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Siem Reap Scene...

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PHOTO DISPLAY

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Photographer Ota Veverka

Angelina's Art Cafe & Night Bar, opposite the Old Market, is hosting a photography exhibition by former Czech press photographer Ota Veverka, a Siem Reap resident who is now in the peanut business.

The exhibition, which will run until the end of February, is titled Two Faces of Cambodia, and to physically highlight this, Ververka displays two versions of the same image, one in black and white, the other in colour.

Photos with different subject matters are also juxtaposed to provide a continuum to the theme with, for example, a photo of a cannon next to photo of monks, representing two further faces of Cambodia: war and peace.

The photos also present the contrast between the lavishness of the Angkorian architecture and the ramshackle poverty of some of today's mean streets.

Ververka has also included some collages in his exhibition and some of these have complex meanings.

Perhaps the simplest and most eye-catching collage represents strength and weakness. A guard dog sits on top of a can of Klang (or Strong) Beer, and next to the beer-can image is a group of forlorn people in a temple, representing the weak.

At first glance many of Ververka's photos seem slightly fuzzy - but do not invoke the phrase out-of-focus in front of the photographer.

The apparent fuzziness is because the photos have a 3-D effect, which is called Orton's Technique, after the Canadian photographer who developed it.

Essentially the technique involves overlaying three pictures with different shades of light and so forth to, in Ververka's words, create a "dreamlike effect."

FILM FEST

Siem Reap's X Bar was the main venue for December's CamboFest film and video festival, and the bar's co-owner, Carlo Tarabini, gave the event the thumbs up.

"CamboFest was a success. It is drawing more attention from filmmakers around the world, and quite a few made it to town. I'm sure it will grow and improve with every year though it is intended to keep an un-hyped and low profile to reflect the indie tradition."

The festival was publicised in the US showbiz Bible, Variety, which reported:  "A number of international filmmakers attended the fest including helmers Matthew Jaik (Where the Lotus Blooms), Ella Pugliese (Gigantari), Norm Fassbender (Not So Cruel, Today) and Jamie Cohen (Barber of Kigali).

The Post published some of the major festival Golden Buffalo award winners on Monday, and here is the full list:
Best feature
Wolf (Farkas), directed by Tamas Toth [Hungary/Russia]
Best short fiction
Rebel Song, directed by Simon Arthur
Best feature documentary
A Life in Hashistan, directed by Tonya Dreher [US/Afghanistan]
Best short documentary
Intestines of the Earth, directed by Barbier Olivier
Local showcase winner
The Red Sense, directed by Tim Pek [Cambodia/Australia]
Best universal language
Not so Cruel, Today,  directed by Norm Fassbender (US)
Best human rights showcase
Rhapsodio do Absurdo, directed by Claudia Nunes
Best animation
Elegy, directed by Shereen Abdul-Baki.

REPEAT VISITORS

Londoners Tim Jones and Anne Bristowe can't get enough of Siem Reap - visiting eight times in the last 10 years - and last week celebrated the 10th anniversary of their first visit to temple town at Tell restaurant.

"We first came to Siem Reap for the New Year in 1999, so this is a sort of 10th anniversary for us," Tim Jones said.

Anne Bristow, a hairdresser,  said, "When we first came here it sort of got under our skin. The people are very warm, very friendly, and very happy and it's hard to find that in other countries.

"We come here so often that I've been asked why we just don't move here,  but I have my roots and my family at home and it would be quite a wrench to leave them."

Tim Jones, a fashion photographer,  said he has observed big changes in Siem Reap over the 10 years he's been visiting. "When we first came here there were very few guesthouses, maybe about eight, no tuk-tuks, a couple of Indian restaurants and the Angkor What? bar had just opened and was the only bar in town.

"But I still like the feel of it here. It's crowded. And a big plus is that there are now lots more restaurants."

Jones is also entranced by the temples.

"I like the early light and there's nothing like being at Angkor Wat at sunrise. I keep going back, hoping for that perfect sunrise."

HOTEL AWARD WINNER

Hang Vannak in Hong Kong

Hang Vannak, an e-commerce manager at the Angkor Palace Resort & Spa in Siem Reap, has won a Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Foundation 2009 scholarship. This was announced at an award ceremony at a workshop program that's now on at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and ends on Saturday.

The PATA Foundation awards two scholarships to member-endorsed candidates every year in the executive program in hospitality management. The program has been running consecutively for six years and is recognised as one of the highly acclaimed programs for executive development in hospitality management.

The program is jointly developed by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University's School of Hotel and Tourism Management and the Hong Kong Hotels Association.

It provides three in-depth workshops for senior hospitality industry managers. "The objectives are to enhance skills, deepen understanding and equip participants to stay at the cutting edge of the industry," said Terry Francis, chairman of the Foundation Board of Trustees.

"The three workshop modules focus on human resources management, marketing and branding management, and hotel sales and revenue management.  Each workshop is led by respected academics as well as successful businessmen."

Hang Vannak, 28, born in Siem Reap, is the first Cambodian hotel employee to have been selected by the Foundation Board of Trustees of PATA.

Hang Vannak, who commenced his hospitality career as a door boy at Raffles Hotel Le Royal in early 2000, said: "The hospitality industry is experiencing phenomenal growth, especially in Cambodia. This scholarship gives me a golden opportunity to further understand the global perspective on the hospitality industry and to combine both my interest and further build my professional development".

Weng Aow, general manager of Angkor Palace Resort & Spa, said: "Vannak is an extremely self-motivated individual and always strives to excel in whatever he does".

Vannak plans to finish his MBA in April at Build Bright University, and move up to hotel revenue management within five years.

TOURISM PUSH

Siem Reap is well-positioned to leverage the target audience of short-haul budget travellers and young people from countries such as China, India, Japan and South Korea who are the target audience of a new "Visit Southeast Asia" campaign announced by Asean tourism ministers this month.

The Straits Times reported: "Southeast Asian nations are looking to each other for help to combat the decline in the number of overseas tourists  ...  amid the global financial crisis."

The newspaper said Asean tourism ministers collectively warned of a "difficult" and "challenging" year ahead at a press conference in Hanoi as part of the Asean Tourism Forum.

Tourism officials from China, India, Japan and South Korea also attended.

The Straits Times reported: "Although complete data for last year is not available for all the 10 member nations, Asean Secretary General Dr Surin Pitsuwan said, ‘We are going to take quite a big hit.'

"In 2007, the 10 nations received a total of 58 million visitors who spent about US$1.4 trillion. That figure is about five percent of their combined gross domestic product. Although numbers for the first few months of last year showed growth, Surin said the sector suffered in the last quarter when the financial crisis hit.

"With half the annual number of tourists originating from within Asean, it was natural to focus on the region to bolster demand," he said.

Surin cautioned that the measures may soften the blow dealt by the decline in long-haul travellers, but they will not be able to make up for the expected drop in revenue.

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