Pimp my tuk-tuk
Four garishly decorated tuk-tuks drove through town last Thursday night in a Globalteer "Pimp my tuk-tuk" fundraiser rally that earned US$278 for Globalteer Community Development Centre, New Hope Community Centre and Anjali House. The tuk-tuks were decorated with recycled materials to represent Australia, Cambodia, England and the US, while similarly costumed volunteers shook donation buckets. The procession was the brainchild of English Globalteer volunteer Pamela Jackson, who previously took part in a "Pimp my wheelbarrow" fundraiser at her UK university.
Trixie O'Sullivan, office administrator at Globalteer, said the group came up with the idea last week and started work on the tuk-tuks on Wednesday. They decided to model them on the home countries of their volunteers. O'Sullivan said the night was a success despite their attempts to march down Pub Street being thwarted by zealous security.
Siem Reap's boutique hotel scene is swelling with two new accommodation houses set to open in the next few weeks. The Cockatoo Resort and Restaurant is expected to launch by July 22, and the Suites and Sweet Resort is scheduled to open at the beginning of August. Both hotels are removed from the town centre, with the Cockatoo on the dirt track that forks off past Quad Adventure Cambodia, and the Suites and Sweet about 500 metres past the Angkor Golf Resort. Suites and Sweet Resort General Manager Janwillen Van Ver Kolk said that the detached location was a deliberate part of the plan. "We didn't want to be on National Road 6. We wanted to be in the countryside, away from the noise. But we're still kind of central." The Suites and Sweet is modelled on a floating village, with 18 villas bordering a snaking man-made lake. Van Ver Kolk said that the plan is to introduce two small boats for the guests. The seven-room Cockatoo Resort and Restaurant is owned by Peter Oxley and Virgilio Calaguian. Oxley said that after two final Balinese-style villas are constructed behind the pool, the hotel will be ready to open. He has also clinched one of the more unique selling points for the hotel - live Cockatoos.
Strictly for the birds
Staff at the Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa are becoming decidedly twitchy as they learn about the secret obsession of their new general manager, Hanno Stamm, formerly of the Victoria Phan Thiet Resort and Spa in Vietnam. He is an avowed twitcher and, armed with binoculars, he already rounded up a crew to go bird-watching at Bantei Chmar.
Stamm confesses that he was "infected by the birding bug" as a young lad in Kenya, and of course having moved to Siem Reap, he is now in a bird-watchers paradise. Ironically, while devoted to the cause of observing and identifying flying critters, Stamm reveals that he himself is "pretty scared" of flying. He also harbours a further obsession: saving the environment. To this end, shortly before he moved to Siem Reap last month he gave a talk at a seminar hosted by The Vietnam Economic Times, held to mark World Environment Day. He told seminar participants that travellers were more likely to include the state of the environment in deciding where they would spend their time and money. "Many of our guests come from countries where the environment plays a large role and they will not accept coming to a destination that shows little concern for the environment," he said.
Poetry in motion
Australian poet Adam Aitken, who last year did a volunteering stint with Siem Reap NGO Sirchesi, has a new book of poetry on the market that draws on his recent Cambodian experiences. Aitken, who has a Thai mother, spent some of his childhood in Thailand and also attended a Malaysian college, was commissioned to write a poem for the birthday of the King of Thailand in June 1996, sponsored by Department of Foreign Affairs and the Australian embassy in Bangkok. His new book, published by trendsetting indie Aussie publisher Giramondo, is titled Eighth Habitation, the name of the Buddhist notion of purgatory, a mystic realm where the meaning of a human life is judged. In a glowing review in MC Reviews: Culture and Media, critic Alison Clifton writes: "Reading Aitken's work is like listening to a favourite album of songs which could all be singles, although this is not jangly synth-pop by any means. This is serious reading, emotionally charged and socially critical, if not political in its nature."
Every year, it seems, a new theory is posited about the decline of the Angkorian civilisation. In recent weeks, climate change has become the latest culprit, wreaking havoc on a city already weakened by urban sprawl. The climate change theory is driven in large part by the July issue of National Geographic magazine, the first major piece in the magazine on Angkor Wat in 30 years. The article reveals that studies of annual growth rings on po mu trees, a rare cypress, shows that the Angkor region suffered "back-to-back mega-droughts," from 1362 to 1392 and from 1415 to 1440, while in other years, "megamonsoons" lashed the region. According to National Geographic the "extreme weather could have been the coup de grace" to an already tottering kingdom.