A weekend in Kep Malibu

I’m still here, folks, trying to accomplish many things despite the scorching weather.
Yesterday was the hottest. According to my landlady, the temperature inside her house reached 40C; outside, higher. Can you imagine? Hothothot. Adding insult to injury is the annoying brownouts at any time of the day and night, for several days now.

This morning, I made a bad decision of making a quick trip to the market for some supplies. It was around 11am, and the midday sun is hovering above my head. Even if the market is a mere less than a mile walk from the house, I took a motodup to avoid getting baked in the sun. My head felt like a radiator while I was outdoors and now I’m having a bad, bad headache. This year’s summer heat is a lot different than last year’s. It’s the kind of heat that penetrates and stays in your body (and head) all day long that all you want to do is submerge in a swimming pool. Good idea! A pool like this one:

malibu bungalows main

Tempting, isn’t it? This is actually in Kep Malibu Estates where we stayed the last time we were in Kep. It is one of the recent additions to the growing hotels/guest-houses/restaurants/pubs in town owned by barangs (expats). It is set off a dirt path from the main road and nestled at the foot of Kep National Park, and about a mile to Psah Khdam (crab market).

Rob's sweaty imprint It was our first time to stay there, in the Daling room  and we’re disappointed. Kep Malibu Estates is a lovely French owned/managed property in compound with a big swimming pool, restaurant/bar and a lush garden. I instantly liked the bungalow assigned to us – it was spacious with a stylish Khmer interior – and it comes with a mini-bar, hot water and television set. The bungalow was just a few steps to the swimming pool and there is a small but screened patio where you can sit and watch the swimmers. The catch was that they withheld a very important detail – the air con machine was very noisy during our stay there – the airconditioner made a loud whirring noises like a broken engine and automatically turned itself off and on again, you get the picture. In addition, it wasn’t working well at all. The room was still hot – here’s how the bed looked like (left) after my husband got up from bed after 30mins or so of watching the telly.

There was not much to expect from the free breakfast (well, what can we expect for free anyway?) so if you are a big brekkie person this is not for you. You’ll be disappointed at the depressing breakfast offerings My husband and I stayed in other ex-pat owned guest-houses in our previous Kep holidays and the breakfasts were far better than what we had in Malibu. The Khmer staff were approachable and quite nice actually but when it comes to the managers/owners, it was a different story, enough to make me say I won’t be getting a room there the next time we have a holiday in Kep.

Photo Hunt #41: Vertical Airport

It’s been a long while since I posted my last Photo Hunt entry. I allowed myself to be carried away by procrastination and sheer laziness so I distanced away from blogging for some time. Now that I have finally gotten the blogging groove back, I’m slowly creeping into the blogosphere and starting to get active again in the photo-memes that I’ve joined before. So this week, I’m coming back to Photo Hunt. I hope old friends find me here again, if not, hopefully new ones will come.

The theme for this week is vertical, and having taken very little pictures the past few months, I decided to hunt from my old photos (taken on my first (2003) and second (2009) trips to Laos. Not so old, mind you… here it is:

This picture shows the Patuxai Monument in Vientiane, Laos (also known as the Gate of Triumph or Victory Gate), arguably the most photographed landmark in the city. The monument was built in honor of those who died fighting in the war against the French.
Patuxai is said to be modeled after the Arc de Triomphe in France, thus earning the title the Asian version of the Arc. However, the similarity ends only there as the Patuxai Monument, just like the temples and monuments in neighboring Thailand and Cambodia, is never without its bling-blings. Take a look at the ceiling, for example…

The Patuxai monument is typically in Laotian design and details, decorated in typical Buddhist style featuring mythical creatures.

On top of the Patuxai monument (that is, if you are fit enough to climb several flights of stairs to reach the top!) a panoramic view of the city of Vientiane awaits you.  Great for taking pictures.

Just a bit of trivia here to explain why I chose this picture for this week’s vertical theme.

A friend of mine who worked in Vientiane for several years told me that the Patuxai monument was nicknamed as the vertical airport of Laos. Story goes that in the 1960s, the US government gave money to Laos to build a new city airport. However, the Laotian government then, for some reason, used the money to build a monument instead. And so, the Patuxai monument was referred by some as the vertical airport, even up to this day.

Christmas roadtrip with Miss Igorota

Happy new year everyone!
We were away for Christmas and got really busy thereafter so this blog was quiet for awhile. While the rest of the world were in a frenzy preparing to greet the New Year on December 31, it was a normal day for us here in Cambodia. While there was a NY countdown planned at the Sisowath Quay (across the Royal Palace), it rained heavily that night, much to our disappointment, and so we stayed at home and watched as the rest of the world welcomed 2009 on television.

A week ago, we (R, Max, and I) drove down to Kep, on the southernmost coastline of Cambodia with the globe-trotting Miss Igorota to spend the Christmas holidays there. It was Miss Igorota’s first road trip to the Cambodian countryside, to Kep, specifically, and she was very excited to see what awaited her.

Kep is a coastal municipality about 180 kilometers away from the capital of Phnom Penh. Kep was, in another era, a favorite getaway for French colonial masters and the wealthy from Phnom Penh, who enjoyed its beaches, seafood, and sea breeze. Now, the municipality as a whole is impoverished and relies on inshore-fishing and small-scale agriculture. Up until recently, Kep has always been our favorite weekend getaway due to its “wild” feel and remoteness.

Kep roadtrip1Day 1.
We were planning to leave early at 6 o’clock on the morning of the 23rd, but for some reason we woke up very late. After getting some cash at a bank in Russian Blvd., we were able to get out of Phnom Penh past 12noon, when the sun was already at its hottest.

We drove out of the city on National Road Number 3 passing Pochentong International Airport. The road was mostly good, but the first 50 or so kilometers after the airport was a long stretch of bumpy and dusty road. Trucks, motos and other vehicles compete for the right of way, swerving, overtaking and cutting lanes. Thankfully, Paige, our trusty, old Pajero, didn’t go boinkers as it maneuvered its way round the monstrous potholes 🙂

After an hour or so, we were already cruising along very good roads – we have JICA and the EU to thank for this. With windows rolled down, we were greeted by the beautiful, flat Cambodian rural landscape.

Kep roadtrip2

At this time of the year, the fields have already turned yellow – from a bright yellow to a brownish shade – as the rice has already ripened, and harvesting begun. Cows freely roam in the rice fields, feeding on the rice stalks left from harvesting.

Kep roadtrip3

R was driving slowly, at 40kph, and as we passed them, the locals looked our way – and saw we had Max and Miss Igorota in the car! They were amused to see a dog and a doll enjoying a road trip! Along the way, we met schoolkids on their bicycles – going to and coming out of school.

Kep roadtrip4

From then on, these are what we saw:

Kep roadtrip5

After the junction…

Kep roadtrip6

We also crossed this bridge, old but not yet rickety…

Kep roadtrip7

The bridge led us here…

Kep roadtrip8

Thirty minutes after, we’re finally in Kep …

Kep roadtrip9

The sun was beating us down and took its toll on us. After checking in at Vanna’s guesthouse – our favorite guesthouse on the hill – we all crashed into bed and fell asleep. We all woke up at 5.30pm, refreshed ourselves and then headed to Kim Ly’s restaurant for the much-anticipated foooooood!

Kep roadtrip10

We were all so tired, I guess because of the heat, but Miss Iggy enjoyed the long drive. We decided to retire early for another big day was in the offing, but not before soaking in the beautiful sunset of Kep.

Kep roadtrip11

– to be continued.

Notes from rainy Phuket

Yes, we are now in Phuket, and to those who are wondering why this blog is devoid of any Phuket posts and pictures… well, all I can say is that I allowed myself to be bitten by the procrastination bug. My husband tells me, we are on holiday so we, I particularly, can do whatever I want to. Ergo, I will blog whenever I feel like blogging… 🙂

To my parents, please do not worry. We arrived here last Saturday, flying with Thai Air Asia from Phnom Penh to Bangkok, then Bangkok to Phuket. This was our first time traveling with AirAsia and we didn’t know what to expect. It turned out alright, with a few funny encounters… will tell you next time.

We are staying here but we might go to Fe and Tony’s at Nai Harn (left photo) this weekend, but that depends on how soon Rob can finish his assignments… You see, in Phnom Penh, he is the teacher and the one giving out assignments; but over here, the roles have reversed. Each day a new task is given, and he needs to make lesson plans… I am, as my part, some sort of a cheerleader and assistant (taga-timpla ng kape… juk lang) 🙂

Fe and Tony are our friends who are also based in Phnom Penh. He teaches in one of the international schools there. They own a nice Thai-style house in Nai Harn where they spend most of their holidays. We spent a night in their lovely house before coming here.

Until the next post… ta-ta.

Photo from this site.

Suosdey Chhnam Thmey!

That’s how we say Happy New Year in Khmer.
It starts today, Friday, 11th of April and ends on Sunday, 13th of April. Thousands of locals left Phnom Penh as early as last week, to go to their hometowns and be with their families on this special holiday. Sige, hala, magsi-alisan kayo para naman matahimik ang Phnom Penh!

Today being the first day, people clean their house, believed to drive away the evil spirits, and wear new clothes to greet the new year. Okay, I’m off now – gotta go clean the house before the New Angel arrives.

In case you didn’t notice, this is the third time we are celebrating the new year in Cambodia.

Wat Kampong Tralach

My husband Rob and I are currently in retreat in the coastal town of Kep to get away from the madness of the capital, Phnom Penh. Kep town was, in another era, a tourist centre for the wealthy from Phnom Penh, who enjoyed its beaches, fish and sea breezes. Now, the municipality as a whole is impoverished and relies on inshore fishing and small-scale agriculture. There are a couple of family-run fish sauce factories, and about 1,000 hectares of salt basins providing employment for about twenty family enterprises and seasonable employment for perhaps sixty more.Kep has always been our choice for weekend getaways because, compared to Cambodia’s other beachtown, Sihanoukville, it still has a “remote” feel to it and there is still a small number of tourists coming in. Besides, Kep has a special place in our hearts, having lived here in 2006 when I started IDRC’s rural ICT project here.

Our visit this time has another purpose – for my husband to turn over the brand new computer set with sound system and copier-printer-scanner machine to the monks of Wat Kampong Tralach where he used to teach while we lived here. The money used to purchase all of these was collected from the sales of the Cambodian CD maps, plus, the donation from his family in memory of his deceased grandmother and grandfather. The happiness on the faces of the monks was undeniable, and the excitement of the kids was contagious when they saw the computer games they could play with. Apart from computer operations, we spent half a day yesterday at the wat with Rob teaching the head monk, Ven. Pring Phoeun, how to operate the three-in-one machine: photocopying, scanning and printing documents. The photocopy machine is very useful to them to reproduce their lesson plans and exercises for the students, and also for designing and printing signs and leaflets for the wat. The classes are of mixed ages and abilities, and some travel by bicycle from as far as halfway to Kampot for free English classes. These are children of farmers and fishermen who are eager to study the language, but do not have enough resources to go to a private language school. If anybody would like to donate materials, such as books, educational CDs, or similar, Cambodia Maps CD now has a post office box address:
Cambodia Maps CD
P.O. Box 576, Phnom Penh

For more information on the Cambodia Maps CD, please click here.