Cambodia through my mother’s eyes and Beautiful Bali so far…

CAMBODIA – FROM GWEN

Oh, where to begin?  I would like to write a few words about my impressions of Cambodia.  The first thing you notice is the hot temperature and dirty extreme poverty all around.  These are just superficial things.  The real Cambodia lies in the heart of the Khmer people.  Just thinking about them and the constant struggle brings a lump in my throat and tear to my eye.

We had the distinct opportunity to meet  some great guys and have them extend their friendship to us.  EVERYONE we encountered treated us with great respect and kindness.  You notice they are always smiling.  They have every reason to be angry at the world who seemed to have abandoned them for several years.  1st during the relentless bombing by the US, then by the terror reigned by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.  In the words of one of our tour guides, ” we were a dead country to the rest of the world”.  No one knew what was going on.  Despite this, they have a love for each other and humanity.  I witnessed a tuk tuk driver who would perhaps make only $5 in a day, stop and give an old man at the side of the street some money.

We had a fantastic time in Siem Reap exploring temples.  They are intricate 11th, 12th, and 13th century works of art.  We took some amazing pictures, which is wonderful but to totally appreciate the size and structure is to see it in all dimensions.  Tom, our driver and tour guide was a wealth of knowledge and had a great sense of humour.

We had wonderful tuk tuk drivers in Phnom Penh that took us everywhere and became our friends.  Two of them Savi and Wan, were friends of Keriann and her friends from previous visits.  They recruited a cousin, Nim, to be our driver while in Phnom Penh.   He didn’t speaking English well and we didn’t speak Cambodian at all.  We managed very well and saw some areas we hadn’t planned on.  He felt very responsible for us all the time and couldn’t do enough to please us.  We hope to keep a personal connection with him and give him some financial support to help his 2 little girls.

There were many highlights to our time spent here.  The two that I will forever remember was a our day at the PIO school and orphanage and building houses.  What fun we had visiting the school and the taking all the kids from the orphanages to a somewhat sketchy water park.  The kids had a great time just doing what they do best, having  fun, and laughing.  It was all nothing but fun.

On the way back to the orphanage we had a small encounter when the tuk tuk we were riding in collided with a motorcycle.  Nothing serious, but the motorcycle driver did go for a tumble when he hit the road, he did had a few cuts and bruises and a seriously scraped bike.  We were all pretty calm, but I’m not going to lie  when it happened I’m thinking here we are 2 adults with 4 kids in Cambodia, where the sex trade is awful.  We don’t know where we are and we are being swarmed by as it turns out by a lot of nosey people.  The kids took it all in stride, but they had the advantage of knowing the language.

The next day was the Tabitha house building.  Thanks Lizz and Cody for all your help.  We successfully completed 2 houses ourselves. Just Pat, Gwen, Kelso, Keriann, Lizz and Cody as a team together on our two houses. The rest of the group were working on their own houses in other parts of the village while we worked on ours.  I don’t think I’m going to look for a career in nailing down 2″ strips of bamboo flooring anytime soon though.  It was hot work but so life changing for both the families who received the houses, and for us as well.  The group built 16 houses in total.  We personally improved the quality of life for 16 families.  They were so happy to have a  dry sturdy house to live it.  We also had the privilege to present a beautiful hand embroidered blanket to 2 of the families.  It was an unforgettable experience to share with Keriann and Kelso.

I would like to say what a fantastic group of professional people took part in both the orphanage visit and the house building.  Thanks Donna Jackson for all the organizing.  Keriann’s and Kelso friends welcomed us with open arms.  They are very passionate about the support they lend to the not-for-profit groups.  They brain storm to come up with new ways to help the PIO school, students and teachers.  It is all about helping in any way they can as they can easily see that there is so much to do to support so many people they meet.  I was so proud of all of them.  They are dedicated to simply helping to improve the lives of their Cambodian friends.  Thanks everyone!  We sure enjoyed getting to know you.  We totally enjoyed our dinners together at some amazing restaurants!  I can’t miss mentioning the array of french bread and pastries we ate.  No problem feeding my carb addiction in Cambodia.

Sadly, we had to leave Cambodia though too as we were headed off to experience an entirely different culture and people in Bali, Indonesia.  As we rode to the airport in the tuk tuk, I tried to take a mental picture and commit to memory all that we had experienced.  I want to be able to vividly recall each experience at whim.

We arrived back in Singapore for a night then we were off to begin our Balinese adventure.

The adventure continues……

Gwen

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BALI – BY KERIANN

The adventures certainly do continue in Bali. We had just an evening/morning back in Singapore to regroup, repack and do a bit of laundry. It also gave us some time to nip out to the mall next to our house and get my dad some new eyeglasses. Optical Power Shop! We were probably in and out of the eyeglass shop in about 30 minutes. In that time frame, my father tried on many frames (and many ridiculous joke frames too of course – it is Pat O’Rourke after all). Has his eyes tested and his bifocals tested too. Singapore doesn’t joke around when it comes to efficiency!

On Monday, we were off on a plane again, but this time to Bali, Indonesia. When we arrived at the airport, we noticed a huge queue of people waiting to go through customs. Over an hour wait at least. Ugh. However, there is a system set up that allows people to bypass waiting in line at the customs area. So, this seems totally sketchy and more than likely, it probably is. For an extra $25 USD, someone takes your passport and gets it all stamped for you so that you can bypass the massive line up. Even with their brand new, huge airport, there was still a massive queue as a few flights had arrived all at the same time. We didn’t want to waste any daylight hours we could have in Bali so we decided that it was worth the extra money. I would never have used this service in a million years had I not already done it once with Kelso a few months back. I could see from the looks on my parent’s faces, that they too had the impression that this was a bit of a sketchy set up. But it worked just fine and we were in a van headed to Ubud before we knew it!

We arrived in Ubud around 5pm and decided to head up to the lounge bar that is a part of our hotel for a cocktail and a snack before dinner. We are staying at Rouge Bali Villas in Ubud. It is a lovely, modern hotel with every amenity you can imagine. Everything is done with the theme of the colour red. It really stands out and is located just off of the main road. I HIGHLY recommend staying here! It is fabulous. As we sat and enjoyed some sushi and drinks, the owners came over to introduce themselves to us. There are only 8 rooms at this hotel so it is a very intimate experience which is really enjoyable. From there, we left to have a little walk around town and pop our head into a few shops along the way. We had a fabulous meal at TeraZo (a place I have enjoyed before on a trip with Kelso a few years ago). Delicious meal and fantastic atmosphere!

The next day we spent taking a tour and seeing many different sites around Bali. We really felt like we did it all in a day but everything was so interesting to see and we learned a lot from our guide – Gedung. We travelled to Tanah Lot temple out on the coast of the Indian Ocean. It is a beautiful place and the waves were crashing up against the rocks surrounding the cliffs and temples here.

We then headed off towards the mountains to see the Tegalalang rice terraces that have been made famous in many films and photos. Being the true farmers we are 🙂 we wanted to know about how the rice irrigation systems were created and how they work. Gedung also showed us a peanut plant and we ate fresh peanuts right off the plant which tasted exactly like a sweet pea tastes fresh of the plant. We enjoyed a lovely Indonesian lunch in a restaurant and a few of the terraces.

From there, we were again off to see a butterfly park. We thought that this was going to be another one of those stops that are super touristy and ends up not being that great. However, it was really interesting! We spoke to a staff member that explained the process of hatching all the butterflies and got to have some “butterfly babies” sat on our hands and clothing that were only a few hours old. We saw massive stick bugs, beetles, scorpions, bugs that looked like leaves and flowers. They were really interesting and the garden was full of beautiful plants and flowers. It was worth the stop! Along the way we could see all the preparations for a festival that is taking place right now. It is a religious festival and every house and shop puts up one of these beautifully decorated bamboo poles. They are so gorgeous and all are handmade.

We then headed to “The Temple on the Lake” (or Pura Ulun Danu Bratan). This is a famous temple, that is also found on the 50,000 Rupiah note. The tide was out at the time we were there so it didn’t “float” on the lake as it usually does, but it was interesting to learn more about the temples, what they mean, what they are made from etc.

Our last stop was to a garden where many spices, coffee and chocolate are grown. Again, this was touristy as sin, but a necessary component of a coffee lover’s trip to Bali to say that you tried Kopi Luwak. If you don’t know what this is, it is literally Mongoose Poop Coffee. What? Yep – it is very famous and also very expensive coffee sold world-wide. The flavour apparently really comes from the fermentation process that occurs when a Mongoose eats the ripe, red coffee beans and they travel through their digestive system. People then harvest the undigested beans from their droppings, cleans, roasts and makes them into a delicious brew. Gwen tried this, but I am sure Pat and I were secretly thinking how happy we are that we aren’t coffee drinkers! There were many other teas and coffees to try too and we did try them all. It was a fun way to end the tour.

We ended the day with a walk around the town, another evening of poking our heads in the many different shops that line the streets of Ubud and a wonderful meal at Lamak. It was a great find and I had read about it on a blog somewhere so when I saw the sign I thought it was worth a try. It definitely was! Yummy, yummy, yummy!

More to come about our Bali adventures again tomorrow…. we’ve done many other things as well we can’t fit it all in to one post!

I think G & P are definitely on a “Bali High”

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About K.O.

I am a middle school Drama specialist and boxing enthusiast. I love to spend time with friends and family in Singapore and Canada, travelling, watching movies and then writing about my experiences here.

Posted on October 24, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Thanks for your heartfelt thoughts on Cambodia, Gwen. It brought back so many memories of my house building trip a few years ago. I adored when my parents came to visit me in Singapore, and it seems Keriann is enjoying having her folks close by for a few weeks. Have fun in Bali!

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