Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - MY PHNOM PENH: Sebastien Marot: Director, Friends International



MY PHNOM PENH: Sebastien Marot: Director, Friends International

Frenchman Sebastien Marot has lived in Cambodia since 1994, when he founded child-focused Friends International, one of Cambodia’s best-known NGOs.
Frenchman Sebastien Marot has lived in Cambodia since 1994, when he founded child-focused Friends International, one of Cambodia’s best-known NGOs.

MY PHNOM PENH: Sebastien Marot: Director, Friends International

Frenchman Sebastien Marot has lived in Cambodia since 1994, when he founded child-focused Friends International, one of Cambodia’s best-known NGOs, on a ‘stopover’ en route to a job in Japan. In the intervening years, he’s witnessed the city’s rapid growth and raised a couple kids of his own. This week, he gave Audrey Wilson a rundown of his picks for socially responsible – and kid-friendly – places to escape Phnom Penh’s increasing hustle and bustle

Romdeng Restaurant

ROMDENG RESTAURANT

As I became a father, you need to look at what’s fun with kids. Sometimes it’s difficult. The choices [in Phnom Penh] are not that exciting. One hidden secret – and it’s blatant self-promotion, but it’s true that I like it a lot and the kids love it – is Romdeng, one of our [vocational] training restaurants. On weekends, it’s great: it has a swimming pool, we can sit on the side of the swimming pool, eat good food and drinks, and the kids splash in the swimming pool and it’s awesome. There are not too many people, so really for a nice few hours on the weekends, this is a really good place. It’s great even when it rains – makes it a good relaxing afternoon. [Friends] has partner restaurants in Siem Reap and Sihanoukville and related restaurants in Battambang and Kampot. Whenever we travel, we stop at these restaurants. It has great social impact, and all of them have a great area for kids.

Java Café and Gallery

JAVA CAFÉ AND GALLERY

I am very partial for many reasons to Java Café. Because, of course, I have a direct connection to it [wife and owner Dana Langlois]. But beyond that, I find Java the place where . . . it’s the NGO for NGOs. It’s the place where I can go and relax and take it easy. It has great food, great coffee, good sugar – and a playground for the kids. What is especially interesting I find is that Java is giving 10 per cent of their profit to the arts. As such, they are contributing directly to contemporary art in Cambodia. So they have a social component – it’s not very well-known, because they’re pretty discreet about it, but they put a lot of money from the café into the arts.

Secondhand shops

SECONDHAND SHOPS

With kids, finding fun stuff to do is a little more difficult. The mall culture is not exactly what I enjoy. So other places to run around and hide? I love the secondhand Japanese shops around the city. They’re really scattered around town. There are the two major brands: Sakura and Toto. We spend a lot of time there on the weekends. It’s cool because we find some really funky clothes and glasses and – when you’re lucky – some furniture to fill an empty space. And it’s really fun with the kids, because they can pick up some weird Japanese toys that are really cheap, and it makes a fun few hours. I love antiquing, so that’s my compromise for Cambodia.

Noodles and coconut cakes

NOODLES AND COCONUT CAKES

Much of my life is about food . . . I love to eat. Some of my favourite places to go here have Chinese food. There are many good restaurants near Central Market especially. But the noodle shops on Monivong Boulevard, I will always go to, and my kids love them, too. We also love the coffee at the Russian Market and the coconut cakes that they make there. It’s a satisfying break from the heat and the craziness of the market – it’s good to have a break in there when you go. My kids don’t like the coffee yet, but those coconut cakes . . . it’s a favourite stop. If we don’t stop there, they would be extremely cranky. When the shopping gets too intense, it’s good to stop.

Koh Rong

KOH RONG

Phnom Penh has changed a lot over the years . . . I don’t think all of the construction [going on now] is giving the city anything. Escape is escape: we like to get out of the city. It’s always good to roam. We like to buy books at the secondhand bookshops here, and we pack our books every time we go on vacation. We usually like to go the beach, outside of Sihanoukville – though [on Otres Beach], construction has changed things dramatically. We really like Monkey Island on Koh Rong. The kids can do things they could not do in Phnom Penh, like riding bicycles or running around. In Paris, you can still send them out on a bike at a certain age, but in Phnom Penh, they hop in a tuk-tuk.

MOST VIEWED

  • First Cambodian woman graduates from Japan’s NDA military academy

    A few years ago, Meach Sithyka Jessica became the first-ever Cambodian woman to graduate from the US Military Academy at West Point, and since then her courage and determination has served as an inspiration for other Cambodian women. Similarly, Ly Chansocheata became the first Cambodian

  • Construction begins on $1.5B Kampot seaport

    The International Multi-Purpose Logistics and Port Centre, principally invested by Kampot Logistics and Port Co Ltd and projected to cost $1.5 billion, has officially broken ground in Bokor town, Kampot province. The multi-purpose logistics and port centre, located in Prek Tnaot commune, will be built on

  • Cambodia eyes key role in electronics, auto hubs in SEA

    Two roadmaps, part of the LDC’s economic diversification plan, were designed to see it through its migration process, but experts say the journey might be arduous, particularly in the presence of two established hubs in the region By 2028, Cambodia hopes to have exited the

  • Hun Neng, lawmaker and PM’s brother, passes away aged 72

    Hun Neng, chairman of the 4th Commission of the National Assembly, has passed away from heart disease at the age of 72 on the afternoon of May 5, according to the Ministry of Information. Hun Neng is the older brother of Prime Minister Hun Sen, and was

  • CCC team off on US business trip

    The Kingdom’s leading economists and private sector representatives have called on the US to renew its tax preferential status for Cambodian exports, as a Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) delegation departed for a weeklong business visit to the US, where they will meet with

  • PM meets with US business giants

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has met with a number of major US companies who have expressed interest in investing in Cambodia, in a meeting convened by the US-ASEAN Business Council (US-ABC). A delegation of companies – including Amazon, Meta, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Ford, Visa and Pernod