"It's really quiet, but we keep ourselves busy", says -- with a smile behind her mask -- Somonea Cheng, TemplationActing General Manager in Siem Reap, the closest high-end resort to an Angkor Wat temporarily deserted by the tourist crowds.
Even if all international travel has been put on hold due to the coronavirus global crisis, and Cambodia inhabitants have substantially reduced their movement around the country, the entire staff (99 employees) remain on the payroll. Some are taking their annual leave days, since the celebration of Khmer New Year is near: "Usually, many Phnom Penhers stay with us at this period of the year, but now we have only a few reservations", notes Somonea.
Today, we see Sophal doing some cleaning by the vast main swimming pool. Nearby, between majestic native trees that were scrupulously kept during the hotel construction and well-cared shrubs, Dara, maintenance team member, digs out a water tube that has been damaged by roots; in the quiet resort, major maintenance works that are usually postponed for the tranquility of the guest can now go on...
In one of the 41 spacious suites and villas -- most of them with their own private pool --, Sophy is spraying curtains and cushions with an antibacterial solution. Meanwhile, Buntheb, one of the concierges and drivers, is taking care of the hotel vintage Jag, which he's so fond of driving around in more normal times.
Shifts have been modified. Masks are regularly provided to the employees by the hotel management. Kids have often been sent to their grandparents so they can follow their homeschooling (and play in the fresh air) while parents are at work. That's the "new normal", one everyone wishes won't last too long.
On such a big property -- close to four acres, most of it verdant and requiring scrupulous watering in these hottest days of April --, gardening is of course one important activity: at Templation, even the roofs are green with vegetation, since the resolutely eco-friendly resort has opted for the 'green roof solution' as heat insulation.
And at the entrance of the premises, one big plot of organic vegetable garden is tended by a good part of the kitchen staff. "Initially, we were aiming at gourmet greens and herbs for the restaurant, but now we're also growing vegetables more adapted to the meals served at the staff canteen", explains Benoit Le Rioux, corporate chef and mastermind of the Templation Organic Farm project.
At the staff cafeteria, the ambiance, not as relaxed and jovial than before, is not gloomy, nevertheless. People know that the whole town is suffering with the tourism crisis, impacting friends, families and themselves. This year, Khmer New Year big gatherings of dancing and playing games in the pagodas are out of the map.
But life goes on, and Cambodia has so far managed to remarkably keep the pandemy under control. "We remain a great team, even if we won't party all together for this new year", summarizes Somonea, "and we're still able to escape for a stroll among the ancient Khmer temples and by the ponds when our shift is over."
Entrance and organic farm on the left side
Morning Glory sprouts
Khmer comfort food on the cafeteria 3-meal menu
(Photos by Sovansamphos Preap)
Feels like just yesterday...
Since its opening three years ago, Templation Angkor and its team have always been active in environmental improvement, support of local healthcare institutions, and promoting artistic and cultural creativity. Here are a few snippets from our archive:
Charity dinner for Kantha Bopha Children's Hospital, Nov 2017
'Sakura' performance by Sacred Dancers of Angkor, Nov 2018
'Black&White' Staff Dance Party, April 2019
Joining 'Plant One Tree Day', July 2019
(note that wearing a mask is rather usual in Southeast Asia, here only as dust protection...)