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Siem Reap Asides: Otorhinolaryngology and other Siem Reap mysteries

Siem Reap Asides: Otorhinolaryngology and other Siem Reap mysteries

SNUGGLED in the shadows of the Angkorian temples, Siem Reap is steeped in ancient mystery. But, as the tourist town transmogrifies into a modern metropolis, modern mysteries are making their mark.

Pi Thnou Street, for example, harbours one of the town's biggest mysteries: A shop with a sign that declares it an outlet for "otorhinolaryngology".

Actually a dictionary proves this to be no real mystery, and the phenomenon indeed could be viewed as a quantum leap for Siem Reap, away from the seemingly suspect traditional Khmer medicine, if you happen to be into the frontiers of modern Western medical wizardry.

Simply put, otolaryngology is head and neck surgery. Practitioners, the head and neck surgeons, are called otolaryngologists or otorhinolaryngologists.

Otolaryngology is one of the most competitive specialities for physicians, and this raises another mystery: Is Siem Reap's very own "otorhinolaryngology" clinic, housed in a small humble building near a strip of notoriously hallucinogenic pizza restaurants, really at the forefront of this most-competitive speciality?

And are the staff really able to perform whiz-bang otolaryngological stuff such as endocrine surgery of the head and neck (thyroidectomy, parathyroidectomy), microvascular free flap reconstruction and skull base surgery?

It could be a boon for moto riders who don't wear helmets, but as I began to delve into the question of how such a small shop can deliver such hi-tech surgery, another modern mystery surfaced near the airport.

'We come from south pole'
A sign, in the form of an antique bicycle with a board attached, declared that a rutted path off the highway leads to Vargo Varman - the real name for mud massage.

But when arriving at Vargo Varman, I was greeted with a large sign saying: "We come from south pole."
This is curious because none of the staff seem to be from the South Pole. Mostly they are Khmer, and the owner, Lee Subo, is from South Korea.

But he says he has as an affinity with the South Pole because, like his mud massage, it "changes spirit of customer".
Furthermore, he said he went with the South Pole analogy because his official mascot is the universally lovable and adorable penguri.

I was mystified about what a penguri is, so Lee Subo showed me a tiled wall emblazoned with stickers of cute Disney-esque critters that to my untrained eye look remarkably like penguins.
"Penguri!" he said. "I'm surprised you don't know them."

Having at least solved the penguri mystery, I'm now pondering more mysteries, like why hairdressers in Fruit Stall Street call themselves New Zealand Hair Cut, and P Kevin Hair Salon Coiffure VIP?
And I'd like to know if the newly-opened No Problem Villa really is problem-free.


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