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Monday, August 20, 2007

Invasion of Angkor Wat


Cambodia's jewel has survived a lot, but popularity may be its biggest challenge, Kerry van der Jagt writes.

ANGELINA Jolie has a lot to answer for. Ta Prohm, with its ancient stonework and massive tree roots, is now sadly known as the Tomb Raider temple. And the tour groups love it. I watch on as entire groups re-enact Lara Croft running out from the temple.

One at a time they sprint, leap and hurl themselves towards their tour guide - and his video camera.

More like a stampede of clearance-sale shoppers than responsible travellers.

Angkor Wat and the surrounding Angkor temple complex in Cambodia are without doubt one of the seven man-made wonders of the world.

Stretching over 400 square kilometres, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer empire, from the 9th to the 15thcentury.

In December 1992, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation declared Angkor a World Heritage Site.

In 1993, 7600 intrepid travellers visited Angkor, but by 2006 the number had skyrocketed to 1.6million. By 2010, 3 million people are expected to visit Cambodia.

Dr Dougald O'Reilly, one of South-East Asia's foremost archaeologists and lecturer at the University of Sydney, founded the non-governmental organisation Heritage Watch in 2003.

The group has implemented a number of projects to help protect Cambodia's heritage by raising awareness of looting and its consequences. With full support from the Ministry of Tourism and the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap, Heritage Watch declared 2007 "heritage friendly".

Its aim is to bring together locally-based private, public and non-governmental sectors in a nationwide collaboration to promote responsible tourism, while encouraging businesses to promote the arts, culture, heritage and development projects in Cambodia.

An additional component of the Heritage Watch project, the Heritage Friendly Tourism Campaign, was launched in January.

"The idea behind the campaign is to raise awareness of the fragility of heritage and the need for travellers to be responsible when they visit archaeological ruins," O'Reilly says.

"We also hope to discourage people from purchasing antiquities and to broaden their travel experience outside of just Angkor."

O'Reilly would like to see visitors venturing further afield.

"Cambodia is an amazing and diverse country with much to offer, yet too few people leave Siem Reap where the temples of Angkor are located," he says. "Rural communities are in desperate need of tourist dollars and encouraging people to lengthen their stays and visit other places is one of the goals of the campaign."

A major component of the Heritage Friendly Tourism Campaign has been to involve the business and corporate community in promoting arts, culture and heritage in Cambodia.

More than 100 businesses have been certified as heritage friendly. Heritage friendly businesses are promoted through banners, street signs and stickers to help travellers identify and support those companies that give something back to Cambodia.

Heritage Watch offers some simple and undemanding guidelines for visitors: do not purchase ancient artefacts; respect the temples as they are religious monuments; refrain from touching bas-reliefs as the lanolin on hands imparts oil into the stone; use environmentally friendly transport such as bicycles in the park (vibrations from buses affect the monuments); conserve water in Siem Reap - the water table is dropping, which may cause the monuments to subside; purchase Cambodian-made products; dispose of rubbish appropriately; support businesses certified as heritage friendly.

Dr Tim Winter, of the University of Sydney, has worked in Cambodia for many years on the challenges that emerge around heritage and tourism. Winter acknowledges that though there has been significant damage to some of the temples, including erosion to steps, entrance ways and fragile carvings, this is only part of the problem.

Winter says there are other important things to consider when visiting the area: the local economy and major inequalities arising in Cambodia because of tourism and Siem Reap as an island of hyper-growth, surrounded by some of the poorest communities in the whole of Asia.

Associate professor Roland Fletcher of the University of Sydney, who is also the director of the Greater Angkor Project and the Living with Heritage Project, encourages visitors to prolong their stay in the area. "Basically, the key thing that tourists need to do is to stay longer than the average two-day stay," he says.

It sounds so simple, but makes good sense. By increasing your stay to four days, you will significantly contribute to the local economy. Even the pollution problem caused by washing your sheets and towels will be reduced.

Yes, parts of Angkor can feel like a circus. But if you venture further a field to the quieter temples of Preah Khan, Ta Som, Banteay Srei or Beng Mealea or spend a few extra days away from the madding crowds, you will be rewarded with the moments that every traveller craves.

Perhaps it will come while you're sitting under a centuries-old silk-cotton tree that is slowly devouring a temple, or when you talk with a saffron-robbed monk.

Or maybe when a shy local child plays peek-a-boo with you from behind a temple or during that spine-tingling moment when the sun first climbs through the sky over Angkor Wat.

TRIP NOTES

* Getting there: Regular flights are available to Siem Reap from Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore, Vientiane and Shanghai. There are also a number of border crossings.

* Staying there: There is no accommodation within the park. Visitors must stay in Siem Reap, about six kilometres from the main temples. Accommodation is plentiful and ranges from luxury five-star hotels to budget guesthouses.

* For more information: See http://www.heritagewatch.org and http://www.angkor.usyd.edu.au.

* Packages: Peregrine Adventures has a 14-day Saigon to Angkor cycle trip from $2420, excluding international air fares. See www.peregrineadventures.com.

Source: The Sun-Herald
"Cambodia is an amazing and diverse country with much to offer, yet too few people leave Siem Reap where the temples of Angkor are located," he says. "Rural communities are in desperate need of tourist dollars and encouraging people to lengthen their stays and visit other places is one of the goals of the campaign."

A major component of the Heritage Friendly Tourism Campaign has been to involve the business and corporate community in promoting arts, culture and heritage in Cambodia.

More than 100 businesses have been certified as heritage friendly. Heritage friendly businesses are promoted through banners, street signs and stickers to help travellers identify and support those companies that give something back to Cambodia.

Heritage Watch offers some simple and undemanding guidelines for visitors: do not purchase ancient artefacts; respect the temples as they are religious monuments; refrain from touching bas-reliefs as the lanolin on hands imparts oil into the stone; use environmentally friendly transport such as bicycles in the park (vibrations from buses affect the monuments); conserve water in Siem Reap - the water table is dropping, which may cause the monuments to subside; purchase Cambodian-made products; dispose of rubbish appropriately; support businesses certified as heritage friendly.

Dr Tim Winter, of the University of Sydney, has worked in Cambodia for many years on the challenges that emerge around heritage and tourism. Winter acknowledges that though there has been significant damage to some of the temples, including erosion to steps, entrance ways and fragile carvings, this is only part of the problem.

Winter says there are other important things to consider when visiting the area: the local economy and major inequalities arising in Cambodia because of tourism and Siem Reap as an island of hyper-growth, surrounded by some of the poorest communities in the whole of Asia.

Associate professor Roland Fletcher of the University of Sydney, who is also the director of the Greater Angkor Project and the Living with Heritage Project, encourages visitors to prolong their stay in the area. "Basically, the key thing that tourists need to do is to stay longer than the average two-day stay," he says.

It sounds so simple, but makes good sense. By increasing your stay to four days, you will significantly contribute to the local economy. Even the pollution problem caused by washing your sheets and towels will be reduced.

Yes, parts of Angkor can feel like a circus. But if you venture further a field to the quieter temples of Preah Khan, Ta Som, Banteay Srei or Beng Mealea or spend a few extra days away from the madding crowds, you will be rewarded with the moments that every traveller craves.

Perhaps it will come while you're sitting under a centuries-old silk-cotton tree that is slowly devouring a temple, or when you talk with a saffron-robbed monk.

Or maybe when a shy local child plays peek-a-boo with you from behind a temple or during that spine-tingling moment when the sun first climbs through the sky over Angkor Wat.

TRIP NOTES

* Getting there: Regular flights are available to Siem Reap from Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore, Vientiane and Shanghai. There are also a number of border crossings.

* Staying there: There is no accommodation within the park. Visitors must stay in Siem Reap, about six kilometres from the main temples. Accommodation is plentiful and ranges from luxury five-star hotels to budget guesthouses.

* For more information: See http://www.heritagewatch.org and http://www.angkor.usyd.edu.au.

* Packages: Peregrine Adventures has a 14-day Saigon to Angkor cycle trip from $2420, excluding international air fares. See www.peregrineadventures.com.

Source: The Sun-Herald
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UNDP Goodwill Ambassador Misako Konno to visit Cambodia

Japanese actress and essayist Misako Konno will pay a five-day visit to Cambodia this week in her capacity of the United Nations Development Program's (UNDP) Goodwill Ambassador to understand better about the development issues in Cambodia.

During her visit, Konno will meet with president of the Cambodian Red Cross Madam Bunrany Hun Sen to understand more about the issues of HIV/AIDS and gender, go on to field visits in Siem Reap and Kampong Cham to see projects on biodiversity conservation, water sanitation and landmine, and then talk to women Commune Councilors, according to a UNDP press release issued on Monday.

She will also meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen to learn more about Cambodia's progress in achieving the Cambodia Millennium Development Goals, it said.

In her capacity as UNDP Goodwill Ambassador, Konno has been to Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Vietnam and Mongolia. This is her second visit to Cambodia. The first one was in 1999.

Konno is a known actress and active writer. She played one of the lead characters in a famous play "Sasame Yuki" (The Makioka Sisters). Her science essay "Sora Tobu Hotate" (The Flying Scallop) won the 1995 Japan Writer's Prize.

Source: Xinhua
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Thailand beats Cambodia 3-2 in ASEAN U-17 football championship

Thailand on Monday won over Cambodia 3-2 in the second match of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asia Nations) Football Federation (AFF) U17 Championship Tournament 2007.

In the first half of the match, Thailand scored two goals and Cambodia one. Thai player Rakpong Chumueang netted at minute 13 and Sarach Yooyen made it 2-0 at minute 42. Cambodian captain Keo Sok Ngon found the net at the minute 30.

During second half of match, Thai player Narakorn Kana scored his team's third goal at minute 70, Cambodian player Hou Sambo secured his team's second goal at 71.

Cambodian coach Prak Sovannara said that the Thai team is strongest in ASEAN and Cambodia is weaker than Thai in power and technique.

The match was postponed to Monday morning from Sunday afternoon due to heavy rain.

During the opening match held on Sunday afternoon, Indonesia defeated Brunei 3-0.

Except the Philippines, all ASEAN countries sent teams to the tournament.

The first ASEAN U-17 football championship was held in 2005 in Thailand, with Burma being the winner, and the second in 2006 in Vietnam, with Vietnam the winner.

Source: Xinhua
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