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First they killed my father

Posted by on May 24, 2012 in All posts, Cambodia | 0 comments

…is the title of Loung Ung’s account on how she survived the genocide in Cambodia as a child, when over 2 million people were killed by the Khmer Rouge or starved to death due to Pol Pots idea to establish a purely agrarian society from 1975 to 1979. A Kafkesque scenario became reality for Cambodian people.  Medical treatment was banned as everyone was supposed to be self reliant. Money was banned because it was considered useless in the utopian world of equality. Individuality was banned, clothes and personal belongings burned and everyone was given the same black shirts and pants. City life ceased to exist as everybody was forced to leave urban areas and find shelter in rural province to work on the fields or ditches, being declared metropolitan, therefore second class citizens. Religion was forbidden and minorities vanished. ...

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First Cambodian bus customers

Posted by on May 11, 2012 in All posts, Cambodia | 0 comments

Booking our bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap the travel agent gave us a new brochure with a sleek silver limousine coach picture. For 14$, only 4$ more than regular buses – it did not take long to convince us. What the travel agent didn’t tell us: the bus company just started to operate one day before our departure and we were amongst the first six clients that were boarding that bus. Out of the wrap sparkling bus. Protecting plastic stickers still covering electrical equipment, shiny seats,  spotless panoramic windows. We were going to be grateful test customers. Picked up by a black limousine beamer from our hotel to get us to the bus, we did not have to bother with bags or tuktuk haggling. Bus staff was outnumbering passengers and on their second work day presented...

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The dark side of Cambodia

Posted by on May 9, 2012 in All posts, Cambodia | 1 comment

Cambodia seems to be struggling with a number of issues that will very likely affect you as soon as you enter the capital. The first impression I got while walking around the city was a filthy one with trash lying around everywhere and sewer smells penetrating the air. Another dirty matter is the sex business, visible in most touristy restaurants and clubs of the sort. You can observe the ongoings of unregulated prostitution anywhere in the center of Phnom Penh, white unattractive man of age with teenage girls on their laps engaging in small talk leading to the obvious. Equally disturbing is the child abuse issue. It is such a dominating concern that brochures and flyers are laid out in every hotel or place of interest to raise awareness, to a problem that is vividly showing itself everyday on...

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Going Amok in Cambodia

Posted by on May 8, 2012 in All posts, Cambodia | 0 comments

Going Amok is a must do in Cambodia, if you are going to try traditional Khmer food. Amok is the name of a tasty dish that includes steamed catfish and a coconut-curry sauce with special Khmer ingredients, which make it very spicy. We had our Amok with rice and mango shake which was a good combination of burning and easing. Eating out in Phnom Penh means looking around a bit for good places but there are basic burger-spaghetti dishes that appease tourists, as well as some decent restaurants for Westerners serving traditional Khmer dishes scattered around town. Unless you dive right in and eat at sidewalk places marked by piles of thrown away food residues and dirty napkins. Never been fussy about street side cuisine, but here the obvious lack of hygiene, trashing and spitting around oneself is a...

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French colonial feel in Cambodia

Posted by on May 7, 2012 in All posts, Cambodia | 0 comments

One can very well imagine the past French colonial times in Phnom Penh. The influences on architecture and infrastructure are apparent in sweet small streets lining walled grand villas. We are staying at one of those colonial houses, now called Mysteres & Mekong Hotel, with its chain smoking French lady owner and Cambodian sleepy staff. The rooms have beautiful antique furniture and are kept in a tasteful French bygone style. The sanitary system also stems from past times and toilets are easily plugged, so that we had to move rooms but the pleasant interior makes up for it. A great thing is that we can have French breakfast whenever we like, which doesn’t mean that anything apart from baguette and croissant will be available: getting up early for a fruit plate is a must :) We are trying not...

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Fun pics from Phnom Penh

Posted by on May 6, 2012 in All posts, Cambodia | 0 comments

The charming city reveals it’s funny side.   Enjoy the pictures taken in Cambodia’s capital.         Petrol Station in Cambodia.                         Street fashion in Cambodia. Daring blue sock high heel combo.                         Dress code and no guns rule at the Royal Palace.                           Never do that.                         Very professional.                         Smart pigeons at the water hose bar.                         Never alone with Cambodia’s booze.   Other lands, other customs.  ...

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/Sorry ya!/ The shopping mall in Phnom Penh

Posted by on May 5, 2012 in All posts, Cambodia | 2 comments

Sorya shopping mall is the largest shopping complex in the capital of Cambodia. On each of the eight stories tall building you can find market like stands and small shops progressing towards the outdated MBK mall in Bangkok. The sort of low quality merchandise made in China, mainly clothes and accessories with misspelled brand names and coming off logos. Tomek got himself some sunglasses with embarrassing big imprints of a brand that thankfully could be wiped off. Haggling at a mall is unusual but at Sorya a recommended and effective practice to get yourself a pretty good short term deal, needles to say, most of the stuff is pretty bad quality. Doesn’t the name sound a bit like ‘sorry ya’ all’? :) But the building is air conditioned and a cooling get away. We enjoy visiting malls in every...

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The Royal Palace and gay gossip in Phnom Penh

Posted by on May 4, 2012 in All posts, Cambodia | 0 comments

It is not allowed to take in weapons, says the sign at the ticket counter of Cambodia’s Royal Palace that has the best location in town facing a river arm of the Mekong. Not being armed but, as it turned out, dressed inappropriately, it was time to change into a difficult to walk in scratchy, ugly, dark red Sari that I had to rent for 10 $ at the palace. Inside the royal court, we enjoyed a walk in peace without being herded around like surrounding tourist flocks, only being followed by the burning sun. Sunscreen factor 50 did a great job today. The Palace was build in a mixture of Khmer and French style and only dates back to the 19th century, which also underwent many changes and face-lifts in modern times, thereby lacking that antiquated palace feel....

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Phnom Penh – the charming city

Posted by on May 3, 2012 in All posts, Cambodia | 0 comments

  The capital of Cambodia is sure charming, when you are thrown right into touristy sightseeing spots. Looking around the city independently you will have to look harder to to find the charming side of a country that is just beginning to blossom, with anti corruption units forming, growing child abuse and sex trafficking awareness – what you will notice is that Phnom Penh’s appearance is gradually changing. From 1975-1979 one fifth of Cambodia’s people lost their lives to famine and murder during the Red Khmer attempt to establish agrarian utopia, forcing millions out of their urban homes to work on the land, killing and torturing intellectuals, minorities, religious groups and whoever was considered a subversive element. Phnom Penh was left a ghost town under the regime of Pol Pot, who was never put on trial for committing genocide....

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Birthday Buddhist (eye)Brow Blessing

Posted by on May 2, 2012 in All posts, Cambodia | 0 comments

Wandering around Phnom Penh the late afternoon we noticed that a big gate still stood open… curiously we walked in and so, completely by  accident we found Wat Ounalom, the center of Cambodian Buddhism. Built in 1443 and destroyed during the Khmer Rouge in the seventies it has a rebuild look. Except one ancient stupa that encloses a cave like tiny room with an eyebrow hair of Buddha. Yes, an eyebrow hair! We have seen many Buddha relics scattered around Asia, like the temple of tooth in Sri Lanka, the tree of enlightenment in India, we walked miles to see various Buddha footprints in Thailand and Vietnam but this one was news. Thinking about it, relic hair seems not to be that unusual, as I remember how we were suppose to take in the scent of Mohammed’s beard relic...

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Childhood bubble dreams

Posted by on Apr 30, 2012 in All posts, Cambodia, Thoughts and Treasures | 1 comment

Have you ever held a cloud in your hand? I have. Have you ever blown the sky away? I have. Yesterday evening a children’s dream came true. In a hot tub. With all available soap tubes from the hotel and the massage jets turned on we were soon creating foamy cotton candy all around us and after a while diving through a thick layer of foam building up, moving over the edges of the outdoor whirlpool bath. A surreal white world appeared and we we right in the middle, like Narnia’s getaway closet had opened up. We had so much foam, I imagine Songkran’s wet festivities would wish for the kind of celebration that took place that night :) Building white castles and bridges, cutting tunnels, digging holes through the cotton like texture, putting on creamy clothes, creating crazy...

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Unexpected upscale upgrade

Posted by on Apr 29, 2012 in All posts, Cambodia | 0 comments

Sometimes it just pays to be late. Having arrived past 6 pm to the four star Plantation Urban hotel we reserved through booking.com, we were told by the hotel manager that unfortunately the room wasn’t available. But then he uttered those magic words every tourist wants to hear at least once in a lifetime: We are going to upgrade your room. What we got, was far more than a hotel room. It was the deluxe suite, spaciously sized flat with three balconies and an outside jacuzzi. Modern, not overloaded design with everything a newly renovated apartment would have, plus the deluxe details, like the chill out lounge couches, the antique mirror frame with fine Asian carvings, fine Asian style lacquered boxes in various shapes, handmade soap nuggets, two bathrooms with walk in showers and a bathtub facing huge windows...

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Cambodian bonding

Posted by on Apr 28, 2012 in All posts, Cambodia | 0 comments

Walking down the main street from our hotel in Phnom Penh to explore the area and find a place to have something to eat, we found the Asia Cafe, which was just a busy street side restaurant. Sticking to the anti-diarrhea rule: eat only at well visited restaurants, we sat down next to a long table of a happy feasting and drinking Cambodian bunch. It didn’t take long for them to notice us and for one guy with some English speaking skills to chat us up. He started with the opening phrase ‘I’m sorry’ followed by a pause in which we approved of his apology for attention and then came the joke that he kept on repeating many times that evening. It goes like this: ‘Sir, you handsome, but lady…. beautiful! I’m sorry.’ The table was having such a...

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Cambodian idiocracy

Posted by on Apr 28, 2012 in All posts, Cambodia | 0 comments

Traveling to Cambodia means that you are going to get engaged in bureaucratic procedures. Usually there is always an immigration form to fill out, but on our flight to Phnom Penh we got three questionnaires asking for the same details that you have to rewrite four times. Once you are done you are about to land :) The forms are not even looked at by immigration authority by the way.   At the visa counter passport and filled out forms are received by two Cambodian visa staff, are then passed on to another six Cambodian employees sitting behind the counter in a row, working their way through each passport from left to right. The price for a tourist visa is 20$, Tomek was made to pay 25$ but after we questioned staff we got 5$ back again. We were...

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