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.

Signs, signs: Road works

The other day I mentioned about getting stranded along Mao Tse Tung Boulevard near Chenla Theater.

Well, a flyover bridge or a sky-bridge is currently under construction in my neck of the woods. Work began last year and it’s expected to be completed in December this year. This flyover, the fourth in the country, is being built to help ease traffic congestion along the Russian Federation, Kampuchea Krom and Mao Tse Tung (Tuol Kork lights) areas.

Warning signs to motorists and riding public.

Warning signs to motorists and riding public.

I live in Tuol Kork and it is already a nightmare along the Tuol Kork intersection during the peak-hours and the recent construction activities and barriers have worsened the situation. Once I got stuck in this area for two hours, hungry and feeling dizzy as I was unfortunately engulfed in a mixture of fume, dust and BOs. Next time, I’ll keep a bottle of deodorant or pinaud after shave to give to the offender in case I’d get stranded again. Just kidding.

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Just wishing

Hello there, friends. How have you all been?
Wow, my unplanned AWOL from blogging lasted long enough!

Practice makes perfect.

Practice makes perfect.

One of the reasons for my absence is because I have been spending so much time doing some crafting. Also, I’ve been busy, busy, busy practicing with dip pens and dabbling in watercolours these past few weeks. Learning to write with dip pens is a challenging, tedious process and could get messy, too. Ink stains and paper catching on the nib. Another thing I learned is to be not too hard and forgive myself. Start over, and over until the desired results is achieved. Otherwise, I’d just drop everything down and give up.

And because I was totally occupied with what I consider “other” things (see above) lately, today, I found myself wondering at some chores that are begging for my attention and waiting to be done. Like the mountain of fresh laundry and the full trash bins, pleading to be folded and emptied out, respectively. And not to forget, we have cabinets and shelves that need replacing (which reminds me I need to look for cabinet organizers online). There is also the never-ending task of arranging and re-arranging my my craft tools and materials. Card stocks and washi tapes need sorting out. Nibs and paint brushes need to be cleaned and dried and ink spills waiting to be scrubbed off. Sometimes I wish I have a magic wand so I could just flick it, say the magic words and voila – everything’s in order again.

And by the way, it’s the Chinese New Year and we are in the year of the Goat. Or sheep, depending on who you ask.
I could feel the holiday rush yesterday (en route to meeting a friend) when I got stranded in a traffic along the intersection of Mao Tse Tung and Monireth Boulevards. The traffic lights were working alright but the onslaught of traffic from every direction was just too much. Vehicles were inching slooooowly. Some motos just sat there, blocking other vehicles. No one gave way. And so, I was stranded.

ourworldtuesday chinese new year holiday rush

Photo originally uploaded to Inside Cambodia.

 

ourworldtuesday chinese new year holiday traffic rush

Photo originally uploaded to Inside Cambodia.

 

How nice it would be, I thought, to just close my eyes and wish the traffic congestion is gone.
But, this is how it is in Cambodia.

Anyways, Gong Xi Fa Cai, my friends! Good health, good luck, and much happiness for all of us throughout the New Year of the Sheep (or Goat)! Let’s enjoy the holidays.

Photo Hunt: Shelter

One of the fascinating provinces I visited in Cambodia is Ratanakiri. It is home to indigenous hill tribes in Cambodia. One of the hill tribes that I find interesting is the Kroeung tribe. This group has one of the unique traditions that are still practiced up to this day.

One of these is involving teenage boys and girls. When Kroeung teenagers reach a certain age, they build the so-called bachelor or bachelorette houses, such as the ones you see below.

Kroeung hill tribe in Ratanakiri

Bachelor and bachelorette houses in Cambodia’s Ratanakiri province.

These bachelor and bachelorette houses are temporary shelters for teenaged Kroeung boys and girls looking for potential mates. It may seem controversial to some but this is a tradition that has been passed on from generation to generation. Once they’ve found their mates, these houses are then destroyed. More about this here.

photohunter7iq

FYI, I D-I-Y

Hey there, I’m blogging again! YAY!
I thought I wouldn’t let the holidays go by without posting something. So here it is.

We’re having a really nice, cool temperature in Phnom Penh these past few weeks. A fine weather, really, and our teapot is working round the clock. At the rate we are going, we’re going to exhaust the contents of the gas tank before the month (or shall I say, year?) ends.

Hey, remember a classmate who belong to the other group of kids who waited till it’s the last possible moment before it’s too late to begin a course work or a project? Well, I was one of them. Years have passed and nothing’s exactly changed (I can hear my mum talking here, lol). I still live up to the eleventh-hour and it’s one thing that I hate/love about myself, tee-hee-hee. So, at the last minute, I decided to send handmade Christmas cards to family and a few friends across the seas. My husband just shook his head knowing the fate of mails during the holiday season but it’s something I really wanted to do.

Inspired by a friend, I decided to write the greeting cards with my own hand. I’ve seen how elegant my friend’s handwriting was – oh, the playful swirls and flourishes that just scream beautiful – the lettering geek in me got envious and prompted me to teach myself how to write like that.

I bought a cheap fountain pen, a bottle of ink and a sketch pad at a Chinese store in Tuol Kork and started writing. To my utter horror, I feared someone would throw rocks at me for having an ugly handwriting! I think the use of computer has changed my handwriting into its deteriorated state now. So I practiced more and more, even delaying further the making of the cards. Imagine my delight when I discovered a lot of tutorials and practice sheets over the Internet! I practiced even more, writing an hour in the morning and another in the afternoon, and one more hour before I go to bed, for a couple of weeks. If that’s not commitment, I don’t know what that is.

After so many wasted paper and spilled ink, I think my hard work is paying off – I am seeing improvements! With this, I found my confidence and, with only a few days before D-day, I started making the cards. I just hope and pray they arrive in their respective destinations…

Two pencils taped together and a felt-tipped marker are great to practice the uncials with.
Practing my As and Bs in copperplate.
Some more scribbles. You can do this over and over and over again.
The Internet is a treasure trove of calligraphy tools and resources. The practice sheet is from The Postman's Knock. Click the photo to go to the site.
Quotes to ponder.
Writing again and again.
The final output.
My early attempt at writing on envelope.
card and lined envelope
My handmade card and DIY lined envelope.

I am still learning though and I find it very therapeutic. I’m going to hone further my skills, this time with the proper calligraphy tools, you know, nibs, holders, ink, the works! While I do not expect to have any wedding commissions to deal with or make pocket money out of this, I think calligraphy is a lovely, personal touch to handmade cards for any occasion. And boy, oh boy, it feels really good when you create something by hand. What was the last thing you made by hand?

Oh, and before I go… here’s wishing everybody the happiest holidays! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! We don’t really have any specials plans for Christmas day but we’ll see which way the wind blows.

Signs, signs: Asakusa rokku

I’m trying to get back into the blogging groove again so I’m digging up old photos and reminiscing the experiences that I may be inspired to write. So please indulge me for this week’s Signs meme.

Many years ago I was invited by a Japanese NGO to visit their country. After my official obligations were done, I stayed for three more days to get acquainted with Tokyo.

In my previous post, I mentioned about sightseeing and shopping at Demboin-dori, a shopping area in Asakusa. Having been amazed at the sights before me as I strolled along, and coupled with my faulty sense of direction, I got lost and ended up in the rokku (the sixth district) entertainment area, which was really a welcome eventuality.

Asakusa’s rokku, in its heydays, was  one of Tokyo’s prime entertainment districts before the war.  And even prior to that, between 1600s-1800s, it was said to be a known as a Yoshiwara, or the pleasure district. Sadly, it didn’t regain its popularity after the war ended.

At present, the rokku features attractions such as pachinko parlours, rakugo theatres (similar to a one-man stand-up comedy show), cinemas, and street performances.

Asakusa, Tokyo, Rokku

This is Asakusa’s rokku entertainment district.

Walking around the rokku, I could feel the post-war atmosphere. Actually, the whole Asakusa feels like old-world Japan. The advertising banners and signs for shops and shows are still traditional and some were noticeably garish.

The street cleaner had just finished his duties when I took this photo. The two “shelves” contained his cleaning brushes and is held together by a wooden stick.  He carried them on his shoulder as he went on to his next cleaning spot.  The rokku is a busy place but since I went there in the morning, the entertainment strip was still empty.

 

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