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Laura Mam
Cambodian-American singer-songwriter Laura Mam.


Cambodian-American singer-songwriter Laura Mam has in the past year staked a claim as the Kingdom’s hottest new pop star. This week, she filled us in on some of her favourite things about Phnom Penh.

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I go to brunch at Duck all the time. The food is comparable to something that you would eat in San Francisco for $19 for a plate and it costs like $3.50. I started to bring everyone I know for brunch, and everyone goes now. I don’t think as many people know about their happy hour, which runs from 5pm until 7pm and is $2 for cocktails. They make this wonderful cocktail called the Duck Sour. It’s so good. And it’s become a regular place for me and the girlfriends to go after work. It’s a great place to start your night before going somewhere else, and then flow through the night.
The Duck, 49 Sothearos Boulevard. Tel: 089 823 704.

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Sometimes after the Duck happy hour, we’ll flow through to Bassac Lane, which is very close by – you can walk there. I used to live on Street 308 and I love it because it’s this tucked away little secret corner. When I first walked by Bassac Lane, I was afraid to go in, because it looked scary but, when I did, there were all these beautiful, really well-built, very nicely designed little bars. It kind of reminds me of a street corner in Tokyo or something like that. Everything is really small and compact, but fun and intimate. My favourite bar in there is The Library. I love the lighting and all the books – the selection’s pretty interesting. I also like that you can bring your drinks in and out of different bars and they just reclaim their glasses as you go. It kind of feels like Las Vegas. And it’s a great place to meet different people – it’s one of those places where you can find all walks of life in Phnom Penh.

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Epic is a fun a place to go. What I like about it is it’s not totally Khmer and it’s not totally foreigners. It’s really mixed. Even the music is split up. They’ll play bits and pieces of popular Asian music, Khmer music and Western music. You never know what you’re going to get. And that gives you time to sit down and hang with your friends, and when your song comes on you can get up and get down. It’s nice. It’s quite different to Pontoon. I’ll be honest: I wasn’t always comfortable in Pontoon. I didn’t get a good feeling every time I was there. And Epic’s not really expensive. You can just sit down at a table and get a beer. I did a show with [dance group] Super K on New Year’s at Epic and it was one of the most fun nights I’ve had in a long while.
Epic Club, 122b (near Russian Embassy).

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I buy quite a lot of clothes at Tonle – they have a store on Riverside and another just opened near the Russian Market. I really appreciate their “no waste” business model and they pay fair wages. They are trying to address all the issues that are problems in Cambodia’s garment industry and issues the women are facing. They set a great standard. It’s the real-deal sort of social enterprise. The clothes are nice, too. They’re great designs and great quality. I haven’t seen anything else that has that kind of quality for that kind of price. There are other nice stores but they have very different pricing. I like what they’re trying to do, so I try and support them as much as I can.
Tonle, corner of Street 110 and Sisowath Quay and #59C Street 155. Web: tonledesign.com

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Starting in June, you can catch a new shadow puppet show at the National Museum put on by Cambodian Living Arts. It’s a new piece and the acting is incredible. Very well done. The storyline is on a projector on the side for people who don’t speak Khmer, but for the Khmer-speaking audience, I would really recommend that they go see it because I don’t think they realise how tailored it is to a Khmer audience. It’s hilarious. It’s classic Khmer comedy, not like the stuff you see on TV. It has really well thought-out lines. It’s funny and they make jabs and pokes while telling this ancient story – The War of Indrajit – which is a rarely told piece of the Ramayana. It’s very unique – a great show.
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