Sunday, July 9, 2017

Coming to terms with Kep 2

The last few days in Kep have been exactly how I imagined living in Cambodia would be. We get up as early as ever because the light pours into the single open plan room in which we live. It is the early morning and late afternoon hours that are the most agreeable so we plan to continue this practice even though I have never been a morning person. A stunning sunrise sometimes greets us and the doors are flung open to match the windows left open all night. No air-con is required as breezes and sometimes much stronger winds blow through the whole place, directly off the rice paddies, which surround it on three sides, while we consume a simple breakfast of yoghurt and fruit with coffee.

The mesmerizing rice paddy views are an ever present and calming reminder to live mindfully.

Next we either walk or ride to the market early in the day before the sun gets too searingly hot. Actually we mostly ride as once the sun comes out it is too easy to overheat. Funny how walking 10 kilometres a days was the minimum in Bhutan but now riding is way better than walking in terms of time spent exposed to the sun and the cooling effect the movement creates. Some days I'm shocked to see I have walked less than one kilometre, but I digress.

By mid morning we are home in our bamboo haven reading, writing or cooking up some treat. Currently we are revelling in having our very own kitchen again after almost six months of travelling and only occasionally being able to avail of other people’s. It's hard not to feel guilty about simply relaxing in the middle of the day but we are becoming ever more accustomed to allowing the weather or our own preferences to dictate our activities. Over the past few days we have both taken to not wearing our watches. 

In addition to the generous offer of allowing us the privilege of inhabiting this eco-friendly, low impact abode Madame also offered us the use of the pool in her own luxury beachside home along the coast. This has been a real boon and we have already cycled the seven and a half kilometres to her substantial family residence in the late afternoon a few times and certainly intend to do so every second day or so.

As I had hoped our quiet peaceful days are spent creating simple fresh fare and engaging in a healthy exercise routine of walking, cycling and swimming. Ian has dubbed this the “Keptathlon”.  Continuing the mindfulness and meditation practice I recently began in earnest has also become a priority. There is now time for the pastimes we have always enjoyed. We are getting to know a few locals and even hosted a lunch for the lovely young couple, who showed us around the various houses available for rent in the area. We have barely scratched the surface of exploring the local surroundings or the possibility of volunteering locally but that will come in the fullness of time and when we are securely entrenched with our one-year visas in hand.

After just over a week in Kep we truly feel we have landed on our feet and it's all going to be alright.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Coming to terms with Kep 1

Things miraculously fell into place on the housing front in Kep. On our final day there before returning to Phnom Penh, we saw a lovely bamboo house, which is situated about three  kilometres outside the main downtown area and fell in love with it immediately. The concern was that no one knew the rent or much about it and we had to just leave to fate how it would transpire.

After arriving in Phnom Penh we got the owner’s contact number and were told Madame would like to meet us as she was also in the capital. A quick phone call later and we were promptly informed that it was not available for rent but that she wanted to meet us anyway. Within a few hours it was agreed that we could stay there for three months while she was visiting Europe but her intention is to retire there to write her memoirs, at some as yet undetermined time in the future. The several meetings we have had since then to settle things, certainly suggest her life story would make an incredible book. She has also hinted that we may be able to extend that initial lease as she looks unlikely to retire from her business obligations any time soon. 

This arrangement suited us perfectly as we loved the property but were aware of a few drawbacks. Having an established verbal agreement before we set off for Bangkok was a huge load off our minds and gave us a clear idea of what we would need to purchase to set ourselves up upon our return, to say nothing of having somewhere specific to return to.

The house is both charming and unique having been designed by a Swiss architect. It is also well appointed and comes with a lot of bamboo furniture. Exactly our style and preference. The time frame also gives us a chance to look around for something else and trial living in the local community before we commit to a longer term lease.

After having spent a few days in Bangkok, we flew back and sailed through Cambodian immigration, this time getting the visas we coveted. We arrived in Phnom Penh in time to sign a simple personal “lease” agreement with our now landlady before throwing ourselves into the task of acquiring household appliances, essentials and treats to move into “The Bamboo House” in Kep. Knowing exactly where we would be living, enabled us to have a much clearer idea of what we wanted and needed while also putting off making many huge purchases, like fridges and beds.

At this point we really felt we had landed on our feet and the only major task that remains before us is to renew our one month visas for one year multiple entry versions. This can only happen just before they are due to expire.

By the time we checked out of the hotel in Phnom Penh we had a pretty amazing collection of assorted goods selected to make the best possible start in our ‘pre-tirement’ existence. The icing on the cake being two second-hand, Japanese, three speed bicycles.

With the help of hotel staff we rented van and driver, loaded our mountain of possessions into the vehicle early on Saturday morning and proceeded through traffic that was surprising not too congested, excited to be on our way to Kep.

Having thoroughly researched offerings in Kampot, we stipulated a required stop there to purchase two large cane shelf units we hoped would fit the decor of the house and enable us to store our plethora of electronics, books, clothes and miscellaneous other hoarded items collected from various points across the globe. I was dubious about being able to accomodate these large items inside the already packed vehicle but the driver was both encouraging and resourceful.

We easily navigated our way back to the property we had visited only once a little over a week earlier and launched into unloading and unpacking with enthusiasm in the worst of the midday heat. However our spirits couldn't be dampened at that point.

By the time we had unpacked and set up completely on Sunday afternoon we were already sure we wanted this lovely residence to be home for longer than the agreed to period but whether or not that is possible remains to be seen.

At the moment we feel blessed to be here and to have landed so firmly on our feet. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

oNe PhOtO a DaY JuNe 2017


THURSDAY 1st JUNE: Travel adventures are wonderful but returning to known territory, checking into a familiar hotel and going directly to a favourite eatery with sensational food is sheer joy. Glad to be back in Bangkok

FRIDAY 2nd BESTIES: A bit of a different take since my besties are almost 7,000 kilometres away right now. Reflecting on our time in Peru: the best meal, the best hotel, the best birding shot and the most famous sight of our trip. The besties of Peru

SATURDAY 3rd REFLECTION: The people waiting for the BTS (Skytrain) in Siam station are all a reflection in the transparent glass of the safety barriers. The reflection is more clearly visible when the coloured section of the train is behind the glass

SUNDAY 4th LOCAL: This is a local sign on public transport here in Bangkok

MONDAY 5th ROUND: The round or more accurately spherical lamp that sits on the reception desk in our favourite hotel in Bangkok

TUESDAY 6th COOKING: Just arrived in Phnom Penh and a minute from the door of our hotel is this stall. There is always something cooking in the street in Asia and the aroma draws you in. Tonight we ate at a fondly remembered ethical eatery but we may be tempted by those eggs come breakfast time. Great start Phnompers....

WEDNESDAY 7th ENTRANCE: The is the elaborate and ornate entrance gate to The Royal Palace Park in the river front area of Phnom Penh

THURSDAY 8th ARROW: The arrows on the Smateria brand product indicate that the materials are repurposed netting used in the fishing and construction industries, recycled plastic and leather offcuts. I love this label and their innovative products and today I got this to replace the worn out version I bought here almost four years ago

FRIDAY 9th FULL: Just wandered into Lucky supermarket and discovered a new full jar of Vegemite begging me to buy it. OK Aussie expat's dream come true. Bought one in NYC $12, another in Toronto $10, the next in Bangkok $8 and now Phnom Penh $4.20!!! Something tells me Cambodia is our kind of place and yes I'm a Vegemite addict

SATURDAY 10th MAP: These days we mostly get away with a phone and Google maps for navigating the streets or an iPad and Google Earth for the big picture of the country but today with one day left in Phnom Penh we picked up our first free tourist paper map

SUNDAY 11th STUNNING: The traditional buildings, the tranquil atmosphere of the internal courtyard and the treasures within at the National Museum of Cambodia combine together to all create a stunning impression

MONDAY 12th EXERCISE: We try to walk 10 kilometres a day everyday but the exercise I love best is swimming. For the last 4 days we have been in the rooftop pool every afternoon but today we took a dip in the morning before checking out and our bus ride to Kep. Thanks to Ian for snapping me doing my laps

TUESDAY 13th TIME: From the time we arrived at this hotel the pool was telling me it's time to swim and now that we have we will take the time to swim everyday while we can

WEDNESDAY 14th BEGINS WITH F: Frangipani flowers with their beautiful fragrance abound in Kep

THURSDAY 15th SYMMETRICAL: I have had a fascination with gates and doorways for a long time and this perfectly symmetrical Cambodian version is the stunning back gate of the Palm House Boutique Hotel in Kep

FRIDAY 16th MY STYLE: I guess almost everyone thinks they don't have a style: me too. If I think about it I have adopted the style and clothing of most the places I have lived so ...... a little bit ethnic, a splash of bohemian, a touch of outdoorsy and a good dollop of quirky. I am sure that all these photos were taken by Ian since I am the subject so thanks to him for recording the ever-changing faces of my style

SATURDAY 17th BOTTLE: We are very conscious of our Eco-footprint especially while travelling. We never buy anything in plastic, polystyrene or throwaway food or drink containers and carry our own shopping bags to avoid plastic ones, however the pet water bottles are difficult to avoid and weigh heavily on our conscious. This is the solution. We already have bottles and now the website will helps us buy less until we have our own water filter

SUNDAY 18th MAGIC: The ability to instil tranquillity even in difficult times is the magic of the ocean. Today I'm grateful to feel its influence

MONDAY 19th LETTER: Apparently in Khmer these two letters make up my name. I asked someone to write it for me today. Languages fascinate me and I am amazed by alphabets different from the one I know. I will have to test the theory and see if it truly does sound like my name when another Cambodian reads it

TUESDAY 20th Yay: On exactly the day we predicted and booked to return to Phnom Penh Ian's new passport was issued and ready for collection. Yay yay, yay! Hassle-free journey, prompt check-in and passport in hand - step one successfully completed and feeling blessed

WEDNESDAY 21st ON THE TABLE: This stunningly delicious Mediterranean Platter was on the table in front of me at ARTillery Arts Café tonight. I am so glad I chose it even though we will have to return now to taste the other tempting items on the menu

THURSDAY 22nd TEAL: is the colour of the fencing and gates of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh and this teal elephant is a detail on the street side of the gate

FRIDAY 23rd PARALLEL: We flew into Bangkok early this morning and the parallel red white and blue stripes of the Thai flag struck me as s fitting image for this prompt

SATURDAY 24th COLOUR SPLASH: I did download an app and do a real colour splash today but then it occurred to me that almost all my clothes are black, white or grey with orange being the only splash of colour these days so.... I found a suitable backdrop and asked Ian to take a colour splash of me. This is it straight out of the phone

SUNDAY 25th BLOSSOM: I see these strings of blossoms every time we are in Thailand. I know they adorn spirit houses, altars, cars and other offerings but I do not know why or even what the small white flowers they always contain are called. Today's prompt promoted me to buy a string as I have always wanted to

MONDAY 26th IN A STACK: Bangkok is always somewhere we arrive with a to buy list and despite having luggage left here to collect the same was true this time. Although the receipts don't look much in a stack they do amount to fair amount of money for a few "essential" items and now we sure have a stack of unusual looking luggage to contend with on the flight tomorrow

TUESDAY 27th OLD: This old, used, tourist visa was officially replaced today when we re-entered Cambodia and a long-term renewable "E" visa was issued. We are no longer nomads of no fixed address. We live in Cambodia

WEDNESDAY 28th NEW: This Swiss designed, open plan, bamboo house in the middle of the paddy fields 2 kms from Kep is our NEW home. We signed up for 3 months today and are sooooo excited to take up residence on July 1st. A series of serendipitous events made it all possible. Happy doesn't even begin to cover it

THURSDAY 29th WHITE ON WHITE: This is in a shop in Phnom Penh and I have admired its beautiful lacquer objects de art on several visits. I will eventually buy one but for today the stunning white on white display of a lacquer Buddha is the image I sought

FRIDAY 30th THIS IS WHO I AM: An orange loving, red haired, vegetarian cyclist, who is embracing the Cambodian lifestyle