Archive for October, 2015

A Sunday afternoon walk

18/10/2015

After a day and a half’s hard work, following the break for a public holiday, the weekend arrived and a night watching City beat Bournemouth 5 – 1 with a friend and his wife, at Score Bar and a lie-in I decided to go for a walk to look at some of the city.

P1130999I started by getting a tuk-tuk to Sorya Shopping Centre (pictured left) which was the first of the new wave of shopping centres in Phnom Penh, such as City Mall and Aeon Mall which I have already written about here and here, respectively. Sorya is bigger than the first and smaller than the second and, like both, has a cinema on the top floor. There was nothing on which interested me though I did make aP1140001 couple of purchases in one of the shops before leaving and crossing the road to get a top-up for my phone.

Further up the street was the Central Market, somewhere I had previously only been past at night and thought was a dump. Well how wrong was I about the wonderful piece of Cambodian Art-Deco architecture, restored recently with help from the French government. Views of it from outside and inside were just great:

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I’m afraid the photos do not do justice to the wonder of the building. I wandered around the building looking at the clothes, electrical items and P1140023other things for sale then left. I wanted to walk more of the city and I was headed in the direction I had travelled a few times at night. Leaving the market I entered an area that at night seemed dark and dingy but I came upon the wonderful art-deco building pictured left. My Chinese is not good enough to know what it is now. One of the reasons to walk in this direction was coming next. P1140027It was the film, “The Last Reel“, which I may have mentioned once, maybe you didn’t notice, had an important location in the centre of Phnom Penh, a former cinema which is used for parking Moto’s and, on my way to the Empire in this area I had seen a former cinema used for parking Moto’s and I wanted to get a picture of it. Research, however, showed that the cinema which inspired to was on street 19, across from Norton University where the writer was then working, rather than street 130 where this was.

Further along the street was the Empire, a bar with a soundproofed room on the first floor which acts as a cinema. After finishing work at 19:30 or 20:00 I’m not going to P1140032do much more as I need to eat and then it would be too late to do much more. So, a quick tuk-tuk ride from work and I am here, special of the  day for two or three dollars, three dollars fifty for the entrance to the film and one dollar fifty for a beer means you can get a good night out in the week, after work for less than $10. This time I was not in for a film but a pit-stop. Whilst there I chatted to the bar staff and discovered they had only been here a couple of days, that they are working as volunteers in return for a bed in the floor above the cinema and food and drink. Lunch at a Thai and Khmer restaurant a few doors down was a caramelised pork cooked with Kampot pepper on a bed of rice.

P1140037Eating done it was down to the riverside, Sisowath Quay alongside the Tonle Sap River. The river coming down from the lake of the same name which is a marvel in itself and I will experience next month the river changing direction which is part of a water festival with boat races and fireworks, and three days off work!  The Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel and residences are in the background on the right across the river. P1140043The road alongside the river was fronted with a lot of tourist bars, pizzerias and other places interspersed with the Royal Palace I pictured here and the building on the left, which in the same post I expressed a total lack of knowledge about, I now discover is only Wat Ounalom, the headquarters of Cambodian Buddhism. Opposite the Royal Palace there was a pagoda and from here on the riverside became much more busy with Cambodians sitting by it, P1140054stalls selling food, little birds and flowers, the latter to be cast upon the waters.

Just after the last picture (right) the riverside ended with a restaurant then a big hall took up the space on the bank of the river opposite the Buddhist University. So, I wandered off and found a tuk-tuk and went to my local Lucky Supermarket to get stuff for my breakfast then walk home. A good day seeing some of the sights of Phnom Penh and getting to know the city better.

And continues here

15/10/2015

So the  first weekend in Phnom Penh stated with a tour pictured, here. After lunch at the upstairs restaurant in my hotel, a little light shopping and a rest it was time to head to Score, self-styled as ‘Cambodia’s premier sports bar’, and arrived to find it packed for the early match Chelsea vs Arsenal with quite a lot of Arsenal shirts in attendance.

After getting something to eat and the first of a number of beers I settled in to watch the football and the rugby as the Manchester City match was the late match of the day, kicking off after the other matches in the UK had finished meaning a start of something like 23:30. The Rugby World Cup was on the big screen downstairs so City was on the small screen upstairs. It did mean I followed what happened in the Japan vs South Africa at the same time. It was interesting to have a view from above and it was noticeable that the crowd for the football match was nearly all male whereas when the rugby started it became closer to half and half. Similarly, for the football there were more locals present, some wearing team colours, whereas for the rugby it was either Europeans or people from Commonwealth countries.

Through a Man City facebook page I had been in contact with a fellow supporter and we met up. He is an engineer, originally from Barrow and is running a construction project here. It is always better to watch the match with a fellow fan. My last match in Strasbourg had been the 2-1 Champions League loss to Juventus so I was hoping for something better.  Unfortunately it was not to be as City lost 2-1 again, this time to West Ham. A dejected tuk-tuk back to the hotel.

After oversleeping, I had still not got my body-clock aligned with the time and it would take a few days of waking at 2 or 3 in the morning before I would. So it was more brunch than breakfast and headed off to the Aeon Mall (location shown below along with a number of highlights of the previous days tour.) for the afternoon.

It was quite disconcerting to be dropped at the side of the road in front of what I quickly saw was the entrance and exit for scooters and motor-bikes, with a row of tuk-tuks at the side of the road heading off into the distance and the other side of the footpath all I could see was a hedge . Anyway I arranged to meet the driver later and walked in through the scooter entrance and around a corner to see a scooter and motor-cycle sale or hire place in front of me a massive scooter park over which I could just see the entrance to the mall. But I was to discover it was not but the entrance to the Aeon Store, what the retailing trade call the anchor store for the shopping centre. A supermarket to attract people to come to the mall and spend money in other shops whilst there. 20151004_170236_21748535370_oI walked (picture left taken later during a Halloween promotion) in the entrance with a bakery on my right and the food store on the left and then into a food court with lovely smells and lots of different foods being advertised in a rush or words, scripts and colour. I took the escalator up and walked out into the mall and found that my destination was on the second floor at the other end of the mall. So. up one floor and I discovered that the second floor is all restaurants at one end then becomes game machines and then my destination, the Major Cineplex.

At the induction a new colleague had told me about a Cambodian film with English sub-titles, The Last Reel. It was quite amazing to get a cinema ticket for a few dollars. There was allocated seats but no-one paid attention to that. I leant back and discovered the seats leaned back and I couldn’t really find a place where it stopped but managed to find an equilibrium. Going to the cinema here is certainly culturally different. People bring their whole family regardless of the certificate of the film and at a subsequent film there was a child talking through most of it which I just had to screen out. In this one the phone of the person next to me rang and they answered it. There was a general hubbub of talking but, because the film was in Khmer with English subtitles it didn’t matter as much.

The film is set in Phnom Penh now and, even after only a few days here, it was great seeing places I had already discovered. It also dealt with the killing fields, family and different truths that different protagonists have the cast were excellent and it was a well written story. Don’t just take my word for it, read this review from a local.(Scroll down for it) and here is one from Cambodia Daily. Decide for yourself with the trailer:

The Weekend Starts Here

13/10/2015

Freshly inducted I returned to the hotel ate and went to bed. I slept in, but not too much as I wanted to get into the sleep pattern of a place six hours ahead of what I was used to. The next morning I thought it would be a good idea to get a tour of the city and get my bearings so I booked a tuk-tuk for a two hour ride. Not far from the hotel we joined Preah Sihanouk Boulevard where we saw the Independence monument followed by the statue of King Father Norodom Sihanouk:

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For some reason we then went onto an island where there was quite a lot of development taking place and I saw a large Canadian School of English, I guess our opposition, and we passed what seemed like a gated community, Elite Town, which is how it is referred to on Google so it must be true along with its golf club:

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Then on leaving the island I saw the ‘ferry ‘cross the Mekon’:

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I then passed this statue, guarded by the elephants, which I can find no reference to:

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Then on to the highest hill in Phnom Penh, Wat Phnom:

p1130890_21048357963_oI returned via a temple I can find no information about but seemed important and the Royal Palace which I guess is:

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p1130899_21657937152_oThen finally before returning to my hotel I stopped at the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument where a couple were getting their photos taken nearby:

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p1130913_21657893752_o After that I returned to my hotel with a better understanding of the layout of the city, having gone from my hotel direct and in almost a straight line to the river, around the island and the up the river bank in a direction perpendicular to the road from the hotel to the riverbank. The road to the riverbank, further more, also being at right-angles to the road to my work place, meaning that road is parallel to the riverbank.

Laundry Day

11/10/2015

Today is the start of the Pchum Ben (and here) festival here and I’ll write more about it again but the result is that many places are closed as people have gone back to their home province or town or village to be with family and remember ancestors, pretty similar to All Saints in the Christian calendar. As a result I am not working until Friday and yesterday was a bit of a rush to get things done before places close for the holiday.

P1130967One thing I needed was a haircut and I passed this place, further along my street, on my way to work and had been interested in it. It has a sign, which this picture did not capture, saying ‘Pop Barber’ – what more can you want?(The fence is not normally there) I went in and had to wait for ten minutes whilst they finished up on the person before me. I was then offered the VIP room for $3 or the usual salon for $2 so I opted for the normal salon, I will save the VIP room for later to see what difference it makes. The cut was good and after when paying what I assume is the manager, he asked me whether I was visiting and I said that I was here for work and after being asked explained that I was at the ACE school. Unprompted by me with questions about what he knew of it he said it was a good school, the best in Cambodia and that was why they were growing. He clearly knew about the school and had nothing to gain from saying such positive things to me about them.

People have joked about me talking to people cutting my hair and reporting the conversations before. Previously, when I was an elected councillor in Reading, in support of our transport policy which I was responsible for at the time, I prayed in aid a conversation I had had with the woman cutting my hair. Now it seems to me, hairdressers come into contact with a lot of people. They are a good sense of what people are thinking. This one also happened to live outside Reading and commute into the town every day for work. Just the kind of person we should listen to, it struck me. Yet there was disbelief and ridicule that I was quoting my hairdresser, an ordinary working person in our community. The response, I felt was that this contravened their guardian reader belief in what they had been told ordinary people thought of our ‘anti-car’ policy that it could not possibly be true.

Anyway, I do not apologise for listening to my hairdresser then or the response of the manager/owner of the barber’s this time.

Secondly, I went to get my laundry. Anyone who knows me knows P1130962that I am not fastidious about my laundry, apart from my shirts. Previously, when I could afford it I had them done at a local laundry otherwise I washed and ironed them myself. Now I find that I can get four shirts washed and ironed for $1, Who wouldn’t? Otherwise I have to buy an iron and board which are more things to try to sell or leave behind when I leave. Anyway who wouldn’t get it done by a modern laundry with a Sumo wrestler doing the ironing? But, and here’s the thing for bothering you with this. On collecting my laundry yesterday, I was given two free condoms. What is this? Are all laundry customers given free condoms. what is the link between laundry customers and being sexual libertines? Is it that we can afford to have our laundry done by others means we are out squiring ladies day and night? If so, are two condoms enough?  Or, is it cause I is a foreigner? Are all foreigners using laundry services in Phnom Penh free with their affections as well? Or is it a Cambodian government programme to protect their women from dirty foreign older men like me? If we get others to do our laundry are we so careless with personal safety when it comes to sex? Sorry, I do not see the match does anyone have any idea where the link might be? Anyway I’m off for lunch now.

Re-posted twice on 11 October to add a title which had been forgotten and correct a misspelling of anti-car.

Inducted

08/10/2015

Well, it sounds better than induced. In my trip to the supermarket I’d found two types of melon, ham, fruit juice and coffee which founded the basis of my breakfast since arrival. P1130948Although having hot coffee from a glass is not easy requiring another trip on Saturday to get a mug.

I had worked it out using google maps and it should be 30 minutes walk to my new workplace.(pictured left) I was braced for the warmth but it was noticeably hot although not too perspiring until I got into the air conditioned classroom. It was difficult walking as people seem to have the land in front of their premises to do as they wish so it would be full of cars or other stuff requiring a detour into the road and my walk there seemed always to be facing the oncoming traffic. I learnt early on how the traffic makes way for each other, including pedestrians, and you just have to walk into it, no use waiting for someone to let you through. I also learnt that the shoes I’d bought when in Leeds were not broke in yet so by the time I got there I was hobbling slightly.

It was a normal induction day, signing contract, showing originals of certificates, giving the receipt for the visa I’d bought at the airport to get it refunded, instruction on how the school operated, brief history etc, tour of the building, or hobble round more like, and then we were taken for lunch at a buffet style restaurant serving Khmer, Vietnamese and Chinese food – though I could not really tell which was which but just grateful for something to eat. I got a tuk-tuk back to the hotel and started the routine of going up to the restaurant for something involving rice or noodles, vegetables, chicken or pork and chillis.

The other thing I did at my induction was pick up my timetable to find that I was working 22.5 hours a week, from 11:30 – 19:30 Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 17:30 to 20:00 Tuesday and Thursday and 8:00 – 13:00 on Saturday and it was mostly EAP, which is what I had been teaching in Leeds and some of my Strasbourg work. That, however wouldn’t start until Tuesday as Monday was for training (Professional Development) and a staff meeting which finished at midday. I picked up my course books and rather stupidly took them back to the hotel where I had no more than time to look through them and then take them back to work.

Arrival

06/10/2015

I was booked into a hotel for the first two weeks which I thought would allow 20150917_121215_20862232273_ome to find my feet, discover something of the city of Phnom Penh and get my bearings before finding somewhere to live. The hotel messaged me on the flight to ask if I wanted collecting on arrival by tuk-tuk for $9 and, knowing nothing about getting to my hotel from the airport, I thought I very much did.

So, after paying $35 for my working visa and clearing customs I walked out to see my name displayed and was 20150927_111908_21559712779_otaken by the chap to wait, he went off and returned with his tuk-tuk,(pictured left with additional finger) loaded up my case and bag and headed off out for my first experience of Phnom Penh.

I was surprised by the number of scooters and motorbikes and the way they intermingled with cars and tuk-tuks with no-one seeming to come to harm. Vehicles coming the wrong way, people cutting across you it just seemed like an accident waiting to happen. I also put my sunglasses on, not because of bright sun but because of the dust in the air. Despite the seeming chaos on the roads I 20150918_071920_21319656540_omade it to the Hangneak hotel,(pictured right) checked-in, and was not overly disappointed when the card machine did not work so they could not take payment, and went up to my room, at the rear of the hotel overlooking a market,(pictured left) on the seventh floor, which was handy for the restaurant on the 8th floor.

After a rest I went out to walk the local area and found that just across the main road was a shopping mall, City Mall, containing the Lucky supermarket. I got some things for my breakfast the next day and went back to my 20150927_104800_21123860464_oroom then upstairs to the restaurant for a sun-downer and then my evening meal, As you come up the stairs there is a normal restaurant but turn left and it is open air, with a roof to protect you from the rain and lightning, and a great view out over the city, and, especially the Olympic Stadium which gave the area its name of Olympic. After the meal I retreated to my room and prepared for my first day at work the next day, induction day.


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