside copy of Cambodia's most famous love story, Tum Teav, translated into English."

The Sothea is a member of the Preferred Boutique "collection", a division of the Hong Kong-based Preferred Hotel Group.

The hotel, billed as "eco-chic", launched on Valentine's Day this year, which is perhaps fitting given the 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.

The hotel's general manager is Sarah Moya, who previously worked for Khun Vuth at Angkor Century Resort and Spa, another big-ticket Siem Reap hotel he owns.

Conde Nast Traveler magazine began its Hot Hotels list in 2005, and the first two Siem Reap winners, Hotel de la Paix and The One Hotel, appeared in the 2006 list.

Siem Reap hotels were absent from the 2007 list, but in 2008 two more hotels, Hotel Be and Viroth's Hotel, got the nod.

MIRACLE ON HOTEL ROW

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KYLE SHERER

Daryl Hissey, general manager of Miracle. 

The 247-room Angkor Miracle Resort & Spa on Siem Reap's National Road 6 Hotel Row held its inaugural opening on Saturday, presided over by Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh, as well as Lok Chum Teav Tep Bopha Prasidh.

The hotel is owned by the Ngov family, property developers based in Phnom Penh, and its managing director is Ngov Bun Chheng, who said, "Sure we recognise this is a difficult time to be opening a large resort complex, but we're confident in our product.

"We have spared no expense to ensure we are positioned in the upper end of the market and to make certain we have competitive points of difference."

One of the hotel's major points of difference is that it fills a much-needed gap in the Siem Reap market for large conferences and seminars.

The hotel features a conference room that has capacity for up to 350 people. The conference room can also be partitioned, allowing two conferences to occur simultaneously, and adjoins a 20-person room for smaller meetings or conference preparation."

 "We'll target the MICE market and we're well set up for it," said general manager Daryl Hissey, who previously managed Prince D'Angkor Hotel.

 The hotel also plans to corner the Taiwanese business market, and anticipates that a biweekly charter flight between Taipei and Siem Reap, due to start in May,  will compensate for the fall in Korean travel, which some hoteliers say has declined by over 30 percent this year alone.

The Taiwanese tourism market was quite buoyant in Siem Reap until the collapse of the Taipei-based Angkor Airways Corporation last year.

At its height, Angkor Airways operated between 20 and 23 chartered flights between Taipei and Siem Reap per month.

HOVERCRAFTS SET TO GO

In 2008, legal eagle Ben Hutchins, from Cambodian law firm Hutchins Associates, was almost ready to launch a Siem Reap-based hovercraft service on the Tonle Sap.

Ben had three hovercrafts, was training Khmer staff in Australia and claimed to hold a 15-year exclusive licence for hovercraft operation in Cambodia.

But early last year, the project hit a snag when a hovercraft sustained engine damage during a trial, giving some Australian shareholders cold feet.

The resulting fallout froze the operation for a year, but according to Ben the ice is beginning to thaw.

The Aussie expat told the Post that the damaged engine has been fixed, the three hovercrafts are ready to go, the new company has almost been hammered out and a new series of hovercraft trials are on the horizon.

Ben said that more concrete answers could emerge in the next couple of weeks, but said he was not at liberty to divulge definitive timelines or facts due to an ongoing "restructuring" that is "still finalising the company structure". Proving at least that you can take the hovercraft out of the water, but you can't take the legalese out of the lawyer. 

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