Friday, April 1, 2011

Swapping tales

The dinner trio with our books; LtoR, Cristiano, Bruno and myself
If you have read my Cambodia Tales website you'll know that I have a passion for the Angkorian temples dotted around the Cambodian countryside. So to have dinner tonight with two of the best temple-hunters in the country, was a great pleasure as we swapped anecdotes about publishing books, as all three of us have now published a book in the last few months. Having just arrived in Phnom Penh to pick up his new book, so fresh from the printers that the ink wasn't even dry, Cristiano Calcagno gave myself and Bruno Bruguier a copy of his 175-page Kampong Thom and Its Province; History, Geography and Archaeology of the Heartland of Cambodia. Cristiano, who also contributed to my own To Cambodia With Love, has lived in Kompong Thom for many years now and has conducted his own exhaustive research in every corner of the province to unveil an incredible amount of detail, much of it about the 400+ archaeological sites that he recorded, many of which cannot be found anywhere else in print. If there was a Cristiano in every province in Cambodia, we'd know so much more about the ancient wonders of this land. One person who we have to thank for identifying much of what we know today was the third member of our dinner trio, Bruno Bruguier. A member of EFEO since 1995, Bruno has spent many years in rural Cambodia, visiting the majority of the ancient temples that form the main inventory of Cambodia's ancient monuments. In many respects, he had the job that I would've loved to have had. He recently published the 2nd of his six-book archaeological guide of Cambodia series, titled Sambor Prei Kuk and the Tonle Sap Basin, a 242-page book stuffed full of photographs and facts, all of it in French. If only I spoke the language I'd have a field day, but instead I gaze lovingly at the pictures. We had a very enjoyable meal at Chayyam restaurant on Street 278, which included a trio of performances from one of my very favourite dancers in the country, Sophea Chamroeun, from the Children of Bassac group, who performs traditional and folk dances at Chayyam when she can. It would be hard to beat such an evening.
Sophea (right) and her dance partner Hou Cheychanrith after their engaging Muslim dance
A close up during the coconut dance
Sophea in full flight during her 1st performance

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