Signs, signs: A bus story

After so many years, I found the SD card that contained most of my travel pictures. Happy head now that I’m reunited with my Laos pictures, some five years later!

This photo below was taken in one of the road trips my husband and I did some years ago. Of course, my travelling doll, Khmer Iggy, was with me during that trip. Khmer Iggy finds the buses in Laos delightfully colourful, except for a few that are -ahem- gaudily decorated. You can find more of Khmer Iggy and her other sisters’ travels around the world here – Postcards from Miss Igorota.

Khmer Iggy posing in front of the overnight tourist bus that took us to Vientiane.
Khmer Iggy posing in front of the overnight tourist bus that took us to Vientiane.

The sign on the side of the bus says “Vientiane, Pakse”.
Paksé is a city in Champasak district of Laos and is the halfway-point to Vientiane, the capital, when entering Laos via one of the border crossing in Cambodia’s Stung Treng province. It is also one of the most-visited cities in Laos due to its popular attractions of Wat Phu (an ancient Khmer temple ruins) and Si Phan Don (popularly known as the 4,000islands, much similar to the Philippines’ Hundred Islands).

In other news, public buses begin test run yesterday in an effort by the government to ease traffic jams in Phnom Penh.

open

A wonderful surprise

Earlier, I was feeling  run down and getting over a cold but nothing and no one could stop me from going to the Post Office. I was there yesterday but a voice inside my head was urging me to go again this morning. I’m glad I listened to that voice because… today, I received a wonderful surprise in the mail!

 

Miss Igorota is carefully reading the notes on the packet. She saw the familiar address and smiled!
Miss Igorota is carefully reading the notes on the packet. She saw the familiar address and smiled!

Conniechiwa of Writings on the Wall has got to be one of the most thoughtful, most generous and sweetest people on earth. She sent me this super-cute birthday card…

taylor swift hallmark bday card
A Taylor Swift American Greetings card. Sweet!
I wonder who is celebrating a birthday though ^.^

And then… my heart skipped a beat when I opened the packaging and found an enormous world map (I heart!) and this lovely scrapbooking kit by Mary Engelbreit…

 Who doesn't love a Mary Engelbreit kit? It contains more than a hundred of design sheets, pages of stickers, buttons and ribbons.
Who doesn’t love a Mary Engelbreit kit? It contains more than a hundred of design sheets, pages of stickers, buttons and ribbons.

I think I’m in craft heaven now! With the lack of craft stores here in Phnom Penh, I’m sure I’m going to use as little as possible until I get more craft supplies from somewhere. Tihik guid, no? Lol.

And then there’s also a bar of chocolate but too bad it’s already gone — rich, creamy, German chocolate with a twist of strawberry – oh, so yummy in the tummy.

I would also like to mention that weeks before the packet arrived, I also received a packet from the equally thoughtful GingMaganda. Inside was a rubber stamp from Papemelroti, my favourite speciality shop in the Philippines.

A vintage Filipiniana rubber stamp, only from Papemelroti. I can say that I'm the only person here in Phnom Penh (or Cambodia) who has this -- unless someone proves me wrong.
A vintage Filipiniana rubber stamp, only from Papemelroti. I can say that I’m the only person here in Phnom Penh (or Cambodia) who has this — unless someone proves me wrong.

I’m excited. Todo-todo, I kid you not. Summer will be so much fun now that I have some crafting supplies, thanks to my beautiful friends. Looks like someone’s going to be spending less time noynoying this summer ^.^

Salamat, Conn at Ging. You surely know how to spoil a seester – da best kayo talaga, apiiiiiirrr ^.^ I will always remember your generosity and thoughtfulness. I will treasure these gifts, but not as much as I treasure you both.

A Khmer Wedding

Oh, my sweet, wonderful, beautiful Miss Igorota sisters! How Khmer Iggy and I have missed all of you! I’ve barely been able to @@@ at all during the past weeks so I’m excited to jump back in.

The whole neighborhood of Tuol Sangke woke up before sunrise today thanks to the loud music coming from our neighbor. The music, coupled with canned chanting of the monks, signaled that a wedding was to take place in the neighborhood. Reluctantly, I got out of the bed complaining about loss of precious beauty sleep with the music reverberating everywhere at an unholy hour. When I went to the kitchen I found my dear husband already making me my chocolate drink.

I went outside, just before 6.30am, to walk the dog and, lo and behold — there were already vehicles rolling in our streets and carrying wedding guests. Khmer Iggy volunteered to walk the dog with me, and she confessed, she had never seen so many Land Cruisers and Lexus in one place before!

Khmer Iggy at the entrance

Here’s Khmer Iggy standing in front of the lavishly decorated entrance to the tent-covered reception area. The tent covered the entire block where we live. Inside the tent were rows and rows of tables and chairs and powerful loudspeakers broadcasting music and the entire ceremony throughout the neighborhood.

A traditional Khmer wedding starts with a procession led by the groom heading towards the bride’s house to present gifts (dowry). The groom and his gift-toting entourage walk in a procession to the bride’s house. Elders say that the groom’s eagerness to marry is reflected in the distance he is willing to walk. Unlike Philippine weddings, in a Khmer wedding, guests don’t bring the gifts at all. Even the gifts that they carry during the procession are provided by the groom to represent a part of the dowry. The gifts comes in twos (pairs) to represent the couple.

Khmer wedding entourage

Then the bride and her family meet the groom and his entourage at the especially decorated doorway where the bride offers a lei to the groom, and vice versa. After the obligatory photo-shoot for a few minutes, they then enter the house together for a day-long ceremony with the whole proceedings being broadcast over a loudspeaker and interspersed with traditional Khmer wedding music, a live salapa (sitcom) about married life, and canned chanting. A lavish reception follows with dancing that lasts all night long.

Khmer wedding

Iggy, the bride and groom and the bride’s parents.

Although not invited, Miss Igorota was happy to get a glimpse of a traditional Khmer wedding, and managed to sneak in a few shots paparazzi-style. Khmer Iggy couldn’t help but admire the fabulously dressed women all prettily made up at silly-o’clock in the morning.

Miss Iggy thinks that times are hard, but we still see people taking the marriage plunge. This is definitely love, and the power of love is even stronger than the economic crunch! One of my Khmer friends told me that he’s getting married later this year, and that’s welcome news for us and Miss Iggy, as we’ll be able to see a Khmer wedding in its entirety.

Miss Igorota witnesses a Khmer wedding — from a distance

I woke up before sunrise today, no thanks to the loud music coming from our neighbor. The music, coupled with canned chanting of the monks, signaled that a wedding is to take place in the neighborhood. Reluctantly, I got out of the bed complaining about loss of precious beauty sleep with the music reverberating everywhere at this unholy hour. When I went to the kitchen I found R already making me my chocolate drink.

I went outside, just before 6.30am, to walk the dog and lo and behold — there were already vehicles rolling in our streets and carrying wedding guests. Miss Igorota volunteered to walk the dog with me, and she confessed, she has never seen so many Land Cruisers and Lexuses in one place before!

– Miss Igorota is standing in front of the tent’s decorated entrance. The tent covered the entire block where we live. Inside the tent were rows and rows of tables and chairs and powerful loudspeakers broadcasting music and the entire ceremony throughout the neighborhood.

Traditionally, a Khmer wedding ceremony is a multi-day celebration, with elaborate displays of rituals, accompanied by lots and lots of music, and a parade of colors. –

– A traditional Khmer wedding starts with a procession led by the groom heading towards the bride’s house to present gifts (dowry).

– The groom and his gift-toting entourage walks in a procession to the bride’s house. Elders say that the groom’s eagerness to marry is reflected in the distance he is willing to walk.

Unlike in most weddings, the guests don’t bring the gifts that they carry during the procession – they are provided by the groom to represent a part of the dowry – and it comes in twos to represent the couple.

Then the bride and her family meets the groom and his entourage at the especially decorated doorway where the bride offers a lei to the groom, and vice versa. After the obligatory photo-shoot for a few minutes, they then enter the house together.

– The guests arrived as early 6.30am and they were all well-dressed; the women are in fancy silk dresses and elaborate hairstyles and make up. Miss Igorota and I could not imagine ourselves waking up at silly-o’clock in the morning to ready *lol*

Then the ritual starts – the exchanging of gifts between two families, the cutting of hair of the bride and groom, the feet washing, binding of red-thread to the wrists of the couple, etc…. the whole shebang is highlighted by singing, lots of them, and stand-up comedy and not to mention the sumptuous food, lots of food. Though we could not tell you in detail about it as we were not invited, we could tell what was happening, thanks to the powerful loudspeakers.

Although not invited, Miss Igorota was happy to get a glimpse of a traditional Khmer wedding. I hope that one of my Khmer friends will get married this year so Miss Igorota will have a front seat to watch the whole wedding ceremony.

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.

Miss Igorota’s first tuk-tuk experience

first tuk-tuk ride

Exhilirating, dizzying, super-fast! You grab on to your seat, and once it started rolling you can’t help but grin — you know, the kind of nervous grin you have when you get on a roller-coaster ride because most tuk-tuk drivers transform into madmen once they hit the road. It’s like being whisked from point A to point B at a very alarming speed.

According to Wikipedia:

An auto rickshaw or tuk tuk (auto, rick, autorick or rickshaw in popular parlance) is a motor vehicle that is one of the chief modes of transport across many parts of South and East Asia, especially as a vehicle for hire. It is a motorized version of the traditional rickshaw or velotaxi, a small three-wheeled cart driven by a person, and is related to the cabin cycle.

For those who haven’t been on this side of Asia, Miss Igorota recommends a tuk-tuk ride for first-timers in the city. It is an essential and a fun way to see the city. Tourists and barangs (expats) in Phnom Penh are usually seen riding tuk-tuks, but now, more and more locals are starting to use them to commute. It’s supposed to hold only 4 passengers, but the humble four-wheeled tuktuk can hold as much as a dozen or more. Plus a number of chickens, pigs, sacks of rice… figure that out. Miss Igorota reckons that, apart from having four-wheels and a bigger body size, tuk-tuks are similar to traysikels (tricycle) back in the Philippines.

For more of Miss Igorota’s travels, visit Postcards from Miss Igorota.

Miss Igorota says… suosdei from Phnom Penh!

Ladies (and gentlemen), I am happy to say that Ms. Igorota, or Ms. Iggy, finally made it to Cambodia! Her arrival in Phnom Penh was delayed because of the recent stand-off at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, and I was glad it didn’t take too long for the stand-off to be over and for the flights to resume. Now that she’s here, I hope she won’t mind (and that she’ll get used to, in no time, to) the heat, humidity, and the gazillion of bugs she will encounter here after being in the US state of New Jersey for quite a while.

Above is the General Post Office in Phnom Penh where we picked up Ms. Iggy. Standing proudly in what was once Phnom Penh’s French Quarter, the Post Office is one of the few preserved colonial French buildings in the capital and a reminder of what the French has left in the country. There were several other French-style buildings all over Phnom Penh but most were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge, or torn down to make way for new apartment buildings, or worse, left to rot. Taking a stroll with Ms. Iggy in the French Quarter in the coming days will definitely be in our itinerary.

To know the full story about Miss Igorota, please visit Postcards from Miss Igorota.