Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bloom Garden Guesthouse

Update 15Nov2010: Website for Bloom Garden Guesthouse is up! Please click

I'm sorry I have not updated the blog for over a month. Especially sorry to the new followers who have joined this blog. I can tell you all now why I have been M.I.A.: I am opening a guesthouse!

Yes, I fear I am becoming a cliche -- "How romantically ex-pat of you", said an American philosopher friend.

I'll explain why: I have had so many emails from people asking me to recommend a guesthouse I figured I may as well open my own.

The second reason is I have met so many people who drop in the Bloom shop who tell me they have been scammed that I decided by opening a guesthouse I can provide honest service and information to travellers. My biggest beef is with the operators of the Chong Kneas floating village boat scam . So many tourists have told me how they'd been cheated. I really hope I will be able to advise people *before* they get ripped off instead of hearing about the bad experience.

Anyway, so this is what I have been up to. I was very lucky to have found this lovely 2 storey, 10 bedroom villa located on the road to Angkor Wat.

We are in between the Old Market and the temples of Angkor.  A 5 minute drive to the temple ticketing booth and less than 10 mins to the Old Market (where the Bloom bag shop is located).

If you know me, you'd know I love nature. I've always dreamed of working with the National Parks Board in Singapore, just taking care of plants (I also love animals and went to Nepal a few years ago to learn from the fantastic animal shelter there - the Kathmandu Animal Treatment Centre). So it was a criteria that the guesthouse had to have a garden. Flowers are a bonus as it fits into the Bloom idea of Cambodian women blossoming once given the right encouragement and environment. So I was happy to find the garden is full of flowers like periwinkles, roses, japanese roses, chrysanthemums and my favourite, orchids (also Singapore's national flower).

There are only 10 bedrooms, each 4m by 5m and with ensuite bathroom. Every one of the rooms opens to  beautiful greenery. I find it very tranquil and soothing. Seriously, if I did not have 5 dogs , I would move into this house.

This is a Double Room on the first floor.

And one on the ground floor. 

These are the twin rooms.

Every room has its own mini-fridge as well as cable TV (with more than 90 channels in many different languages - Korean, Russian, Italian, French and Chinese among others). I removed the wooden door that was hiding the fridge after finding the fridge was overheating because there was nowhere for the hot air to escape. What this means is that the fridge is working about 10 times extra to stay cool. It's a terrible waste of energy.  I could drill holes in the cabinet but that would not provide as much air circulation as simply removing the cabinet door. So that was what I did. Next time you're in a hotel room, check out the mini-fridge and how hot it is in the cabinet. I think many people build things just for aesthetic reasons, not caring about energy usage or wastage. I suppose 5 star hotels do not care about the electricity bill since they charge enough, but we should do it for the environment anyway.

All the beds have spring mattresses - "guarantee for 11 years" :) Spring mattresses are very expensive in Cambodia (singles more than US$300) so most people use foam mattresses. In case you think it's memory foam - it's not. The best description is really a sponge. We sleep on a sponge mattress in our rented house and after 3 years it has a serious depression which is starting to hurt my back. 

I did not buy these expensive spring mattresses in the guesthouse -- they came with the villa, which has a history. It used to accommodate the managers at the nearby Le Meridien Hotel, while the hotel was being constructed. Presumably the mattresses were acquired by the hotel for its staff. I have been sleeping in the guesthouse as I have a friend over (our first customer!) and I have to say a good mattress makes a lot of difference to my sleep. I am thinking of investing in a good mattress for my bed now. I added the mosquito nets because I know gardens tend to attract mozzies and other insects. It's an extra precaution even though all the rooms have aircon and mosquito netting. Plus, I love sleeping under the net - I feel like a princess! (Another thing to put into my rented home and at US$11, it's something I can afford)

The villa has a meeting room that has a large table that seats a maximum of 12 persons. I'm not sure if I should keep it as a meeting room or convert it into something else. Ideally, I'd like to start a second sewing workshop in these premises as I'm already paying rent, and so customers can see for themselves what goes into the making of a recycled bag. But I think the noise of the machines may be annoying. Another idea is to make a small workshop in the garden, but apart from the guesthouse. We'll see. 

And here is the lovely breakfast area. We're not having a full-fledged restaurant at the moment, as I'd just like to focus on providing comfortable rooms. We do, however, provide free breakfast to all our guests - eggs, wholemeal toast, grilled tomatoes, fruit, coffee and tea. Our cook, Nga, is a new graduate from the Sala Bai school, a very worthwhile project that provides hospitality training to bright but poor youth in Cambodia. Every year, many young people apply but only a select number is chosen. I wrote about Sala Bai when I did a story for AsiaLIFE magazine a couple of years ago and remembered to call them when I opened this guesthouse.

The breakfast area is big enough that I am thinking of using the place in the mornings to teach English to tuktuk drivers like Om Pheon ("Om" is how you address an elderly old man in Cambodia).

There is also a bar counter. Maybe at some point we could have a bar. My friend Jimmy is always asking Alan to open a pub called "POT" - Philosopher On Tap (Alan is a philosopher - no joke, he has a philosophy book published by Penguin). It does sound like fun, talking to people over a beer but Alan is very private which is why you never see him on my blog. 

The pool table is in the car port. I don't play pool and am not sure how popular it will be with my guests. But I inherited this from the previous owner. I'm just leaving it for the time being but again, I think the space could be used for something else.  

This is the garden path from the restaurant/bar. 

The path lead to a couple of stone tables with chairs. 

Garden path leads to a swing for two

The front garden, big enough for a swimming pool, which would be just perfect. I love swimming and swim almost every day when I stay with my parents in their condominium whenever I go to Singapore for a visit. But I was quoted US$27,000 for a 6m x 10m (1.4m deep) pool by a Thai company. Eeps! A guesthouse I know spent $23,000 for a slightly smaller one, so I think those are typical prices here in Cambodia. For a while I was obsessed with building my own pool, after reading quite a lot about it online. There are even Youtube videos that teach you how. It just seemed like a fun project. I even discovered there are things called "Natural swimming pools". 

This is the balcony with its super shiny tiled floor. Ok, that's it. It's been a long entry and I need to meet my friend/guest now for dinner. I have created a Facebook page for Bloom Garden Guesthouse if you'd like to see more photos. I will also be writing about my fabulous team. I am so lucky to have great team members to help me with this new venture. And as keeping with Bloom's principles, there will be profit sharing for our Cambodian team. For now I leave you with this:

Our Apsara (Celestial Maiden) welcomes you!

Edit: Oops! Just had a couple of email enquiries - I'm so sorry I forgot to list the prices. We are having a special opening promotion from now until Oct 31, 2010: US$15 for one person and US$20 for two people. Prices include free breakfast, Internet + wifi, pickup and use of bicycles. High season rates (Nov - March) are US$20 and $30 respectively.  Hope to see you at Bloom some time! :)  


frost said...

Hi Diana,
What a great new project you have! Oh, I so want to come back to Cambodia and stay in the Bloom Garden Guesthouse! Looks beautiful!
I wish you and your team all the best with your new venture!

Hope said...

Diana, congratulations on Bloom Garden Guesthouse!! It sounds like a meaningful and exciting new journey (on top of Bloom of course) :)

The guesthouse looks absolutely droolsome!

Diana Saw said...

Thanks both! I'm really excited to have the opportunity to meet more people. Hopefully we'll see you in Siem Reap some time. Thanks much for the encouragement. We'll do our best. Cheers diana

Keo Kounila said...

Wow, congratulations, Diana! I really like how you decorate the room! I look forward to staying at your guest house if I happen to go to Siem Reap. :D

Diana Saw said...

Thanks Kounila! really like your latest thoughtful piece:

Look forward to seeing you some time in Siem Reap. Guess who dropped by Bloom Garden Guesthouse today? The US ambassador! She's so lovely.


spillthebeans said...

Hi Diana,

Congratulations on Bloom Garden Guesthouse. Will definitely stay there on my next trip back to Siem Reap.



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