Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Legitimate thieves

A statue from Koh Ker currently under the spotlight at Sotheby's
The looting of Cambodia's cultural heritage has been going on far too long. Items offered up at auction at Sotheby's and elsewhere with an 'acquired legally' catalog entry mean jack shit. These items have been spirited away/stolen from Cambodia, their rightful home. In my view, it's simple, they should be returned. There's a case in point, reported in the New York Times yesterday, which highlights this trade in Khmer sculpture that has been taking place for far too long already. The five foot statue in question was stolen from the Koh Ker complex, where I was only last week, in the 1970s and yet Sotheby's believed it was legit. Crap, and they know it. Unfortunately, the onus is on Cambodia to prove that these items have been removed illegally, even though it's as plain as the nose on your face, that they have. Or else the current owners get to keep them, and sell them on if they wish. In some cases, a deal is done, and money is exchanged, where Cambodia has to buy back its own heritage. That has got to be wrong. However, hold your horses, there may be a knight in shining armour on the horizon. This is what the New York Times has to say on the subject:

Yet another wrinkle is expected on Wednesday when lawyers working with Cambodia plan to announce the rediscovery of a 1925 French colonial law declaring all antiquities from Cambodia’s multitude of temples to be “part of the national domain” and “the exclusive property of the state.” The statement goes on to say that this law remained in force after Cambodian independence, which came in 1953. Tess Davis, executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation and the Cambodia scholar who dug out the law, said it had been analyzed by three French-speaking lawyers conversant in cultural heritage litigation and by Ms. LeMaistre (Unesco rep in Phnom Penh). All four say it “nationalizes ownership of Cambodian cultural artifacts.” If international legal authorities and American civil courts agree, the law could establish 1925, rather than 1993, as the dividing point after which Cambodian artifacts taken without government permits can be treated as stolen property. Cambodia would still have to prove that the statue was looted after 1925, “a high burden but not an impossible one,” according to Mr. Bogdanos, who agrees the 1925 law “appears to be valid."

Now wouldn't that be a poke in the eye for the establishment. Cambodia could, in theory, rightfully claim back all the pieces languishing in museums around the world, if they could prove they were stolen after 1925. Wouldn't help them get back all the Khmer art on show at the Guimet Museum in Paris though, removed by French explorers who pillaged the temples of Cambodia and shipped the best pieces back to their own country. It rankles with me every time I think about it.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Doing it her way

Meeting singer-songwriter Bochan for the 1st time
I enjoyed a fascinating conversation over a coffee this afternoon with Cambodian-American singer-songwriter Bochan. She's in town, initially for her brother's wedding but is also scouting around, checking out the music scene, meeting people, networking and getting a handle on how and where she can make a difference. She took time out from her vacation to appear on stage for two songs at Friday's Tiger Translate music event at the Railway Station though was critical of the sound, and she should know what she's talking about, the engineer and mixer for her debut CD, Matt Shane, has just won an Oscar at the Academy Awards to go with his Grammy. Bochan released her album, Full Monday Moon, in December and has been delighted with the response to the 11-track debut, through which she seeks to put her personal stamp on contemporary Khmer music. In particular, the track and video for the much-loved 'Chnam Oun 16' has certainly received its share of positive vibes for the modern interpretation she's brought to it. Bochan, who was born in Cambodia but grew up in California, certainly appreciates and values her roots, paying great respect to her father's passion for music, which he instilled into his daughter. Three hours passed before we knew it and we'd only touched on a few topics. I'm sure we'll bump into each other again in the future, as this talented and determined artist looks set to be around the music scene for quite some time to come. website

Bochan's YouTube video for 'Chnam Oun 16'

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Say goodbye to Soma

Soma talks about my book during our interview last September
Make sure you tune into the final PUC Radio Talk Show tomorrow evening (Tues 28 Feb) at 7pm on 90.0FM. The hostess with the mostess, Soma Norodom, will have the spotlight turned on her in the final talk show programme before she begins new adventures, which she will reveal, though I'm told that Bollywood will feature very high on the list. Sounds intriguing. This will be the final talk show as the university has decided to return to an educational, lecture format, with no host or guest speakers. The show began as part of Pannasastra University's youth leadership series, using English language as its medium of communication, and Soma interviewed a wide variety of interesting people including business leaders, news-makers, artists and god forbid, even me. My live interview was conducted back in September of last year. Tomorrow, Soma will reveal her top 10 guest speakers, her toughest guest speaker, and the most boring interviewee, as well as her reflections on the past and what's in store for the future. Don't miss it. The airways won't be the same without her.

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Live with it

I can stop bleating on about the power cuts we're experiencing in Phnom Penh. Why? Because they are going to get worse before they get better. There's simply not enough electricity on the grid to meet the demands of the city's residents and businesses. So those sweaty hour-long blackouts will continue for the next month or two, no doubt at exactly the same time as my favourite television programme begins or when I'm in the middle of typing an important Facebook post!

You will no doubt have seen the media reports coming out of Cambodia in recent weeks that are exposing worrying trends. Whether its the security forces shooting unarmed workers, or protesters taking matters into their own hands and fighting back, by pelting factories with rocks, damaging company equipment and taking security guards as hostages. The country's leaders have stated that shooting protesters is not to be tolerated although the latest perpetrators remain at large, but neither is the violence by workers that we saw in one incident last week. It's getting out of hand. On both sides. And it will surely get worse. There's an undercurrent of 'enough is enough' from the man on the street involved in these disputes over land, property, workers rights and so on. I don't have the answer, there are too many factors and players involved for a simple solution, but I fear that like the power cuts, it will get a lot worse before it gets better.

Friday, February 24, 2012

In darkness

Another power cut. Happening all too frequently in Phnom Penh. Just as I sat down in my living room with my takeaway Indian curry as well. Sweating profusely with no fan and eating my hot curry. That'll teach me to eat at home. And to top it all, my last candle has left the building.

An interview with visiting journalist Elizabeth Becker (pictured right), who was in Phnom Penh to open her exhibition at Bophana Center last week (which I've already covered), appeared in the media today. The reporter was Michelle Fitzpatrick of AFP. Here it is:

When the Khmer Rouge invited a pair of American journalists to Cambodia in the late 1970s for a rare glimpse of the revolution, they found empty streets and schools in a city with no laughter. “There was nobody there. It was like walking into the Twilight Zone,” recalled one-time Washington Post correspondent Elizabeth Becker. Invited by the hardline communist regime to visit the capital Phnom Penh in 1978, she jumped at the rare chance to see the secretive revolution in action and meet its leader Pol Pot. But after a tense two-week trip, peppered with numerous staged photo opportunities in a filmset-like atmosphere, Becker left convinced of the regime's insanity. And her British travel companion was dead.

More than three decades later, the now retired journalist has returned to put her photographs and recorded interviews with Pol Pot and other Khmer Rouge leaders on display in Cambodia for the first time. She is also preparing to testify before Cambodia’s U.N.-backed court in a landmark trial against three top leaders ̶ including ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary, who arranged her visa for that fateful trip. The three deny charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide for their roles in the 1975-1979 regime, which is blamed for the deaths of up to two million people from starvation, overwork or execution.

Led by “Brother Number One” Pol Pot, the hardline communist movement emptied cities, abolished money and religion and forced millions to work in huge labor camps in a bid to create an agrarian utopia. But the outside world understood little about what was going on in the closed-off country at the time. By December 1978, in the final days of the regime, a Vietnamese invasion was imminent and the Khmer Rouge belatedly sought support to fend off the enemy ̶ starting with positive press about the revolution. “They had isolated themselves from the world and desperately needed friends or help,” Becker, now 64, said in a recent interview with AFP.

Becker, who began her career as a war reporter in Phnom Penh in the early 1970s, was invited with U.S. journalist Richard Dudman, who had covered the Vietnam War. The third guest was Malcolm Caldwell, a Scottish Marxist academic who had written a favorable book about the revolution. That Becker was granted a visa is somewhat remarkable since she had already published several critical pieces about the Khmer Rouge, based on the horror stories that were trickling in from Cambodian refugees. “Do not presume they were all-seeing and all-wise,” Becker said about the Khmer Rouge leadership. “The one thing people keep forgetting is how incompetent these people were. They were cruel and ruthless and incompetent.”

Throughout their stay, Becker said the three foreigners were “under the equivalent of house arrest,” escorted by armed guards at all times. But the intrepid reporter “snuck out a couple of times” and behind the facade of freshly painted buildings and manicured parks in the capital, “they just left everything to rot.” Outings to model cooperatives in the countryside, where well-fed villagers were working in seemingly idyllic surroundings, proved no less surreal. “I was alarmed by what I didn’t see,” she recalled. “You kept thinking you’re going to turn a corner and real life would show up but it never did. There were never kids playing on the street, there were never kids at school, there were never people at the pagoda, there were no markets, no laughing, nothing.”

On the final day, Becker and Dudman became the first and last Western journalists to interview Pol Pot during the Khmer Rouge's reign. “He was much more charismatic and handsome than I’d expected,” she said. Pol Pot lectured them about the threat of war with Vietnam, saying he wanted NATO troops to fight alongside Khmer Rouge soldiers. “That’s how desperate it was, that Pol Pot would imagine NATO would join him,” Becker said.

Caldwell had a private meeting with the Khmer Rouge supremo. Hours later, he was shot dead in his guesthouse. Mystery surrounds the murder to this day although Becker, who briefly encountered the Cambodian gunman in the guesthouse where Caldwell was killed, simply blames the madness of the Khmer Rouge. “To find some rational reason why Caldwell would be murdered when this was a regime that was irrationally killing its own people... I don't know that that makes sense.”

On December 25, 1979, two days after Becker and Dudman left Cambodia with Caldwell’s body, Vietnamese forces invaded. By January 7, they had taken the capital and ousted the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot fled to the jungle from where he would continue to fight a guerrilla war. He died in 1998 without ever facing justice. When her turn comes to take the stand, Becker does not expect to suffer from the recollection problems that have plagued some elderly defendants and witnesses. “I don’t have to rely on my memory,” she said. “I kept my notes, I kept my recordings. That’s the writer’s advantage.”


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Fancy a DVD?

A couple of DVDs for sale that might be of interest. A special edition 2 disc DVD of the award-winning documentary, Enemies of the People, by Thet Sambath and Rob Lemkin, is available in the US now, and coming to Europe and Asia very soon. It hosts the original documentary, as well as an additional six hours of extra footage, with revelations from Brother No 2 Nuon Chea, and a whole new documentary called One Day at Po Chrey: Anatomy of a Massacre, that features another group of Khmer Rouge militia that didn't appear in the original film. Accompanying the DVD will be a 28-page booklet, over an hour of deleted scenes, music video and director's commentary. You can find out more here. Much closer to home, at Monument Books on Norodom in fact, is the Bosba Panh Angkor Concert from last year, a 2 hour performance, 19 songs and a host of international stars such as Sarah O'Brien and The Like Me's, and many more. It costs $15.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Relieved look

I have a relieved look on my face this afternoon, having just heard from those good folks at House 32 that they have removed the virus script from my website's frontpage and there should be no reason why you cannot access my whole website again at If there is, please let me know immediately. You can find out more about House 32 here.

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Eric's Ultimate Angkor

Ultimate Angkor and Beyond is the title of the upcoming Eric de Vries exhibition at the Insider Gallery of the Intercontinental Hotel in Phnom Penh, opening on 1 March until 18 March. The exhibits then move to Siem Reap and will be on display at the Victoria Resort & Hotel from 23 March til 15 April. So a busy month ahead for my Dutch photographer pal, who has made his home in temple town for the last few years. The photographic exhibition will be a mix of still life Angkor shots and images from around Cambodia. Eric has been a busy boy recently with a flurry of eBooks and printed editions entitled Street, Series and Ultimate Angkor, as well as a revised website and of course, leading photography tours and workshops, often on behalf of Hanuman.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The pyramid of Koh Ker

The ruined column passageway leading from Prasat Krahom towards Prasat Thom
The complex of temples known collectively as Koh Ker was the second destination for our works' visit on Sunday, following on from our stop en route at Beng Mealea. The main heartbeat of the temples lies in Prasat Thom, the giant pyramid structure that looks more Mayan than Khmer. My Cambodian colleagues who were visiting for the 1st time were suitably impressed and proud of what their ancestors achieved. I acted as the guide as we toured the main highlight temples including one of the linga temples and some sacred rock carvings before we headed back to Siem Reap. Koh Ker, the royal capital in the 10th century, is famed for its gigantic sculptures. Re-visiting and telling the story of my first trip to Koh Ker, way back in November 2001, reminded me of my notes from my first ascent of the pyramid, though it's been closed for the last couple of years now, and access to the top is no longer possible. Here's what I wrote back then.
...I returned to Prasat Thom to watch the sunset. While Sokhom (my moto guide) took the opportunity to wash off the dust and dirt of our trip in one of the royal ponds, I carefully negotiated the rickety wooden ladders that straddled each of the terraced pyramid's seven tiers. The square pyramid is 36 metres high with the steep stairways on the east side ravaged by time and replaced by the wooden ladders to make access to the summit a little easier. From the top, the view over the surrounding forest canopy with the Kulen mountains in the far distance was simply breathtaking, enhanced by the glow of the setting sun in the west. There wasn't a great deal of room at the top, as I sat down next to some broken carvings of lions and elephants and enjoyed the peace and quiet, noticing a column of smoke rising from the village nearby. At the foot of the pyramid, I could just make out Sokhom in the deepening gloom as I cautiously made my way down the ladders to join him and we returned to the village.
I failed to mention that my descent from the top was one of the scariest moments of my travels, as I was carrying my backpack and the wooden ladders were anything but stable. I had uncontrollable shaking in my legs as soon as I touched the ground at the bottom. Very scary.
The red temple of Prasat Krahom, famed for its gigantic sculptures
A look through to the pyramid of Prasat Thom at Koh Ker
A lonely walk to the Prasat Thom pyramid for one of the Hanuman team
The 'not in use' ladders to the top of the pyramid. They are much sturdier than the originals in 2001.
The first of the linga temples at Koh Ker. Its believed a giant linga once stood on top of the pyramid.
Two of the Hanuman team read the inscription stones at Prasat Banteay Pir Choan
Sacred Buddhist figures are carved into the rockface at Trapeang Ang Khnar
This tower at Prasat Pram, engulfed by strangler figs, was believed to be a cremation structure

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Beng Mealea, again

Beng Mealea, rampant vegetation almost hid the temple during my 1999 visit
I spent an hour of yesterday morning at Beng Mealea temple, located some 40kms east of Angkor and now a popular spot for those who can't get enough of their temples at the main Angkor park. And so it proved yesterday morning, with hordes of Asian tourists causing mini traffic jams on the wooden walkways that have been constructed to aid visiting this gigantic temple. Built in the 12th century and regarded as a blueprint for the same period Angkor Wat, I first went there in 1999, when the temple was still in its natural state and a fabulous discovery experience. To get back some of that magic I avoided the wooden walkways, instead choosing to clamber around the fallen blocks of stone on my own, dipping in and out of the hidden chambers but a word of warning, check your footing as it takes just one slip and you can break a leg. It's great fun but its dangerous too, not to mention hot and sweaty. We were on a timer as we needed to head for Koh Ker but if you plan on visiting Beng Mealea, then give yourself enough time to roam all over the complex and bring a map so you know where you are at all times. The entry fee for the temple is $5.
Beng Mealea, 2012 version, with large sections of the temple reduced to rubble
Multi-headed Nagas in great condition line the causeway
One of the original Nagas that greeted me in 1999
A remarkably well-preserved Naga head
Krishna battling away on a lintel found on the floor outside the outer wall
Beng Mealea's library pictured back in 1999
The library looks similar today, but with less greenery, to when I saw it in 1999
The wooden walkway that runs through the temple makes viewing easy for the Asian visitors
This pediment shows Varuna riding a Naga on the top level, with worshippers and dancers below


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Temple hopping

The Hanuman team were stunned by the linga temple at Koh Ker
Just back from a day spent at the temples of Beng Mealea and the Koh Ker complex with a bunch of colleagues from Hanuman. Most of them hadn't been before, so it was an educational trip for them. Whilst they took the wooden walkways around Beng Mealea, I nipped off to start clambering around like a monkey, just to make my visit a bit more interesting and avoiding the bottlenecks caused by the hordes of Korean and Japanese tourists over-running the place. Then we took off to Koh Ker, arriving in time to sit down for a local lunch before beginning our temple tour at Prasat Thom's amazing pyramid temple. The Khmers were blown away that their forefathers could've built such a remarkable structure. They were just gutted they couldn't climb to the top. Next we called in at one of the giant linga temples, followed by Banteay Pir Choan, the well-hidden rock carvings at Trapeang Ang Khnar and finally Prasat Pram. We got back to Siem Reap in less than two hours and now its off to a complimentary dinner at Tangram Garden restaurant, near Wat Damnak. Bye for now.
Time for a team photo at the foot of the Prasat Thom pyramid
The Hanuman team leave the Prasat Thom pyramid at Koh Ker, proud of their heritage
Its one of the libraries at Beng Mealea, so it must be another Hanuman team photo

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Spotted at Comedy Club

KPR captures Rumnea and myself in fine fettle
Two great photos from the camera of the capital's best lensman, Nick Sells of Kampuchea Party Republic, taken at the recent Comedy Club Cambodia gig at Pontoon. Photos courtesy of KPR.
A sneaky shot by KPR as Nick approached us at Pontoon

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Party people

Surrounded by lovely ladies, of course, at the Hanuman party
A good time was had by all at the Hanuman party held at the HanumanAlaya boutique hotel in Siem Reap tonight. Essentially a thank you party to the staff, supplemented by friends and guests, and an opportunity for everyone to join in together and dance themselves to a standstill.
Prof Ang Choulean gives a personal thank you to his sister and founder of Hanuman, Tan Sotho (in background with daughter Kulikar Sotho)


Made it

My twin room at the Raffles Grand D'Angkor
Arrived in Siem Reap after 7 hours on the road from Phnom Penh this morning. The road construction between Prek Pnov bridge and Batheay made it painfully slow. So much so that we had to have lunch in Kompong Thom instead of getting a free feed at a bunch of restaurants in Siem Reap. Had a problem getting my free room at Raffles Grand D'Angkor too, as I didn't bring my passport or credit card, so they couldn't verify who I am. I know who I am but they don't. A phone call got it resolved in the end. Now enjoying my lovely posh room with free internet, courtesy of Raffles management. Nice people. Off to the Hanuman party - the reason why 30 staff made the trip this morning - at 6.30pm. Should be fun, except I have to say a few words. Few being the key word. Tomorrow we have an educational trip to Beng Mealea and Koh Ker temples for the benefit of our sales team.
My internet/writing table...where I'm now typing this

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Fine dining

Al Jazeera's Stephanie Scawen reports from Veal Krous in northern Cambodia in this piece she titled; Cambodia's vulture restaurants take off.

Want to see vultures in the wild? You'd better be prepared to get up early. Like 4:30am early! And if you want to get in real close, you'd also better be prepared to stand silently in a thatch-covered pit for four or five hours to get that 'special photo'. At least that's what my cameraman Mark Giddens had to do to shoot the video for our story on Cambodia's last surviving vulture population.

Vultures can be spooked easily, hence the need for silence. But once they have decided to eat, there's no holding them back. A food-fest ensues, with upwards of sometimes 70 birds eating a cow that's been specially slaughtered for them. The vulture restaurant in Veal Krous is one of several sites across northern Cambodia set up to save the vulture population from extinction. In South Asia, the birds have been in catastrophic decline over the last 20 years because of the use of the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac in farming.

You may have used it yourself to ease away muscular aches and pains in creams or gels like Voltaren. The problem with diclofenac is that it's extremely toxic to vultures, whose diet is exclusively rotting meat. In Hindu India, the birds used to clean the carcasses of dead cows on the street, left to rot naturally by humans because of religious connotations. Followers of the Zoroastrian faith also used to place human corpses on their Towers of Silence for vultures to feed on as part of their funeral rites. With bird numbers now so low in India, the Parsis have had to place mirrors on the Towers to allow reflecting sunlight to speed up decomposition.

Similarly to India, vultures are almost extinct in Pakistan and Nepal. They've disappeared completely in Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. But the vultures have hung on in Cambodia, primarily because diclofenac is not really used. The danger here is the lack of wild game thanks to hunting, poaching and loss of habitat. The vultures may just starve to death. They need to eat regularly to stay healthy. At first, animal specialists couldn't work out why vultures were dying in such large numbers. Then they discovered the link with diclofenac. It remains in the muscle tissue of animals that have been administered with it. Just a one per cent concentration in an animal carcass is enough to kill the birds through kidney failure.

Vulture numbers have doubled to around 300 in Cambodia with gains for the white-backed and slender billed vultures. Numbers for the red-headed vulture have stabilised. A ban has been slowly introduced across Asia and the rate of decline has slowed. If the vulture restaurants really catch on, there is real hope for these birds of prey. The Wildlife Conservation Society and the Sam Veasna Centre have worked with local villagers to set up the restaurants. The villagers earn money by providing guiding and camping services to visiting tourists and birdwatchers. The incentive for them, says community advisor Asish John, is the money, which they can use to benefit the entire village. Dangplat earned more than $6,000 in 2011. Now they have enough cash to build a new well, a vital resource in this dry part of the country. The locals are happy because not only can they feed themselves better, they can also ensure the vultures have full stomachs to.

Footnote: If birding is your bag then Cambodia's growing reputation as the place to see rare species is rapidly gaining ground. The Sarus Crane is one of the rarest, and is found in the greatest numbers at Ang Trapeang Thmor in the north. However, it now has a rival, in fact two. Two major feeding sites are beginning to poke their head above the parapet and interesting 'twitchers' in the south of the country. They are at the accessible Anlong Pring in the Kompong Trach district of Kampot and at Boeung Prek Lapouv in Takeo, where other birds such as Bengal Floricans and Pelicans are regularly seen. This second location is harder to get to and involves an hour long boat ride, but for real birding enthusiasts that won't prove any type of obstacle.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Glitter and glitz

This is Meas Soksophea on the big screen - not a particularly flattering picture
It was all glitter and glitz at Koh Pich tonight as the Anachak Dara Sabay-sponsored awards gave prizes to the great and good of the Khmer music, film and television world. The stars arrived in chauffeur-driven cars, waltzed down the red carpet and in front of the camera flashlights. I skulked in the side door with the rest of the commoners and headed upstairs. Then it was into the auditorium for the evening's back-slapping and air-kissing as my favourite singer Meas Soksophea sang a duet with Sokun Nisa, both of whom picked up awards later in the evening. Everyone knew who was getting an award beforehand, but I think that's par for the course here as it is elsewhere. It was pretty much as I expected, a night for either your best bib and tucker/gown or waving a placard with your fave stars' name on it, so most likely it'll be my first and last awards ceremony - you get a better view on tv was Rumnea's view. There were awards for best smile, most pretty, top superstar, most sentimental, most famous and so on. One award that I thought was meaningful (though the title translates as Best Sad Actress) went to the main star and writer of the poignant film, Lost Loves, based on her family experiences under the Khmer Rouge, Kauv Sotheary. A far less deserving award went to the best shemale/katoey of the year. Mind-boggling.
This was the stage early doors as the founder of Sabay said a few words
This is the auditorium, I'm in there somewhere, with what looks like a spaceship hovering above (pic: Sabay)

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Epic Journey

Tomorrow evening (Thursday at 6.30pm), Romeet Gallery, a professional visual arts space on St 178, suitably close to the Fine Arts campus, will play host to a new exhibition of watercolours of two major projects by the graphic design & illustration studio, Sonleuk Thmey and the Visual Art School of Phare Ponleu Selpak. One will chart the waters between Saigon and Siem Reap, via a journey on the Jayavarman cruise boat. The second, Bohak the land of Guignols, is a fantasy story of puppets in illustrated paintings. And then on Saturday, Romeet will continue the same theme of The Epic journey with an improvised dance performance inspired by the exhibition theme featuring dancers from Amrita, including Nam Narim, just back from her two month opera stint in Madrid, where she was part of the Fab 4.

The internet can be a minefield. I've lost control, somehow, of the homepage of my own website, Some might say careless. I blame hackers who have nothing better to do with their time, than ruin other people's hard work.
The best way into my website now, particularly my Cambodia Tales, is via

The personal stuff on my website can be found via of me as a baby, that type of bumf.

If you are seeking an insight into the best reggae band on the planet, Steel Pulse, then you'll find all you need at

The rest of my diverse musical tastes are catered for @ ...with insights into Ennio Morricone, Roy Hill, Incantation, Tony Hinnigan, Percydread, Gabbidon, Yaz Alexander, Black Roots and more besides.

If I manage to wrestle back control of my website homepage, I'll let you know. In another gut-wrenching quirk of fate, access to updating my website pages has also gone AWOL and I'm currently enduring a never-ending web nightmare.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Old friends

Kim sent me this photo we took last week, or was it the week before, at Bistro Lorenzo, whilst she was back in Cambodia for a visit with her husband, Josh, both in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, where I first met her a few years ago (2006 to be precise), working behind the reception of her parents guesthouse, Shadow of Angkor, near the river. Kim and Josh now reside in Sydney, Australia but make the return trip as often as possible. Lorenzo's is just around the corner from my office and they do a pretty good chicken curry at a reasonable price.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Jaw-aching comedy

"Did I really just say that?"
I wondered if Rumnea's Khmer upbringing would find stand-up comedy to her liking as the Comedy Club Cambodia underwent its third incarnation at Pontoon this evening. I didn't need to worry. By the end of compere Jonathan Atherton's opening set she was already complaining of jaw-ache from laughing too much. My concern over whether the speed of delivery or nuances would leave her flummoxed were completely unfounded. She absolutely loved it, apart from the aching jaw. And that was just the opening act of three. Atherton's use of languages adds much to his act though Rumnea nitpicked that his Chinese wasn't up to scratch - who am I to argue! Next up, in front of another nearly full house, was laid-back, laconic Aussie comic Greg Sullivan who was good value with his self-deprecating humour. The final act of the night, Zoe Lyons from England, went down a storm. Especially with Rumnea. She thought Lyons' observational commentary was the funniest of the night, she kept digging me in the ribs and saying "that's you" and was whispering for the comedienne to stop so she could recover her composure. Lyons quick-fire delivery was certainly a winner for Rumnea, me and the rest of the audience. My initial fears were forgotten as Rumnea declared herself smitten by the whole show and loved every minute of it.
British comedienne Zoe Lyons was a big hit
Big Aussie stand-up Greg Sullivan
Regular compere Jonathan Atherton began the hilarity

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Coming up

A final reminder. The Comedy Club Cambodia is hosting its third extravaganza tomorrow night at Pontoon from 7pm. Tickets are $10 a head and is a must for anyone with a funnybone. Two Aussies and a Brit will be performing their stand-up routines, and the organizers tell me it's guaranteed to make me laugh. We'll see, but the first two events have worked wonders, so I expect my ribs to be duly tickled.

A great way for Cambodians or anyone for that matter, to meet some of the country's biggest stars is ready to rumble on Thursday (16 Feb) and all the proceeds go to charity. It's called Anachak Dara and is organized by the Sabay company. Over 200 Cambodian stars will be there including my fave, Meas Soksophea, and the event is being held at Koh Pich Theater Hall from 5.30-8pm. It's effectively an awards ceremony to recognise the biggest stars in music, film and television. I believe it'll be live on TV as well. Entry costs just $1, with the proceeds going to help build a kindergarten.

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dance to the masses

Soeun Srey Neth's show had elements of dance and circus entwined together
Fresh from their two months in Madrid wowing the opera crowds in Europe, three of the Fab 4 quickly got back into the groove by appearing at La Rue Danse at Koh Pich tonight, giving the watching crowds a taste of their individual contemporary styles, led by Belle, who brought back some of her Spanish memories with her choice of dance. Also on show was Nam Narim, who chose a much more subdued style, while Khon Chansithyka teamed up in a duo performance. With eight stages, 37 dancers and 27 routines, swapping stages every few minutes for their four minute performances, there was something for everyone, whether you were seeking classical, contemporary, hip-hop, belly-dance, you name it. There were some of Cambodia's best contemporary stars on show besides the ones above, namely Yon Davy and sister Yon Chantha, dancing separately, Nget Rady and Noun Sovitou. One of the new faces that caught my eye was Soeun Srey Neth, a 1st year circus student at RUFA, who has bags of talent and is not afraid to show it. Certainly one for the future. After an hour and a half, the performances petered out but had given the audience a good cross-section of what the young Cambodian dance fraternity have to offer.
Y0n Chantha and Nam Narim take a breather between performances
Yon Davy in happy mode after completing her series of dances
Yon Chantha on stage, mid-routine
These two young performers gave the crowd a traditional coconut shell dance
Classical Cambodian dance was also on show at Koh Pich tonight

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