Siem Reap Scene: 9 Apr 2009

Siem Reap Scene: 9 Apr 2009

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

Photo by:
PETER OLSZEWSKI

Renaud Fichet, co-proprietor of Abacus, which is set to become a circus this Saturday.

ABACUS BECOMES A CIRCUS

A mini version of the Tini Tinou circus festival is coming to Siem Reap's Abacus Garden Restaurant this Saturday night, courtesy of proprietor Renaud Fichet.

The festival opened in Phnom Penh in late March and has just finished a four-day stretch in Battambang.

Obviously in a restaurant setting and a one-night restriction, Fichet can only host a snapshot version of the festival and has chosen three acts from Romania's Pa-Ra-Da foundation, the National Circus of Laos and Battambang-based Phare Ponleu Selpak.

The show will unfold in different areas of the restaurant complex while customers dine at Abacus, and the highlight will be a 35-minute trampoline performance by the Laotian circus performers.

The show kicks off at 8pm, and the fee for the circus itself will be $5.

Renaud told the Post he is hosting the night in order "to try to make something happen in Siem Reap and to support the whole circus festival project".

The Tini Tinou festival is an endangered event due to insufficient funding, and organisers say it may not return next year.

This is the sixth circus extravaganza that Renaud Fichet has hosted at Abacus, and he says this is simply because "I like circuses".

Fichet said that as a boy he didn't run away to join a circus but confessed that in the prime of his youth he was a Club Med entertainer, which in itself gives him some circus cred.

SILK FARM SPINS SUCCESS

It's a big call to make, but Meng Thavy, communication manager at Artisans D'Angkor, has made it.

During a presentations night at the Angkor Century Hotel, she told visiting graduate students from the tourism destination management course at NHTV University in the Netherlands that Artisans D'Angkor is now the second-most visited tourist destination in Siem Reap after Angkor Wat.

She said that despite the fall in tourism, visitor numbers for Artisans D'Angkor have risen in the past few months due to its cooperation with the Tour Guides Association.

And to thank the tour guides, the company held a special party for them on April 2.

Angkor Artisan's Silk Farm at Pouk, which employs 340 silk artisans, has been quite a hit with tourists. Meng Thavy claims that while tourism suffered a 20 percent decease in arrivals in the last six months, the number of visitors to the Angkor Silk Farm increased by 97 percent over the same period, which represents a daily average of 200 visitors.

Part of the recent success of the silk farm has been the revamping of the demonstration workshop to "make it more attractive and pedagogic".

Meng Thavy said that the growth of interest in the silk farm "has contributed to the development of high-quality silk production - an important sector of handicraft for the future in Cambodia".

Artisans D'Angkor is also constructing a new workshop for soapstone products, which is scheduled to open in July.

Photo by:
KYLE SHERER

Sam Nang Mean, assistant manager of the newly reopened Martini nightclub.

MARTINI NIGHTCLUB REOPENS

Martini nightclub, the notorious saloon located in the former Khmer Rouge headquarters off Old Market bridge, reopened on Saturday after a six-month closure. There have been various rumours swirling around Siem Reap as to the nightclub's long closure, but assistant manager Sam Nang Mean said the club was simply closed for building restoration, which finished two months ago.

Sam Nang Mean said the club will attract a Khmer crowd but stressed that it would not be like Sok San Palace, Siem Reap's den of PG-rated iniquity. One stark difference is that instead of a catwalk, the scantily clad women in Martini are situated on the dancefloor.

A bat signal-style spotlight rig has been set up, visible all over town, with the intention of attracting clubbers like moths, and the bar's DJ cranks out mainly hip-hop, R&B and disco tunes.

The "no guns, no knives, no explosives" sign out front, the slightly unhinged bargirls and the bar's reputation mean that Martini is a good place for barangs to get stirred and leave shaken.

When former UNTAC Siem Reap shadow governor in the early 1990s, professor Benny Widyono, was in Siem Reap in January, he took time out to visit the Martini's site.

He said that, apart from a few garish nightclub refurbishments, the building is the same as when he was governor and visited frequently because two Khmer Rouge generals operated out of the premises.

There is a sense of irony in that the highly moralistic KR generals' former lair is now a girlie bar, and Widyono pointed out that at least two KR assaults on Siem Reap were prompted by outrage over  UNTAC soldiers corrupting local women.

HOVERCRAFT SERVICE OPEN

The buzz in Siem Reap business circles is that another local entrepreneur is planning to launch a hovercraft service on the Tonle Sap river. In addition to being faster and more fuel-efficient than boats, hovercrafts also create less wake, making them less disturbing to floating villages.

But despite their many advantages and various business proposals over the years, Siem Reap travel agents are unlikely to know what a hovercraft is, let alone know if any companies are providing trips on them.

About two years ago, media reports said a company called Spirit of Cambodia planned to start a daily hovercraft shuttle between Siem Reap and Battambang, with additional services to Phnom Penh and floating villages.

Last year, the owner of Cambodian restaurant Kangaroo Kitchen was seeking investors for a hovercraft service off the coast of Sihanoukville.

"I am hoping to be in service around the end of the year, servicing the many islands of the coast," he said in an open posting to potential investors on small business website Start Up Nation.

This reignited hovercraft interest in Siem Reap, but none of the plans seem to have come to fruition.

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