Posts Tagged With: Russian Market

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.

IMG_4665

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.)

 

 

IMG_4671

Walking through the Russian Market.

 

IMG_4672

The meat venders of the Russian Market.

 

IMG_4675

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.

 

IMG_4771

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.

 

IMG_4955

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!

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

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:

Cambodian_tuk_tuk

Second, you must remember that this is Phnom Penh:

map

 

Third, if you have never played Monopoly…

monopoly

 

 

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.

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 5.42.46 PM

 

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.

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 4.50.16 PM

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.)

 

2

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.

 

6

 

Then it was off to the National Museum.


7

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.

 

 

 

8

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.)

 

 

10

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!

14

Central Market.

15

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

An Afternoon In Phnom Penh, With New Eyes

 

Hi everyone! I can’t believe how fast this year has gone. It is almost April… we have spent eight months in Cambodia. In some ways, it feels like we have just arrived. In other ways, I feel like we’ve been here for years.

It is almost Khmer New Year, which spans from April 13 – 16. We have a week off school, and will be spending some time soaking up the beauty of the Cambodian & Thailand coast. But before we get there, I’ve got to share a few more special moments from our daily life with you.

This batch of photos comes from my dad‘s camera. (Thanks, Dad!)When he was visiting back in January, we had a blast exploring Phnom Penh together. Even though I had been living here for only six months, I had already viewed so much of my surroundings as “normal”. When my Dad came, however, he was astounded by the slightest things! He took lots of photos, asked lots of questions, and enjoyed every moment.

I invite you to view an afternoon in Phnom Penh, as seen from new eyes.

IMG_2079Weddings. Birthdays. Funerals. In Phnom Penh, a celebration normally means a giant traffic jam, as all events are held inside huge tents that are constructed in the middle of the street. As I was frustratingly inching my way through traffic, my dad snapped a great photo of the entry to the tent. Looks like a great party! The women wear beautiful dresses, and spend lots of time making their hair and make-up perfect. Sean and I are going to a celebration next weekend, held by a Cambodian friend of ours in his village. I will be sure to take pictures for you!

 

IMG_2090We got lunch at my favorite counter in the Russian Market. They are fresh noodles, salad, coconut milk, a tangy vinegar sauce, and slices of taro-filled egg rolls! It is truly divine. My dad washed it all down with a fresh-squeezed orange juice.


IMG_2127As our food journey continued, we came across a street vendor I had never seen before. We ordered two of his sweet treats, which turned out to be circular pancakes with different fillings.

 

IMG_2129And then we got smoothies. You can never have enough smoothies. These were from the top floor of Sorya Mall. You’ve got to take a break from the heat and slip into the A/C of the mall!

IMG_2098Back in the markets, we had another round of street food. These are gelatinous fried balls, filled with a coconut milk mixture. You dip them in a tangy-spicy sauce. I absolutely love them. My sister and I were staring with such intent as they had just come out of the deep-frier. You couldn’t touch them—they were so hot they could scald your skin.

IMG_2112Inside Central Market (Psar Thmei), my sister scouts for earrings. I took her to my favorite vendor. It’s funny how when you make friends with a seller, and give them repeat business, the price automatically drops from $8 to $2.
IMG_2116If you know what these are, please leave a comment! They looked like snakes in water. They were writhing all over each other.

IMG_2118Typical produce vendors in the market. This is where I generally buy all of my fruits and veggies.

IMG_2124A woman selling her jackfruit. (Which tastes like bubblegum!)

IMG_2125Bugs for sale. Really. Lots and lots of bugs.

 

IMG_2102To polish off our day of wonder and gluttony, we headed to get some Cambodian BBQ. It was our first time there, and we had no idea how to work the grills. We tried our best, and had quite the feast!

We actually went back to the Cambodian BBQ a week ago with our friends, Anna and Chris. Anna snapped a much better photo of us that actually shows you what the Cambodian BBQ is supposed to look like:

bbq2
Look at all that meat! And all those vegetables. Yum, yum, yum!

There is so much that is great about Cambodia. But I really love the food. (Except maybe the edible bugs and snakes. Maybe…)

 

 

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

Our First Month In Phnom Penh

As of last week, we have officially been living in Cambodia for one month. Wahoo! What do I think of it? Well, I must say, this is a really good life. Laugh at me if you will, but honest, it’s a life of color, of love, of friends, of community, of culture that overflows into the streets and into your heart. Sean and I had a lot to get used to, it’s a lot different than Kuwait! Let’s take a quick second to address some of the big ones—and I don’t mean the fact that Cambodia is overflowing with green space, water, and libations—those are obvious. I’m talking about the little lifestyle changes we could never have anticipated. Trust me, I anticipated the libations!

To begin, the commute to and from school. In Kuwait, we lived one sand-lot away from our school, so we could run to our classroom whenever we needed to. School permeated our lives much more. Here, we have a van that runs to and from the school for us, which is really nice. It adds a half-hour commute each way, but—and you’ve never heard me say this before—we were spoiled in Kuwait. However, we like to have the distance and to live in a neighborhood with it’s own cafes, shops, and secret spots. Plus, we got to select our own apartment here, which ended up being quite nice as you saw in my previous blog post.

Another big difference between Kuwait and Cambodia are the grocery stores. In Kuwait I felt that I was always a stone’s throw away from a grocery store overflowing with both Western and Middle Eastern food. Here, it’s a bit different. There are a few Western grocery stores throughout the city, but none within comfortable walking distance for me. Further, the prices can be extravagant. I found a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for $15. Cheese can be up to $10 a pound. Same with butter.  (Are you sensing that they don’t use many dairy products here?) As a result, I have had to undergo a major cooking mental shift. I now frequent the markets twice a week, purchasing all of my fruits and vegetables from the vendors there. (This really is only because I am very frugal and love a challenge.) I occasionally buy Sean a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese, but I am really trying my hand at stir-frys, rice-heavy dishes, and mild curries. They are certainly tasty, but I do miss the hummus and pita bread!

To add on to the issue of cost, that has to be the biggest difference between the two countries. You can live like royalty in Cambodia for pennies in comparison to Kuwait. I feel like this could go unsaid, though, so I’ll keep it short. Delicious local plates cost you $1, as does avocado smoothies, beer, deserts, you name it. I can hop on the back of a moto for $2 and get from one end of the city to the other. We thought we’d save the same amount of money as we did in Kuwait living here because it is so cheap, but we do so many more activities on a daily basis! It is so enjoyable to go out for dinner multiple times a week, knowing we will never spend over $10 between the two of us. And there’s the plethora of delicious street food and drinks. Why settle for a boring glass of water when there’s 50 cent iced coffee? There’s always live music playing somewhere, a happy hour going on, or a new restaurant to check out.

All right, those were the big ones on my mind, but I will bring up other striking differences as they come to me. For today’s post, I wanted to show you a selection of photos from our first month in Cambodia. The food, the sights, the streets, the animals, the people. Let’s get started!

01

We live near Wat Toul Tom Poung. Wat means “temple”, and Toul Tom Poung is the neighborhood we live in. This is a street that I walk down a lot which runs alongside the temple.
02

Everything is so publicly adorned here. I love it! (Again, at Wat Toul Tom Poung.)

03

You can enter the wats and walk around as long as you are respectfully dressed and modest in your behavior. I was bored one Sunday afternoon so I went inside to snap some pictures.

04

I love that trees are so incorporated into buddhist shrines. I find it strikingly beautiful.

05

Another part of Wat Toul Tom Poung.

06

I hope to learn more about Buddhism and Hinduism so that I can better appreciate all of the temples here in Cambodia.

07

One evening Sean and I went to the riverside. We don’t venture there often as it is fairly far away, and we have a surplus of wonderful activities and places to visit closer to us. I do want to spend an afternoon and an evening strolling down the promenade and visiting all the shops. The river on the left-hand side of this photo is the Tonle Sap river. The Mekong River and the Tonle Sap converge here along the riverside of Phnom Penh.

08

As I said, we have a surplus of places to relax without needing to go to the riverside—would you believe this is at our school? Northbridge is also a housing community as well as a school, so there is a swimming pool and a restaurant and bar on the grounds. It is relaxing to spend a Friday afternoon with a cold drink and a swim in the pool before going home.

Now I’d like to begin my showcase of Cambodian food… you know it’s not a blog post without pictures of food…

09

This photo was taken at the Central Market, named Psar Thmei in Khmer. I have had sweetened sticky rice in banana leaves before, so I quickly bought one as a snack. However, about half-way through I found a red paste in the center. Sean swears it was meat but I still maintain it was red beans (like kidney beans). Suffice to say, I could only stomach one more nibble after we encountered the dubious center.

10

Sean’s “safe meal” in Asia has always been white rice and grilled chicken. There really are no hidden ingredients in white rice and grilled chicken. They still put a small salad on the side here, along with a delicious pickled plate, which I happily devoured for him. This was in a food court near Psar Thmei.
11

I am not proud of this meal. It was rather unpleasant, in ways that I still cannot explain. The shrimp, noodles, vegetables, and broth were good, but there were the long strips that seemed too meat-like to me. The girl swore they were fish, but I just couldn’t figure out what animal they came from. Anytime I can’t tell which animal something is from, that always disturbs me. As you can see, I really wanted to try all the pastes and sauces! I am sure this tray would look really hilarious to any Cambodian with the menagerie of toppings I had.

12

The main reason I wasn’t a fan of the soup was the “blood”. As I told the woman, “No meat, only fish”, she handed me the soup with this triangular dark blob floating in the center. When I asked the woman what it was, she smiled and said, “Blood.” I was going to ask her to remove it, but then thought Sean would like to try it, so I just flipped it into a small bowl on the side of the tray. Sean did try it, and said it tasted rather gritty. After asking around the next day, we found out that it certainly was congealed blood.

13

Another happy hour with cribbage and cold drinks. This is the Korner Kafe, next to our house.

14

I loved this meal. It was at a nicer Khmer place, but the bill still only came to $8. I had stir-fried vegetables and Sean had grilled chicken. It was delicious, and the atmosphere was lovely!

15

I may have been complaining about grocery shopping here, but I am being picky. You really can get ANYTHING in Phnom Penh. Sean wanted to try a small place called Cafe Yejj near our house, which was classified as a bistro. I got a delicious eggplant salad (above). It certainly was a change from all the fried rice!
16

Sean happy to have a Philly cheesesteak in Cafe Yejj.

17

Another local cafe for dinner. I had a massive bowl of tom yum (a shrimp curry soup), and Sean had “barbecue pork ribs”. He wasn’t a huge fan… it was literally chunks of rib bone that you gnaw on while eating the vegetables. I would go back for the tom yum!

18

Remember how I said you can get anything? We stopped at a lovely ice cream shop on the riverside with our friends, Charlie and Mie. It had a giant comfy couch for you to recline on and forget all your stress while you relish your ice cream.

19

Ah, the live music. This was a quiet showing of The Cambodian Space Project at the Alley Cat Cafe. We loved them, and hope to go see them live again in the future! I also liked the Alley Cat Cafe as it had a selection of Tex-Mex and burgers which Sean loved.

20

Yes, Cambodia has cockroaches. Lots of them.

21

And geckos. Lots of them.

22

And rain. Lots of rain.

23
I went to a Vietnamese grocery store near our house and discovered “Vegan Shredded Meat Fluff”.  What could I cook with this?

24

When my dad comes to visit I want to cook him these vegetarian pig ears. Think he’ll notice the difference?

25

This certainly never happened in Kuwait—while grocery shopping a man handed me his “feng shui and face reading” card.

All right. I am going to spoil your eyeballs right now. This is my favorite part of the city: the sunrises and sunsets.

26

Sunrise from our apartment window.

27

Sunrise.

28

Sunset.

29The best sunset here so far.

So, in short, we love Cambodia. It has so much to offer, and I feel like I have barely seen .001% of it in the month we’ve been here. Drop me a comment below if there is a specific topic you’d like me to write a blog on. This post was pretty scattered; I’d love to do a topic-based blog post if you have an idea!

I hope to post again soon about our recent weekend trip to Koh Kong—it included waterfalls, rivers, kayaking, hiking, delicious food, and the best lodge I’ve stayed at in a long time. Take care, and see you again soon!

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

Toul Tom Poung, The Russian Market

I have a new addiction. In Kuwait, I satisfied my desire for adventure by scouring the dusty city for new restaurants on crumbling side streets. In Phnom Penh, I barely have to leave my neighborhood. I have the Russian Market.

IMG_6586

Here is the outside of the market from across the street.

The Russian Market has restaurants, mechanics, souvenirs , clothing, tailors, instruments, cafe, cleaning supplies, electronics, hair salons, I can’t even begin to fathom what the Russian Market DOESN’T have. It’s more than a “market”, it’s a maze of vendors, smells, sights; a feast for the senses. I am addicted to exploring every crevice!

Screen Shot 2013-08-18 at 12.49.00 PM

The Western name is the Russian Market due to the large numbers of Russian people who apparently shopped here in the 1980’s. In Khmer, it is called Toul Tom Puong. It’s such a great neighborhood to live in—the only Western thing surrounding the market is a  KFC. (We’ve never been, either, thank you very much!) The grey area of the map is a covered building, or series of buildings, I suppose, with mazes of vendors all throughout. Inside it’s hot and sticky, so tie your hair up in a ponytail, roll up your sleeves, and let’s go inside!

IMG_6589

IMG_6485

As you can see, people are eating right next to the clothing vendors. Me? I’m obsessed with the Khmer coffee. I get them every weekend, sometimes twice a day if I’m feeling particularly thirsty (or drowsy). I should really do a separate post on Khmer coffee, because it is out of this world. For between 35 cents to $1, you can get the most delicious iced coffee with sweetened-condensed milk, fresh milk, or just black if that’s how you like it.

IMG_6486

A typical drink vendor—she is selling anything from avocado smoothies, soda, shave ice, and of course, iced coffee. You can see the guy eating on the left, which was something cool I found out yesterday while I was exploring. You can sit at any vendor you like, while having placed another order with a different vendor. They will bring you your food. Yesterday I had delicious stir-fried noodles with vegetable and egg while sitting next to a man who had food and drinks from three different vendors in front of him!

IMG_6488

You really can buy anything in the Russian Market….

IMG_6489

Some sections of the market can be pretty touristy, which is fun, too. After we get our first paycheck I think I’m going to check out the clothing and woven goods. This is also the bartering atmosphere, so you’ve got to have a price in mind and fight for it, while being willing to compromise. I kind of enjoy the bartering experience, to be honest! It’s a game, and I love practicing my Khmer!
IMG_6490

Another food vendor. This woman specializes in, well, I’m not too sure, but I think noodles with a variety of meats. You’d be surprised all the choices and options they have behind the glass cases—I even saw someone eating Spam on their noodles yesterday!

IMG_6491

We cracked up when we saw this shirt—it was something people in Kuwait often said, “Same same.” It generally means that both options are equally good, or that the difference between two things is insignificant. IMG_6492

But sometimes things aren’t truly “same same”. Same same can also mean “as you wish”, “ok”, “I heard you”, or ‘same same’ will be said when two things aren’t the same at all. It really depends on the context!

IMG_6493

I love to buy my produce at the Russian Market—it’s so much cheaper than the Western grocery store, and I’ve even found it to be fresher at times.

IMG_6494

You can buy Revlon make-up in florescent, fancy shops, or you can get your eggs and chicken feet alongside your Channel knock-off wardrobe. (Can you spy the Chicago Bulls shirt, too?)

IMG_6496

I have eaten inside the market quite a few times, but Sean is still warming up to the idea. We have yet to get sick, and you can have the most delicious, fresh, authentic Asian food for only $1!

IMG_6500

Like I said, I love the produce. I am taking Khmer lessons, so am able to complete transactions entirely in Khmer! I don’t know the names of all the vegetables, though, so pointing works just as well.

IMG_6501

We don’t buy the meat, though. Would you?

IMG_6502

The woman in the center is selling eggs! Once you become comfortable in the heat and the crowds, it becomes a real treat to do your shopping here. I much prefer it!



IMG_6590

Outside the market there are also a plethora of vendors. This picture is comically bad timing, but I wanted to show you this strange food that we tried once.

IMG_6591

It was like a crunchy crepe—almost like a waffle cone flavor and texture—filled with a sweet creme and MAYBE orange shavings. The orange stuff was either a flavored coconut, or a citrus fruit. We loved them!

IMG_6592

I had Sean hold my snack while I snapped a picture. You can see a guy selling grilled corn on the cob in the background.

IMG_6601

At night, the market shuts down and becomes a series of grill cafes. You can walk along and choose your restaurant based on what you see them grilling. We can’t wait to try the seafood—I am in love with their prawns here!

IMG_6608Here you go, my favorite picture. This picture is from last weekend. I went out to the market and purchased all this produce, the eggs, the rice, the tofu, the avocados, a half kilo of garlic, sliced ginger, precut veggies… all for under $7. We ate like kings! I can’t stress how excited I am to have visitors here to Cambodia so that I can treat them like royalty… not to mention guide them through the jungle that is the Russian Market.

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

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.

IMG_6453

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

IMG_6454

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

IMG_6458

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.

IMG_6459

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.

IMG_6463

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.

IMG_6466

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!

IMG_6469

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

IMG_6471

The hotel, Anise Hotel, had these pots all over, which I loved. They were floating flowers and tons of iridescent fish!
IMG_6473

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.

IMG_6475

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.

IMG_6477

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…
IMG_6478

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.

IMG_6479

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.

IMG_6480

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…

Screen Shot 2013-08-10 at 1.58.04 PM

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!

IMG_6503

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.

IMG_6507

The roof of our apartment. Not bad, huh?

IMG_6518

Looking towards the river.

IMG_6522

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

IMG_6534

Sometimes it feels like an infinity pool…
IMG_6539

Here’s the interior of our place. We were just getting settled in when I took these pictures. It came fully furnished!

IMG_6541

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

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.