Posts Tagged With: Khmer

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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Visiting Yoot’s Village: An Hour Out Of Phnom Penh

Happy May! I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but it’s been over 100° every day here in Phnom Penh. Yep, 100°. Humidity, you ask? Isn’t it also humid in Southeast Asia? A simple Google search informs me that humidity is currently at 62%. 

100° Fahrenheit with 62% humidity. If you don’t know much about science—like me—let me fill you in. The hotter the air is, the more water it can contain. As the temperature rises, the humidity will feel worse, even at the same percentage. So, 40% humidity feels a lot worse when the air is 80 degrees than when it’s 45 degrees. Here’s a screenshot of Accuweather’s “Real Feel” for the current weather in Phnom Penh:

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And if that STILL doesn’t make sense, let me explain it this way. Turn on your shower. Crank the heat up as high as it will go. Close the door to your bathroom. Walk away. Enter your bedroom. Put on the following garments: wool socks, sweatpants, turtleneck, snuggie, gloves, scarf, hat. Next, complete fifty-five jumping jacks. After the jumping jacks have been completed, locate your one of the following items: cooking oil, vaseline, Chapstick, or mayonnaise.  Rub selected item all over any exposed parts of your body. (Presumably your face.) After all of the above events, approximately twenty minutes should have passed. Return to your bathroom. Is the shower still cascading steaming water out of the faucet? Has the room become a sauna of mist and heat? Good. Shut the bathroom door. Sit on the floor of the bathroom. Close your eyes. Imagine palm trees.

 

But this blog isn’t all about the current heat situation of Cambodia. It is about the time we visited our friend’s village. It was a special day. Our first village visit, actually. And while the heat can melt my ice cream, it can’t melt my memories. (Thank you, thank you. I perform every Thursday.)

Our friends, Sarah and Yoot, invited us to Yoot’s village, located an hour’s drive outside of Phnom Penh. Yoot’s mother was holding a ceremony for her husband who has passed away. While he had passed away fifteen years ago, they didn’t have the large ceremony for him at that time. Now, even though years later, they held the large celebration on the anniversary of his death. Sean and I were flattered to be invited to go.

IMG_1208When we first arrived, we met friends and family. I handed my gift to the man receiving them, and in doing so received a blessing. The above photo is Yoot and I, about to hand my gift over to the man who was responsible for receiving them. As you can see, the woman in front of me is bowing to accept her post-gift blessing.

Another observation: Sarah asked us to wear a white top and black bottoms. Look how well I fit in!

 

IMG_1213We sat down to dinner shortly after arriving, and relaxed speaking with Sarah and Yoot. Family was everywhere, the sun was shining, and it was beautiful.
IMG_1214Yoot insisted on serving us, even though we asked him to sit and relax with us. He was pretty proud to host us on his home turf. He grew up in the house on the left, with the steps heading out of the photo. He and Sarah live in Phnom Penh and have for quite some time, and he said he loves to visit his home and share it with others. (Sean wanted me to mention how handsome Yoot is. Isn’t he a handsome man?)

 

IMG_1219And OH WOW, the food was fantastic! Truly. Fresh grilled fish, steamed rice, roast duck, sweet porridge, and deep-fried coconut rice for dessert. The fish was grilled to perfection. It was a divine combination of tastes and textures.

 

IMG_1222After dinner, we walked around the village a bit. (I told you we were well-dressed!) Yoot showed us the fish farm, where his family raises fish to sell in the city. They dug the well themselves, irrigated it with a nearby stream, and now have a lucrative fish business. They transport live fish into Phnom Penh every morning, where Yoot’s sister sells them at Orussey Market.

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1526429_627595060660675_801304591_nThe chanting went on all evening, with intervals of music. We knelt on the mats, hands folded in prayer, and took part in the ceremony for Yoot’s father.

 

IMG_1235Sean snapped a few photos of the instruments, which were absolutely fascinating.

IMG_1238And, of course, a Khmer party is not a party without dancing! We finished the evening with a few dances, which ranged from contemporary Khmer artists to American music from this decade. We didn’t want to leave, but we knew we had an hour’s drive back into the city ahead of us.

I can’t wait for another opportunity to visit Yoot’s family and village. It was amazing to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city, talk with lovely people, and relax with friends.

But maybe the temperature will have to drop a bit before we venture out of A/C again…

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Top Ten Travel Highlights of 2013

Happy New Year! I can’t believe it’s 2014 already. Since we’ve moved abroad, Sean and I have rang in the new year in Jordan, Egypt, and now Cambodia. As amazing as it is to keep looking forward to new adventures, it is equally important to reflect on all we’ve experienced. 2013 was pretty awesome. We moved from Kuwait to Cambodia. We celebrated our second year of marriage. Sean had knee surgery. I had wrist surgery. Sean tried pufferfish. I started eating chicken again. We watched Breaking Bad. But I digress.

Anyways, here are our travel highlights of 2013. There’s not really any particular order; it was near impossible to prioritize such perfect memories…  I hope you enjoy!

 2013 Travel Highlights

10. Playing disc golf with my family over the summer (Wisconsin)547901_4009921418603_1670924733_n

 

9. My last vegetarian thali at Banana Leaf (Kuwait)img_2404

 

8. Climbing Kep Mountain (Cambodia)10

 

7. Learning to speak Khmer (Cambodia)1185019_10201246178628688_1713916646_n

 

6. Eating giant prawns on the Koh Kong coast (Cambodia)img_6725

 

5. Becoming addicted to shiro and injera (Ethiopia)img_4913

 

4. Smoking shisha with my mother and the head of the Ministry of Communication (Kuwait)img_4726_2

 

3. Hiking five nights on The Beaten Path trail (Montana)15

 

2. Petting baboons in the Simien Mountains (Ethiopia)img_5656

 

1. Standing under the raging waterfall of Tad Yeang—Can you spot me? (Laos)img_7795-version-2

 

 

 

Categories: America, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Kuwait, Laos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bokor Mountain, Kampot

We love Cambodia. We find more and more to love every day. A few weeks ago, we found Bokor Mountain.

As you drive South from Phnom Penh, you begin to enter rolling hills. Pretty soon you come across taller hills, oddly shaped hills, hills with temples on top, hills begging you to explore them. It’s all part of the Elephant Mountains, a small mountain range in Southeastern Cambodia. The tallest mountain of them all is 3,547 feet.

And its name is Bokor Mountain.

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Sean did an amazing job shooting all these panoramas; click on them to open in a new tab. It’s better to see them on a bigger screen to get all the amazing detail.

These are all shot from the top of Bokor Mountain. You can see the ocean, and islands off in the distance. This part of the ocean is known as the Gulf of Thailand.

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Bokor, in Khmer, means cow hump. (Pronounced: Bo-Ko.) You know what I mean; those cows you see in the countryside of certain countries with the massive hump on their back. It is apparently incredibly delicious. Sean has been dying to try it ever since he saw his first cow with that massive chunk of meat rolling between its shoulders…

I’m pretty sure the type of cow see in Cambodia is a zebu, check it out here. They live primarly in this region, and are known for their massive hump between their shoulders, or in Khmer, their bokor.

While doing my research, I stumbled on a fascinating article about the Kouprey, Cambodia’s national animal. It is a species of cattle found only in Cambodia. I had no idea! They are a “wild, forest-dwelling bovine species” in the jungles of northern Cambodia. They are seldom seen anymore due to deforestation and hunting. They weren’t even discovered until 1937! Learn more about the kouprey here.

Anyways, back to our trip to Bokor Mountain…

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You can drive to the top of the mountain and hike around from there. If you look at the left side of the above picture, you can see all sorts of cars and people on picnics. We were there during a holiday, so it was a bit crowded. But that didn’t make it any less beautiful.

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This is the statue of Lok Yeay Mao, also at the top of the mountain. Lok is the most formal version of Mr. or Mrs. You use Lok when speaking to someone of extreme status (like royalty, or someone in a government role). Yeay Mao is an ancient hero and divinity for the Buddhists in Cambodia. She is seen as the protector of travelers. One legend says that she used to be married to Ta Krohom-Koh, literally “Grandpa Red Neck“. (I’m not kidding.) They used to live in the forests, and her husband left her alone once and a tiger devoured her. Another legend has it that she was married to a powerful warrior, and when he died, she took control of his armies and became very powerful. I choose to believe the second story.

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Never miss an opportunity to have someone take your picture! We never have enough photos of us together.

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Near the statue of Lok Yeay Mao there is an abandoned building with some awesome graffiti. I later found out these abandoned buildings were part of the old King Sihanouk’s residence.  So much history on this one mountain!

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If you driver further along the mountain road, you come across an old French church. The French built it during the twenties when they wanted to have a French community at the top of the mountain.

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It’s abandoned now, but makes for an amazing place to explore…


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Inside the church.
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Speaking of abandoned things, the most popular artifact is the abandoned hotel. It was also built by the French in the twenties, but was never finished. It is in excellent condition, and you can explore every hallways and rooftop. There are no railings, security guards, or caution signs, so explore at your own risk!

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Explore we did. This is the view from the top of the abandoned hotel.

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The architecture was really neat, as was how well it is preserved. It was almost eerie…

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Then we found Popokvil Waterfall. IMG_8534

These guys live life on the wild side. They must have amazing balancing skills, because I would have fallen over the edge minutes ago.

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One of the steps of the falls. It was tough to get it all in a picture; they rolled on for quite a ways!


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A Cambodian phenomenon: The amount of people you can fit on one moto.

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Another view from Bokor. That is the town of Kampot off to the left. Isn’t it gorgeous?

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Then we checked in to our guesthouse… or ‘nature lodge’ I suppose. It was thatched huts on stilts in the middle of rice paddies.

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The view from the balcony of our hut. That’s Bokor Mountain. How massive! You could spend a week explore every inch of its plateau.

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Then we headed into the town of Kampot for dinner. I loved the colonial-looking architecture…

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Sunset over the river in Kampot.

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When I woke up in the morning, I saw a woman heading to work…

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I wanted to get a shot the next morning of where we parked our car. We were skeptical when we saw that we had to park here and walk through the woods to get the bungalows. It was the first time I’ve seen a mosque since outside Kuwait!

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Sean in trusty Champee. The sign pointing towards Ganesha, where we stayed.

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The road was absolutely terrible. There were times that it felt more like a swamp than a dirt path!

Genesha4The rice paddies in front of Bokor Mountain.

Kampot is a beautiful place.

…but then we found Kep.

Check back soon for the rest of our weekend adventure!

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

Wat Phou Champasak, Southern Laos

You know you are living a good life when the words “temple” and “waterfall” become frequent in your vocabulary.

This is our last post on Laos—thank you so very much for following along on our journey. Don’t fear, there are many post-Laos adventures queued up for your reading pleasure.  To close on Laos, for our final day, we visited an incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site, Wat Phou Champasak.
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Wat Phou (or Vat Phou) is an ancient Khmer temple complex near the Cambodian-Laos border. Archeologists have actually determined that an ancient road ran all the way from Wat Phou to the famous temple complex of Angkor Wat! Folks, that is a long way. When I first heard that fact, it reminded me of the ancient Roman roads we saw in Jordan and in Italy, and the phrase, “All roads lead to Rome”. Well, I think it is fair to say that in Southeast Asia, all roads lead to Angkor Wat.

In the above photo, Sean and I are in front of one of the ancient reservoirs created for the temple, with the sacred mountain of Wat Phou in the background. The temple comlex was built into the side of the hill, so we were anticipating some great views.

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Here is the entry road to Wat Phou. You can see two large buildings immediately behind me, but the temple complex stretched up into the hills in the background. (I have taken quite a liking to being barefoot here—maybe it is the absence of leeches after Koh Kong, but I feel that I can conquer anything!)

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One of my favorite things about traveling abroad is that the ancient ruins become your playground. Perhaps, though, they should be more protected…?

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Looking into the hills of Wat Phou.

 

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This was one of our favorite parts of the site. The ancient steps were beginning to warp with the growth of the trees. We pondered over this for quite some length; were the trees built to anchor the stone steps in this specific way? Or is it merely coincidence?

 

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At the top of the steps was the main Buddhist temple. At this point it began to rain, so we took refuge under a wooden hut that is occasionally used for selling snacks and offerings to Buddha. (It was empty on that day. Don’t worry, we didn’t kick anyone out!)

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After the skies cleared, we were able to take some great pictures. Did you know, I’ve taken up yoga in Cambodia? It is only fitting. This is the tree pose. I have yet to perfect it… But the setting certainly was perfection. If you look in the background you can see the straight road running away from the temple; this is the road that used to lead to Angkor Wat.

 

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Inside the main temple on the side of the hill, there is a modern Buddhist shrine. Did you know that it is forbidden to take a picture with your back to the Buddha? Thus, Chino recommend I take this modest and respectful pose. This temple was actually very unique because it was connected to a natural spring that came out of the mountain. The water was then piped into the temple itself, continually “bathing” or immersing the lingas (holy statues) in water. It is the only known water-temple of it’s kind. Today, you can still locate the spring, which merely drips, and you can see the ruins of where it entered the shrine to shower the lingas.

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Beautiful carvings. Incredibly preserved. This stuff is from between the 11-13th centuries!

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An ancient Hindu stone relief. Shiva is in the middle, between Vishnu and Brahma. As you can see, the temple was originally a Hindu temple, but was converted to a Buddhist temple later on, as it currently is now.

 

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We loved how the temple was just nestled within the crannies of the mountainside!

 

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More ancient carvings… We stumbled upon this, hidden in the jungle on the mountain. I love this because it shows the universal timelessness of the spiral….

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The terraced hills leading up to the main temple. Time to go home.

IMG_7924Our final night was spent in the tiny town of Champasak. I loved the architecture down the ‘main’ street.

Thus concludes our trip to Laos. A place I never thought I’d see with my own eyes! I think a return trip is in order, but this time to Northern Laos.

Check back soon to see what we have been up to since Laos! I guarantee there are two more countries that have tales to be told, and our Halloween plans are looking to be quite the blog in themselves…

See you next time!

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

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.

Categories: Cambodia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Ma’a Salama Habibti! Kuwait ‘Till We Meet Again.

Our apartment is empty. I don’t mean, “it’s really clean” empty. I mean, “the movers came today and there is literally nothing inside our apartment except a suitcase” empty. Our exodus from Kuwait is officially underway.

I am sitting on a bare mattress, sipping water out of a plastic cup, waiting for Sean to come home from school so we can go out for dinner. We fly back to Chicago tomorrow night, so this is our last leisurely evening in Kuwait.

The last exams were a week or so ago, and we’ve had this week for professional development and closing up our classrooms and apartments. Sean and I have used this week to make sure we accomplish a few things:

1. Leave our classrooms nice and pretty for the new staff members replacing us.
2. Ship 2 cubic meters of our life away in boxes… Which will meet us in Cambodia, inshallah.
3. Eat as much hummus and felafel as we can stomach.
4. Have as many board game nights as our friends can tolerate.
5. Say our “See you laters” to the lovely people we’ve worked with in Kuwait.
6. Get new pages in our passports.
7. Close our bank accounts.
8. Sell all the IKEA furniture we’ve acquired over the past two years.
9. Stare starry-eyed at pictures of Southeast Asia on Google.
10. Bug Sean to get a dog when we arrive in Cambodia. (Wait, that’s only on my to-do list…)
11. Visit the Old Souk one last time to sample dates, savor baklava, and smoke shisha.
12. Appreciate the Middle East for all that makes it the Middle East.

We’ve done pretty well the past week, aside from the raging desire to get home to see our families. We’ve had a lot of fun, and I’ve managed to take lots of pictures. This will be the last blog I write from our home in Medan Hawally, Kuwait. I hope you enjoy.

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The school has an annual farewell dinner for all the staff to get together one last time. It is really formal and incredibly delicious. This year it was held at the new Jumeirah Messila Beach Hotel.

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Did you know I had such fine looking friends? I will miss Abby and Sharon so much. Abby (on the left) will be returning to Kuwait next year, but Sharon (on the right) is moving to Mozambique! We are definitely planning on visiting her in the near future…

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Kyle and Sean are quite the refined gentlemen.

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After the dinner Abby, Eric and I couldn’t resist exploring the hotel. It only opened a few weeks prior, and we heard it was lavishly decorated. The elevators sure were… opulent… in a Willy Wonka kind of way.

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Going up…

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This was the strangest room we found. It was set up like a diwaniya, the men’s social room in Kuwaiti culture, but it looked like a giant fish tank. I half expected it to flood with water while we were walking through it!

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This was the women’s bathroom sign at the hotel. You’d never see this back in the States. Don’t you love the mystique?

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On another note, I snapped this photo while driving through downtown Kuwait City. It was a gorgeously sunny day and made the whole scene seem like we were somewhere else. Recently it’s been really dusty here in Kuwait, and when I say dusty I mean that the dust is so prevalent in the air that it actually grits your teeth!

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I have no shame. Abby and I ate Ethiopian again this week. I even got some injera to take home. I have a problem.

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For the first time in Kuwait, we ordered Ethiopian coffee. It was a staple whenever we ate out in Ethiopia, but we’d never ordered it at the restaurant. It is tradition to burn frankincense when coffee is served, which makes the whole ordeal incredibly cozy and relaxing. We sat there over an hour sipping coffee and playing cards.

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Another thing on my bucket list was to make it down to Fahaheel one more time. (Yes, say it out loud. You know you want to. And it really is just as awkward to say out loud as you are imagining right now.) On a particularly dusty day we boarded the bus and made the thirty-minute bus ride down to the other big city in Kuwait. Notice the face mask on the man boarding the bus… It was that dusty!

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Sharon and Abby being troopers on the bus.

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The restaurant we had lunch in had a killer view over the Gulf. The windows were disgustingly dirty, but I snapped the bird’s eye view pictures anyways.

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That’s Al Kout mall on the right, the main mall in Fahaheel.

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Now, I didn’t have rose-colored glasses on because it was my last weekend in Kuwait, but this serusly was the BEST Indian food I have ever had. In my life. Ever. What you are looking at is a “thali”, or Indian lunch platter. I am addicted to them, every where I go. However, most thalis only have six items or so, and normally are a thicker curry, a vegetable, a thinner soup, a sweet item, and some chutney. Always rice and bread. This thali was the “Friday Special” and was only $7.00. I had died and gone to heaven. Not to mention it was a vegetarian restaurant, so I could chow down without having to worry about any mystery meat…

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We made a few shopping stops, and while Abby was in the checkout line at Centerpoint, Sharon and I browsed their fashion catalogue. Who knew chastity belts were now the latest fashion trend?

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Sharon used to visit Fahaheel a lot, so she knew where to find the cool antique stores. This guy had the best souvenirs I’d ever found in Kuwait! (If you haven’t determined by now, Kuwait isn’t a country known for souvenirs… Or much of a tourism industry…)

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Sharon and Abby picking out some hidden gems.

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We then visited some of Sharon’s favorite vendors, the “Bling Bling Brothers”. Seriously. They gave me a key chain that said, “The Bling Bling Brothers, Faroz and Hatim” with their cell phone numbers at the bottom. Needless to say, they were great salesmen!

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Sharon needed to do some work with her apartment, so we stopped by the hardware store on our way home. Not your typical Home Depot…

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Just as we were leaving the city, we saw a father with the most adorable sons we’d seen. He happily let me take their picture, while the boys posed like the true warriors they totally thought they were. Their dad said they were dressed up for a wedding. Beautiful, huh?

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Abby’s cat, Asha.

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Well, we finished our weekend with a heated game of Trivial Pursuit. (Boys against girls. Always.)

I’ve never been good at good byes, so I won’t torture myself – or you – in trying to write one for my blog. Just know that alohakuwait is far from over! Alohakuwait will continue to bring you the most fabulous photos and stories from around the world, just like always. I wrestled with changing the name from alohakuwait, but it is so perfect I couldn’t bring myself to recreate my blog. I kind of like having the history of where we’ve lived follow us as we continue to blog around the world. And besides, “aloha” is fitting no matter where you go. : ) Hopefully I learn more Khmer in Cambodia than I did Arabic in Kuwait…

This summer I will blog about the 101 things to do in Kenosha, the best microbrews of the Midwest, and the gnarliest hikes in the Beartooth Mountains. Kuwait doesn’t get to have all the fun, you know.

It’s been real. Stay tuned to alohakuwait. I’ll see you soon.

Categories: Kuwait | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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