SISTERS are doing it for themselves in Siem Reap. Four young women – two Cambodian, one British and one American – have set up their own guesthouse in the Central Market area of town. At first I thought that the guesthouse name, Avie Moriya, was a cute play on Ave Maria, the title of the famous aria by Charles Gounod which was based on a piece by Johann Sebastian Bach.
But the guesthouse name is a combination of the moniker of 30-year-old Dy Avie, the director of the new establishment, and her daughter’s name.
The other women involved are American Emily Meader, Briton Bryony Rice (both 21) and Cambodian Na Solina, who is 26.
Na Solina, the general manager, seems to be the glue that binds them all. She is a former manager for high-profile restaurant The Banana Leaf on Pub Street, which is where the team members first got to know one another about six months ago.
“It was just perfect timing,” explains Avie. “I was looking for something to do, and then one day, two months ago, I passed this building that was for rent. I spoke to Solina and suggested a guesthouse. She said ‘yes, we can do it’, and after that it all just came together.”
An unofficial member of the team is Jampa Devi Radmall, one of the most impressive front-of-house staff I’ve ever encountered. Her patience, thoughtfulness and attentiveness are exemplary, which is not bad at all considering that Jampa, Solina’s daughter, is only seven years old.
The guesthouse has 10 rooms, decorated with pleasant feminine touches such as plants, quilts and softly coloured furnishings. All rooms have ensuite bathrooms, air-con, a mini-bar, television and hot water.
“We’re aiming for travellers who like a bit more comfort, and a homier feel. We’re so small that we can really give a personal touch,” says Meader.
“It’s a very exciting new thing,” says Avie, “but also I’m nervous. We really want to make it go well.”
“But we’re all determined women, we can make anything work,” added Meader.