Category Archives: Cambodia

Farewell IndoChine.

Well that’s it for IndoChina. What a treat, what a privilege, a big thank you to all the peoples of Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia, you have all been so kind and gracious. Not to mention your great food and cooking.
My five days in the Province of Kampot in the small town of Kep was a welcome break from the big cities, World Heritage Sites, museums, temples but most of all from the pollution and really really bad air quality. It took three days but I finally threw off completely the cold I caught in Hanoi. I did try a Post from Kep, alas still unfinished but will try for a successful completion at some point, but the power was unreliable and the web connection kept crashing. I have to say though that I couldn’t actually come up with too much to say that would be of much interest to anyone. The days passed far too quickly, breakfast became lunch, the afternoon into a siesta, tea became dinner and then it was all over and it was sleep time. Apologies to the squeamish but my sleep mates were wide and varied ! There was a dog outside my room every night despite changing rooms three times during the five day stay. Very large geckoes were constant companions both in and outside the room, there were toads and frogs kicking up a shindig for most of the night. I don’t really want to tell of the spiders and ants that marched about the rooms and the monkeys who screeched and yelled for most of the night, at least I suppose they were monkeys.
I think I may have mentioned the food, peppercorns, still attached to their vine, fried up and served with just about everything. The crab, the prawns, Lok Lak (a Khmer traditional beef dish), every meal was an exploration of my taste buds and an event to anticipate.
All too soon it came to an end and I was back on a tuk tuk to the bus station and the ride back to PP. Scheduled for 12.30 pm departure we were all still hanging about in the heat until about 2.00, will it come? Is that it? Where is it? Did we miss it? All the usual anxieties. Got to chatting with a Canadian gent, odd how they are always so easy to chat with, he from Vancouver Island and raised an eyebrow when I mentioned Victoria. Its good to get around a bit. Bus eventually came, another double decker, and I successfully found seat thirteen (angst) and who should settle in beside me but the Canadian. How do you do says I , Tim, no, he says, that’s who I am too. Not an Aries, but we had a most entertaining ride to PP. We ranged from the ten thousand hour rule, which dictates that to be really good at anything you have to have practiced same for said amount of hours to his six minute rule. I might try it.
Back home he specializes in emergency management at disaster sites and was in Cambodia with his wife and family researching for a magazine article she was writing on the indentured servant racket that is so prevalent in this country. Nice guy, we shared a tuk tuk to hotel row and off he went to find his family, funny to think he might be reading this. (hello Tim McLeod).
Not a very good evening as it was already getting late, did some gift shopping, Kramas (Khmer accessory), silk scarves, more pepper, a t shirt for me etc. went to the Foreign Correspondents Club, the FCC, for dinner and turned in early. That was the plan. Turned out the room had three extremely noisy extracta fans which I couldn’t figure how to disable. Called reception, first one, then two, then three hotel handy men came avisiting. Climbing on chairs, plunging the room into darkness, every switch, knob, dial, remote was brought into the scenario. Finally at about ten thirty I called a halt, herded them out and spent a largely sleepless night wearing my noise canceling headphones.
A 5am wake up call, 6am cab to airport, and this 8.30 flight. Oh yawn.
A break there for a read.
Right then, India for tea. Major expletive! Doodling over my 5.30 am cup of tea I made a couple of notes. I think one of the first books I remember reading was Kipling’s Just so Stories, so finally I am going to the land of Mowgli, Shere Khan, Bagheera and Baloo, O Best Beloved (s). I remember reading about the terrible famines and the tragedy of Partition. Plus of course the Bonzo Dog’s Hunting Tigers out in India!
I am on my way, have I planned sufficiently, am I prepared, time will tell I guess. If all goes to plan the next Post will be from Kochi (old Cochin) in the State of Kerala. More from there.

Advertisements

Getting away from it all.

20120221-172752.jpg
The Kep Bus.

On the bus to Kep, where ever the heck that is. Shamefully ignorant of the geography of Cambodia, I admit I didn’t even know it had a coastline, but it does and that is where I am bound. The bus is ok, a double decker with luggage and baggage on the lower, passengers on the upper. Eleven rows set in a two and one configuration, I am in a one that is slightly raised up above the rest, feels a bit throne like, but at least I can see out the front from six rows back. The seats are tolerably comfortable though an easy comparison with cattle class on BA, that goes for the legroom as well, there basically isn’t any. Fellow passengers appear to be two thirds Cambodian and one third Westerners. A French family with two young children, a couple from the boat down from Siem Reap, German I think, can’t ignore the cutest little Cambodian newborn you ever did see, not uttered a sound in over an hour. The terrain is flat, very very flat. The ground is dry, the rice paddies all shrivel led and stalks, dead and grey. There are occasional orchards with oranges growing and of course palms with coconuts. It will get hotter and hotter until the end of April and then the monsoon will break, much to the relief of all. The road is a good road, two lanes with a well kept surface, pleasantly smooth. The Highway code/rules of the road are completely non existent however. Small town markets spill onto the highway reducing it to one lane, down the middle. There is a bike, motor scooter lane but it seems to be not much used and the bus driver leans on the horn constantly. ……We paused for refreshments etc and have turned off the main road to Kompot onto a narrow jungle road , just about as wide as the bus. Passing pull outs, dusty, acres and acres of dried up paddies, random roadside stalls, locals dig trench across road in villages to slow the traffic, white cattle seek shade. There are hills ahead, the Coastal Range ?
We came to Kep, a dusty crossroads with maybe half a dozen tuk tuks, a cafe, tourist information office and that was about it for Kep downtown. A ten minute ride to the base of a low hill and here I am, all checked into my room, sitting in the thatch roofed restaurant of the Lodge. A small pool in front, a small pool table behind, a well stocked bar, piles of books and games, a beer (thank you) ,lunch on its way, spiced beef with ginger and rice, learning about Kampot pepper. Grown locally it seems to be the pride of the district, “Highly prized by gourmets worldwide”. (Nat, you heard of this stuff ?)
Lunch was great, best food I have had in Cambodia, and then I succumbed to the pressures of the day and fell fast asleep for an hour. I think I may have finally found my spot. First thing I notice sitting poolside is the lack of noise, there is no traffic, the nearest road is a half mile away, no motor scooters, no beeping. There is no pollution, no people in my immediate vicinity wearing smog masks. I may finally completely throw off the lingering cold I caught in Hanoi. We are a matter of yards from the entrance to a nature reserve, the air is full of the sound of birdsong, in fact the jungle threatens to encroach on the whole property. There will be some strange and unfamiliar sounds tonight I am sure. The hotel posts warnings about geckos, bats and frogs in the rooms, also that the spiders are not poisonous and are rather shy, good to hear.

20120221-175813.jpg
The Hotel reception, lobby, dining room, lounge, bar, business center and activities room.

I may have finally worked out how to add photos and captions to a post using just my tablet and the WordPress blogging App. Finally. Goodbye Business Centers.

Let’s see what the evening brings.

Phnom Penh for a day.

I don’t think I have ever said “no thank you” so often, I am hoarse with no thank you. Every step of the way in Phnom Penh (now referred to as PP) it’s the same refrain “tuk tuk sir?”. Honestly the guy has to see that actually I just got off a tuk tuk, why on earth would I need another one five seconds later.
I did sleep in this morning, all the way until 8.30am, that was a treat. Breakfast in the hotel looked somewhat expensive so took a ride to the recommended venue promoted by guide book, unfortunately it is no longer in business, or we couldn’t find it so jumped out at the first sign of eggs. Just as an aside, I really find it offensive to be unable to avoid hearing about the exploitation of the local female population over breakfast, sleaze bags.
Sorry. To continue. Totally messed up, thought I would go to the Royal Palace before lunch so jumped in a tuk tuk, off we went only to discover it’s closed for lunch, 11.00 to 2.30, that is quite some Royal Lunch. Sat in cafe and drank water, tried to Skype younger son. Passed the time. Time dragged. Come on….
2.30 and I was at the gate, very impressive Royal Palace. All gold, silver, temples, Buddha’s,beautiful woodwork, bas reliefs ( for Barbara),great gardens and monks and cameras, lots of cameras. round I went. There are some photos, I added to the previous post Arrived Phnom Penh.
I had heard or read about the Russian Market so that was the next stop. Warnings in book about claustrophobia, no kidding. If the aisles between the stalls were three foot wide I would be surprised. After about ten minutes I really felt overwhelmed and left. Another aside, the local kids have made an art of mimicking the sounds from Angry Birds (a game) it is quite amazing, listen, someone is playing Angry Birds, look round and these young kids are having convulsions of hysterical laughter. Really quite clever.
So then I went to the Tuol Sleng museum. Well you don’t think about Cambodia without thinking of Pol Pot and his murderous four year regime do you ?. In the year 1975 he and his bunch of thugs evacuated this entire city, enslaving the population into tilling the land. It was quite ghastly. Ladies were openly weeping in the courtyard.
I was very sad.

Arrived Phnom Penh

20120218-161343.jpg
Confluence of Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers in Phnom Penh.

20120219-174832.jpg
Surely not !

20120219-174916.jpg
This is the bank of the Mekong not the Test ! (Test River Hampshire England, home of excellent Sunday lunch)

20120219-175329.jpg
The Royal Palace.

20120219-175446.jpg
More Royal Palace.

20120219-180230.jpg
The Regulation “Guy on a Horse”. There always is, I find.

20120219-180516.jpg
Quite quiet here considering it is Sunday afternoon.

20120219-180738.jpg
A bas relief I think.

20120219-180848.jpg
bas relief detail.

20120219-181003.jpg

20120219-181050.jpg

20120219-181114.jpg

20120219-181128.jpg

20120219-181148.jpg

20120219-181204.jpg

20120219-181254.jpg