Posts Tagged With: Guangzhou

Cambodia: It’s “Phnom”enal!


Here we are—the first official post from Cambodia! It’s currently 1pm on Saturday and I finished a morning of running errands to the market, visiting the bank, and eating the most delicious noodle lunch with a fresh iced coffee. There is so much to share with you, I barely know where to begin. It’s probably best to start with the beginning.

The very beginning.

The flight from Chicago to Phnom Penh that went horribly awry…. but really not that bad.

“Hold up, Kim.” You say. “How do you pronounce that city? Phnom Penh?” Well, that’s a good question. We’ve come to determine that, phonetically spelled, it’s “Puh-nom Pen”, with the “puh” at the beginning being very slight. Got it? Good. Now, to the flight!

The route:
Chicago – Vancouver
Vancouver – Guangzhou, China
Guangzhou – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

We flew to Vancouver, Canada from Chicago on Air Canada without a hitch. Once we got there we found that our flight to Guangzhou was delayed… 9 hours. Due to inbound weather in China.  We would miss our connecting flight to Phnom Penh, and would have to stay in a hotel in China. Not only that, but the China Southern airlines personnel didn’t believe we could fly to Cambodia and stay there for 9 months on a business visa. There were about four hours of intense “if you can fly” conversations happening between us and them. I had to give them scanned pdf copies of our school contracts, emails between me and my principal, and even show them websites that said “Yes, you can purchase a visa on arrival and extend it once it country”. It was certainly an exercise in patience! Regardless, we were allowed to fly. Once we got out of Vancouver, the flight to Guangzhou was seamless.

We arrived in China at around midnight, and were set to fly out at 9am the next morning. After a nauseatingly long wait at passport control—in a corral with the thirty other passengers who had to be put up in a hotel—we were loaded onto a bus with chochet seat covers blaring Chinese pop music and whisked out of the airport into the empty streets of China. I honestly feared we would never make it back to the airport. After a seemingly endless bus ride, we arrived in front of a massive, Las Vegas-esque hotel. At this point, we were beyond confused, and just accepted it all as “Ok. What’s next. It’s all good.” We learned a few valuable lessons in Kuwait to not let the unknown and the nonsensical bother us. Life is much more enjoyable that way!

The hotel was surprisingly luxurious. I have to hand it to China Southern Airlines, they took really good care of us.

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Our hotel in Guangzhou, China. We felt like high rollers in a Vegas casino.

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The early morning view out of our hotel window onto Guangzhou, China. Look at all the green!

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The hotel had a “Western breakfast” that China Southern included in our stay. At this point, we were loving this layover! If you notice my plate though… the idea of a Western breakfast also includes noodles, rice, egg rolls, greens, and savory pastries. Sean played it safe with a banana and hard boiled eggs. Me? I stuffed my face with the unknown. One of my favorite things about the buffet was a large sign that said, “Caution: Do not eat too much spicy food on empty stomach. Will cause sickness.” Didn’t stop me! After thirty hours of transit, it hit the spot.

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Our hotel in Guangzhou. Told you it was large-scale!

At eight in the morning we loaded on the airport shuttle bus. We had no problem checking in, and before we knew it, we were landing in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

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I still love looking outside to the view of tree-lined streets, temples, blue skies, and lots and lots of smiling people. This picture was taken on the roof of our hotel in a nice district of the city. We stayed in a hotel for two nights while we looked for an apartment. I have been glowing ever since.

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Since parts of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam were once occupied by the French as ‘French Indochina’, there is a lot of French architecture, cuisine, and language that remains.  Many of the government documents are in Khmer and French. (The Cambodian language is Khmer, which is actually pronounced “Kmai”. Check out this fantastic pronunciation website: http://www.forvo.com/word/khmer/#hu ) Anyways, the architecture of our hotel felt very French. Also, most every place makes great espresso, coffee, and pastries. Francophiles, come visit us!

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The patio of our hotel, where we had breakfast. Again, look at all the green!

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The hotel, Anise Hotel, had these pots all over, which I loved. They were floating flowers and tons of iridescent fish!
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After successful apartment hunting, we rewarded ourselves with a smoothie and a beer. You don’t have to guess which of us had the smoothie.

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One of many temples in Phnom Penh. This one is named Wat Langka. Wat means ‘temple’.  It was established in 1442 as a meeting place for Cambodian and Sri Lankan monks, which is how it got its name. It is one of the oldest temples in Phnom Penh.

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Me in front of Independence Monument, a significant landmark of the city. It is the center of a massive roundabout that I dread ever having to navigate when I’m behind the wheel…
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As we were walking around the downtown of Phnom Penh, we jumped inside the nearest cafe to avoid the rain and have a late lunch. I took this photo because I love all of the shrines that are in every establishment you will ever visit. (The small building in the back, surrounded by the flowers.) You will often see food and drinks, like a pastry and a cup of coffee, at the base of the shrine as an offering.

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The food was spectacular. I love Asian food, and Cambodia doesn’t dissappoint. Oh, and the cost? This bowl was $2.50. The beer was $1.

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This is a picture from our neighborhood. We live in the Toul Tom Poung district, which is a quiet neighborhood with a fantastic market named the Russian Market. It is called this because Russians used to frequent it in the 70’s. We found a place with a great price and a lot nicer than the apartments in the other neighborhoods. Let’s take a look at a map of the city…

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We’re not too far from the school, and only a $2.50 tuk tuk ride to the riverside. In Toul Tom Poung there are great markets, spas, cafes, and quiet streets. BKK is really popular with expats, and as a consequence it’s pretty expensive to live there, and there are touristy-shops and foreigners everywhere. I hope that doesn’t make me sound snobby, but one thing I liked about Kuwait was that we were the only Westerners, like, everywhere. It felt so exciting and romantic to walk around the whole country and be surrounded by the unfamiliar!

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A street in our neighborhood. The guy on the right is selling fresh pineapples, already peeled! If you notice his hat and scarf, it’s a popular thing for people to wear here if they are working outside all the time. It prevents sunburn and heat exhaustion.

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The roof of our apartment. Not bad, huh?

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Looking towards the river.

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We spend a lot of time on the roof. Wouldn’t you?

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Sometimes it feels like an infinity pool…
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Here’s the interior of our place. We were just getting settled in when I took these pictures. It came fully furnished!

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The living room and balcony. Every morning I keep waking up and asking Sean, “Is this real?”

My next blog will be about the Russian Market and all it has to offer. The winding passageways, smells, sights, sounds, it is a sensory overload. I can’t wait to share it with you.

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The Art of Racing in the Beartooth Mountains

All right, all right, all right. Big changes here at Aloha Kuwait. After much counseling from my loved ones, I’ve reconsidered changing my blog title. You are now visiting the new and improved—or more geographically accurate—blog, “Angkors Away: Teaching in Cambodia, Trekking the Planet”. Love it, hate it, let me know in the comments below! The web address will always be alohakuwait.wordpress.com so don’t worry. You can also still access all the old blog posts here on this site. We just decided to create a blog title that fused our present with our past. Hope you continue to enjoy reading as much as I do sharing!

Onto the news…

I’m currently reading a book called “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” by Garth Stein. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Been on myriad best-seller lists, I stumbled on it through the $3.99 specials in the iBooks store. The reason—I think—the book is so popular is that it’s told through the perspective of a dog, and has some pretty profound realizations on reality.

Seems fitting, right? That man’s (and woman’s) best friend holds the wisdom of the world. But, some dogs seem more promising than others, if you know what I mean. We all know the difference between wise, sage dogs and the crazy, glossy-eyed dogs. Kind of like people, I guess. But I digress.

About half-way through the novel the dog, Enzo, reflects on humankind’s obsession with time:

“People are always worried about what’s happening next. They often find it difficult to stand still, to occupy the now without worrying about the future. People are not generally satisfied with what they have; they are very concerned with what they are going to have”

I’m sitting on a plane to Guangzhou, China. My summer in Wisconsin is officially over. Sean and I are about to begin the saga of our travels in Southeast Asia. Enzo’s reflections affected me so much because we are flying, hundreds of miles an hour, towards a future we have been obsessing over for months.

When I was in Kuwait, I obsessed about Wisconsin.

When I was in Wisconsin, I obsessed about the upcoming responsibilities of Southeast Asia.

Now, on the plane, I am sorting through photographs of the epic summer that it was, and longing for the past.

Life sure moves quickly, doesn’t it? I am thankful for my blog so that I can take moments of my life to reflect on the memories I’ve made, and the beauty of all that surrounds me. Hopefully I can be more like Enzo and not worry about what’s happening next. If you genuinely—and prudently—live in the moment, the future will take care of itself.

On to the photographs! I will wrap up this summer in two posts on the Beartooth Mountains. I hope to be updating you on Cambodia within the next week, so I want to share the events of the summer before moving on.

It’s an annual… journey. Trip. Excursion. Jaunt. Wandering. Odyssey. Pilgrimage.  Yes, certainly a pilgrimage. “A journey to a place associated with someone or something well known or respected.” Our annual pilgrimage is to the mountains. My family and I started our pilgrimage to the Beartooth mountains by driving the long and not-so-lonely road from Madison to Montana along I90.

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Our first stop was in the National Grasslands outside of Badlands National Park in South Dakota. We went dispersed camping, which is when a national forest or national grassland allows camping spread over a wide area, pretty much anywhere you’d like so long as it’s not too near a busy road or destroying the natural landscape. The dogs ran, we sat outside watching the sun set, and my mom found a blooming cactus she wanted to take home, hence the plastic bag.

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These blooming cacti were all over. You really had to watch where you were walking!

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Next we made our annual stop at Wall Drug. Having started as a drugstore offering free ice water in the early 1900’s, it is now a popular stop on folks’ journeys West. I love the jackalope and the five cent coffee.

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Our final destination was Cooke City, Montana.  It’s a tiny town between I94 and Yellowstone National Park. The Beartooths offer wilderness areas, high mountain peaks, waterfalls, cascades, and great camping and hiking. We loved the Bearclaw  café as they had great pastries and free wifi.

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The family with a nice vista of the Beartooth range. The pointy mountain is Pilot Peak.

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The most famous aspect of the Beartooth region is Beartooth Pass. It’s a highway that runs from through the heart of the mountains, and the pass tops out at over 10,000 feet!

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Our first day hike was to Round Lake. (Exciting name, huh?) We wanted to test our gear before the five-day backpacking trip we were planning to undertake. That’s also what’s great about National Forests and wilderness areas—dogs can hike on the trail with you.

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My Dad picked up a fishing license in Cooke City and caught a ton of beautiful trout.

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Emily and I marveling at the grandeur.

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Along the Beartooth Highway, there is the beautifully restored Clay Butte fire tower. It has been restored through donations and using all original materials. If you notice, I am sitting on a stool with glass cups on the bottom. This was for when the ranger had to be in the fire tower during a lightening strike. The glass protected the ranger from electrocution!

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Emily on the lookout balcony of the Clay Butte fire tower.

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Then we went on a five-day backpacking trip. BUT, that excitement must be reserved for next time. There is a lot of turbulence, and I’ve been on this plane for nine hours with no end in sight. Is this an example of when I should be living in the moment?

See you again soon!

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