Friday, June 30, 2017

oNe PhOtO a DaY JuNe 2017


THURSDAY 1st JUNE: Travel adventures are wonderful but returning to known territory, checking into a familiar hotel and going directly to a favourite eatery with sensational food is sheer joy. Glad to be back in Bangkok

FRIDAY 2nd BESTIES: A bit of a different take since my besties are almost 7,000 kilometres away right now. Reflecting on our time in Peru: the best meal, the best hotel, the best birding shot and the most famous sight of our trip. The besties of Peru

SATURDAY 3rd REFLECTION: The people waiting for the BTS (Skytrain) in Siam station are all a reflection in the transparent glass of the safety barriers. The reflection is more clearly visible when the coloured section of the train is behind the glass

SUNDAY 4th LOCAL: This is a local sign on public transport here in Bangkok

MONDAY 5th ROUND: The round or more accurately spherical lamp that sits on the reception desk in our favourite hotel in Bangkok

TUESDAY 6th COOKING: Just arrived in Phnom Penh and a minute from the door of our hotel is this stall. There is always something cooking in the street in Asia and the aroma draws you in. Tonight we ate at a fondly remembered ethical eatery but we may be tempted by those eggs come breakfast time. Great start Phnompers....

WEDNESDAY 7th ENTRANCE: The is the elaborate and ornate entrance gate to The Royal Palace Park in the river front area of Phnom Penh

THURSDAY 8th ARROW: The arrows on the Smateria brand product indicate that the materials are repurposed netting used in the fishing and construction industries, recycled plastic and leather offcuts. I love this label and their innovative products and today I got this to replace the worn out version I bought here almost four years ago

FRIDAY 9th FULL: Just wandered into Lucky supermarket and discovered a new full jar of Vegemite begging me to buy it. OK Aussie expat's dream come true. Bought one in NYC $12, another in Toronto $10, the next in Bangkok $8 and now Phnom Penh $4.20!!! Something tells me Cambodia is our kind of place and yes I'm a Vegemite addict

SATURDAY 10th MAP: These days we mostly get away with a phone and Google maps for navigating the streets or an iPad and Google Earth for the big picture of the country but today with one day left in Phnom Penh we picked up our first free tourist paper map

SUNDAY 11th STUNNING: The traditional buildings, the tranquil atmosphere of the internal courtyard and the treasures within at the National Museum of Cambodia combine together to all create a stunning impression

MONDAY 12th EXERCISE: We try to walk 10 kilometres a day everyday but the exercise I love best is swimming. For the last 4 days we have been in the rooftop pool every afternoon but today we took a dip in the morning before checking out and our bus ride to Kep. Thanks to Ian for snapping me doing my laps

TUESDAY 13th TIME: From the time we arrived at this hotel the pool was telling me it's time to swim and now that we have we will take the time to swim everyday while we can

WEDNESDAY 14th BEGINS WITH F: Frangipani flowers with their beautiful fragrance abound in Kep

THURSDAY 15th SYMMETRICAL: I have had a fascination with gates and doorways for a long time and this perfectly symmetrical Cambodian version is the stunning back gate of the Palm House Boutique Hotel in Kep

FRIDAY 16th MY STYLE: I guess almost everyone thinks they don't have a style: me too. If I think about it I have adopted the style and clothing of most the places I have lived so ...... a little bit ethnic, a splash of bohemian, a touch of outdoorsy and a good dollop of quirky. I am sure that all these photos were taken by Ian since I am the subject so thanks to him for recording the ever-changing faces of my style

SATURDAY 17th BOTTLE: We are very conscious of our Eco-footprint especially while travelling. We never buy anything in plastic, polystyrene or throwaway food or drink containers and carry our own shopping bags to avoid plastic ones, however the pet water bottles are difficult to avoid and weigh heavily on our conscious. This is the solution. We already have bottles and now the website will helps us buy less until we have our own water filter

SUNDAY 18th MAGIC: The ability to instil tranquillity even in difficult times is the magic of the ocean. Today I'm grateful to feel its influence

MONDAY 19th LETTER: Apparently in Khmer these two letters make up my name. I asked someone to write it for me today. Languages fascinate me and I am amazed by alphabets different from the one I know. I will have to test the theory and see if it truly does sound like my name when another Cambodian reads it

TUESDAY 20th Yay: On exactly the day we predicted and booked to return to Phnom Penh Ian's new passport was issued and ready for collection. Yay yay, yay! Hassle-free journey, prompt check-in and passport in hand - step one successfully completed and feeling blessed

WEDNESDAY 21st ON THE TABLE: This stunningly delicious Mediterranean Platter was on the table in front of me at ARTillery Arts Café tonight. I am so glad I chose it even though we will have to return now to taste the other tempting items on the menu

THURSDAY 22nd TEAL: is the colour of the fencing and gates of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh and this teal elephant is a detail on the street side of the gate

FRIDAY 23rd PARALLEL: We flew into Bangkok early this morning and the parallel red white and blue stripes of the Thai flag struck me as s fitting image for this prompt

SATURDAY 24th COLOUR SPLASH: I did download an app and do a real colour splash today but then it occurred to me that almost all my clothes are black, white or grey with orange being the only splash of colour these days so.... I found a suitable backdrop and asked Ian to take a colour splash of me. This is it straight out of the phone

SUNDAY 25th BLOSSOM: I see these strings of blossoms every time we are in Thailand. I know they adorn spirit houses, altars, cars and other offerings but I do not know why or even what the small white flowers they always contain are called. Today's prompt promoted me to buy a string as I have always wanted to

MONDAY 26th IN A STACK: Bangkok is always somewhere we arrive with a to buy list and despite having luggage left here to collect the same was true this time. Although the receipts don't look much in a stack they do amount to fair amount of money for a few "essential" items and now we sure have a stack of unusual looking luggage to contend with on the flight tomorrow

TUESDAY 27th OLD: This old, used, tourist visa was officially replaced today when we re-entered Cambodia and a long-term renewable "E" visa was issued. We are no longer nomads of no fixed address. We live in Cambodia

WEDNESDAY 28th NEW: This Swiss designed, open plan, bamboo house in the middle of the paddy fields 2 kms from Kep is our NEW home. We signed up for 3 months today and are sooooo excited to take up residence on July 1st. A series of serendipitous events made it all possible. Happy doesn't even begin to cover it

THURSDAY 29th WHITE ON WHITE: This is in a shop in Phnom Penh and I have admired its beautiful lacquer objects de art on several visits. I will eventually buy one but for today the stunning white on white display of a lacquer Buddha is the image I sought

FRIDAY 30th THIS IS WHO I AM: An orange loving, red haired, vegetarian cyclist, who is embracing the Cambodian lifestyle

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Kep Calling

Arriving in Phnom Penh we felt that we weren’t off to the best possible start. While in Bangkok, in our eagerness to begin the next phase of our existence, and do it by the book and follow the rules, we had attempted to get the long stay visas we wanted at the Kingdom of Cambodia Embassy and failed miserably. We were issued tourist visas and were told that they could be extended so we carried on with the flimsy plan we had already made. That was to check out the possible places we would like to live over the next month and in the order we preferred them.

On the plane we filled in new visa forms, hoping against hope, we might be able to have the tourist visas cancelled but that was not to be. We did however leave immigration feeling optimistic as our long-term visa application forms were both stamped for approval before we mentioned that we already had tourist visas…….. next time. There has to be a next time anyway since as usual we have left some luggage behind in BKK.

From the moment we were in a taxi and heading for the downtown area things just seemed to be signaling that Cambodia was a good decision. Familiar Asian vistas made us both feel comfortable and at ease. The heat however, after our prolonged winter in North and South America, took a little more adjusting to then we expected.

This is a reconnaissance mission of sorts and with our moods oscillating between total optimism and worry, we spent our time alternating between checking out the availability and prices of goods and services and returning to old haunts and sights as well as discovering some new ones.

Phnom Penh continues to hold its own in terms of attractions, traditions, businesses and sustainable, eco-friendly, conscious driven enterprise. Unfortunately the perennial problems of any large city are ever-present. Garbage, traffic and retaining the traditional architecture whilst allowing development to take place and provide long-term benefits to the local community, seem to be the most pressing issues from our point of view, and “Phnompers” is not alone in that challenge. We enjoyed the afternoon breaks from the heat, reading and swimming, well enough to allow ourselves the luxury of two extra days in the capital before setting out on our most important task.

Bussing out of Phnom Penh through near stand still traffic at a snail’s pace and amid swirling dust and sprawling incomplete construction sites on the outskirts, in a worn out, beaten up tourist van with an ancient air-con incapable of its primary function was a bit of a wake-up call. The roads, the conditions and the heat conspired to spur the driver into ever more daring attempts at overtaking and speed.

However at some point I simply forgot to notice as tiny villages, roadside vendors, pools of blooming lotuses larger than paddy fields, scenes of cows and water buffaloes, swaying palm trees, rice fields and the grinding poverty of tiny rural communities sent me into a nostalgic stupor. Memories of travel, adventures and experiences in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and previous trips to Cambodia flashed before me and evoked a sense of wellbeing and joy at the adventure we are now embarking on. With great fondness I recalled Luang Prabang, Pakse, Yangon, Bagan, Hoi An, Hue, Kratie, Battambang, Koh Phangan, Sukothai and oh so many more, sometimes blurring them together and struggling to identify where each event had occurred.  Thus lost in nostalgia we suddenly arrived in Kampot and were taken aback to discover that we would now have to wait another two hours to complete the last 20 minutes of our journey to Kep.

With no say in the matter, we were left to wander the streets, find water and a quick, light, late lunch and marvel at what we could recognize among the great changes that had taken place since we had last spent time in Kampot in late 2013. Those two hours were enough to convince us that this was no longer a place on the list of possibilities. Kampot seemed to boast more foreigners than locals in the old town sector near the banks of the Mekong at least. To our eyes a great number of them also seemed to be the long termers we wish to become but we do not wish to become part of an expat set!

At twilight we arrived in Kep and stared open-jawed at the ocean. Thrilled at the cool ocean breeze easing the all-consuming burden of the heat, we stepped into a tuk tuk and were whisked away to our budget ‘resort’ hotel. Our late arrival meant we dined poolside and availed of the air-con to rest, knowing the following day we would begin exploring in earnest.

Eager to make the most of time and none too sensibly we set off on foot about mid morning. Knowing Kep is small and spread along the coast we wrongly assumed this would not be too daunting a task. The market was our first stop and while it cannot compare to the huge variety available in Phnompers, it was, in Ian’s words, “Better than we expected and not as bad as we feared.” Thus encouraged we continued along the linear strip following the coast and called in at the first two houses for rent signs we stumbled upon. The second of which contained the manager of our hotel, who was as surprised to see us as we were him. By midday we were lured back to the hotel by the pool and the prospect of a swim. That was the second poor decision of the day. We emerged very refreshed and with the first dose of sunburn in about five years to add to the morning’s near heat stroke!! Time to review our Aussie upbringing and a practice a bit of sun smart behaviour.

The following morning we were clever enough to decide to take a tuk tuk to the second of the hotel manager’s properties but came away disappointed that four of the five properties we had looked at were no more than glorified hotel rooms with a bedroom, bathroom and small kitchen space but no living area at all. The remaining one with an upstairs outdoor space was indeed an apartment but located above the open pit for car maintenance at a garage. Not exactly a location we would consider ideal.

Still Kep has appeal and we were not going to be disheartened after only two days. The very next day we happened upon a sign in the Kep Coffee Café that was advertising houses for rent and was posted directly above a sign calling for English teaching volunteers. It seemed a good omen with both on our hit list and we made arrangements to see a small, new, well appointed house that would have been perfect, if it didn’t transpire that the current occupant has since decided to continue to rent it.

Therefore the search continues but we feel even if we haven't exactly found the house, we have at least decided on the place to live and something will eventually come up. There was a reason Kep was the top of the list and we have confirmed it’s our kind of small community and even made a few new friends in the past few days. I’m glad to say all but one of them, are Cambodian too. The sea breezes in the evenings providing welcome relief from the heat is something none of the inland towns we were considering can offer and the calming effect of the sound of the ocean has its own appeal and is reminiscent of the first home Ian and I ever shared in Port Noarlunga. 

We took ourselves to Kampot for a one night stay and discovered that our first impressions formed during our two hour wayside stop were not too far off the mark and although there are the many more sophisticated cafes and restaurants and plenty of goods we won’t find in Kep we will be happy to access them regularly and live elsewhere. It at least confirmed for us that Kep is where we want to try to make a go of things.

After only two weeks in the country we feel we are making good progress but there is still a long way to go before the dream becomes a reality.  

Next stop is Phnompers en route to Bangkok.