Friday, December 3, 2010

Yi Sang lunchdate

Yi Sang restaurant has a great location to match its excellent cuisine
Just back from a gorgeous lunch with Luu Meng, the country's top chef and two of his sales team, Leakhena and Sopharat, at the new Yi Sang restaurant on the riverfront. It sits on the banks of the river, next to the Chaktomuk Theatre and had a lovely breeze blowing as we sat upstairs to enjoy a selection of food, both Chinese and Khmer. They also provide tourist information at the restaurant as well as internet access, and you can also sit outside on the ground floor or in an air-con room on the first floor, but for me the view from the top floor overlooking the meeting of the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers was just right. The Yi Sang restaurant is the latest venture from the Almond Group that counts no less than ten outlets of one variety or another, including the Almond Hotel, Cafe Sentiment and Feeling Home Hotel. You can choose from Chinese, Khmer or international food, and Yi Sang is open all day. In fact, two of my favourite staff, Mom and Dary, who were until recently working at Cafe Fresco's, are now at Yi Sang, so it was also a nice reunion.
On the way back to the office I took my first look at the bridge at Koh Pich, the scene of the recent tragedy, to try and fathom how such an horrific event could've taken place. In the cold light of day it's almost impossible to understand why so many people lost their lives, and were injured, when you see the open spaces all around the bridge, though the sheer enormity of the crowds for the water festival presents very unusual circumstances and without proper crowd control measures in place, channeling throngs of people into a small space resulted in the shocking scenes that we saw on the television and in the media. Such a sad lesson for us all to learn.
Koh Pich bridge, the scene of the recent tragedy that has claimed over 350 lives
A lone workman is the only presence on the Koh Pich bridge, which is closed to the public
The footbridge joins Koh Pich island to the mainland, just in front of NagaWorld
Tonight, I spoke to my girlfriend about that fateful evening and showed her the photos. It was the first time we'd really spoken about the incident. She'd been about ten metres from the entrance to the bridge you can see in the 2nd photo above at around 9.30pm that night. The crowds were very heavy and a Koh Pich official together with a foreigner were telling people not to go onto the bridge because there were too many people on it. She said she saw two security guards at the entrance to the bridge, which was open and unobstructed. There were no police to be seen in the area of the bridge. In the middle of the footbridge, she saw an ambulance which then left the bridge carrying some people who had collapsed, she was told. She said that though it was dark, the flashing lights on the bridge showed that the center of the bridge was already very crowded, so she decided to follow the advice and made her way to the larger road bridge and headed back towards the Royal Palace area. She had no idea that the scene she had witnessed would unfold so terribly and that her decision to take another route off Koh Pich would take her away from the crush that eventually claimed over 350 lives. One of those that perished was her cousin, who had come to the city for the water festival from her home district of Santuk.

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