Open an upmarket gastrobar in Cambodia? She’s a Singaporean who dared

PHNOM PENH: When Singaporean Nicole Chiang initial uprooted to Cambodia 5 years ago with her husband, she was vital a good life as an ostracise mother – spending time in massage treatments, spas and tea with her new friends.

She shortly found herself wearied with that life, however – and along with dual business partners, motionless to open a initial upmarket loll in a heart of Phnom Penh. It targets a affluent, a unsure try deliberation a fact that Cambodia is one of a lowest nations in a world.

She sunk some of her assets (enough to buy a condo there, she reckoned) into a project, and fast found herself grappling with denunciation differences, young, fresh staff and bad levels of service.

When we initial come here, it’s exotic, it’s a opposite nation and all is romanticised. Then we go by a proviso where we work with people, your staff, partners, and it’s a opposite culture.

“Initially we do get undone since we consider differently. There are some things that we take for postulated as Singaporeans – what we consider is common sense, might not be for other people,” she said.

Training her use staff during The Bodleian.

The 43-year-old is among a flourishing array of Singaporeans who have resolutely pushed themselves out of their comfort zone, travelling to off-the-beaten-track countries to work and set adult shop, as a new array Going Places discovers.

In May this year, Ms Chiang non-stop her loll and gastrobar The Bodleian, that comes with a apart reward VIP room furnished with insinuate lighting, sensuous leather seats and vintage-styled posters to support to a well-heeled.

Prior to that, she was assisting her father set adult his bureau in Phnom Penh. She and her Singaporean businessmen friends had lamented a default of some-more insinuate venues in a city where they could relax and network, aside from a common karaoke joints, discos and VIP bedrooms in upmarket restaurants.

“We are like a hall though a membership. We were assured to start this since we already had a network of people who did need a space like this,” she said.


There were some initial sceptics like enlightenment and humanities publisher Mark Tilly who wondered either such a high-brow judgment would attain in this bad country.

“It’s tying yourself to a really specific clientele, that of a general business village that can vacillate from time to time,” pronounced Mr Tilly.

There are usually as many stories of disaster as stories of success here, in terms of people environment adult bars.

The try has finished pretty good in a initial few months, with a business that includes expatriates from Japan, Korea, China, easterly Europe and United States. Ms Chiang recognises Cambodia’s intensity as a building nation where many are penetrating to network for business opportunities.

“We will not be awaiting a full residence each night, or people walking in all a time. What we wish is a peculiarity of a customers, not so many a quantity,” she said.

Watch: Her ups and downs (2:43)

Initial hurdles enclosed bettering to a internal culture, and grappling with denunciation and communication differences.  She also realised that her expectations, and that of a locals, were really different.

(But) by a years, we also learnt that as a foreigner, we have to honour and know how they work here. And afterwards usually from there, can we find a approach to be successful.

“Because there’s no indicate in perplexing to usually exercise a approach we consider and a Singapore standard. We have to find a approach to work with how they think, and afterwards we can get to where we wish to be,” she said.

“We have to find a approach to work with how they think,” pronounced Ms Chiang of bettering to internal ways. 


The array Going Places facilities other Singaporeans such as Mr Jeremy Choong, 38, who is using his possess coffee camp in Paksong, Southern Laos, notwithstanding carrying no before believe about flourishing or roasting coffee.

There’s Mr Ashraf Bakar, 29, who has a goat plantation in Mersing, Malaysia and is perplexing to sell 100 goats before a arriving Hari Raya Haji.

Mr Sean Lee, 44, recently launched an al fresco grill in Bali. His aspiration is for it to be a best in Seminyak though he’s confronting a lot of foe from a large restaurants and bars in a area.

Ms Renee How ventured to remote Kazakhstan to work on a initial aquaponics (which combines flourishing fish and plants) greenhouse, with a idea of assisting internal farmers grow furnish all year round.

Series writer Gosia Klimowicz pronounced she was struck by how desirous and driven these Singaporeans were, and their radical ways of thinking.

It takes a special kind of chairman to select a opposite career for yourself, leave a comfort of your possess nation and see where a journey takes you.

“It was really sparkling and moving to locate a glance of what it takes for them to overcome a hurdles and work towards achieving their goals,” she added.

Ms Chiang’s husband, businessman Mr Arizuan Arshad, 45 – who has beheld some-more Singaporeans streamer to Cambodia to work – pronounced that Singaporeans have a repute for behaving on their ideas, interjection to a country’s preparation system.

 “I consider a Singapore pass also opens a lot of doors,” he said. “People acquire that red pass we lift since we paint stability, honesty, money, and we consider many importantly – a ability to execute.”

Watch a initial part of Going Places here.

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