Saturday, 20 April 2013

Cambodia Wrap Up....Bad boys, Babes, Busses and Bum Guns.

Bad Boys
Seavyi, Untac and Lavi were my three "bad boys". Seavyi actually told me, on numerous occasions, what a bad boy he is. He is not, in fact, a bad boy at all, none of them are, but they were all a whole lot of fun.



These wonderful young men amused me, made me laugh, impressed me with their drive and kept me supplied with hugs, coffee and fun. I miss them all and can't wait to see them again.

Nat, Dani, Tara and Kate as well as Daisy and Erin, were all delightful. Nat was the first babe I met, the day I arrived in Battambang, and I loved her instantly. It's hard not to. She is so happy and bubbly and warm. Dani had lunch with me that first day, and again, it was instant love. She too has that indefinable quality that just draws you to her. Tara is an absolute dynamo. Full of ideas, constantly on the move even when she's sitting still, but so embracing. I can't wait to get a chance to spend more time delving into her amazing brain....and Kate....Kate was away meeting her gorgeous boyfriend, Lars in PP the first week I was there. I wish I had been able to spend more time with them because from the moment they came back to the Bong, Kate and Lars both became an important part of my experience. 

(Sorry Lars, you should probably be in with the bad boys but somehow you ended up with the babes instead...I'm sure you'll cope, they're a pretty awesome bunch of ladies). I FUCKING LOVE THESE BABES!

There is nothing like Cambodian busses! Take a bus timetable with a grain of salt. Not only will they leave when they feel like it, they will also take as long as they take to get to their destination, and will quite possibly break on the way there. But fear not, as long as they can be gaffer taped back together, they will push on. I love a good "Cambodia fix" as much as the next person. You just have to try not to think too hard about the possible consequences of a quick fix... on a bus... on a Cambodian "highway". Suffice to say, I caught 3 such busses during my trip, the first took about 3 hours longer than advertised, the second left 45 minutes late but got us to our destination on time (??!?) and the third did break, but they taped it back together and we made it safely.

Bum Guns
What can be said about bum guns? Anyone who has been to S.E. Asia knows what I'm talking about. They are everywhere. Toilet paper is really only a concession to tourists. They don't understand it but they know we want it. A bum gun is a quite sensible alternative. But be prepared, they pack a punch. You'll often hear it said that it's difficult to find a shower in Cambodia that has decent water pressure, but rest assured, the bum gun will have enough pressure to put out a large fire, and can be quite the "hello" when it hit's your backside!
I didn't get any photos of the bum guns I met on my travels, so I borrowed these from google images.

If there's one thing I don't miss about Cambodia, it's these. But I do miss the Babes and the Bad Boys, and the food, and the kids and the whole freaking place. I plan to return towards the end of the year, and it can't come soon enough. Thanks to those that made my stay so awesome. Love all your guts. See you soon! :)

Friday, 19 April 2013

Phnom Penh, Cambodia and the end of my trip.

The night before I left Battambang Kate and Dani hosted the pot luck dinner as a farewell to me and mum, who was leaving with me for a month in Oz. The dinner was relaxed and yummy and it was a great way to spend my last night in the Bong.

The next morning, ma and I went to Kinyei for one last delicious coffee and to say farewell to Tara before we jumped on the bus to PP.


Arriving in PP we checked into the hotel and went off in search of coffee and dinner. Then it was back to the hotel where we sat on the balcony watching the riverside come to life as the heat of the day gave way to a slightly cooler evening.

The following day it was off to Black Star Tattoo for a bit of Cambo/Korean ink. Charlie, the Korean tattooist met with me to discuss the design then sent us on our way while he brought my idea to life promising to call when he was done.

We wiled away the hours wandering the streets off PP, stopping for cool drinks and coffees at every opportunity, then went back to the cool relief of our air conditioned hotel room once the heat got too much. Around 5pm, I got a text from Charlie to let me know he would be ready to ink at 7pm.

Back to Black Star to check out the design and make a couple of small changes, then it was time for Charlie to get inking.
Step 1: The stencil
Step 2: Charlie doing his thing

Step 3: It's done!
The next day was my last full day in PP, so we rang our tuk tuk driver, Ty to pick us up and take us to the markets to shop for our last minute gifts. The markets were, as usual, busy, chaotic, and HOT! After a couple of hours sweating it out, we found our way to the food section where we sat down for a refreshing iced Khmae coffee, then went in search of Ty who was waiting exactly where we left just took us a while to work out where that was!

Beautiful wood carvings
That night Ty tool us to the other side of the river, where not many tourists go, and took us to a fantastic restaurant. The three of us sat overlooking the river and ate all the delicious food we could eat with constant flowing Angkor beer for the grand total bill of $15!

The restaurant
The view
Ty and Me

Off to "Diamond Island" after dinner and what an incongruous development that is! Diamond Island was developed with Japanese investment funds at great cost to the local community. Over 300 families were forced from their farmland, many of them getting a mere $2 per square metre of land in compensation. They were then relocated a long way from the island which had sustained their families and left to start again. A few families who had not accepted the government's initial settlement price were eventually assisted by USAID to get better deals for their land but were still forced to move away so the development could go ahead. And this is what was built.....

My last Cambodian morning, I sat on the balcony watching the city come to life. It was a relaxing day as I waited for Ty to pick me up and take me to the airport. 


Sunday, 14 April 2013

Battambang, Cambodia

Battambang is my favourite discovery in Cambodia so far. It is the second largest city in Cambodia based on population, but has a small town feel, without the excessive traffic, persistent begging, noise and bustle of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Most tourists pass through Battambang on their way to or from the Thai border crossing at Aranyaprathet/Poipet and as a result, often only spend a night there. As a result, it has not become a massive tourist destination and has been able to retain it's character. But there is a lot of history in Battambang and so many things to see and do.

First and foremost, it has become home to one of the most important people in my life, my mum. Not a big drawcard for other travellers, but definitely my number one reason for going there! Aside from my mum, there are a slew of awesome people, both expats who are colleagues of Mother Dear, and locals who have become her surrogate family. I fell in love with every single one of them and can't wait to get back and visit them all again. And it is comforting to know they are all there looking out for my ma when we cannot.

Apart from these great people, the Bong (as the cool people call it), has so much to offer in terms of history and culture. The Battambang region was one of the last strongholds of the Khmer Rouge and is home to some gruesome monuments to that time. However, the attractions are not limited to those relating to that era.

There are many Pagodas and temples in the surrounding areas as well as the most well known attraction, the bamboo railway. And outside the main town centre, the area opens up into vast rice paddies giving rise to it's reputation as the biggest area of rice production in the country.

I got to really experience Cambodian life in the Bong. I was fortunate to be invited to a Khmer wedding, a community event that lasts 3 days, is set up in the middle of the street and plays music through massive loudspeakers so the joy can be shared for miles around! (Well, maybe not miles, but certainly anyone in the near vicinity gets blasted with wedding music from 6am to 10pm daily for the duration of the celebrations!)

The wedding was a blast. Food and drinks flowed freely, all the ladies were dressed to the nines and the atmosphere was particularly celebratory (some people got carried away with the free flow of beer and later passed out in a chair at our favourite coffee shop, Kinyei, but I won't mention any names....*cough*...*mum*....*cough*)

I was also dragged kicking and screaming (not really), to Sky Bar not once, but twice! I think we were a bit of a novelty given we were the only non locals there!

The amazing Tara introduced us to her favourite place, affectionately known as "Wonderland". 

 And I got to do "ice cream day" with the kids.

Phnom Sampov (the bat cave), was a definite highlight. Millions of bats fly out of this cave every day at sunset and form endless streams in the sky as they go out in search of food.

As was the Phare Ponleu Selpak circus, where kids are trained in acrobatics, art, music and performance.

Too soon, it was time to leave and the lovely Dani and Kate put on a "pot luck" dinner at their humble abode. It was a great way to end my visit, good food and amazing friends.

Battambang is a fascinating place filled with amazing people. A relatively undiscovered corner of Cambodia that begs further exploration. I loved every second of my time there.