Charlotte's Visit!

Hello again. How are you all? Good? Allright then, drop us a line in our comment section won't you!? We want to hear how you are and what you're up to, eh!

We're excited to tell you about Andrew's mom Charlotte's fun visit with us in the first half of Feb. Right now Jen Wellman (New Mexico) and her friends Emily and Marjorie (San Francisco) are visiting us. As we speak they are exploring the sites around Angkor Wat. Weekend after next (Mar 8) Dan and Lynette land in Saigon, Vietnam where we will visit with them before the four of us travel back to Phnom Penh. And, Julie's twin brother Phil comes in April to include an exciting jaunt into more remote Laos. Yah!

Mom (Charlotte) came off the plane Feb 5 evening full of pep and vigor. After many big hugs we arrived home with mom meeting our landlord 'adopted' Khmer family and settling into our wooden house. Mom, like all our overseas visitors, despite having travelled for over 24 hrs straight was energized and stayed up late to catch up and talk about our lives in Cambodia. Every long flight deserves a day of rest by the pool so we headed to the Himawari Hotel for a swim beside the mighty Mekong and good eats - Mom's treat like many other good things during her visit! Mom even dispensed small Canadian gifts for our host family which were a novelty.

The next day, mom and I boarded the morning bus for the 6-hr trip to Siem Reap where I would work in the local Environment Office and mom would tour the sites. Over the next few days mom visited the floating village of Chong Kneas, Angkor Wat, a silk garment co-operative for local people, and various shops. I could barely keep up with her demand to change money for one dollar bills and other small change to give to the many people -a large number with disabilities from land mine accidents- on the street asking for a little help. Mom was very curious about Khmer culture and developed a concern re. the challenges facing this society today. In fact, she may be somewhat of an expert on Cambodia now so I invite you to ask her many questions! She advised many of us to support small local businesses because wealth is not equally shared in this country.

On Saturday Feb 9th mom and I said goodbye to the nice guest house staff and to Kay, a remarkable and friendly Aussie lady traveller whom mom had befriended and got on the bus for the 6-hr ride back to P Penh. The next morning mom, Julie and our friend Carolina and I taxied down to scenic seaside Kep stopping in Kampot to drop off Carolina and meet her dad visiting from Portugal. We arrived at the Veranda lodge, a wonderful hillside resort with great views of the Bay of Thailand, cosy wood and stone bungalows and crisscrossing raised wood boardwalks. Absolutely brilliant my dear fellow (but not wanting to sound colonial of course)! And we are not colonizers considering mom's generous tips for the hotel staff! (the custom in Asia is to not tip).

The following morning we hopped on moped taxis and rode along the shore to the docks for our boat tour to 3 islands. On Rabbit Island we munched on fresh crab and shrimp and walked to the other side. There we walked along the quiet sand beach and watched the fishing routine and techniques of local families. From this side of the island we could see the enormous and mountainous Vietnamese island of Phu Houc rising out of the sea less than 20km to the southeast. We should note here that it was part of Cambodia not many decades ago (and we have been reminded a number of times!).

The next morning we hiked along the hill behind our resort to the nun's staircase trail. After 20 challenging minutes of steep hiking we reached the top and were in the small national park. Three elderly nuns came out to greet us. We had been told that the nuns only decend from their small hilltop pagoda once every 5 years. They were quite energetic and chatty ladies and offered us tea and packages of herbs for colds and stomach. They particularly took to mom while massaging her and giving her health advice. They said that in her 70th year she was a very strong "Geay" (grandma) to make it to their hilltop! No doubt mom enjoyed herself with her new friends. We made the long and slippery walk down, had lunch and took our taxi back to Phnom Penh along country roads and through villages.

To make the most of her remaining days in Cambodia while Julie and I were at work mom went on foot and by tuk tuk (motorcycle carriage taxi) around town to see the sights of Phnom Penh including: The Royal Palace, French Cultural Centre, Foreign Correspondents Club, Mekong riverside boardwalk, Central market, and a local crafts co-op. During the evenings she shared stories with our co-volunteers, got to know our downstairs Khmer family and taught them English, and eagerly read up on local news. A large group of us went one evening to see traditional Khmer dancing at the local theatre. A must for any visitor we will tell you. Skillfull performance in grand, detailed colorful costumes to a live traditional band. Each dance typically recounts a tale either true or folk. Excellent!

We are lucky to have a mom (and soon to be mother-in-law) that takes such a keen interest in our lives and work here. We regretted during our sad goodbyes that she could not stay longer. We know she has obligations to her University Women's Club's projects and has committments to various other activities and family and friends. But we will see you (mom) when we come back to visit this summer (and the rest of you too)! P.S. Carolina, Aran, Jan Simon, Rachel, Wanda, Olivia, Tristan, Sitah, Arien, Ritsmey, Kowti, Wat Thai, Rada, Tria and Chantouen asked me say "Hello/Soosdey!" to you for them. We'll post some photos soon.

Love you mom! XXXOOO

Andrew and Julie

  • »Permalink
  • Posted by:Julie and Andrew
  • in:My travelblog

February 2007


Everybody back home under all that snow!  Can you hear us?  What a wacky winter huh?  Sudden temperature and precipation changes oh boy.  Julie and I were on a 6-hr bus ride from Phom Penh to Siem Reap a few weeks ago with a broken air con system.  We found ourselves daydreaming of all that wonderful fresh snow back home.  Ahhhhhh.  And to think this is the cool season eh!? We are dreading the approach of April, Cambodia's hottest month.  Julie expects she will join a fitness club in Phnom Penh with an outdoor pool for cooooool relief. 

So do we miss you?  Yes!  Sounds like most of you are healthy and well.  Julie's nana Mary successfully underwent surgery on each of her eyes the past few months and is fighting gout.  We know she will beat it with her Irish spirit and fortitude!  Andrew's niece Julia is getting over a month of walking pneumonia.  Now Julia and family can all be be happy and sleep through the night too. 

Sounds like many of you got a good glimpse of the posted photos from Ken and Ellen's visit.  Their travel from New Mexico to Cambodia was an unexpected adventure and brings up images of TV's "Amazing Race!".  With snowstorms at the Albuquerque airport showing no sign of stopping, and fearing that their air miles-purchased tickets would expire, they decided to drive through the night and storms to Tucson while attempting to get flight info from the cell phone.  This was a challenge with limited reception on Arizona's canyon and mountain roads. The next day they flew from Phoenix to LA and then flew LA to Cambodia.  This involved phoning and emailing in the airports to get flight changes finalized.  And they actually got on the plane and arrived here on the 3rd just one day late!!!  Our amazing race champions!! (Applause).

The temples were first on K and E's visit agenda. They arrived evening of Wed Jan 3rd.  Early the next morning we caught the 7-hr boat ride to Siem Reap.  Sitting on the roof we chatted about the riverside scenery and busy fishing communities for the first few hours before the loud diesel engines and hot sun insisted that we give up.  Fortunately, our hearing came back the next day.  

We would spend three days viewing the temples.  It was my second visit and I enjoyed them even more.  Of course we all had our favourite sites.  It is impossible to fully describe the temple experience in a brief weblog.  The temples are so varied from each other in their height, scale, carving details and themes, surrounding forest, history and stories, atmosphere etc.  Accordingly, one reacts with different thoughts and feelings for each site.  Regardless, they are very special and awe inspiring and provide great insight into what life may have been like in the great ancient Khmer Kingdoms.  We feel lucky to view these places with our good friends who come so far to visit and appreciate such things.  We encourage any visitors to the temples to put their comments on this blog - Ken? Ellen? Janet? Chris? Dana? 

K and E returned to Phnom Penh with Julie while I remained to work a few days at lakeside.  Our visitors toured the Royal Palace and National museum with some good English speaking guides while going out for yummy Khmer food in the evenings.  Ken felt his tour should include something of the Khmer Rouge era and chose to brave the Toul Sleng genocide museum.  

On the morning of the 10th K and E took a taxi to historic small riverside town Kampot.  Following our suggestion they climbed into a shared 4WD taxi for the infamous ride up to old abandoned Bokor Hill Station.  Perhaps K and E would agree with me that an analogy for describing Khmer rural roads is to imagine oneself as a boxer.  Each hour driving a bumpy Cambodian road is like a few rounds with a professional boxer - maybe even a Khmer kick boxer?  "Ooh! Ah! Oh! Umph! Ouch!"  After several hours of the equivalent of punches to the stomach, obliques and lower back you feel like you have endured a marathon bout.  Still standing anybody?  Unfortunately, overcast skies made for limited viewing from Bokor and K and E had to get back in the 4WD for a few more hours of body punches. "Ooh, ouch! Upfh!... .(Sorry guys but it looked good in the Lonely Planet!).  Nothing a good Khmer massage can't cure!

On Friday am Julie and I joined K and E in Kampot and taxied down to small seaside town Kep.  A day trip to Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island) included fresh seafood, swiming and shore hiking.  The image of our Kep oceanside evening dinner table of whole barracuda, paela and shrimp is fresh in our minds.  And there must be many tastebuds in heaven!  Our taxi ride the next day was through scenic country side and villages, across narrow bridges, and past large volcanic rock monoliths - beautiful!

K and E we miss you and await some blog comments!  Maybe re. the temples? 

Andrew and Julie 

  • »Permalink
  • Posted by:Julie and Andrew
  • in:My travelblog
21Publish - Cooperative Publishing