Posts Tagged With: FCC

Phnom Penh Evening Walking Tour

Happy new year! I hope you are having a good start to 2015. Here in Phnom Penh, things couldn’t be better. With the weather hovering around 75 degrees and a drop in humidity, it is absolutely idyllic outside. There’s a slight breeze at all times, the sky is clear, and the streets are begging to be walked.

So, Sean and I decided to spend our Friday night making a small walking tour of Phnom Penh.

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We parked our car at Independence Monument at the bottom of the map. Normally, Sean doesn’t enjoy walking in Phnom Penh because there’s a serious lack of sidewalks, which amounts to having to dodge motos, bicycles, dogs, and potholes constantly. However, our friend lives downtown and says she loves to walk her dog around the parks in the center of the city. Sean and I decided to see how far we could get, of course with dinner and a few card games mixed in.

The map above is the route we ended up taking, which, for scale purposes, came out to be a 2.5 mile loop. I would absolutely recommend you print out a copy of this map the next time you’re thinking of going on an evening walk in Phnom Penh. It was fantastic!

Here are some photos from our stroll, presented in the order that we came across them in our loop.

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After parking our car, we found a great silhouette of Independence Monument and the King Sihanouk memorial.

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The park was bursting with people exercising! Apparently 5pm on a Friday evening is not only the time to work out, but also the time to find out how much you can indulge over the weekend. We saw at least three people sitting with a scale, ready to weigh you for a small fee. How could I resist? Turns out, it was the best ten cents I spent all day! (Unless she rigged the scale to always give its patrons good news…)

IMG_2380If there’s one thing to be said about Cambodians, it’s that they love games. From cards to soccer to badminton, they love hanging out and playing games with each other. There’s even a game that involves throwing your sandals back and forth down the street, which I still haven’t quite figured out yet. These guys in the photo above are playing a game that involves using your feet to loft a heavy-duty shuttlecock back and forth between each other.

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And of course, perhaps other than games, Cambodians love sitting outside with each other and snacking. Food is at the heart of their culture, which makes Cambodia’s culture dear to my heart.

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Another exercising phenomenon is that of the group cardio dance classes. All you have to do is show up at dawn or dusk to an open area in the city, and you’ll find a stereo, a dance instructor, and a bunch of men and women ready to get their groove on.

What follows next is a series of photos around the north end of Wat Bottom park and the Royal Palace. There’s no other way to caption each of these photos except to say that they’re stunning, so I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

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As sun began to set, Sean and I looked for a place to take a break and play cards. The riverside is famous with tourists for its string of endless restaurants, massage parlors, and promenade free from traffic for walking and socializing. While we never actually eat dinner on the riverside, we love to have a drink and watch the sunset from one of the many rooftop bars.

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This place was a great pick, as it was five stories high—three stories beyond the height of the popular FCC—and completely deserted. The name? Starry Place. It’s located across from the FCC and above Touk. We had fantastic views across the Tonle Sap, and found out that the Sokha hotel is actually now complete! (The giant, brightly lit building.) I hope to go over there some time this month and check out the views from their roof.

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This place, Starry Night, was pretty eclectic in terms of decoration. It is certainly not a polished, highly trafficked tourist hot spot. Which, obviously, is why we loved it. (And the hundreds of plants with Christmas lights!)

After the riverside, we walked back towards street 178 for dinner at Tamarind. They also have a lovely rooftop terrace, which, in 70 degree weather, I wished I had a sweater!

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Sean had his usual three-cheese pasta, and I had a greek salad. (Which turned out to be the absolute best greek salad I’ve had in the city!)

I hope you take the time to get out and enjoy this lovely weather. If you’re reading this in a colder climate, crank up the heat, make yourself a pineapple smoothie, and ask your loved one to give you a foot massage. Your imagination can do the rest!

Stay tuned for a blog about the new Sokha hotel!

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Categories: Cambodia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How to Spend Friday Night In Phnom Penh

It’s Sunday afternoon, and I am relaxing with a steaming hot cup of tea and reflecting on the weekend. The market has been visited, the pool has been swum, the yoga has been flexed, and—like any Sunday afternoon—the laundry has been washed.

As it is the middle of October, and the rest of the world is on the pumpkin spice craze, I want to take a minute to boast a bit about Southeast Asia.

I can eat pumpkin year round. And I do.

I get pumpkin smoothies.

Pumpkin tea.

Pumpkin curry.

Pumpkin muffins.

Pumpkin pancakes.

Pumpkin egg rolls.

Pumpkin custard.

Pumpkin ice cream.

Cambodia loves pumpkin. They don’t season it with nutmeg and cinnamon, but rather treat it as a melon or gourd, which can take on a variety of complex flavors. My favorite method of pumpkin consumption is the pumpkin smoothie, and Sean’s is chicken-pumpkin egg rolls from Sesame Noodle Bar. We are on the pumpkin bandwagon as much as you are, but we are rockin’ the pumpkin craze 365 days a year.

Moving on, this weekend was pretty great. It was nothing out of the ordinary, but I made sure I brought my camera out with me so I’d have something to share with you.

But first… a picture of a Kampot sunset:

IMG_2002This was snapped last weekend as we drove down to Kampot for a short getaway. I didn’t have another blog to fit it into, so I thought it would be a nice kick-off to this one.

Anyways, Sean and I went out last night for dinner and some live music. Our friend Chino is in a band, and they’re getting pretty popular here in Phnom Penh.

I had read about a Chinese place that had good food, so we headed up Monivong to check them out.

IMG_2330The name of the restaurant is Jiang Ren Su Jia, and is near Central Market on Monivong. The place was downright CHINESE, man. Everything in there screamed China: the customers, the walls, the menu, the food, the pictures, the tea. Sean was not amused of my tourist-photography, but I had to document our visit to share with you.

IMG_2329We got in a little over our heads with food. Everything on the menu was between $2-5, so we thought the portions were going to be small. Starting by the teapot and working clockwise we have roasted eggplant with chiles, peanuts, pork and chive dumplings, sweet and sour chicken, heavenly chili oil in a saucer, and crispy spring onion pancakes.

The verdict? I loved it. Sean wouldn’t go back. So I suppose that’s 50/50, right? Which means you’ll just have to try it for yourself to find out.

After dinner we headed over to the Foreign Correspondent Club’s property, The Mansion.

The-mansionA historical gem, The Mansion is a relic from the French colonial era of Cambodia. It was built in the early 1900’s, and was a private residence for 60 years. Imagine strolling those halls in your bathrobe! When the Khmer Rouge took over, they looted the place, but left it standing and intact. It currently hosts live parties and an evening cocktail hour, but the Foreign Correspondent’s Club is looking to sell it.

Here’s another photo from the Khmer Times article about the sale1406223532If you find yourself in Phnom Penh any time soon, you absolutely have to visit. Who knows what the future of this building may be, but for now, it’s a piece of living history.
Our friend’s band, Bacano, is a Latin Rock band here in Phnom Penh. Check out an article on them here, and here’s their Facebook page. In case you’re wondering, the word bacano is a Colombian term for something very good, cool, or nice.

IMG_2336Here’s a few shots of them from last night at The Mansion. Normally the bands play outside, but there torrential rain so they moved the event into the dark and mysterious cavern of The Mansion itself.
IMG_2338They’ve got an amazing mix of culture in their band. Starting from left to right, the guitarist is Russian/Chilean/Swedish, the bassist is Cambodian, the singer/guitarist is Colombian, the female drummer is Filipino, and the guy on the djembe is Pakistani.

IMG_2344Everybody was rocking out by the end of the night.

So, there you have it. A typical weekend evening in Phnom Penh. Good food, good company, good music.

 

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Tuk Tuk Monopoly In Phnom Penh

You had to read that title twice, didn’t you? It is almost like trying to speak a different language. Catching a tuk tuk in Phnom Penh, okay, that makes sense. But Monopoly? Let me slow down.

 

First, you must remember that this is a tuk tuk:

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Second, you must remember that this is Phnom Penh:

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Third, if you have never played Monopoly…

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Now, let’s get started. As a staff ice-breaker and introduction to the city for new teachers, our school held a “tuk tuk Monopoly” race throughout Phnom Penh. We were given a game board, and instead of “Park Place” or “Boardwalk”, we had “Wat Phnom” and “Malis Restaurant”. The team who visited the most locations and racked up the highest points was the winner.

Never one to refuse a challenge, I met with my team at the start time, and we worked with our tuk tuk driver to map out a route of the city.

Our driver was amazing. The best driver I have ever had in Cambodia.

I’m not kidding.

When I first moved here, and had no idea where anything was, I would tell a tuk tuk driver, “Bouchon wine bar, please. Do you know where it is?” And he would politely nod, yes, of course. Then, thirty minutes later, I would be outside the number one night club in Phnom Penh, Pontoon.  I quickly learned that the tuk tuks know every single Wat and pagoda, but if you ask them about some swanky, foreign gastropub, obviously they’re gonna draw a blank. So, I learned to speak Khmer, mapped out the pagodas in my head, and have no more problems.

But this tuk tuk driver, he was in another league.

This guy knew every street, every bar, every cafe, every landmark. And he mapped out our route for us, in complete perfection.

I would mention three or four places we needed to go, and he would say, “Well, first let’s go to the riverside, because we can hit three of those places in order. Then, we’ll head over to the place you mentioned, and then down to the final stop. What else is on the gameboard? Oh, Sorya Mall? We can put that second. But if you want to get a picture of Raffles hotel then we need to go there before we go down to Central Market.”

The best part? His name is Bond. Jame Bond.

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I took one of his cards before he left. With his photo on the back, he makes sure you never forget his name or his face. This guy, he was legendary. If you are ever in Cambodia, do yourself a favor and call Jame Bond.

So, as I was saying, we—and by we, I mean Jame—mapped out our route, jumped onto the tuk tuk, and sped off down the congested streets in quest of first place.

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We had around three hours to check off as many places as possible.  I mapped our journey for you to get a better picture of where we went. I mean, just look at that route! Absolutely no back-tracking, no unnecessary streets, just seamless travel. If you ask me, Mr. Bond should become an urban planner.

0Our team. Meli, next to me, teaches Language Support in the Primary School. Mark, in the blue, is a grade 6 teacher. John, in the white, is our Secondary school guidance counselor. (And is from Wisconsin!) Jame, in the light blue, is navigating the streets. We had a dream team, let me tell you!

1The rule of the game was that we had to get a picture of ourselves in front of each location, with some sort of sign labeling the place. Our first stop, as you can see, is Russian Market. (Toul Tom Poung market, in Khmer.)

 

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Then we headed over to the newest place in Phnom Penh, Aeon mall. (You can start to see a theme of the photos… from here on out it’s all shots of us standing in front of something.)

3Then, to Malis, a famous Khmer restaurant.

4Metahouse, a popular place to see foreign films. Jame took all of our photos—pretty soon we got into a fluid routine of jumping out of the tuk tuk, snapping the photo, and racing back in.

5One of the “bonus” activities, to win extra points, was to get a photo with a monk. With the help of Jame, that was no problem.

 

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Then it was off to the National Museum.


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And one of the most famous expat places in Phnom Penh, the Foreign Correspondents Club. The most legendary bar in Phnom Penh, you can read the scandalous backstory of the place here.

 

 

 

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Wat Ounalom.

 

 

 

9The token Irish pub of Cambodia, Paddy Rice. (Where we ran into a teacher from another team who had long given up hope at winning tuk tuk Monopoly. He should have joined Jame Bond.)

 

 

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A brief stop over at Artisan’s Angkor, a social business where local artists sell their work.

 

 

11Wat Phnom! My favorite wat (temple) in the city.

 

12Doors, known for their live music and great brunch. (Doesn’t this photo look like an album cover?!)
13Funny story about this photo. This is the Elephant Bar at the Raffles Hotel. We were terrified to go inside because there was a rumored “policeman” somewhere in the city for the Monopoly game. (Remember when you played the game and got sent to jail?) If we were caught by the policeman, we had to head straight back to Northbridge, a thirty minute ride, get a signed form, and then head back into the city. So we snapped a quick picture and left as fast as possible!

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Central Market.

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Sorya shopping center, near Central Market. They’ve got a nice food court on their top level, most memorable for me when I dumped a 16 ounce avocado smoothie down the front of my shirt.

 

16The French cultural center.
17Deco, which has fantastic microbrew beer on tap from Cervisia brewery, an up-and-coming brewery here in Phnom Penh.

18Tabitha foundation. One of the more famous NGO’s, which has built Nokor Tep hospital, a free hospital for women in Cambodia.

And then, the finish line! We rolled in with five minutes to spare. And guess what? Thanks to our diverse team knowledge and Jame Bond’s skills, we actually came in first place!  We earned the most points by means of visiting the most places, getting the most bonus shots, and all showing up in a fancy dress. (I left that photo out though, for the integrity of my lovely coworkers.)

The bottom line? Next time you’re in Cambodia, use this map as a guide for all things local, and call Jame Bond.

Categories: Cambodia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bicycling Around Phnom Penh

 

Bon Om Thouk, the water festival. Happening every November, Bon Om Thouk marks the reversal of the flow of the Tonle Sap River. I know, sounds crazy. A three-day festival that draws millions of people to the city from the countryside. Boat races, costumes, parties.

This year, it didn’t happen. We still got off school for the holiday, but the boat races and the celebrations were cancelled. Why? Some say it was due to political instability. Some say it was due to the extensive flooding.

What to do with a five-day weekend? Sean and I wanted to go to an island, but were scared by impending storms. It was the weekend right after Typhoon Haiyan, and Vietnam was getting hit pretty hard. The island we wanted to visit (Koh Rong) is a two-hour boat ride from the mainland. We thought it best to hold off ’till clearer forecasts.

So, we lived like royalty in Phnom Penh, exploring parts of the city we hadn’t made time to visit before. We left the city the second half of the break, but the first half we had a lot of fun being visitors in our own town.

On the first day, we headed down the riverside and rented two bicycles.
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The weather was perfect! Bright blue skies mixed with fluffy clouds.
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We rented two bicycles from The Vicious Cycle/Grasshopper Adventure Tours. For $7 each, we got first-class Giant mountain bikes with great suspension and tires. Those things were beastly! We felt like we could take on the world… or Cambodia for a day, at least.

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We cruised around the riverfront for a while, enjoying how easy it was to zip up and down the promenade.
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A regular street in Cambodia, seen from my bicycle.

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We stopped at every ‘photo opportunity’… I was nervous in this picture because you aren’t supposed to stand on the grass in the parks. I know! They have concrete paths and nice benches, with perfectly manicured lawns. In every park, you only ever see people on the concrete; it is illegal to walk on the grass! I don’t think you’d ever get a ticket, but I do think people would give you some sideways glances. Sean really wanted me to pose with the elephant, though, so I sprinted into the frame, the scofflaw that I am…

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Our plan all along was to get to one of the islands on the Mekong. We got directions from the bike rental place, and headed to the car ferry. It was a busy day; I didn’t know how they could fit everyone on that tiny boat!

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But they managed just fine. A twenty motos squished up against Camry bumping a Lexus next to a Toyota Hilux in front of thirty people. And two foreigners with fancy bikes.

We thought we knew exactly where we were going… to the island… We had grandiose plans to go to Koh Dach, or Silk Island.

We couldn’t have been more wrong:

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We biked down the riverside, and hopped on a ferry. We ended up in a remote area, thinking it was a seldom-visited island. Nope. Just normal Cambodia outside of the bustling center that is Phnom Penh. We biked around, waiting to find the ferry to the ‘next island’, where we thought Silk Island would be waiting for us. This all could have obviously been avoided had I checked Google Maps.

 

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Regardless, we had fun bicycling Cambodia’s countryside! This phenomenon is often seen, but I haven’t blogged about it yet. Weddings and birthday parties are thrown on the street, outside of the house. You set up the tent and tables in the middle of the street, and anyone passing just moves around your party. Isn’t it convenient? You want to have a party? Why not just throw it in the street? It’s another example of how laid back everyone is here. I love it!

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Bicycling the remote wilds of the Cambodian countryside… (Not an island.)

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We stumbled on a cock fight! Sean snuck into the melee to see the dueling roosters. I was the only woman there so I hung back and took photos. How many kids in trees can you spot?
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And then we found Smango, the bicycle oasis. It is a resort/restaurant our friend told us to look for. Unfortunately our sweet friend also thought she was on Silk Island. Looks like this blog is going to crush many dreams…

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But the food at Smango was amazing! Sean had sweet and sour chicken, and I had Banh Chao. I’ve had it before, and I always enjoy it when I order it. It’s a delicious rice milk/coconut pancake filled with bean sprouts, sauteed veggies, and meat if you want it. You then tear pieces off, dip them in a peanut sauce, and wrap it up with cucumber and lettuce leaves. Yum!

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Smango had a pool, too, but we were looking forward to getting back to our apartment and taking a dip in our own pool. We had many kilometers left to pedal!


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We found a more major road that went through small villages. Can you spy the woman in the background balancing the basket on her head?
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Once we decided to head back, we crossed the Japanese Friendship bridge to get back into the city. This bridge crosses the Tonle Sap, which switches directions in November.

We still had a few hours to spend before we returned the bikes, so we headed to Wat Phnom, the major temple in the city.

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Not quite sure what she’s selling. If you know, please post in the comments!

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Me in front of Wat Phnom. It has a large clock on the grass in front of the temple. Wat means temple, and Phnom means hill. It is the major temple in Phnom Penh.
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I really love Wat Phnom because it has a large shaded park all around it. You can stroll thrpugh the park, look at the temple, have a picnic, or watch the sellers. I find it really peaceful!

IMG_8416As the sun got lower in the sky, we made our way back to the riverside to return the bikes. I spotted this building, which screamed French architecture. Cambodia was actually the “French Protectorate of Cambodia” from 1867 to 1953. You can still see a lot of French architecture, and excellent coffee and baguettes are actually more common than you’d think!

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After dropping off the bikes, Sean and I headed to a balcony with a view.

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Anyone who’s ever been to Phnom Penh has probably been to the yellow building, having the opposite view of this one. The yellow building is the FCC, or Foreign Correspondents Club. It is the historic bar of the city, check out a great article on its history here. They’ve also got a great, half-price happy hour. We chose the bar across the street though, for a change of pace. Which did we like better? You’ll have to visit yourself to decide…
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We were lucky we returned our bikes when we did. It looked like a storm was brewing. We savored a cold drink, an order of french fries, and the view over the Mekong river.

It was a great first day to a vacation. However, now we have to go find the real Silk Island….

Categories: Cambodia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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