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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Siem Reap Scene: 25 Jun 2009

Siem Reap Scene: 25 Jun 2009

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

Photo by: PHOTO SUPPLIED

Eric De Vries and a friend get snapped.

'HELLO DARLING' EXHIBITION

A daring new photo exhibition launching this week at 4Faces cafe and gallery gives raw insight into the lives of Phnom Penh's legion of bar girls.

The exhibition, titled "Hello Darling", features photos by 4Faces owner Eric De Vries of a subject that intrigues him - bar girls.

His photos show the girls as a punter would view them: At first bored while waiting for customers, then animated, shrieking the ubiquitous greeting "hello darling", then dancing and posing.

But the photos go one step further, from the barroom into the bedroom as such, showing risque shots of the girls deshabillent, as the French would put it.  

De Vries said this exhibition is a spinoff of his earlier series on Phnom Penh's Street 136.

"That street never sleeps: It goes 24 hours, and I took a series of photos just of the outside of the bars and the life on the street," he said.

"With this series I decided to go inside the bars, and I discovered that many of the girls really like to be photographed. But sometimes the bar owners don't have the same attitude and ask me to stop taking photos."

Dutch-born De Vries' arty photography has gained an international reputation, and an exhibition of his photos from his recent book, This Must Be the Place: Images of Cambodia, toured the Netherlands.

Photo by: KYLE SHERER

Prince Vorana Na Champassak, GM of Heritage Suites Hotel.

ROYAL CHEF ARRIVES

The luxurious 26-suite Heritage Suites Hotel is honing its appeal to its well-heeled, sophisticated and cashed-up niche market, and can now give guests a truly royal experience, with a prince in charge of operations.

Laotian Prince (Chao) Vorana na Champassak was recently appointed general manager of the hotel after a long stint as food and beverages manager and resident manager at Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa.

Joining him at Heritage is sales and marketing manager Jam Nsouli,  ex-Victoria hotel.

The duo's first change is to become more Web marketing savvy because, as Vorana points out, during the last 18 months at Victoria he saw Internet bookings surge from 6 percent to 17 percent.

The privately owned Heritage is also the only Cambodian hotel to be listed as a member of the French-based boutique hotel organisation Relais & Chateau, which provides, according to Nsouli, "luxury, not only in the material sense, but also in the personal touch".

The more than 200-year-old organisation also puts great emphasis on hotels' cuisine, particularly its chefs, and at Heritage, Vorana, in his newly assumed mantle of maitre d'maison, said, "My challenge now is to develop the hotel's gastronomy".

The menu for the in-house restaurant, The Lantern, is to be revamped, and in September a leading French chef arrives as a short-term consultant.

The chef, Stephane Gatumel, from the chi chi Parisian Restaurant de La Gare, is a winner of the prized Meilleur Ouvrier De France award and his consultant contract at Heritage is for a three-week duration.

MUSEUM FOR SALE?

Speculation is rife around town that Siem Reap's controversial Angkor National Museum is about to be bought by wealthy Cambodian interests.

The history of the so-called museum has been one disaster after another, and due to its Thai business connections, it has been blacklisted by many tour guides.

A large modern mall attached to the museum has also become a commercial disaster zone, with many stores shut and other sites sitting empty.

The museum's woes began in earnest six months after it opened when, in June 2008, the International Herald Tribune ran a savage denunciatory story about the museum.

The article emphatically played the race card, listing Thai historical insensitivities to Khmer antiquities and stating, "Anti-Thai riots, which claimed the Thai Embassy and several Thai businesses, broke out in Phnom Penh in 2003 after a Thai actress allegedly said Angkor Wat still belonged to Thailand".

Shortly after the article appeared, the Preah Vihear imbroglio erupted again, and the Thai-bankrolled Angkor National Museum fell into further disfavour.

Earlier this year, beleaguered managing director Sunaree Wongpiyabovorn quit, replaced by Somporn Kanjana-Utaisiri, a former manager of Gulf Air (Thailand).

WORLD MUSIC NIGHT

Siem Reap hosted the ultimate example of cross-cultural entertainment last Saturday night - an expat acoustic band and a Japanese singer teaming up to perform ABBA songs for a Khmer audience.

The unique collaboration was part of the French Cultural Centre's annual world music day concert, which packed the street near Red Piano with young, mainly Khmer revellers until nearly midnight.  

This year the concert featured the musical stylings of Siem Reap-based expat band Cambojam, Japanese group Milo, and a traditional Cambodian band.

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