Posts Tagged With: monks

You Know You’re In Southeast Asia When…

There are quite a few things that smack you in the face when you’re visiting Southeast Asia. Things that make you think, “Whoa. I’m really here.” Things you’ve never seen anywhere else. Today’s blog post is devoted to a few of those things.

Number One: Monks. Everywhere. 
This was shot outside my apartment on a Saturday morning a few months back. Monks walk down our street to receive their daily alms. (Check out this great article published 16 years ago titled “Wats going wrong: monks in Phnom Penh”)
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Number Two: Hilarious misspellings.

Fried crap stick, anyone?

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Number Three: Weddings that take up half the street. 

Cambodians love parties, and there’s nothing better than a Cambodian wedding. The most common kind in the city are giant white tents pitched in the middle of the street and all traffic is diverted for at least three days. Here’s the kicker: all of the flowers you see in the photo below are real. Let that soak in for a second. The trends are changing here in Cambodia, and people are paying up to $10,000 for floral arrangements for their wedding. Not to mention the cost of the security guards to make sure a Range Rover doesn’t ram through the side of your tent on your special day. Check out this article published by AsiaLife which explains the skyrocketing cost of weddings in Cambodia that can easily run families a half a million dollars. IMG_5055

Number Four: Cambodian BBQ.
This is a true phenomenon of Southeast Asia. You grill a variety of meats over a live fire on your table top, and all the juices flow into a moat where you slowly construct the world’s most delicious soup. IMG_2790
Add a large group of friends and a few hours of conversation, and you’ve got the perfect evening.

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Number Five:
 The Mekong river.  IMG_5282

Starting in China and ending in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam, it is the twelfth longest river in the world.

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From houses to house boats to floating bed and breakfasts, the Mekong is the roaring neighbor in the backyard of Phnom Penh.IMG_5323IMG_2859

For $15 an hour, you can hire out a private boat and cruise the Mekong for sunset.

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Number Six: The night markets.      IMG_5156

Psar Reatrey, which means “night market” in Khmer, is mainly aimed at tourists, but who can stay away from the glowing lights and low-priced butt pads? (No, seriously. Look at the left-hand side of the photo below.)IMG_5157

Number Seven: Street food.
It’s hard to walk the streets of Phnom Penh and not be tempted by some strange culinary delight you’ve never experienced before. I thought I’d seen it all, then I found ice cream in deep-fried alphabet letters. IMG_5158

Number Eight: The bugs.IMG_5167

Deep fried bugs are a delicacy in Cambodia. Just bring along a friend who tries them a split second before you do. IMG_5168

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

Visiting Cambodia, Part One (Kep & Kampot)

Have you ever done something so many times that it becomes second nature? You don’t even think twice about doing it? Take, for example, the way you brew your coffee in the morning. Or your drive to work. These things seem obviously simple to you. Until someone else enters your life, and views these things from a lens that completely blows your mind.

Going home to Wisconsin for Christmas, getting lunch at the local cafe is so routine for my father, they start making his salad before he walks in the door. For me, it was a flurry for colors, smells, and tastes I never experience the other 364 days of the year. Not to mention the excessive amount of cheese that is present on every Wisconsin plate.

So it is with Cambodia. When my friends and family come visit, they are amazed by things that I view as my day-to-day life. Take, for example, dodging motos when crossing the street. Or ordering lemon when you want lime. (Don’t ask.)

My aunt and her friends visited this past month, and it was a total blast. We had so much fun exploring Cambodia, and I love any excuse to play tourist. My aunt is one of the best photographers I know, so I asked to steal some of her photos for my blog. (Seriously, she gets one of her photos in her annual work calendar every year!)

So, here you go. Cambodia from another pair of eyes.

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The view from my rooftop in the Russian Market neighborhood. If you’ve ever been here, you can see White Linen Boutique Guesthouse in the bottom center. (The lavender colored building.)

 

 

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Walking through the Russian Market.

 

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The meat venders of the Russian Market.

 

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Fruit outside the Russian Market. (As if you needed any more evidence that the Russian Market is one of the best in Phnom Penh!)

 

IMG_4718Sunset over the Kampot river, a two hour drive from my school. It makes for the perfect weekend getaway.

IMG_4741The famous Saraman curry at Rikitikitavi in Kampot. Saraman curry is a special Cambodian curry that is not easy to come by. It is very, very rich and very flavorful. The primary ingredients are dry roasted coconut, shallots, garlic, cinnamon, and a lot of yum.

 

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My friend Anna snuck down to Kampot with us for a weekend. We woke up nice and early to get a yoga session in with the sunrise. Little did I know, my aunt snapped a great photo!

 

IMG_4791Eating breakfast off the balcony at Greenhouse in Kampot.

 

IMG_4801Downtown Kampot.

 

IMG_4813Downtown Kampot.

 

IMG_4818The famous Durian statue in downtown Kampot.

 

IMG_4838Walking along the Kep coastline. What a contrast.

 

IMG_4847Monkeys along the Kep coastline.

 

IMG_4851Monkeys along the Kep coast.

IMG_4860More monkeys.

IMG_4888Buying snacks in Kep.

 

IMG_4902My favorite hotel in Kep, the Kep Lodge.

 

IMG_4954Ordering squid in Kep.

 

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Browsing the crab market.

 

IMG_4982On the drive home from Kep, we passed at least thirty busses carrying young women. Sadly, we deduced they were being taken home from their factory shifts. Check the label of your shirt right now. Does it say, “Made in Cambodia”?

 

IMG_5023Passing a family of five on a moto.

 

IMG_5024Beautiful smiles.

 

I love all these pictures for so many reasons. My aunt takes a fantastic photograph, and it is a reminder of how beautiful this country is that I have come to call home.

Check back soon for the next blog, in which I give you yet another tour of Phnom Penh!

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

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!

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

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

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