Trendy as hell

December 7, 2015

I went to an intriguing party over the weekend. One of Phnom Penh’s more exciting restaurants, The Common Tiger, closed down a few weeks ago when the villa it was situated in was sold off, to be turned into a block of flats. (The Mighty Penh, passim.) But it has just reopened, reincarnated, as The Tiger’s Eye, and it promises to be even better than before.

I know the chef/owner, who has an adorable French bulldog called Hunter, so I got a coveted invite to the opening. And it made me feel very old indeed.

I’ve been to quite a few parties since I’ve been in Phnom Penh, but never one that was so achingly trendy. About half the people there wouldn’t have looked out of place in Williamsburg, with their lurex baseball caps on sideways, waxed moustaches, bow ties and trilbys. They spent all their time taking selfies – at one point I spotted nine camera phones being held up above the throng.

Despite their utter pointlessness, I was rather charmed by them. It felt as if Phnom Penh was finally coming of age, if it now has hipsters. God knows, Cambodia needs more than artisanal sourdough bread, Sylvia Plath cardigans and fixed-gear bicycles, but it must be moving in the right direction if these things are popping up. Nevertheless, I left at about half-past eight, to go and have a quiet dinner with my dog.

Another feature of this weekend was what is apparently known as Brangelina popping up everywhere in Phnom Penh. Ms Jolie-Pitt and her husband, who have been filming in Siem Reap, were in town to take part in the Cambodian International Film Festival, and blimey, but you heard about it. Call me a snob, but I entirely fail to see to point of getting excited about glimpsing a celebrity from a distance. But it seems I’m in a minority. Even relatively sober journalists were texting me describing what Angelina was wearing. Some friends of mine got to meet the couple and gosh, did the sheen of stardom ever rub off on them. I don’t suppose they’ll have to buy themselves a drink for a month. No one seemed to mind that the pair got around town by helicopter, or that the film they’re currently making is being produced by their son Madox, who is 14 years old. I guess if it makes you happy…

One thing that does make me happy is our new quarterly literary and cultural magazine, The Mekong Review. The website is now up and running, and you can buy PDFs or subscribe. Just sayin’.

And finally, I have just been voted on to the board of the Overseas Press Club of Cambodia. Our first order of business was to decide which bar the OPCC would designate as the watering hole for hacks in town on a Thursday night (Red Bar, Street 308, as it happens). It seems like this might be a fun gig.


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