Monday, May 07, 2007

Andy shuns sun for Cambodia - flashback to 1997

For the next newspaper cutting I found recently whilst packing some boxes, we jump forward three years from my first foray to Cambodia, to July 1997. The Gloucester Citizen newspaper were scraping the bottom of the local news barrel and sent along a reporter and photographer to interview this apparently intrepid adventurer - it turned out to be me!

Andy shuns sun for Cambodia
Spain’s a pain for adventurer – by David Wilkes (The Gloucester Citizen - July 1997)

Holidays in Cambodia are Andy Brouwer’s idea of heaven. But his wife Sue is not so keen on visiting the bandit-ridden country, which has been described as a danger zone by some travel experts. She prefers sunning herself in peaceful Mediterranean resorts to touring Cambodia, the scene of evil dictator Pol Pot’s killing fields. But Andy can’t get enough of the place and is currently planning his fourth trip there since 1994. His fascination with the country means the Quedgeley couple have not been on an overseas holiday together since their honeymoon a year ago.

Andy (37) said: “Ordinary holidays are alright if you like sitting about in the sun, but I like to do something different. My wife’s a bit sick of me going to Cambodia, and doesn’t come with me. She prefers to go to places like Tenerife. At least it means we never argue when we’re abroad!” Andy, an assistant manager in the mortgage department of the Cheltenham and Gloucester, has been interested in Cambodia since the late 1970s, when the genocide committed there first came to light. “I didn’t go there until 1994 because it wouldn’t have been safe. The first time I was there, I saw a TV announcement saying they didn’t recommend foreigners come to the country as three had just been kidnapped,” he said. “But it didn’t put me off and I’ve been back twice since and I am planning to go again next March. I know there are dangerous parts so I don’t venture off the beaten track. It’s an unusual country with some fantastic ancient monuments, and despite the troubles the people are very welcoming.”

Sue said: “You could say he is obsessed with Cambodia, It looks very nice in his photos, but I’m afraid our tastes in holidays do differ, and the children are too young to take there at the moment. But one day I will probably go there.” Andy has been glued to American cable television recently watching the first footage of Pol Pot to emerge for years. The dictator was jailed for life by his old Khmer Rouge comrades earlier this week. Andy is keen on setting up an informal discussion group of people interested in Cambodia. Anyone interested should contact him.

Postscript: Unfortunately the photo on the clipping I have won't reproduce. For info, my wife never did make it out to Cambodia and one of the people to call me after reading the article, was the accountant on the movie Lord Jim, which was filmed in Cambodia in the early 60s and he had some fascinating tales to tell. I also met a guy who used to work for the Michelin rubber company and who lived in Kompong Cham. He kindly showed me his own cine footage taken in Phnom Penh on the day of King Monivong's funeral procession in 1941.

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