adventures in cambodia

feeling normal… ish

It’s been a few weeks since my last post so here is an update. I also plan to write you a summary of the fantastic water festival week at the beginning of the month, that will be soon.

After the epic temple biking day, I got another adventure that week to go to the Thai border and change my visa. This was a very daunting prospect due to the build up my lovely* friend had given the process. I was fretting for days at the prospect of having to do this and as a result likely made it worse by reading everything online and chatting to people. I almost obtained a travel buddy but no, however I did feel marginally better when said potential travel buddy actually expressed disappointment in not being able to come and visit Tesco and go to the casino! Who’d have thought?! I got some extra tips from a great local blog, which bolstered the info that ‘lovely friend’ had provided and I studied it intently. After the journey to the border, I followed prescribed advice and started to try making acquaintance with other people doing the same thing… quickly learning that I was never going to make any long-term friends from this (ie no longer than 10 minutes :-\) and decided to get on with it. The issue here was I was trying to find someone to share the taxi cost back! I did not succeed. I did however manage to endear one of the visa staff who helped me get the ‘special fee’ down a few dollars and clapped me enthusiastically on the back when I explained that I make websites for a job (this is the simplest answer I give people I don’t know). Triumphant, I grabbed some previously promised mediocre lunch at an outdoor cafe where I could watch the in and out traffic at the border. Although I know Cambodia isn’t a high exporting country, it was particularly obvious whilst watching empty trucks leave the country and full trucks enter. Then carts, animals and people similarly flowed constantly through the street in between Thailand and Cambodia. Kit loi’d and got some baht for change, I headed back to Cambodia. All in a day 🙂

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At the end of the week it was Halloween! A tradition has unfolded via the expats living here and it’s a reasonably big deal. I was dubious at first but then allowed myself to be swept along with the excitement of my friends for this event. As I’d left it to the last minute, literally, there were no costumes to be found… so make up was the back up plan. Three of us got ready at my house and it was a lot of fun! The party hadn’t even begun. It reminded me so much of fun times when I was little; going to calisthenics concerts and putting on loads of makeup, even more so of the Rock n’Roll Eisteddfods when I was in high school. I think I’ll be looking forward to the next fancy dress party! The reactions from locals started at home when the kids of my landlord and landlady saw us leaving for town! Photos and excitement and a little bit of fear. Khmer are very superstitious and believe strongly in ghosts and spirits, so it’s quite interesting that this tradition has bubbled up in this town. This continued en masse for the rest of the night; so many photos, so much attention I felt a bit like a celebrity but the scare factor was something altogether strange and made me a little uncomfortable when I accidentally genuinely scared some people. Everyone went over the top with their costumes and I was reunited with the teacher I helped last year; her and her daughters and one friend all dressed up as cats… so sweet, the same could not be said for my immediate friends…2014-10-31 19.27.27

During this time I had a friend visit from Prear Vihear province and another from Phnom Penh, I will talk more about that when I write about the water festival. It was wonderful to have visitors particularly when my housemate went away for a week to the beach (it takes about a day to get to the beach!!). After this is when things began to feel a bit normal. My days are still random and occasionally chaotic, but I have a couple of regular activities to stablise my week; kick boxing and soccer. This is nice. My housemate and I get along very well, so it’s nice to be able to cook some meals at home and head out to the porch, local bar or town for a drink or to indulge in a massage.

In the last week or so I feel like things have really begun to feel good. I showed a video to a small group of people about climate change which resulted in the opportunity to present to two classes of 7 years olds about recycling. It was a really wonderful experience and I hope the kids get something out of it too. I heard they will do a project on environment/recycling as a follow up. I then got to give my first presentation on social media for local businesses. It was a small group but it was just perfect for the first one and I’ve had a lot of encouragement to do some more. I’ve continued to do volunteering for a couple of organisations; ConCERT Cambodia, Treak Community Centre and ABCs and Rice and I am enjoying this mix of things, I think this could work out nicely.

I have a bicycle for transport and even managed to do my week’s shopping at the local market, Psah Gne, with my slowly improving Khmer linguistics and a lot of charades!

Life is good. What’s your news?

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adventures in cambodia

biking at the temples

A couple of weeks ago some friends and I hired mountain bikes to spend a day at the temples. As like most days in recent weeks, it was searingly hot, so we left the city nice and early – after an even earlier yoga class for me too!

The ride to the temples is so nice, the traffic wasn’t too busy and for the first time I saw monkeys! I was somewhat disheartened to see them eating chips out of a foil packet.

We grabbed our tickets and made our first stop at Angkor Wat. It was nice to go back and with a sense of familiarity we went straight in for the pinnacle, which was already closed for the day last year when I’d visited. Everyone in town has been talking about how dry the wet season has been this year and this was obvious to me seeing the ponds inside the temple grounds, which last year were substantially fuller.

Our next stop was Bayon, the temple with the faces and we made our way round and looked at the four main sides, each containing its own Buddha and offerings; I wondered how the ancestors of the guy placing his offering came to an end… coke and cigarettes.

It was a nice experience to visit the temples with some friends and after a brief lunch stop, we made the one hour ride round to Ta Prom. The last time I’d visited it was pouring with rain, so it was nice to have a better look around. I was still thinking about the monks that I imagined when I last visited.

By this stage, I was struggling with a headache from the heat, the sun was starting to set and we still have at least a half hour ride back to town (and no bike lights!). We made for the exit and would have made it, only, we’d gone out the other side to where we had left our bikes! The guard wouldn’t allow us to cut back through and so we had to grab a tuk tuk back around to the other side.

Finally reunited with our bikes, all starting to feel a bit exhausted and the knowledge of a 14km ride along a very bumpy road was not an exciting prospect. We got into it and went as quickly as we could, it wasn’t long before the sunlight was completely gone and just after passing a 10km to Siem Reap sign and thinking ‘i’m gonna make it!’, I didn’t see a huge pothole and ended up busting up my tyre completely.

Whilst regrouping on the side of the road and trying to figure out how to get back without totally destroying the wheel of the bike, I tried my luck at flagging a tuk tuk. Within seconds my shining tuk tuk driver arrived! He already had a passenger but obviously a lot of empathy and they let me and the bike aboard. Even more than this, he drove the tuk tuk close behind my friends to give them enough light to see and get back to town safely! What a star!

The adventure ended with beers and burgers and a lesson to leave a bit earlier next time.