The Post’s 29 years of culture, arts, travel & leisure and food varieties

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Tourists visit an old plane crash site on Oral Mountain in Kampong Speu province. Hong Menea

Back in the early 1990s, when The Post first began publishing, there were just a few notable restaurants, like Hang Neak and Heng Lay – both located on Nation Road 6A in Phnom Penh’s Prek Leap commune.

As far as leisure destinations went, there was little more than the lawn in front of the Royal Palace, the ocean-side beaches near Sihanoukville and Kep and the majestic ruins of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap.

Eco-tourism in the modern sense had yet to be conceived of or attempted – at least not in Cambodia way back then, with its tragically abundant landmines and the presence in some remote areas of Khmer Rouge guerrilla holdouts at that time putting a little too much “wild” in much of Cambodia’s wilderness for all but the most adventurous outdoors enthusiasts.

As the economy has surged in its growth and the forces of development have been at work relentlessly here year to year, the lifestyle of the average Cambodian has rapidly grown in sophistication and developed to keep pace with modernity, too.

Cambodia now has a diverse array of restaurants, entertainment options, cultural events, resorts and eco-tourism sites to experience and enjoy alike for citizens, expatriate foreign residents and the ever-growing horde of tourists.

Over the past three decades, The Post has not only played an important role in publishing national, political, world and economic news in Cambodia, it has also introduced Cambodia to a variety of new developments in its local culture and charted the steady progress made over time in order to reach today’s modern lifestyle.

The Post has travelled to every corner of the Kingdom, charting its transformation over the years from an ‘off the rails’ tourism backwater to a country capable of comfortably hosting millions of visitors each year – pre-Covid-19 and perhaps post-Covid-19 too

From the heart of the capital city to its suburbs and reaching out across Cambodia to every province of the nation, The Post’s travel features have introduced hundreds of new leisure places to Cambodians and the world.

“Local media publications like The Phnom Penh Post are important for tourism in the sense that they have the responsibility to let people know where it is safe and enjoyable to travel – especially at a time when this changes often,” says David-Jaya Piot, president of the Cambodia Hotel Association’s Siem Reap chapter.

He says he is thankful for the travel section because it was always a great place to showcase new and popular destinations all across the country.

“People doing interesting things and our most beautiful places deserve attention and the travel section is a great place for that,” Piot says.

With hopes that a revival of Siem Reap tourism will be coming soon, Piot says his organisation is working with the government to forge a good reopening policy that will properly welcome vaccinated travellers back to Cambodia in a way that is safe, comfortable and attractive.

He told The Post: “It is extremely important to find the correct balance between safety restrictions and an enjoyable tourism experience.

“When tourism returns it will be important that [tourists] are updated on what’s out there that is interesting and ready to receive visitors,” says Piot, a French-Cambodian who speaks fluent Khmer and is also the co-founder of Kulen Elephant Forest.

Before the pandemic, community-based tourism and eco-tourism were increasing in popularity as tourists tried to escape from crowded places and the expectation is that trend will resume post-pandemic. The promotion of those alternative destinations and their increased popularity has been partly thanks to coverage by The Post, according to Piot.

Chhem Chhim, chief of the Srae Ken community founded in 2004 in Trapang Chhou commune of Kampong Speu province’s Oral district, says that since the government lifted travel restrictions there have been many more people hiking to Oral Mountain – between three and five groups per week.

They trek to the waterfall and to an old plane crash site because some visitors remain curious about the accident and they normally spend two or three nights on the mountain.

“Of course – with the help of publications like The Post – tourists are far more aware of eco-tourism sites and we’ve seen a big increase in visitors. Now, we’ve added face masks, social distancing and disinfectant sprays – but it’s not that different than what we were doing before the pandemic,” Chhim says.

The Post explores food in its vast variety of forms – from the local Khmer delicacies to an ever-expanding feast of foreign cuisines imported to Cambodia from around the world

Countless restaurants serving local Khmer food as well as those featuring the neighbouring Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, in addition to food from every corner of the globe – from Indian and Pakistani to Turkish to Mexican as well as European eateries from all points of the continental compass from Italy in the south or Britain in the west or Belgium in the north or Ukraine in the east – have all been featured on the pages of The Post.

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Luke Macdonald founded Burgershack along with his wife Holly Churchill. Hong Menea

Recently profiled in The Post, the owners of the wildly popular mom and pop fast food eateries Burgershack – located in Boeung Keng Kang district’s Boeung Keng Kang I commune and Kampot province – say they appreciated The Post’s professionalism and positivity.

“Furthermore, we loved that it was printed in both Khmer and English. Due to this we had a lot of our family, friends and customers contacting us and saying how proud they were of us and what a fantastic write up it was,” says Luke Macdonald, the restaurateur/entrepreneur and chef who founded Burgershack along with his wife Holly Churchill, who also thanked The Post for supporting local businesses.

Princella Anum Gill moved from Pakistan to Phnom Penh and opened a restaurant, Princella Flavors of Saffron, in TuolTom Poung to serve up her tasty Pakistani and Indian dishes to the denizens of the capital.

“We really appreciated your review and profile of our restaurant. It was a great experience to work with the team from The Post. The article brought about positive outcomes for our business and we are thankful to you and the whole Lifestyle team,” she says.

The Post has featured every form of art imaginable – from classical to pop, from the time-tested classics to the latest cutting-edge creations – in short, from high concept to lowbrow and everything in between

Lauren Lida, director of Open Studio Cambodia, says The Post has been great at covering art events and openings and highlighting artists in Cambodia.

She says The Post has given crucial help to artists, art galleries and art spaces in raising awareness about the thriving arts scene in Cambodia and informing the general public about the importance of supporting local artists.

“We hope The Phnom Penh Post will continue to spotlight the artists and events of Open Studio Cambodia and all the other amazing artists and art entities in Cambodia,” she says.

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Visitors at the FT Gallery in Phnom Penh Factory. Hean Rangsey

Chea Sopheap, executive director of Bophana Centre, says The Post has been great about actively covering art events and cultural happenings and the newspaper always keeps the public informed and aware of what’s happening in the arts and culture scene throughout the country.

“With their staff of professional journalists, The Phnom Penh Post is a reliable, truthful and objective news source for readers who want to keep up with cultural developments here.

“Bophana and other art organisations always welcomethe boost to publicity provided by the enthusiastic arts coverage in the Phnom Penh Post when we want to share our activities and plans with the public,” Sopheap says.

Poy Chhunly, an artist and animation and video instructor at Phare Ponleu Selpak, says the arts and cultural aspects of The Post as a publication make it one of the best sources of support and encouragement for artists in the community and it is doing a great job of spreading awareness of the arts scene to the younger Khmer generations.

“Thanks to The Post for their continuous coverage of the arts and artists in Cambodia and all aspects of our culture. Hopefully, with their help we can continue to ensure that Khmer arts and culture will survive and thrive for each successive generation of artists and audiences,” Chhunly says.