Sunday, 27 November 2011

Good Sunday

I'm usually so caught up with housework and errands during the weekends that I have little time for anything else. However, all it takes is for someone to organise a gathering and the weekend suddenly becomes a fun-filled one.

Amy wanted to meet up for breakfast at Marine Parade but when we showed up at her apartment with 3 kinds of cheeses, ham, crackers and bread, nuts, dried cherry, capsicum and radish (from my garden), we decided to eat in the comfort of her home instead.
Amy supplied enough booze - 2 bottles of red wine and cloudberry liquor - to see us through the long afternoon.

It didn't cross my mind to bring Christmas gifts, so I was quite surprised to receive one from Amy.

And another from Beverly.

The teapot from Beverly is fantastic. Now I can make myself a pot of green tea in the office every morning.

Our spirits were high (thanks to the copious amount of alcohol) and conversation never stopped flowing amongst the ladies while the man (only one) kept himself entertained.

At some point, someone (I think it was me) realised she had kids and dog at home waiting for dinner, so we went to the coffee shop nearby for an early dinner.

We came across a flea market along the way and I almost ended up with a couple of dresses. Thank goodness, Amy, (the sensible one) herded us away from the temptations.

For dinner, Amy ordered a platter of her favourite roast duck and meat. We also had rojak, curry vegetables and achar.

What a lovely way to spend a Sunday.

Thursday, 24 November 2011


Looking at my blog, I feel that the travel section is almost bursting at the seams. The time is ripe to set up a travel blog so I can write more about the places I've been and hotels I have stayed in.

In the last decade, I have traveled to over 100 cities in 30 countries, so I still have plenty of stories to tell. The only challenge is finding time to write. Many of my photos are also not digitalised, so that is another hurdle.

Still, the thought of setting up a travel blog is exciting. I hope to get it organised soon.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The smiley dog and orphans

Visiting the orphanage was the highlight of my trip to Siem Reap. I went to two different ones set up by Savong. It's always a joy to see the happy children. This time, my heart leapt when I saw a puppy with a smiley face!

When I reached out my hand to touch the puppy's head, it barked at me and retreated to his mother's side. At least the pup has a mother, unlike some of the kids at the orphanage. Many of the kids at the centres are not orphans but are from very poor families. Their parents can't even afford to travel to the orphanage to see their kids, so family reunions are rare and always end up tearfully.

This trip was also rather special because I had a brief meeting with Leak, a 16-year old boy whom CH and I had sponsored to study at a school in the city. From the photo below, you can see that he is a handsome teen with a smiling face. When I returned to Singapore, we started communicating with each other. Now he calls me 'mum' and we talk about what he did during the day etc. It's funny how I end up with an extra 'son'!

I arrived at Savong Orphan Centre just after lunch to find the kids having afternoon nap.

The first thing that caught my eye was the beautifully paved outdoor area.

When we were there two months ago, the area outside the classrooms was dusty and dirty. SL and I contributed some funds for Savong to purchase tiles for paving the area. It's good to see the job done.

The kids were awoken from their nap and some sat on the floor, looking so sleepy. However, when the cookies were brought out, they came to life again!

The kids are a disciplined lot. Even though they enjoyed the cookies tremendously, nobody jostled or asked for extras.

They were happy with what was given and sat eating quietly.

Here the kids wear used clothes brought by donors from all over the world. I spotted a little girl wearing my niece's t-shirt. This good-looking boy looks rather stylish in a floral shirt!

Savong set up the orphanage to support the Thnoi Trong village children who have suffered the plight of abandonment, desperation, disease and starvation. Thnoi Trong Village is one of the poorest areas in Siem Reap.

Savong is like a father to the kids at the orphanage. Here, he is comforting a young boy who ran to him in tears.

During my visit, two teachers from a Singapore girls school were there on a visit. Here you see the kids peering out as the visitors toured the back garden.

The camaraderie amongst the kids is strong. I saw an older girl comforting a crying child and then struggle to carry her. I took over and carried the crying girl instead.

Savong brought me to another orphanage which he had recently helped the Austrian NGO set up.

It is larger, with better facilities.

It has a pond in the yard. I wonder if it serves as a swimming pool for the kids too.

The kids were happy to meet me and bombarded me with questions like, "What's your name?", "How old are you?" etc... phrases they have learned in English classes.

They love to practise their language skills and you'll never feel bored when you're amongst these boisterous kids.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Siem Reap city scene

I was back in Siem Reap city over the weekend. This time I traveled alone and stayed in the charming Villa Medamrei, a four-month old boutique hotel near the Old Market. Traveling alone has its charms. I did whatever I liked and wandered around the city like the intrepid backpackers around me.

The weather was hotter than I remembered and the roads were even dustier than before due to the damage caused by the floods in September. I walked around the city alot but had little appetite in the oppresive heat. Hence lunch was mostly cold light food like vegetable rolls and glass noodle salad.

The morning sun here is glorious though. 7am is my favourite time of the day because of delicious breakfast and hot cuppa.

The sun is also at its kindest and everything just perks up in the soft warm light.

By the time I leave the villa at 10am, the sun has turned into a harsh ball of fire. The heat sears the skin and fries my hair. I always walk quickly, kicking up dust as I dodge tuk tuks and bicycles.

I like walking along the river even though the water is of the murky kind. Every morning, two people row a wooden boat, collecting trash in the river.

Even though the river is nothing like the River Seine or Rhine, the waterfront properties flanking the water are notably more prestigious.

On a typical Sunday morning, before the tourists start hitting the town, the local markets are bustling with women jostling and haggling over vegetables and fish.

With the sun beating down on me, I longed for a cup of ice cold sugar cane juice but didn't want to take the risk at the streetside store. I settled for an ice cream at Swensons instead.

Some of the local food are downright intriguing. According to my friend, the small shell below is a cheap and popular delicacy.

Quail eggs are popular too.

Most Cambodians are Buddhists, so you can find pagodas everywhere. Pagodas are the monks' abodes. 'Temples' are places of worship for the king, like the Angkor Temples.

During my walk, I came across two pagodas near the river. Coincidentally, I saw two monks walking into the gates after collecting their morning alm. In case you're wondering, that is a statue of a man (with a broken arm) with a sign telling people to remove their hats before entering.

The other pagoda is a very grand one with intricate carvings and ornate finishings. I wasn't sure if they welcome visitors, so I just took some photos quickly from outside.

By noon, I was forced to retreat back to the hotel to escape the scorching sun. That is when most locals have their siesta on the hammock while the tourists nurse their ice cold beer in the cafe.