Monday, July 31, 2017

oNe PhOtO a DaY JuLy 2017


SATURDAY 1st YUM: After collecting a couple of cane pieces of furniture in Kampot we took a scheduled stop at Epic Cafe for lunch before completing the journey to Kep. This lunch was officially yum

SUNDAY 2nd SOMETHING YELLOW: Well our first full day in our new hometown and a trip to the local market, so we can cook at home from now on, meant the something yellow had to be these tiny (barely bigger than my thumb) bananas. I don't even eat bananas but Ian does and they weren't all we bought obviously but they were the only yellow items among the purchases

MONDAY 3rd SLICE: I am delighted to have a kitchen again and have spent a lot of this morning slicing lotus roots for a salad I learned to make in China. They were the only fresh food we carried with us from Phnom Penh because I was so glad to see them there and disappointed that they weren't available in Kep. A single slice is such a pretty shape but I had to include part of the whole root as well

TUESDAY 4th BEGINS WITH C: Coconut of course. Buying and trying the local treats in our new hometown is our current joy. This coconut was shredded before our very eyes in the Kep market this morning. Looks like coconut enhanced curry and coconut flavoured rice pudding will be on the menu this week

WEDNESDAY 5th EARTH: Despite the apparently dry earth in this the rainy season the rice in the paddies outside our front door is thriving

THURSDAY 6th READING: In the past week we have been trying to learn a few simple phrases in Khmer but I simply can't see myself ever reading this language. I think this is a prayer as it was in a temple we discovered earlier today

FRIDAY 7th BIRDS: Thanks to this prompt I have spent a great deal of time observing the many birds that frequent the rice paddies, which surround our house today. The winner of the bird of the day contest is the black-winged stilt, who also made a lovely little chirping sound and swooped and waded as it searched for food.

SATURDAY 8th SCENT: Today has been all about cooking - frying, baking and roasting. We tried out the new oven and now the delicious scent of home cooking permeates the whole house, which happens to be open plan and one room. I just realised how many posts so far this month have been about food. I guess we have really missed having a kitchen to call our own

SUNDAY 9th ZEN: Adding the personal touches to our new home. It makes me happy to have a beautiful space, enhance it and enjoy living in. My little Vietnamese Zen Buddha reminding me to be calm, mindful and grateful

MONDAY 10th NEUTRALS: The neutral tones of the bamboo and wood create the ambience in our bamboo home. This shot is looking up to the ceiling and storage area. Ladder access only, so dreams of turning it into a guest room remain unfulfilled

TUESDAY 11th BUT FIRST...:  open the windows and let the air and light in and make the bed

 (I am uncharacteristically indecisive today. Second option is above - I never leave home without making the bed and eating breakfast)

WEDNESDAY 12th DAILY RITUAL: Having only been in this house for eleven days there are few daily rituals established, but not a day has gone by without me staring out at the rice paddies and taking time to appreciate being here while contemplating life. We can almost see the rice grow in this season

THURSDAY 13th GEOMETRIC: The simplistic beauty of Cambodia's iconic scarf- the khramer. Each one is patterned with stripes and checks and always in geometric designs

FRIDAY 14th OUT THE WINDOW: The view out the bedroom window is of the rice paddies and our nearest neighbour's house.
NB This seems to be turning into the month of showcasing food and the bamboo house

SATURDAY 15th PAPER: The recycled Phnom Penh Post newspaper pages from the wrapping from our purchases at the Sakura Recycle Shop in Kampot

SUNDAY 16th THIS COULD BE AN ALBUM COVER: French pop/ rock new wave band formed in Paris in 1981 and one of the best selling French bands, having sold 10 million albums might have wanted this shot taken in Kampot as one of their album covers. Archive shot taken in 2013 less than 20 minutes away from where we now live

MONDAY 17th ON THE WALL: I spotted this while walking around in Phnom Penh a couple of weeks ago. I've hardly seen any street art here but this picture cleverly incorporates the tap on the wall into the image. Archive shot again as we are being held hostage in the bamboo house by the monsoon rains

TUESDAY 18th PETALS: The intricately folded petals of a lotus flowers in the hand of Buddha. I have noticed these folded offerings in both Thailand and Cambodia but I think I prefer the naturally opening petals of this exquisite flower. Continuing with archive shots showcasing Cambodia as the monsoon abates and the decimated garden looks half submerged

WEDNESDAY 19th SEE THROUGH: I admire this little traditionally designed school building on the main road into Kep each time we pass. By chance we recently met the president of the Educating Smiling Children organisation that has built many such schools all over Cambodia. You can see through the turquoise fence and appreciate the airy design of the buildings and the shady surroundings

THURSDAY 20th I HAVE TOO MANY: randomly sized pieces of cloth that do not serve any practical purpose at the moment but have huge sentimental value and have been utilised it different ways in different homes so I continue to hang on to them. This prompt was really difficult as this has been our year of downsizing and simplifying our lives

FRIDAY 21st CROSS: These colourful wooden boats cross the open water to get to Koh Tunsay (Rabbit Island) from the mainland at Kep Pier daily

SATURDAY 22nd COMPOSITION: This luxury residence and exquisite garden is not just about the composition of aesthetics, it also spells opulence to me. We are privileged to be able to use the pool in this gorgeous setting and very grateful for the generosity of the owner

SUNDAY 23rd CHILDHOOD: Some of my fondest memories of childhood are of the beach in summer and at Kep Beach this afternoon plenty of children were making those same memories. Hard to believe that about five minutes after taking this photo, the skies opened up and another torrential downpour flooded the nearby streets and intersections but it didn't empty the beach

MONDAY 24th LOOKING UP: I was looking up at the sky for over an hour yesterday. Three distinct layers of clouds floated past and this was the final view. I need to remember to look up more over in the late afternoon

TUESDAY 25th BALLOON: This motorcycle balloon vendor plies his trade at the beachfront in Kep regularly and this little shopper knew exactly which balloon she wanted. She also waited patiently while the rainbow unicorn was extracted from the mass

WEDNESDAY 26th TRIO: A trio of light fittings, at which we are currently staring longingly after having no electricity for the last three hours as nightfall approaches

Thursday 27th TINY DETAILS: What makes me feel really at peace and connected are the tiny details that I love to add to the decor in our home. This minute Buddha has been a part of each home I've lived in for many many years. I always find a special place for him to reside and always notice him when I walk by. Living mindfully

FRIDAY 28th BRIDGE: I'm not quite sure why this bridge exists on the foreshore in Kep but I was glad to discover it today. I thought there were no bridges in this town but thanks to PAD I have discovered that there are at least two near identical bridges a few hundred metres apart.

 Second choice and the other bridge above

SATURDAY 29th BEAUTIFUL BUILDING: This restored colonial home on the main street in Kep is certainly a beautiful building. The light filled airy rooms and open air spaces are enticing and charming. Although we are on the lookout for a rental and it is available, it is certain to be well over our budget - might need to take a look inside anyway

SUNDAY 30th FREE CHOICE: Since this seems to be my month of showcasing the Bamboo House and our new, chosen location of Kep, I choose the Spirit House in the Garden. I do love them and intend to find out more about their significance as our time here continues

MONDAY 31st HAIR: Rambutan a fruit with hair in various shades of green, red and black. These are local produce from the market and purchased to continue showcasing Kep during our first month of living here

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Coming to terms with Kep 2

The last few days in Kep have been exactly how I imagined living in Cambodia would be. We get up as early as ever because the light pours into the single open plan room in which we live. It is the early morning and late afternoon hours that are the most agreeable so we plan to continue this practice even though I have never been a morning person. A stunning sunrise sometimes greets us and the doors are flung open to match the windows left open all night. No air-con is required as breezes and sometimes much stronger winds blow through the whole place, directly off the rice paddies, which surround it on three sides, while we consume a simple breakfast of yoghurt and fruit with coffee.

The mesmerizing rice paddy views are an ever present and calming reminder to live mindfully.

Next we either walk or ride to the market early in the day before the sun gets too searingly hot. Actually we mostly ride as once the sun comes out it is too easy to overheat. Funny how walking 10 kilometres a days was the minimum in Bhutan but now riding is way better than walking in terms of time spent exposed to the sun and the cooling effect the movement creates. Some days I'm shocked to see I have walked less than one kilometre, but I digress.

By mid morning we are home in our bamboo haven reading, writing or cooking up some treat. Currently we are revelling in having our very own kitchen again after almost six months of travelling and only occasionally being able to avail of other people’s. It's hard not to feel guilty about simply relaxing in the middle of the day but we are becoming ever more accustomed to allowing the weather or our own preferences to dictate our activities. Over the past few days we have both taken to not wearing our watches. 

In addition to the generous offer of allowing us the privilege of inhabiting this eco-friendly, low impact abode Madame also offered us the use of the pool in her own luxury beachside home along the coast. This has been a real boon and we have already cycled the seven and a half kilometres to her substantial family residence in the late afternoon a few times and certainly intend to do so every second day or so.

As I had hoped our quiet peaceful days are spent creating simple fresh fare and engaging in a healthy exercise routine of walking, cycling and swimming. Ian has dubbed this the “Keptathlon”.  Continuing the mindfulness and meditation practice I recently began in earnest has also become a priority. There is now time for the pastimes we have always enjoyed. We are getting to know a few locals and even hosted a lunch for the lovely young couple, who showed us around the various houses available for rent in the area. We have barely scratched the surface of exploring the local surroundings or the possibility of volunteering locally but that will come in the fullness of time and when we are securely entrenched with our one-year visas in hand.

After just over a week in Kep we truly feel we have landed on our feet and it's all going to be alright.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Coming to terms with Kep 1

Things miraculously fell into place on the housing front in Kep. On our final day there before returning to Phnom Penh, we saw a lovely bamboo house, which is situated about three  kilometres outside the main downtown area and fell in love with it immediately. The concern was that no one knew the rent or much about it and we had to just leave to fate how it would transpire.

After arriving in Phnom Penh we got the owner’s contact number and were told Madame would like to meet us as she was also in the capital. A quick phone call later and we were promptly informed that it was not available for rent but that she wanted to meet us anyway. Within a few hours it was agreed that we could stay there for three months while she was visiting Europe but her intention is to retire there to write her memoirs, at some as yet undetermined time in the future. The several meetings we have had since then to settle things, certainly suggest her life story would make an incredible book. She has also hinted that we may be able to extend that initial lease as she looks unlikely to retire from her business obligations any time soon. 

This arrangement suited us perfectly as we loved the property but were aware of a few drawbacks. Having an established verbal agreement before we set off for Bangkok was a huge load off our minds and gave us a clear idea of what we would need to purchase to set ourselves up upon our return, to say nothing of having somewhere specific to return to.

The house is both charming and unique having been designed by a Swiss architect. It is also well appointed and comes with a lot of bamboo furniture. Exactly our style and preference. The time frame also gives us a chance to look around for something else and trial living in the local community before we commit to a longer term lease.

After having spent a few days in Bangkok, we flew back and sailed through Cambodian immigration, this time getting the visas we coveted. We arrived in Phnom Penh in time to sign a simple personal “lease” agreement with our now landlady before throwing ourselves into the task of acquiring household appliances, essentials and treats to move into “The Bamboo House” in Kep. Knowing exactly where we would be living, enabled us to have a much clearer idea of what we wanted and needed while also putting off making many huge purchases, like fridges and beds.

At this point we really felt we had landed on our feet and the only major task that remains before us is to renew our one month visas for one year multiple entry versions. This can only happen just before they are due to expire.

By the time we checked out of the hotel in Phnom Penh we had a pretty amazing collection of assorted goods selected to make the best possible start in our ‘pre-tirement’ existence. The icing on the cake being two second-hand, Japanese, three speed bicycles.

With the help of hotel staff we rented van and driver, loaded our mountain of possessions into the vehicle early on Saturday morning and proceeded through traffic that was surprising not too congested, excited to be on our way to Kep.

Having thoroughly researched offerings in Kampot, we stipulated a required stop there to purchase two large cane shelf units we hoped would fit the decor of the house and enable us to store our plethora of electronics, books, clothes and miscellaneous other hoarded items collected from various points across the globe. I was dubious about being able to accomodate these large items inside the already packed vehicle but the driver was both encouraging and resourceful.

We easily navigated our way back to the property we had visited only once a little over a week earlier and launched into unloading and unpacking with enthusiasm in the worst of the midday heat. However our spirits couldn't be dampened at that point.

By the time we had unpacked and set up completely on Sunday afternoon we were already sure we wanted this lovely residence to be home for longer than the agreed to period but whether or not that is possible remains to be seen.

At the moment we feel blessed to be here and to have landed so firmly on our feet.