032018 ISSUE135 front
note from the editor
08 Events 10 Openings 11 Trending 12 News 14 AsiaLIFE's Picks 17 Cambodia Profiles 18 Photo Essay 22 Q&A: Luke Hunt
24 Travel Bug
34 Festival Fun 36 Save The Pangolin 38 Dancing For The Future
40 Limoncello 41 Intégrité 42 O’ Tapas
style & design
44 Check In
53 Box Office
AsiaLIFE Media Vol. 119
After more than 11 years of providing Cambodia’s community with all the latest lifestyle news, reviews and trends, we’ve decided it’s time to make a few changes. From this month, you’ll notice a slight shift in direction. While keeping our readers informed about the country’s culture, arts fashion, food and all other things Cambodia, remains at the forefront of our philosophy, we have decided to expand our horizons to offer readers even more each month. We’ve condensed the magazine with our directory moved online, and we’ve teamed up with online travel portal, www. travelbeginsat40.com, with the aim of inspiring unique travel for 2018, and beyond. Aptly, that is the theme of this month’s cover feature, which takes readers on a journey through Myanmar, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan and Sweden. Sticking with the travel theme, we also showcase five of the top spots in the region to check-in and chill, and we pick out a selection of festivals that span the globe. Elsewhere, Adolfo Perez-Gascon looks at the efforts being made to save the pangolin from extinction. With it estimated that pangolin populations have slumped by 80 percent globally in the last 21 years, a series of initiatives have been launched across Cambodia, and the region, to ensure they survive into the future. I take a sneak peek at Cambodian Living Arts' new troupe and speak to its artistic director and Master ballerina, Voan Savay, about her latest project and her lifelong passion for dance. We’ve still got the usual food reviews to whet your appetite, as well as the latest openings, fashion and news. On that note, we’ll let you get reading and hope you enjoy our new design.
on the cover
WALKING WITH GHOSTS IN SAIGON HAPPY FARM HOMESTAY COCO BEACH CAMP
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A story from the arts: Pong PON Cambodian Living Arts believes that arts and cultural expression are essential to a thriving future for Cambodia. This month, we tell the story of Pong Pon, leader of a kantoaming music troupe.
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Pong Pon is the leader of a troupe that plays kantoaming, a rare form of funeral music, mostly played in Siem Reap province that features gongs, drums and the srolai, a unique Cambodian reed instrument. As well as this, he performs as part of Wat Bo Shadow Puppet Troupe, plays pinpeat music and teaches English at Kids and Teens Education Association in Siem Reap. Pon’s grandfather is Seng Norn, one of the few masters of kantoaming who survived the Khmer Rouge regime. However, Pon did not know that his grandfather was a musician until the age of 17, when Cambodian Living Arts (CLA) approached Seng and asked him to open a kantoaming class to pass his skills on to the next generation. Pon started to learn from his grandfather at the age of 17. Pon explains the challenges of being a kantoaming musician. “We rarely receive calls for performances, and not many people are interested to learn this music form,” he says. “It’s maybe because this type
of music is sad, and people nowadays are more interested in happy types. We didn’t have strong promotion for the class and people need encouragement to join.” There are only three students who now join Pon’s kantoaming class, which only takes place when he has time. On average, his troupe only has two performances per month, so Pon supplements his income with farm work and other jobs. However, he has no regrets for choosing to work in the arts. He says, “I’ve had opportunities to perform overseas, and I got to know other countries only because of working as an artist.” He’s travelled to the US and Taiwan to perform and was recently awarded a Dam Dos Grant by Cambodian Living Arts to take part in Asian Puppetry Festival and Exchange workshop, Puppets for Social Change, in Singapore. As a result of this, he is planning to create a puppetry project that raises awareness in his village about the importance of education. Pon’s main passion, however, remains kantoaming. “I want to continue kantoaming music to next generation, and need more encouragement and support from the next generation to take part in kantoaming music classes and learn these skills,” he says.
To learn more about Cambodian Living Arts, find CLA on Facebook, @CamboLivingArts on Twitter, CambodianLivingArts on Instagram, or visit cambodianlivingarts.org.
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EVENTS Château Palmer Wine Dinner @Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra This evening at Sofitel’s Club Millesime takes in a gourmet five-course dinner, including welcome Champagne, canapés and wine pairing from Château Palmer, one of Bordeaux’s famed vineyards. It features guest of honour, Damien Grelat, Château Palmer’s export director for AsiaPacific. $100, from 6.30pm to 10pm. Tel. 023 999 200.
2 MAR The Art of The Fugue @National Museum of Cambodia A blend of logical symmetry and beauty. In the spotlight are the two German giants, J.S. Bach and Max Reger. Reger's romantic masterpiece Variations and Fugue on a Theme of J.S. Bach could be considered as a blend of Bach's baroque era with Reger's romantic spirit. Enjoy a cultured recital by the Scottish pianist Peter Seivewright. Adults $10, students/children $3, from 8pm.
11.30AM to 2.30pM Unmatched selection of cUlinary artistry with the greatest choice of qUality food and beverages available in Phnom Penh!
$59 for food only $89 for Unlimited chamPagne $109 for Unlimited chamPagne rosé
26 OLD AUGUST SITE SOTHEAROS BLVD 12301 PHNOM PENH TEL. +855 (0) 23 999 200 - H6526@SOFITEL.COM www.SOFITEL-PHNOMPENH-PHOkEETHRA.COM
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Bouldering Intro Class @Phnom Climb Community Gym
Open to anyone who wants to start climbing, even newbies. During the 40-minute session, a qualified instructor will keep climbers safe while they get to grips with the many challenges in bouldering. The challenge is to climb short but tricky bouldering routes, using balance, strength, technique, and your brain. It’s like a high-intensity training session in the local gym while at the same time working through a complicated crossword or puzzle. $8, from 6pm.
International Women’s Day @Palace Gate Hotel & Resort Phnom Penh
8 MAR canta.pdf
On International Women's Day, WiBKH will be celebrating the women who inspire us – Cambodia's nominees for the Women of the Future. Talk to the women who are shaping modern Cambodia and hear their stories of success and passion. Hosted by BritCham Cambodia, from 4pm to 6pm.
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OUT & ABOUT This month, AsiaLIFE throws the spotlight on a pioneering initiative that is rescuing dogs from the cruelty of the meat trade.
RESCUED DOGS FLY STATESIDE
IT’S hard to watch the videos posted on YouTube of the dire conditions found in some of the dog slaughter houses that dot Cambodia. Paws being brutally sawn off, dogs being beaten by spades and pups strung from the ceiling. This is the reality for the majority of the country's dog meat trade, where hounds suffer before being dished up for dinner. However, a handful of hounds have been successfully rescued from the trade and given a new lease of life after Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation (AHWF) stormed
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a series of slaughterhouses. A total of six dogs were handed over to Dona Zuzart Weisser, of Pet Services Cambodia by AHWF founder Marc Chin in October. And last month, Zuzart Weisser travelled with five of them, after adopting one herself, to AHWF’s headquarters in LA, California, where they immediately found new loving homes. “All five of the dogs were adopted by the time I left,” she says. “This is a record.” Zuzart Weisser has been working with the organisation for the last two years, taking in more than 70 rescued dogs and nursing them back to health before shipping them to LA, where they are fostered and adopted into new homes. This is the first time Zuzart Weisser accompanied the pooches as they entered the next chapter of their lives. “When we first receive the dogs, they are so scared,” says Zuzart Weisser, who has taken in dogs who have been badly beaten, had their paws hacked off and are in appalling conditions. Months of care are put into gaining the animals’ trust and nursing them
back to health. The animals are vaccinated, given medical and nutritional diets. While volunteers – males and females of different nationalities – take them for walks to get the dogs used to a variety of people. “The dogs can be very difficult to work with because they are often so traumatised,” says Zuzart Weisser. And with plans underway to launch a Cambodian branch of AHWF, headed by Zuzart Weisser, the in-country efforts look set to pick up pace. Other initiatives include rabies eradication and de-sexing programmes, as well as carrying out educational projects to raise awareness of cruel practises. “At the end of the day, it all comes down to education,” she adds. “Cambodia has changed so much even in the last five years when it comes to animal welfare. But there is still a long way to go.” For more information, follow The Animal Hope & Wellness Foundation Cambodia on Facebook.
ROSEWOOD PHNOM PENH
There’s a new contender for best sundowners in Cambodia, and it wins hands down. The long-awaited opening of Rosewood hotel not only brings with it the best spot in the capital to enjoy rooftop drinks, it also raises the bar for luxury across the country. Taking up the top 14 floors of the 39-storey Vattanac Capital Tower, the hotel’s décor seamlessly blends Khmer architectural aspects, with the country’s French colonial heritage and Cambodian craft techniques, all finished with a chic contemporary style. A total of 175 rooms take in 37 suites and a mix of 50sqm executive rooms and 225sqm Norodom House rooms. Dining options include Brasserie Louis, The Living Room and Iza, a delightful Japanese restaurant. The pièce de résistance is Sora, the skybar that is perched on level 37 and boasts the best views of Phnom Penh. Vattanac Capital Tower, 60 Monivong Boulevard, Phnom Penh. Tel. 023 936 888.
PALACE GATE HOTEL & RESORT
Centrally situated close to the Royal Palace, Palace Gate Hotel & Resort is another new offering for somewhere to sleep in the capital. Set in a restored French colonial villa, the hotel is a great place to escape the humdrum of capital life outside. Home to fine dining restaurant, Mealea, guests can enjoy feasting on fine French food or Royal Khmer Cuisine before relaxing at the rooftop bar for some cocktails. The range of rooms take in a mix of rooms and suites, with a spa with highly-trained therapists on hand to rejuvenate guests. The hotel also houses a spacious outdoor swimming pool and wellmanicured tropical gardens. A souvenir shop is also onsite. 44 Sothearos Boulevard, Phnom Penh. Tel. 023 90 00 11 / 023 90 00 12
Six-and-a-Half Books by Ben Aaronovitch Kate Burbidge If you like your contemporary detective fiction with a healthy dose of humour and heavily coated in magical realism then Mr. Aaronovitch’s PC Peter Grant novels are for you. Under the author’s deft characterisation the London setting takes on a persona of its own. The whodunits take you on journeys through the metropolis’ murderous magical criminal underground, brought to life with touches of urban reality and plenty of other worldly fantasy. Humorous and lighthearted, Aaronovitch’s brand of magical realism has more in common with Louis de Bernières than Gabriel Garcia Marquez. As de Bernières’ does in his Latin American trilogy, Aaranovitch’s uses magical realism as a vehicle to take his branch of the whodunit genre out of the grim and the mundane. The series provides a fun, funny, compelling ride along the edge of fantasy without taking itself too seriously. There are many concepts familiar to anyone who has even a nodding acquaintance with animist beliefs. The fantasy elements are treated matter-of-factly with a palpable lack of awe-struck reverence, rendering the paranormal credible with geeky selfawareness and humour. It is this and the sound engaging plots and characters that allow you to suspend your disbelief as high as you like. Witty one-liners and wryly descriptive language keep the humour going throughout while the narrative builds,
often making its final stages compulsively turnable. There are a few elements that grate, mostly the scattering of purposefully clunky grammar, that is intended to reflect the protagonist’s background, but which jar somewhat with his general pattern of speech. Peppered with enough highbrow and pop culture references to keep anyone from 20 to 60 happy, these books reference many other works in the sci-fi/fantasy genre by leaving a fairly hefty trail of literary Easter eggs throughout. And for those with an interest in jazz or modernist/brutalist architecture, a couple of books have even more to offer. A great escape from life’s tedious realities, this is by no means ground-breaking literature, but it is certainly worth wiling away your time. It’s possible to consume all six novels and the seventh novella in two to three months whilst holding down a job, and familial and social commitments. Mind you, when you get to the final chapter or two of any of the books it’s advisable to clear your diary, the dénouements can certainly get a little addictive. But it’s not a problem. Just because I also tracked down the graphic novel spinoffs, an audiobook short, a short story on the author’s blog site, a whole chunk of Wikipedia dedicated to the series AND I know when the next novel is due out, doesn’t mean I couldn’t give them up tomorrow, if I had to. Honest.
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MAR BY KATE 2018 BURBIDGE
KAMPOT’S SEAPORT TO BREAK GROUND
CONSTRUCTION on the long-awaited sea port at Kampot is set to start this month. As the bidding process for the project draws to a close, work will start on creating the port in Kampot’s Tek Chhou district later this month. The port, which will welcome tourist boats, is slated for completion by the end of 2019, according to Soy Sinol, director of Kampot’s tourism department. “Four hectares have been allocated for the project,” said Sinol. “When completed, it will be able to accommodate ferries with the capacity to carry 200 to 300 people. Around 1000 tourists will use the port every day, according to our experts."
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“The port will play a vital role in attracting tourists to the provinces and will give many financial benefits to the people of Kampot. It will also facilitate travel alongside the Cambodian coast and enhance the flow of tourists from neighbouring countries.” The new port is expected to service 360,000 international and domestic tourists a year when it opens in 2019 and 442,000 by 2022, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which has provided a loan for the project. Business support services will be provided for at least 375 micro-, small-, and mediumsized enterprises located in the seaport’s premises. Capacity building services for governmental agencies, including the
Ministry of Tourism, will also be available. “The project will also facilitate private investment to run international ferry services from the new pier and provide a model for using tourist entry fees and charges to finance maintenance of public facilities,” ADB noted in a recent statement. Ho Vandy, advisor to the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce and president of World Express Tour and Travel, said the port will help promote Cambodia’s coast as a tourism destination. “It will enhance the image of the country, and encourage local business leaders to fund long-term projects that can attract more tourists to the area and to surrounding destinations,” he said.
INTERCON PHNOM PENH TO GET MAJOR FACELIFT AND REBRAND THE iconic InterContinental Phnom Penh is gearing up to get a multi-million-dollar makeover as it enters a new chapter in Great Duke’s portfolio of properties. Regency Company Limited kick-started the rebrand project last month with the announcement that the hotel has been bought by the Singapore-based Regency Company Limited. The company has 20 years’ experience in high-end hospitality. During the next 12 to 18 months, an estimated $30 million investment will see all facilities, including rooms, public areas, fitness centre, meeting facilities and restaurants, upgraded. The hotel intends to ensure that the upgrade will have minimum impact on guests who can continue to access the hotel’s services as usual. Management, staff and those working within the various departments will remain unchanged and continue to be the driving force behind ensuring that these improvements happen smoothly. While food and drink standards will remain the same, the menu will be expanded to offer guests an extensive range of options. The Great Duke Phnom Penh is to be the first managed asset under the umbrella of Singapore based Great Duke Hotels and Resorts. The newly set-up Great Duke Hotels and Resorts will further increase its footprint with the opening of premium luxury hotels and resorts in Cambodia and well ass across the rest of the Asia Pacific region.
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In line with this monthâ€™s travel theme, we pick some of the hottest spots to splurge on taking time out, revitalising and indulging in some me time across Southeast Asia. 14 AsiaLIFE Cambodia
Fusion Resort Phu Quoc As a relatively new addition to Phu Quoc and the island’s only all-inclusive spa resort, Fusion also runs three-, five- and seven-day wellness packages crafted around health pillars designed to address every aspect of well-being. The first, fusionmind, elevates physical fitness as the first fundamental of well-being. The second, fusionsense, focuses on optimising health from the inside out, while the last pillar, fusionsoul, helps guests deploy meditation, yoga and massage to enhance health and state-of-mind. The programme takes in two daily spa treatments, wellness consultations, a nutritious diet, wraps, scrubs, facials, yoga, Tai Chi and meditation. Packages for a Garden Villa start at $949 per couple for a two night/three-day stay, $1,846 per couple for four nights/five days, and $2,758 per couple for six nights/seven days. fusionresortphuquoc.com
The Sanchaya Based on Indonesia’s Bintan Island, the 10-hectare beachfront resort has joined forces with renowned Australian Pilates specialist and personal trainer Rosie Gregory and app-based lifestyle and fitness platform GuavaPass to introduce The Sanchaya Sangha – An Indulgent Mindfulness Retreat, from Jun. 4 to 8. The intimate four-night retreat balances morning beach boot camp sessions, meditation workshops and afternoon yoga and Pilates with delicious spreads from the resort’s kitchens, premium vintages from its cellars, European cheese and rarified conversation. As a fledgling community, or sangha, retreaters will gather to chat and share ideas at venues throughout The Sanchaya (Sanskrit for ‘collection’), just a short ferry ride from Singapore. With only space for 10 people ($3,760 or $5,400 for two), now is the time to get booking. thesanchaya.com
The Anam Towards the end of 2017, luxurious Anam Cam Ranh unveiled its range of one-bedroom private pool villas, with a spa included. Guests can enjoy one complimentary in-villa spa treatment per person a day from the Sri Mara Spa’s ‘high-touch, low-tech’ menu, which combines traditional Balinese techniques with a Vietnamese touch. A 25 percent discount is available for further treatments booked throughout the stay. For all treatments, which range from massages and facials, to body wraps and slimming programmes, Thémaé products are combined with ingredients grown in The Anam’s spa garden. These include lemongrass for purification, aloe vera for reducing redness and ginger for its anti-inflammatory, circulationboosting properties. Rates for the villas start from $490 per night. theanam.com
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COMO Shambhala Estate
Mantra Samui Resort In mid-2017, Mantra Samui Resort unveiled its natural spa and launched a wellness experience, A Mantra for Mantra. The Jai Spa is home to four softly-lit private treatment rooms and a foot reflexology area. Inspired by the dense jungle that surrounds the hillside Thai property, the spa features bambooclad walls that reach up to a lofty ceiling. The spa blends most of its treatment products in-house, using natural ingredients harvested from its gardens. Thai herbs infuse Jaiâ€™s flagship concoctions, and homegrown lemongrass is steamed to create an aromatic atmosphere. Coconut informs the signature treatment, the Yaa Jai, its milk, not oil, deployed for a deep, tension-releasing massage. Warm coconut poultices are strategically applied to tight spots to further reduce stress. The three-night stay packages are available until Mar. 31, and rates start from $600, excluding yoga and meditation, and $670, including private yoga and meditation class. mantrasamui.com
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Hidden away in the heart of the jungle near Ubud in Bali, this residential health retreat perfectly fuses a wide range of wellness programmes with tranquil surroundings. Facilities include yoga pavilions, outdoor jungle gyms and rooms, suites and villas catering to solo visitors, couples and families. Resident experts â€“ a yoga teacher, Ayurvedic doctor and dietician â€“ are also on hand to deliver a series of specialised and tailormade programmes, with visiting therapists also available to drop in on request. Activities include meditation, massage, yoga, hiking and a range of workshops and programmes that will leave guests leaving with a truly balanced body, soul and mind. Nightly rates start at $600. comohotels.com/comoshambhalaestate
CAMBODIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL Words by Marissa Carruthers. Photo by Enric Català.
ow in its eighth year, Cambodia International Film Festival (CIFF) has grown from humble beginnings to this year’s event, which sees more than 130 films from 41 countries screened across six days. Cedric Eloy, chief executive officer of Cambodian Film Commission (CFC) and festival co-organiser, says, “The aim of CFC is to develop the industry in Cambodia, and the festival is part of this mission.” The seeds for the festival were planted when Eloy and his co-workers discovered there were many films shot in Cambodia that had never been seen by locals who worked on them. “We created a few events to show some films that had been shot in the country,” he says. “We realised it would be interesting to have one single event.” So, in 2010, the first CIFF was born, attracting 1,000 people. Last year, more than 20,000 people attended. And Eloy anticipates this month’s event will be even bigger and better than before. As part of its aim to elevate the country’s film industry, CIFF has also formed strong
partnerships with festivals across the globe, teaming up with the likes of Asian Film Awards and the European Film Festival. It also partners with the annual film festival that takes place in Long Beach, LA – home to a large Cambodian diaspora. “There are two things that aren’t helping the industry to move in terms of film makers and creative ideas,” says Eloy. “There’s such little knowledge of films made outside Cambodia. There’s a little bit about Hollywood but there are very few masters of cinema left now.” With this in mind, CIFF started including regional cinema in its agenda, with short films, movies and documentaries screened from countries such as Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea, Japan and India. “This helps give local film makers an overview of the level of the industry in different countries,” adds Eloy. With Angelina Jolie having previously been a patron and French-Cambodian actress Elodie Yung taking on the role this year, the eighth edition looks set to be strong. Popular Cambodian entertainer DJ Nana
will step into the shoes of CIFF Ambassador. More than 70 filmmakers from 16 countries, including Cambodia,USA, France, Japan and Vietnam, will showcase their work across 160 screenings and events in 10 venues throughout Phnom Penh. Cambodian films include Angelina Jolie’s First They Killed My Father, French feature film shot in Cambodia The Path by Jeanne Labrune and top Cambodian grossing film The Witch by Huy Yaleng. Documentaries on Cambodia take in the premiere of Surviving Bokator, the first documentary on the revival of the Khmer ancestral Martial Arts in the presence of Canadian filmmakers. Other premieres include Japanese director Tatsuhito Utagawa’s Cambodian Textiles and Khmer Rouge related Angkar directed by Neary Adeline Hay. And international highlights span a range of documentaries and short, feature and animated films from around the world. CIFF takes place from Mar. 5 to 11 at various venues across Phnom Penh. For details, visit www.cambodia-iff.com. AsiaLIFE Cambodia 17
his collection is a series of photo-poems inspired by the ideas of philosopher Baruch Spinoza, namely the opposition between earthly and ethereal realms, the material versus the ideal. The photos are a juxtaposition of roots of skies, i.e. the spiritual, and trees – to symbolise the strength of nature, the power of what is worldly and the life that sprouts from everywhere. As Spinoza said, there is nothing beyond the immanent reality, no soul beyond the body, no god beyond nature. No external creator since everything that exists is contained in life itself, sprouting from every root and flowing through the blood
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of every creature. Afterlife and vague ideals are just tricks to escape our own humanity and physical nature, illusions to create barriers between us and life itself. Everything that is, it’s already here, it’s already now. Miguel Jerónimo is a freelance photographer, vagabond writer and art lecturer based in Phnom Penh. He is interested in the connection between mind and body, and being engaged in poetic naturalism as a way to make sense of the world around him. Prints can be arranged through the artist’s contact: email@example.com.
To make death die, I tell you, is the only way to live. To kill the spirits in me accepting myself as the body I am. Love survives the truth – we don’t need an afterlife, we don’t need a before father. We exist independently of reasons, gift of the beautiful chaos, an absolute void
pregnant of so much life. I am just a winding path of coincidences fruitful collection of encounters. No me, no you. Just windows with unclean surfaces, morning sights of the outside and nocturnal peaks of the inside. Insights and voyeurs of our own pasts, we close our eyes to the future because we just want this present. We, here and now, are enough.
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I desire you like a house on fire in an anonymous city – clouds of smoke that turn our heights into a veil of bliss and drunkenness. Someday the flame will eat our insides, and we can’t wait to be destroyed in that unstoppable love. Eat me and I will eat you. Until the very bone because there’s no tooth that sees skin as an excuse, there’s no doubt that can fulfill our desire to be young again,
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to spend every moment as it was the first time, every gesture as an ultimate surprise. It’s just a flame, a part of us that we can’t kill anymore. Even if perishable, or maybe because it’s perishable. And with that we live; with that we are more immortal than any night or nameless shout. And we repeat to ourselves and anyone else who wants to listen: It’s just a flame, it’s just a flame.
What we need is an apple of stars. We need stars and toes that make us move forward without crying about the past. Drinking from the wind, we look and we see what we want to see. But that’s the error that divorces us from ourselves. It’s the elixir of our unhappiness and the blandness of all the humanity. There’s only us and acceptance, acceptance of us, of treasures to explore within and unforgettable battles for a day to come. A stone to be.
But there are no stones that aren’t made of trees, and that’s the seed that make us see and aspire for better highs. Going up. Going out. And then we focus on the apple and forget we aren’t in the beginning or in the end, and that’s the moment we start to live. A bite and an innocent feeling, we are the grow and the pain and the ceiling. For the better and for the worse, we are our suffering we are our healing.
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JOURNALIST & AUTHOR
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Australian journalist Luke Hunt opens up about his book, Punji Trap, and its main character Pham Xuan An, a Viet Cong spy masquerading as a journalist who managed to shape the outcome of the Vietnamese War. Photography by Lim Sokchanlina.
What is the Punji Trap about?
It’s about Pham Xuan An, who was the Viet Cong’s highest rated spy during the Vietnam War. At the same time, he was among the highest rated Vietnamese journalists working in the Western press and did enormous – depending on whose side you’re on – damage to the Americans and their efforts in South Vietnam. He was hailed a hero. The Americans didn’t land in Da Nang until 1965 and he was already entrenched with communists by the 1940s. The book is also as much about the journalists who worked there, a lot of people who I got to know and worked with over the years.
Why did you write this book?
It started when I wrote about An for my undergraduate thesis, when no one really knew who he was and not much had been published on him. I’d go up to North Vietnam in the 1990s and spend three or four days interviewing him. I made a lot of trips in 10 years and a lot more when I was here [Cambodia] – he died in 2006 and I was bureau chief for Agence France-Presse here in 2001. The biggest problem was when I’d interview these guys, they’d say, “This is on the record, this is off the record”. It made it impossible to write. In the end I decided to sit on it. When An and a few others died, I thought now’s the time to finish it off.
Why did you choose to write about Vietnam?
I grew up as the Vietnam War was unfolding on TV. I saw the footage of that little girl running down the street, watching it on
the nightly news as it actually happened. We had a close family friend who was a marine that was killed in Vietnam. It evolved from there. I was always deeply fascinated with Southeast Asia, and still am. I love Cambodia, but it was always more about Vietnam for me.
How did An impact the war efforts?
The Vietnamese told enormous lies, and one of the great lies was told by An. After the Tet offensive in 1968, the world was convinced America was losing in Vietnam and the Americans had lost the Tet offensive. This was complete nonsense. The Americans annihilated the Viet Cong and the communists, and the communists would admit this 20 years later. An maintained that lie through who he was writing for in the media. He would set up bogus interviews and take journalists down alleys to meet these North Vietnamese communist types. He managed to convince the world. That turned popular opinion in America against the war, and once that had turned, even though they remained there until 1972, it was impossible for them to maintain the effort or war. An won five liberation exploit medals, including two for Tet.
I was a natural born reporter. I did well at school in English and comprehension and I enjoyed it, it was never forced
Do you identify at all with An?
I’ve wondered about that. I can identify with him as a professional journalist, but he became communist in the early days. He never questioned it, he always assumed they had the answers and assumed
it’s a war of liberation. He had plenty of opportunity to leave and get out. But he didn’t, he believed in the cause. Then the communists arrived, and he realised what it was actually all about. It was only then that he had his moment of clarity, the cathartic experience – “Oh dear, what happened here?” What he did was get a lot of people killed for a particular side. He was always the espionage. Being a journalist was his cover and a lot of people died because of his beliefs. He’s a terrific bloke, totally charming, extremely intelligent and bright. He was the cool man of Saigon among the press pack. He was extremely likeable, but I think he struggled after 1975 with the whole, “What did I do?”, because what they got wasn’t what they thought they would.
How did you get into journalism?
I was a natural born reporter. I did well at school in English and comprehension and I enjoyed it, it was never forced. I studied journalism and worked on outback and country newspapers in Australia before scoring a cadetship with AAP [Australian Associated Press]. I always wanted to do the foreign correspondent thing, and started working with AFP and went to Hong Kong, the Philippines and Afghanistan in 1998 and 1999. I was also at the invasion of Iraq, Cashmere and Sri Lanka. I had a really good run. I went freelance and worked with The Economist and New York Times, and over the years The Diplomat has been good to me. I was offered a gig to run a course in international relations at Pannasatra University of Cambodia, and this book was published by them as part of the recommended reading for that course, so it worked out really well.
How has the war reporting scene changed?
The biggest change is technology. I’ve covered wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for quite a few lengthy periods, and we’re always saying how much it changes. But it’s probably not the journalists that have changed, it’s how the task has changed, especially with smartphones. Combat zones are dangerous, and you have to weigh up the risks and costs before sending anyone there. Now you can call someone on the frontline and they can hold up their phone and show you what’s happening and take photos themselves. Why would you take the risk if it’s not necessary? Punji Trap is now available at Monument Books.
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â€œThe world is your oysterâ€?, so goes the old adage, and this month AsiaLIFE is hoping to infect readers with the travel bug by throwing the spotlight on some hot destinations for 2018, both near and far.
s Cambodia becomes more connected, escaping the country and exploring the rest of the world is becoming easier and cheaper than ever before. With that in mind, this month we showcase a range of inviting holiday options that span the globe, from close-to-home Myanmar, remote Kyrgyzstan and Jordan, to the low down on some of the hottest festivals to attend in 2018 and beyond.
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t’s predicted this will be Myanmar’s Singapore in the future,” says my guide Moe Hnin Wai, as we drive across the recently-opened bridge connecting mainland Mawlamyine – the capital of Myanmar’s Mon State – with Bilu Kyun. Having just been told the island, which is predominantly agricultural land dotted with more than 60 small villages housing about 200,000 people, had only received electricity the previous year, this seems an ambitious task. In fact, Bilu, known locally as Ogre Island – something I’m told harks back to ancient times when islanders were renowned for their less-than-desirable looks, filing their teeth into points to help them feast on their preferred snack of raw meat – sits in stark contrast to Singapore and, for now, the only similarity is in size. Bilu boasts a quaint and charming feel, where time almost stands still. Rice paddies, vegetable and fruit farms, and rubber plantations make up the majority of the island – famous for its traditional artisans, with each village boasting a speciality handicraft. Despite its nickname, there isn’t an ‘ogre’ in sight and the villagers I meet greet me like a long-lost friend, welcoming me into their homes to serve up snacks and tea before showing me first-hand the traditional techniques used to create whichever handicraft it is they happen to specialise in. Our first stop is at the slate village, where stacks of the material are piled up high outside homes where workers hunch over tables, precariously creating oldschool slate writing boards. At a nearby village specialising in pipes and other intricately-carved wooden items, an elderly woman greets us with a smile and ushers us up the stairs of her home. We struggle to find somewhere to sit, with every inch of floor space occupied by wooden pipes, bowls, combs, chopsticks and statues, all lovingly hand-crafted by the family.
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Another short drive through pristine countryside and we pull up at a cluster of houses, flanked by neat rows of fluorescent pink and yellow tubes. “This is the rubber drying in the sun,” says Wai, before introducing me to the family of elastic band makers. In a shaded corner of an outdoor courtyard, a young man perches on a stool, using a large stick to stir the liquid rubber tapped from nearby farms in a plastic barrel. Elsewhere, two women dip wooden poles into the finished product before placing them in the already harsh morning sun. Once dry, the rubber is hand-cut into pink and yellow elastic bands to be sold across the country. Silk weaving villages, communities specialising in making Myanmar’s traditional bamboo hats and felt-making families can also be found on the island. Here there is no hard sell, and if you do decide to buy, you’ll be so shocked by the rock bottom prices that trying to barter doesn’t even enter your head. Having worked up an appetite, we left the island and headed for the coast, stopping off about an hour later at small seaside village, Wegalaung. With it being mid-week, there are only a few families enjoying fresh seafood sold from vendors that roam the area. However, the many basic, open air restaurants and stalls suggests at weekends, this place quickly fills up with locals – it is yet to hit the international tourist trail – enjoying some downtime at the beach. After eating a healthy portion of chicken noodles for $1, we hit the beach where pristine sands stretch as far as the eye can see. Apart from a few locals kicking a ball about, we have the beach all to ourselves – a rare luxury in the modern world. Again, I’m left wondering, like so many times on this trip, how long will this bounty of raw beauty last before the palms and shrubs that fringe the deserted sand are torn down and replaced with the plethora of hotels, bars and restaurants that are not common on so many beaches across the
globe? However, for now, Myanmar is home to tonnes of unspoilt beauty. The afternoon was spent exploring the history books in the nearby township of Thanbyuzayat, home to two sobering sites: Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery and Death Railway Museum. Built during World War Two by the Japanese to transport supplies by rail between Burma and Thailand, the 258-mile track was completed within a year to the cost of thousands of lives. An estimated 13,000 Allied prisoners of war (POW) died, along with 100,000 local workers from across the region, from starvation, overwork, illness and maltreatment. The line was in use for 21 months before being bombed by the Brits. The small museum, which opened in 2016, pays tribute to those who lost their lives, re-telling the history of the railway, stories of survivors and graphic, secretlytaken photos that reveal the appalling working and living conditions endured. Outside, manicured gardens house a short stretch of the track and a carriage. While the museum fails to provide a comprehensive insight into the events, it gives a brief overview and provides a bit of background for visiting the nearby War Cemetery, where 3,771 Commonwealth soldiers are buried. Wai hurries me to the car so we can hit Mawlamyine city in time for sunset at a temple – she notes the semi-reluctance on my face; we spent the previous day exhaustively exploring the variety of temples that dot the area. “It will be worth it,” she reassures me. She’s right. We join a small gathering of local students to watch the sun melt into the horizon from the city’s tallest stupa, Kyaikthanlan Paya. Sweeping landscapes taking in Salween River and the islands that dot it, across to Hpa-An’s signature limestone karsts in the east, appear before us. It’s easy to see how this vista inspired Rudyard Kipling to pen the opening line of his poem ‘Mandalay’ – “By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ lazy at the sea”.
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ccepting an offer from the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism (IIPT) to visit Jordan, Mark Bibby Jackson encounters a country with a rich history and a people doing all they can for the displaced in the region. “Where is it?” I ask our guide Mohammed. “There,” he points to the narrow stretch of water barely wider than a country stream. “That’s the River Jordan?” A row of buoys demarks the border between Jordan, where I stand, and Israel barely 10 metres away. In some ways this epitomises the trouble this region has faced since time in memoriam; too close for comfort. I am coming towards the culmination of my week-long visit to the country, yet still it never fails to surprise. We have just walked through the place where legend has it that John baptised Jesus. Opposite us, hordes of tourists on the Israeli side pose on their bank snapping away with their selfie sticks, oblivious to the moment. An oasis of peace in the troubled Middle East region, Jordan has assumed a traditional role of accepting refugees. “We keep our doors open to our neighbours,” HRH Princess Dana Firas, president of the Petra National Trust, had informed me upon our arrival. The last century saw successive waves of refugees from Chechens to Palestinians – some of whom have lived here for more than 60 years – and more recently Syrians. “These waves of people have enriched our nation,” the Princess continues in a sentiment sadly absent from much of the rhetoric in the West. But such philanthropic responsibility comes at a cost, and the oil-bereft country is largely reliant on its tourism industry, which has seen a 65 percent drop since 2010, largely due to the intensification of troubles in the region. Forewarned not to expect much from the capital Annan, I am pleasantly surprised to discover in the Temple of Hercules and the largest Roman theatre in Jordan, sites that are a pleasant introduction to the kingdom. Few linger in Amman, and we are no exception, departing the following day. A dust storm, worthy of T.E. Lawrence descends upon us as we head south
passing through barren terrain it is inconceivable that this used to be replete with trees, cut down first to melt copper and then build the now dormant railways. Eventually, as we approach Wadi Rum the flat landscape relents, and a vast valley unfolds before us, with sandstone hills emerging in the distance. We pass the entry to the national park and reserve, where checking in is both obligatory. There is an unworldly atmosphere as if we have wandered onto a lunar landscape, the ideal setting for the latest episode in the Star Wars saga, but it is another film that has made this region famous. This is the land of Lawrence of Arabia, and after a lunch at the Captain’s Desert Camp where Mohammed Ali, not the boxer but a blind musician, entertains us with his play of the owd allute – a type of lute – and song, we set off into the valley where Lawrence and Prince Abdullah slept. Petra is the Greek for rock. As I walk through the valley towards the Treasury building, I can see why Jordan’s most famous archaeological site – and one of the Seven Modern Day Wonders of the World – was given the name. The Nabataeans moved here in part due to the sheer immensity of the rock walls that would successfully defend them from hostile incursion. But it also allowed them to carve their statues and temples to both their gods and the dead. As with good comedy, the trick to Petra lies in the timing. By the time we reach the first main building, the area is overrun with tourists and locals plying their trade. Youthful Bedouins ride their horses through the canyon like outlaws fleeing a posse in the Wild West. Fortunately, I have time on my hands and remembering that Princess Dana had informed me the best time to visit is at 6am, I can return to Petra later on my trip. This time I arrive at the Treasury as the sun is rising, and I find myself alone. The next hour or so, I wander through the valley of temples and statues in perfect isolation, able to appreciate the majestic buildings without the click of horses’ hooves or camera shutters. The experience I encounter in the north is one that will live with me, although hopefully I will not repeat again.
Azraq Refugee Camp is close to the Syrian border. Iraqi refugees first came here in 1992, although the camp is now used to house Syrians displaced by the current problems in their homeland. It is my first visit to such a camp, and I have to admit to being surprised by how humane the conditions were, and how clean. However, families are crowded into corrugated housing that must get extremely hot in the summer. The accommodation is clearly designed to be temporary, although many have stayed here for years. Briefly I am allowed to wander freely and I am drawn to the most amazing mural created by the refugees, before I am invited in for a coffee by Abdullah, who lives here along with his family. The following day, we visit the school, and I feel guilty that our intervention puts paid to any idea the teachers have of educating their students. Although, the school is run by a Baptist church, the pupils are Muslim – Druze and Bedouin – often travelling from as far as 70km away. If Azraq is a cruel reminder of man’s inhumanity towards each other, then the Dead Sea provides a lesson on our destruction of the environment. At 427 metres below sea level, the area around the Dead Sea is the lowest land point on earth. It’s also retreating by about a metre a year, as water is being diverted to Israel, dammed and increasingly used to power industry, as well as suffering from climate change. People come here to laze in the salt waters and smother themselves in mud; both of which are said to be good for the skin. After a while bobbing up and down on the surface, I try to scramble to the shore, only to discover that the same qualities that make flotation easy discriminate against graceful departure. Eventually I manage to reach dry land, my dignity left dead in the sea. Then I apply the mud and sit and wait while the sun dries it, before returning to the salt waters to wash away my sins. A cynic by nature, I’m amazed later that evening to discover my skin tingling as if the water had cleansed all its perfections along with the mud. Tonight at least I feel totally rejuvenated.
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njoying homemade cuisine inside a yurt, listening to folk music and admiring a wild landscape from the back of a horse, writer Johan Smits gets a taste of what the Kyrgyz country has to offer. “Lunch is ready,” says Nazgul, the young Kyrgyz mother who is hosting me inside her family’s yurt. Freshly baked bread with an assortment of jams appear on the table, then laghman, a soup with homemade noodles, mutton and vegetables, followed by potatoes and peppers stuffed with horsemeat. I put on hold my ambition of becoming a vegetarian and wonder how I am going to survive the afternoon bouncing up and down on the back of a horse. That morning I set off from Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek by car with Jeff Stamp, an American who runs Taigan Expeditions and who was my guide for the day. Having arrived from Tajikistan on an extended weekend, I had already spent a day exploring Bishkek – now I was going to sample the Kyrgyz outdoors and its culture – to discover whether it would be worthwhile returning for a longer visit. And in this country where horses and the nomadic way of life make up its DNA, what could be more appropriate than doing this the equestrian way? Nazgul’s yurt doesn’t stand lonely in the middle of an endless steppe, braving galeforce winds and sub-zero temperatures, but is set up in the courtyard of her family’s homestay in Kochkor. At first, this appeared to me as a bit of a gimmick for the sake of foreign visitors, but I soon realised hers is as authentic as any other. The dwelling, which consists of interlaced wooden laths covered with thick felt and supporting a heavy, wooden tunduk – the apex of the yurt that lets light in and allows smoke to exit – is such a centrepiece of Kyrgyz culture that it appears on their national flag. As I stepped out of the yurt, Nazgul’s mother-in-law was squatting in the courtyard beating freshly sheared wool
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with a thin, metal stick. “She’s separating the dirt from the wool,” said Nazgul, explaining this was the first of a number of laborious steps for making felt. Felt is Kyrgyzstan’s national treasure – both hardy and colourful, it covers yurts, is woven into rugs, carpets, wall hangings and table covering, and people dress in it. Kochkor, at an altitude of 1,800 metres, is a leisurely three-hour drive from Bishkek, at times straight through wide open landscapes and sometimes meandering through red-coloured, craggy rock formations. Before arriving at our destination, we stopped at a viewpoint looking out over the Orto-Tokoy reservoir, a source of military tension between Kyrgyzstan and neighbouring Uzbekistan, who has repeatedly claimed rights to its waters. “Folks at home rarely visit us here,” Jeff told me. “We have to deal with a false perception of Central Asia, with fears about local safety. We hope to change that perception in time.” Back in the car, discussing tourism, I learnt that Jeff also organises trophy hunting trips. Telling him I can only imagine myself shooting animals with a camera, Jeff countered with a number of arguments in favour. We agreed to disagree. “There are no horses available,” Nazgul confirmed apologetically. Our faces dropped and Jeff, who takes customer service to another level, offered a refund and proposed to explore Kochkor while Nazgul worked the phone trying to find a last-minute solution. Locally, Kochkor is best known for its potatoes and sacks full of them could be seen dotting the fields. Normally, horses are everywhere in Kyrgyzstan but today, it transpired, all of them were being used for potato harvesting. I didn’t come across any other foreigners in town. The end of September is also the end of the tourist season and many shepherds, who during the summer live in yurts on jailoos – or alpine meadows – return to Kochkor for winter. Yet, first-
time visitors to Kyrgyzstan often end up staying overnight in Kochkor because of its strategic location. The roads to Bishkek, to Lake Issyk-Kul – the second-largest alpine lake on the planet after Titicaca – and to the wild, 2,200-metre-high Suusamyr Valley, all meet here. As we were strolling through town, we received a call from Nazgul. She’d managed to source two horses and a local guide to lead us up the valley. Half an hour later, I found myself on an easy trot befitting an amateur horse rider. It was worth the wait. A late-afternoon sun coating the valley and its surrounding mountains with a golden gloss, vistas wider and further than my eyes are used to, and an absolute silence but for the snorting of the horses, all made for a quietly magical moment. Naryn is the largest and, with six persons per square kilometre, the least densely populated province of Kyrgyzstan. What had been merely a statistic had now turned into a feeling of joy and awe. When, a couple of hours later, we arrived back at Nazgul’s courtyard-yurt for dinner, a pleasant surprise awaited me. An ensemble of three women and two men were performing traditional Kyrgyz music and song. Their repertoire of instruments included the kyl kayak, a two-string fiddle made from apricot wood, the ooz komuz or mouth harp producing mesmerising sounds, a flute called chopo chor, a tambourine and, surprisingly, an accordion. Traditional Kyrgyz music broadly consists of kiy, which is purely instrumental, and yr which is vocal and includes poetry, folk tales and singing. The next morning, as I was sitting in the taxi from Bishkek to the Kyrgyz-Kazakh border, the events of the previous day were still running through my head. The ride only takes one hour. The first half hour I was ruminating about the musicians, their beautiful music and song, and the earnestness and dedication with which they performed. The other half hour I spent plotting my return to hear them play again.
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tockholm is an exuberant city full of spectacular baroque architecture, but as Mark Bibby Jackson discovers there is much about the Swedish capital that blows hot and cold. “Swedes must be crazy,” I think as I swim in the 35C waters, a howling gale blowing freezing gusts of wind around me. A peaceful oasis from the wintry cold for the last few days, the ninth floor of the Downtown Camper has turned into a wind trap far too strong for the slight white slippers provided by the staff at Nest Spa, which now seem destined to descend upon Stockholm’s metropolitans like a pair of enormous snowflakes. Leaving the pool, I scramble towards the warm sanctuary of the sauna while my heart beats far quicker than can possibly be healthy. Then I look around and realise I am alone – maybe it’s not the Swedes who are crazy after all. It is my second visit to the Scandinavian capital. The first was while travelling by train around Norway and Sweden in the middle of June. Then I had been amazed by the endless summer days, now in January I am equally affected by the relentless winter greyness. Four days into my trip and I have yet to see the sun or a hint of blue in the sky. I had feared the nights, but these I can cope with – after all black is its natural hue, but the day is quite different. A couple of days earlier I had taken the ferry through the Stockholm Archipelago. This had been a highlight on my previous trip. Despite the frenzied activity of the city’s residents heading for their summer houses on the islands, I had loved standing out on deck and watching the sun glimmering on the waters. This time my venture outdoors is short-lived as I shelter in the warmth of the cabin. As our guide explains how locals have shut down their temporary homes for the
winter, draining the water so the pipes won’t frieze, the difference between summer and winter in this part of the world is as clear as day and night. No boats bob in and out of the small jetties and no swimmer braves the icy waters. Despite there being more than 30,000 islands in the archipelago, we are not destined to visit a solitary one. The ‘scheduled’ stop at the town of Vaxholm is cancelled as nobody wishes to disembark, and there aren’t any passengers waiting on the dock. Instead we return to Stockholm, like uninvited interlopers at the birthday party that is getting into full swing down below. Our three-hour voyage passes without mishap, which is more than you can say for Stockholm’s famous ship, the Vasa. On Aug. 10, 1628, the vessel set out from the city’s harbour to sail the seas, only to make it less than a mile before capsizing at a depth of 32 metres – within sight of the shipyard where it was built. Commissioned by King Gusav II Adolf, the Vasa should never have set sail. The king ordered an extra deck full of canons to be built above the water line. Its safety check – which consisted of a few dozen sailors running up and down the deck to replicate the waves – was aborted from fear the ship might sink. Sadly, nobody was brave enough to inform the king that his new toy was unseaworthy. At least 15 people perished in the Stockholm harbour that day. The top ship simply toppled over after a slight gust of wind. The Vasa rested on the seabed for more than 300 years before it was salvaged in 1962. Now it stands in a dedicated museum. About 90 percent of the timber is original. And more than 1,000 oak trees were felled for its construction, indicating its scale. But it’s not just its vastness that awes. The ornate design of the carvings with wooden figureheads designed to ward
off courageous pirates and evil spirits is equally impressive, unfortunately they proved quite useless against proud kings. The highly impressive Vasa Museum is one of many cultural attractions included in a Stockholm Pass, as well as the Archipelago Cruise, that can be bought from the tourism centre. The great thing about such passes is when you encounter a museum that doesn’t rock your boat, you can always pop into another one. The previous day, having been left totally underwhelmed by the Nordic Museum, I ventured to Gamla Stan, or the Old Town, where I breezed through the Royal Palace before ending up at the Nobel Museum. An hour later I emerged delighted by the display on literature and stocked up with an understanding of the prizes that I suspect I could take it as my specialist knowledge category in Mastermind. Despite all the attractions and the spectacular beauty of the old town, Stockholm is not just about culture. Or at least not of an ancient variety. On my previous visit, I had walked to the south side of the city. This is the trendy part of town where Bohemians come to discuss the latest Nordic Noir while twiddling their bushy beards. The area is a hub in the summer months, and while not exactly buzzing on a cold Monday night in January, in the Snotty Sound Bar – excuse the name – on Skanegaten, it has the ideal place to while away some time. There I find myself reflecting on my final night how different Stockholm in winter feels from its summer twin. Having spent many years in Asia when the only seasonal variation is whether you get wet from the outside or from the inside, I find myself appreciating seasons more and more these days. Perhaps, I’ll time my next visit to the land of Benny and Bjorn for spring or autumn, then I might not find myself alone in braving the Downtown Camper’s pool.
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What better way to discover different cultures than joining in with the festivities. Editor Marissa Carruthers throws the spotlight on unique annual festivals that span the spectrum. 34 AsiaLIFE Cambodia
Where: India What: Holi is a Hindu spring festival also known as the festival of colours. It marks the end of winter and the arrival of spring, as well as the triumph of good over evil. If spending the day hurling colourful powder paints at one another sounds up your street, then this is the festival for you. For something slightly different, head to the village of Barsana, near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, where a bizarre tradition sees the women beat up the men with sticks the day before Holi. When: With this year’s Holi landing on March 1, those wanting to join in the colour fun will have to wait until next year, when it takes place on March 21.
Where: Chiang Mai, Thailand. What: Songkran marks the end of the harvest and the start of the new lunar year. Water forms an important part of the religious holiday, symbolising purification, cleansing the soul and washing away bad luck. Hence, in recent years, the celebrations have transformed into a huge street party, where people roam the streets armed with water bombs, water pistols, hoses and buckets of water to throw at one another. Remember April’s oppressive heat and suddenly this seems a fun way to cool down. When: April 13 to 15, 2018.
Boun Bang Fai
Where: Luang Prabang, Laos What: Also known as the rocket festival, this lively five-day celebration takes place across Laos, with Luang Prabang a top destination to mark it. Featuring a series of floats, music and dance, it’s the third day when things start to get really exciting. Then, locals will start to fire the rockets they have been building into the sky, with the person sending theirs the highest winning a prize. When: May 4 to 8, 2018.
Boryeong Mud Festival
Where: Boryeong, South Korea What: South Korea is no stranger to weird and wonderful celebrations, and the Mud Festival is no different. The first festival
was staged in 1998 to promote a range of cosmetics created using mud from the Boryeong mud flats, which is said to be packed full of minerals. The festival takes in all mud-related activities, such as a mud pool, mud slides, a mud prison and mud skiing competitions. There is also a range of massages, acupuncture and other treatments using mud that are on offer. When: July 20 to 29, 2018.
Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Where: Edinburgh, Scotland What: Edinburgh Fringe Festival really does have it all, from comedy, theatre, music and film, to dance, street performances, spoken word shows, musicals and exhibitions. Launched in 1947, the annual event has grown to become the world’s largest arts festival, attracting tens of thousands of people, as well as a host of performers, from across the globe to the Scottish city. When: August 3 to 27, 2018.
Where: Buñol, Spain What: Each year, thousands of people from across the globe gather in this village near Valencia to hurl more than 100 tonnes of over-ripe tomatoes at each other. At about 11am, lorries transport the rotten tomatoes into central Plaza del Pueblo. The battle commences when water cannons signal the start, with an hour of food frenzy seeing fighters, and the village, painted in red mush. If this event tickles your fancy, the number of participants has been restricted to 20,000 so book a ticket, and accommodation, well ahead. When: August 29, 2018.
Where: Baza and Guadix, Spain What: This unusual fiesta sees more than 20,000 people flock to the two villages in Granada to re-enact the attempted theft of the Virgen de la Piedad statue in Baza by Cascamorras, who lived in neighbouring Guadix, more than 500 years ago. Baza challenged Cascamorras to snatch the statue from the church without being covered in paint that was thrown by villagers. Today’s annual re-enactment is heaps of fun as locals slather themselves
in black oil and hurl paint at one another for two days in the villages. When: September 6 in Baza and September 9 in Guadix.
Where: Munich, Germany What: Believe it or not, Oktoberfest isn’t just about drinking beer, it’s in fact the world’s largest folk festival, drawing huge crowds – an average of six million annually – throughout the two weeks. Making its debut in 1810 to honour the marriage between Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of SaxonyHildburghausen, the first Oktoberfest saw Munich’s burghers take part in five days of eating, drinking and entertainment. Today, an average of almost seven million litres of beer are guzzled, stacks and stacks of snacks munched. When: September 22 to October 7, 2018.
Ubud Writers and Readers Festival
Where: Ubud, Bali What: Since making its debut in 2002, Ubud Writers and Readers Festival has evolved into one of the world’s top literary and artistic events, with lovers of literature and conversation travelling from all four corners of the globe for the five-day event. The eclectic programme takes in literary lunches, workshops, live performances, conversation salons and live entertainment. When: October 24 to 28, 2018.
Dia de los Muertos
Where: Mexico City What: Dia de los Muertos – or The Day of the Dead – is an indigenous festivity that honours dead ancestors. It is said to originate in Aztec festivals that marked the time when it was believed the dead returned temporarily to Earth. The event sees tens of thousands of people flock to the city to watch the more than 700 performers parade alongside floats decorated with giant skulls. Costumes take in a string of macabre characters, including La Catrina, a female skeleton dressed in 19th Century costume. When: October 31 to November 2, 2018. AsiaLIFE Cambodia 35
Under threat from extinction, huge efforts are being carried out to boost the pangolins population. Adolfo Perez-Garcon finds out more.
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his is the story of an animal very little is known about. Perhaps, the most widely known fact is it hangs precariously on the verge of extinction. Meet the pangolin, a fascinating, delicate and rare type an anteater found throughout Southeast Asia and parts of Africa. There are eight species of pangolin, with range from the giant pangolin found in the vast African savanna to the Sunda pangolin – its smaller cousin – who inhabits parts of Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, as well as Southern China. For all its natural riches, Cambodia should be proud to be home to the Sunda pangolin, an animal listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as critically endangered and the unsuspecting owner of the blood-curdling title of world’s most traded animal, according to an Oxford University study in 2014. Since 2000, when zero annual export quotas were established for this species, IUCN estimates tens of thousands of Sunda pangolins have been poached in Southeast Asia and sold illegally to buyers in East Asia, mostly China, where they are considered a delicacy and their scales are believed to have healing properties. The same agency estimates pangolin populations have declined by 80 percent globally in the last 21 years and will continue to dwindle by an additional 80 percent in the next 21. Yet, that figure fails to give the complete picture of the urgency of the situation as accurate population statistics do not exist. “Unfortunately, nobody has any estimates on population size,” says Madelon Rusman, animal manager at Save Vietnam's Wildlife, an organisation based in Northern Vietnam responsible for saving more than 400 pangolins last year alone. “The Sunda pangolin is extremely hard to monitor in the wild and all across the region researchers, including ourselves, are still trying to find the best way to do this,” Rusman explains. Shy, solitary and highly nocturnal, much of the habits of the pangolin remain a mystery to biologists. Yet, as researchers struggle to find answers, conservationists are winning a significant battle in a different front: bringing the animal into the collective consciousness. A milestone in this regard was the inclusion of the pangolin last year into the strictest category of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) treaty, Appendix 1, which affords the highest level of protection and bans all forms of international trade. “It brings attention to the conservation of the species,” says Naven Hon, Veun Sai-Siem Pang National Park, program manager at Conservation International. “It will help organisations attract more funding, and conduct more research on the species. The animal will appear on the media much more often.” Besides raising the profile of the animal, the CITES accord makes it harder to move pangolins through
countries’ borders, empowers customs officials to enforce the law and fine traffickers, and makes it harder for zoos to import the animal, experts say. In Cambodia, pangolin conservation efforts are spearheaded by Wildlife Alliance, an NGO that rescues more than 1,000 wildlife specimens each month from snares, poachers and unlicensed owners. The organisation operates out of Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, and in Koh Kong, through its rescue and breeding station and community-based ecotourism site, Chi Phat. On average, it rescues between three and five pangolins a year, which are generally brought to the station in Koh Kong and released back into the wild as soon as possible. “Pangolins are very sensitive to the climate,” says Wildlife Alliance coordinator, Nicole Leroux. “We bring them to Koh Kong because it has the same exact climate they would naturally inhabit.” In 2013, Wildlife Alliance’s rescue team brought to Phnom Tamao a pangolin that had been severely injured by a snare. With serious wounds in two of her limbs – a front and a rear leg – her chances of survival weren’t good. In an attempt to contain the infection, the organisations’ vets decided to extirpate the wounded limbs. Missing two appendages, her physical condition presented a serious challenge to her survival options in the wild, so the team at Wildlife Alliance decided to keep her under their watch. She was named Lucy. “She is actually not that inhibited,” says Leroux. “Lucy can move around on her stumps and can even hunt termites by herself when we put termite mounds in her enclosure for her.” “But it’s enough of a disability that her chances of survival are smaller. She spends more energy, just because of the way she walks. It’s better if we are feeding her here.” The next step to further conservation efforts and ensure the species’ survival is, according to Rusman, to strengthen law enforcement. “In my opinion, what would help is heavier punishment and stricter law enforcement,” she says. “Vietnam, for example, has recently changed the laws and pangolin smuggling will now send people to prison for numerous years, which is good.” Leroux is of the same mind. “The CITES accord is a good first step. Next, we need trained teams that actually enforce the law.” In the meantime, the rescue work of organisations including Wildlife Alliance and Save Vietnam’s Wildlife is pivotal. With very few specimens left in the wild by every estimate, every single pangolin counts. Lucy, for example, continues to thrive despite her severed limbs. A few months after her arrival at Phnom Tamao, she was transferred to the release and breeding station in Koh Kong, where she continues to thrive. She has had three babies while in the care of Wildlife Alliance. And all three have been successfully released into the wild.
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Once the Royal Ballet of Cambodiaâ€™s prima ballerina, Voan Savay is passing on her passion and skills to the next generation. Editor Marissa Carruthers meets her as she starts training a new troupe. Photography by Lim Sokchanlina.
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oan Savay’s gentle brown eyes light up as she talks about her lifelong love affair with Cambodian dance. “I was born to dance and, apart from the period of the Pol Pot regime, I’ve committed myself to the arts for the whole of my life,” she says. Voan was first introduced to traditional dance at the age of seven, when her parents took her to the Royal Palace to watch students rehearsing. She immediately fell in love with the graceful moves, elaborate costumes and enchanting stories the dancers told, and at the age of nine devoted her weekends to training with the Royal Ballet troupe. As a natural, Voan quickly rose to the top of her game. By the age of 12, she was dancing with the troupe across Cambodia. Two years later she accompanied them on an overseas tour that took in South Korea, China and Myanmar. In 1965, at the age of 15, she was crowned the principal dancer, a position she held until 1970 when the royal family collapsed. However, she kept on dancing until April 1975, when the Khmer Rouge took control of the country. Along with the rest of the capital, Voan and her family were evicted from Phnom Penh and sent to the countryside to work. With artists being targeted by the Khmer Rouge – it is estimated 90 percent of the country’s creatives died under the regime – Voan knew the only way to survive was to stay quiet and obey orders. “I was so frightened,” she recalls. “I tried
to keep my background a secret and hide my identity and work very hard in the field. After about a year, I became very sick from working and starvation.” Following the fall of the regime in 1979, Voan moved back to Phnom Penh and married another dancer. There she was able to rekindle her passion for the art, performing for the coalition government of that time. In 1981, the couple decided to leave Cambodia and headed towards a refugee camp on the Thai border. “When we arrived, we found so many orphans,” she says. “I felt if I walked another step across the border it would mean I abandoned my country, my culture. Everything.” Compelled into action, Voan set up a dance school in the refugee camp, passing on her skills to 53 children. After five years, fighting spread to the border and Voan and tens of thousands of others were forced to move to a camp in Thailand, where she continued with her school. News quickly spread, and the troupe performed across Thailand. In 1991, after almost a decade in the camps, Voan and her young dancers were invited to the USA to carry out a threemonth tour. Voan returned later in the year to Phnom Penh and continued with her dancing, extensively touring France. After the 1997 coup in Cambodia, Voan and her family decided to move to France, where they lived for two decades teaching Cambodian traditional dance. Last year, Voan moved back to Cambodia
after being invited by Prince Sisowath Tesso and Princess Norodom Buppha Devi, director of the Cambodian Royal Ballet and who Voan performed with as second dancer during the 1960s, to help train the next generation of Cambodian ballerinas. And now she has been recruited as artistic director to form and train a new troupe, supported by Cambodian Living Arts (CLA). The troupe started rehearsals in February and are gearing up to hit CLA’s stage at the National Museum in April for the next season of evening performances. “Even when I was living in France, I kept training the next generation,” says Voan, having spent the previous two hours shouting out instructions to the trainee dancers or stepping onto the stage to guide their body into the right position. “I work hard to protect our culture and I feel very lucky to know these skills and be able to pass my knowledge on to the next generation.” As well as passing on her skills to the country’s next generation of dancers, Voan is trying to rebuild Cambodia’s traditional dance to what it was in its heyday. She says there were 4,500 moves originally, however, only 1,000 have survived the test of time. “In my heart I feel very sorry that we have lost these moves,” she says. “I want to bring them back because this treasure isn’t just for Cambodia but for the world.” For more information on the new troupe, visit cambodianlivingarts.org. AsiaLIFE Cambodia 39
LIMONCELLO 14 Street 264, Phnom Penh. Tel. 081 800 210. Open daily, from 11.30am to 2pm; 5.30pm to 10pm.
Matt Surrusco tastes some Italian favourites, from wood-fired brick oven pizza to decadent, coffee-infused tiramisu, at Phnom Penh pizzeria and restaurant Limoncello’s new location. Photos by Lim Sokchanlina.
As soon as you walk past the gate at Limoncello, your eyes are drawn to the massive, woodfired brick pizza oven in the restaurant’s front courtyard. Owner Silvio Pezzaro, 48, built it himself – one of a few custom-made pizza ovens he has constructed in Cambodia since arriving in the Kingdom seven years ago. Pezzaro, who hails from Biella, a small town in northern Italy, says he built the Naplesstyle oven in about one month. It can cook four to five pizza pies at once, at 400 degrees. While the oven is impressive and helps churn out tasty thincrust pizza, the restaurateur says pizza is only as good as the dough from which it is made. "It's easy, but at the same time not easy," he says about 40 AsiaLIFE Cambodia
preparing good dough. The trick, he says, is to allow the dough to sit for hours so it doesn’t rise too fast and produce a crust that may be a tad too heavy on the stomach. Working in restaurants and pizzerias in Italy since he was 15-years-old, Pezzaro has learned to craft a nearperfect pizza crust, which rivals that of beloved Phnom Penh pizzeria Piccola Italia Da Luigi on Street 308. But Limoncello, which reopened at its new central location in mid-October after six years at its base on the capital’s riverside, offers much more than pizza. During our visit, we started with the tuna tartare, a tangy, refreshing appetiser that you will not want to share. Sliced
black olives and diced avocado are intermingled with cubes of pink tuna, all drizzled with orange and lemon juice and zest. The dish, which Pezzaro says will be added to the menu soon, came with a small salad mix of avocado, olives and cherry tomatoes and a basket of pizza bread, simple baked dough topped with olive oil and rosemary. Next up was the house speciality Limoncello pizza ($9), a thin-crust pie covered in melted mozzarella, and layered with crisp rocket, cherry tomatoes and thin slices of Parmesan cheese. While fresh greens are not my favourite pizza topping, the big slices of Parmesan and tasty crust left me satisfied. One of my favourite dishes is the fusilli alla crudaiola
($7.50). The vegetarian pasta is full of a delicious variety of Mediterranean flavours and textures, including sweet sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives and an oily basil pesto sauce. Also, more avocado. Rounding out the meal, the creamy tiramisu ($4), a classic coffee-flavoured Italian dessert, did not disappoint. The cocoa powder coating, spongy cake and large portion was a decadent cap to what was a delicious meal. With wine bottle light fixtures, a framed Fellini film poster and two spacious rooms on the ground floor, the restaurant is more airy and casual than its previous iteration. And Pezzaro says he will soon open an upstairs space, which includes a bar and seating inside and a balcony for al fresco dining.
INTÉGRITÉ 67 Street 450, Phnom Penh. Tel. 061 880 060. Open daily, from 11am to 11pm
From the Bruneian dishes on the menu to the chic restaurant and bar itself, the owners of Intégrité share their family recipes and welcome diners into their Phnom Penh home. Words by Matt Surrusco; photos by Enric Català.
The owners of Intégrité, a stylish restaurant and bar serving Bruneian and Chinese specialities in Phnom Penh, call their place a “home boutique cafe”. It’s a good moniker. The interior decor is colourful, cosy and chic, with armchairs and sofas accented by pillows and fabrics in three dining areas, including an indoor loft and roofed balcony that welcomes the breeze and street sounds below. Plus, owner Sabrina Wong, and her Bruneian partner Paul Sitai, a former aircraft engineer turned chef, live upstairs. “We love entertaining,” Wong says, explaining how she and Sitai decided to open a cafe. They first visited Phnom Penh in November 2016 while on holiday, returned in February last year to explore their options and found
the originally dark and tight, four-floor building in Toul Tom Poung that they would transform into the welcoming, multi-level cafe, which opened in October. “I saw the potential in making this place beautiful,” Wong adds. Her modern yet cosy interior design is not just visually appealing, but also conducive to hosting private events as well as regular lunch and dinner patrons, she says. We sampled a mix of Bruneian dishes crafted from Sitai’s family recipes and other flavourful dishes. Two vegetarian soup starters – pumpkin and carrot, and mushroom and leek (both $3.75) –were light, creamy cups of simple, nuanced flavour. The two main ingredients of each were well balanced.
My choice for top dish was the nasi lemak ($6.50), a piece of fried chicken seasoned with turmeric and served with coconut rice, sambal chili sauce, anchovies and peanuts. While the chicken was slightly dry, the well-seasoned meat was an overall delight to tear off the bone. And the spicy, red dollop of chili sauce added a welcome kick to the rice. The mix of salty anchovies and Khmer bar peanuts were a crunchy, enjoyable side. Similar to the Indonesian version, the beef rendang ($7.95) comprised tender chunks of halal meat doused in a green curry, like a thick pesto sauce, and served with steamed rice. The halal chicken curry and ayam masak merah, chicken cooked in a red sauce with spices, (both $6.50) were
also tasty, especially if you’re looking to try a Bruneian dish. The menu also includes a few Chinese dishes – “Grandma’s Specials” – which we weren’t able to try during our visit, but which Wong says are her mother’s recipes. Shanghainese dumplings, fried or steamed, ($6.50) are served with black vinegar and ginger sauce. Cantonese-style pork ribs and hong shao rou, Shanghai-style red-braised pork belly served with rice, (both $7.95) are more meaty options. The desserts also sound tempting: affogato, a scoop of vanilla ice cream with espresso coffee ($3.80), caramelised pineapple and sauteed banana crepe. With food nearly as colourful and homey as the restaurant’s decor, Intégrité offers satisfying flavours. AsiaLIFE Cambodia 41
O’ TAPAS 02A Street 155, lot 6B, Phnom Penh. Tel. 012 979 517. Open daily, from 5pm to midnight.
One of Toul Tom Poung’s latest offerings serves up a great evening spot to hangout and enjoy some bites and drinks with friends. Words by Marissa Carruthers; photography by Lim Sokchanlina.
Some of the capital’s true treasures are tucked away on its growing network of alleys and back streets. There’s Street 240 ½, Bassac Lane and the alley off Street 51, near Wat Lanka, that is gathering momentum. Now Toul Tom Poung is gearing up to get its own version as the lane off Street 155, between streets 470 and 474, not far from Russian Market, welcomes an increasing number of boutique businesses. And one of the latest to open is O’ Tapas, serving up a chilled evening hang out. It’s not a good idea to turn up hungry – for now – as the menu is simple, specialising more in small bites to accompany drinks. However, co-owner David Do says it is constantly evolving, with new items 42 AsiaLIFE Cambodia
being added. Asian tapas is the latest and takes in snacks such as pork and chicken barbecue skewers ($1 each) and teriyaki cheesy beef ($1.25). The Asian options were yet to be introduced during our visit, so we chose from the main menu. Here, dishes include patatas bravas ($1.25), croque monsieur ($3.50), a charcuterie platter ($7) and camembert rotie ($8). We opted to go with O’ Tapas’ vibe – relaxed and informal – and ordered a selection of bruschetta, that took in creamy salmon ($2), pan con tomate, aubergine and tapenade (all $1.25). Each dish presented three toasted slices of fresh baguette with healthy portions of various toppings. The pan con tomate was
refreshing, with the diced tomatoes, garlic and chilli giving it a nice kick. The aubergine was another light bite, with a slice of the soft vegetable, tomato and a generous layer of cream cheese served atop the bread. The creamy salmon option saw the bread slathered with cream cheese dotted with salmon, while the tapenade offered a smooth paste of black olives, capers and anchovies – salty, but as it’s supposed to be. The tortilla ($1.50), was a thick wedge of pre-cooked Spanish omelette, packed with cooked ham and small chunks of potato. Light, the dish is another one to share, with three slices served. O’ Tapas also organises regular food-related events,
which have proved popular. These take in a roasted camembert night, a burger night co-hosted with The Supreme on Street 308, and a couscous party. And the owners have rallied the quaint community together to push the lane’s potential. “We want to really create a community here,” says Do, who is also co-owner of The Supreme – with the Toul Tom Poung arm opening up opposite O’ Tapas this month. Plans are already in motion to move motos parked on the lane to create a small stage that will host live music and entertainment, with businesses working together to spruce up the neighborhood. “There is a lot of promise here,” says Do. “And we can all create something very special for Toul Tom Poung.”
Grand Cru Chablis Darren Gall The Chablis region is the northern most region of Burgundy in France and the vines here grow on Marls and Kimmeridgian limestones which contain tiny fossilised oysters called exogyra virgula. These rocks and soils were created during the Upper Jurassic period some 150 million years ago, and form part of the Paris Basin which extends west to the channel ports and resurfaces in the White Cliffs of Dover and the chalky South Downs of Kent and Sussex in England. The vineyards of the region are broken into four classifications, Petit Chablis, Chablis, Premier Cru Chablis and Grand Cru Chablis. All seven Grands Crus vineyards are grouped together on a south-west-facing slope, on the right bank of the Serien. The seven Grand Cru are: Bougros, Les Preuses, Vaudesir, Grenouilles, Valmur, Les Clos and Blanchot. La Moutonne is an unofficial eighth Grand Cru and is allowed to use the name on its label, however, the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO) does not recognise La Moutonne as a Grand Cru. The biggest, richest and most complex Chablis are from these Grand Cru vineyards. Les Clos is the largest and perhaps the most highly regarded. It has a reputation for producing the most powerful and rich Grand Cru
Chablis, along with Vaudesir with its intensity and spice. Grand Cru Chablis from these vineyards in particular is tightly bound and highly structured, they benefit from time in the cellar and often need 10 to 20 years to hit their peak. Blanchots is more delicate and Grenouilles considered more vibrant, Les Preuses is complex but often the least minerally. Valmur is fragrant while La Moutonne is more approachable. Bougros tends to be least regarded of the Grand Cru vineyards but can still produce exceptional wines. All of the wines in Chablis are made with the Chardonnay grape and the regionâ€™s soils and terroir give the variety a unique character here, which expressed as intense acidity and minerality, tempered by the weight and power of the variety itself. The wines are tightly wound in a crisp and flinty structure, which is wrapped around a powerful core of ripe fruit with typical aromas of white peach, beeâ€™s wax, vanilla blossom, green pear and some zesty lemon peel and citrus notes. The wines are flinty dry and the palate shows an incredible tension between powerful fruit and tightness from the super fine, mineral acidity. Chablis makes for incredible food wines especially with seafood, shellfish, chicken and many vegetarian dishes.
Darren Gall has spent a quarter of a century involved in virtually every aspect of the wine industry and the passionate pursuit of the next great bottle continues. firstname.lastname@example.org. AsiaLIFE Cambodia 43 43 AsiaLIFE Cambodia
LE RELAIS DE CHHLONG Words by Marissa Carruthers.
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idden off the main road, about 30 minutes before Kratie on the highway from Phnom Penh, the small village of Chhlong remains off the map for many. However, this is set to change with the opening of Le Relais de Chhlong. Tucked away among a tropical forest of coconut, mango and banana trees sits a stunning colonial mansion – on which the UNESCO headquarters in Phnom Penh is modelled – set among sprawling grounds. Dating back to 1916, the former governor’s house has undergone a handful of revivals. But after two years of loving renovations, it is once again welcoming guests through its doors. With all of the original features retained throughout, the two original buildings house suites on the first floor. Simple yet elegant in style, each has a separate sleeping and living room and large terrace. A chic bathroom is home to a standalone tub and separate shower room. The ground floor is a sprawling common area, featuring high ceilings and grand curved stairways. Here, guests can relax in the lounge, enjoy a drink at the bar or play pool. Exquisite attention is paid to every detail of the décor. Antiques and other items collected from stores around Phnom Penh and Vietnam dot the space – think iron fans from 1920s Vietnam and brass desk
lamps – while the furniture sits perfectly with the property’s Art Deco style. Vintage items, such as photographs of Cambodia and maps of Indochina dating back to the 1920s, adorn the walls. A third building, in keeping with its neighbours, has also been created to accommodate families, with four suites home to sofas that double up as extra sleeping space. A total of 10 rooms are spread across the three impressive buildings. Outside, a stunning swimming pool affords views across the Mekong River, with a restaurant catering for up to 35 people, that offers a refreshing breeze from the water. Relaxing in the hotel grounds isn’t the only thing to do, with Chhlong offering a glimpse into laidback rural life. Nearby sits the House of a Hundred Pillars, which dates back to 1884, a small morning market is bustling just after dawn and the village is home to a small stretch of colonial buildings. Not much further still, you can catch a glimpse of the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins at Kampi. Sitting 30 minutes away from Kratie and about 3.5 hours from Phnom Penh, Le Relais de Chhlong offers a timeless part of Cambodia that has been beautifully preserved and is well worth a visit. For more information, find Le Relais de Chhlong on Facebook or email: email@example.com.
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Jumpsuit and Sunglasses: Paperdollsr
Photography: Malidate Van Models: Song Sovvichheka Hair & Makeup: Kosal at The Dollhouse Styling: Ryan Drewe Taylor
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Dress: Don Protasio Necklace: Christine Gauthier
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Jacket and Pants: Ambre
48 AsiaLIFE Cambodia
Dress: Ambre Earrings: Paperdolls
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Veggie-friendly Round Up Sarah Brown One of the many luxuries of living in Siem Reap is that we certainly don’t struggle when it comes to the availability of a variety of cuisines. Want delicious handmade pizza? We’ve got it. A dosa and mango lassi? No problem. Aside from the myriad of delicious local dishes this town dishes up everything from Korean barbecue to falafel, and I for one am certainly not complaining. In recent years, however, there’s been a notable increase in eateries offering a very specific type of grub – vegetarian and vegan friendly. When I first arrived in Siem Reap there were just three (much loved) restaurants that were exclusively meat-free, but in the last new few years that has very much changed. There are now more options than ever for local and visiting herbivores, and so delicious are the dishes they’re serving up that even omnivores like myself are keen to get a slice of the action. But before we delve into the newest veggie joints to hit temple town, an appreciative mention must go to the first kids on the block, who blazed the trail for meat-free dining and continue to thrive today. Those are Peace Café, which is now located along the river and offers yoga and cooking classes as well as yummy treats; Chamkar, which is a tourist-friendly spot serving
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vegetarian incarnations of traditional Khmer cuisine; and Vitking House, which is a wallet-friendly favourite hang-out with two locations. So on to the newer additions. While not strictly vegetarian, Artillery offers a carefully crafted menu with plenty of options for all dietary preferences and makes for a particularly lovely brunch spot. Vibe, on the other hand, is strictly plant-based, and will delight the health-conscious with its colourful dishes and cold-pressed juices, all served up against an intensely Instagram-worthy backdrop. A little closer to the centre of downtown Siem Reap you’ll find Green-Go Garden, a shiny new eatery along the Night Market Road. Green-Go Garden offers organic vegetarian and vegan dishes in a relaxed, open-air environment, as well as a $5 yoga and breakfast package on Saturday mornings. If you’re specifically looking for vegan friendly local dishes, head just around the corner onto Ta Phul Road and you’ll find Mahob Buos, a stylish little ‘vegan canteen’ specialising in Khmer cuisine. And last but not least on this list of veggie-friendly spot is Moringa, which has proved to be an instant hit with locals and travellers alike. Along with its tasty menu of plant-based treats Moringa offers kombucha, craft beers and pale ales.
Sarah Brown is a Siem Reap stalwart who comes with an abundance of knowledge about Temple Town.
Kep & Kampot
023 986 350
063 964 409
034 934 155
033 930 000
053 953 855
Think you can’t afford to save? Think again Paul Dodd Like a broken record, I’m constantly warning clients and potentials clients about the need to save. Why? Because saving gives you two extremely important things. The first is peace of mind. Whatever stage of life you are at, having some savings, whether that is cash in the bank (good) and/or assets cannily invested (better), will diminish your financial worries. If cash is really tight, you might worry about how you are going to pay next month’s bills. As you progress through life that concern might morph into something else, such as how long you could survive on your savings if something were to happen to prevent you from working, whether you will ever be able to put your kids through university or how you are going to maintain your standard of living once you retire. Saving will help address all of these concerns. First you get your finances sorted so you’re not living hand to mouth each month, then save an emergency fund to tide you over short-term emergencies and then start putting money into an education and retirement fund. The second thing savings gives you is choices. When you’re young, a bit of money in the bank could mean the difference between staycationing and spending a couple of weeks relaxing on a beach
somewhere. In your latter years, having a healthy nest egg will give you the freedom to choose how you spend your retirement years rather than scrimping by. But many people tell me they don’t have enough money to save. While I appreciate the vast majority of us have finite resources and don’t have free reign to do exactly what we want, it’s all about choices. However much you earn, I bet you can change your habits to free up a little money to save each month. The key is to be extremely mindful about what you spend. If you think you can’t afford to save, have a really good think every time you are about to make a decision which will impact your finances. You could choose to upgrade your iphone, or stick with your perfectly functional old one. You could go out for dinner tonight because you can’t be bothered to cook, or you could knock up some pasta and sauce. By being mindful every time you get your wallet or credit card out, I think you’ll be surprised how many times you find what you are about to spend your money on is a luxury rather than an essential. If you’d like some moral support getting your finances in order and advice on how best to save, contact me for a free, no-obligation chat. You can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paul Dodd is Country Director at Infinity Financial Solutions Cambodia, living and working in PP for the past 10 years.
Must have Android apps 2018
Keeping yourself on task can be immensely difficult. Any. do is a great way to do so thanks to its ability to sync between devices, including desktop, so you’re always in the know about what’s next on your to-do list. Add in a deep bench of features, like sharing lists and tasks with friends and co-workers. Any.do becomes a must have.
Flipboard shook up its approach recently, but the core of the app remains the same. It collects various news sources and topics into “magazines,” giving users a single place to quickly catch up on the news they care about. It remains one of the best looking, and useful, news apps on the market and one that is well worth your time.
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THE HURRICANE HEIST
A WRINKLE IN TIME
If you live in Cambodia and don’t know who Lara Croft is, then shame on you. As the character that introduced Angelina Jolie to the Kingdom, Croft is the fiercely independent daughter of an eccentric adventurer who vanished years earlier. Hoping to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance, she embarks on a perilous journey to his lastknown destination – a fabled tomb on a mythical island. A must for fan.
Dr. Paul Kersey is a surgeon who often sees the consequences of the city’s violence in the emergency room. When home intruders brutally attack his wife and young daughter, Kersey becomes obsessed with delivering vigilante justice to the perpetrators. As the anonymous slayings grab the media’s attention, the public begins to wonder if the deadly avenger is a guardian angel – or the Grim Reaper itself.
A team of tech hackers embark on a $600 million robbery from a coastal U.S. mint facility at the same time a disastrous hurricane is set to strike. The remaining people left in the deserted beach town are a meteorologist, a Treasury agent and the meteorologist’s ex-Marine brother. They not only must survive the hurricane, but also stop the mastermind thieves from accomplishing the heist of the century.
Based on the 1962 novel of the same name by Madeleine L’Engle, the film follows a young girl who sets off on a quest. After learning her astrophysicist father Alex is being held captive on a planet deep in the grip of a universe-spanning evil, Meg Murry works with her intelligent younger brother, new friend and fellow student Calvin O’Keeffe, and three astral travellers – Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who – to save him.
COMING SOON MOVIE RELEASES Major Cineplex See majorcineplex.com.kh for screening schedule Red Sparrow Mar. 01 Death Wish Mar. 02 Game Night Mar. 03 A Wrinkle in Time Mar. 08 Tomb Raider Mar. 16
Legend Cinemas See legend-cinemas.com for screening schedule The Hurricane Heist Mar. 09 Behind the Walls Mar. 12 Tomb Raider Mar. 16 Pacific Rim Uprising Mar. 22 Midnight Sun Mar. 23
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1. Who was the legendary Benedictine monk who invented champagne?
AsiaLIFE Group Group Editor-in-Chief / Director Cambodia: Mark Bibby Jackson email@example.com
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3. Where would you find the Sea of Tranquillity?
Managing Editor Cambodia: Marissa Carruthers email@example.com
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4. What item of clothing was named after its Scottish inventor?
Contributing Writers: Matt Surrusco Miguel Jerónimo
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5. What is the diameter of Earth?
Siem Reap: Sarah Brown
6. What colour jersey is worn by the winners of each stage of the Tour De France?
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7. How many valves does a trumpet have?
Distribution: Son Veasna 096 222 7231
8. When did Margaret Thatcher become Prime Minister?
Printing: Sun Heang Printing House
2. Name the largest freshwater lake in the world?
6 3 4
54 AsiaLIFE Cambodia
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1. Dom Perignon 2. Lake Superior 3. The moon 4. A Mackintosh
On the Cover Design & Art Direction: Thang Pham L.C.
Pub Quiz Answers
5. 8,000 miles 6. Yellow 7. Three 8. 1979 9. Pimento 10. Wine
10. If you had Lafite-Rothschild on your dinner table, what would it be?
Accountant: Sorn Rathana
Special thanks to: Darren Gall, Paul Dodd, Pet Grooming Cambodia, Ryan Drewe Taylor and Cambodian Living Arts for their contribution.
9. What is allspice alternatively known as?
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March see's our travel issue hitting the streets