Tuesday, 13 July 2010


There you go.


And then there was three!

Wow, talk about lots having happened!
The last video was May giggling (very pregnant!) as rufa fish ate her toes.
Since then we have become a family, Sopheap Isabella Johnston Born 12 Sept 2009
is the little monster who makes our days exciting.
We went back to NZ to meet the family and get married Palangi style

I'm not sure how i ended back up at this blog?!
A trip down amnesia lane certainly.

But i will upload the animoto from the last cpl of years so at least there is an online log of the very cool things that have filled my life since leaving NZ.


Tuesday, 30 June 2009

i really should preview things!

Ahhh i think this is the clip

Monday, 29 June 2009

Long time between drinks!

Ok, my last post was a jpg not a movie file.....so liz!
but here is the video.

It is of May and I in Siem Reap having our feet tended to by Rufa fish.

The little devils nibble at anyhting they can find and generally make you feel very strange.
$3 for 20 mins, money well spent

And our feet felt smooth and tingly for a day afterwards.

Now i wonder what a bath of them would be like?

Rufa fish in Siem Reap

Why do i sound like Homer Simpson here?
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Wednesday, 3 June 2009

End of year

A collection of images from the last year

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Love you cuz

Missing home is something that creeps up on you in the quiet moments.
To be honest when you're busy with the everyday actions and thoughts of the here and now you dont think about the place and more importantly the people who you surrounded yourself with for such a huge part of your life.

So often here i sit amidst a swirl of language that i can only comprehend a tiny part of, an observer of the everyday rather than a full participant. And yet i'm happy, i'm where i'm meant to be, with the person i want to be with.

But at odd times i find myself enveloped by the face/places/times of Welli.
The good, the bad, the immortal.

I think about my mate

Much love to all of you celebrating this weekend for Jase.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

We are mobile!

Well, we are finally able to choose when we go places!
Went shopping for a moto in the weekend with May's dad and his mate (It is amazing how helpful it is to have a Khmer speaker when shopping)
Found a Honda Click which had only 7000Kms on the clock and had a clean engine and sound frame (yes i had a look under and inside the bike but my knowledge is laughable !)
Next was a stop down Helmet selling street to have a look at some of the many helmets that are available in Phnom Penh (the build quality of some are questionable in the extreme... think Ware Whare Bob the builder plastic but with "cool"stickers to make them look tougher)
We settled on a couple that felt heavy enough to be useful but not full face as in summer that will be sweltering.
Then came the difficulty, who was to drive our new bike?!
Up till now i have been a passenger most often as May has borrowed her sister's bike (crashing that is not something i wanted on my head!!)
So May felt that the status quo should continue........... I on the other hand was keen to get riding again, to get more confident in the sometimes chaotic conditions on the road.

It is turn taking time.

Although i think May was a bit cunning by suggesting we go for a "sedate Sunday drive"along the riverside last night!!
It seems every family, teenager, tuk tuk, moto driven food seller, 4x4, truck decides to drive up and down the riverside and around the roundabouts near Independence Monument.
with May sitting side-saddle i wound my way without any skill or daring through the jam. (i will be honest, our conversation was terse lol, as a first nite time ride it left a lot to be desired)

Rode this morning to work, and then May took the moto to her mothers, a much nicer run along Russia Boulevard which is paved well and wide!
I will catch the bus home each nite but ride to school as it will allow me to get up later than 5.30! and spend some time with May each morning before i go to school.
Will post a vid showing our route to school soon.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Looking over Phnom Penh towards the slowly filled lake

The lakeside area of PP, where I and many first time travelers stay is being filled in to make new land for real estate developers.
The people who lived on the lake and beside it are being squeezed out as they are anywhere in Cambodia where their property is worth more to someone more connected than they.

Im sitting in my class, getting my breathing under control

Damn, i take my hat off to every guy I know who has ever had a child.
The ability to go from regular day to a ALL STATIONS panic is an eye blink now.
May has been ok up to now and apart from the many little changes for her, from some sort of Steve Austin like olfactory powers (not the best super power in Phnom Penh!) to the need to not try and do the things that she could do so easily only a month ago, she has coped really well.
Each day i go to work i hope all goes well, i understand the dates and chances that problems will occur or at least I did in a textbook way.
Getting a call minutes before my grade 3 kids came in for class, from Bom (May's older Sister) on May's phone telling me she has a lot of pain in her pompoy/stomach (my spelling) and should they go to the local Khmer doctor or across town to our Doc at Rattanak made everything come into perspective.
May and the baby are ok, the ultrasound showed no problems with either of them thank what ever deity is looking down on us. (credit has to be given to Buddha as i had several long chats during the quiet moments as i waited for the phone to ring)

I understand that having the baby come to term safe and well is still very much a case for statisticians to debate but if emotional force could influence it we would be having our baby safe and sound in Sept!

I will be making an offering tonight to say thank you for letting us get another day down the road.

If you want to do something similar, I'd appreciate it.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

First Ultrasound

Friday afternoon, a day that saw us go from a couple to something more.

A very good day in Phnom Penh

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Merry Xmas

Woke up xmas morning in Laos, Vientiene at a hotel way out of our budget. Gave May some pressies to bring her over to the Barang dark side. LOL go Santa!

We are off in an hour to Vang Vieng to climb into inner tubes and get drunk while floating down the mekong.... very much the Xmas message .....distilled through rice whiskey.

Keep safe y'all


Sunday, 14 December 2008

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Bueller, Bueller? Fry, Fry? Thank you Simone....

Well, that series of soundbites dates me.....as if my photo doesn't! lol
The music for the last animoto was of course from Ferris Buellers Day off, and yes the Cure did a remake of it but i still think it is a very melancholic and beautiful track.

We are coming up to the end of the school year (well we would be if i wasback in NZ but its just a short mid year break here)
Another Xmas in Cambodia which makes for some curious juxtaposition of images ala Snow and Santa images while outside its hot sun and wind.
The wind has been quite strong recently, a warm wind that makes you think about Chch and its Nor'wester.
Where will we spend Xmas this year?
Well, it would be great to go home and show May NZ in the summer, let her meet the fandambly and such but between Visa troubles and cash it looks like we may be in Cambodia for the break.
May hasn't been to Laos so we may go to Luang Prabang then work our way down to Don det for 10 days as Cambodian nationals don't need a visa.
Who knows.
Happy Holidays all

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Merry Xmas from Cambodia

Just some images from the last year

Thursday, 20 November 2008


Blogger is not a happy chappy

Im sitting at the computer, the lab is filled with Grade 6 pupils playing Chicken Invaders (think Galaga ....but with Chickens) Yes i know the lab should be "game free...but really, thats like telling the iphone interface that it cant be sexy'.
hmmm perhaps i need to get out of the lab for a while?
I have been trying to upload some video i shot of the Water Festival but for reasons too mundane to state the blogger page wont show the link toolbar.
So i have been forced to play with Animoto and Moblyng (two cute little online photo manipulation and presentation software that i came across in Classroom 2.0)
Hopefully i can upload some to the blog without having to go through blogger, but it is still a pain not having the post page as it should be.
I apologise if you read this, it has nothing of merit for others other than an opportuinity to do some distance Sigmunding on my state of mind.
Whatever makes you smile.
I will return when i have more to say.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

UN Day at NISC

We had our recent UN day which proved to be both a success and interetsing to see how the dominant cultural groups presented their own culture to the school.
Some very cute kids in national dress, the Korean Hanbok has to be a winner with the Pre K Korean kids almost unable to move in it.

There was a parade behind each of the countries flags and it ended with a cpl of representitives from each nation going onto the stage and saying hello in their countries language.

Damn Kiwis, left me in the lurch to say Kia ora and so forth....apparently the sound system was iffy and the kids at the back couldnt understand me.'

"What do you mean we kiwisslurandrunallourwordstogether" hmmm

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Whats in the newspaper today then?

The Kep seafood shacks are being moved.

For 15 years the area along the waterfront has had a collection of shacks that serves a collection of the yummiest seafood i've eaten, all washed down with the typical Kep chilli sauce that makes your tongue pucker even as your tastebuds smile.

Now they are being offered $2000 to move somewhere else..... The land is supposedly being turned into a park but most people believe that a property developer has plans on a beachfront hotel.

Hmmmm sound like Boeung Kak Lake to anyone?

A regretable but seemingly daily reminder that the rich are finding ways to get richer while the country and the population is left to count the cost.

The grade 3-6 students are studying an inquiry under the banner of "sharing the planet".

They are looking at Cambodia as a focal point and there is so much they could be doing, the examples of people working to help the environment are so clear as are the effects of placing too much emphasis on quick profit and unsustainable practice.

It is interesting having to walk a fairly thin line between discussing the negative influences having a govt with to ready links to development for profit and the realisation that quite a few students have parents in that same area......

It is fun being back involved in inquiry based learning, the old teacher inside of me misses the development process that happens as kids start seeing the connections and realising the opportuniities that learning can give them. phew thats enough passionate teacherness for the day! lol

Have been playing with Jing, which lets me capture anything on my screen as a video or image file. For me it means i can capture short animations about the inquiry topics and use them at a later date with students without worrying about internet connectivity or download speed. Getting back into using tech as a tool for learning has been a rude shock for me, i have a computer on my wishlist as i still need to sit and learn how to use the adobe suite of software(Robin figures in my plans here!!)

Have a few days in Bangkok coming up, I am going to the ISTEC conference which is for the IT teachers in the region, i bet it is a good place to meet greet and listen to some experts in the tech field and see how they are applying the tools to learning.

Broke the news to May that i was off for a weekend in thailand and for many reasons that initially went down like a lead balloon, luckily i have to go there to process our application for a visa for May to allow her to travel with me to NZ either this Xmas or more likely next June (we will have nearly 3 months off work then)

The number of hoops you have to jump through to get a visa makes you realise how easy it is for Barang to travel thoroughout Asia and the world for that matter.

A quote from a Cambodian soldier on the Thai/Cambodian border at Preah Vihear to finish

"We didn't touch anything, we left it here for them"said Mom Kiri referring to the weapons , personal effects and bedding that the Thai troops dropped as they escaped the fighting that erupted on Wed.

He was pictured with one of the Thai soldiers coming to collect his rifle.... there is a joke in there somewhere but as the photo below confimrs the situation is too tense to be funny.

Here is hoping sense prevails

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Background Reading

I have said it before but it is worth repeating...
http://www.andybrouwer.co.uk/blog/ is worth looking at if you are interested in Cambodia
The following article is longbut gives some perspective on the current crisis.

Preah Vihear: the Thai-Cambodia temple disputeThe diplomatic and near-military crisis of 2008 between Thailand and Cambodia reflects both deep historical tensions and contemporary domestic politics, says Milton Osborne. The sudden re-emergence of contested Cambodian and Thai claims to sovereignty over about 4 square kilometres of territory close the Angkorian-period (9th-15th centuries) temple of Preah Vihear brought the two southeast Asian countries close to armed confrontation in July-August 2008.
The dispute bring into focus the difficult relations that have existed between the two neighbouring countries ever since Cambodia attained independence in 1953, as well reflecting much older historical problems between the two countries. At one level the Preah Vihear crisis - supplemented by another dispute over a much less prominent temple-site at Ta Moan Thom, well to the west of Preah Vihear - may be viewed as a classic example of contested boundaries arising from decisions taken during the colonial era, when France was able to impose its will over the then weaker state of Siam (Thailand).

This interpretation - which Cambodia rejects - is worth examining. But it is at least as important to consider contemporary developments in the context of earlier historical and geopolitical factors that lie behind Cambodia's existence as a state and the views held of it by its immediate and more powerful neighbours, Thailand and Vietnam. For while the governments of both Thailand and Vietnam may be hesitant to express the views held by some of their citizens, there is no doubt that in both these countries there are those who privately question Cambodia's right to exist as a truly independent state. In the case of Vietnam, a strong case may be made to argue that when Vietnam invaded Cambodia to defeat the Pol Pot regime in December 1978, it initially hoped that it would be possible to incorporate Cambodia into some form of "Indochinese Federation"; this would have included Laos, which would have been dominated by Vietnam. Such a view was a continuation of the explicit thinking of the Vietnamese Communist Party in the 1930s and into the 1960s, when the party held the view that neither Cambodia nor Laos had a right to run their own revolution.

The uncertain stateThe distinguished historian David Chandler noted (in A history of Cambodia) that until the 17th century Cambodia was a "reasonably independent" state. By the 19th century it had lost this status and its internal politics were dominated by its powerful neighbours, Siam and Vietnam. Perhaps the most useful, if shorthanded, way to describe Cambodia's situation in the mid-19th century was that it was a vassal state in a tributary relationship to two suzerains, Siam and Vietnam. But of those two powerful and expanding states Siam had by the 1840s assumed the more important position. Moreover, and despite some Cambodian rulers having sought assistance from Vietnam, Siam's greater dominance also reflected the fact that the two countries shared a similar culture. It was one deeply affected by adherence to Theravada Buddhism and by surviving shared beliefs and court rituals that harked back to Hindu concepts of the state developed during the Angkorian period.In the decades immediately before the French asserted their colonial control over Cambodia in 1863, Cambodian rulers looked to the Siamese court in Bangkok to guarantee both their position and their legitimacy. This situation is exemplified in the fact that members of the Cambodian royal family often spent long periods as hostages in the Siamese court in Bangkok. This was true of the last king to rule Cambodia before the arrival of the French and of King Norodom I before he came to the throne in 1860. At the same time Siamese officials occupied senior positions within the Cambodian rulers' courts, determining which foreign representatives they were permitted to meet. In these circumstances, and from the Siamese point of view, Cambodia's king was a person who held power at their behest. Again using European terminology, the Cambodian king was for the Siamese court the holder of a vice-regal position. This complex relationship differed sharply from the way in which Vietnamese rulers viewed Cambodia. Both in theory and in practice the Vietnamese rulers in the first half of the 19th century were ready to pursue policies which, had they succeeded, would have transformed Cambodia's status into being an integral part of the Vietnamese state governed in accordance with Vietnam's Chinese-influenced administrative practices.The border lineThe French gained control of Cambodia in 1863 and established their "protectorate" over the country - though in every way that mattered the term "protectorate" was merely a legal figleaf to hide the fact that was a French colony. At the time, Cambodia's territory did not include what are now the provinces of Battambang and Siem Reap. These two important areas had fallen under Siamese control in 1794, the outcome indeed of what had been a long reduction of Cambodian control over former Angkorian territories.

A contemporary reflection of this process is the fact that a substantial number of Khmer (Cambodian) speaking Thai citizens continue to live in northeastern Thailand, an area in which there are many Angkorian-period temples.In the last decade of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th, Anglo-French rivalry in mainland southeast Asia led to the adjustment and implantation of borders that remain essentially unchanged to the present day. It was in this period, for example, that the northern states of modern peninsular Malaysia were removed from Siamese to British control. In Cambodia's case, and reflecting France's greater coercive power, this mixture of mapping and absorption led to the return to Cambodian sovereignty of the provinces of Battambang and Siem Reap.

This process was consolidated in 1907-08 with the establishment of a Cambodian northern boundary that took in the temple of Preah Vihear, located on an escarpment 525 metres above the northern Cambodian plain. But the precise coordinates of the boundary at this point were apparently in contradiction to the principle that had been laid down when the boundary between Cambodia and Siam was being delineated: namely, that the boundary should be drawn in terms of the existing watershed.This created a potential problem from an international legal point of view, and led to an appeal by Thailand to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague to rule on the question of which country had sovereignty over Preah Vihear. In June 1962, the court ruled that indeed Cambodia held sovereignty. But the factors which led to this decision were not based on a judgment as to whether the boundary established in 1907-08 was "fair" or that it had been drawn in relation to the location of the watershed. Rather (and to summarise very briefly), the ICJ's decision rested on the fact that over many decades the Bangkok government had not disputed the validity of the map drawn up by the French, and agreed to at the time by the Siamese authorities, that incorporated Preah Vihear into Cambodian territory. The court also accepted that Siam had recognised Cambodian sovereignty in various other ways, including through visits to the temple by senior Siamese officials who were received by members of the French administration then governing Cambodia.Thai ambition, Cambodian fearHowever, it is fair to say that legal considerations are not always at the heart of Thai thinking on relations with Cambodia. From the time of Cambodia's gaining independence in 1953 until the onset of the Cambodian civil war in 1970, relations between Thailand and Cambodia were marked by almost continuous difficulty. While there were brief periods when relations were "correct", in others diplomatic relations were suspended. Throughout these years Thai security services worked to undermine the government in Phnom Penh. This was a fact explicitly stated to me by a senior Thai official with security responsibilities, during an extended discussion of Thai-Cambodian relations in 1980. General Channa Samudvanija observed that in essence, Thai policy towards Cambodia was to support those forces within the country that opposed the existing government. The rationale behind such a policy was the Realpolitik view of seeking to weaken a neighbour with which Thailand had substantial policy differences: Thailand supported United States policies in southeast Asia and Cambodia did not. Without placing excessive weight on the continuity of Thai policy at this stage with previous historical relations with Cambodia, there is no doubt that the views Channa advanced were also in part a reflection of those relations.In similar fashion, it would be incorrect to regard the conflict that erupted in July 2008 as a direct manifestation of the view expressed in 1980 by General Channa.

For it is clear that the crisis arose in part out of domestic Thai politics - and the positions being taken both by the government led by prime minister Samak and his political opponents. The Thai opposition had sought to undermine the Samak government by criticising its readiness to support Cambodia's wish to see Preah Vihear inscribed on Unesco's world heritage list.Nevertheless, discussion of the issue of Preah Vihear within Thailand does represent yet another instance of a readiness of some Thais, whether politicians or ordinary citizens, to adopt and advance positions that seek to undermine what they see as irrelevant and irksome Cambodian interests. The readiness of some observers to resort to describing the situation as an expression of big brother-little brother rivalry is too simple, but it would be equally wrong to dismiss this aspect of Thai and Cambodian thinking about the relationship between the two countries.At the same time, there is no doubting that the ingrained sensitivity felt by many Cambodians in relation to their relations with both Thailand and Vietnam on occasion borders on paranoia.

This was demonstrated in the events of 2003, when a Thai TV actress with a popular following in both Thailand and Cambodia was supposed to have stated that she would not perform in Cambodia until that country restored Thailand's sovereignty over the great Angkorian temple of Angkor Wat. Whether the actress, Suwanan Kongying, made such a statement or not, the publicity that surrounded her alleged remark led to serious ant-Thai rioting in Phnom Penh; the damage included the destruction of the Thai embassy and many Thai businesses (there was also a barely averted attack on the Thai ambassador). Here, again, a deeper analysis of the 2003 riots suggests that domestic Cambodian issues were involved.

This intimate yet conflictual history means that even the settlement of the latest dispute is no guarantee that the situation has been settled once and for all. For the wider issues associated with Preah Vihear are no nearer to being resolved. The mutual military withdrawals from the temple area have brought respite; but the memory of the febrile stand-off between Thai and Cambodian armed forces, amid ultra-nationalist rhetoric from politicians on both sides, remains fresh. The ever-present readiness of politicians in both countries to stoke the flames of nationalist animosity is reflected in the suggestion by a Cambodian official that the Phnom Penh government might build a wall that would exclude access to the temple from Thai territory - as is possible at present.Indeed, at least for the moment diplomacy has won out over war, as two sessions of talks between the Thai and Cambodian foreign ministers have helped create a marginally improved atmosphere. The fact that the new and highly regarded Thai foreign minister, Tej Bunnag, had been appointed at the direct wish of the king is also of importance. Now, however, Tej Bunnag's decision to leave his post - though unlikely to have any immediate effect on the Preah Vihear issue at a time when Bangkok is preoccupied with domestic political turmoil - may be regretted over the longer term since he was undoubtedly a calming influence in relation to Thai policies. In any event, a lengthy and continuing period of political turmoil in Thailand creates the possibility that the question of Preah Vihear may yet return to haunt Thai-Cambodian relations.

Reproduced courtesy of openDemocracy.net under a Creative Commons licence.

What a murky background

Here is a brief summary of the last 400 years and puts the temple conflict into some context.

nothing easy in sorting this issue out.

New arrivals in PP

I was stirred from my afternoon relaxation on Tuesday by an attempted phone call, you know when there are 3-5 digits shown on your ph so it must be an incoming call from overseas.

Calls like that always make your heart skip a beat as you hope that they are not the harbinger of bad news.

It wasn't it was Kane calling from thailand to tell me he and robin would be arriving the next day at 4pm.

Ahhhhhh i remember the days when your next destination was a guide book guess away.... Damn pre-grey nomads.

Went out after school to pick up the kids, they look in fine form and a life less traveled is certainly treating them well.

Walked out from the airport to get a tuktuk and found the driver telling us that the Thais had killed two khmer soldiers "I am army now" he kept saying and it was with a sinking feeling in my stomach that we drove into PP.

Home to May and a yummy Khmer meal of ribs with pepper sauce, sour soup with lemon grass and stir fried veges.

As if to welcome the pair the Phnom Penh sky opened up and gave them both a show, Lightening and thunder followed by torrential rain. As suddenly as it had started it was gone, taking with it the dusty streets and leaving that nice recent rain smell (im never sure if the lightening has something to do with it but just after a storm is the best)

We went for a wander along the "golden mile"past the touts and tuktuk boys, the expensive restaurants serving barang food and down towards the royal palace.

The area was in darkness for some reason (pick your best) so we went back along the side streets, stopping for a few quiet beers in a noisy bar, or was it the other way round?

Then home to sit on the balcony, watch the world and the river roll by and wonder if the war of words on the border would really turn into something else.

Woke this morning to more news about the temples, im not sure how "real news" is getting out as the Thais are keeping reports back 5kms and the Cambodian press is probably in the same boat.

Here is hoping that the call for Thai and Cambodian nationals to return home is premeture and doesnt indicate a rising level of antipathy between the two countries.


Sunday, 5 October 2008

Another Hot n Humid monday in PP

Ok, the first pic needs some explaining i know!

That was the last of my Pineapple Lumps (straight from the freezer!) I do not know why, but they are the only sweet from NZ i miss?!

The artificial pineapple flavour was given a big thumbs down by May (to which i secretly cheered!!) but they are now all gone.

The milk bottle like sweets i had ought from the local market have been dumped as i was sitting watching the news and saw shop keepers in Hong Kong dumping packs of the "Lucky rabbit" brand off their shelves...ahh melamine what can"t you poison with it?

Well, i wondered how long it would be before the constant humidity, insects and boredom would lead to an exchange of gunfire at Preah Vihear.

The story seems to be that an exchange of words/shots and a grenade left two Thais injured and one Khmer. The news story is as follows,

Two Thai soldiers and one Cambodian soldier were injured in what was the first clash in the disputed territory since the two countries agreed to pull back troops in August after a tense month-long stand-off.
Each country has accused the other of encroaching on its territory.


Hopefully everyone will take a step back and we wont see this blow out of all proportion (unfortunately for both countries it is way too personal to be ignored)

The picture below is of a very relieved couple at the top of the limestone outcrop (the climb up was tricky but the view was incredible, the thought of heavy fighting in this area during the 79 invasion of the area is almost beyond belief

The pepper plantation was typical of any you might see, tall bushes covered in the bright green pepper seeds all clustered together.

Cooking with them this week has been great, they burst in your mouth as you chew them. The pepper we got has a real kick to it and makes the lime/chilli dip a real tongue biter. hmmmmm

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

A lazy weekend in Kep

Kep, if you havent heard of it it is the former seaside resort of the rich and the barang that was very efficently wiped out by the Khmer Rouge leaving only burnt out and shot up buildings dotted all along the coastline.

It was featured in the movie City of Ghosts (you can guess why the movie is named that)

I made a call fri avo and booked us a room at the Beach house, a rather fancy looking place on the coast in Kep. Picked up May after work and we went hunting for bus tickets to get there!

Finally found a bus company that was going in the morning and we packed (im not sure how but May packs for any trip the same way, grab all your favourite clothes, plonk them in the pack, whatever space is left Matt can fill that up)

The Sorya bus company isnt the sharpest so we made sure we found our bus amongst the many and clambered on early. (if the driver is there, the air con is on!) the bus filled up, then overflowed and the last barang got the short straw of having to sit on the floor.

Having travelled in Laos like that i wouldnt recommend it, it is like having your bum and kidneys given a firm massage and heat treatment at the same time (sounds good in theory but...)

The countryside near Kep was a mix of Limestone outcrops (think Haolong Bay) and beautiful greem rice paddies.

The province is one of the wealthiest in Cambodia, and the lush vegetation told a story of very good rainfall and sunshine.

We got both on our stay!

We arrived in Kep in the afternoon, dropped off almost in front of our hotel, in for a wash then straight to the pool. It was a small but deep plunge pool and waterfall jacuzzi. The family groups there made way for May and I as we splashed our way around.

Dinner was of course SEAFOOD! we made our way along the coastline (think the coastline by Masseys memorial with monkeys!) and kept walking, walking and walking the clouds started to come in and we knew it would rain sooner rather than later. The top of Bokor mountain was permanently capped in mist while we were in Kep.
Finally May flagged down an old lady on a moto and she took us around the corner into the crab market. (how were we to know it was 100 metres further on!?)

May haggled a while and we soon left with a jar of red peppercorns, a bottle of homemade Kep sauce (a fiery mix of chillis, lime, fish sauce and some secret herb and spices) 4 small squid on a spit and two fish.

The owner of the hotel didnt look to pleased when we rolled in , ordered some rice and beers and unpacked our feast.
I was aware that in the west bringing a dinner to a restaurant is how shall i say it ... frowned upon but hey we are in Cambodia and it is something that happens in all the places we go to eat (maybe that says something about our "fine dining"but who cares)
The sauce was amazing, the bbq squid peeled apart easily and you had to pull out the ink sack carefully or else the rice took on a rather blue tinge.

We munched away happily and a cold Anchor washed the seafood down nicely.

The sunset was great, sitting on our balcony watching it was a very peaceful moment, in fact that word sums up modern Kep well, it is a sleepy and beautiful area that we will be going to visit again soon.

The nightlife in Kep is mostly animal based, the inhabitants disappear back home and so we crashed out and slept at some very silly hour.

As a result we awoke at 5am, fresh and keen to look around we wandered along the streets, taking photos of the ruins and imagining what could be. Forget over priced Phnom, thsi is the place to buy a slice of beach front property!!

We were wandering along being watched by the few Khmer workers who were putting up deck chairs and tarps near the beach when we spotted a couple of guys running at full pace towards us, they wernt chasing just jogging really fast, nothing strange i guess until i recognised one of them as the PE teacher at NISC out for a quick jog before brekkie (it is a small world)

May and i finally found a moto dup driver who could show us the temple complex outside of town and could take us to one of the pepper farms. (Kampot and Kep pepper is world renowned for its kick and taste)

Our moto driver had a beard, and in Cambodia that is a rarity, his declining the offfers of fruit during the day confirmied that he was part of the Cham minority who are observing ramadan at the moment. He seemed quite chuffed when i asked him if this was the case (im guessing in a country of 94% Bhuddists you can get ignored or overlooked at times)

The clouds burnt off as we raced through tiny hamlets and past fields that were achingly green, im still not used to the beauty of rice paddies, i keep taking pictures and May looks at me like im silly.
This will be a two part blog, i have meetings this avo and im trying to finish lunch over the computer so our forays into the surrounding landscape will be done tomorrow.
Always leave them wanting less i say

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

The Countryside

This is the update to our Sunday in the country.

The reason it is a couple of days later is that the connection here is slower than me on a sudoku puzzle (dont know why i hate them so much?!)

We were visiting friends of Savreys and got a chance to wander down some paddy fields and see just how oppresively hot it can be away from fans or air con.

(yes i know how very un-traveller of me but we were dressed in sunday best)

We had a look around the garden and found some beautiful plants, some of them herbs which we "borrowed"for our meal that night and others flowers.

It was crazy as we wandered through the undergrowth to see the insect life and small animals that thrive in such humid conditions.

Army ants (big enough that their warning bite makes you jump!) swarmed across pathways, dragon flys massed across the rice paddies and the

ubiquitous lizards lay on any warm surface trying to catch unwary insects as they flew by.

Below is a cross section of a palm, the amazing patterns made by the stem structure were made more interesting as the plant started to decay in the heat. Nothing stays around for long in this climate.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

The weekend that was

Pçhum Ben

We spent this last weekend doing two things. Sitting in the Tuktuk waiting and sitting in the tuktuk waiting, hmmm maybe thats overstating things a tad!

Saturday was spent wandering around Phnom taking pics for a birthday slideshow for Nate (it is being done in between classes today, hopefully to be completed this afternoon!) we encountered amourous Maquaque, a stroppy elephant and deep fried tarantula whilst doing that which was kind of exciting (think Amazing Race Asia but without the amped asian couples, just a procha barang and his khmer girlfriend)

Sunday was spent mainly in a tuktuk as we made our way slowly out along the highway south (think NZ highway through Otaki, rather than US highway) amidst the heaviest traffic i have seen since being here.

It was wall to wall moto/tuktuk and 4x4, with the old monster truck to make everyone feel small.

Everyone was dressed to the Sunday best which meant white lace tops for the ladies with khmer silk skirts and buisness shirts for the boys. (I was wearing my Hoi An best, which made me want to sweat buckets in the windless and sweltering Cambodian morning)

We stopped at Savrey's place to pick up Grandma Savrey and Tep Savrey (the lady who looked after May when she was younger).

We had a curry to start the morning, it had coconut pulp sliced into it which was amazing, almost like a firm taro.

With offerings in place we started off, joining the throng of vehicles all heading to one of the temples that surround Phnom Penh.

Then we stopped, i dont mean slowed to a crawl, i mean stopped, our driver got off and went to have a smoke and a chat with some guys along the road! thankfully there are drink shops everywhere (well a person with a block of ice, a large "esky" and some straws)

It took 2.5 hours to make our way along the roads, watching the traffic nudge and weave its way along was insightful into how Cambodians approach such things. there was no honking, even when people got REALLY close or bumped each other, there was a general feeling that we would get there eventually even though everyone knew that at 12 the monks would stop accepting food and begin to feed the people (themselves incl) that assemble at the temple (thus answering my question about where does all this food end up!)

We finally made it to the temple, it was about 20 mins past the Choeung Ek Genocide Memorial (the Killing Fields site as it is called here)

The temple was filled by a throng of people, all aware of what they were doing and i felt very "odd one out" (its ok, i get that alot)

We carried our foods inside one hall, taking off our shoes and giving them to one of the local kids who guard them for a small price. making our way past wooden ships and large piles of rice we approached a serving area.

The piles of food were immense, people have these metal food carriers (they are actually great for keeping and moving warm food, no tupperware here!) and they were decanting the contents into the plates that the nuns were passing forward.

We placed our food, and then took the rice to the next hall where a group of very old nuns were sitting near a large statue.

Knealling we passed over an offering (we had exchanged $10 for 100 riel notes earlier, lol it was the first time i have had a wad of cash in my pocket here, 100 riel is worth how much you ask? well a 1000 riel is 25c so 2.5c for those amongst you who find decimal place a difficult concept)

We then took our rice and scooped a small mound into a series of bowls that were on a long table. It looked very similar to the money bowls at a wat in Thailand that we went to earlier this year.

We then walked over to an outdoor area that had five large earten piles that were studded with incense, people were waliking amoungst them placing incense sticks in them and sprinkling earth from a small plate on the piles as they went.

We followed and as we went i asked May what this was for, it represents the lost souls who have no place to go, giving them i guess a place that they can claim as their own (dont quote me but i like the idea of it)

I was the only barang there, i guess the rest go closer to town?! a couple of people asked May why i was there, the answer they got was "Good luck for him" it got a nod and a smile so May must know what she is doing.

We then stopped to give alms to some of the old people who were at the gates and then we drove further out into the countryside.

The landscape is this amazing mix of utterly flat rice paddies and construction sites (the pace of development is crazy, there are large industrial sites being put up everywhere, next to small shanties without power or running water.

We were going to visit some friends of the Savreys, none of whom spoke English so i smiled, said the few Khmer terms i knew for polite society and let them laugh at the many things that Barang do that makes Khmer people smile.

We went for a walk along the paddy walls to see the mango trees and fields that are owned by Tep Savrey. Hopefully the pictures convey some of the colour if not the oppressive heat that was lifted every so often by a beautiful light breeze.

This visit completed we made our way quite quickly back into the city, The state of our clothes and hair when we got back made us wonder what our lungs must be like (the dust is everpresent and something that can never be forgotten, it tends to accumulate in the strangest places)

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

The unpleasent side of street life in PP, or anywhere i guess

Last night May had her first encounter with a particular species of Khmer boy, namely the two guys on the moto who tend to prey on Khmer females or tourists.
Their modus operandi is to just cruise the streets looking for a female using a cellphone while riding on a moto, or the unsuspecting tourist with a handbag not held securely (yes i know "that isn't very sensible, or legal?!"but we are in Cambodia, it seems police will not stop you even for driving drunk, with 5 passengers, without a helmet)
We had borrowed Bom's nice new moto (older sister of May) and had just had it detailed and cleaned when i left to go get out some cash from an ATM. May got bored of waiting for me and drove the 100 metres down to the shops, she had her ph in her left hand, as the right operates the gas on a moto. In that time two young guys drove past her, one grabbed at the cellphone, unfortuanately May is made of sterner stuff and the grip on the phone didnt give, the bikes bumped and May ended up flipped off her bike and landed on the street, hitting her head and side and seeing stars.
As May told me later she lay there, blinking, seeing starts then looked at her hand to see the phone still gripped tightly. She got up, dusted herself off and drove back to pick me up.
The guys managed to drive away which is a shame as mob justice for this kind of crime can be quite quick and brutal!
So instead of going to eat frog and chicken with the yummy peppery lime dipping sauce, we went home and i put some ice on the back of her head.
I lit more incense than usual and said thanks for what could have been really nasty, wasn't.
May seemed ok, later on that evening I went to our local Bangladeshi restaurant (have to love somewhere that has beautiful green tomato chutney with the $1 samosas!) and got a selection of curries to take out.
May sat up in bed and took nourishment, but was certainly feeling the aches this morning (no bike ride before brekkie today!)
Mum is coming to see her today, and if she has any dizzy spells or headaches we will take her down for a checkup, but hopefully she has got away from this without a scratch...... yes we are getting the scratches on the moto taken out.
Dont want an angry older sister on our case!