photo slideshow

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The Enormous Gap between the Rich and the Poor

A tuk-tuk parked next to a Camry

Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world, but driving down the street you will first notice the amazing amount of motorcycles and tuk-tuks on the road, and then notice that anyone who drives, drives a luxury car. From Toyota Camrys, to Range Rovers; Lexuses to Escalades, and even Humvees, Phnom Penh is filled with them. Their homes are either run-down apartments, or flashy mansions that look like they can be on the road to Beverly Hills.Yes, the contrast between the very rich and the very poor is obvious. There are slums right around the corner from one of the malls. But no one seems to bat an eyelid. What is running through the minds of the rich when the poverty that is right in front of their eyes can't be ignored?DIY baby-chair

Corruption is rife, not even the schools are spared. According to sources, the teachers are paid so little that they do not teach the students what is necessary to pass the exams. Instead, students are required to pay extra for "tuition". Many of these students dont have enough money to eat 3 meals a day, so they have no choice but to drop out of school, get low-paying jobs, and the vicious cycle continues. Police stop motorcyclists on the road, and demand money. If none can be given, they take the bikes instead. This is the reality of many Cambodians.How are people supposed to survive if the police take away the only thing they have?
Common scene on the roads of Phnom Penh

On a more personal note, I went out for lunch with Singly again as Kat was only scheduled to arrive around 7pm.. This time we had "safer" food:Cashew nut chickenGreen curry chickenYum-yum pineapple shake! Singly obviously loves it too.. Lol..

Then we went to Sovanna Shopping Center. I didnt buy anything, as things are surprisingly more expensive in Cambodia. I guess this is because they use USD. Interesting fact: There are no coins used in Cambodia; instead, the Cambodian currency riel is used for "change". Singly said that it's because coins are easily lost, and i can see why that would be a factor, as they mostly ride motorcycles, but I still ignored his comment.. ;p
We went to the arcade, where i discovered that boys everywhere really are the same. I could've been kidnapped for all Singly knew when he was watching this other kid play Street Fighters. Hahaha.. But I still smoked his ass when we played Air Hockey!! =D (Say it Singly! Say I rule!! Muahahaha.. ;p)I found out the NGO/church we were going to be working with is called New Life Centre which is just behind my hotel Basically, a ministry called Cambodian Outreach provides relief to the poorest areas of Cambodia, and The New Life Foundation, along with the humanitarian programme Children @ Risk are just a couple of their "branches". I got to visit the Children @ Risk office where we bought some souvenirs for friends, which is great cz they represent Cambodia, and at the same time we get to help these children make some money to sustain themselves.. I bought some braceletsand keychainsFor those of you who'd like to help without physically going to Cambodia, you could always sign up for their sponsorship program, details of which can be found here.

Monday, 17 October 2011

South-East Asian Adventures Continue!

This time, Phnom Penh, Cambodia!

When my friend Katherine ('Sup girl? ;p) came back to KK from the UK a few months ago, she mentioned that she would be going to Phnom Penh in October, and asked if I'd like to meet her there.
(Background update: Kat and I have been friends since 2006, and were inseparable til she moved to the UK with her family in 2008. Since then, we've only been able to meet once when she came down to KK again, and then this time she came down in 2011, so yes, having the chance to meet up any where was good enough for me! ;p)

She was there with her parents and a team from Australia, on a mission trip. I was a bit anxious before I got there to be honest, knowing that her parents would be leaving 2 days after I arrived, and she'd be with a bunch of people I didnt know, while working. Would we have time to actually hang out? What exactly would I have to do while I was there? What if the team dont like me? What if I dont like them??

I was scheduled to arrive on 8/10, and to add the element of surprise to the trip, about 3 days before, I received mail from Kat saying she wouldnt be there when I arrived! =O She was in the villages on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, about a 5 hour drive away.. I was also stupid enough to book a 6.45am flight, but that a different story, lol. She'd arranged for someone to pick me up at the airport and a hotel room for me though, cz she knew I'd prolly get lost and just sit at the side of the road somewhere and cry if she didnt.. ;p

So. I arrive on Saturday, walk out of the airport, and see.. Nothing. No one with any signs with my name, no one who looked like they were there for me, nothing. (I dont know what I was expecting this "host" to look like, but yea.) Then all of a sudden, I feel a hand on my shoulder, and this Cambodian dude asks me "Are you Calista?" Whoa Kat, you must've given an amazing description of me! Hahaha.. Turns out his name is Singly, and we hop into a tuk-tuk and head to the hotel. (Yes, I did just randomly follow a Cambodian stranger as soon as I touched down in PP. The excitement that is my life.)

We got on pretty well, and took care of me before Kat arrived, taking me to breakfastPork noodlesDim sum
Before letting me go back to the hotel to sleep. (Being the dummy I was, I didnt sleep the night before for fear of missing my flight.)

Later in the evening he came back on his scooter (which is really nice btw) to take me for dinner. We went to this really nice place called Sleuk Chark.Walkway up to the restaurantTable settings (Those seats are really comfy!)

Singly asked if I'd mind him ordering, to which I said go ahead. Mistake!
He ordered sour soupginger chickenand.. Frog with quail eggs! =O And now, to all of you who complain about me being a fussy eater, I'd like to announce, that I did try it! One, but I did it! So there! *sticks tongue out*

It actually did taste like chicken, as so many people say, but psychologically I couldnt get over the fact that it was frog so.. =/ The quail eggs were mostly yolk as well, seeing as they're so small, so I only had one of those too.. I think he ordered it on purpose just to get the upper hand, cz SINGLY IS INSANE!! If only I'd known this before I spent 2 whole days with him.. *shakes head* ;p

After dinner he took me on a mini tour of this place called Diamond Island. Diamond Island is basically a concrete little place with gardens and exhibition/wedding halls on it. There are also a few shops and cafes and stuff, but it looks nothing like the islands you have in mind. It's also the location of the November 2010 Water Festival tragedy, where nearly 400 people died because of a stampede on the North Bridge. =(

Some photos I took there:Before going back to the hotel, we also rode down the riverside, and Singly told me about Cambodian popcorn. Of course I had to try it! ;p
It's not as sweet as normal caramel-coated cinema popcorn, but not as bland as the light/salted ones either.. It was good! =D

So that was the end of day 1! And I havent even really done anything yet! ;p Will be blogging about the village trips, our visit to the touristy spots, the killing fields and much more so please click the 'follow' button to make sure you get updated!

Love ya'll!

xxxxx

Sunday, 9 October 2011

My last day in the Pearl of the Andaman!!

Ok, what better way to complete a way overdue blog post about Thailand, when I'm sitting in my hotel room in Cambodia? Lol.. Don't make sense? It's ok. It's only cz I finally have time and thought about this as I'm lucky enough to be on another holiday! So before I can blog about Phnom Penh, I better finish blogging about Phuket, right? =) (Hey! Two P's! =D)

Anyway, our last day was a short one, as our flight was an afternoon flight. We woke up, and went to the mall down the road, Jungceylon, planning to have a look around and have breakfast. Unfortunately for us, the mall only opened at 11am!So we went into the one cafe that was open, where Ray, insane as usual, decided to order a mango ice-blended for breakfast *rolls eyes*I ordered proper food:Tom Khaa Gai, which, according to the menu, is "boneless chicken simmered in lemongrass, galangal, lime leaf, chilli and fresh coconut milk finished with fresh lime juice, chilli oil, and a side of steamed rice".

Yum! This cost 100Baht.

Then we walked around the mall. It was just normal, but what surprised me was the cosmetics counter was actually significantly more expensive than in Malaysia! I asked about a couple of things at Kose and Lancome, and the difference was about RM100! =/

What was fun was the gun simulator shop though! =) How do you like me like this?? ;pThe guns actually gave me quite a sore shoulder for a while! And they're not even real! Pfft!

We also, upon the insistence of Ray, got our photo 3D lasered into a cube. It was quite expensive, but I cant quite remember how much.. It's a great souvenir though!Notice how it looks like we're looking at different directions just by a tilt of the cube? It's 3D from all sides!

A last lunch at our hotel before setting off for the airport of course included one last bowl of tom yam for me! Nyahaha.. Obsessed? Maybe. Don't judge unless you've had it! ;p
This virgin pina colada was heavenly as well.. *happy just thinking about it*Ray was boring, and had a club sandwich.. Haha..And that was it! The end of our Phuket adventures.. We had an amazing time.. And to be honest, I cant wait til our next one! But before that happens, I'll keep you posted on Phnom Penh! I'm here alone, meeting with my friend Katherine though this time, so a different journey awaits!

Til next time!
xxxxx

PS: Just a fun fact - I didnt see one cockroach or rat while I was in Phuket!! So Malaysia, work on it! ;p