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Cambodia: Blogging from Siem Reap

Categories: East Asia, Cambodia, Literature, Technology, Youth, Blogger Profiles

Seam Reap, The small charming gateway town to the world famous heritage site of Angkor temples has a lot to offer – colonial and Chinese style architecture, Apsara dance performances, the fishing villages and a bird sanctuary near the Tonle Sap Lake. As the number of tourists flocking in to visit ancient Angkor Wat grows every year, the tourist hub is also getting more exposed to outside influences. In this city a young fellow finds himself embarking on a life journey that is both bumpy and rewarding.


Last year, Vireak [1] began a weblog called ‘A Cambodian blog by a Khmer guy from Siem Reap!‘. In his very first post titles -‘Got away with crimes!,’ Vireak described how he encountered his old schoolmates and how he failed to recall their names. Vireak admitted that [2] it is a crime against humanity. A confrontation happened at a wedding ceremony, a childhood friend first smiled at Vireak and told him that he has changed a lot. Vireak, however, couldn't recollect his name.

Like many young Cambodians, Vireak left his home town Siem Reap to look for better education in the largest and capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. He studied Common Engineering at Institut de Technologie du Cambodge [3] in Phnom Penh for two years, Vireak was awarded a scholarship to continue his education in Electrical & Electronics Engineering at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

In a crowd of some hundreds of bloggers here in Cambodia, where blogging is touted as a popular activity among the young people, Vireak has his own way of express about himself and his ideas. He doesn't see himself as a blogger, though he enjoys receiving comments from his friends and readers who regularly visit the weblog.

Here is my email interview with Vireak. He talked to me about his motivations for starting his blog and what he often writes about.

Q: Why do you have a blog?
– I thought it was cool. I started out with a personal flash non-interactive site back in 2003. Back then I found flash fascinating; so I thought “let's see how far I can go”. But I lost interest in flash about a year or so later. Then I saw what I could do with WordPress, I thought of giving another go. But it's not until 2006 when I finally got the right time and frame of mind to do so. Thus Vireak.net was born.

Q: What do you usually write about?
– I'm very selective of what I'm writing. I usually write about somethings that readers especially Khmer youth can relate to, somethings that are timeless without an expiry date tagged to them, where people can still find relevant without saying “hey, this thing is old crap”. So most of things I write are non-event based. You won't get to read what am I doing or where am I going over the weekend; you're more likely be reading what I've got in my head while digging my nose.

Q: For a couple of reasons, you don't consider yourself as a blogger. But what do you see yourself in the next several years when more Cambodians find blogging as a norm in their Internet activities?
– To be honest, I don't really care whether blogging will be a norm in Cambodia or not. I don't see myself writing online for too long.

Q: Do you encourage your friends to start blogging and/or keep blogging?
– Not really. It's not like I'll make their lives happier if I ask them to come online and start blogging or keep blogging. I'm not a believer in online life. To me, the happiest form of life exists off line.

Q: You hope that, with blog, you can maintain contact with friends and to make some new ones. How many new friends have you made so far? Can you pick one story as an example?
– I got to know quite a few although never get to see any of them yet. Can't pick a story and elaborate on that…:-p

Q: Lots of people say blogging is taking off in Cambodia. Do you think so?
– In one of early post of 2007 http://www.vireak.net/2007/01/05/2007-predictions/, I made a bold prediction that blogging bubble in Cambodia will burst in 2007. Like many things that become popular, it will soon fade off. I'll stick with my prediction. I don't know. My instinct told me so.

Q: What's your thought on blogging for Cambodians?
– It's like a khmer pop music to the ears. You get to like when it first comes out. Before long it gets old.

Q: Last May you began publishing your first episode of a fictional romantic story, ‘Operation Heart Hunter’. Can you tell our readers about it?
– What it comes to story involving romance and emotions, you can't just make it gel without putting your heart into it. So it wouldn't feel right if I myself am not a character of the story. That's why. Then again, I got asked whether the story is true…Sorry, can't tell you that.

Q: As an Arsenal fan here in Cambodia, what do you do to support the Gunners?
– Let's talk about Cesc baby
Let's talk about Van-Per-sie
Let's talk about Theo Walcott, Ade-bayor, Rosicky
Let's talk about Cesc
(to the tune of “Let's talk about Sex”)