Sunday, February 25, 2007

Tourism Asean magazine & HeritageWatch

The latest edition of Tourism Asean (Jan-Apr 2007) has just landed on my door-mat, and for the third edition running, it carries one of my travel stories from Cambodia. My 'Preah Vihear - one of Cambodia's most dramatic temples' story takes up two pages with 5 of my own photos. The magazine is a gorgeously glossy trade magazine published in Singapore and sent to travel agents around the globe, in order to promote the exotic locations of Asia. My previous stories were on the Tonle Sap Lake and the Temples of Kompong Cham. In the latest edition, the main focus is on Malaysia and Koh Samui but most of the Asian countries are included with articles on Myanmar's Indawgi Lake and Vietnam's Quang Ninh province alongside my own.
* * * * *
Another magazine that will feature an article from yours truly will be the next edition of Touchstone, the new glossy magazine produced by the NGO, HeritageWatch to help keep a high profile public focus on the richness of Cambodia's heritage and culture and the necessity to preserve it. I picked up a copy of their first edition when I was in Phnom Penh recently and it was literally brimming with excellent and informative articles on a variety of topics from local traditions and attractions, to forthcoming events, the art scene and numerous feature stories on places like Kampot & Kep. And it's free, just pick up a copy in the numerous bars, restaurants and guesthouses. The second edition is going to print as I type and I'm looking forward to immersing myself in its many articles soon enough. I met the HeritageWatch director Dougald O'Reilly in Siem Reap and I know how hard Dougald and his team are working to preserve Cambodia's rich cultural heritage through education projects, tourism campaigns, and as many other means as they can think of. Please support HeritageWatch and visit their website to find out more. A word of thanks to Kathy Fossati, HW's Communications chief who was helpfulness personified and gave me copies of two of their excellent comic-style education booklets, Wrath of the Phantom Army and If The Stones Could Speak, both of which are superbly produced, and printed in both Khmer and English. If you want to find out how you can help HeritageWatch, contact Kathy at

Loung Ung - a national treasure

One of the highlights of my recent month in Cambodia was meeting up with a long-time friend, best-selling authoress, Loung Ung. We met in Phnom Penh and enjoyed a gorgeous meal together and great conversation. She epitomizes what is so appealing about Cambodians across the globe, wherever they are, whatever their background and whatever they do for a living. She is a national treasure, both in the US and Cambodia, and a captivating dinner companion. And both of her books are best-sellers for a reason, she's an extremely gifted writer.

Next month, both of her books will be published in paperback in the UK for the first time, by Mainstream Publishing, who have the rights for the UK, the Commonwealth and Europe. Her first book, First They Killed My Father - A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers will be available at £7.99, whilst her second book, After They Killed Our Father - A Refugee from the Killing Fields Reunites with the Sister she left behind (known as Lucky Child elsewhere) will retail at £12.99. I'm awaiting confirmation of whether Loung will visit the UK to coincide with the publication, but I have been told that she's accepted an invitation to appear at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August this year. She's an accomplished public speaker, regularly touring the US and beyond, talking about her childhood experiences as well as the continuing threat of landmines around the globe. You can read more about Loung Ung here.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Aspects of Black - Yaz Alexander

If you are quick, you can still catch a photographic exhibition by local snapper Mac13soul at The Central Library in Birmingham City Centre. It runs until 28 February and opening times for the library are 8am to 8pm. The exhibition is called Aspects of Black and it focuses on One Woman - reggae singer Yaz Alexander.

If you fancy hearing Yaz sing, she will perform a solo set at the library between 6pm-7pm on Saturday 24 February. She will also perform at the forthcoming open day for The Drum music venue in Aston on 8 March and will appear as support for the Mighty Diamonds in concert, at the same venue, on 17 March. I can vouch that this lady sings like an angel and 2007 looks set to be a milestone year for her.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

WOMAD invites Cambodian masters

WOMAD, the music festival that encourages & expounds music, arts and dance from around the globe, will be held near Malmesbury on 27-29 July this year and amongst the 70+ artists that will perform, two Cambodian master musicians, Kong Nai and Ouch Savy, will join the event. Of them, the most famous is Kong Nai, a blind musician whose appearance is dominated by thick dark sunglasses and a toothy, face-splitting grin. He lives in a corrugated metal hut in his Phnom Penh slum; his chapei dang veng, a two-string long-necked guitar, carved from wood and inlaid with polished bone, cost him $250 and is probably worth more than his home. Kong Nai, 60, is known for his witty improvised song and satire, for the stories that he hears, stores in his head and retells in rhyme. Once a regular at the Royal Palace, Kong Nai now teaches students on a shaded wooden pallet outside his house. There is also an outside possibility that Kong Nai will perform at The Barbican in London during his visit to England.

As I reported in my blog on 30 December, The Barbican is already hosting Weyreap's Battle, performed by members of the Amrita Performing Arts company, as part of the 2007 Barbican Bite Festival with performances on March 30, 31 and April 1 in London. This is a rare opportunity to watch classical Cambodian masked dance - don't miss it.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Morricone's long-overdue Oscar

Well its finally happened...Ennio Morricone is to receive an Oscar! At the 79th Academy Awards presentation on 25 February, The Maestro will be awarded an honorary Oscar, “for his magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music.” Of course, he should've won the gong long before now for at least one of his five previous nominations — for Days of Heaven (1978), The Mission (1986), The Untouchables (1987), Bugsy (1991) and Malèna (2000). It was a miscarriage of justice that The Mission didn't get the award it so richly deserved, we all know it. The score for that film will live long in the memory of anyone who has heard it. I was fortunate to see Morricone in concert for the 3rd time at the back end of last year, scroll down this page to read my review.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Strawbs & writer's block

Being back home after a month in Cambodia is tough....going back into work was very I thought I'd unwind with a music concert a couple of nights ago, at the unique Huntingdon Hall in Worcester. The band were The Acoustic Strawbs and they were just what I needed to relax. I've been a fan of The Strawbs since my early teens. My elder brother had their first album and I used to sneak into his bedroom to play it, and they grew on me. So much so I have every one of their albums on vinyl and remarkably, more than 35 years later, they are gigging more now than they ever did. I get to see them at least twice a year, either in their acoustic format or their electric line-up.

I prefer them acoustically, with the gravel-voiced Dave Cousins turning back the clock to belt out a series of their earliest songs, accompanied by the nimble-fingered Dave Lambert and rock-solid Chas Cronk, on guitars. Its more earthy, its more real in my view. And my wife agrees. They played for nearly two hours and as usual, everyone went home happy. It was the 15th gig of their shortish winter tour, while the electric line-up will kick-off an even shorter tour in a few days time. You can read more about The Strawbs, in their various guises, at

As for writer's block, its mainly because I've been so busy catching up with my emails and with my day job. I will begin to regale you with some of my recent adventures in Cambodia but give me a few days. I've got another project on the go too, but I've yet to announce that, so keep your eyes peeled for that. Its a biggy.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Breaking News....

Breaking news....Andy Brouwer doesn't eat fish...

Thursday, February 8, 2007

I'm back...boy was that a good trip!

I'll be back to fill in more on the trip very soon, but 1 month in Cambodia, it doesn't get much better than that...well, maybe 2 months might do the trick!!