Stories from the Road: Month Jan

 

Starting in 2015, I’ve decided to write a monthly round-up of my travel adventures be it in this Kingdom or anywhere around the world. Call it a my personal travel diary of things that we’ve experienced, places we visited, the cultures we learned and what we’re currently working on. It provides an insight of how life has been like in Cambodia and how we’re learning to adapt as best as we could on a daily basis. Hopefully you’ll be able to understand what we’re going through while we’re here and together learn from it for improvement purposes.

For the first month in 2015, we spent the New Years’ Eve in Cambodia and then flew home to Kuala Lumpur on New Year day itself. This was the first country we traveled to for this year since we didn’t have any other big travel plans lined up. It was a nice January where we spent more time in the city visiting local spots and catching up with our friends here.

Where we went.

  • Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia [4 days]
  • Tonle Bati, Cambodia [Half Day Trip]
  • Dreamland, Phnom Penh [Night Trip]

Major highlights.  

#Returning home to Kuala Lumpur. It was something we didn’t plan on doing on the first day of the New Year, but because someone had to renew his visa, we took a day off to return home and visit our family. Thank goodness for a long weekend, which I spent with my dad starting with a delicious meal of chicken rice followed by more food for the next few days.

#Spending a lot more quality time. Usually when I come home, I’d have plans of meeting up with friends every single day, cramming my time with one group and then another. This time, I decided to take it easy and focus on spending time with my family first, especially my dad, my cousins and their family. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen them all and it was nice to catch up with them over dinner.

#Taking part in a black & white photo challenge. My friends had been tagging me on this project, which has been going around on Facebook and then on Instagram so I decided to commit to 5 days of posting up black & white photos after being nominated by Dian. My photos were captured on the streets of Phnom Penh while riding as a passenger on a motorcycle, on a tuk tuk and during walks.

Photos of Phnom Penh for the Black & White Photography Challenge on Instagram.

Photos of Phnom Penh for the Black & White Photography Challenge on Instagram.

#Doing 2 hours of Zumba like an expat. Oh goodness me, I don’t have a consistent workout schedule so when Bart asked me to join the Zumba class, I thought to myself “I can do this for 1 hour.” It turned out to be a 2 hour challenge and I was so beat by the time the class ended that I couldn’t feel my legs. It was a good session though and I got to meet a Bootcamp group with coaches from USA, Thailand who were there to sign people up for their classes. Most of the participants were expats from different nationality backgrounds, who were all there to join the free Zumba session. Needless to say it was the best workout I’ve had since I’ve been in the Kingdom.

#Catching up with the family here. We haven’t been seeing Hisham and the family for quite awhile since we were both busy so when we met up at Paul’s Brewhouse, I was surprised to see them on their brand new ride. That’s right, all 4 of them came here on a motorcycle just like a local! We’re still traveling in a tuk tuk by the way and I’m not sure when I’m able to try riding the motorcycle on my own here in the city.

#Bart gets a bicycle. We got inspired by Hisham that we got ourselves a secondhand Japanese bicycle near Orussey Market. It came with a basket, a bell, a passenger seat and a lock. Actually, this belongs to Bart because I’m not allowed to ride on the streets until I know how to ride the bicycle properly again (remember the Crab Island incident?). He got used to the bicycle within a few days and started riding it to work to save budget, while I still needed to continue with the tuk tuk ride until we find another alternative.

Shopping for our new (bicycle) ride near Orussey Market.

Shopping for our new (bicycle) ride near Orussey Market.

#Weekend trip to Tonle Bati. We had been to most of the spots around Phnom Penh except for Tonle Bati which was the Pre-Angkorian area with the smaller version of Angkor Wat. It was also a nice reason to get out of the house after getting sick for a few days. After visiting Ta Phrom, we went to Tonle Bati where rows of resort with hammocks can be found near the lake. Unfortunately, we skipped this because we brought our own food since we’re not able to eat any of the food there.

#Started reading again. The new year also means cultivating new habits and I’m starting this with reading books that I currently have here. I told myself that I will finish all the books before buying new ones and this motivates me to read more. I’ve started reading in the morning on the tuk tuk since it takes 30 minutes to the office and before I go to bed at night. Most probably I’ll start a travel book club or review these books for discussions. I really do miss reading!

#Play and fun in Dreamland. I haven’t met my friend Sithorn since he left the Company so this was a good chance to see him and have fun at the same time. We got complimentary tickets for Dreamland, a local amusement park with a giant Ferris wheel overlooking the river, and colorful lights blinking in the sky. It was my first time here and we spent it trying out the hedge maze, playing the bumper cars and riding the horses on the merry-go-round.

Having fun in Dreamland, a local amusement park in Phnom Penh city.

Having fun in Dreamland, a local amusement park in Phnom Penh city.

#Phnom Penh Photo Festival 2015. Hosted by the French Institute in Phnom Penh, we went to the opening day of the photo festival where 20 took talks brought us around the city to view the indoor art galleries and exhibitions. The tuk tuk rides were free of charge and we shared ours with an elderly French couple who had just moved to Phnom Penh for 3 months.

#Discovering Sambor Tonle Basaac Night Market.  Bart had seen this night market while he was on the way back from work and asked me to go along to see it one night. We went towards Naga World and saw the market square opposite the golden Ministry of Cultural building. Unlike the Riverside Night Market, this one was new, organized and was less crowded. A stage was set up near the main entrance and a blind man was ushered to the centre for his singing performance. The market sold mostly clothes and had food stalls at the end of the corner.

#Work life blog balance. It’s been a rough ride balancing all these in one go, but so far still manageable. I’m able to schedule 2-3 blog posts a week, looking back at the places I’ve visited in the past and remembering those adventures.

#Keeping in touch. I couldn’t get any New Year cards here at the last minute and instead got a few postcards of Cambodia to send out to friends back home. I also got to visit the Phnom Penh Post Office for the first time, a popular landmark in the city. You can’t miss this colonial yellow building located at the Riverside with its’ large gate and compound. Walking inside reminds me of Kajang town 20 years back and I felt somewhat nostalgic for that few minutes. Post boxes are available at the lobby, while counters are lined up for postal services such as buying stamps, sending out parcels. However to pick up a parcel, we needed to go to the left side of the building, which has a separate entrance and counter.

 

What a bummer and lessons. 

#Getting sick in Cambodia. We tried our best not to get sick in the Kingdom as we were never sure where to get reliable medication or doctors. Bart got so sick that I had to forego joining the Company trip to Koh Rong in Sihanoukville for the weekend. We went to Naga Clinic for a check-up where a nice French female doctor recommended a thorough x-ray at another clinic in town before going back to her for a follow-up. She had suspected appendicitis only to discover later that it was just a case of stomach flu. Thank goodness Gina recommended us to a reliable clinic because I was already on standby for us to fly home to see the doctor there instead.

#Know where to get medicines. Although there were mentions of not being able to get reliable medication here from local doctors based on experiences by local friends here, we did find a good pharmacy called Pharma-Care in Riverside and a Pharmacy outlet on Street 136 which had reliable Pharmacists. They are able to speak English and know which medicine to recommend to us when we were sick. It is also not cheap to get medication and seek doctors’ consultation in Phnom Penh, which meant we had to put aside emergency money in case we get sick again.

#To give or not to give at Tonle Bati. Don’t get me wrong when I say this, but when we visited Tonle Bati, there were just too many people asking us for money from the moment we stopped at Ta Phrom to the resting area near the lake. There were a few of them surrounding us that we weren’t able to go down from the tuk tuk. Our driver had to ask them to make way so that we can walk around the area. They followed us inside and it was just difficult to view the temple with them coming close to us for money. In the end, we cut the trip short and headed back to the city.

#Sending is a better option than receiving. What I meant by this is sending out letters or packages seem to be more convenient than having one sent to us here. This is because the local postman is not able to find our address even though we have the house and street number. There are so many back lanes and houses on top of houses using the same address that makes it difficult for them to find us. Any letters that were sent from last year did not reach our home sadly, except for a box of goodies that my family sent over.

The iconic Phnom Penh Post Office where I send out postcards.

The iconic Phnom Penh Post Office where I send out postcards.

 

On working abroad.

#More research and reading time. It’s been a slow month since the New Years and I’ve spent my time reading digital and marketing news, new advertising campaigns in the industry as well as strategic planning notes.

#Picking up Khmer from colleagues. I’m still trying to learn more Khmer words and it gets harder when there’s double pronunciations for the same word, but with different meaning. However, I’ve come to realize that I am able to put two and two together when the same words, sentences are repeated on a daily basis at work. It’s like how I’m able to understand Cantonese but not able to speak it fluently.

#Observing the Khmer New Year blessing. Our office held a cultural blessing ceremony, by two monks (one of them is the Grand Monk in Cambodia) one afternoon which I observed quietly from the conference room. Since it was a religious blessing, I only saw the first part of the prayer and stayed in until the ceremony completed with a splash of water in all the rooms. My colleagues were then given a red string tied to their wrists for good luck.

#Weekend getaway with the Company to Koh Rong. I didn’t go, but I saw all the lovely photos of the island, the chalets, the white soft sand and the activities that took place (without me). Everyone had so much fun, even though the schedule was packed with team building and games. At least I know where to plan for my next weekend trip or public holiday in Cambodia.

#Making a decision. This was coming and I knew that I had to seek for the next opportunity since my 1 year contract is almost up. If I’m not able to secure something here, I might take a break and travel for a bit while planning for the next steps.

New Year blessing ceremony in the office.

New Year blessing ceremony in the office.

 

What’s next.

Celebrating a birthday in Cambodia next month, taking up a cooking class and possibly another weekend getaway.

About Yafieda Jamil

A Malaysian girl currently working abroad in Phnom Penh city. I love a good road trip, hot cappuccinos, spicy food and staring at old buildings. My mission is to inspire people to see the world differently before we all get any older. Oh and giraffes are the most beautiful creatures on earth.

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