Saturday, February 13, 2010

It's only money

Setting fire to wads of money is taking place all over Phnom Penh
Just a quick reminder that small paper fires are breaking out all over Phnom Penh right now. It's the start of Chinese New Year and these offerings to ancestors, spirits and anyone else who can bring good luck and fortune, are being made all over the city. Anyone with a bit of Chinese blood in their family, and many that haven't, are lighting fragrant incense sticks and burning false paper money as I type. There was a small ceremony at Hanuman this morning for the staff to join in.


Friday, February 12, 2010

On show

Some of the Hanuman team in Siem Reap January 2010
I work with them every day but they get precious little coverage on my blog. So to put that right, here's a recent photo from our visit to Siem Reap of some of the Hanuman team who work in Phnom Penh. It's not a complete team photo but its as good as it gets. Next to me is the only non-Hanuman employee and that's my friend Now, who is Eric de Vries photographic assistant at his 4Faces Gallery. By the way, Eric is already running photography tours around Angkor and hopes to expand those to include a Cambodia In A Nutshell and a 3-day Meet the Soldiers at Preah Vihear tour in the very near future. I reckon the latter could become a popular niche tour.

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

What a homecoming

My kinda night, surrounded by 4 lovely faces at 4Faces: LtoR: Nika, me, Kunthea, Somean, Liza
I'm literally just in the door and got a rare opportunity to watch Leeds United on television, accompanied by a chicken curry of course. Not only that but they beat Man United 1-0 in the FA Cup at Old Trafford and that has got to go down as their best result for years. I've been a Leeds fan since I was wet behind the ears but had little to shout about in recent years until tonight. So now I'm shouting. I spent the morning with my team from Hanuman visiting the Angkor Silk Farm at Puok and the Angkor Crafts Center in Siem Reap, both run by the folks at Artisans d'Angkor, who now employ over 1,000 Cambodians. They are a major success story and have a well-run operation at both centers that allows a fast-flow of tourists every day of the week. The rest of the day was spent on the bus making our return to Phnom Penh. Last night, the Hanuman staff party was a top-drawer success. Everyone had a great time and it was a great opportunity for the whole of the Hanuman operation to get together and have a whale of a time. And they did. I rolled in around 2am after popping into the 4Faces bar to catch the very end of their big night.
A view from behind Nick and Kulikar at last night's Hanuman staff party
During a lull in the dancing, this is Kunthea, who was my Madizone dance partner, at the Hanuman party
A quick stop at 4Faces to see the new exhibition with works by Geoff Croll and Jean Francois Perigois
Intense concentration from this female wood caver at Artisans d'Angkor at their Siem Reap center

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Thursday, October 15, 2009


Confirmation by way of typical Cambodian birthday cake
I don't feel any different today, having hit the fifty milestone in life, though a big cake and gifts from the folks at Hanuman made a nice surprise and I'm just getting ready for tonight's meal at Fish and a boys' night out. More tomorrow after I've recovered.
A lovely gift from Hanuman's MD, Tan Sotho
Some of the Hanuman team at today's cake-eating session


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Love is in the air

Ruud and Monira enjoying the moment. Kim Lieng is just behind Monira
Love is in the air and it turned into a wedding today for one of Hanuman's best tour guides, Monira, who married one of her former guests, Ruud in Phnom Penh. There was a big turnout from Hanuman to wish the happy couple well for the future, which looks like it will be spent back in Holland, rather than in Cambodia, once formalities have been sorted out. Monira has been a very popular English-speaking guide, has received great feedback and has followed in the footsteps of her mum, Kim Lieng, who is the best female tour guide we've ever had. It's a pity we'll be losing Monira, but of course we wish her a happy life with her husband. I was accompanied to the wedding party tonight by my good friend Sophoin and it was good to see all of the Hanuman management team on parade.
Ruud and Monira prepare to walk down the tunnel of friends and confetti
As befits her, the light is shining on my companion for the evening, Sophoin


Friday, January 23, 2009

Safari adventures

My Koh Ker safari experience, warmed by a blazing log fire
Do you fancy a night under the stars in the forest next to one of Cambodia's remote temples? Well that's what I did earlier this week as I road-tested Hanuman's already highly-successful Temple Safari (or Beach Safari) experience. Koh Ker was the location - two hours north of Siem Reap and in the middle of a 10th century former capital of the Khmer Empire - and the proximity of the massive pyramid of Prasat Thom couldn't be bettered. Although the top of the pyramid is currently closed for safety reasons (when its open again it will give you amazing views over the tree-line for miles around), there are more than twenty other temples that have been demined, made safe and opened up in the last couple of years, that still very few people have seen. As for the experience itself, a team erected my tent in the bush near to the temple walls whilst I was exploring and I came back to take a hot shower in the 'African bush-style' tent provided for that sole purpose. There was also a toilet tent with a wooden box and standard toilet seat to ensure my privacy. The main tent itself is 2.5 metres high, so plenty of standing room, it's 3 metres wide too, so lots of space for two camp-beds, tables and clothes stands. It has two-layers of waterproofing and comes with mosquito protection and five meshed windows for light and breeze. For sustenance, I sat at the table under the veranda awning and enjoyed an abundant meal prepared by a local cook from the village with 4-courses, fruit to finish, plenty of drinks and accompanied by a blazing log fire just a few metres away. My previous camping experiences were never like this. I fell asleep to the sounds of Cambodian wedding music drifting my way from the village about a kilometre away and awoke to a cacophony of bird song at 6am, ready for an early breakfast, more exploration and a trip back to reality. Hanuman offer temple safaris to other locations such as Preah Vihear, Banteay Chhmar, Preah Khan, as well as beach locations along the south coast. Link: Hanuman
The main sleeping tent, 2.5m high, in the late afternoon
The toilet and shower tents nearby
My bed for the night

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009


My night in the forest of Koh Ker, warmed by the log fire
Apologies for the lack of posts, but I've had a hectic schedule these last few days. Following my quad-bike adventure, it was off into the forest surrounding the temples at Koh Ker, a couple of hours north of Siem Reap, to experience for myself, the safari tents that Hanuman provide for their guests who wish to enjoy a unique adventure at the remote temple sites around Cambodia. And I would say this of course, but really, they are damn good. Then it was back on the bus to Phnom Penh and straight off to see the documentary Sleepwalking Through The Mekong at Meta House last night. The film's director John Pirozzi was present to introduce his film, shot when the band Dengue Fever came to Cambodia a couple of years ago to bring their own brand of 60s and 70s psychedelic Khmer pop-rock back home. Fronted by a Cambodian-born singer Chhom Nimol, the rest of the band originate from Los Angeles and have become a major tour de force on the American music scene, releasing three critically-acclaimed albums to-date. The film follows their fortunes as they encounter Cambodia for the first-time during a 9-day visit and from the footage we saw, they had a ball. The scene where they join the children from the Bassac slum, who are part of the Cambodian Living Arts program, was just classic soppy entertainment. And the accompanying musical soundtrack was bread and butter to my two Khmer friends that joined me at the screening. Nice film, great band. Tonight, at the French Cultural Centre, I've been invited to a preview screening of Anne Bass' Dancing Across Borders documentary with cocktails beforehand. Should I wear a suit? Have I got a suit? No is the answer, so I'll go smart casual.
Film director John Pirozzi introduces his documentary on the band Dengue Fever
Chhom Nimol, the Cambodian-born lead singer with Dengue Fever
Chhom Nimol and the band are introduced to the Cambodian public on the CTN tv channel
Kong Nai was one of the masters that the band performed with during their visit to Cambodia

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Quad fun-time

I'm getting in some practice on my quad before we begin. I chose No 1 of course!
I've always shied away from motorbikes per se as it's never been something I've been keen to try, however, Quad bikes are a different kettle of fish altogether and after my first-ever Quad experience this afternoon, I'm a confimed fan. A dozen Hanuman employees took to the backroads and rice fields surrounding Siem Reap for a 90-minute runaround on the quads and I think I can safely speak for everyone when I say we had a ball. Okay so it was dusty, but the welcome from the village children who turned out in force along the route, as well as the peaceful sunset in the distance, when we stopped to give the less-confident drivers a whirl in a rice field, was well worth a bit of dust in the face. Only qualified car drivers are allowed to pilot the quads and after a half-hour of instruction and safety preparation, we took some picturesque tracks through a host of small villages - I noticed many homes had a Ting-Mong (scarecrow) on duty alongwith groups of excitable children shouting and waving a spirited welcome - and into the countryside. Accompanied by the quad-bike owners, we weren't allowed to let rip on this, the shortest of their routes, but I'm sure a much-longer adventure would allow you more lee-way to expose your quad-rallying skills. Nevertheless, it was a great way for the Hanuman team to end their brief stay in Siem Reap, dusty or not. Quad-biking gets a definite thumbs-up in my book.
A quick snap across the countryside as the sunset approached
A short break near a canal so time for a picture with one of my colleagues, Chrep
The setting sun provided a great backdrop to our trip
The dozen members of the Hanuman quad-biking rally team. LtoR: (back) Vichet, Chrep, Kosal, Kimchean, Nary, Serey, me, Daroeurn, Sim, Pisey; (front) Rith and Thoeun.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009


Invitations are coming thick and fast over the last few weeks. They include birthdays, house-warmings and wedding party invitations by the truckload after I jokingly complained about the lack of them even though it was the wedding season in Cambodia. Tonight it's the annual Hanuman staff party here in Siem Reap, where I'm staying in the lap of luxury at the fashionable Hotel De La Paix. I've just had a swim in the hotel's 1st floor pool - boy was it cold - and will get ready for tonight's party extravaganza soon enough. In checking my emails, Anne Bass has sent me an invitation to attend a preview screening of her Dancing Across Borders documentary film at CCF on Wednesday 21st, with cocktails beforehand. I flagged the film in my blog a couple of days ago so it was a nice gesture to get the invite from Anne. I will definitely be there. After tonight's party I've got another couple of nights in Siem Reap before heading back to Phnom Penh on Tuesday. Well that's the plan but it's liable to change at any time.

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