Tag Archives: Phnom Penh

10 Things I Can Do/Have in Phnom Penh (But Couldn’t in Manila)

1. Go to cozy and (even upscale!) bars and restaurants wearing the most ordinary white T-shirts and rubber slippers. In Manila, I can’t really do this because most establishments in the same range/scale have specific dress code – i.e., no rubber slippers even if they’re Havaianas! Here, everything and everyone is so laid-back, it is always easy to just decide to go to a bar even if your original plan was just only to go to the grocery wearing an attire that Fashionistas in Manila would definitely raise their eyebrows on!

2. Wake up, eat a decent breakfast (c/o a great housemate), get dressed for work and be there before 8:00 AM. Yes, you are reading this correctly. I am actually eating a decent breakfast here everyday and don’t arrive at work looking like a tornado has just wiped off my face. Living here is such a breeze because there is no traffic! I don’t have to wake up at 5:00 AM just so I can be at work by 8:00 AM. Yes, dahlengs, I can wake up at 6:30 AM, do my girl things and eat breakfast in an hour, and voila, leave home at 7:30 and reach work in just 15 minutes!

3. Be home early enough to watch TV Patrol, Kokey and Lastikman. Yup, yup, here in Phnom Penh, I have what people call “life-work balance” (wink, wink). In Manila, I would usually still be in a horrible traffic by 8:00 PM. Here, I am home by 6:30 PM, early enough to watch news from TFC (The Filipino Channel) and yup, even the fantasy soaps Kokey and Lastikman! My friends know that I don’t watch TV but yes, I am transformed here. I guess when you are out of the country, you somehow miss anything Filipino so much that even soaps that won’t even have 5 minutes of your time in Manila suddenly becomes a novelty, like a favorite dish that you can’t just have enough of. I fell in love with Kokey that I swear I’m gonna buy a Kokey stuffed toy (if there is such) when I am home for a visit.

4. Go to work in a tuktuk and feel like I own the world. In Manila, I either ride in my driver-driven car or in a taxicab. Here, I live a simple existence, happily enjoying the short trips to and from work even if it’s just in a tuktuk. It’s not air-conditioned, very sensitive to bumps and potholes on the road, and doesn’t have the “cushiony-feel” of leather-covered seats but hey, it gives me such a beautiful view of Phnom Penh’s street-life and allows the soft morning breezes to kiss my cheeks (ohh la la…)

By the riverbank

5. Be home on Sundays and watch The Buzz. Because I have less commitments and involvements here, I have 1.5 days of weekends all to myself! I don’t have to go out to catch meetings, dancing lessons or meet-ups with my ever-growing social circle in Manila. Sundays here are so lazy and free that I can still be in my sleepwear writing my blogs while watching The Buzz. Yup, yup, I am more or less updated now in the latest showbiz tsismis back home. Very unlike the Mei that my friends knew, the Mei who didn’t even know about the Kris Aquino-Joey Marquez break-up until it was about 2 months’ old news already.

6. Live without internet access at home. In Manila, I have unlimited internet account subscription at home. It’s like I couldn’t live without it. My whole life depended on it, from the time I wake up to the time that I’d call it a day. I couldn’t sleep if I didn’t open my Yahoo. But here, I’ve learned to live a “normal” life again, minus the pressure of surfing or opening my emails everyday. Besides, home subscription here is still expensive so I just check my Yahoo in the neighborhood internet café where speed is as slow as dial-up in Manila (hehe). But I can’t complain, they charge 1,500 Riel only for an hour of use (that’s about 16.00 pesos); still expensive if compared with rates in Manila but remember that Cambodia is still considered behind in terms of technology vis-à-vis other bigger cities in Asia.

7. Travel overseas just riding a bus! Since this part of the world is land-locked with Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos, I can go to these countries just by bus! Imagine the amount of money I can save on transportation even if they are considered overseas trips. In fact, I went to Vietnam last June and spent less than $100 only on a 3-day stay including my hotel expense!

8. Have a hair-cut using sign language and an old photo. Now, this should be in No. 1 but I didn’t remember it earlier. Here in Phnom Penh, most hair salons are manned by Khmer and sometimes, Chinese/Korean hair stylists. So having a haircut using English language is definitely a luxury. While there may be salons run by English-speaking stylists, they would normally charge such ridiculous fees that one would think they are giving you a new piece of head or face. One time, I badly needed a new hairstyle (my curls are getting ugly already) and after being shocked to discover that the English-speaking salon I first went to will charge me $90.00 for a hair straightening procedure, I decided to try a salon across the street, whose signage tells me it is run by a Korean. I looked at the male stylist focused on doing a man’s hair and decided this is the place. The Stylist’s hair was so perfect and chic-looking that I told myself, I won’t hesitate trusting him with my hair even if he comes from Mars. I was right; he didn’t speak any English nor understands it so I ended up showing him my old photo (I had the foresight to bring one) and gesturing through sign language how I wanted my new look to be. It was like an adventure; I felt I was about to go to the guillotine, not knowing if I’d still want to look at myself in the mirror after this lunatic decision. But yes, since you are reading this blog now, I didn’t commit suicide after this adventurous stint with an unfamiliar hair stylist. He actually copied exactly how my hair looked like in my old photo and later, I happily I told him (in my combination of sign language and English) that I loved what he did and I’m going back again.

9. Get a discount without even asking for it. One time, JR, my housemate, and I went to the market to buy fruits. Since fruits are very cheap here, we decided to buy lanzones, mangoes, mangosteen, and rambutan from an old woman in the market near our flat. We paid in US dollars but were given change in Riels. Because we were not yet very familiar with converting USD to Riels and vice-versa, it was a bit confusing for us. We were repeatedly counting the bills handed down to us; the old woman was repeatedly talking to us in Khmer, perhaps trying her best to explain to us why we are getting those bills. She was gesturing a lot, getting back our bills, counting them one by one again, giving them to us again; and then later, another woman who was passing by was also gesturing already. JR and I still looked totally confused. Finally, when I realized that our change was indeed correct and in fact, we even got more, I dragged JR out of the vendor’s stall or I’m afraid she’s going to throw us out already. Later, I explained to him that what we got was even more, realizing that the poor old woman must have gotten so frustrated with explaining the conversion to us that she actually gave us additional Riels more so we will already leave her in peace! JR and I were laughing all the way back home and can’t stop imagining how ridiculous we looked and how exasperated we must have made the old woman feel! Driving away stupid customers by giving them extra change is probably a trick that vendors normally resort to if things get really tough. ;-)

10. Spend less than $20 in personal phone bills a month. In Manila, I maintained two subscriptions in Globe and this means paying about $80-90 a month! Here in Phnom Penh, sending SMS and making calls are much cheaper and because I have a smaller social circle here, I don’t spend much on personal phone bills. It’s cool to realize that I live a much quieter and simpler life here. Besides, my only real close friend here is also my housemate and that means spending less on SMS and phone calls because I can always tell him how my day went, face-to-face, minus the fear of ever-growing cellphone bills. :-) Ahhh…life in Phnom Penh really rocks!

[Re-post of a blog dated November 9, 2007 (from my previous site).]

_______________

This is not a paid blog.

Little Joys, Quiet Moments

I have been here in Phnom Penh for two weeks now, JR reminded me the last time we chatted through YM. “Oo nga ano…”, I replied back. It seems just like yesterday when I was walking through the immigrations of Phnom Penh International Airport. Not bad, for someone who was a bit apprehensive about going to a place that sometimes reminds one of wars and sufferings.

Phnom Penh at night: glowing like a rare jewel.

What have I seen and felt the past two weeks? For one, I feel so much gratitude in my heart. Not because of big things happening, no. In fact, my life these days is as simple as it can get. I wake up, take a shower, go out and explore the sights and cafes /restaurants around, open my emails, surf the job websites, have dinner by myself or friends, then go back to my hotel. Sometimes, I attend meetings (I once attended a forum on human trafficking) and meet fellow consultants. My life, nowadays, is so…how shall I describe it in one word? Quiet? Serene? Perhaps. I have not felt this much peace in a long long time. And I feel so grateful because everyday brings little joys.

Let me share one perfect example. These days, I have the services of a favorite tuktuk driver. Well, I have appointed him my “personal” driver because as I have shared in my previous e-mail, some tuktuk drivers don’t speak and understand much English. And in a city like Phnom Penh (especially for a woman), traveling the streets could get really challenging. When I discovered this guy outside my hotel and had experienced one nice ride with him, I decided that he’s gonna be my favorite driver in Phnom Penh.

For one, he speaks conversational English and has a cellphone (I am not saying this in a condescending way). Secondly, he doesn’t make me feel like he’s robbing me in broad daylight – this is especially significant because sometimes, tourists (admittedly, even in other countries) can feel a little “harassed” by some service providers who tend to think that all tourists are rich people (again, this is not meant in a discrimininatory way). He never ever tells me how much to pay him, never. I just give him what I feel is a just fair given the distances traveled (with additional tips). And always, he bows with so much gratitude everytime I pay him. He holds the money with both his hands, puts it near his heart, and bows his head.

I find it also touching that even if his English may be limited at times, he points to me landmarks and historical places that we pass by on the way to my destinations. Sometimes his style of messaging gives me a smile (once he texted me, “Now I am here down hotel, please come now.”) but I never really mind. I understand him and that’s all that matters. Last night, it rained so heavily and some streets were flooded and I worried that he will not be able to fetch me anymore (from the cafe where I was spending the whole afternoon and most evening checking my mails and chatting with JR). But yes, he was there, half-dry and half-wet, a little late maybe, but yes, he was there to bring me back to my hotel safely. We negotiated through the rains and he found alternate routes…I was safely back in my hotel before 10:00 pm. When these things happen, who can’t help but say a prayer of gratitude?

And then there are the very gracious waiters and waitresses who always serve my meals with such sweet and heartwarming smiles. Khmer food is really yummy and the satisfaction is enhanced because they are served by people who are generous with their smiles. Now, I am seated in an outdoor cafe by the river (wi-fi use is free!), with a nice mug of green tea beside me, writing this blog. What more can I ask for?

I miss my friends and family. I miss the chaos of Manila! But yes, I am falling in love with this place. It still scares me sometimes but I think I wouldn’t mind calling this my home for a while.

Cambodia is giving me so much. I hope I can give as much in return.

[Re-post of a blog dated June 16, 2007 (from my previous site).]

__________________

This is not a paid blog.

Getting to Know Cambodia

I am now in Cambodia! I arrived last Friday, June 1, the first day of my birth month (a nice way to start one’s birth month, right?) I stayed overnight in Singapore last Thursday (May 31) and was able to bond with my good friend, Len Pagalanan and her friends who, incidentally, all hail from Cebu.

Anyway, Len, her friends and I met up at Orchard Road (literally!), and just sat on a bench by the road and enjoyed Singapore’s local beer, “Tiger.” It was truly a memorable night in Singapore! We had so much fun talking and swapping stories including break-ups and heartaches! Seems to me that it’s really therapeutic to just talk about your heartaches with fellow women (and ok, even men!). It was also great being with Len again after such a long time. Like me, she also had to “run away” from Manila to settle some personal struggles. Well, I could see that she’s well on her way to recovery (if she’s not yet there? Although seeing her, it seems like she’s already found her peace). Way to go, Len!

Stopover in Singapore. It is nice to see that Singapore is keeping true to its environmental management principles.

It was also great seeing Singapore again. It is one of my favorite places in the world because of its seriousness in keeping the air and the environment clean. In Singapore, you can still enjoy walking along tree-lined boulevards despite the growth in the real estate sector. I hope that it can continue its wise environmental management despite its massive infrastructural projects.

Anyway, I am typing this blog in my hotel room here in Phnom Penh. Luckily, they have free internet access in rooms and the technician helped me set up my LAN connection. Not bad, huh? I’ll be staying in this hotel for maybe a couple more days because I am still looking for an apartment so I can afford a longer stay.

Yesterday, Tito Frank, a good friend of mine who’s been here for more than a couple of years already toured me around the city and I was able to take some photos already. I have just posted some of them here in Friendster. Sorry, I can’t put the correct names of the landmarks yet as I didn’t bring a notebook yesterday. One thing I noticed here is that the drivers are also aggressive (wink! wink!). If I can’t drive in Manila, it’s equally challenging here. :)

The FCC in Phnom Penh reminded me of Cafe Adriatico in Manila :)

I spent my first night here drinking the local beer, “Angkor”, with Tito Frank. I love the FCC (Cafe); it reminds me of a Malate bar like Cafe Adriatico. But of course, I missed Manila when we entered the place. Nostalgia enveloped my whole being. One thing special also about the FCC is the fantastic view of the river if you’re seated by the wide veranda.

The FCC is located in Sisowath Quay (also called as Riverside Street). The next day (yesterday), we cruised along that street. It hugs the sides of Bassac, Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers and on one side, you’d find more cozy bars, cafes, and restaurants. I told Tito Frank I want to live in that side of the town but unfortunately, when we checked out apartment rates, they are really very expensive (one studio apartment costs $750/month). But the view is really nice…can you imagine waking up in the morning and just walking towards your veranda to see the magnificent view of the water with its silver reflections on its surface? <Sigh!> Anyway, I told myself to stop dreaming…but who knows?! Maybe I’d end up in one of those apartments in the future! :D Here are some of the photos that I took in the vicinity.

A part of rRverside Street in Phnom Penh (also called Sisowath Quay).

A mobile vendor plying his trade along Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh.

Some of the boats offer cruising services (some are floating restaurants, too).

The next agenda yesterday was to eat lunch and I was so glad because my friend brought me to a Pinoy restaurant owned by a gracious lady named “Helen”. Ang sarap ng dinuguan dun! Then another friend of mine (Idon) joined us for lunch. Later, we went to Idon’s place (he’s sharing the flat with his sis, Ate Cel). We enjoyed the whole afternoon just swapping stories about their Cambodia sojourn and of course, I was able to get bits and pieces of what Cambodia really is. I am excited to know more. We promised each other that we will go to Angkor Wat, and maybe even Vietnam. Imagine, you can go to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) from here by bus for about 6 hours. Not bad!

I want to see the museums soon. I was told of the horrible reminders of the war and the killings…and I am sure I will be horrified, too. It is always a big mystery why certain people can do such a violent and senseless act. We all feel sad whenever we are reminded of wars. However, those memories make us appreciate the peace that we are enjoying today and move us to do more concrete steps so we can lessen, if not totally eradicate, such events again.

What is my first impression of Cambodia and particularly Phnom Penh? Well, it is like a provincial city like General Santos and Davao but definitely, it is also very unique. It has its own character. The streets could be chaotic and noisy, too, but there is also some quiet dignity in the place. So far, I like what I am seeing. I am a little anxious because I am a complete stranger here but the city seems smaller (compared to Manila, for example) and I’m sure, even if I will get lost sometimes, I’d still find my way eventually. Is this too much wishful thinking? :) Watch out for my new adventures!

[Re-post of a blog dated June 2, 2007 (from my previous site).] 

________________

This is not a paid blog.