Posts Tagged With: Cambodia

Take a walk through Phnom Penh

When strolling the streets of Phnom Penh your senses may send mixed signals to your brain. The aroma seems to change with every step, sometimes pleasant and other times well, disturbing. I suppose if you keep your eyes open and actually look around, you’ll understand why your nose and brain are constantly battling. It’s not uncommon to see a mechanic sharing a driveway with a fruit vendor or raw fish for sale outside of a hair salon. This is all in addition to the traffic smog of motor bikes, busses and cars that crowd the streets. Smelling passed the clutter, there’s never a dull moment for your eyes on a walk through Phnom Penh.

Realistic conversation:

“Does it smell like cat food to you?”
“No, I actually just got a whiff of nail polish remover.”
“That’s strange, oh wait… where is that teriyaki scent coming from?’
“I don’t know, but the car exhaust is killing me!”
“Oh well, how about a coffee? I can smell the beans roasting somewhere…”
“No thanks, it’s hard to drink coffee with the smell of fish around here.”

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A beautiful surprise placed itself in front of me when I turned the corner and found this push cart vendor with a few children that had just gotten out of school. Eager to practice their English, they greeted me with a smile and an offer that I didn’t want to refuse. A chance to interact with local kids combined with a mystery jelly-ball slushy made for a refreshing pit stop! They asked me which flavor I wanted and I said “I want to try your favorite”. Who would of thought giving these little guys the freedom to pick for me would bring so much joy to all of us.

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The East side of the city brings you to a strip of souvenir shops, trendy book stores and restaurants with a view of the river. I didn’t spend much time here, but definitely enjoyed the breath of fresh(er) air.

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I stumbled upon this gem on a side street near the river. The employees are given equal work opportunities and everything inside is handmade by Cambodians with disabilities.

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I didn’t plan on stopping in this bubble tea shop, but the enthusiasm from this young girl was magnetic.

“Hello hello!” She said as I smiled by. “How are you today?” She continued, “I’m learning English!”
My reaction was an about-face as I responded walking towards her, “I’m having a great day and you’re English is amazing! Keep it up!”

We spoke for a bit longer and departed with a hug.The glow in her eyes and hope for the future left me on a natural high. I wish she could comprehend the positive impact she made on my life today. Thank you sweet bubble tea girl.

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Here are a few creative pics along the way that ends your photo tour of the random sights you may see while walking the streets of Phnom Penh.

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Next up… The markets!

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Ticket for one please… and a Cambodian beer!

In the last 22 months, I’ve slept at over 300 different accommodations. A guest house, tree house, above a restaurant, in an office, a staff room, back of a van, loft of an orphanage, on the floor of several airports and I’m sure there’s more that I’m not recalling.

I’ve slept on a boat, in a train, and in a plane (if you want to count that), on a bunk bed, hide-a- bed, cot, couch, bean bag, bathtub, and in the dirt of… lets call it a “campsite”.

Not to forget the fancy resorts, average hotels, bed and breakfasts, family villas and the good ol’ hostel dorm rooms.

All of these of course, don’t include the spare space of my dear friends around the world who have opened their homes as I pass through.

My current location of residence is downstairs from my volunteer work place, which happens to be a movie theater! In the home, there’s a kitchen, shared bathroom, open living area and 3 other bedrooms.

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The patio acts for a parking lot and shoe storage for all of us, including movie guests. As you round the corner, you’re welcomed to the entrance of The Flicks, the first movie theater in Phnom Penh! Every week they put out a schedule of specific screenings ranging from documentaries to recent blockbusters. The website is definitely worth checking out at www.theflicks-cambodia.com.

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As you reach the top step, an outside balcony invites you for a sit before and after the films or you can choose to enter the hall and chill out by the bar.

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We serve food, candy and what cinema would be complete without an old fashion popcorn machine (which made for a perfect “creative photo” of the day)!

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They also sell locally made coconut oil, body scrubs as well as rich jams and syrups. All of these are made by hand and provide sustainable opportunities to those in need. Learn more at cocokhmer.com.

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We always encourage a cocktail to enjoy while you lounge during the show. When I say “lounge”, I’m not speaking of sitting up strait in those awkward movie theater seats with the arm rest digging into your elbow as the kid behind you creates a drum solo on your chair. I’m talking about the couches and bed cushions that make up this cozy room for viewing. Place an order, grab your beer and lay down… The show’s about to start!

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The guests range from locals to expats and include a bundle of fellow backpackers that are excited to feel a touch of home with English films and familiar junk food.

My job? I giggle as I type that, because the work here includes preparing the snacks and drinks, selling tickets and starting the film (watching it too if we want!). Clean up is a breeze and socializing with the guests comes naturally and is definitely my favorite part! Remember Bree? This is the fun spirited girl I met on the flight over here in which we departed by saying “maybe our paths will cross again”. Two days later…

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Who is the operator of the genius idea? Meet my new Dutch friend Ramon. I’m positive there’s a handful of you out there who already know this popular guy of many talents. Author, artist, traveler, and retired backpacker, he has paved the ways for many couch surfers and exchange volunteers.
Words to describe this fella: quirky, smart, energetic and (based off of his panda bear hugs) certainly warm hearted.

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Turns out I’m surrounded my amazing talent as Gillian, his roommate, is a dancer that is now the choreographer for a national broadcasting program. In fact, just this weekend she judged a televised dance competition where she spoke in the native language while scoring teams of K-pop. What a motivated young girl who took a one way flight from America to start a new journey in Cambodia. Want to see beyond the surface of this intelligent girl? I highly suggest sneaking more than just a peek at her blog pixiedustdance.blogspot.

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Now we have Ashley, volunteer turned almost local, she’s also a part of The Flicks crew. Although I haven’t gotten to know her well, her straight forward personality leads me to think she’s confidently independent and her artistic creations expose her creativity. Here she is taking a photo of my “Backpacker go-to” layout. She has started documenting the difference between each traveler and what they always carry with them. (I was out of honey and hot sauce or that would be in there as well!)

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Last but not least is my fellow workmate and volunteer, Semhal. She’s a driven college student born in America, native to Ethiopia and now traveling the world in the service of teaching English. With similar interests and instant chemistry, I feel like we’ve known each other for years! Between her quality listening abilities and natural positive outlook, kind and considerate doesn’t even begin to express the genuine heart of my new friend.

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So there you have it, my short term home and new friends in the middle of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Next post… Heading to the streets!

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Trains, planes and a tuk tuk equals an emotional high!

If you’ve been following this blog from the beginning, you’ll know that my experience has ranged from volunteering in small villages to helping out in grand hotels. Ive gotten to live in a tree house, van camp, hitch hike and lets not forget the random events of spoiling myself during “holiday” with friends from home. I’ve crossed paths and reunited with many other backpackers and have stayed with numerous friends from around the world. All of these events lead me to realize that I’m extremely (fill in the blank here with any positive word that represents or resembles lucky, blessed, fortunate, kissed by karma, etc).

After enjoying a luxurious month in Japan with my cousin, I’ve decided to return to my solo backpacking and spontaneous volunteering adventure that I started this whole expedition with.

I packed a small bag, bought a one way ticket and boarded a flight to Phnom Penh, Cambodia… Butterflies included.

To give you an idea of where I am and what I felt getting here, I’m going to take you on a quick 24 hour journey from a train station in Japan to the very bed I’m sitting on as I write this.

“Hey Brandon, would you mind giving me a hand please? So, Ill be back in…. Hmmm, probably just… Well, I’ll let you know”.

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First flight served up Japanese noodles with sauce and seaweed sprinkles, a tomato based spicy seafood pasta, what I think was a shrimp potato salad, bread and butter next to some orange juice. Complimentary red or white wine was also an option.

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The snack of the morning was hot tea, a bag of peanuts, a mini snickers and a triangular rice patty stuffed with salmon.

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My layover in Kuala Lumpur, brings me a smile and the first new friend of this trip. Meet Rochaq, born in India, raised in Australia and currently on his way to surprise his mother near the Himalayas. Over hot milk tea, (thanks again for that treat!) we had an in depth conversation of health and fitness followed by the usual travel wishes and stories. I joked about having different currency to tip with and just as quickly, he matched my pile. Combined, we money from India, Malaysia, Japan, Australia and the USA. Our time together ended with info exchange and a “see you again…somewhere…sometime”.

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Who’s this? It’s the glowing smile that sat next to me on the flight from Malaysia! Bree is from the states and is now traveling from Bali to Cambodia. I think the most beautiful part of our conversation was the undeniable energy we shared trading opinions of yoga and backpacking to living a life with an open mind while maintaining a conscious awareness. Considering our Asia map has similar destinations, maybe… just maybe Ill see this sweet girl again!

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Landing in Phnom Penh gives me a sense of freedom. I’m not sure why, but either way, my heart is racing with excitement while my shoulders drop a notch with each step. I feel at peace.

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Why do I look like a giggling rabbit? Instead of taking a bus or cab, I opt for the $7 tuk tuk ride to my first volunteering home. A tuk tuk (dependimg on the type and location are also known as a Samosa, tempo, trishaw, auto, rickshaw, autorick, bajaj, rick, tricycle, mototaxi, baby taxi or lapa) is a motorbike with an open air carriage attached to the back for its passengers. The obvious choice for financial and entertainment purposes.

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Backpack between my legs and my bag tied around my shoulders, I’m ready to hit the road!

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Rather than describing each photo, I’m going to highly suggest that you actually take a moment to look at each one. You’ll see mothers with children on their laps, locals hard at work or hardly working and abundance of other random sights.

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By this point in the journey, I’m fighting back the lump I feel in my throat and trying to keep my focus on the vibration I feel in my body (and I’m not talking about the motorized bumpy tuk tuk ride). These emotions can only be expressed as the deep appreciation I have for being exactly where I am at this very moment in time.

I am so grateful for my life.

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Upon arriving to my new “home”, I’m instantly invited out for lunch by one of the house roomies. Ill introduce you to that cozy place and the others soon. For now, I hop on the back f her scooter and head to a vegetarian restaurant.

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She ordered an egg sandwich and I had a mushroom patty with cucumbers and soup. In the middle we shared fried tofu with black pepper and lime juice. Including the warm tea, all together this lunch bill totaled $5 (in USD). Kind of pricey for these parts (sarcastic giggle) but we got to sit at a table, with silverware and additional sauces. Amazing!

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We arrive back and I’m shown to my room which is where I sit at this very moment writing about my last 24 hours.

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It’s only just begun…

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