A Travellerspoint blog

Day 2 Part 1 of In the Bong

Before we had headed off to the circus last night we had organised with Chantha a tuk tuk tour of the sights around Battambang. Our plan for the day was to eat breakfast, head out to the bamboo train, the winery (the only one in Cambodia), a famous wat (older than Angkor Wat), the killing caves and the bat caves.

The morning began with an absolutely beautiful local breakfast made by the family we were staying with. It was like an omelet with pork, fresh greens and mint and a yummy peanut sauce served with fresh hot green tea. A delicious way to start the day. So far our food experience in Battambang has been divine!

There are 2 main reasons why people visit Battambang. One is for the circus and the other is for the bamboo train. Off we headed for the bamboo train, stopping on the way to see the statue of the ‘man and his stick’ for which Battambang is named after. There is lots of talk that soon the bamboo train will no longer be in existence. I really hope this is not true as I had an amazing little trip and loved the strangeness of it all. We get to the bamboo train ‘station’, pay our fare and get shown to our ‘carriage’. As we are about to embark our train, Chantha comes running over with the cushioned part of his tuktuk seat to make our journey a more comfortable one. On we hope ………. but not for long. You see the bamboo train railway is only one track! The etiquette is that which ever ‘carriage’ has the least amount of people on it must disembark! I also came to the conclusion that if the two trains have the same amount of people on it then it is the outgoing train that must disembark. Sarah and I disembark and it is fine as it is a bit of a novelty and we can take some photos of the surroundings! The floor/seat of the train is removed from the wheels, then the wheels. Of course the other train driver helps and anybody else who is around. Off the other carriage goes and we are back on track (pardon the pun!!). This does happen more than once and the novelty wears off a little but it is still a novelty. The little train actually gets quite a speed up and one must be very careful not to get a good whack from the trees on the side!!!

On arrival at our destination comes and we disembark for a rest and a look around. There are 2 or 3 stores vying for your attention to stop and have a drink. Sitting down we begin talking to the owner of the store. He is very proud of his new awnings and roof. He is also very proud of the children who go to school and learn well! These children begin to adorn Sarah and I with jewelry made out of coconut tree leaves. The pieces are intricate and we encourage them to show us how to make something. I am shown how to make a star and after a few false starts I manage to complete one. It does not look as nice as hers but I am proud of my efforts!!! Soon it is time to get back on the train and head ‘home’.

Our trip home had no ‘disembarkments’ but we did manage to pick up a couple of Khmer ‘hitchhikers’ who got a lift with us!!!

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Posted by Arkgecko 07:14 Comments (1)

Somtoe, Somtoe, Somtoe!

The Bong!

It has been too long hasn’t it!!!! I can’t even guarantee that the next few posts will be great, as now I have to remember from quite a few weeks back!

Weekend in the Bong! Battambang that is!

Due to an unexpected day off Sarah and I decided to take advantage of it a go on a little trip outside of Siem Reap. Though I love living in Siem Reap it is like living anywhere and you need to take a break. After a morning at work planning our next week, Sarah and I headed off on the bus to Battambang. One of the reasons we really wanted to leave on the Thursday is because of the well known Battambang Circus!!!!

The bus ride was actually ok. The trusty iPod with and excellent selection of music always makes the rides go faster ……. and falling asleep. Arriving in Battambang, we hopped off the bus to be greeted by the tuktuk driver that our guesthouse owner had organised. It is always so much nicer to not have to fight with the tuktuks hanging around trying to get a customer. Travelling about 5 mins out of town we turned down a quiet street full of greenery, families and silence! (oh I already mentioned that didn’t I – it is hard to find silence in Siem Reap!). My Homestay opened its doors to us and they didn’t close until we left – what a wonderful place to stay!

After freshening up in our rooms we were quickly whisked away by Chantha (the tuktuk driver) to the Battambang Circus. I was very excited as I had heard wonderful reviews and love a circus that has acrobatics. The Battambang Circus is part of a NGO which educates and focuses on the arts: http://www.phareps.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=frontpage&Itemid=1&lang=en

Before heading into the “Big Top” we took a look around the art gallery, which exhibits work from the students and other Cambodians. There were some really gorgeous pieces of work - I just wish it was easier to get it home!

Onto the circus! It was fantastic and I loved every moment of it. The performers were professional in their manner and very strong and flexible. The performance was based on slapstick comedy and acrobatic moves. A couple of the guys definitely had me in stitches. After the performance we were told of how 2 of its members had been selected to train in Canada and of their International tours! I hope one day they come to Australia.

After the circus we were feeling a bit peckish. Clem had told us about a little shop that cooked Chinese dumplings. With no name but very good directions we managed to find the ‘little chinese shop’ (I actually thought that was its name) and had the most amazing freshly made steamed meat and vegetarian dumplings = total cost = $2.75! I wish this place was in Siem Reap!!!! We even had to convince Chantha to have a few, as there were so many. Writing about it now is making me hungry!!!!!
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Posted by Arkgecko 07:13 Archived in Cambodia Comments (1)

Quad Biking

The curse has been broken!

A couple of weekends ago Sarah (another GG volunteer) decided that she wanted to cross quad biking off her ‘bucket list’. “Why not”, I thought to myself!!! The problem with doing outdoor activities in Cambodia is that you have to start really early to avoid the intense heat of the middle of the day! Another 6am start for me (I know some people do that every day but I am not a morning person!).

Meeting at Sarah’s hostel the company arranged a tuk tuk to pick us up and take us to the quad bike location, which seriously was about a 3 min bike ride away but they insisted!!!! After signing our life away we were taken on a quick ride with the guide so he was comfortable that we could ride the bike! Just 100m down the road I knew I was going to have fun today!!!! The only thing that was keeping me a little worried was the thought of “What kind of injury will I sustain today???”

Off we went …… OMG I had so much fun. We went through villages, markets (yes we actually drove through a market) and onto main roads where we could gain a little speed! There were many different road surfaces from mud to sand to bitumen. At one point it was so bumpy I was considering that my brand of bra might need looking at!!! The quads were so easy to drive and it was great to be able to get off the beaten track a bit. Our guide was fantastic, very informative and safe!

Though the sights were the usual Cambodian ones – rice paddies, farms, children, markets, pagodas etc I still love seeing them. Many children would come running out of their house down to the fence line to say hello as we passed. Some were asking for money but there were others who were genuinely greeting us. It is sad that I have read many reviews from people who have done the rides and they talk about taking sweets or money out for the children. This is so wrong! Cambodian children have enough problems with their teeth from sugary ‘western’ treats eg Coke and do not have the money to go to a dentist. Also there is the danger that if the kids are getting money from quad tourists then why would they go to school and miss out on an income????

We visited a school (though there were no children as it was a Sunday) but it was interesting to see and it is not always a good thing to visit when children are there – more on responsible tourist decision in another blog! They had a pig farm, which provided an income and many of the buildings had been sponsored. It was originally for orphans but then they saw the need for children living in poverty too.

The morning of quad biking was excellent and I would love to do it again – especially when there has been more rain = more mud!!!! And guess what??? I didn’t get hurt at all - the curse has been broken!!!!!
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Posted by Arkgecko 07:44 Archived in Cambodia Comments (2)

Family Picnic Day

Cambodia has so many public holidays – really it is quite ridiculous! In past times if the public holiday is only for 1 day all at GG runs per usual. However the governor’s (a select group of older kids) decided that they wanted to actually have the day off. The first trial run was a couple of weeks ago. We got give the day off and the GG kids were left to their own device. Needless to say the younger kids got a tad bored and the older ones thought it was ok to watch TV all day! Some of you may be saying well that’s ok as we do that a lot too (in fact I am writing this in between watching Season 6 of Dexter) but unfortunately Cambodian/Thai TV is horrendous. You have to actually see it to believe it. For example music video clips – they all revolve around love and heartache. I can hear you saying, “So what so do ours”. But that is where the similarity ends. These video clips involve massive fights, suicide attempts (and you actually see the attempt) and generally that life is really over if you lose your boyfriend/girlfriend. Not great role modeling. As a result a new rule re: how many hours of TV you can watch came in and that the next public holiday (which was only a week away!) would have to be different.

Behind GG is some land that is owned by Tania and Rem. It has a fish farm, many mango and coconut trees and some of the staff (who are also family) live there. It was decided that the next day off would be spent at the farm doing some work, having a picnic and lots of fun and games. As volunteers we were told we could have the day off but that we were more than welcome to join in! One of the GG boys would be doing BBQ chicken for lunch and it was bound to be a good day.

After a sleep in and a message from 12 yr old Mong asking me if I was coming in I rode to the farm and met Liz and Sarah. It is a beautiful piece of land and we could smell the chicken on the BBQ, could hear the laughter from the kids and the chitter chatter of the rest! We had arrived just in time for lunch. In Cambodia it is common to sit on straw mats so these were laid out for all of us (over 80) with bowls of cucumber and rice and lemongrass stuffed chicken – I would have to say that this has been one of the best meals I have EVER eaten. If there was a whole chicken available just for me I think I would have eaten it! I didn’t have a bowl so Sokoun made sure I shared with her and she also ensured our bowl had a never ending supply of food. What I love is that she didn’t even think twice about sharing.

After lunch it was siesta!!! Well not really but I was enjoying the shade and watching the kids play their different games. Some were teaching others how to ride a moto, others were riding their bikes, some were climbing trees to get coconuts, others were cutting them open, a few were playing a type of game like elastics, there was a ball game (right near my head!!!), a few decided to get into the mud of the fish farm and a couple decided to try out my camera.

When it was time to go I was saying good bye to Srey Nich and Srey Na. I said how I had loved the day and that it was so nice to feel like I was part of a family. I explained to them that I didn’t have a big family so had never really had to many days like today. Their reply: “But Kate you are a part of our family – the GG family”. Tears sprung to my eyes and I gave them a big hug and thank you. See it is not all about giving but also receiving and at GG the kids give so much back to me that I feel lucky to be able to do what I am doing!

Toasted fresh coconut

Toasted fresh coconut

Mud!

Mud!

More mud!

More mud!

Elastics!

Elastics!

The remains of eaten coconuts!

The remains of eaten coconuts!

REM

REM

Preparing for elastics

Preparing for elastics

My favourite pastime too!

My favourite pastime too!

Do you believe me about the chicken???

Do you believe me about the chicken???

Lunch!

Lunch!

Fresh coconut for dessert!

Fresh coconut for dessert!

Family picnic!

Family picnic!

A massive beehive!

A massive beehive!

The best BBQ ever!

The best BBQ ever!

The chefs!

The chefs!

Posted by Arkgecko 23:14 Archived in Cambodia Comments (2)

The Story of Bunga

the one eyed, stumpy tailed runt!

Cats – not a fan of them – more of a dog person myself! I have even been heard to say “Don’t slow down” when a cat is crossing the road! Then how HOW have I ended up with a cat??????

At the end of February Tania’s cat Kamow had 4 kittens – 2 beautiful pure black ones, 1 personality plus black and white one and then the motley coloured skinny runt! Babies of any kind are cute so even I fell in love with the little kittens and wanted to give them cuddles but cute baby kittens grow up to be bird killing, snooty cats!

We also had another pregnant cat at GG – the ginger biatch!!! She was a horrible cat – mean to all others around her. Unfortunately she decided to share her meanness by killing one of the beautiful black kittens – a sad day indeed. She also decided that killing one baby wasn’t enough so she gave the motley runt a good bite too resulting in an infected eye that blew up into this huge mass of leaking pus and other glorious infection type consequences. To add to her motley colouring, her stumpy tail, her skinny body she now had a leaking eye! So that left 3. Doug – one of GG’s permanent volunteers fell in love with the b+w kitten, which we then named Dougy, and claimed her as his to take home. Our computer tech guy claimed Woossy (always too scared to do anything!)– the all black one. We christened the one eyed cat Bunga (Aussie for Bung Eye!). The eye kept growing and at one point we were all wondering how long it would take to explode or her brain to implode! The Khmer vet was called out - and through various hand signals and one of the GG kids translating we gathered that he believed that we should wait 4 days and then infection would go but that she would lose her sight but not her eyeball. None of us believed him (because we are all vets!!!!) but said we would give it the 4 days. Lo and behold on the 4th day the swelling disappeared, the pus evaporated and there was Bunga – still with an eyeball but with no pupil. Needless to say we were amazed!

By this time we had all gotten a soft spot for Bunga! As true blue Aussies we admired and love the underdog (haha). Also by this time it was killing me how many stray cats and dogs there are around Siem Reap (in fact the whole of Cambodia!) My bleeding heart went out to Bunga and I made a suggestion. How about I take her, get her desexed, wormed, vaccinated etc etc, have a cute kitten for the rest of the year and then she moves back to GG when I leave! Deal!

So as I am writing this blog I have a motely, one eyed, stumpy tale, not so skinny anymore Bunga splayed out on her back, paws up in the air next to me!!!!

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Posted by Arkgecko 01:43 Archived in Cambodia Comments (2)

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