I've probably worked harder over the last 3 weeks than I've ever done in my career. The new hotel - Sojourn - is almost ready to open and there have been many early mornings and late nights, but the really exhausting event was when a group of 120 people came over from Hong Kong for 3 days (16th-18th) and we had to provide all transport, tours, activities, meals, Apsara girls, what felt like 1000 bottles of water & cold towels, shadow puppet shows, fireworks, an Apsara dance performance, and a huge gala dinner at the new hotel. It was a challenging week, with the lead up and then the event itself. The gala dinner was the most challenging, especially when 30 minutes before everyone arrived the heavens opened and we had to move everything indoors (despite having marquees, the Hong Kong organisers were scared the guests would get struck by lightening!). Anthony & Fiona still laugh about me shouting like a Sergeant Major whilst carrying a table under each arm! At this point I also had my long Khmer skirt tucked into my knickers so I could move quicker. The girls at work have teased me ever since. Over the course of the 3 days my duties included everything from moving furniture, mopping floors, serving drinks, clearing dirty plates, driving my boss's 4x4 along dark, pot holed, muddy roads to pick up their son & babysitter, getting stuck in the mud (but finally managing to get out thank god), numerous visits to market, rolling 200 cold towels at 12.30am and being back in at 4am to prep for a 5am sunrise tour, dealing with Khmer bus drivers, trying to communicate with guides who only spoke Khmer & Cantonese, shipping guests off onto different activity tours all leaving at the same time, to throwing luggage into the back of trucks and unloading it at the airport . . . and the list goes on. Anthony, Fiona and I had about 3 hours sleep on the 1st night and were running on borrowed energy for the next 2 days, but despite it being hard work, it was actually very exhilarating, especially waving them off at the airport. Anthony and I high-five'd at that point!
And being the gluttons for punishment that we are, we have to do it all again next weekend, including another gala dinner, but at least this time it's only 35 Malaysians. We're also planning an 'Amazing Race Angkor' (similar to the tv programme - I don't know if we get it in the UK) for them, including various challenges at Angkor Wat, such as eating crickets & spiders.
The team at The Villa is great and I love my job. The Hong Kong Group visit really got everyone working together. All the girls are very affectionate with me now too. I think it was a bit of getting to know and trust me, and the skirt in the knickers incident made them realise that I get stuck in and work bloody hard! Every day I arrive at work they put their arms round my waist, tie small fragrant flowers in my hair, invite me to the cinema & other events, chat about all sorts of things, and they call me their big sister. They are such gorgeous girls. I've become very motherly with one in particular (Pisey). The above photo (and those in Work album) shows our two Restaurant Managers (Pisey & Vanhorm) and two Senior Waitresses (Rina & Nary) as Apsara girls. We had them greet the 3 Hong Kong group flights at the airport with jasmine garlands. The boys at The Villa are really sweet too, but so shy (especially of Barangs with their skirt tucked in their knickers!).
Last Friday (24th) I did escape for a while and spent an hour and a half riding through the countryside on a quad bike. There is a company here run by a Frenchman and we were testing it out for future activity events. It was good fun, although very wet & muddy, but I suppose that's all part of the enjoyment. They're powerful machines and are a mix of riding a motorbike and driving a car, with an accelerator similar to a jet-ski.
The problem with living & working here is that you no longer visit the tourist spots. Also I hadn't taken any photos for weeks, so on Saturday (25th) early morning I jumped on my moto, armed with camera, and spent a couple of hours at Ta Prohm and the surrounding countryside (see Temples album). I came across lots of water buffalo on my visit, which I adore, especially the babies! One of the pictures I took shows a very protective mother with her baby - she tolerated me long enough to take the photo.
Apart from the odd night out, I do very little socially, usually only meeting a friend for coffee or dinner very occasionally. However I had the treat of two evenings out this week, the first on Sunday (26th) when Anthony & Fiona hosted a small 'thank you' party for a few friends who helped out at the gala dinner. We had a great seafood BBQ, a few cocktails, and a lovely swim in the new hotel's pool (including Archer - their son - who is a real water baby). They had also bought each of us a voucher for an aromatherapy massage at Frangipani as a 'thank you' present, so I'm very much looking forward to going for that. Frangipani has opened up a new salon, which is absolutely gorgeous. The salon had an opening night party a couple of weeks ago which I was invited to, but it clashed with the Hong Kong Group visit so I wasn't able to go.
Then on Thursday (30th) I met up with two of the ladies from Sunday night - Pat (from America) and Kaye (from New Zealand) - just for a couple of hours at the '$1 Night' at Soria Moria Boutique Hotel, not far from where I stay. It's $1 per drink/dish and we had a well deserved few glasses of wine and various dishes of potato wedges, tomato & mozzarella salad, and fantastic spicy Indian poppadoms, with the total coming to just $5 each. Soria Moria has a good programme of events with 'Open Sky Cinema' (rooftop movies with free popcorn) on Monday nights, 'Ladies Night' (with free sparkly wine & treats) on Tuesday nights, 'Apsara Dance' on Friday nights, and 'Wine Night' on Sunday nights. I'm hoping to get to the cinema and ladies night at some point. Pat, Kaye & I are desperate to know what the 'free treats' are! I think most ex-pats are keen on the word 'free'!
Anthony & Fiona had a much deserved mini-break in Hoi An, Vietnam, this week and my days have been filled with visits to the new hotel to help with defects lists, deliveries of mattresses, picking up Anthony's 4x4 from the garage, preparing the new staff house, writing rent & maternity contracts, navigating severely flooded streets (up to knee level in parts, you just don't think about what you've been wading through), preparing a complex itinerary for the Malaysian group, and answering the hundreds of reservation emails we receive. We're getting very busy now, already 86% full for November and 75% full for December. On Friday I picked Anthony & Fiona up from the airport and bumped into a really nice guide I know called Manay. I haven't seen him since January so was very surprised when he called out my name.
I've got a microwave in my room now so I can cook, which is great for during the week when I'm tired and don't want to go out. I can also have my microwave popcorn! I know I've lost some weight as I can now put on / take off my jeans without undoing the buttons, but I don't think the popcorn is doing me much good!