Saturday, April 23, 2011

Royal wedding - King of Cambodia is not attending...

Me next to the King of Cambodia in our private audience - unlike Wills and Kate


All the newspapers here in the UK yesterday had the shock news that the King of Cambodia had not replied to the invitation of Wills and Kate (aka future king & queen of England).

Now, having had communications with the Royal Palace in Cambodia I can appreciate exactly why the King hasn't replied. If you post some thing to him of course you will get no reply... In my experience you have to call ahead and then wait outside the gate for hours for the Captain/General to come and greet you and take the mail. Or, perhaps the Phnom Penh Post Office decided they liked the look of the invite and kept it for themselves... Goods often go walkies from there... Or perhaps he did reply but the Post Office kept his dollar for the stamp and binned the RSVP.

Joking aside, the Daily Mail and the Sun (two of the worst papers in the planet) have condemed the King for saying he is "busy". Quite frankly, I am sure he has far better things to be doing than flying across the world to a country that barely supports Cambodia and has very limited relations with it. I am surprised the HRHs got a "sorry he is busy with another engagement". Afterall it is far more likely in Cambodia just to get a "sorry cannot" without any explaination at all!

What a complete non-story. Afterall if so many people in the UK can't be bothered why on earth would a king of a developing nation on the other side of the world give a shit.

Anyay, the King can make time for me but not Wills and Kate...so satifying

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Some photos from September 2010

Here are a selection of photos from my last trip to Cambodia....

The children at the centre...

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Sponsor daughter

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A trip to Angkor Wat...

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A trip to Bokor mountain...

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And crab at Kep

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The Village

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Silk making...

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Friday, October 1, 2010

I've now been in Nusa Lemboggan - a small island off the coast of Bali for 2 days. It is stunningly beautiful.....





Monday, September 27, 2010

Bali

I've arrived in bali and have spent a few days in Ubud. Ubud has a reputation for being the epicentre of culture in Bali and I agree that it has a huge amount of culture and arts. However, it has seemingly become a bit of a tourist trap with coach loads of "culture thrill seekers!" arriving in hoards and descending on the villages which have merged together to form Ubud.

First impressions of Bali was that it was similar to Cambodia but with more order.... that was because I arrived in the dark! Impressions quickly changed. After driving for about an hour I arrived at my guesthouse. I was a little disappointed because I assumed that it would feel like I had travelled to a different part of Bali but the road was pretty much lined with shops/workshops and homes for the whole drive. I didn't sense there was any huge distance between Ubud and the airport. Totally different to Cambodia where if you were to drive at night you would certainly feel like you had made a significant journey if you were to travel to a provincial town!

My guesthouse was an excellent Internet find - "Narasoma". I was impressed with the room on the top floor which was furnished traditionally with a massive wooden carved bed. A front and back balcony meant I could watch both sunrise and sunset from the comfort of my own living space! I awoke early to enjoy the sunrise and wow! The landscape was beautiful with interesting buildings and the volcano in the distance! I was now impressed.

Next on the agenda was a rice field walk and after consulting with the guidebook I set off and immediately sensed I wasn't on the right track. I carried on regardless and for an hour and a half or so was enjoying the walk. I hen tried to cross a gorge to walk home on the other side. A friendly local pointed me in the right direction. Ummm I would have preferred to go back the way I knew but trusting him I set off.... and promptly got lost in a maze of rice in the hot, hot sun!

I was Ok and enjoying the adventure until a big, black snake decided to JUMP (really!) from his hiding position next to my foot into the small water irrigation system that was running alongside the path. I had no choice but to continue with my walk - now armed with a big stick. Then, I saw snake 2, 3, 4 and 5 and suddenly was not having a too happy a time! I then turned back and managed to find the way again. Strangely I stumbled across a painter and a small gallery so had a small chat and he suggested an alternative route - NO way! I was going back the way I knew.

OOOh snake, snake, lizard, spider, snake, lizard. I was looking forward to the town! After 3 hours of walking I arrived back. Phew! The rest of my time consisted of shopping and eating and browsing galleries.

I did pay a visit to the popular Monkey Forest Temple which I thought might be a bit of a tourist trap but it was actually entertaining with monkeys stealing tourists food and generally being a bit of a nightmare for those with monkey phobia! Particularly good was the monkey "swimming pool" which was a small pond which the monkeys were swimming in and jumping off statues onto each other and diving for fun!
Wet, unimpressed monkey - No zoom - you could point the camera right in their "unbothered" faces


In the evening I watched a traditional dance performance and was impressed. My point of reference was Cambodian Apsara dancing and there were certainly similarities - hand bent in strange ways, feet arched and looking as if the dances were on hot coals. However, the major difference was the expressions in these dancers' eyes and the dance which I observed which was a lot faster with sharper movements to Cambodian dance.


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With one day left in Ubud I decided to try another walk. I walked for 4 miles and then couldn't find the start of the rice field walk. Mindful of the previous experience I decided to just enjoy the walk on the road! My feeling was confirmed when I saw a massive lizard just walking in the grass (he was about 2 ft long). Even though I knew by this stage the black snakes were "no problem" I just didn't fancy stepping on one by mistake.

Luckily a luxury hotel provided me with juice (at a cost!) to prevent dehydration! After this and slightly more walking in back lanes I could no longer resist the cries of "transport" and got a lift back to the centre of the city!

A few unexplored areas later I was ready to hit the road and head to the mountain lodge on Bali's second largest mountain....

Friday, September 24, 2010

Airport

Its not often that I cry in Cambodia. Yes, the dirty children and the land mine victims begging is distressing but after a period of time these become everyday scenes and you just get on with your life without such things playing on your mind too much (I guess it is just a survival thing - you can't change everything after all...).

However, today I was dropped off at the airport by a Cambodian - Canadian who escaped the Khmer Rouge. She now runs an NGO dealing with trafficking. As she dropped me off she alerted me to a group of girls, no older than 18 (looking like 14 year olds) who were all dressed in either pink or yellow T shirts. Their hair was short. Cambodian women treasure their long hair so this was odd.

She explained to me that they were all going to Kuala Lumpur to work in Malaysia as domestic workers. A closer inspection of the T shirts showed the name of the organisation sending them. They sat in a row waiting....

The next time I saw them was after check in and they were going up past passport control. In Phnom Penh the escalator goes past a glass wall to the outside of the airport. By this stage the families of the children in the bright coloured T shirts had gathered and they were waving. The children (because they were really children whatever their fake ages on their passports said) were crying, sobbing. It set me off too. They looked so innocent and petrified.

One in particular was sobbing on the plane. When it took off it was more of a howl. So very very sad. These girls, almost certainly, still lived at home, had never previously left the country and then all of a sudden they were being whisked away to work in a house (or something less desireous in due course) in a different country with a different language and culture - for very little money. They may only be an hour plane journey away from their homes but if you have no money and possibly someone else controlling your passport it is not that you can just return home when it all goes wrong.

When we arrived at Kuala Lumpur all I could do was smile at them a lot and hope that their final destination was a happy enough place for them.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Time to say goodbye...





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Its time to say goodbye to Cambodia again after nearly 3 weeks... $25 of Cambodian "lard/ice cream"(I'm not sure what it is made of...) cakes have been eaten by the 100 students at the Centre's school which can only mean Happy Birthday or goodbye. I had both goodbye in English and the Khmer for goodbye iced onto the cake to ensure there was no confusion .... A few more goodbyes and then it is off to Bali.

Cambo Kids

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