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Enduring pain for a good cause

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

PETER OLSZEWSKI

Kampuchea House CEO Les Stott gets ready to ride.

Feats of superhuman endurance used to be undertaken merely to earn a place in the Guinness Book of Records, but in today's sharing, caring world community, poverty alleviation has emerged as a prime motivator for heroic treks.

On Monday, September 22, Les Stott, CEO of orphanage operator Kampuchea House (Australia) Inc, will set off on the 2008 Big Cambodian Bike Ride, cycling for five days on a 657-kilometre odyssey from Siem Reap to Kampong Cham, across and up to Kratie and then on to Stung Treng.

Accompanying him will be Tom Wilkins, a year 11 student of Wesley College, Melbourne, Australia.

The duo will raise funds for Kampuchea House and the Angkor Hospital for Children.

Meanwhile, still recovering from saddle sores in Siem Reap is Dr Hal Kusick who last year spent 25 days pedaling 4,026 kilometres across the arid reaches of Australia.

His munificent madness was prompted by the urge to raise money for The Lake Clinic, Jon F Morgan's amazing nautical venture bringing basic healthcare, disease surveillance and proper medical referrals to people living in isolation on the waters of the Tonle Sap.

Perhaps this enduro stuff is an Australian thing because the Aussie-based charity Carpets For Communities, which has just opened an office in Siem Reap, is also raising funds by having two people, Sharyn and Graham Bacon, endure a 1,165-kilometre, three-month horse trek across some of Australia's most inhospitable land.

The trek is scheduled to finish in September but they are encountering unexpected delays, according to their blog postings, such as: "Unfortunately pig shooters at 4.30am startled the horses, and Bambi went through a barbed-wire fence...she should be right in a week."

Mystery surrounds hotel renovation

Rumours have been swirling for most of this year about the solvency of the Preah Khan Hotel on National Road 6. And for most of this year the hotel has been closed.

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

Then, later in the month, a series of half-page advertisements appeared nationally recruiting for 96 "immediate" positions, ranging from general manager through to linen attendants and waitresses.

The recruitment ad said that 3T Investment Holding Co Ltd, a "Singaporean owner", would open an international five-star hotel in Siem Reap and listed its office as in the "ex-Preah Khan Hotel".

This week, while renovations continued at the Preah Khan, a small five-line classified ad appeared nationally advertising a four-star hotel on a 10,000-square-metre site for sale in Siem Reap.

Scene contacted a man who identified himself as an agent for the private owner and who said the hotel was the Preah Kahn, that it was up for sale due to "financial difficulties",  and the asking price was US$16.2 million.

Meanwhile, at the empty Preah Khan, financial controller Kim Nararith and Chan Vannais, who claimed no job title, said they were supervising the hotel renovation on behalf of 3T. They said it was the first they'd heard of any potential sale.

They said that, unless notified otherwise, it would be business as usual, and they would continue the renovation, turning the Preah Khan into the Ree Hotel, tentatively planned to open on October 1.

Spa 'ladies night' bridges cultures

PETER OLSZEWSKI

Kristen Holdo Hansen sets up ladies-only spa night.

Siem Reap continues its quest to be the Kingdom's trend-setting capital of cool with Kristin Holdo Hansen, managing director of the boutique touch-of-Scandinavia Soria Moria Hotel, now hosting the city's first ladies-only spa night to encourage networking and a comingling of Cambodian and expatriate women.

"I had this plan two years ago, but just got it happening now," Hansen said. "I decided on a ladies night like this because I think it is good to have women meeting and share experiences that only other women would understand.

"Men would simply get bored listening to such things, and to be honest women are always happy to only meet other women sometime."

Hansen kicked off her first ladies night last week when a dozen women met at the rooftop bar for champagne and sushi.

Scene's executive assistant Unn Sophary checked out the ladies night action on Tuesday and gives it a big thumbs up.

Of course, Siem Reap being Siem Reap with its at times quite large contingent of ladyboys, the question inevitably arises whether there is a ladies spa night policy or understanding about this market segment.

Hansen said, "Ladyboys can join as long as they dress like ladies. If they dress like men, the answer is no."

Meanwhile, Borei Angkor general manager Philip Set Kao is also raising the spa stakes. His hotel will soon open the Mutita Spa which will specialise in the traditional Khmer herbal and steam spa treatment J'pong, and he believes this is a first for an international-class hotel.

Renovation gets french accent

The French entrepreneurial aristocracy is restless, and the Gallic movers and shakers are on the move. The biggest shake-up is at Carnets d'Asie's funky and colourful complex on Sivatha Boulevard which encompasses a bookstore, art gallery, restaurant, and a tres-fashionable real estate business. But now the realty component, Heritage Real Estate, together with its popular director's assistant Skaline Thik, has quit the complex and relocated to Wat Bo Road. 

The vacated air-conditioned space will be used to expand the Carnets d'Asie restaurant, which for years has had an outdoors ambience inside. But it finally succumbed to the notion that some diners, no matter how acclimatised, prefer to dine in air-con comfort during sweltering heat.

Carnets' youngish pere grande Jean Yves Navel has also quit has his management role, although he retains 30-percent ownership and will still be a mainstay of the annual Angkor Photo Festival.

Navel is a Siem Reap pioneer, arriving in the dusty, then-rag-tag town almost 11 years ago when its population was under 10,000 and Raffles was the only place to stay. A bout of temple mysticism induced him to stay and the rest, as they say, est histoire.

Management of the restaurant has now been handed over to the laid-back Frederic Escudier who made his mark in his first week in his new role by conspiring with chef Jonathan Young to devise a a relatively expensive but extremely addictive special - a tournedos steak with a morell mushroom sauce, with the morell's rich flavour stepped up by an infusion of foie gras.

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