Hi friends,

 

  Thanks for all the updates, encouragement and interesting info. Very sorry to hear about

our friends who had passed on and those who were not in the best of health. Our prayers and

thoughts go to them and their loved ones.

 

  Your emails were most welcome on Saturdays, my off-day. There are numerous internet

'cafes' where they charge US$0.50 per hr, much cheaper than Siem Reap and Sihanouk

Ville. Well, coming back to home sweet home is certainly nice and comfortable. Of course

family members were happy and relieved to see me on 16 July; they needn't have worried

too much because the place was relatively safe in spite of the Siem Reap Hostage-taking

episode and the flu outbreak.

 

  The Sgp Grp met Sau San and Prof Lee Sing in a gathering organised by Lye on the evening

of 18 July at the Sgp Swimming Club. We had a good time. Some of us certainly missed the

recent happy get-togethers in KL.

 

  Before you start shooting the many Qs, I might as well give you a little summary of the

101 days I spent in Cambodia. I went to Phnom Penh as a  volunteer teacher with the Deanery

of Cambodia under the auspices of the Yishun Christian Church (Anglican), Sgp on 6 April

'05. My assignment was to design and conduct a 3-mth Oral English Prog for 2 groups of

Staff and a group of neighbourhood kids. At review time, data showed that actual teaching

time was about 2 mths as scheduled holidays and important church activities had priority. I

will not bore you with the academic details.The experience was an enriching one for me. The

pastors, staff and students were very kind and courteous to me. On overall, I believe I

received more than I had given.

 

  As part of my orientation, I had the opportunity to follow a number of outreach mission

teams to Kg Speu and 2 remote villages west of Pursat in the north. The teams mainly taught,

shared, dispensed medicine, handed out used clothes and took time to fellowship with the

community. The villages we visited had no electricity or piped-water supply. It was either

river or well-water. As in most remote villages, poor nutrition, hygiene, and endemic

diseases(malaria) were serious problems. The local school functioned erratically and there

were no doctors or policemen around. The place was only accessible to 4-WD vehicles and

motorbikes which travelled on rough tracks, sometimes along dried-up river beds. During the

wet season, travelling would be very difficult.

 

  Life in Phnom Penh - Cost of living in PP is around KL std, considered high by local std.

Services like hair-cuts(US0.75) vary with the location; same with restaurant food

(eg.treated 7 people to a good lunch for US$15; 2 visitors invited me to their buffet dinner

 at their business-class Juliana Hotel at US$16 per head).  My mini-apartment: bed, bathroom

& kitchen with fridge, cable TV, air con & 2 fans - all for US$120 pm (electricity

extra). Good deal, everyone said. If you time your visit to fall on a Sunday, join the local

and international crowd at the Church of Christ our Peace(CCOP)  at No 57, Rue 294 at 10.00

am.

 

  There were no streetlamps along sidestreets. Most were lit by the security lamps from the

compound of individual villas/houses. Some of the sidestreets were not paved at all. After

my last session, if I were on, I would head straight back to my apt. I noticed that I had

more time for sedate pastimes like reading, reflection, watching good programmes on cable TV

and even resting. After the very busy first month, I realised that I was in total command of

my own time in PP. Amazing. I did not even check my blood pressure for 3 mths. 

 

  On 5 May I went to Ho Chi Min City by bus on a 2N3D visit. I toured HCM city centre on a

motorbike taxi. Very interesting. Saw ships on the Mekong River in the heart of the city.

Stayed in China Town (District 5) and had good wanton noodles in a Cantonese speaking shop.

HCM had more motorbikes than PP. Straight-backed, comely Vietnamese girls in long flowing

white silk 'aodais' riding confidently on their personal Hondas are a sight to

behold. Sorry, no pictures as I was too slow with my camera. HCM is a clean city with

lawabiding citizens. Worth a visit especially with cheap flights,  good accomodation,

interesting historical sights and your strong dollar.

 

  My star student, Rev Tit Hieng the  Cambodian pastor, took me on 2 memorable outings with

his group. One  was to the Takmao Zoo and Tonle Bati Lake Resort (mainly patronised by

locals). Visitors from PP drive their vehicles up to the edge of the lake and the party

would book a 2mx2m bamboo/wood thatched hut with the platform a few cm above the water

level. I supposed it was a pleasant way to cool off and enjoy the light breeze with a picnic

basket or food you could buy/order from the many vendors going from hut to hut. The

youngsters rented tyre tubes and played in the water. You could also hire a boat for a

little trip around the area. It was also my first opportunity to trek to the site of a

nearby 12th Century building. The 2nd outing was to the Mekong Island, about 10 km north of

PP, also patronised by locals. The party of about 25 parishioners travelled in 2 half-trucks

and we made a river-crossing by ferry. We had to cross the rather large island, mostly used

for vegetable and fruit farming, to the location of a very large wooden hut which we rented.

We fellowshipped in the airy hut and after lunch adjourned to the river edge, some distance

away. It was something like Tonle Bati, but the water seemed to be clearer. We left late

afternoon and stopped for a very special Cambodian experience. All along this particular

stretch of Route #1towards PP were rest-stops for weary travellers I have not seen

elsewhere. We stopped at one 'restaurant' and went into the shop space built on

raised platform as the  road level was higher than the surrounding lowland. The host ordered

boiled jagong which were sent to each open-air compartment surrounded by hammocks strung

along the side posts. The sweetcorn was v good. One could also order their 'rojak'

which was quite good, too. Many took the chance for a cat-nap. This is a truly unique

Cambodian budget roadside 'motel'.

 

  In June my youngest son came in from Bangkok with his friend to visit me for 2 days. He

planned the rest of the trip with my travel agent in PP, flew to SR for 2 days and then back

to Bangkok. At the end of my stint I was looking forward to exploring Siem Reap and Sihanouk

Ville with a couple of classmates/friends. The SR episode put an end to the planning on both

sides.  Finally, I proceeded to those two places (each for 2N3D) by myself as it was too

late to make alternative arrangements. Angkor and Bayon were sights to behold. The massive

structures, some parts crumbling and definitely very expensive to maintain, would give you

some ideas as to why those illustrious predecessors and their civilisation faded away.

 

  Sihanouk Ville is a pleasant beach resort. It is a town of hotels and guesthouses. I

stayed at Orchidee Guesthouse which was 150 m from the very popular Ochheuteal Beach. SV is

the chief port of Cambodia and one could take a ferry to Koh Kong and then cross over to Had

Lek in Thailand.

  Special memories:

    a.. On many occasions I was woken up by a very loud 'Takio, takio,

takio,.........'. It was usually 6 times and sometimes went on to 7. This happened at

regular intervals throughout the night. I thought it was a faulty cuckoo clock repeating the

6 o'clock chime. The discovery was an educational experience. My students told me the

sound was made by a takio, a gecko which could grow up to a length of 10 inches. Locals

believed that the gecko could bring luck to the house-owner; no wonder they were everywhere

. The more 'takios' they called out the more wealth the houseowner would get. But

these oversized lizards don't look too pretty on your wall though. 

    b.. In spite of the horrors and sufferings of the Pol Pot era, Cambodians are, by and

large, very hospitable and cheerful people. They are also very proud of their country.  I

met kind and helpful people throughout my stay.

    c.. Cambodians are blessed with an abundance of very tasty fruits, try the following:

mangoes, pomelos and mangosteens(sometimes whole fruit seedless).

    d.. Keeing the flu away: Kereng's(CO of CCOP) Burmese grandparents' recipe - cut

lime into two; add mugful of hot water; cover & leave overnight; next morning, remove

the lime and squeeze the contents into the lime drink; down the rather bitter drink; wash

down any trace of acid in your mouth with some water; normal breakfast to follow a little

after that. If you have a weak stomach, try out with caution.

  Some of you were wondering why I didn't make arrangements for my wife, Yen Chen, to

join me. The travels through the provinces were rather long and rugged(6 hr to SR, 5 to SV)

and taxi cabs were not readily available in the towns. Exploring Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Prohm

and climbing the formidable Bakheng is not everyone's cup of tea. Perhaps, the next

time, when roads and conditions have improved.

 

  In the meantime, while my memory is still fresh, I thought it best to note down some

useful info before they fade away (see attachment). There's always the possibility that

someone will seek me out next year or the following with: Hi, Lee. You've been in PP for

101 days. Can you tell me what/where/how....................?

 

  Key to the pictures in the zip file:

  01    Pic taken before team left for Kset Borei, west of Pursat. First row (squating), 1st

from R Mrs Mok Mee Hwa, wife of Rev

         Mok; Rev Mok, in red, is 4th from R; adopted daughter, Sara, in front; Rev Tit

Hieng is standing 4th from L. The crowd is a

         mix of Cambodians and Singaporeans.

  02    Cool ride during off-peak. The 'country bus' is usually over-crowded.

  03    Rural transport on remorque-moto. At 100r per km and probably moving at 20 kmh along

tracks to villages off the main rd.

  04    Refreshments at rest-stops. Fried casava, BBQ eggs or water melon?

  05    Cover the holes in the bridge before we roll on to Kset Borei.

  06    Tonli Bati, resort of sorts to locals. Rent a hut; have a makan, chit chat, sleep or

swim.

  07    Mekong River in PP during evening.

  08    Mekong River Island riverside playground. Relaxing place.

  19    Open-air travellers' rest-stop. Hammock for a  snooze.

  10    Happy meeting for 3 former classmates in youth group. They are enjoying their local

'rojak'. Another shop in the background.

 

  Warm regards,

 

  LeeLamHua