Signs, signs: Gasoline shop

My husband and I go for Sunday rides outside Phnom Penh with our trusty old Hagrid. Hagrid is a 1992 Honda 400 SuperFour motorbike.

Once in a while, when on road trips, we run low on gasoline. No problem. There are lots of roadside gasoline vendors, even in remote areas.

signs gas seller

For a first-timer in Cambodia, you might mistaken this roadside stall for a drink shop because of the soda bottles. It is actually a makeshift “gas station”.

Gasoline is smuggled across the border, in plain sight, and sold in shops like this in rural villages, quite openly, even in the capital Phnom Penh. Gasoline is sold in re-used soda and plastic water bottles and are displayed out front, as you see in the above photo. You don’t see this in developed countries.

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My week

What a whirlwind week it was!
Here are a few of my favourite photos taken last week.

I prepared coconut macaroons for my good friend’s son’s birthday party. I was a bit nervous so I practiced, hah. Yobo assured me that the macaroons tasted good. The only comment he had was he preferred the golden brown with uneven lumps rather than the “prettified” version. How about you? The party was held at Nham Cafe last Sunday. It was a small gathering of the family, close friends and relatives.

Summer is nearly over and yet I can still see lots of durian and rambutan in the market. The durian fruits came from Kampot – which is arguably the best in Cambodia – sweet, sticky and creamy. You can’t miss them, just follow the scent and your nose will take you to the right spot.

Highlights of last week.

Highlights of last week.

 

Red Dog recently turned a year old! He’s been such a source of joy not only to us but to the two older dogs, Joe and especially Max. Red’s energy and playfulness spread to these two.
The three of them always find a spot close to me when I’m practicing calligraphy in the veranda. I started practicing Copperplate this month and it’s really very challenging. I can’t seem to get the strokes right — the Bs, Ps, and Rs are particularly tricky. To help me with the techniques, I’m watching video tutorials on YouTube. I sent out postcards last week, one of them you see above went to Peru. It’s my first postcard to Peru and I’m very excited that it’s another country off my list. I also got to practice modern calligraphy when writing the postcard.

That little boy on the lower left side is my nephew, Ryder. He’ll be turning two years old next week and he loves playing with his (plastic) tools.  He pretends to be carpenter, a plumber, an all-around handyman. He proudly tells anyone who listens that he is Ryder the Builder. Oh, he could be that and more when he grows up! I can’t wait to see him soon!

Food! That’s how weekend meals look like in our household.
How was your weekend?

Signs, signs: In search of “hi”

It really pays to have your camera with you at all times. You never know what or who you’re going to bump into.

Take for example this photo below.

Can you help reunite "ho" with "hi"?

Can you help reunite “ho” with “hi”?

I was on my way to the mall to check out a u22 recommended by a friend for a small recording project I was doing when I decided to stop by the Post Office to check my mailbox. On my way out, I spotted a moving sign from afar and before I knew it, I realised it’s “ho” wandering in the streets, probably looking for “hi” :)

 

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Shopping for art’s sake

Hah, it’s been awhile again. I wasn’t up to writing (again) because Rafa (Nadal) lost in the QFs of this year’s Roland Garros tournament.  I was beside myself (slight lang, hihihi). Thankfully, my husband knew exactly what to do to get me out of this funk — he took me shopping.  And when I say shopping, I meant shopping for calligraphy supplies :)  So I want to share some of my spoils.

But before I went on a splurge, my husband and I went to Home Top first. For quite some time now we have been meaning to get new frying pans but we couldn’t find ones that we’re looking for. While checking out the frying pans, I overheard an elderly expat couple at the aisle opposite us discussing to Buy spandex table cover. Didn’t mean to be eavesdropping, but, really? A spandex table cover? It’s the first time I heard that, pardon my ignorance. Anyways, we found what we’re looking for — a decent non-stick frying pan.

His and hers frying pan, lol.

His and hers frying pan, lol.

Sponges! There can never be enough of them.

Sponges! There can never be enough of them.

We bought two, of course. We also got dish-washing sponges.
We then drove to Aeon Mall for my calligraphy supply – check out the stuff I picked up. My last splurge was in early January this year when I ordered various nibs, pen holders and ink from an online shop in Manila through my sister, DonyaBooding. Aren’t sisters the best? :) This time though, it was my husband who offered after seeing that a) I needed cheering up after Rafa’s loss, and b) I have the knack for hand-lettering and calligraphy. I kid, I kid!

Pencils, erasers and Sakura Gelly Roll pens!

Pencils, erasers and Sakura Gelly Roll pens!

I was surprised to find Sakura Gelly Roll pens at PBC. They’re only $0.85 each.

Dotted notebook, calligraphy ink, white art paper and a wooden block.

Dotted notebook, calligraphy ink, white art paper and a wooden block.

A plastic nib case to house my nibs. The nibs were purchased in Manila.

A plastic nib case to house my nibs. The nibs were purchased in Manila.

And because I’m exploring other tools, I got these brush pens. So now I’m both into dip-pen and brush calligraphy. Bah, yabang!

Pentel colour brush pen in blue and 2 refill cartridges and a Faber-Castell artist pen in orange.

Pentel colour brush pen in blue and 2 refill cartridges and a Faber-Castell artist pen in orange.

Some of you might scratch your heads and wonder … since when have I been artsy-fartsy? It’s kinda, sorta, hidden, just like my talents are, lol. Seriously though, learning calligraphy is #40  in my bucket list. And this year is the year that I get to pursue this creative hobby. So watch out for more artsy-fartsy goodness in the future posts.

Signs, signs: Holy crab

The sign that says it all!

This was actually our second choice as our favourite restaurant was closed for the holidays.

Holy ...!!!

Holy …!!!

Holy Crab is one of the newest  restaurants at Psah Kdam (Crab Market) in Kep. Food was okay, more expensive than other restaurants I went to, but nothing memorable. However, the view of the sunset is marvelous — holy crab!

As an aside, the locals pronounce this as “holy crap’ as the “b” at the end of a word is pronounced as “p”.

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New Year in Kep and Kampot

Hello, friends. Remember me?
I know, I know. Lol. I keep on telling myself “I’ll blog regularly… I’ll update soon, yada-yada…” but I ALWAYS end up doing nothing. Booooo.

Anyhoo, I finally got around to sorting and sifting through our Khmer New Year holiday photos from Kep and Kampot! *applause*

We only stayed in Kep for three days and two nights (including a day trip to Kampot and to Bokor mountain) but it felt like I was home. Truly. On one hand, Kep was my (and my husband’s) home, my base, from 2006-2008, due to work. On the other had, my hometown, Roxas City, shares similarities with Kep – both have hills, the sea, and of course, the glorious seafood! It’s been years since our last holiday in Kep so, on the day we traveled, it felt like coming home.

Almost in Kep.

Are we there yet? Almost.

And we've arrived. Mmmm, can't wait to get my hands on crabs with Kampot pepper.

And we’ve arrived. Mmmm, see you at dinnertime, Mssrs. Crab and Shrimp.

The new road to Kep town centre.

The new road to Kep town centre.

Our favourite Kim Ly restaurant was closed for the holidays so we had dinner at Srey Pov restaurant. It was good, but Kim Ly's still the best!

Our favourite Kim Ly restaurant was closed for the holidays so we had dinner at Srey Pov restaurant instead. It was good, but Kim Ly’s still the best!

Kep Lodge swimming pool

The swimming pool at Kep Lodge where we stayed provided us with a refreshing embrace after a day spent outdoors.

Sunset at Kep Lodge restaurant

Watching the sun go down from the upper floor of Kep Lodge restaurant.

I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised at how huge the transformation in Kep was. So many shiny hotels and establishments, super-wide and smooth roads (the road from Seh Sor, or the White Horse statue, to Kep is undergoing construction so it remains dusty!), a renovated Psah Kdam (Crab Market) teeming with people and a bottle-neck traffic jam greeted us. It is no longer the sleepy beachtown that I knew the first time I set foot there.

The highlight of our holiday was our side-trip to Kampot —  we drove to Bokor Hill station. It was the best drive ever and the view gets more amazing as you ride higher and higher! The road to Bokor Hill station snakes through more than 40kms. of partially-cleared jungle in the national park and one that is, by far, the best road in the country. It is no longer the bone-jarring drive that it used to be, hurrah! Here is a short video clip of our Bokor run.

Halfway up Bokor mountain, we decided to have a break...

Halfway up Bokor mountain, we decided to have a break…

... and we have this view all to ourselves!

… and we have this view all to ourselves!

Half an hour so later after our pit stop, we’ve arrived. We’re face to face with the ruins of Bokor Palace Hotel and Casino, or as the French calls it, Le Bokor Palace. For so many years I’ve been pining to see this with my own eyes and, when I finally got to see it, it was disappointing. The structure of what was once the hotel, the favourite getaway of the French colonialists and the rich Khmers in its heydays, still stands there but was plastered in grey cement, the result of the “renovation” that was done not long ago. To me, it totally destroyed the charm of the naturally decaying building.   It no longer looks like this (click to see)… Que horror!

Bokor Palace Hotel

The facade of the refurbished Bokor Palace Hotel.

Bokor Palace Hotel

Saw different floor tile designs there.

Stairs at Bokor Palace Hotel

The stairs that go down and down… notice the garbage?

viewing deck at bokor palace hotel

A view from one of the refurbished wings.

fireplace at Bokor Palace Hotel

The grand fireplace at the main lobby of the hotel.

view from one of the viewing decks

Stories of gamblers who lost their fortune in the hotel’s casino tables jumping off the cliff to escape their miseries abound.

kampot and the gulf of thailand

Ghost sightings and stories of hauntings in the hotel are also told by many locals.

Old Catholic Church built by the French

An old Catholic church built by the French in 1920s.

A few metres down the road, on the way back, we stopped by to check out this old, abandoned Catholic church built by the French in 1920s. It is standing there forlornly, as an enduring reminder and a silent witness to Bokor’s golden years in the past and the rapid developments it is undergoing at present. More about the church in my future posts.

We only stayed long enough to see these two landmarks. On the way down, we had a look at the various developments in the area as we passed by. It is sad to say that these odd-looking structures that were built recently (and many  more are being built) have taken away the beauty and appeal of the landscape of Bokor.

We also dropped by Epic Arts for some nourishment when we reached Kampot town proper and we were not disappointed. They still serve the best sandwiches and beverages in town. I was secretly hoping to meet some of the stars of Epic Arts who were in this music video, but no such luck. Perhaps another time.

We pretty much moved around Kep and Kampot with Hagrid, our trusty Honda motorbike. Except for the aches from sore muscles and a bit of sunburn, there are no regrets.

Over-all, it has been a wonderful holiday in Kep. It is very refreshing to be able to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and take the much-needed rest in a place devoid of city-noise, explore local sights, be around people with simple and laidback lifestyles, and partake of the fresh bounty from the sea that we longed for.  It is for these reasons that we keep coming back to Kep.

 

 

Sleeping Red

I just want to share these photos for this week’s Photo Hunt before going to bed.

First is of my dog, Red. I caught him sleeping soundly again, with his head resting on the front wheel of yobo’s bicycle, oblivious to the hustle and bustle around him.

Sleep tight, little one.

Sleep tight, little one.

He is already nine months old and is a carbon copy of his father, Joe. I sometimes mistake him as Joe. Red can be demanding at times – demanding a scratch, demanding play but he also knows what NO means. I hope he won’t have any serious illness just like what Max and Joe had when they were puppies. Veterinary treatment and care in Cambodia is expensive and antibiotics like posatex otic are not readily available. Keeping a pet (in our case, pets) is a big responsibility and we want to provide our dogs the best care and happy environment as much as we can.

The second is a photo of motorbikes. Yobo (da husband) and I went window-shopping for motobikes along Sihanouk Boulevard. There were so many – new ones, secondhand ones. Big bikes, small bikes; big wheels, small wheels. Name it, you’ll find it there. Not a fan of motorbikes myself but my husband is.

A long stretch of motorbike shops can be found  in Sihanouk Boulevard.

A long stretch of motorbike shops can be found in Sihanouk Boulevard.

photohunter7iq

The search for coffee mugs

Last Saturday, yobo (da husband) and I spent some time to look for coffee mugs. When it comes to coffee mugs, yobo prefers it big. As in huge, almost like an arinola (lol). Actually we both like large coffee mugs because you can put/drink a lot of coffee (or tea) in it.

Indeed.

Indeed.

So off we went to many shops when yobo’s absolute favourite (and already old) mug broke. We checked Tuol Tumpong market, Aeon mall, and other shops but, unfortunately, we could not find something we like. The mugs in stores were too small for our liking. We returned home empty-handed so I immediately went online and obsessively searched for the ONE. There were mugs that I like in shops like dept 56 but I’m not sure how much I’d be charged for customs tax when shipped to Cambodia.

Finally, someone told us about this Japanese thrift shop along Russei Keo. To make the story short, there we found what we’re looking for the other day. Except that they don’t have handles because they’re Japanese mugs, hahaha. The Japanese don’t put handles because, according to my friend, if it is too hot to hold, then, it is too hot to drink. But that’s okay, we found the right size, anyway! We want giant mugs because we love coffee (and tea!). There’s also something about drinking it in a perfectly-sized and pleasantly-designed mug that makes the whole experience better. How about you, do you prefer big mugs? With or without handles?

Uptown Funk by Epic Arts Cambodia

Look what I found on the Internet today!
Epic Arts in Kampot once again released a music video, this time featuring “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson. This is locally produced with support from UNICEF and the performers are students and staff of Epic Arts organisation in Kampot.

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I think it is well-made and the performers are amazing. Don’t forget to look closely at Sothun, my man! He’s got the moves! Previously, they also produced a video featuring Pharrell Williams’ hit, Happy.

According to Sakon, who delivered a short message at the end of the video, they made this in order to demonstrate that people with disabilities in Cambodia are valuable, can be involved and can be as cool as Bruno Mars :) Sakon tells the viewers to help raise awareness on disability issues and to spread the message that every person counts. Epic Arts is an organisation that assists people with physical and learning disabilities. Find out more about Epic Arts and how you can help through this link.