Thursday, January 20, 2011

The visit

Prime Minister Hun Sen at today's ATF Travex
Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany arrive at ATF
The second day of the Travex trade show section of the Asean Tourism Forum 2011 went pretty much as expected. A merry-go-round of quick meetings between buyers and sellers, to see if longer working relationships were a possibility, dominated proceedings though the icing on the cake for many was the visit of prime minister Hun Sen, his wife and cabinet entourage, who spent an hour at the Travex in the middle of the afternoon. Security was tight as the PM arrived, headed straight for the Cambodia centerpiece, a replica of a gallery from Preah Vihear temple, but not before stopping to shake my hand as the only foreigner in a sea of Khmer faces. The press were out in force, with a rugby scrum of tv cameras and flashes popping every few seconds. A little earlier I met four girls kitted out in traditional Apsara style dresses and realized one of them was Tola, a dancer and teacher at the Royal University of Fine Arts. She was on stage for the opening ceremony a couple of days ago and will be off to dance in Japan towards the end of the month. When she is not jet-setting around the globe with her dance colleagues, she teaches every morning at the University alongside another friend of mine, Savin. I felt a bit sorry for them because their headdresses weighed a fair bit and they were waiting for the arrival of the VIP guests for at least a couple of hours beforehand. I also attended a couple more fact-filled but pointless country media briefings and spent some time meeting up with friendly faces from booths that I know well.
Following closely on the heels of a full day at ATF came the Khmer-language launch of Ambassador Sichan Siv's book, Golden Bones at Monument Books. A good crowd gathered to welcome this latest edition of the book, with the Ambassador in town as a guest of the ATF host committee. Amongst the array of interesting guests I met Narin Jameson who will soon publish a cookbook of Khmer recipes intertwined with stories of her Cambodian childhood. The evening ended with a garden party for friends of Hanuman with some lovely home-cooked food and conversation with some guest buyers from around the world.
Meeting 4 of the country's top classical dancers. LtoR: Tola Chap, Sophea, Sotheavy and Romanita.
Posing with the dancers in front of the Preah Vihear temple replica
All smiles from the members of the Hanuman team at their booth
With Malen Chea from Le Meridien Hotel
From the book launch of Golden Bones in Khmer, with Ambassador Sichan Siv
Sichan Siv (left) introduces Prince Sisowath Sirirath at tonight's book launch



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