Living in the wilderness

By Sun Narin, Phnom Penh Post

Are you planning a trip to the countryside? Do you wish you were? Either way, I had the good fortune last weekend to go on a trip far from Phnom Penh to see the serene beauty of Mondulkiri, and it was sweet. If you do go, I would feel guilty if I failed to tell you about the place where we stayed. Between teachers, students and staff, about 100 people from the Department of Media and Communication at the Royal University of Phnom Penh went on the trip to Mondulkiri, and I think everyone was happy with the Angkor Forest guesthouse. As we drove through the forest, my friends and I complained about how far away our hotel was from the centre of town, but we changed our tune when we approached our guest house and saw the strangely-stylish houses and the view surrounding the area, which immediately inspired people to pull out their cameras. Angkor Forest was big enough for our group, but would be fun with just two people as well. Positioned on the side of a mountain, the guest house is comprised of 20 houses, with capacity from 2 to 10, spread out over 16 hectares. The place is spacious and, since it has only been open for three months, everything looks fairly new as well. The rooms are sizeable as well, and they all had comfortable beds, additional chairs and, in case you were worried that you would have to disconnect from pop culture for a few days, they even have cable TVs. One thing they don’t have is an AC or a fan, but spend one night there and you will understand that there is no need for cooling during the chilly mountain nights. If you don’t want to pay $18 for a room, you can choose the tent option and pay only $8. There is a big restaurant on the premises, and once again, when we realised how far it was from our huts, we started to grumble, but the walks turned out to be endurable. The restaurant itself is well designed aesthetically, but it has a way to go in terms of service and the food. While we all agreed on this point, we also decided to give them a free pass since they have only been open for a few months. The highlight of our time at Angkor Forest was a dance party. We all got down listening to great music with bright lights shining on us. You can imagine how fantastic it was. Another extraordinary moment was the early morning view of the mountain scenery, something that your friends, family, and even your pets, would surely enjoy.

Rice Husks Provide Alternative to Chinese Coal in Cambodia

The Cambodian rice miller and exporter, Angkor Kasekam Roongroeung (AKR), is set to launch its rice husk-powered electricity generator at the start of next year, enabling the company to double its rice exports to 70,000 tons per year.

Electricity from the newly-built rice husk generator will be used to–you guessed it–process rice.

The plant comes with community perks, too. AKR will sell its excess electricity to nearby villagers at $0.22 cents per kilowatt, lower than the $0.27 per kilowatt price they would normally pay for power from the national grid.

“We will take this opportunity to process more rice for export in an attempt to help our rice producers earn more income,” said AKR director, Chieu Hieng, as reported by the Pnom Penh Post.

The innovative power source is a welcome addition. Cambodia spent $59 million last year importing electricity from Thailand and Vietnam and is currently co-constructing a coal-fired plant with China at a cost of $362 million. Concerns are being raised about Cambodia’s increasing demand for power and the trend toward using eco-un-friendly coal-fired power.

And like other developing countries in Asia–such as Nepal, with its vast Himalayan-sourced rivers and significant dependence on Chinese and Indian investment–the natural resources for natively-generated power exist domestically, but the country lacks the necessary funds for infrastructure development.

Rice husk generators could become a replicable trend in Cambodia. Already, Golden Rice Cambodia is investing $2 million into a rice-husk power plant to power nearby mills. AKR’s total cost for its plant was $6 million, including the land. BY Jenara Nerenberg

SKorean company gets contract for Angkor airport

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia has awarded a contract to a South Korean property developer to build a new international airport to serve the famous Angkor Wat temple complex, an official said Wednesday.

Chea Vuthy, a spokesman for the Cambodian Development Council, a government agency that oversees investment, said Lees A&A Co. will build the $1 billion airport in Siem Reap province. He said the Cabinet approved the project in October. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said construction would begin by the end of next year, with the first phase due to be completed in 2015.

The airport will be 36 miles (60 kilometers) east of Angkor, Siem Reap provincial officials said. Cambodia hosted 2.3 million visitors this year, with about half of them visiting the temples, according to Kong Sophearak, statistics director for the Tourism Ministry. There is concern that the temples at Angkor, already damaged by warfare, looting and the ravages of weather, could be harmed by a further influx of tourists.

In October the U.S.-based Global Heritage Fund listed Angkor as one of more than 200 global heritage sites “facing irreversible loss and damage today.” Visitors climbing over the ruins are causing “heavy deterioration of original Khmer stonework,” it warned in a report, adding that nearby hotels and restaurants are sapping the region’s aquifer, causing some of the temples’ towers to sink into the ground. Yonhap said an expansion of the airport planned for 2032 would bring its capacity to about 15.5 million passengers annually.

It cited the Korean company as saying it was negotiating with prospective investors to provide $500 million to finance the first phase of the project. Chea Vuthy was unable to confirm the details. However, the Phnom Penh Post reported earlier that the contract had been awarded to NSIA Co., a joint venture of Lees A&A and Camco Airport, another South Korean company. The newspaper quoted Siem Reap province Deputy Gov. Bun Tharith as saying the contract would be in the form of a build-operate-transfer agreement, which would eventually turn over control of the airport to the government.