Sunday, January 11, 2009

Party animal

Monks blessing Kim Rieng's new home
It was wall-to-wall parties today in Siem Reap, though they were all pretty sedate and more a chance to catch up with friends than to let my hair down. After breakfast I was off to Kim Rieng's brand new house tucked away in the suburbs of Siem Reap for an official house blessing by five monks from Wat Kesararam. Rieng's father in law, Heng, who has been my driver on many occasions in the past, designed and helped to build the house for Rieng, who has been busy enough with his jobs of policeman and Angkor tour guide. The monks chanted and splashed water over the attendees for an hour or so before they were whisked back to the pagoda in time for their lunch. Extended family and friends then sat down to enjoy a large spread afterwhich I returned to the Shadow of Angkor for a chat with Kim and her parents. Just after noon, my good friend Now arrived to accompany me to the wedding party of Sokhy Ly and Narith, which was being held a few kilometres past the turn off to Roluos. I first met Sokhy Ly a while ago when she worked in an internet cafe, we kept in touch and then I was proud of her when she progressed to working at the Angkor National Museum. Today she married Narith and I've never seen her look so grown-up and happy. We stopped for a couple of hours of food and drink before Now took us back, on her moto, for a quick look at the yet-to-be-opened Dara Reang Sey Angkor Hotel, which is on Route 6 near Psar Leu in Siem Reap town.
Part of the ceremony to give Rieng's new home a good start: Sovann & Rieng are on the left
Children enjoying the music after the blessing
Myself and the blushing bride, Sokhy Ly
My companion to the wedding party, Now, resplendent in white
The happy couple, Narith and Sokhy Ly
The two sisters and their parents who run the popular Dara Reang Sey Hotel in Phnom Penh have really gone to town on this new venture - it's gigantic by comparison to their Phnom Penh operation. They will open the doors on Thursday with a soft opening of 82 rooms and then have plans to complete another 80 rooms, a massive restaurant and open the already-built swimming pool and spa. It's a definite step-up with swish new rooms, all with air-con, balconies and mod cons. In the current economic climate I hope it works out for my friends, who've acted as my surrogate family on many of my previous visits to the city. Back in town, I bought Now a new crash helmet, for two reasons. She couldn't really afford her own - she works as a souvenir seller at Angkor Wat - and the last time I saw her she had just had a very bad motorbike crash and had hurt her face badly because she wasn't wearing a helmet. Complete with her new look, we took off back to Rieng's home for the birthday party of his son, six year old Nara. All the same faces as this morning but louder with a happy birthday theme and the song of the same title, which played over and over. Nara and his younger sister, Chantrea, just three, are two adorable children and Rieng and Sovann his wife, should be very proud of them. My attendance elicited another wedding and an engagement invitation, so I should be making my way back for the former in early February, when Sovann's younger sister Dary will get married. The parties concluded for today, I switched to the HanumanAlaya boutique residence for my overnight accommodation, after saying my goodbyes to Rieng, his extended family and Now.
The impressive new Dara Reang Sey Angkor Hotel in Siem Reap
The unfinished swimming pool and Spa at the new Dara Reang Sey Hotel
A children's birthday party is all about the cake and having fun; here, Nara and Chantrea (right) enjoy a special moment

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