As expats living in Phnom Penh, many of us learn to separate the artificial from the authentic.
For better or worse, there's something about Cambodia that strips away artifice, and exposes raw character.
When Australian Aboriginal art meets Angkor, the result is stunning. From within a myriad of perfect dots, a jumble of Hanuman monkey warriors emerge in the shape of a sacred elephant storming to battle, its feet floating on a carpet of flowers and stars. Each flower alone is formed from at least four tiny dots of brightly coloured paint. Ian 'Snow' Woodford's work is even more remarkable because the working class Australian boy from Sydney is colour-blind.
You never know when a chance meeting might change your life forever. For Jim Heston, it was the day he met the owner of the California 2 Guesthouse in Phnom Penh in 1999.
He was on holiday from Thailand (where he was visiting from the U.S.), staying in the riverfront hotel and, over time, became friends with his landlady, Christine. One day, she asked if he could bring her a sugar shaker from the U.S. since he was living in San Diego at the time and she told him where he could buy one. Surprised that she knew the region so well, Jim asked how she knew of the store and discovered that she was, in fact, from Long Beach, California and had moved back to her native Cambodia a number of years earlier.
Foreigners crowding into I.C. Chaney's Beautiful Shoes shop on Street 143 revel in the prices of his handmade shoes - who could believe an open toed leather sandal in fine leather could cost just $15 made to order?
But Chaney's story is also one of history and incredible survival since he took over the family business in 1981, when Phnom Penh was still in ruins.
I try to find the answer for my curiosity why foreigners can live in Vietnam for more than ten years, and when I met him, Chef Didier Corlou, I got it
You are well known for hating being interviewed. Why is that?
Who said that? I don’t think it’s true. I don’t like interviews very much. I like to speak, to cook, to talk and … I like people follow my steps through the market, in the kitchen.
Can you speak Vietnamese?
Not very much but when I go to the market it’s OK.
The ongoing rise of Cambodia’s tourism sector is well documented. Private sector statistics quote an increase of around 14 percent since last year, whilst the Ministry of Tourism say Cambodia is on track to attract 2.3 million visitors this year, adding that political stability and infrastructure improvements are increasing the number of visitors to the country. Some $1.64 billion in tourism revenue is expected to be generated by the end of 2008, helping the country’s economy to enjoy near double-digit growth.
"A few people have commented, that, 'you know, for a doctor, you seem to have spent a lot of your career dealing with death'," he says.
From his upbringing by missionary parents, Thomson has certainly had his faith tested - from the dizzying euphoria of the successful elections in Cambodia, still under the shadow of the remnants of the Khmer Rouge, in 1993, to the horrors of genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia with the United Nations, and the disastrous UN mission in Haiti.
Civil war, death and distrust greeted filmmaker Stanley Harper when he first came to Cambodia in 1988. Two decades and a major film later, a vastly different country prepares to move into the future, writes Nathan Green.
As the Cambodia People's Party prepares to secure its hold on power in a general election this weekend, opposition supporters and a great number of outside observers are preparing a lament for the continued absence of multiparty democracy in the country. Nearly a quarter century ago, when New Zealand filmmaker Stanley Harper first came to Cambodia, most would have settled simply for peace, in whatever form it took.
"Good question - why was I given an Order of the British Empire?" John Brinsden's humble, self-effacing humour permeates the conversation as he reveals tales born from an extraordinary life of travel and accomplishment and the occasional G&T.
Locally produced Cambodian silk handicrafts have been re-surfacing in recent years and Catherine Théron is at the forefront bringing international attention back to high quality Khmer silk products. Cambodian silk is admired for its strength, softness, purity and ability to absorb colour, while its workmanship is well received for its distinctive flavour inspired by the employment of traditional techniques. The quality of the material is what encourages Catherine to create and the customers to buy.