September 29

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From the Pearl of Asia – Cambodia on my mind #4

Good morning from Phnom Penh! I’ve not written a blog for a while, too busy to travel around Cambodia or organizing my next trips. Do you remember my challenge? 7 countries in 6 months? Well, I am working hard on it! Cambodia and Laos are in my bag. Nepal and Tibet are coming next: a short break to go back to my beloved Kathmandu and some meditation up on the Himalaya. Stay tuned for that part of my journey. For now, Let’s keep going with my personal Khmer list.

17. Cambodians are getting ready for the cold season. Hard to explain to them what COLD really means! When I asked what they meant by cold, the answer is 18 degrees at night! Well, my friends, you should move to London where at 18 degrees people go around naked in the park to attract every single ray of light! Everybody except me! My Italian blood refuses to warm up below 25! Get ready for amazing pictures of Cambodians wearing winter jackets, gloves and hats. I will keep wearing flip flops!

18. Gluten free. You might not know, I am intolerant to gluten . Yes, I know, an Italian who doesn’t eat pizza, bruschetta, pasta! Even my mom asks the same question everytime I go home and she has to cook for a regiment, including my gluten free fusilli! Karma has its own ways that sometimes we don’t understand. When I moved to Phnom Penh, I was so excited to have rice rolls every day, rice noodles, stir fry rice. Really really excited… Gluten free happiness in Phnom PenhEverything started the day I went to one of those organic shops and a pack of gluten free pasta was there! EUREKA! You already know what happened next. I started to crave more and wanting more. After a long research to all expats forum in Cambodia, I have found my treasure! A French shop called la Vie Claire which sells a lot of gluten free stuff! Well, after the construction sites, I believe this is a sign how Cambodia is changing. Or maybe expats are changing it!

19. Jungle and rubber plantations: during my field visit to Ratanakiri Province, I felt in love with this part of the country. Where the earth is red, tall trees are surrounding you and miles of hills where your sight can get lost. Do you remember my story about the old ladies? Well, that’s what I am talking about. The worst part of the story it’s to think about illegal logging and how the – so called – development will change this part of the country. It’s sad to see, after driving embraced by trees, to come out of the shadow and the land looks empty and a lot of trees have been illegally taken away. I remember a beautiful documentary from Sue Perking on the Mekong, one of the main Asian rivers which starts flooding in Tibet and ends in Vietnam. She crosses this region showing the beauty of it at one side and what development is doing: Illegal logging, dams for water power. There are a total of 11 dams planned for the lower Mekong River, the future of this mighty waterway is in grave danger.

20. Mosquitoes and Sand flies. I always wanted to spend time on a real tree house and even better one in front of the ocean. We spent a weekend at the tree house place in Koh Ta Kiev a beautiful island 3 hours away from Phnom Penh. It was amazing to wake up early in the morning, walking down the ladder, dive into the water and listen to nature and waves. Everything sounds so bucolic, doesn’t it? Well, everything except sand flies. Yes, the invisible bugs! I am still trying to recover from all their bites and the scars I have all over my legs and arms. Suggestions? Use baby oil next time! Apparently they will trapped and stick to the oily skin. I’ll adopt this Trick and keep you posted it!

Koh Ta Kiev island - Tree houses

Koh Ta Kiev island – Tree houses weekend

21. Bank holiday in Cambodia. I remember living in Paris and being really happy of the amount of French bank holiday. But here it’s even better. Festivals and holidays of Cambodia are subject to change every year based on the lunar calendar and they last for a week!! Let me list just couple of them:
• April – Khmer New Year: this national holiday was established to celebrate the New Year in Cambodia. The holiday lasts for three days and is considered to be the most important festival on the calendar.
• September – October: This national holiday was established for Buddhist to pay their respects to deceased relatives by cooking meals for monks and making offerings to the “ghost” of deceased relatives. It is also known as “Ancestor’s Day”.
• October – November – This national holiday was established to commemorate ancient Cambodian navy soldiers under King Jayavarman VII during the Khmer Empire
In those three occasions, the entire week is off and most of Cambodians will travel to spend time with families. Well, what to say! I love Cambodia’s Bank Holiday!!

22. Double currency. In Cambodia is quite easy to pay with dollars or Riel. The exchange is fixed 1$ = 4000 Riel. It sounds easy and it is. There are no coins, all paper notes. And that’s where troubles start. When you pay in dollars, you get Riel back. Tons and tons of 100 Riel note. To confuse any negotiations, each cash note has changed in the last couple of years and you have more than one 100 Riel note, some are smaller and some are bigger. It’s quite common to end up going around with a big cash roll with no value. I have to say, I don’t miss the weight of having pockets and bags of British coins.

I want to this finish this blog with a nice quote:

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

See you soon!
Simona

#supersimogoestoasia #cambodia2015 #Pulse2015