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Unconventional Christmas trees sprouting up at Siem Reap hotels


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I'm not sure if you’ve noticed, but there’s a bit of a fir tree shortage here in Cambodia. And as for those palm trees, well, it’d be tough to reach the top with a star.

So as the Yuletide season creeps upon us and many are left contemplating The Christmas Tree Situation, two of Temple Town’s premier hotels have decided to solve the dilemma by designing their own versions of the traditional tree.

There’s not a piece of tinsel in sight at Raffles d’Angkor Hotel as its Eric Raisina-designed haute couture Christmas tree takes pride of place in the lobby. Inspired by the lotus flower, the striking structure consists of over 800 fabric flowers. It took two weeks to create, and is Raisina’s second festive creation for the hotel.

“For me the lotus flower is Cambodia, it’s everywhere, it’s so symbolic,” explained Siem Reap’s foremost designer at the launch of the tree.

Eric described the laborious process involved in making the tree. The organza silk blooms were hand stitched and embroidered by him and his team, using the iconic pink and white shades of the lotus, building from bud to flower. As for the portholes, Raisina says these were created for several reasons. “The lotus comes in many forms, and primarily this shows the holes in the flower, but I was also conscious of the space. I wanted people to be able to see through it, and make use of the lighting.”

Launching the tree were children from the Sunrise Village, who serenaded guests after designing the hotel’s Christmas card this year; the sales of which will go back to their village. Raffles also boasts a five-foot-tall edible ginger bread house, though cracks are starting to appear where wily guests have taken a nibble.

Meanwhile Hotel de la Paix also had a talented designer-in-residence creating a unique take on the tannenbaum. Organisers looked in-house for creative talent and found it in their artistic director of sales and marketing, Christian De Boer.

His stunning creation consists of 3,000 white goose feathers individually hung from the ceiling. Christian says he’s had the vision to create the tree since he was five years old. “This tree has been my dream. Cambodia is a Buddhist country, so it’s not really correct to have the traditional tree, so why not play with ideas and let your imagination run wild?”

Wild is a good word for it. Christian worked with the hotel’s art curator Sasha Constable to time the launch of the tree around an endangered-species art exhibit happening later in December.

The tree took a full week to assemble with de la Paix’s housekeeping team and engineers painstakingly measuring and hanging the feathers. Christian said the image of the tree has gone viral online, receiving praise from around the world.

“That’s exactly why we made this tree,” explained the hotelier turned artiste. “We want to show people Cambodia is more than just temples.”

If you’re a fan of holly, baubles, mince pies and mulled wine, you may have to look further afield, but if a modern day Cambo Crimbo is what you’re after, two pioneering venues in Siem Reap are giving the “most wonderful time of the year” an inventive new twist.

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