Friday, January 7, 2011

January 5 - Fun places, familiar faces.

Yesterday, we decided to take the day to go and visit Honour Village Cambodia (HVC) instead of going to Savong’s Orphanage.  Although we’ve pretty well decided we will do some work with Savong, we’re not quite sure if there will be enough work for 2 full months, especially for Gordon, so we thought it might be a good idea to check out other options.   We’d made tentative arrangements to have HVC’s tuk-tuk driver, Tee-Tee, take us there at 9 am, but discovered (too late) that he was already booked for the day, and could only take us the next day at 3 pm.  We’d already missed our tuk-tuk to Savong’s, so decided to make the best of it, and use the free time to our advantage. 
We still had some things we needed to buy to get ourselves settled into our temporary digs, so we headed out to Old Market, known to the Cambodians as Phsar Chas (Phsar means ‘market’).  A mere 20 minute walk from our guesthouse, Old Market is the place to go if you want to buy just about anything, from fresh food to hardware and everything in between.  You want souvenirs?  How about pig’s feet?  Calvin Klein socks?  Wooden Buddha statues?  Fresh (live) fish or shrimp? How about pashmina scarves (how many dozen did you want)?  Silk pillow covers?  Jewellery?  Spices?  Bicycle parts?  You name it, they’ve got it, probably a knock-off, so buyer beware!  However, if you're willing to haggle, there are plenty of bargains to be had.  Have a look at these pictures, and you’ll see what I mean.  Here's a pic I took on our first day there....

We went armed with a list – thermos carafe for hot water, mugs, paring knife, another small shelf unit, basket to put fruit in, some shirts for Gordon, fruit to put in the basket.  We located all our wares & produce within less than ½ hour, so with haggling done, we grabbed a tuk-tuk back to the guesthouse.  Gordon is now the proud owner of two Ralph Lauren shirts (knock-offs) at $10 apiece, and I finally got my first, but definitely not my last, jack-fruit for this trip.  Yummmmmmm.  If you’ve never tried jackfruit, you’ll probably either love it or not.  It tastes somewhere between a pineapple and a banana, with something else sweet thrown in that I can’t quite identify... I’ve heard some say it’s like bubble gum.  It’s true, the texture, or mouth feel, really does remind me of Double Bubble, and I can eat it until I’m stuffed.  (I must have swallowed my gum when I was a kid – hah!) 
Another fruit I adore, and buy as much as I can here, is pomelo.  The pomelos we get in Canada pale by comparison.  Gordon and I eat a lot of fruit when we’re here -  We like to try all the really exotic fruits, different ones than we can get at home.  Mangosteen, rambutan, longan, milkfruit.   Delicious! 


Rambutan - these ones are a day old, so the skins have dried out a bit

I’ve yet to try durian.  I hear it’s supposed to be extremely tasty, but the smell of it will clear a room in no time flat, and for that reason, I’ve never eaten it.
Last year when we volunteered for the Ponheary Ly Foundation, we became friends with a 17 year old girl, Jaz, and her mom, Jessica, from Vermont.  A few months ago, Jaz, Jess, and Steve (Jess’s husband) decided to come to Siem Reap to live for a year, so we called them up and were invited to have lunch at their home.  They rent the upper half of a huge home, less than a 10 minute walk away from our guesthouse, so we strolled over, picking up some baguettes at the bakery and a bottle of red wine at the ‘drink shop’.  Wine and liquor are readily available in most ‘corner stores’, and are about ½ the price we’d pay at home.  What a treat it was to visit Jess, Steve & Jaz!  We sat on their open balcony, sipping red wine, and eating Khmer food prepared by Jaz’s boyfriend, Sovann.  The conversation drifted around  to Steve’s volunteer work as a kindergarten teacher, and as a result, Gordon offered to build some easels for Steve’s class.  No question, Gordon’s woodworking skills are in demand here, and he loves to do it.
Enjoying a leisurely lunch (with wine)

Sovann cooked a wonderful dish loaded with fresh ginger.  Scrumptious!

Jessica, chillin' out.
I’ve been waiting for last night to come for almost a whole year.  On our last trip here, we would go to Soria Moria Restaurant on Wednesday evenings for their $1 night.   Yes, they have a special menu Wednesday nights where everything is one dollar!  Even a glass of wine!  The two of us can get a meal, including two glasses of wine each, for $9 total ($10 if you include the tip.  Doesn’t it make you people at home want to cry?)  Although the food was fantastic, and the prices were outrageous, the best part of last night was reconnecting with Chandy, one of the waitresses that we became good friends with, and have kept in touch with since then.  Chandy and her husband Yan are both university students in their mid 20’s, working their way through school.  (In Cambodia, very few people get the opportunity, or have the money, to go to university.)  It was a great reunion.  We were so delighted to see her again, and made some tentative plans to have dinner together when she & Yan have a day off.
This time around, coming back to Cambodia has been so different.  Everything is so familiar.  We made so many good friends last time, and they’ve all welcomed us back with hugs and warm greetings.  Almost everywhere we go, we recognize people and see things that bring back good memories.  Amazing to think It’s only been six days since we arrived, and yet it feels like we never left. 
And one more thing.... speaking of friends & visitors... We had a little visitor spend the night in our room...
(a 5" lizard on our ceiling)

.............but we didn't mind, because he keeps the mosquito population down.

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