April 02, 2012

And That's a Wrap...

At lunchtime today it hit me. My experience in Cambodia is almost over! The year sure has flown by, I still have a few adventures before my flight home but in reality it is all wrapping up.
 What a year it has been… I’ve lived by myself in a foreign country, killed spiders the side of my hand, ridden a moto, climbed over temple ruins that are older than I can even imagine, traveled throughout much of the region, and met some amazing new friends.

 Even though you try not to formulate an idea of what you may be faced with, what your living conditions may be like, you still do have these images of what it may be like. The image that I drew before I arrived in Cambodia was nothing like the reality. The reality was both better and worse… worse for the poorer and better for the rich. I never imagined the numerous cafes and restaurants that would serve quality, international cuisine… or the ‘Las Vegas’ strip which houses hotel after hotel… or the thousands of Lexus’ that roam the streets… I did however, expect the poverty, and whilst there is an emerging middle class in Cambodia, at the moment the difference between rich and poor is just so great. I hope that this middle class start to gain some more momentum, and fight for better health care, education, human rights and the like. These are the people that can make a difference and move their country into a brighter future.

The organization that I worked with – Anjali House – does amazing work and has some fabulous people associated with it. There are tireless employees and volunteers that only want what is best for the students and their families. All I can wish for is that the students at Anjali House follow their dreams and become doctors, mechanics, nurses, hotel managers, electricians, and the list goes on and on. Mostly though I want them to be outstanding members of their communities, helping others and making a difference where they can. I am sure they will achieve this, and take the opportunities that are presented to them! For the organization, I hope that a magical little fairy (Sponsor/Donor) comes along and makes all of our dreams a reality, keep up the hard work! 

Join me on Wednesday, 30 May 2012 for a movie fundraiser at Hoyts, Garden City to raise funds for the organisation!

I will leave Cambodia with more stamps in my passport (Laos, Vietnam, China, Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia), some amazing new friends and a slightly different view on how I view the world.

But… I can not wait to get home, I am looking forward to so many things about returning to Australia; Bella & Cooper (and taking them to the beach), spending time with my family and friends, live AFL, a pillow that is right for my neck/back, BBQ, fish & chips, good coffee, Freo, cheese, a ‘structured’ workplace with temperature control, a comfy couch, good beer, trying this new phenomenon ‘Rekordling’… and so much more…

And, of course I will miss Cambodia; amazing and cheap food & cocktails, the life style, manicures & pedicures, massages, easy & cheap travel options, the numerous public holidays, conversations at work about which young adult/s killed and cooked the chicken the night before (forever known as ‘ChickenGate’)… 

I am looking forward to my next adventure, even I don’t know what and where it will be yet, but I start with three months at home, working with a friend at the WA Olympic Committee, then who knows…

As for my expectations;
  • I was shocked by the lack of rain, but flooding sucks!
  • The food was not awesome (although it was in Vietnam and Thailand), it was not a fusion and I don’t think I ate dog, but I did eat hairy spiders, crickets and snakes!
  • Touch wood (because I still have a few weeks left in country) I only got really sick with tummy troubles once!
  • The Khmer’s are lovely, and I look forward to visiting my friends in the years to come!
  • Angkor Wat… Mmm… Yeah, whatever?! The architecture of it is amazing though (I learnt all about this whilst getting a foot massage at the foot massage/documentary place)… Bantaey Chhmar and Bayon take equal prize for being my favorite temples… However, and yes, I do know it is different, ‘the Great Wall shits all over the Angkorian temples’…
  •  Don’t take this the wrong way Mum and Dad, but I didn’t really get homesick…
  •   The markets are awful, everything is ‘same same NO different’, although Chiang Mai has wicked markets!!
  •  The language wasn’t very difficult to learn, but most people I know speak great English, so I got a little bit lazy
  • I sent mail and got real mail, although some were lost in the Khmer postal system. I am still most upset about not receiving Pop’s letter!

And that is all folks, see you in OZ!!!

March 25, 2012

What a difference a few months make!

Yesterday I visited Kampong Pluk with some friends... Here is a comparison between my two visits to this village! They are a little bit out of order because the blog isn't playing nice with me today! I'm sure you will still get the picture though!

March 05, 2012

China: Facebook Status' I may have used if Facebook was permitted in China

#1   To all of you lovers out there, a plane is NOT the place to show your love and affection. Singing and groping each other when you are 30cms from other people is NOT cool - I don't care if you are European!!

#2   I got violated by the security guards at the KL Low Cost Terminal. I beeped... they patted down my 'private parts' then let me go on my way... I wonder if everyone beeps at this place...

#3   Only white people on the plane... I wonder how many tourists visit China in winter, my guess is not many!

#4   Feel left out that I can't compete with the Chinese with their creative uses of their nasal passages and mouth, spitting seems to be the national sport.

#5   China is lovely, so far very cold, very clean and the people are lovely. Quite the contrast to other peoples stories!!

#6   Shanghai is AWESOME... LOVE this place :-)

#7   You look like Snow White (uh... no... I don't...), me Mickey Mouse (uh... no... I don't think so...). Very awkwardly avoiding his insistent hug (damn you Juz for giving in and hugging him, I'm the one that had to put up with the sloppy kiss on the cheek). Fake Mickey Mouse (a strange Malaysian man) ruined my Zara experience!

#8   A swish afternoon at the Peace Hotel = BLISS!

#9   Wants to curl up and hibernate, no central heating - who's idea was this boat ride anyway?!

#10   Love the view from the 47th floor of the Radisson but still nothing compares to the blue cheese stuffed olive martini in Bangkok

#11   Wants the gorgeous puppy at the hostel - super hyperactive border collie!!

#12   Loves being the doll that the shop assistant is playing dress ups with, takes all of the pressure off me when trying on clothes

#13   Goodbye Shanghai, see you next time! 

#14   Bullet Train, next stop Beijing!!

#15    Upgrading hotels, soooo worth it!

#16   Feels like a celebrity, all of these people wanting their photo taken with us!

#17   Atmosphere Bar smells of Chanel No. 5

#18   China is turning my hair green!

#19   Hoping to spot a rabbit today :-)

#20   On the way to Jinshanling!

#21   China blocked mamamia.com.au after an article was posted by Jessica Rudd, comparing our rights to those of the Chinese, really does tell you a lot about freedom of speech!

#22   The wall was fabulous, we didn't see an rabbits so it must be doing its job!

# 23   Headed back to the Reap

#24   OMG, totally got ripped off at the airport, USD65 for the crappest meal ever (why didn't we stop for Maccas on the way in?!)! 

#25   1.5hours waiting on the tarmac so far... grizzle grizzle grizzle

#26   The airport support staff waved us goodbye! Lovely :-)

#27   Visit CHINA - it is great! :-D

December 23, 2011

Christmas Day Lunch

I think bubbles, duck confit, turkey and ham, and pudding will be the order of the day! Did I mention that we are so lucky with regard to food options in Siem Reap!!

October 09, 2011

Pchum Ben Holiday - A Trip Through Thailand and Laos

One of the things that I find difficult to justify, knowing that my contract in Cambodia is only for a year, is missing major cultural and religious events. During late September and early October I skipped the country and missed ‘the Festival of the Dead’. For more information on the festival please click here (not that wiki is necessarily 'reputable'), as I am definitely not qualified to give an overview.

On the afternoon of Friday, 23 October 2011, we left the flooded town of Siem Reap behind, to travel to Chiang Mai, with a stopover in Bangkok. I travelled to Bangkok with Leish, my housemate, and Shaye, a teacher from Melbourne who has been teaching at an NGO in Siem Reap whilst on long service leave.

As soon, as I arrive in Bangkok there is a certain element of relief, I felt this way last time I flew into Bangkok as well. There are actual numbers to call for police and ambulance and a belief that they will actually show up if you are in trouble. There are travelators (we don’t even have those in Perth), the traffic is orderly (not that we left the airport this time) and there seems to be more forethought and planning (if only this is a perception).

I pigged out on Starbucks and McDonald’s (things I can’t get in Siem Reap – even though I don’t usually eat it – the distance makes me want it!) before boarding our flight to Chiang Mai, with two ‘extras’ in tow, Irena and Bek, who are from the same AYAD intake as myself. Driving on the ‘right’ side of the road to our hotel, with road rules that people follow, we found ourselves in a reasonably swanky hotel. We quickly shoved all of our stuff in our respective rooms before heading downstairs for a nightcap.

In the morning we did some general exploring before finding a travel agent to book in some adventures for the next few days, this included a cooking class for Irena, Bek and myself and an adventure filled day for Shaye and Leish at Flight of the Gibbons. The following day we would all spend some time together playing with the elephants. After this, we went for a massage, the organisation allows ex-prisoners to gain training and work in meaningful employment. We were lucky enough to be visiting the city that Hannah, a fellow AYAD lives in, so she and her friend Trav (an American that lived in Perth as a child) took us to a local bar after some drinks on the rooftop of our hotel. The food was FABULOUS and the drinks were tasty, there was also a live band, which was followed by another as the night progressed. The only disappointing part of the night was that we missed out on seeing my friend Shan and her boyfriend Sobonn. The catch up was made difficult because I had no telephone in Thailand or Laos… It made me think – what did we do before mobiles? Were we just more organised?

The next day Irena, Bek and I were picked up in a ute (there are so many in Chiang Mai!!) to go to the local markets before our cooking class at the organic farm. I loved the markets, they were cleaner and much more hygienic than the options available in Siem Reap, there were some amazing things to eat and smells and sights to be experienced!  The cooking instructor was so full on – she was also exhausting (as Bek put it!). She thought she was really funny, so she kept cracking jokes, some of which were HIGHLY inappropriate and then expectantly waited for us to laugh! The class was great though, I love Thai food and we got to cook and eat a lot of it during the day. We went shopping at the highly recommended Sunday Night Markets to finish off the day, and they didn’t disappoint. I bought a leather bag (followed by a wallet, purchased the next day), some cool shirts and tasted more culinary delights as we meandered through the streets.

The following day, our last full day in Chiang Mai, was a strange experience. We arrived believing that we had chosen one of the better elephant sanctuaries, it had been recommended to us by an Australian vet. Upon arrival and throughout the welcome speech my hopes dwindled. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but there was something about the place that didn’t quite sit right for me. Whilst I don’t think that it is the worst place for the elephants to be, I left believing that it probably wasn’t the best place for them to be either. The jury is out… I just hope that our money didn’t go to an organisation that is mistreating these majestic animals. Dinner that evening was at a Burmese restaurant, the first time that I had tried the cuisine, and I wasn’t disappointed! It was another fabulous recommendation by Hannah and Trav… I’m very glad that we had some ‘locals’ to show us around!!

I loved Chiang Mai and would happily revisit this beautiful part of the world! I want to do Flight of the Gibbons, eat more amazing food and trek through the jungle to visit the Hill Tribes!!

September 13, 2011

Sticky Rice Balls

(with palm sugar, served with grated, young, fresh coconut)

My Notes

The host of our cooking class, began this recipe with a story about how the name of this recipe in K’mai is something like ‘killing your husband accidentally’.

The story goes that a wife was cooking these, and the husband decided to eat one, without allowing it to cool. The ball got stuck in his throat, the sugar oozed out like lava, and he died. She seemed to think it was quite funny…. We all politely laughed, whilst looking around at each other and wondering if it was ‘a joke’ or for real.


300g Sticky Rice Flour
2 T Palm Sugar, cut into approx 0.5cm cubes
100g Young Coconut, grated
1/3 Cup Water


1. Boil a pot of water
2. Mix the sticky rice flour with water
3. Ball the sticky rice flour mixture and push the palm sugar into the middle. Ensuring it is completely covered
4. Place in the boiling water and wait for them to float.

      5. Once floating, scoop into the cold water
      6. Serve with grated, young coconut

Fish Amok

My Note

I have tasted a few of these since I arrived, and the best so far was from Rendang, (the restaurant where I also ate tarantula) in Phnom Penh, one of the Friends restaurant group.


500g Fish, white and firm
200g Fresh Spinach Leaves
½ to 1 Cup Coconut Cream
1T Dry Chilli Paste
1t Turmeric
1cm Galangal Stalk
2 Lemongrass Sticks
1 Kaffir Lime Leaf
2 Garlic Cloves
1T Fish Sauce
1t Salt
1T Sugar
1 Egg
Oil, to cook


1. Slice and chop the lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaf, garlic and shallots. Pound them until very fine, then add turmeric powder and dry chilli paste. Continue pounding until they are all mixed together.
2. Roughly chop the spinach

3. Slice the fish into chunky pieces

4. Cook the paste in some oil, until fragrant
5. Add the fish and cook thoroughly
6. Cover with coconut cream and allow to simmer
7. Add sugar, salt and fish sauce. Taste and adjust accordingly
8. Whisk egg, then add to the curry, stirring constantly
9. Add spinach leaves
10. Serve with rice, additional coconut milk, if required and julienned chilli (deseeded)

K'mai Mango Salad


250g Chicken or Pork
400g Green Mango
100g Carrot
100g Basil
150g Dried Shrimp
100g Peanuts, chopped and roasted
2T Palm Sugar
1T Salt
2-3 Cloves Garlic
2 Shallots
1 T Lime Juice


1. Cook the meat thoroughly, set it aside, allow to cool, slice it

2. Grate the mango and carrot

3. Slice the garlic and shallots
4. Gently toss the meat in the palm sugar, fish sauce, slat, garlic, shallots and dried shrimp
5. Add the green mango and carrot to the meat mixture
6. Top with basil and peanuts, once plated

Nom Tong Noun

Their Note

These are a delicious snack and perfect to serve with coffee or tea.

My Note

Perfect accompaniment to icecream!
P.S. You need a flat ‘waffle iron’ to make these.


½ Cup Rice Flour
2 Duck Eggs
1 T Sugar
½ Cup Coconut Cream
1 T Black Sesame Seeds
¼ Cup Oil


1. Set aside one duck egg and the oil
2. Take the rest of the ingredients and combine to make a batter

3. Beat the remaining duck egg and mix with the oil
4. Heat your ‘waffle iron’ until it is hot on both sides
5. On one side brush some of the oil mix, until covered
6. Place your batter on the other side
7. Slowly bring the top of the iron onto the bottom

8. Allow to cook until lightly golden on both sides
9. Roll to forms cones, if desired

10. Allow to cool, to room temperature

July 01, 2011

A Life Lesson - Red Tape & Power Trips 101

Well, it all began in an office/classroom in the back blocks of Siem Reap about two weeks ago.

I was eavesdropping on a conversation my Director was having with a freight forwarding company, UPS whose office if based in Phnom Penh. Being the helpful person I am I mentioned that I would be in Phnom Penh in a week or so and would happily assist to retrieve the cameras that had been stopped by customs in Phnom Penh. After all, its not like you would need to be superwomen to get your hands on these items, you’d only need a few pieces of paper and a tuk tuk driver… Boy was I wrong!

One of my lovely friends, Vijay in Phnom Penh offered to collect some documents for me. We needed them to be collected on a weekday because their offices are supposedly closed on the weekends. His ever-trusty moto broke down during the trip, whilst he was in the middle of a dodgems game with the police (this is not unusual, it’s actually the best course of action due to corruption!), therefore ruining his lunchbreak and rendering his trip to the other side of town futile. UPS kindly offered to deliver these documents to Vijay and they promptly arrived on his desk the next morning.

Step One – Achieved, tick!

I’ll fast-forward a few days to Saturday, a beautiful sparkly morning in the Penh. A relaxing start to the day with the gorgeous Irena and my favourite type of breakfast – Pork & Rice… A tuk tuk ride to Vijay’s house to collect the documents, a dusty ride to the airport, and a very competent tuk tuk driver who dropped me right out the front of the customs collection point… Well, well, well – this was turning out to be much easier than what I had anticipated. I thought to myself ‘I’ll be in and out of here, 3.64kg heavier in just a few moments!’ – WRONG!

The Customs Officer explained that I was required to have a letter with a special stamp on it. He then mentioned that the man with the special stamp didn’t work Saturdays and he wasn’t based at the airport – I could find him the middle of Phnom Penh at the Ministry of Customs and Excise. Of course, I didn’t give up here, I did the very Australian thing of ‘Can I please speak to your boss?’. The Officer was petrified that I would bad mouth him to his boss because he started to exclaim ‘But I haven’t done anything wrong’. I tried to explain to him that I simply wanted to speak to his boss to see if we could get around this little dilemma as I live in Siem Reap, a good five hour drive from the airport. After he had been in to see his boss, who refused to speak to me, I left on my merry way, no cameras in hand and $16 lighter – it turns out that my lovely tuk tuk driver was a bit of a rip off merchant (He’d wanted $20 at the end of my trip!!)!

My Director was kind enough to give me permission to stay in Phnom Penh an extra night and see what happened on Monday. I was pretty happy about this, it meant dinner with friends at Friends, and it also meant that I got to pay a visit to Flicks, the local cinema!

On Monday, I woke early to go to Pork and Rice with Bek and Morgan. Feeling the need for coffee I made a quick pit stop at Java before making my way to the bus company, to swap my ticket and get two tickets for my breakfast partners, who are due to visit Siem Reap this weekend. This went very smoothly, as did my visit to the local printing store (they are everywhere, it appears that individuals and organisations alike don’t own printers/photocopiers). I left the printing shop with my letter, drafted from a template that the Customs Officer gave me on Saturday. This letter was my ticket to the cameras and a successful day – or so I thought!

I hopped in a tuk tuk, who literally drove me around the corner. I hadn’t realised how close I was, this day was just getting better and better! I wondered into the Ministry of Customs and Excise and there was an ‘office’ located on the balcony of the front building. Not quite sure where to go, I made my way to this ‘office’ and found out that it was exactly where I needed to be. The man grabbed my letter, stamped it, wrote some information in an official looking ledger and I was on my way… Off to the airport I go! I was definitely going to be done in time for my noon lunch appointment!
WRONG! Just I was about to wander off I realised my letter looked different to the template, ooops… the lovely customs man had forgotten to put the special stamp on it – silly billy!

Me: ‘Ummm… Som to (sorry) but I think you forgot to put the other stamp on my letter?’
Him: ‘No no, you go to other building, second floor, he stamp for you’
Me: ‘Oh ok’

The office was really easy to find, I stepped across the entrance way and realised that there was already some people in there. I stood in line and saw the man in the navy coloured uniform stamping and signing their forms with vigour!! I thought to myself ‘YES! This is my day! Everything is going so smoothly – I will be in and out of here in no time!’. When he was done with the girls, he turned to me and signalled for my forms. He then exclaimed, ‘How many cameras?’. I was unsure and told him so. I said, ‘All I know is that there are 3.64kgs of cameras’. He said ‘not good enough, you find out’. Now the problem with this, is that these cameras are a one off donation and the lady lives in the USA. If I were to call her, we would have woken her up from what I presume would be a peaceful slumber. Therefore, my Director and I took a wild punt and decided to guess that I would be collecting ten cameras. Now all I needed to do was change the form and take it back to the man in the navy coloured uniform! EASY!

I went back to another printing house, changed the form and made my way back to the Ministry of Customs and Excise. Went through the procedure of getting the original stamp and then made my way up to the man in the navy coloured uniform. He briefly looked over my forms and then asked who I was. I told him my name and he said, ‘So what are you doing here? Your name isn’t on the package nor is it on the Memorandum of Understanding – outlining that we can ‘import’ goods duty free because we are an NGO. I explained that I worked for the organisation and that I happened to be in Phnom Penh, therefore I was asked to collect the cameras. At this point, he decided that he needed the form to be signed by the Director of my organisation, to whom the goods had been sent and he also wanted an organisational chart to prove who I was. EASY!

I went to Blue Pumpkin, a cafĂ© on the waterfront with wifi and received the letter from Sam with his signature. I also updated the organisational chart. I made my way to the printing shop (AGAIN) and printed off the copies of everything that I needed and made my way back to the Ministry of Customs and Excise. They weren’t going to beat me with their outlandish demands!!

When I arrived, just after 11am it turns out that everyone had gone to lunch. Oh well, a good excuse for me to make my way to Vego’s for lunch with Bek and Morgan. If I was back just after 2pm, they should be back from lunch (Yes that’s right, this type of lunchtime is ‘normal’ especially with government departments). I left Bek and Morgan’s house at about 1.15pm and about 5 minutes into the trip it started pouring down with rain! I was carrying my bags from the weekend and everything started to get drenched. The lovely tuk tuk driver ran around to pull down the awnings to ensure that I didn’t get too wet. He did this before he even put on his own rain coat, I did try to tell him to put on his rain coat first in my broken Khmer.

It was bucketing down, which wouldn’t have mattered too much BUT the tuk tuk driver informed me that he wasn’t allowed to drive on Norodom (even though every other vehicle is allowed to!), the street that the Ministry is located on and so, he dropped me at the closest corner and left me there, with my bags, in the rain! I walked to the ministry when the rain eased slightly. The man in the navy coloured uniform wasn’t there. So I waited… and waited… and waited… By the time it got to 3pm there were at least 15 people like me, standing there, waiting to get that all important, special stamp. I had to leave at that point because otherwise I would have missed my bus home.


Man in the Navy Coloured Uniform 1 def. Elysse 0

Life Lesson – avoid eavesdropping on conversations that may lead to visiting the Ministry of Customs and Excise!