Preparing and decorating for Chinese New Years…..big event in Cambodia as so many of Chinese descent! My landlady has decorated our garden!
Bought these beautiful lotus flowers at my local market for 50 cents…..love the waxy textures and colours!
Didn’t even catch I had accidentally posted a date from a month ago which goes to demonstrate how fast this time is going…..too fast! Life has become life here and sometimes I feel so at home I forget how far away I am…
Boys is a boat on the Siem Reap River….they had dumped their bikes on the road and paddled out….just hoped they could swim!
It has been a busy and interesting week at work this week. The Cambodian Community Dream Organization I work for is doing many wonderful things in the Ampil Commune about 20 mins by tuk tuk from our office. I am working with 6 other wonderful young volunteers from around the world, South Africa, France, Argentina, Spain, the US and one from Canada. This week we interviewed potential families for our pig breeding project and helped plant a new school garden. CCDO is working on small local social businesses like pig breeding, growing food and selling soap to provide opportunity for financial security for families.
I am writing a proposal for a new clean water source In the villages which will also be a social entrepreneurship venture For some families. All wonderful and amazing work!
I love the Cambodian people…..they are gentle and somewhat shy but love to laugh and are so happy to engage! check out http://www.theccdo.org
Monday February 5
I was so happy to get home to Siem Reap yesterday and sleep in my own bed after the rustic lodgings I had while away….my apartment neighbours were happy to see me and one of them brought me a brownie!
I was lucky enough to attend a Cambodian wedding last night…..what a sensory experience that was! Tons of food and copious amounts of beer followed up by dancing…..modified apsara (traditional Cambodian dance). The bride and entire wedding party changed into new outfits 3 times which is the norm here. Snapped as many pics as I could….experience of a lifetime!
Saturday February 3
Koh Rong Sanloem Island….What an adventure getting here! Left my hotel at Otres Beach at 8 and after a long bumpy bus ride picking up people at various spots we finally got on the boat from Sihanoukville at 9:30 or so…at one point one of the staff had to dive down and cut off a net wrapped around the motor:
It is as beautiful as described here….untouched and serene. A few little hotels along the beach, two docks and little else. Not sure if there are even any roads here tho I know there are other places on the other side of the island. Hotels booked and was lucky to find a little place for $40 per night..,Lime Beach Bungalows,,
Going to go snorkeling today and even tho I woke to stormy weather and rain while having breakfast, clearing nicely and should be a beautiful day….leave from this dock at 7 am tomorrow, hoping I will make my 11 am flight back to Siem Reap:
Wednesday January 31
Holiday here in Cambodia today so took a few days off and flew to Sihanoukville on the south coast on the Bay of Thailand….staying in a beautiful little place called Mangroes in the village of Otres Beach……$20 per night. On a river very near the ocean…beautiful
Tomorrow or the next day I plan to go to one of the local islands Koh Rong Somloem and go snorkeling….may stay overnight as well and then come back….magical place!
Saturday January 27
Just when I think I have seen everything there is to see I came across this beautiful flower market this morning….lotus flowers…not yet open!
I awoke to monks chanting at 6 and later went around the corner to find a wedding in full celebration. They go on for days apparently!
Hit the market to buy some food….still a bit wary to buy meat etc but great for fruit and sometimes cooked food. The crabs were still alive!
The woman was doing a tarot reading w a regular deck of cards!
Thursday January 24
One more week and I will have been here a month! In a nice routine and feels like home though still see and learn new things daily! Yesterday we were out in the field interviewing pig farmers for a new social enterprise the organization is starting. Families can sell piglets for $30 or so and each mama pig has about 3 litters of 10 to 12 pigs per year.
Then we went on to a village party….practise here is for the local monks to come and do a family blessing…
You can probably tell I love the children here!
Tuesday January 23
Cloudy and some rain but still hot, 30 plus degrees….the sweat pours off me if I am out and about, even in the evening. Woke to heavy rain yesterday…refreshing!
Going out at night a bit tho parked my bike for now even tho I bought a couple of $2.00 flashlights for the front and back (actual bike lights are really expensive). Took a tuk-tuk last night and there and back only $3.00….worth it to save my life! Took a pic and video (can’t upload) to try and portray the traffic though they do not do it justice….at 5 pm there is a multitude of school children on bikes heading home at the end of the day!
My landlady’s girls…lovely and speak a bit of English so love to shout “hello” when they see me!
Saturday January 20
Great to have a day off after a busy wk working. Walked downtown this morning and had a yummy breakfast of avacado on toast with a poached egg and beet purée!!! So good!
Visited a beautiful temple this morning…opulent and decorative quite a juxtaposition from my side of town where the temples are dusty and worn. Quite a story to this temple:
The murals are exquisite and tell the story of the Buddha I assume tho script all in Khmer.
I realized again today that the Cambodia I am experiencing is quite different from the downtown touristy area where there are many fancy hotels and expensive restaurants. My side of the river where I live and work is the real Cambodia and of course when we go out to the “field” to the schools and villages that is even more the “true” Cambodia…only about 10% of roads are paved in Cambodia!
Took a picture of the Saturday market this morning where I bought a huge papaya and lime for $2.00 for the party at my apartment later today!
Friday January 19
Nearing 3 weeks here…..feeling like home and not a vacation spot though still some culture shock. Mostly the traffic and zillions of motorcycles, Tuk Turks, bikes and a few cars…the rules of engagement seem to be: just go and I won’t bang into you if you don’t bang into me…getting the hang of it but still terrified! January 31 is a holiday so I am planning a side trip to the coast (Sihanoukville) on the Gulf of Thailand and maybe some small nearby islands. Should be an adventure!
Wednesday January 17
Oh my god, time is flying by! Loving it here and feeling more and more comfortable other than the 5 pm bike ride home when insanity prevails……will post a picture if I can do it justice! Yesterday I rode on the back of Leangseng’s bike for a short distance. Now I’ve ridden on a motorcycle, a tuk tuk and doubled on a bike.
Finally went out last night to a yoga class at The Peace Cafe…..short walk through the temple. The light at dusk is breathtaking and my phone doesn’t quite capture it. The red sandy soil comes alive and illuminates everything!
The children are very interested in us visitors and love to try out their English. Beauties!
Monday January 15
My temple tour guide took this pic and many more of the temples here. People love my phone and he was way better at using it than I am…many of these temple pics are his! The one w a double of me is a trick u can do with the pano feature!
The giant spong trees at the Ta Prohm Temple (where American movies I have never seen have been made) have taken over one of the temple and have both destroyed it and in some cases are holding up the walls:
Angkor Wat is the largest religious/sacred site in the world (208 hectares) and at six stories keeps high rises out of SiemReap as it has to remain the highest structure in the area…spiritual connotations…closest to God etc. Thanks to being designated a Unesco World Heritage Site it has been gradually restored by archeologists from around the world. The original hieroglyphics are particularly beautiful…below:
I was surprised by the beauty of the deciduous forest around the temples and beautiful tress I have not seen before:
A little beauty I met on my walk home!
Saturday, January 13
Almost two weeks here, cannot believe it! Had a lie in this morning and will clean up, take laundry in and do food shopping…just like home! Will do my best to explain to the laundereress that I want no scent. Tried to buy some scent free soap to no avail. Ly, my personal tuk-tuk driver took me to the Viva Restaurant for dinner and then picked me up after a walk through a maze of markets, shops and restaurants including pub street…. all a bit much after my quiet little abode.
Will look into a tour to the temples tomorrow…the temp here is perfect…18 or so, unusual for this time of year and beats the 32 degrees earlier in the week but we froze yesterday on the way to the villages at 630 am. Next time I will wear my leather jacket…biggest surprise so far! We were there early to view the breakfast program and visit the women soap sellers as the rep from Eco Soap came with us
We stopped at a family home in the village and attended a birthday celebration and full Khmer meal. Traditionally they invite the village and a monk comes to do a blessing…
Friday January 12
Spent yesterday writing grants in the office, switched and got a better bike with a seat that doesn’t flip back. New volunteer arrived so we took a group shot. Not the shortest for a change but definitely the oldest!Going to see the breakfast program at 7 am this morning so have to be at the office at 630…went to bed at 8 and got up at 5…I will have to use my cell phone as a flashlight on my bike as it will still be dark!
Thursday, January 11
An early morning shot on our way to continue with the rice collection from another village. Rain cooled things off and the dust had settled so it was an easier day. There is a kind of beauty in the landscape of the rice fields below,
I opted to buy a young boy a bike for $43 so he could get to school. Challenging w/o one as there is no other means of transportation.
Here are a few other pics of my team and some of the children and families we met. Employees wear blue shirts and volunteers wear white. Lovely people!
The boys at the school were very eager to help with unloading the rice.
Wednesday, January 10
Woke at 6 to loud thunder and now glorious heavy rain….strange thing for a Vancouverite to say! It was very hot and humid yesterday and made the job of going out to the village and small family farms to collect rice a challenging one. Sometimes it seems almost unbearable but I just relax and go with it….which helps. I finally feel justified in buying my new 8+ I phone because Leangseng loves it and took numerous photos of the collection which will be used for donor reports and other prospects. The rice will go to the school and be the 15% community contribution for a large grant received for the Breakfast Program. My hair is very weird here….feel like getting it shaved off…..by the way I would love to get them some “used” Iphones….documenting activities is very important for them! Just askin!
Tuesday, January 9
Without this blog I would not be sure of the day or date so keeps me on track. My good luck continues in that I found a personal tuk tuk driver named Ly who speaks English quite well…a godsend because I can call him for a pick up and he knows how to bring me home. That was a concern, especially at night as there is no address here and in fact the road I am on doesn’t even have a name so makes it tricky. He is lovely and yesterday I got to ride the back w his little boy, Bot who he had to bring because his wife was working…next time I will take his pic and post. Did some grocery shopping and later in the day had him take me to a resort about 15 mins out of town for a swim and a 630 yoga class….Navutu Dreams Resort….pretentious and opulent…made me feel strange and uncomfortable…this is where the term “holidaying in others peoples misery”
comes from. I enjoyed the beauty of the place and the swim but will not go back. The yoga was also great …taught by a woman named Marina who is also a tour guide, lives near me and teaches yoga at her home daily at 6 for $2.
Monday, January 8
Past the one week mark and feeling much more “here” and relaxed. Figured out bike riding is dangerous and will limit to going to work and back. Tuk-tuks are cheap and everywhere so used them yesterday. After a one hour Khmer class (free) at the Peace Cafe, I took a tuk tuk to the Angkor Museum where I spent several hours. The recommendation was to visit the museum before going to the actual temples and I am glad I did. Followed it up with an incredible facial at the Lemongrass Spa ($25) and then a walk through the downtown area of Siem Reap…much more cosmopolitan and where all the tourists are….realize I am on the poorer side of the city… much less developed. Walked home 30 mins or so…caretaker Dee took me up to the rooftop of my apartment where I will be spending lots of time…beautiful!
Angkor Wat Museum…pool
Sunday, January 7
Found this incredible Buddhist temple yesterday and chatted with a 74 year old Australian monk named Kim who has been here 7 years. They don’t eat after an 11 am lunch…can u imagine – he said he cheats! Very tired yesterday as still jet lagged but managed to buy a new softer pillow, attend a $6 yoga class at the Peace Cafe, get laundry done for $1.50 and enjoy a 90 min Thai oil massage for $16. Spent the evening reading and watching American Netflix so I could stay awake until at least 8:30….
This is the daughter of the woman who did my laundry….the children are beautiful here and love to interact. Market scene below—-a little quieter on Sat but still nuts. Riding my bike but may resort to tuk-tuk today as pretty unnerving negotiating traffic
Saturday, January 6
Nearing a week since I left Canada. Pretty exhausted today so glad I have a three day weekend to re-coop. Siem Reap is very busy, dusty and congested so enjoy being home in my little abode. Today I will go to yoga at The Peace Cafe, get laundry done and have a massage. Haven’t been to the temples yet so will look into that as well.
Unopened lotus flower …ring
My road…boys going to school
Getting more acclimatized every day but definitely an overwhelming place to be. Today we went to one of the rural schools CCDO is involved in…..spent time in the preschool classroom and visited the gardens where they are growing food for the breakfast program. We went on to visit some of the home based gardens and then began the distribution of soap to some of the local women…small cottage industry. On the way home we saw pigs being transported to market….lying on their backs. They seemed fine with it…barely squealing! Had to include that picture!
Cambodia-Thursday I think!
Found an incredible little place to rent for 3 mos…..220 USD per month. Woke at 5 to a carcophony if roosters crowing and dogs barking! The Cambodian people are incredibly helpful and welcoming so despite the challenges of a somewhat chaotic city it has been relatively easy. They seem to anticipate my every need and get to it before I even ask! Managed to shop yesterday and even buy a bodrum and coffee so happy this morning. Just waiting for a fridge and then I will buy some cream. Hope to get a bike today so I will have wheels. Likely start work tomorrow!
Cambodia Day Three
Made it after a gruelling 24 hour or thereabouts flight….deadly! Arrived safely though and settling. Staying in a lovely little hotel with a pool and walked the dusty, busy streets yesterday…more motorcycles than cars here and speaking of, I had a ride on one with the realtors assistant to go and look at apartments. Terrifying and not my choice of travel! Hoping to rent a place today then arrange for a bike and I will be set. Today I go to meet with Leangseng, the ED of the organization where I will be working. Dropped in there yesterday and received a warm response. Heat manageable…about 25 degrees and rain in the forecast in a few days. Great cheap food, so far lousy coffee!
Dec 31 2017
So far so good…..at my gate 2 hours early. Beautiful sunny day, flight on time and moved seat up a bit so hopefully I will make the connecting flight to Siem Reap tomorrow. Arrive in Shanghai at midnight my time…..4:30 pm local time and if successful leave at 6:45 pm and arrive in Siem Reap at 10 pm.
I leave Sunday, December 31st at 12:20…..12 hours to Shanghai, a two hour layover and then 4 to Siem Reap, arriving at 10 pm on Monday, January 1. Been pouring over reviews of Chinese Eastern Airlines and they range from the worst airlines ever to excellent, so praying for somewhere in between. I will stay at a hotel the first few nights then look for a place to live for the three months. Temps will be 25 to 27 degrees…..perfect! Will up date this post every few days anyone interested in tracking my adventures! If you need to reach me please use WhatsApp to 604~908~4165 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to reading your updates.
Take care and all the best
Enjoy the adventure. Your new digs look great. You will no doubt be able to sort out the magic bean (coffee) problem.
Keep us posted.
Hi Margot, This blog is a great idea. I love being able to follow along each day. Love the pictures! Your new home looks gorgeous.
Hi Margot! Looks like a wonderful adventure! Loving the updates! Averill
Happy New Year, Margot. Looks like you’re finding your way, only one week in. Lovely nest to call home. Thanks for the opportunity to be an arm chair traveller!
Wow you have settled in so fast! Massages, yoga, bicycling in their traffic. I am so impressed. Hope the Coffee is better! Looks like a lovely place to stay. Great pictures, thanks.
It looks amazing but I’m impressed by your courage taking this on Your little abode looks like a wonderful retreat from the noise and heat! Enjoy every minute, what a challenging and wonderful adventure!
Love your blog Margot almost as much as I love you
Amazing pictures Margot. Excellent news that you found a tuk tuk driver. The updates are great! xo
I’m really enjoying your blog, Margot. Your words and your photographs give a vivid picture of the country.
So you seem settled now, that is good. Working in high humidity is difficult and it does play havoc with hair, think of it as an opportunity for change. Cheers, Lin
Keep writing Margot! I’m not sure you’re completely correct about the fancy resort. Tourism is a huge important business in Cambodia. High end brings employment and income too. Plus you likely need a few treats during your stay.
Love the pictures Margot, and the commentary! Looks like you are adjusting really well! xoxo
Love this idea – but somewhat angry that is a substitute for being with you there – daily. I hope my request to accompany you anywhere anytime is still in the works. Perhpas you forgot to give it to your travel agent.
Margot! What a beautiful adventure you are having! It sounds and looks just perfect! Love seeing you all chill and lovely. xo
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