Monthly Archives: September 2014

We Sail Tonight For Singapore

Not so long ago, Sean and I were student teaching in Madison, Wisconsin. When it came time to start the job search, we applied to the Singaporean public school system. Trust me, it felt as surreal as it sounds.  This was before we knew about overseas recruitment fairs. A professor of Sean’s recommended we apply to Singapore, and that she’d put in a good word for us. (As she “knew people” in Singapore.)

We sent our paperwork off and waited a few days. To our surprise, we received an email telling us to go to the Town Bank building on the capitol square at 10:30 at night. There, we would buzz the entrance to the complex, be led to an empty conference room on the seventh floor in the pitch dark, and conduct a video interview with the Singapore school board. We did all this, and were offered a position within the week.

Why am I telling you this? Because we visited Singapore this past month for the first time, and I couldn’t help but think about how our lives would have been different had we accepted the job.

Not only that, but my student teaching supervisor kept singing the Tom Waits song, “We sail tonight for Singapore” as we contemplated accepting the job or not.

Needless to say, there was something that didn’t feel quite right, and we politely declined the offer.

After tasting Singapore’s food and walking there streets, maybe I would have said differently all those years ago…

 

IMG_1719We were there for a conference, and settled into a nearby hawker center for a drink and an Indian meal. Tiger beer is the iconic beverage of Singapore, and due to its international nature, Indian food can be found on every menu.

 

IMG_1722A hawker center is a bit like an open-air food court. People order an iced tea, a meal, or just a snack and rest for a while on the plastic chairs.

IMG_1728As Asian as the hawker center felt, there was so much that was British and colonial about the country.  Such as the absurd pictures for bathrooms in the hotel.

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IMG_1736A morning photo down the street as we walked to the subway. Yes, Singapore is as clean as it’s rumored to be. Also, everything is in English, and the cars are impeccably clean and modern. I think it must be a literalcrime to own an old car in Singapore.

 

IMG_1743The famous “No durians” subway sign! You actually cannot take a durian on the subway. The poor, ostracized fruit. I feel bad for the durian; it is the object of everyone’s contempt despite its luscious meaty interior and pungent, unique aroma.

But seriously. The smell of a durian is like boiling a pot of gym socks, onions, vomit, and sangria. Anthony Bourdain described it as “Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.” And he loves durian.

Me? I’ve only ever had durian ice cream. And I liked it. A lot. Honest! It was that type of flavor where the initial taste is slightly repulsive, but the mouthfeel and lingering aftereffect is mouthwateringly curious. You aren’t quite sure whether you like it or not, but you can’t stop eating. I once read an article about a couple who moved to Southeast Asia because they became obsessed with the taste of durian. (You can read more here.) Animals can detect the smell half a mile away.

No wonder it’s forbidden on public transportation.

IMG_1751Another Singaporean classic: The Marina Bay Sands Hotel.

IMG_1788We settled into a restaurant across the water from the hotel and watched the evening light and sound show. All of Singapore felt a little like Disneyland.

IMG_1794After our final day of the conference, we had an evening to explore. As our hotel was in the shopping district, we decided to take it easy and see what the surrounding streets had to offer. It was a bit like being downtown Chicago.

IMG_18077-Eleven is another Southeast Asian ubiquity. We don’t have them yet in Cambodia, but their presence everywhere else is simply astounding.

IMG_1811When it was time for dinner, we went to a food court. That’s right, a food court. Why, you ask? So we could order the following:

Kim’s Meal: Barley tea and nasi lemak (The national dish consisting of coconut rice, fried fish and chicken, and spicy sauce.)

Sean: Pink juice and pepperoni pizza

Like I said, Singapore has something for everybody.
IMG_1824To end our multicultural evening, we stumbled across an outdoor art exhibit. Just when you think you can’t get any more “Wow, I’m really in Asia,” you see a giant glittering dragon. I love it.

 

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Rip Van Thailand

We’re back with another blockbuster video from the swaying palms of Southeast Asia. Sean has seamlessly spliced and sewn together snippets of our Khmer New Year holiday to Koh Kut, and we present them to you today. It’s a bit old, thus the title Rip Van Thailand, but a tale is just as great centuries later. Ask the Romans.

A quick refresher on where we went:
Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 7.28.52 PMWe drove from Phnom Penh to the Thai border, then took a boat to Koh Kood(Kut). I marked Ho Chi Minh and Bangkok’s general area to give you a scope of where we were.

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We had a leisurely trip to the border, with lots of rest and play along the way. Here we are kicking back at Nomad’s Land on Koh Totang. It was the peak of the hot season, so we moved very slowly and swam as often as possible.

 

Once we crossed the Thai border, we took a two hour boat ride to Koh Kut. IMG_1404Stepping onto the pier, I realized where the dried shrimp in our spring rolls come from.
IMG_1406I never dreamed there were so many shrimp hanging out where I snorkel!

 

Then, we had five days of bliss. I couldn’t get enough of Koh Kut. I daresay I liked it more than Koh Chang. But it’s tough when you’re comparing paradise with Shangri-La.

Here’s the video. Be sure to watch it in the highest resolution you can. We shot it in 1080p:

 

Categories: Cambodia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cambodian BBQ & Window Fishing

Hello loyal readers! Happy September! Things are full swing here in Cambodia; rain has begun to fall steadily from the sky, students file in and out of classrooms, and I continue to add too many chilies to my cooking. (No joke—Cambodia’s bird’s eye chillies are the spiciest things on the planet. I can’t even touch one without breaking into a sweat for hours afterward.)

 

In my free time I’ve managed to get around the city a bit and have a good time. Last week I met up with my friends for trivia night at The Willow. Beforehand we had dinner at Sovanna 2, a Cambodian BBQ joint across from the trivia bar.

IMG_8765Your typical Cambodian meal will have a cooler full of ice next to your table, extra soda, water, or beer that you help yourself to, and a trash bin on the floor for you to discard your napkins or chicken bones into.

IMG_8766We had quite the spread. Fried rice, sautéed morning glory, grilled squid, it was delicious.

On another note, I wanted to share a great blog with you that I recently discovered. My friend Jared—also a Madisonian at heart—has lived in Cambodia for quite a few years now. He was having dinner with us at Sovanna 2, and he told me that he lost a package of Johnsonville brats. Now, as you know, Johnsonville brats are one step away from divine holiness for a Wisconsinite. Luckily, they can be bought here in Cambodia (which is Sean’s favorite weeknight meal, second only to a fast food burger from Lucky Burger…).

Anyway, Jared went on to tell me how his package of brats went missing, and, well, you’ll have to read the rest.

Check out his blog, and the story, here: http://www.jaredscambodia.com/blog/2014/09/cambodian-window-fishing/ 

 

I’ll be back soon, with more photos and stories about Cambodia! 

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Thunderstorms in Cambodia

Cambodians are incredibly afraid of being struck by lightning. I used to think nothing of it, until this afternoon.

There was a torrential rainstorm, and the streets flooded up to the wheel-wells of the cars.

The temperature dropped a few degrees, and the wind started blowing.

This is all good and normal, even so far as the lightning. We are used to hearing thunder rip through the sky after a brilliant flash of white, but now that we’ve moved up to the seventh floor, we’ve taken on a entirely new perspective.

Check out a quick video I took when we got home from school. 

Can you spy…

…the cars and motos creating wakes of water in the street?
…how ridiculously long the thunder lasts for?
…the great view out our bedroom window?

Categories: Cambodia | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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