Man about town: 27 September 2014

Man about town: 27 September 2014

Chief James Billie, chairman of the Seminole Indian tribe which owns Hard Rock International and the company’s global consortium of restaurants, hotels and casinos, was in town on Monday as part of a whistle-stop tour of the group’s regional outlets, together with Jim Allen, Hard Rock International’s chairman and CEO of Seminole Gaming, and Hamish Dodds, the president and CEO of Hard Rock International.

Jim Allen told reporter Nicky Sullivan that opening a casino in Cambodia could be on the cards. He said, “We’ve looked at different opportunities in Cambodia for gaming but one of the things we’ll continue to try to understand is the regulatory environment, and obviously the right location and what the government’s position is. Certainly we know the brand has done very well in other parts of Asia, particularly Macau… if there was a casino project then a hotel would be also part of the overall program.”

TV reports about Pakistani air passengers refusing to accept flight delays due to their airplane having to wait for the late arrival of alleged VIPs bought back fond memories of a Cambodian Angkor Airline flight to Siem Reap that was delayed due to an argument with an alleged bodyguard about bringing his gun on board.

Finally the bodyguard boarded and took his seat, 14A, next to me and he was fuming because he couldn’t bring his gun on board.

I decided to bury my nose further in the book I was reading, which was coincidentally about the madness of Panamanian dictator Noriega and his band of bodyguards.

But 14A kept lightly punching me on my shoulder demanding my attention, so I gave him his due.

He informed me that he was a private bodyguard and would escort a VIP back to Phnom Penh the next morning at 5.20am. “I am very busy,” he said sadly while handing me his business card which stated that as well as being a bodyguard he was also a personal assistant and personal adviser as well as security researcher.

He lifted the bottom of his shirt to display a dramatic long scar which he said was the legacy of a gun battle at Kampot ten years ago.

He questioned me about my planned movements when the plane touched down in Siem Reap and when I said I’d be going straight home by tuk tuk, he first asked if he could get a ride with me in the tuk tuk and then asked if he could also stay at my house overnight.

I adroitly averted that notion and recommended a hotel that was on the way.

When we landed we had to stuff around for almost an hour while he did the paperwork to collect his gun – finally he was given two brown envelopes, one holding his “short gun,” as the writing on the envelope said, and the other holding bullets.

In the tuk tuk, he was obviously cheesed off about yet another gun-induced delay, so he took the gun out of the envelope, then the bullets, loaded the magazine and slammed it into his pistol and then tossed it on top of my hold-all bag which was perched precariously in the front of the tuk tuk.

I said, “Er, the gun, it might fall off,” so he grabbed it, then grabbed a little holster and stuck it on his belt.

During the ride downtown he regaled me with stories of his multiple wives, one a Danish drug addict, one a Khmer model, one a restaurant owner etc etc. Finally I off loaded him at a guest house promising faithfully that eternal friendship and bonding had occurred.

But I never saw him again.

Siem Reap already has a one-room hotel and now a new addition is the Three Room d’Angkor Boutique hotel, so named because it has only three suites. It also has a swimming pool which has privacy as its selling point due to the small number of rooms. Its restaurant also benefits from the small number of rooms – the PR spiel say the restaurant “offers the real Khmer taste cuisine; it is cooked freshly from our heart. We cook everything fresh picked, not using a stock at all. We can do this due to our property having only three rooms.”


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