Actress Angelina Jolie with four of her children, (L) Maddox, Zahara, Pax Thien and Shiloh, in Tokyo in 2010. Photograph: Reuters
It's the start of high season in Siem Reap and tourists from all around the globe are heading for the temples. But somewhere among the Angkor Wat watchers is a visitor of a different sort: Hollywood’s Angelina Jolie.
The actress is there with two of her daughters and has made her presence – and generous wallet – felt around town.
She arrived in Phnom Penh on Tuesday and left for Siem Reap on Friday, where she has since been seen with her family in local restaurants and supermarkets.
The actress, who was awarded Cambodian citizenship in 2005 due to her work with community development and conservation in the country, comes to the Kingdom regularly – usually several times a year.
The 37-year-old and her daughters Shiloh, 6, and Zahara, 7, but not husband Brad Pitt, were seen in several eateries over the weekend including Marum, an NGO-run eatery that serves creative Cambodian cuisine.
Staff at Marum, a training restaurant run by NGO Friends International, were surprised on Saturday evening when the actress came in for dinner with the children and a large entourage, and afterwards spent hundreds of dollars in the shop on jewellery, toys and homeware.
“The staff were not warned beforehand that she would come. She ate there and she shopped at the restaurant. People tried to take pictures but she didn’t want to be photographed,” said James Sutherland, communications co-ordinator at Friends.
According to a customer, she bought merchandise from the restaurant, which trains cooking skills to marginalised young people including former rubbish-tip scavengers.
Jolie runs the Battambang-based Maddox Jolie-Pitt foundation with her husband.
The organisation, named after their adopted Cambodian son Maddox, supports a children’s centre in Phnom Penh that cares for orphans.
Jolie and her family are also believed to have visited the foundation’s headquarters in Battambang over the weekend.
The three of them were flown via helicopter to Samlot district in Battambang, where Jolie has a house, according to sources who did not want to be named.
She was later seen snacking on Sunday evening in Cafe de la Paix, which serves ice cream, pastries, sandwiches and salads.
Sven Zika, a travel agent from Lolei Ravel, who was working next door said: “We were having a late dinner at 9.30pm. Tuk-tuk arrives, Angelina Jolie and her kids get out and order ice cream. Welcome to Cambodia, the Kingdom of Wonder!”
The family are believed to be staying in the ultra-exclusive luxury hotel Amansara, which charges between $1,500 to $2,000 a night.
Frankie Hermes, an American NGO worker, said she saw the entourage pull up outside the Lucky Mall supermarket in three tuk-tuks from Amansara, and bodyguards first checked the shop before the family went inside.
“She looked gorgeous and so tiny,” Hermes said.
Amansara and The Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation did not respond to enquiries about Jolie's stay.