001 Nov 04 2012 Welcome To Siem Reap Yes I Love You

(Siem Ream opens its arms to you!)

Friday, November 01:

I hop a bus at noon from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. In earlier days I’d be taking a speedboat. These days it’s a 4-5 hour jaunt via bus.   One of the small but deeply important changes in Cambodian life since the 1998 stand-down of the Khmer Rouge has been the rapid growth of inter-provincial travel. Like the USA after World War II, travel within Cambodia is less of a safety concern and more of a financial issue.

I spend most of the afternoon staring out the window, absorbed by the countryside. Some days you just need a little quiet time.  I’m on my way to BlogFest Asia, a biannual meeting of tech-heads.

BlogFest.Asia 2012 in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Initially suggested as a joke during a pub chat, it’s taken on a life of its own, and is being run by some of the ‘usual suspects’ – Cambodian bloggers you’ll often see at BarCampPhnomPenh and other events. Prior to the introduction of Khmer Unicode and the embrace of Facebook, blogging (in English) was hugely popular and seemed to generate an instant sense of fraternity.  In part that’s why I’m going – it’s good to catch up with the old school crowd. Officially, it’s to talk about comics blogging and e-comics in general.

I’d started Jinja.Apsara.Org in Siem Reap in 2002, and never imagined at the time that I’d one day be returning to a massive web conference. The number of bloggers has grown exponentially in Cambodia and shows no signs of stopping at any point soon. I think a large part of the adoption of the internet has been due to earlier efforts by ‘the usual suspects’ behind this meeting. Many of them volunteered their time in earlier days for training workshops that helped hundreds – if not thousands – of young students to jump onto the net.

002 Nov 02 2012 Preetam Cookie

Rest stop: hey, it’s Preetam Rai and ‘Cookie’ (Hackerspace Singapore). Preetam is a former Global Voices correspondent and was one of the first to point out that Cambodia was producing a lot of quality bloggery.

I’ve booked a room at the guest house run by ‘Cambodia Calling‘s’ Diana Saw. She won’t be attending, but I’m hoping to see her craft shop. Once we land it’s a feeding frenzy of tuk-tuks.  It’s a real plus BlogFest is located in Siem Reap, a very welcoming and surreal town – no, make that city, now. I do a number of double-takes looking at all the ridiculous tourist signage and new construction.   I land at Diana’s, dump my gear and head out for food.  Pub Street and surrounding environs look more and more like Khao San Road, but I have a certain affection for the old days and am keen for some Nui Xào at the Soup Dragon on Pub Street.

Faine Greenwood pops by, she’s covering BlogFest for ‘Global Post‘.  We both garner some chuckles out of the article in today’s Phnom Penh Post, ‘Bloggers Descend On Town‘. Hide your valuables!

Via text we find out that many of the new arrivals and old friends are enjoying themselves just a few doors down at the ‘Angkor What‘ pub. Sure enough, there’s IamSK, Preetam and Cookie, Tharum, Kounila, Nearirath, pretty much the whole planning team, dancing up a storm.  ‘Angkor What’ is now a proper backpacker pub and we get some confused/amused looks from the patrons… just who/what/where are all these hyper Asian kids from?

Preetam: “When it comes to dance, there is no argument in ASEAN.” An auspicious start. I sneak out early to prepare for tomorrow’s busy day.

One Response to “BlogFestAsia 2012: (01) Straight Outta Siem Reap”

  1. [...] done on the fly at BlogFest Asia 2012. Color added later. └ Tags: [...]

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