Visiting Phnom Penh

Trip Start Oct 14, 2009
Trip End Dec 31, 2016

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Friday, November 22, 2013

I flew from Malacca to Phnom Penh. Elaine N, the Director of CambodiaPride, the nonprofit that had been Providing Rural Innovative Digital Education for children in Cambodia for many years, invited Adam H and I to Phnom Penh. The purpose of our visit was to help with the first weekend Workshop that Cambodia PRIDE had ever planned. The workshop objectives were to bring together XO Laptop teachers from the several organizations that CambodiaPRIDE has given XOs to over the years. Elaine’s goals for the Workshop were for the teachers to Learn Scratch and how to teach it in their organizations. And to address the need for software updates and repairs to the circa 2007 XO Laptops which are still being used in Cambodia and are the only model XOs that Cambodia PRIDE has.

I arrived in Phnom Penh the day before Adam. I Googled "If You Have One Day in Phnom Penh" and got a good recommended tour day. I hired Bo, a lovely Tuk Tuk driver that Elaine knew, for the day for sightseeing. Bo was great. He was happy to take me wherever I wanted to go, and to wait for me. f you are wondering how mch to pay, as I was, I also Googled Tuk Tuk Day rates in Phnom Penh and found that $20 is fairly standard & generous. I paid Bo $25 at the end of the day and he was happy!

I had gotten a Cambodian SIM card for my old Nokia phone upon arrival at the airport. Tip: I have learned that unlike  in Thailand, where you can set up and refresh your phone minutes at any Seven-11 or Mimimart, in Malaysia & Cambodia, you must present a Passport for copying, and fill out some forms in order to get a cell phone card. Since iti s not advisable to carry your Passport with you around these cities, it’s now  best to set up your phone, when you first arrive, in the airport arrival hall because you have your passport handy, from immigration already. If you did not do that, try bringing a copy of your passport, but don’t carry your original around as bag snatching does happen and replacing a passport is a major hassle.

Back to Bo & my sightseeing day: It is very handy to have a phone. When I finished up at one location, I could just call Bo and he would tell me where he was parked or zoom back for me. I loved the National Museum. Most of the Angkor treasures that were rescued from the Temples in Siem Reap are housed there. They are well curated with signs in multiple languages and I learned lots. My favorite Buddhas are the pre-Angkor ones from the 5th & 6th Centuries. There styles are similar to the Buddhas I have seen in Sukhothai. THe faces are very feminine and many of the body sculptures show flowing movement also. There were many interesting Buddhas and feminine figures (apsaras) and I saw Monkey Gods (Hanuman) and Vishnu & the Hindu Gods also. Photography wasn’t allowed indoors (which I understand given the age of the treasures. But I took some photos of the treasures outside that are already exposed to weather etc., and of the lovely building structure and gardens.

For lunch I headed over to "The Shop” on Street 240, a lovely western/french cafe & then I browsed the Cambodian design boutiques along the street. I went to Champei to try a Cambodian massage. The gal was earnest but the massage was unremarkable.  Another day, I snuck over to the Bliss Spa which I discovered on Street 240. There I had a foot massage with Rayuth. He was both gentle and strong. It was relaxing. and no kidding, the chronic swelling in my knee completely resolved for several days untiloI re-aggravated it climbing BTS stairs in Bangkok.

Bo also took me to Wat Phnom. It was the first active Cambodian Wat I had visited. The legend of Wat Phnom is that: In the 14th century, the old lady, Duam Penh was living at the chaktomuk, the future Phnom Penh. The capitol was Siem Reap. Lady Penh was gathering firewood along the riverbank and spotted a floating koki tree. She fished it out of the river. Inside the tree she discovered 4 gold Buddha statues. People believed this to be a sign that the capitol should be moved, and it was said to be a blessing. Lady Penh built a shrine on a western hill above theTonle Sap to house the sacred Buddhas. The hill took her name, and Phnom Penh was founded.

I took beautiful photos of the Temple Buddhas & other figures. Do scroll through and check them out.

I chose not to go to the Genocide Museum and “The Killing Fields” accessible to PP. I recently finished a great book about the era of hooror and genocide under the Khmer Rouge, 1975-1979. I am already awed at how kind and gentle the Cambodian people I met were. Everyone seems to smile, even men and women my age who were young adults during the awful reign of terror. Just walking and traveling by car around Phnom Penh I saw both struggles and poverty, and resourceful industry and reselling, in the shadow of the emerging upscale cafes, coffee, tea and sweet shops, and pricy boutiques, most ordinary people struggle but appear to be content & generous.

Adam arrived and Elaine took us to Khmer-Surin for a lovely dinner. The food was delicious. I loved the fish dish. It was served in a dish with several small round covered places. It tasted like a Thai curry but was served in individual bite sized portions and is eaten alone rather than with rice. Vanny has been Elaine’s driver and principal helper for a few years now. He joined us for dinner & it was fun to meet him again and to hear about his family. While Adam and I were there, Vanny had to drive a lot! We were in the car each day, more than 3 hours. I saw lots of roadside and neighborhood sites, including garment factories and open trucks filled with factory workers on their way home from work. It rained furiously, actually stormed, with lightening and thunder each evening, and when Vanny returned us to Elaine’s home, he had to then take a moto home in the rain. Thank you Vanny for being a good sport, for working long hours, and for getting us safely to and fro!

Where did we drive? We picked up Cambodia PRIDE’s teachers’ Channa and Mala from the bus. They had traveled 6 + hours to come to Phnom Penh to present the Scratch Workshop and teach! We had errands to run which included searching for adequate replacement chargers for broken ones for XOs. Adam and I even had a few minutes to checkout the historic Central Market. I bought 10 pair of headphones for the workshop there!

Then we went out to the FLOW orphanage. The Future Light Orphanage of Worldmate graciously agreed that Cambodia PRIDE could use their site and their fantastic computer classroom as the workshop venue. The beautiful campus is located out beyond the airport and in traffic, it was quite a trip. But we had wanted to meet Sopheak, the FLOW Computer teacher, and to check out the facility to be prepared with whatever supplies were needed. We found a well equipped classroom with good power sources and even Wifi. Hooray! Our workshop planning and strategies have started in earnest!

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