Posts Tagged With: Toul Tom Poung

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.

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

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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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You really can buy anything in the Russian Market….

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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!
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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!

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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!

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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.

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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?)

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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!

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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.

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

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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!



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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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