Thursday, January 10, 2008


Following my visit to Meta House last night for the Nhok Sinat classical performance, I popped into the Bai Thong Thai restaurant, close to the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument on Sothearos Boulevard. Lovely food, nice price and beautiful decor. Its another of the Luu Meng chain of eateries that are proliferating in Phnom Penh.

Speaking to Charley Todd last evening at Meta, he'd been busy this week with the local television company, CTN, filming an hour-long special for a Cambodian audience of the east-meets-west opera, When Elephants Weep, a love story, sung in English and Khmer, unfolding in the horrific aftermath of Pol Pot's genocidal regime and featuring a blend of traditional Cambodian music, Western classical, and rock. Where Elephants Weep is Cambodian Living Arts’ most ambitious new commission to date — the first-known contemporary Cambodian rock opera. Prior commissions have included a hip hop/traditional Khmer fusion CD by the US-based Khmer trio SEASIA and a new shadow puppet production and nationwide tour by the Phnom Penh-based theater company Sovanna Phum, in which traditional shadow puppet theater was used as a forum to educate about HIV/AIDS. Read more here.

My sources tell me that GST Express, one of many local bus companies that have increased services and routes across the country as the roads have improved over the last few years, have now begun operating a route that will take travellers and locals into areas that were only readily accessible by more adventurous souls on motorbikes and by 4WD in the past. I'm trying to get more info on the route, but it looks like a service now operates from Siem Reap to Svay Leu (near the Beng Mealea temple) and onto Sroyang (the nearest village stop-off point for the Koh Ker complex of temples). The bus continues onto the large village of Koulen and then Tbeng Meanchey, the provincial capital of Preah Vihear province. This would allow travellers access to this previously remote province which has a proliferation of ancient temples such as the breathtaking Preah Vihear and the cluster of temples around the village of Choam Khsan. The bus then drops southwards to Kompong Thom and onto Kompong Cham before ending its journey at Phnom Penh. That's the gen I've heard, not yet confirmed as no-one at GST spoke English when I called them a few minutes ago - and my Khmer is practically non-existent! If that route is now operating, its another way for travellers to gain access to some of these locations, cheaply and in some comfort - considerably different to my first experience in that part of the country, way back in November 2001. Read more here.

Update: GST, when quizzed on the bus route, tell me that they do indeed run some new routes into the north of Cambodia but at the moment, they only do the Phnom Penh to Tbeng Meanchey route every day. It leaves the capital around 7am and takes about 6 hours, costing $10. They don't run a bus from Tbeng Meanchey to Siem Reap. So, the route is less extensive than I thought, but its still a great way to get into Preah Vihear province in some comfort. From Tbeng Meanchey the whole province is your oyster!

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