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Old Hotels on Achar Mean Get Facelift

Old Hotels on Achar Mean Get Facelift

After 20 years abroad working in restaurants, hotels and nightclubs, An Vongsovang

is a returning Sino-Khmer with more panache than most.

For his Miramar restaurant - which opened last week on the ground floor of the old

Santepheap Hotel on Achar Mean Boulevard - he recruited Chan Vin Chu as chef who

remembers serving Charles De Gaulle when the French leader visited the Royal Palace

in Phnom Penh in the 1950s.

This is just part of the upgrade Vongsovang is supervising at the Santepheap, as

well as the Hotel Asie next door. The two hotels will be combined into 105 rooms

under the Hotel Asie name. A new elevator linking the two hotels may help lift the

no-star facilities to two-star status.

Vongsovang serves as executive director of a consortium of Hong Kong investors that

have 20-year leases on the two government-owned hotels. Retaining all the old staff

as a condition of the deal is testing his human resources management, he says.

The group is a few months away from finishing their own 120-room two star hotel,

Le Presidente, out on Kampuchea Vietnam Road. Other hotel projects may follow in

various vacation spots if peace prevails.

But what gets this former impresario most animated is bringing "le spectacle"

to his hometown, which he left in 1970. His life as an expat was split between Hong

Kong and Paris, where his family still runs several restaurants and a bar. Vongsovang

himself established the Capitol nightclub in Paris, which featured an Indochinese

cabaret.

His current dream is to find an old cinema or large house to create a venue providing

dinner, entertainment, and dancing. "It will be like the Lido in Paris,"

he says.

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