Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum—Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Formerly the Chao Ponhea Yat High School, named after a Royal ancestor of King Norodom Sihanouk, the five buildings of the complex were converted in August 1975, four months after the Khmer Rouge won the civil war, into a prison and interrogation center. The Khmer Rouge renamed the complex “Security Prison 21” (S-21) and construction began to adapt the prison to the inmates: the buildings were enclosed in electrified barbed wire, the classrooms converted into tiny prison and torture chambers, and all windows were covered with iron bars and barbed wire to prevent escapes.

From 1975 to 1979, an estimated 17,000 people were imprisoned at Tuol Sleng (some estimates suggest a number as high as 20,000, although the real number is unknown). At any one time, the prison held between 1,000-1,500 prisoners. They were repeatedly tortured and coerced into naming family members and close associates, who were in turn arrested, tortured and killed. In the early months of S-21’s existence, most of the victims were from the previous Lon Nol regime and included soldiers, government officials, as well as academics, doctors, teachers, students, factory workers, monks, engineers, etc. Later, the party leadership’s paranoia turned on its own ranks and purges throughout the country saw thousands of party activists and their families brought to Tuol Sleng and murdered. Those arrested included some of the highest ranking communist politicians such as Khoy Thoun, Vorn Vet and Hu Nim. Although the official reason for their arrest was “espionage,” these men may have been viewed by Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot as potential leaders of a coup against him. Prisoners’ families were often brought en masse to be interrogated and later murdered at the Choeung Ek extermination center.

In 1979, the prison was uncovered by the invading Vietnamese army. In 1980, the prison was reopened by the government of the People’s Republic of Kampuchea as a historical museum memorializing the actions of the Khmer Rouge regime.

The museum is open to the public, and receives an average of 500 visitors every day.


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May 17, 2013 · 2:56 am

Visiting Koh Lan Island Near Pattaya, Thailand

From Wikipedia:

Ko Lan is the largest of the “Near Islands”, off south Pattaya. It is located at the SE end of the Bay of Bangkok, on the eastern side of the Gulf of Siam. Administratively Ko Lan belongs to the Amphoe Bang Lamung, Chonburi Province.

Ko Lan lies 8 km away from the nearest shore and it is about 4 km in length. It is a hilly island, covered with low tropical forest; its highest point reaches 205 m and there is a Buddhist shrine on top of the mountain. The island has two small villages on it: Ban Ko Lan and Ban Krok Makhan where there are lodgings and restaurants. There are ferries connecting Ko Lan to the mainland. Some local tour operators in nearby Pattaya organize picnic and snorkelling excursions to Ko Lan because there is a relaxed atmosphere and beaches with clear water. The ferry ride takes about 40 minutes. Ferries leave south Pattaya Bali Hai pier daily from 7:00 am to 6:30 pm, the one-way fare is 30 Baht. The return ferry leaves Koh Lan’s Na Ban Beach at 06.30 am to 6:00 pm.

Most of Ko Lan’s beaches are on its western side. The most visited one is Tawaen Beach, where there is a small harbor. All the length of the beach is lined with small tourist shops behind which are dining halls of restaurants whose menu is based mainly on fish and seafood. Other beaches are Tonglang Beach, Tien Beach, Samae Beach and Naon Beach.

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May 17, 2013 · 2:53 am

Dutch Swing College Band at Silverlake Vineyard—Pattaya, Thailand

During World War II, the Nazis banned jazz music in the Netherlands. Several youngsters wanted to preserve this music against all odds. They practiced secretly, copied illegal radio broadcasts and were determined to found a school for jazz music when the war was over: the Swing College. On Liberation Day, May 5th 1945, the Orchestra of the Dutch Swing College had its first public performance. Their members gave lectures, organized jazz meetings and started to teach jazz music. The name soon changed into Dutch Swing College Band. In 1960 the DSCBand (leading the field of traditional jazz in the Netherlands) became professional, won innumerable prizes and still performs successfully worldwide to this day.

Text Courtesy of http://www.dscband.nl


The beautifully located Silverlake Winery in Pattaya, Thailand is such a popular attraction and one of the most requested by visitors with an interest in Thailand’s New Hemisphere Wines. Throughout the year, tourists and those dedicated to the study and pleasure of wine are welcomed to explore the winery and vineyard.

Thailand Wine Tours will be pleased to arrange your visit to the Silverlake Winery as part of a more comprehensive holiday based around the wines of Thailand or as a pleasant diversion for those holidaying in this tropical paradise and looking for something different. Pattaya is a great place to visit and even more so with the addition of this attraction.

Spectacular views are a certainty with the Khao Chi Chan reservoir as a backdrop and there is little more beautiful than the lake at sunset. The owner of the Silverlake Winery is one of Thailand’s ex-leading actresses, Supansa Nuangphirom; she was inspired to establish this winery after a visit to the vineyards and wineries of the United State. When she returned to Thailand she found the perfect spot that she says she chose for its idyllic location, growing conditions and proximity to the reservoir.

The benefits of being an actress with a vineyard is that unique marketing opportunities come along and the Silverlake Winery featured in a television series named “Soot Saneha”. As a result of the TV series, the Silverlake Winery is a popular destination for Thai travellers as well as international ones.

More than just a winery in a beautiful area, Silverlake’s idyllic setting provides opportunities for visitors to enjoy the wine and grapes, a tour of the facilities, journey on a horse-drawn carriage or even atop an Elephant! Products available from Silverlake include wine, grape juices, grape jam, grape jelly, raisins and more. There’s even a food court for visitors that is right opposite the winery, where food can be purchased or picnics enjoyed.

Test courtesy of http://www.thailand-wine-tours.com/vineyards-and-wineries/silverlake-winery/



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May 17, 2013 · 2:47 am

His Majesty King Vajiravudh’s (Rama VI) Summer Palace—Hua Hin, Thailand

(Text Courtesy of HuaHin247.com)

Maruekatayawan (Mrigadayavan) Palace is one of the oldest and most attractive royal palaces in Thailand. The Maruekatayawan Palace was constructed by His Majesty King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) in 1923 as a place where he could fully relax in great comfort amid a naturally serene atmosphere.

It was designed by an Italian architect with lots of verandas, latticework and covered boardwalks using golden teak from the demolished Hat Chao Samran Palace. The architectural design of the raised-floor wooden palace, with its three sections facing the sea, was drafted by the Monarch himself. Following the completion of the interior decoration in 1924, the King gave it his first visit and stay. His last visit to this seaside palace was made only a few months before his demise in 1925.

This palace is noted for three two story wooden pavilions facing the sea, and is referred to as “the palace of love and hope”. Series of halls are linked together throughout the palace. Residential halls of the royal consort members are located on the right wing. The central group of halls which is the royal residence consists of royal sitting and relaxing rooms, accommodations for close royal servants called Phisan Sakhon Hall, and the reading room.

In addition, Samoson Sewakamat Hall, a two-storey open pavilion, is used as a meeting place, and sometimes as a theater. Two important dramas were shown on this stage in 1941: “Phra Ruang” and “Wiwah Phra Samut”. Chao Phraya Ramrakhop ordered a statue of King Vajiravudh, as a royal dedication, to be enshrined in the hall of Marukhathaiyawan Palace. An annual rite is conducted on November 25, the anniversary of King Vajiravudh’s death.

This is one of the many attractive places in Thailand that is a must to visit. This teakwood treasure (known for convenience as “The Wooden Palace”) stands on Hua Hin beachfront and, now restored. It is proudly billed as “The Longest Golden Teak Palace in the World”. This palace is only a few minutes by car from Hua Hin.



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May 17, 2013 · 2:44 am

An Australian ‘Flying to the Rescue’ of Kids in Cambodia—Denzil Sprague

As reported at http://asialifeguide.com/PP-Life/denzil-sprague-cambodia-school.html

“Denzil Sprague is a bit of a chameleon. Having trained as a pilot and worked in the aviation industry in his native Australia, he arrived in Cambodia in 2002 to head the new airline company, Mekong Airlines. Coupled with his reluctance to come to Cambodia at all, the venture seemed ill-fated from the start. The airline’s first flight took place on Jan. 31 2003, more commonly known as the day of the anti-Thai riots. “It was a ‘great’ start,” he says, “there were Thai Hercules planes coming in evacuating the Thais.”

Though the following months saw the company slowly take off, the deathblow came in the summer. “SARS came out of nowhere,” Denzil says. “We didn’t have the financial momentum to get through that.”

Weighing his options, Denzil decided to stay in Cambodia. “I was very happy here and I could see there were a lot of opportunities,” he says, “I also felt like I wanted to do something, to justify my life by leaving something worthwhile behind.”

He dealt in land, did bits of consultancy in the aviation industry, and in 2004 took over an ailing brick factory from his driver who lacked the funds to make the factory profitable.

Buying the factory changed his life. “Sometimes fate leads you along a road, you don’t even see it at the time,” Denzil says. “Eventually things happen and you may not have planned any of it, but it turns out to be something worthwhile.”

Located on the remote banks of the Mekong in Pouk Ressey village, the area around the factory had seen few foreigners prior to Denzil’s arrival. He immediately set to work renovating the factory, building new kilns and staff quarters, as well as providing medical care to staff and their children.

With donations from his family in Melbourne, Denzil also took the workers on a trip to the market, to buy what for many of them were their first brand new items of clothing. “By the time we got back from the market they had all changed into their new clothes,” he says. “They were so pleased.” Kitted in new school uniforms, the children of staff at the factory were able to go to school.

However, the school itself was in dangerous disrepair and lacking even the most basic sanitary amenities. Seeing his work at the factory, a group of monks from the local pagoda approached Denzil about building a new school for the community’s children.

Surprising himself, Denzil agreed. “I never intended to build a school,” he says. “But I have always liked helping people.”

Funded by Denzil, construction got underway in January 2008. In May this year, three buildings comprising five classrooms each as well as sanitary facilities were completed. The opening of the new school was attended by some 3,000 people, mainly from the village itself, with Im Sethy, the Minister of Education, as well as Australian Ambassador Margaret Adamson officiating.

“All the stresses of the building faded away when you could see the children move into the new school,” he says. “They were like different kids altogether.” Many of the kids now opt to spend time at school even outside classes. “They shyly told my driver that they love the school so much they’d rather be there than at home,” he says.

Though the buildings are complete, Denzil’s association with the new school, which has been named after him, is by no means over. Quite the contrary, he says he can’t quit now and has many plans for making it even better. “I’m old enough to be well and truly retired,” he says, “but the word doesn’t exist in my vocabulary.”

Wanting to develop the project into a model school, Denzil plans to add a library, computer room, and sports facilities, as well as establishing a basic healthcare programme for the kids, and connecting with a sister school in Australia. It’s a lot of work, but clearly also very rewarding. “I’m here to do something, and if this is it then it’s been worthwhile,” he says.

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May 17, 2013 · 2:41 am

Thailand’s Amazing Surin Elephant Round-Up, Isan Province

From http://www.ThailandTourism.org:

For centuries the inhabitants of Surin were renowned for their ability to catch and train elephants, indispensible creatures employed in both labor and war. In fact the Thai elephant has had a historic importance to Thai culture in innumerable ways. A Thai elephant had even graced the national flag during the reign of King Rama II.

To commemorate both the importance of the Thai elephant and to commemorate the local peoples’ important relationship with them, the Surin Elephant Round Up show has been held annually since 1960.

Now an internationally recognized event, the Surin Elephant Round Up also includes elephant talent competitions, demonstration of the various techniques used to capture and train elephants, a presentation of ancient elephant warfare techniques, and a tug-of-war between men and elephants. This fun, elephant friendly event is popular with visitors and locals, young and old!

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May 17, 2013 · 2:37 am

Profiling the Phnom Penh Post’s Alan Parkhouse

Meet the Phnom Penh Post Group Editor-in-Chief Alan Parkhouse, and see the inner workings of one of Southeast Asia’s major English-language newspapers.

From http://www.phnompenhpost.com:

A history that stretches back more than 15 years has made the Phnom Penh Post the ‘Newspaper of Record’.

In fact the Phnom Penh Post is the oldest existing independent newspaper in any language in Cambodia.
First published in July 1992, the Post is read by thousands of foreigners and Cambodians throughout the country and by subscribers in 35 countries around the globe.

For more than 15 years the Phnom Penh Post has been the paper of record on Cambodian current events — read by decision makers and consumers who have helped rebuild the nation during the past decades.

No other newspaper can lay claim to such an extensive record. The Phnom Penh Post presents its readers with information and analysis that is convincing, useful and unique.

The Phnom Penh Post readers are also the most highly educated in the country and demand access to the highest quality information possible.

Our team of editors and journalists know that simply reporting the facts is not enough: they must analyze them and explain to readers how these facts will shape and affect their lives.

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May 17, 2013 · 2:35 am

Freeing the Bears in Cambodia and Worldwide

In this full-length episode of RodMcNeil.TV, join Rod as he tours the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre, 40km from the capital Phnom Penh, where 21 forested enclosures have been built over 7 hectares to house a mixture of Sun bears and Asiatic black bears of different ages and personalities.

Cambodia is home to 14 globally endangered species, including the Asiatic black bear, Malaysian sun bear, Asian elephant, Indochinese tiger and the Pileated gibbon. There are various national parks and protected forests in Cambodia, however, land encroachment, illegal logging and wildlife poaching gravely threatens all of these protected areas.

Keeping or poaching bears is illegal in Cambodia and despite recent efforts to increase penalties both hunting and killing of sun bear and Asiatic black bear continues. Free the Bears Fund has been working with the Cambodian Forestry Administration since 1997 to provide a sanctuary for confiscated bears at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre.

More From the “Free The Bears” official website:

In 1993, whilst watching a current affairs TV program in Perth, Mary Hutton saw a segment that would change her life and hundreds of others. The segment contained horrifying footage of Asiatic Black bears held in coffin sized cages unable to move or turn with dirty catheters inserted directly into their gall bladder. Mary learned that thousands of bears were being held in these horrifying conditions throughout Asia, regularly milked for their bile to feed the demand for bear bile to be used in traditional medicine. Gall bladders and bile have been used in traditional Asian medicine for centuries, however the commercial farming of bears began recently in Korea during the 1980’s so that the bears could be milked for their bile repeatedly throughout their lives.

The next day, Mary drew up a petition and stood at the entrance of the local shopping mall collecting signatures to help “Free the Bears”. Within months, she had thousands of signatures, a regular group of like-minded supporters which became a committee, and plans to build on the momentum that had gathered into a force to help bears throughout the world. On the 23rd March 1995 Free the Bears Fund was registered as a not — for- profit charity. Word of Mary’s work spread as she delivered petitions to the Chinese Embassy in Canberra surrounded by schoolchildren and organised raffles, film nights and other events to raise awareness about the plight of Asia’s bears. Memberships and merchandise were sold to raise funds for overseas projects as requests for help started to arrive in the post…



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May 17, 2013 · 2:33 am

The “Khao Phansa” Candle Festival of Ubon Ratchathani, Northeastern (Isan) Thailand

In this episode of RodMcNeil.TV, viewers are transported to Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand, or “Isan” as it is most known—in the Northeast of Thailand—during what is known as Buddhist lent and the scene of a world famous candle festival. And not just any candles—giant candles fit for a parade. (Note the Isan music in the background).

Noodle lovers will salivate at a myriad of noodles, most made from rice, and served up with bean shoots and other flavorful items.

Join Rod on the eve of the parade, and at a traditional coffee shop the following day to experience the local morning rituals enjoyed by many. Then, it is parade time where the tiered seating fills up quite early. Beauty queens and men in uniform (not to be confused) and everyday folks from all walks of life are an important part of this adventure for any tourist and locals alike! The parade wouldn’t be the same without a myriad of traditional dance and costumes as well.

From Tourism Authority of Thailand:

The Significance of Crafted Candles as Buddhist Lent Merit-Making Offerings

At Thung Sri Muang Park and Ubon Ratchathani National Museum

The Candle Festival of Ubon Ratchathani province features a procession of ornately-carved traditional beeswax candles of various shapes and sizes. Buddhism, Buddhist traditions and beliefs are central forces that shape the local way of life and the customs and traditions related to this Buddhist festival have been carefully preserved by local communities.

As the seasonal monsoon rains descend over the kingdom, it marks the beginning of the Buddhist “rain retreat” and the Buddhist Lent, or Phansa, during which all Buddhist monks retreat to the temples. This is also an auspicious time for Buddhist ordinations as it marks a period of spiritual renewal.

Known as “Khao Phansa”, the Buddhist Lent is a time devoted to study and meditation. Buddhist monks remain within the temple grounds and do not venture out for a period of three months starting from the first day of the waning moon of the eighth lunar month (in July) to the fifteenth day of the waxing moon of the eleventh lunar month (in October). In former times, this is done to prevent monks from trampling upon rice paddies when they venture out to receive offerings from the villagers.

As the province prepares for the Buddhist Lent, men folk, ordained as well as laymen, with artistic skills set about the task of moulding and sculpting Lenten candles. As these works of art are to be presented as Buddhist merit-making offerings, the artisans pour their heart and soul into their craft. Many of these are fine examples of Buddhist art and sculpture.

Villagers actively engage in merit-making during the Buddhist Lent, making visits to temples to make offerings of food and items for daily use. The presentation of items that provide light, such as candles, lanterns and lamp oil, is deemed to be particularly important as these facilitate the study of holy scriptures and meditation by providing illumination to the monks, physically and spiritually.

Bringing together the Traditional and the Contemporary

To help keep ancient customs and traditions alive, the provincial authorities have added more contemporary elements to the traditional festival in an attempt to create broader appeal and attract younger visitors.

In addition to the exhibition of wax sculptures by the participating international artists from Japan, Nepal, Belgium, France, Ukraine, Latvia, Spain, Brazil, and host country, Thailand, the festival programme now includes other art and design-related highlights such as the Silpakorn Art Pool featuring handcrafted candles workshops and sound art, the Lat Krabang Art Scene featuring film and photo, interactive art, art camp, and Kids Art Village.

Other attractions, such as the Ubon Art Street, the Ubon Weekend Market and Laeng Pla Ploen Market, traditional and contemporary folk music performances, are all designed to add to the festive ambience of the event.

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May 17, 2013 · 2:30 am

Exploring Phi Phi Island and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Famous Movie “Beach” in Thailand

This adventure to Phi Phi Island (most famous worldwide as the setting for Leonardo DiCaprio’s “The Beach”) begins at Chalong Bay, on Phuket Island in the South of Thailand, for a speedboat adventure to Phi Phi Island as part of the Phuket Siam Seacanoe Day Tour.

“Welcome to Phi Phi Island” one Thai man exclaims enthusiastically, which as you will see from the video is actually a series of islands.

Isn’t it time to call your travel agent?

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May 17, 2013 · 2:26 am