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Published: November 30th 2011
Nov 16, 2011 -I am one day away from exiting Canada for my next Habitat trip. We have a full team (12 people) and will all meet up in Phenom Penh on December 3d. Before the build I am stopping off in Korea and hope to go to the DMZ plus do a birding trip. I will fly to Cambodia on the 21st to do a bike trip, before arriving in PP on the 3d of December.
I am now in Phenom Penh after arriving from Seoul last night.Excellent 3 days in Korea including a tour of the DMZ and a birding tour.
Quite a weather contrast - was +4c in Seoul and +30c here now.Bruce had arranged a Tuc Tuc taxi for me - motorcycle with cart which cost $7 to go from airport to hotel in Penom Penh.
We had a great first day in Phenom Penh and wandered around downtown. We also went to the Russian market and visited the OK guest house. (Neat city but poor) We also had a brief meeting with a Habitat person and expect they will be organized for us on Dec 3d.
Right beside the road waiting for food
met our bike group on nov 22nd - two women ,one from Australia and one from Holland plus Bruce Piercy and yours truly.We are in the Castle Hotel on the river front in Penom Phen. We had dinner at an outdoor cafe near the hotel and had our first sightings of sex tourism - old white guys (OWG) with young Cambodian girls !
Next day it was up early and off to orphanage and slum development being run by Buddhist monks.How lucky we are in Canada. After the slum tour, we then headed out into the country to start the ride. Today we did 70k in +32C and arrived about 5.00 pm at Kampot.We also climbed a temple mountain (Phnom Chisor) Nice hotel -beer and much needed shower. We then went for first of many fish dinners with lots of rice. I am not super tired but an going to have a sore seat before this is over-time for new bike shorts.
Day highlights included "Hello, hello ,hello" from all the children in the villages that we rode through, plus the Brahma cattle and the unbelievable loads people carry on Honda Dream (125 cc)
our transport to Rabbit Island
motorcycles. We saw live pigs cross ways in crates, up to 5 people on one bike, loads of lumber and full size mattresses. Excellent. The guides are very good.
Finally back to the blog-found it hard to keep up on this trip as I only took the Ipad-hope to have Mac for next trip - will continue the chronicle from where I left off.
We left Kampot the next day and did a long boat ride (about 20 miles) out to another temple (100AD)on an island-small boat and lots of waves but it was interesting to see the way people live and work on the lake. After our return we went to a good restaurant for breakfast with Mr Hun and his bike guide-very nice people.
I did 55 Km today -against wind and it was hot again.The girls did 55 km plus another 18 km ( my seat is sore which is down side of not doing specific bike training) We arrived at excellent resort along shore near Kep. Pool plus bar has gin and tonic for $1.00 each -important source of quinine in never ending battle against malaria....We went
Rabbit Island Beach
View from my bamboo hut
down the road to excellent fish restaraunt -I think they caught everything served there just in front of the restaraunt.Most tourists here are from France.
Next day we went out to Rabbit Island for a great beach morning. I got a one hour foot massage for $5.00.At noon we ate in a beach restaurant with dogs and live chickens wandering among the tables. Excellent !!!
We then went back to shore on the traditional Cambodia fishing boat - twin pipe shaft honda engines -kind of like we used years ago for grain augers...very rough ride with BF waves.
On shore we loaded up for 25 km trip on bikes to the next hotel. Very hot starting out after lunch and we were going into the wind. A short trip with a brief temple and bat cave stop . My seat is really getting sore and I WILL BUY new bike shorts.
In morning (Nov 26th) we went to the Bokor Mtn Lodge for an excellent breakfast and then hit the trail for Sihanoukville for the last leg of trip. We rode for about 55 km ,stopping for lunch at a
Lots of piles of rice curing along the edge of the highway
rustic roadside place.(BEER) We then loaded the bikes and trailered into Sihanoukville to the very nice Cambodian Resort. Long day,capped off with fish massage and dinner at a beach restaurant. We got to watch more OWGs promenading with young and not so young Cambodian females....We had a big debate about consenting adults and concluded that maybe a market need is being filled- apparently there are also OWWs with young Cambodian guys in some locations...
The next day we did a tour up the river in Ream National Park including a purchase of fresh oysters from divers working in the middle of the river. We then spent the rest of the day on the beach-very warm and I managed a bit of a sunburn.
In the morning it was on to a regular bus to Phenom Penh which turned out to be quite a ride. We ended up back at the Castle Hotel and then did some more shopping at the Russian Market where I selected a smiling Buddha for the garden wall. There is lots of pirate software including "Yes Minister" and "Monty Python"
The next day two of us caught
our bus to Battambang
great way to travel -bus driver would be a great slalom skier
the bus to Battambang and did the sewage system inspection for the orphanage. We ended day having dinner with the staff etc. Another highlight was the Bamboo Train. I think there is a song about the Bamboo Train but havent yet found it.
On Dec 1st it was on to the boat to go from Battambang to Siem Reep.This turned out to be a highlight. We started off in the midst of the city and had to weave in and out of various fishing and gathering operations along the river, including laundery, bathing, stores on boats etc. After leaving the city part of the river, we navigated along a narrow channel through Tonee Sap Lake (sp) which was much larger than normal due to the large 2011 flood. We passed through a floating village near Siem Reep and then into the river harbour landing place. The always dependable Mr D (our bike support driver) picked us up and took us to the relatively opulent Rea Hotel Hotel via Mr Hun's house. A pitch here for Cambodia Cycling-They are the best.
After a short night we were off early the next day for the birding
part of the trip with Art the Guide. We took a traditional boat out to the Prek Toal conservation area where we saw 35 different birds, highlighted by a Lesser Adjutant. We also toured the float village and saw a crocodile "farm"We also found out Mr D is taking the CC van to Phenom Penh tomorrow so we nuked the bus trip. We left early the next day and stopped on the way to eat some traditionally processed rice plus a deep fried tarantula.
Saturday is day one of the HFH part of the trip so after arrival we checked into the OK Guest House. This turned out to be an excellent place with lots of people from all over the world in the dining room and on the street, all presided over by Mum (sp) and her mother.(you had to be there)
The next day (Sunday) we had a free day with the team so we all went to the Russian Market (again) plus the Genocide Museum and the Royal Palace.
Monday we got off to an interesting start as the traffic was quite unbelievable. It took 2 hours to go about 20Km. Virtual
The Bamboo Train
Assembling the train car to return to the starting point
parking lot - 1000s of 125 motorcycles, Tuc-Tucs, cars, vans and truck all trying to get somewhere-major chaos. We got to site and had orientation on safety etc and then started work-lots of brick work, wood siding instalation, floor laying etc. Good long day as we worked until 4.30-a hard working and enthusiastic team and a very organized job site. We were assured the traffic would get better each day and it actually did!!
We made it back to the OK GH in 1.5 hours and then decided to go to a nice restuarant on the river.( The Titanic) Unfortunately it didnt hit the iceburg too -some of us didnt get sick. Beware of the duck!
Day 2 was a bit better for traffic and we got a lot done. It seems we will finish the two houses by the end of the week.Many of us have discovered the OK Guest House pineapple milkshake-a major highlight. Also the Omelette Bacquette will be missed by all. However they also do an ace english bresakfast plus really good pancakes...
For variety we started eating dinner at other restaurants along the street near the
OK GH. The one across the street is the Happy Guest House-12 can dine for $50 USD. Very nice people but a few issues here and there.
By day 3 we were down to 11 as one person became ill and we had to take her to the hospital for a checkup and medication. A number of us had varying degrees of stomache issues. Mostly minor.
By Friday we had basically finished two houses. Very satisfying. I was able to assist the carpenter to build the stairs -all with hand tools (ax, handsaw,etc) Excellent.
On the weekend we did some more sight seeing including a trip to a major slum and current home of one of the homeowners for whom we are building a house. This was a very unsettling glimpse of life in a place that none of us could imagine- sewage under the floor, garbage everywhere and absolute poverty. Everyone was very quiet after we left the site. We then went to the Killing Fields Museum in some of the worst traffic known to man. The main monument is a glass tower of skulls.Lots to think about.
Hard at work
The wooden house
After the KF experience we decompressed with an hour at the Russian Market. I ordered 2 custom tailered silk shirts ($35) and on the way back a bus backed into my Tuc Tuc damaging the motorcycle. I did an exit stage left before the police arrived.
In the evening we walked to the Sugar Plum Restaurant for dinner which was on a street near the OK GH-Lots of Christmas decorations along the way including a Tuc Tuc with Santa Claus??
On Sunday we went on a Mekong boat cruise. I had to send everyone out with one of the interpreters while I went to the hospital with a team member. She wasnt getting better so was admitted into a very nice facility.Lots of admin things re insurance and HFH etc we finally but got it all organized.
I then took a long Tuc Tuc ride including a ferry ride to catch up to the team.We got lost several times but finally made it. THe ferry ride across the Mekong was totally full-My fare was $1.00-hello BC ferries... The Mekong River is very wide and quite brown with a fast current.After
The brick house
our team did the walls
we got back, we did a roof top dinner and watched the amazing light/water/music show in the adjacent park.
Monday Dec 12/2012 was the last day of work and we did landscaping and site clean up. On the way to the site,we bought 14 medium sized papaya trees ($14) and planted 2 in each yard site. Very well received and seems to be a good gesture for future builds.We ended the day by learning how to harvest rice.The next day will be the dedication ceremony.
I had a bad night and started pounding the Cipro-was much better by noon.
The dedication ceremony was very typical -ribbon cutting and key turn over etc. Everything was quite calm until one of the homeowners started to cry (just before I had to speak) so then everyone including me kind of lost it. We all did some singing and dancing and then were ferried out to the bus in oxcarts. This was one of the best Habitat builds and full compliments to HFH Cambodia.
Some of us did a last run to the Russian Market (shirts) - also have elephant head carvings plus some
more DVD movies. (Knock-offs R us)
The next 3 days were R and R-we went to Siem Riep by private bus including the Tarantulla stop.I tried deep fried crickets but couldnt get the team to fill in? We arrived in PP at about noon and checked in to a hotel which will remain nameless (not the best hotel of the trip-apparently owned by the Cambodian Army?) We then went on another boat ride to a different floating village. This was a bit repetitive for me but new for the team. We did see some interesting new sights including pigs and chickens living (together) under the houses in relatively small crates - It looked like the pigs were being fed fish...
In the evening we went to the Khmer Buffet restaurant -traditional food plus entertainment-lots of tourists. I arranged to meet Kris Koski there (son of a university room mate) and we went for beers at the Night Market.
The team decided that we should do Angkor Wat at sunrise so plan is to meet in lobby at 5.00 AM. Bruce (sans watch) leapt out of bed at 3.30 and turned on
A new tradition
all the lights &*^(%.
We arrived at AW in the dark and then enjoyed the mystical experience of seeing the sun come up behind the temples. It is truly magic to do this with only 5000 other people. I also got attacked by a beggar goose when I wouldnt cough up food. (A bit more aggressive than the various vendors who would generally be rated at only 6/10 on the Cancun aggressiveness scale)
We did a number of great other temples after breakfast including the site of Tomb Raiders. After lunch it was the full court guided tour of AW including a climb to the top. The guide had a lot to be modest about but he was very fast. Vendors at the AW entrance probably would be 9/10 on Cancun scale. A number of us (4) did an elephant ride-magnificent beasts!
The temples are absolutely breathtaking and a must see in SE Asia. In spite of the crowds it was a very worthwhile experience.
The next day we went to the land mine museum and it was another highlight. The tour was led by a veteran of
Dedication day-turning over the keys
the various wars. He apparently joined the army at 14 and his nickname is Cat (presumably because he has 9 lives) He has various bits of shrapnel and ordinance embedded in his body as well as an artificial leg. We saw lots of Soviet weaponry-mankind can be very creative when it comes to killing.
After the museum, we spent some time at an Artisans Workshop and then back to Mediocre Freds SAME SAME restaurant for lunch. We then hit the trail for PP in the same excellent bus but with a Grand Prix driver-lots of exciting passing. After arriving again at the OK it was time for the final banquet with HFH staff-very nice people.
The next day everyone parted ways and started for their various home destinations. The flight out was at 2320 and we all had various methods of spending the day. Flight to Korea was excellent and KAL is the best. I slept quite a bit.
BF layover in Seoul so I spent the day learning the subway system (easy) and christmas shopping at Insadong. Quite a shock-3C but I really like Korea... Our AC flight left at 1820 and
Traditional transport-we saw lots of these on the highway
was pretty good-slept again for 6 of 10 hours. I finally got home at 1730 on Dec 21st for 2 days of relaxation before heading out for Ymir,Nelson, Spokane and Mesa, Az-expect to be back on SSI on Jan 15th or so. Next stop Mongolia on June.
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