Siem Reap Scene: 25 Sep 2009

Siem Reap Scene: 25 Sep 2009


Sleepy torpor descended on the quiet streets of downtown Siem Reap during Pchum Ben, but at the temples and Khmer leisure areas the action was fast and furious.

Angkor Kyung Yu recreation grounds were jam-packed and seething in the evenings, with Phnom Krom and the West Baray drawing big daytime numbers.

Traffic congestion was the order of the day at the temples on Saturday, with most Khmer residents undertaking an obligatory visit to pagodas within the temple complex.

By late morning Saturday, a line of cars stretched for kilometres, almost as far back as Angkor Wat, from the gridlock at south side of the Angkor Thom South Gate, while coming from the other direction, a melee of tuk tuks and motos gridlocked the north side of the South Gate.

A colourful new addition to the range of Siem Reap tourism attractions is the new Angkor Butterfly Centre, which opens on the weekend of October 3-4, with $2 half-price tickets for foreigners and free entry for Khmer.

The centre, 25 kilometres outside Siem Reap on the road to Banteay Srey, claims to be the biggest butterfly attraction in South East Asia.

It’s been 18 months in the making, and has been established by an NGO, Angkor Participatory Development Organisation to raise revenue, to encourage the conservation of indigenous butterflies, and to foster the protection of the natural environment. More than 30 species of local butterflies are on display, and the largest inhabitant at the centre is the world’s largest moth, an orange-coloured beastie that has a wing span of 26 centimetres.

The centre also displays the complete life cycle of a butterfly from egg, to caterpillar, to pupae to winged glory, and visitors are promised “the discovery of the miracle of insect life.”

Organisers at the centre work with Khmer families from the district who “harvest” local butterflies, and the hope is to discover new species that as yet have been undocumented.

The new photographic exhibition opening tonight at 4Faces Café features the work of Phnom Penh photographer Doris Boettcher.

The theme of her exhibition is Fishing Nets, No Fish, and, as Doris so aptly points out, “The photos have nothing to do with the fish, just the nature and colour of the nets, the material, and how light falls on the material.

“In a sense I have taken photos of fishing nets and abstracted them.”

Doris added, “The inspiration came from a street in Ta Khmau in Phnom Penh. This unpaved street is a paradise for fishermen because it is full of fishing nets for sale, hanging and laying everywhere, just waiting for buyers.”

Doris’ work in this exhibition is also interesting on two fronts – until now she’s almost exclusively worked with her trusty “square’ Rolleiflex, and has only produced black and white work.

But with some of her photos for her 4Faces show, she’s not only gone colour, but she’s also gone digital, using A Canon EOS 400D camera.

Boettcher has lived in Phnom Penh since 2004. She’s been a tour guide, worked at the National Library and held numerous shows, including work on the Angkor temples and a photographic odyssey down the Mekong River from Laos. Some of her images of Angkor were selected for the 2007 Heritage Watch calendar

The exhibition launches tonight at 7pm at 4Faces Café and gallery and runs through the month until October 29.

Archaeologist and art historian Christine Hawixbrock, who specialises in the Khmer world and particularly the monuments of the Jayavarman VII era, will give a presentation this Friday evening about the discovery of a Khmer treasure found at the all but forgotten site of Nong Hua Thong in Laos’ Savannakhet province last year.

The treasure consists of two silver platters and bowl, the oldest of which perhaps dates back to the eight century. The items carry three short Khmer inscriptions. The treasures are now being studied.

Dr Hawixbrock has participated in a number of archaeological programmes including work at sites such as Preah Khan and at the Royal Palace at Angkor.

The presentation will be in French this Friday evening at 6:30 at the École Française d’Extrême-Orient beside the river between Wat Po Lanka and Wat Enkosa.


Photo by: Lily Partland
Michael Horton founder of Siem Reap’s
NGO Concert.

Michael Horton’s Siem Reap-based NGO ConCERT has been voted as one of three finalists in the Best Overseas Tourism Project award given annually by the British Guild of Travel Writers.

A beaming Michael Horton told Scene that in February this year Hilary Bradt, one of Britain’s most distinguished travel authors, and member of the British Guild of Travel Writers, called in to the ConCERT office and was “sufficiently impressed” that she nominated ConCERT for the award.

“This is given for the best new (less than two years old) overseas tourism project, which not only has a tourist potential but is of benefit to the local community and environment,” Horton said.

“The guild selects six projects in each category from those submitted by its members. At the members’ awards evening held on September 15, attending members voted for three finalists, and ConCERT came first on Tuesday evening in the first round of voting.”

ConCERT now goes through to the final voting by the entire guild membership and the result will be announced at a gala dinner on November 8 at the Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square, in London.

But winning the award has created a headache for Horton – how to get there?

“They don’t pay expenses and I can’t justify or afford $1,500+ for the airfare,” he said.

For any potential donors out there, now is the time to send Horton packing.


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