Cambodian reptile cafe slithers into people’s hearts

A customer takes a selfie with a ball python at the Reptile Cafe in Phnom Penh. (AFP)
Updated 06 September 2018
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Cambodian reptile cafe slithers into people’s hearts

  • Some visitors look hesitantly at the cages, others are bolder in their embrace of the creatures
  • Business is still slow-going due to the common fears of snakes and lizards

PHNOM PENH: For anyone terrified of an albino python, an orange corn snake or a scaly, bearded iguana, Chea Raty says getting up close and personal at Phnom Penh’s first reptile-themed cafe is the only remedy.
Taking off from the cat cafes already popular in the Cambodian capital, Chea Raty launched his business to revamp the skin-crawling reputation of lizards and snakes and convince haters that they are simply misunderstood.
As customers sip on their lattes and hang out with the reptiles, “they will love them like I do,” the 32-year-old said while stroking the scaly neck wattle of an iguana.
The walls of his cafe are lined with lit-up glass tanks containing snakes of various lengths and colors, while a bright macaw screeches in the corner.
Some visitors look hesitantly at the cages, others are bolder in their embrace of the creatures.
There’s no entry fee, so visitors can order a coffee and request a sit-down with a serpentine friend from one of the tanks.
An ice tea for a young customer instantly becomes a cool object for a yellow-and-cream-colored ball python to twist its body around.
A woman giggles as an albino python creeps from her shoulder and wraps behind her head.
Nearby, a bearded dragon iguana perches on a table while a man gently pets it.
Customer Y Navim was wary at first of a corn snake, an orange-colored serpent that kills its prey through constriction. But it was soon resting on her palm as she sipped her coffee.
“This cafe is quite unique,” the 22-year-old said. “I’ve never seen some of these reptiles before. They are beautiful and scary.”
To critics who say the animals should be left alone in the wild, Chea Raty says his human-bred creatures “cannot survive there.”
All of his cafe creatures are imported from Thailand.
Business is still slow-going due to the common fears of snakes and lizards.
But women, Chea Raty says, are providing an unexpected boost.
“They put the pythons around their neck, take selfies, and they are happy.”


But is it art? Pranksters plant missing ‘Picasso’ in Romania

Updated 2 min 25 sec ago
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But is it art? Pranksters plant missing ‘Picasso’ in Romania

  • Writer was the victim of a ‘performance’ by two Belgian directors in Antwerp
  • Supposed tip-off was part of a project called ‘True Copy’ dedicated to the notorious Dutch forger Geert Jan Jansen
THE HAGUE: A writer who thought she had found a painting by Pablo Picasso stolen in an infamous art heist six years ago said Sunday she was the victim of a “publicity stunt,” Dutch media reported.
Picasso’s “Harlequin Head” was one of seven celebrated paintings snatched from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam in 2012 during a daring robbery local media dubbed “the theft of the century.”
The artworks by Picasso, Monet, Gauguin, Matisse and Lucian Freud have not been seen since.
But Dutch writer Mira Feticu, who wrote a novel based on the brazen heist, thought she had uncovered the piece after she was sent an anonymous letter around 10 days ago “with instructions regarding the place where the painting was hidden” in Romania.
Feticu, of Romanian origin, said the tip-off led her to a forest in the east of the country where she dug up an artwork wrapped in plastic.
Romanian authorities, who were handed the canvas on Saturday night, said that it “might be” Picasso’s painting, which is estimated to be worth €800,000 ($915,000).
However, on Sunday night Feticu told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS that she was the victim of a “performance” by two Belgian directors in Antwerp.
Feticu said she received an email from the Belgian duo explaining that the letter was part of a project called “True Copy,” dedicated to the notorious Dutch forger Geert Jan Jansen, whose fakes flooded the art collections of Europe and beyond until he was caught in 1994.
“Part of this performance was prepared in silence in the course of the past few months, with a view to bringing back Picasso’s ‘Tete d’Arlequin’,” Bart Baele and Yves Degryse wrote on their website.
Their production company “currently wishes to abstain from any comment” because it first wants to speak to Feticu, the statement said.
“We will be back with more details on this issue within the next few days.”
Four Romanians were jailed in 2014 for the heist and ordered to pay €18 million ($20.5 million at today’s rates) to the work’s insurers.
One of the group, Olga Dogaru, told investigators she had burned the paintings in her stove in the sleepy village of Carcaliu to protect her son, Radu, when he could not sell them. She later retracted the statement.
Investigators have previously said the paintings were destroyed after the thieves failed to find a buyer.
Specialists from Romania’s museum of natural history examined ashes from a stove in Dogaru’s home and found traces of at least three oil paintings, based on lead- and zinc-based pigments in blue, yellow, red and green that are no longer used, director Ernest Oberlaender-Tarnoveanu said.
The thieves had slipped into the Dutch museum during the night of October 15-16, 2012 and got away with the works which despite their value were not protected by alarms.