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Siem Reap Scene..

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PYRAMID PEAKS

The gigantic Pyramid Mega Entertainment Club on the outskirts of Siem Reap is now peaking, with all six venues open for business.

The complex now houses the Angkor Paintball Club, billed as the "first and only" paintball club in Cambodia;  the lavish Beer Garden; the Pyramid Bistro, which offers "cool acoustic  sounds in a rooftop setting"; the state-of-the-art Pyramid Disco Dome, which features live DJs; Pyramid Karaoke and a live seafood Chinese Restaurant.

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Pyramid sales and marketing manager, Jerome Rivera.

The venue's sales and marketing manager, Jerome Rivera, points out that karaoke is a big feature at Pyramid - the club features 30 karaoke rooms in varying degrees of opulence and including sound and light effects.

The live seafood restaurant is another expensive addition - water for the aquarium stocking the seafood is being imported from Thailand and Sihanoukville, and this restaurant now becomes one of the few venues in town stocking live seafood.

The Pyramid becomes fully operational at a time when most entertainment venues in Siem Reap are hurting - Sok San Palace reports a 50 percent decline in trade this year.

CONCERT IN TUNE

Since its launch last November, Concert has signed up an additional five groups and now has a core group of 20 NGOs, enough to begin the next phase of its development: recruiting commercial businesses and hotels as members.

Concert founder and director Michael Horton's innovative plan is to unite many of Siem Reap's NGOs, list their services and functions, and provide this list to hotel and business members so they can respond to tourist queries about how to best donate money or provide help.  

This is a sorely needed service, according to research into responsible tourism conducted in Siem Reap last year by Britain's Leeds Metropolitan University.

Typical comments from visitors interviewed in the research include, "I refuse to give money to begging children, I don't know whether they are genuine or not.  But then I'm at a complete loss about what else to do instead".

Horton said that member businesses can now help solve such tourist conundrums.

He said it will also help local businesses meet goals set out in the Cape Town 2002 Declaration on Responsible Tourism.

PLANT YOUR FACE AT X-BAR

Carlo Tarabini, co-owner of Siem Reap's X-bar, has almost finished work on his homemade halfpipe, promising it will be board-ready this weekend. The structure sits on the roof of the late-night Sivutha Boulevard drinkery and was constructed by Carlo himself, who will also provide skateboards and bikes for willing patrons.

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KYLE SHERER

Carlo Tarabini, co-owner of X-bar. 

For those not in the know, a halfpipe is a structure used in sports such as skateboarding, freestyle BMX and inline skating.

After laying down the final planks on Monday, Carlo spent the rest of the week priming and painting the wood - but though it's still incomplete, he admits to sneaking in a maiden voyage. "We couldn't help ourselves," he told Scene.

Carlo was motivated to build the halfpipe after noticing that "there's not much to do for young people around here".

He said a few local expats are already primed and ready to start pumping.

BEERGIRL BOFFIN BACK

Professor Ian Lubek, the Canadian academic who became the scourge of global beer barons in his quest to get workplace rights for Cambodian beer girls, is back in Siem Reap and, through the NGO, SirCHESI, will hold workshops for beer sellers this Saturday and Sunday morning.

These workshops will be sponsored by the acting Canadian ambassador, Evelyne Coulombe, who will visit Siem Reap on Saturday.

Lubek also flagged the release of new findings to be released in March "about the poor working conditions in beer-serving environments".

 HEART BOY COMES HOME

Peter Chhun, president and founder of US organisation Hearts Without Boundaries reports that 14-month-old Vy "Lucky" Soksamnang, the second Cambodian child to fly to the US in little more than a year to have hole-in-the-heart surgery, will return home next month.

Chhun told Scene, "Lucky, his mother Pang and I will arrive in Cambodia on March 14".

Dr Paul Grossfeld, an American cardiologist, has cleared Lucky to come home, and Chhun said the doctor told Lucky's mother that the boy's heart function was great, there was no fluid or leakage around the hole and only a trace of seepage in the heart valve.

Lucky and mother at Disneyland

"Everything looks perfect, spectacular," Grossfeld said, "Lucky just has his scar to show off to his girlfriends when he gets older."

Lucky successfully underwent surgery in Las Vegas on December 4. Chhun became aware of Lucky's plight last year when the boy was presented to the Angkor Hospital for Children in Siem Reap.

FUNKY IRISH OUSTED

After two weeks on top of the Post's Funky Munky Trivia Night Quest, Paddy Power was unceremoniously stripped of its title last Thursday.

The Irish expat team of exacting experts were well and truly wiped from the table, finishing in measly third place.

Wat Bo Selecta, a group of Globalteer NGO members, finally took the lead after hovering around the top three for weeks, and dark-horse team The Planters came in second, winning a one-month subscription to the Post.

The trivia challenge was the third (and second-last) tournament where players competed for a $50 bounty supplied by The Phnom Penh Post, and a one-month subscription for second place. The final tourney where Post prizes are up for grabs is at 9pm tonight at the Funky Munky, on Pub Street.

Last Thursday's trivia night raised $227.50 for New Hope Community Centre, an NGO that  provides language and vocational training, medical treatment, shelter, food and community development for 95 families in Mondul 3 village.

Wat Bo Selecta, who nobly donated their winnings to New Hope, were too busy celebrating and posing for photographs to provide the Post with a comment, but losers Paddy Power could be heard downing Guinness and mournfully singing Enya dirges in the background.

 ROLUOS UPDATE TALKS

The ancient capital of Hariharalaya and some of its monumental temples in the Roluos group, on the outskirts of Siem Reap, constitute the first Angkorian capital, a prototype that strongly influenced town planning studies and historical research in Angkor.

Two successive talks, one week apart, will present the outcomes of recent works carried out in Roluos, mostly within the framework of the French-Cambodian archaeological mission for the Angkor region.

In the first talk on Friday, Christophe Pottier will present, in English, details of how architectural studies of some of the best "well dated" monuments, Prah Ko and Bakong, show an unexpected chronological complexity and the need for an in-depth reappraisal of the understanding and chronology of the first Angkorian monuments.

Pottier has been the director of the Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient, Siem Reap, since 1992, and he has conducted some restoration works and research on Angkor architecture and territorial planning.

Since 2000, he has directed the French-Cambodian Archaeological Mission on the Angkor Region and is also co-director of the Greater Angkor Project. The second talk on March 6 will be given jointly by Annie Bolle and Pottier in French. It will introduce the archaeological excavations investigations conducted in Roluos at four different sites.

Annie Bolle, an archaeologist, has been excavating in Angkor since 1995, and in Roluos in particular since 2004.

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