30 September 2008

The beginning in Phnom Penh

So our trip to the land of Cambodia began after a night stay at Concorde Inn, KL. My very first impression of Phnom Penh was through the cabin windows up in the skies. The outskirts of Phnom Penh is a bed of paddy fields, divided by the Mekong River that runs through the horizon and houses parked mostly by the river side. As we flew nearer inland, more developments were visible. Lands are almost completely flat throughout and we could see puddles of flood, here and there. It must have been raining the past few days. Darn…!

Guess what we found tucked in front of our seats in this month’s Travel 360’ issue. How appropriate :D

We made a mistake of not taking pictures of the Phnom Penh airport, for being such a poor country, it was physically much more appealing to the eyes than Brunei’s =\

Our home for a night in Phnom Penh was built in the 1930s for King Sihanouk’s mother Queen Kossamak who wanted to be near Wat Botum. Through a small gate, we were led past a lap pool to a beautiful villa surrounded by cushioned wooden lounge chairs. Nassiba was there to receive us, her French accent made us curious and to our disbelief she’s from Tajistan. She’s now working on a new eco-resort project in Koh Rong, south of Cambodia, building solar panels and all, "making compulsory the use of renewable energy sources, the waste management, the used-water treatment and the offset of greenhouse gases emissions) and forbidding polluting equipments (diesel power generation, cars, motorcycles)". Whilst I was busy checking us in, and sorting out our transport to Siem Reap the next day, the boys found it most vital to find internet access. The need to change their player formation for the Fantasy Football game is far more important than anything else. I tried to understand. . .Huuhuuhuu.

Pavilion lives up to its past lodgers’ description, it is unique and homey. You can really picture this place as your own house.
I’ve always liked to believe, a balcony with a nice view is the perfect ending to a room no matter how big/small.

Our plan was to get Russian Market out of the way today and focus on visiting palaces and monuments tomorrow, but it’s just our luck that tomorrow is the beginning of a very important public holiday and a number of shops are closed as people are busy preparing for it. It is the Ancestor Worship day, the Cambodian P'chum Ben Festival (what i'd like to believe is similar to the Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival), where people pay respects to and remember the people who are roots of their existence. So we took a couple of tuk-tuks down to the river front and explored on foot. By 6pm, the sun has completed its shift.

.Makeshift tuk-tuk drivers.

We stumbled upon Happy Herb Pizza! This place supposedly drizzle happy herbs, or better known as marijuana, on your pizza. They are said to come in dosages of ‘happy’, ‘very happy’ or ‘ecstatic. Sounds interesting but ya, we gave it a miss.

Our first stop: Riverside Bistro
This is a fine establishment dazzled with neon lights shaped in palm trees, seafood, martini glasses and importantly decked with comfortable looking rattan chairs. We gotto eat and this is it! We tried the famous Cambodian Fish Amok and it tasted like otak-otak cooked in green curry. Yums.In the midst of feeding our stomachs and enjoying our 1st taste of Angkor Beer, we were repeatedly approached by whiny begs from a tiny lil’girl. We tried hard to ignore her presence but she was so persistent that we eventually caved in, and handed her a dollar (USD). Her eyes instantly lit up with a grin so wide. She quickly folded the dollar, clasped tightly amid her tiny fingers, said thank you, posed for me and skipped happily round the corner of the restaurant. We suspected that must have been her day’s worth, and now to report back to her guardian. But whoever her guardian was obviously didn’t think it was enough, for she reappeared to the scene just as fast as she scurried off. Only when I review the picture I took of her that I really had a good look at her. She’s such a pretty lil’ girl but like all street kids she had dirty patches on her skin, pasty face and look at those worn-out eyes.
It is at this time, I wish there were more people like Savong out there.

Did I mention it rained again!? We weathered the rain and explored the rest of the restaurants and bars down the road, just when I caught sight of a cowboy hat. It’s the same hat Boon saw and wore for a picture in India and Kuching! He did say if he chanced upon the same hat again in Cambodia, he’s gonna buy it! The highlight for him today is ‘finding’ that hat.

Phnom Penh’s night market. Nothing interesting really, except maybe for children – paying to burst a balloon in return for a soft toy.

Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC). Nice 3-storey restaurant/bar/hotel with a beautiful view of the rainbow-lit cruise boats in the Tonle Sap river. The patriotic Americans had a discussion cum debate scheduled on the 3rd floor following the McCain-Obama debate. By 9.30pm, people started to amass and the band took charge. I highly recommend this place if you just want to enjoy live band, enjoy the river breeze, a good pizza and your beer.

.Street adjacent to FCC.

Our next hop was to Love Orange club, just because it’s round the block from our villa. The security was tight, and everyone was body checked. The moment the music resonated to my ears, I cried dear lord… This place is like a Miri feng-tao joint, stuffy and jam packed with local youngsters borne in the 90s’ (according to Timmy’s observation). We left almost immediately and headed to the Heart of Darkness, the most popular bar/club in Phnom Penh. This bar suited us better; it was tastefully decorated, less rowdy and DJs spun to the likes of Shakira. You’ll find a good mix of Europeans, Japanese, Cambodians, and towering Boyz II Men lookalikes here.
Our final hop was in search for Zeppelin Bar that was said to have the largest collection of classic rock. No one in town seemed to have heard of it let alone know its where abouts, hence we tried out luck at the Memphis Bar. This bar has a small dais to a band that got us singing along to the Summer of 69, Dire Straits, U2's One, Eric hailing to Pink Floyd. Good joint if you don’t like the heavy shuffling and if you have a voice to share with everyone. You can literally take over the mic if they hit your favourite number.
.Midnight rendezvous.

It was a pretty good start in Phnom Penh. As i publish this post, I'm at my 4th night in Siem Reap and i am loving it so much. I have met up with Savong and Loven on our 1st night here. All i can tell you right now is, Savong is not much of what i expected when i saw him for the 1st time, but he far exceeded my initial perception of him. Just simply through a short night of conversation with him, i can feel his passion, his kindness, the bigger dreams he has. My heart ached for him, for i can see he is a very smart man that can probably save the world from poverty and ignorance, had he afford education and have the money to do so.

I will keep posting when i find the time to do so. =)
Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri to all my muslim friends and colleagues!

25 September 2008

Dining with Gods and Kings

OMG, i know i said my adios.. but i just have to blog about this. I was reading Loven's blog today and i saw this. A dinner with the gods and kings, a full spread at the world heritage temples in Siem Reap.

He started with "So if you are probably someone who has some scandalously big cash to burn and have a couple of nights in Cambodia, try these out for a change..."

And my eyes just POPPED!

"Then the intricate set-up is laid: from candle-lit tables, wine bars, Michelin-star chefs at your beck and call and all that jazz... this is a full dinner setting at the Prasat Kravan temple"

Will someone pinch me pls....
Image from: the spool artist
"A courtyard dinner at the Thommanon temple where you are blanketed by the jungle..."

"Rental prices for temples range from $2,500 for smaller, far flung temples while Angkor Wat can cost as much as $20,000 for a 3-hour dinner schedule! And that doesn't even include your dinner yet! Dinners usually start at around $300 per person. For most Cambodians earning an average of $2 a day, dinner alone is equivalent to their life savings. Rental price in Angkor Wat can actually build you a house here..."

For more pictures, see here.

I, without a doubt, do not have scandalous money to burn, but Loven... how can we get to experience a night like that??


.If you are interested - here, here and here are some of my past correspondences with Savong.

"There's a piece of advice that says if you want to help somebody in your own country, give time. If you want to help somebody in another country, then give money."

Here is another compelling story about someone who helped Savong achieve his dreams.

My name is Duncan Stuart, I live in Auckland New Zealand. My own involvement with the school began in late 2004 after a visit to Angkor Wat. I met Savong when he was running a small school at his father's house, near Siem Reap town. He asked if I'd volunteer teach for a few afternoons, and during that week we became friends, and I learned of his dream to open up a school further out in the countryside where children are less advantaged. (And I thought these town kids looked less advantaged!) It was a moment in my life when I thought, well, why not help?

That photo of Savong on the boat was taken the afternoon he told me about his plans – and I think it sums up his gentle way of thinking about the future, literally looking at the horizon.

Three other supporters were also contributing to Savong. Yoshikazu and Makoto in Japan, as well as a guy from San Francisco – Malcolm – and between us, and from other New Zealand supporters too, we helped Savong take the current school from being a dream to becoming a reality. Yoshikazu and Makoto were quite inspiring.
What appealed to me was the fundamental simplicity of the story here. Local children are going to enter working age without many prospects. Languages will give them an opportunity to get work in the burgeoning tourist industry. Education, as always, can help give people a future.

When Savong first told me of his plans, my immediate reference point was Ed Hillary, who really set us a great example. For a middle aged Kiwi guy like me, the idea of helping build schools in less advantaged countries is just something we've grown up with – a practical thing we can help do.

At all stages of the project, Savong sent progress photos and emails and there has never been any doubt that this has been a worthwhile project on a personal level. Visiting the school in March 2006 was one of the best moments in my life.

.Secretly, i hope Savong wouldnt trump Angkor Wat. That will really be something.

24 September 2008

One Happy Day

Today, our baby went "live"!
After 3 months of precious sweat and toil, we went "live" on time and under budget.
Thanks to all the MOFIC warriors... keke.

I can now go on holiday stress-free! =D

22 September 2008


.This little pumpkin is the highlight of my weekends.


.Almost collapsed at work last Saturday after a morning scare.
But all is good!

4 more days till i roam the streets of Cambodia. Huu huu huu. . .

16 September 2008

Stock Market Panic!

While i have been having a stressful affair with work, my other half has been keeping me up-to-date with the rest of the world. When i saw this, i just "WHATTA???"

One of the most sought-after employer and must have been one of the dream jobs of every investment finance students has gone Kapooooot?!

Source of Picture: The Sun

Lehman Brothers, the world's fourth biggest investment firm filed for bankruptcy, a victim of the US mortgage markets.
With losses of $613bn, it is thought to be the biggest bankruptcy in history.
Workers said one department of 500 people was bluntly told: “The company no longer exists.”

Many has called this the worst financial crisis since or worst than the 1929 Wall Street crash. If some of you can recall, the Wall Street crash literally gave way to the Great Depression. I, personally pray this is nothing of the like.

Source of Picture: Daily News
Other big hits:

- AIG (Manchester United supporter) shares have nearly halved: "Last night AIG was thrown a lifeline when it won permission to borrow £11.2billion from subsidiaries".

- Merill Lynch (Lehman's rival) - Fished out of the death row by agreeing to a $50bn takeover by Bank of America

- Bank of England and European Central Bank has been pumping billion of dollars into the money markets to control the tide.

11 September 2008

The story of the 3 siblings

This is a story about 3 siblings (16, 10 and 9 year olds) who were abandoned by their parents and are struggling to make ends meet.

Their plight was covered by Iskandar and Liza yesterday and it has already received overwhelming response from Bruneians home and abroad. I believe some of us, and undeniably myself, at first instance would not hesitate to judge their parents for abandoning them. What i cannot understand is, from a woman's point of view... from a mother's point of view, how can a mother leave her young to the hands of fate. However, true to Reeda's words, more need to be known before they are labelled.

.Some facts about the 3 siblings.
Information extracted from Liza's site.

"Their home: The siblings are staying remotely within the squatter's area of Kampong Jabang Seria. I am sure you know make-shift houses are built illegally on the concession land so they are no proper numbering system there, which is a reason why i could not furnish you with the home address.

Their background: Their parents are jobless and his father is an ex-cop while their mother used to operate a food stall in Seria until few months ago, when they decided to move on Kampong Bangtajuh in Ulu Belait and start a new life as fishermen without their children. They do not leave behind proper food supplies or some cash for groceries. So the children survive on fishes they catch from the river and only drink rainwater.


The eldest among the siblings is Bobby, and he has a 10-year-old younger sister, Maullena and 9-year-old brother Bonny, the youngest. But according to Bobby, his parents do drop by twice monthly and bring their catch home. They are not fully aware that they are being abandoned which leaves Bobby to be the breadwinner for his young siblings.


Their suffering: During heavy downpour, these siblings are splattered with rain waters as a result of the broken ceilings and missing window panes. Messy and dirty kitchen utensils as they have no water supply; moldy mattresses and bed sheets.

They walk back and forth every day to school. And their school uniforms and bags are all worn out. They had to skip breakfast and lunch in school cuz they just have no pocket money. They are flat broke."

The good thing that came out from this is not only bringing public awareness to their woeful condition, and rather than just a massive once-off donation, Liza and team has considered long-term support for these children. They are in the midst of discussion with a school to open a joint savings account for the children.

"This is to ensure that the funds will not be mismanage or misuse and utilized wisely. And furthermore it will allow people overseas to transfer or wire monies straight to their account. Once it is open, we will reveal the numbers in our blog.."

How you can help:

They have organised a date where the public can meet and offer their contributions to the children personally @
Venue: Anthony Abell College, Seria
Date: Tuesday, 16 September
Time: 1.30pm

If you are not travelling to Seria on that day, contact Liza
babelizcious_78@yahoo.com to make other arrangements.

Please visit their site, Iskandar and Liza, for detailed information on the siblings and follow-up on their acts of love.

10 September 2008

One for my babies

This post is dedicated to my babies at work. Eventhough the stress level of our team has surpassed the acceptable range, most of us are still maintaining our cool.

This post is for a good laugh.

The 1st day of training. Jerry may look terrified but he aced it.

The multi-purpose PM.
The bloody photocopier wouldnt cooperate with Afshah, so i went on my knees.

.I hate copiers. Papers and photocopiers have a life of their own! They are both vengeful!

.Afshah, the amazing trainer.
.Fely and Boon are supposedly friggin' stressed but why do i see a smile on Boon's face??.
Note to Nonnie: this is the area where your Bobby sits, and where he gets influenced.

.And an even wider grin on Siaw Wei's face. I heard from Fely that she has been giggling by herself when building new pages.
And one day, when i wanted to check her progress, guess what she showed me...

So this is why...

2 more weeks of these madness, or shall i say fun.
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