Posts Tagged ‘tuk-tuk’

Attempted purse-snatching and resulting injury

Posted in Cambodia on March 13th, 2010 by Vagablonding – 2 Comments

On Saturday, March 6th, after a long day of classes in the morning, afternoon, and evening, 5 of us English teachers (3 girls 2 guys) took a tuk-tuk to Phnom Penh and went to the bars by the Boeung Kak Lake (big backpacker area). We hung around the area having a great time until around 3am when we went to the Heart of Darkness, one of Phnom Penh’s most popular clubs. We had a blast dancing with the security guards and laughing at all the ugly old white guys with their hookers. We stayed till closing at about 4:30am. We figured since we were still so awake we’d walk to the river to watch the sunrise.

We didn’t make it to the river. As we were walking and laughing, all in a great tipsy mood, something terrible happened. A motorbike drove by and grabbed the purse of one of the other girls to try to steal it, but the strap didn’t break. She was lifted up, swept along, and slammed into the ground, landing on her shoulder and head. I didn’t see it because I was ahead of her, but I turned around when one of the guys yelled her name. She was lying in the road and was unconscious until we ran to her and shook her awake. We sat her up and the other girl and I held her up supporting her head while one of the guys got a tuk-tuk.

The tuk-tuk driver took us to Calmette Hospital, a Cambodian hospital where they don’t speak English much at all. I wanted to go to the International SOS Medical Center, a clinic for tourists where they speak perfect English and have Western doctors, but the other 3 in the group decided we should stay where we were. We communicated to the doctors that her head hurt and she couldn’t hear out of one ear. She was very confused, but conscious, and bleeding out of her ear at this point. The doctors decided to do a cat scan, this cost $115 and we all pooled our money to pay for it, but we were still $3 short and they wouldn’t do it. I guess we found another $3, I don’t know I was on my way to the SOS clinic to see if they were open (they were, they’re 24 hours), but anyway they did the scan.

The cat scan results came back and the doctors said everything was ok. There was one more bill to pay and I waited in the bill line forever and started getting upset because I was very frustrated, worried, overwhelmed, dehydrated and still drunk by now. It was 8:30am. The 4 others went back to SCAO and I went back to Okay Guesthouse.

We all slept the entire next day.

They day after that, Monday, March 8th, I went to SCAO and the girl still wasn’t feeling well at all. Her head still hurt a lot and she still couldn’t hear, so she decided to go to the SOS clinic. The doctors there took her injury very seriously and decided to medevac her to Bangkok in a private plane that night. In Bangkok she got another cat scan and it turns out she has a skull fracture.

She’s fine now and currently recovering in the super posh Bangkok hospital, but man was it a scary experience!

Lesson learned: Do NOT walk around in the streets that late at night, no matter how short the distance is or how safe you feel in a group. This can happen to anyone. Be careful; we weren’t careful enough.

Temple Day 1: Preah Khan, Bayon, Ta Prohm, and Pre Rup

Posted in Cambodia on February 20th, 2010 by Vagablonding – Be the first to comment

Thursday, February 18th, was day 1 of temple touring. First we bought our mandatory temple passes. The price was $20 for 1 day, $40 for 2 days, or $60 for 7 days. The thing about these passes, though, is that they are sold by a Vietnamese hotel chain called Sokha Hotel Inc. Guards are posted at all the entrances to the temples checking passes, so you have to buy one to see the temples. BUT this company does nothing to maintain the temples! They just give 15% of their profits to the very corrupt Cambodian government and keep the rest for themselves. UNESCO maintains the temples. This hotel company just has a huge scam going on to make a ton of money. It’s sickening and I’m sorry I participated in it.

The temples were all lovely, of course. First we went to Preah Khan, which ended up being my favorite. Built in the late 12th century as a Buddhist monastery, it is filled with beautiful carvings, reliefs, trees growing out of the walls, and tons of passages, rooms, and courtyards to explore. We were with our Intrepid group and we kind of rushed through, only staying for an hour. This wasn’t enough for mom and I so we ditched the group and stayed for another hour. I’m glad we did; there was so much more to see!

Preah Khan, Cambodia

Apsara dancers carving - Preah Khan, Cambodia

Preah Khan, Cambodia

Preah Khan, Cambodia

Preah Khan, Cambodia

Preah Khan, Cambodia

Next we took a tuk-tuk to Bayon, the temple with all the carved stone faces. Bayon was also very cool, but I’m glad we spent more time at Preah Khan and less at Bayon. Also Buddhist and built in the 12th century, Bayon has 37 huge towers and almost all of them have 4 large faces carved on them. We ran into our group at Bayon so we got a free ride back to the hotel. Good timing.

Bayon, Cambodia

Bayon, Cambodia

Bayon, Cambodia

We had a rest at the hotel and a walk for ice cream in the afternoon before heading out to Ta Prohm. Ta Prohm is famous because it was the setting for the movie Tomb Raider, and it is unfortunatly overcrowded for the same reason. It’s a lovely temple, notable for the many trees still growing out of and over it, but the large crowds and recently installed wooden walkways really detract from the expierience.

Ta Prohm, Cambodia

Ta Prohm, Cambodia

Ta Prohm, Cambodia

For sunset we went to Pre Rup, a Hindu temple built in the late 10th century. It’s quite tall so it made for a nice place to watch the sunset, despite the many other tourists who had the same idea.

Pre Rup, Cambodia

Sunset - Pre Rup, Cambodia

In the evening we had dinner at a place on Pub Street called the Temple Club where they had cheap drinks and a free traditional dancing show, a fine combination.

Cambodian Apsara Dance

Tomorrow we’re getting up bright and early to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. :)

Rice Rice Rice… Circus!

Posted in Cambodia on February 17th, 2010 by Vagablonding – 1 Comment

Tuesday, February 16th, was spent riding around in a tuk-tuk visiting all kinds of villages and wonderful charity centers around Battambang.

First we went to the Phare Ponleu Selpak NGO which takes in children and teaches them music, painting, computer animation, and circus performance. Some of the kids are housed, clothed, and fed there, and many others just come during the day. There are kids of all ages, from those who can just barely walk, to adults around age 22. It’s an excellent NGO, one of the best in Cambodia, and they are doing great work. Definitely don’t miss a visit if you’re ever in Battambang.

Music practice - Phare Ponleu Selpak NGO, Battambang, Cambodia

Kids - Phare Ponleu Selpak NGO, Battambang, Cambodia

Then we had a short stop at an orphanage where we met some cute kids.

Orphanage - Battambang, Cambodia

Orphanage - Battambang, Cambodia

Next we went to a village where bamboo sticky rice is made. I bought some, and as you can see below one of the tuk-tuk drivers wanted to steal it from me.

Bamboo sticky rice - Battambang, Cambodia

Hey pal, back off my sticky rice!

Bamboo sticky rice - Battambang, Cambodia

After that we went to a village where they make rice noodles. After being cooked the rice is made into a gooey paste.

Rice noodles - Battambang, Cambodia

Then the paste is pressed through little holes into boiling hot water.

Rice noodles - Battambang, Cambodia

The noodles are then rinsed in cool water and the noodles are ready to be sold.

Rice noodles - Battambang, Cambodia

We also visited a rice paper making village. Below you can see some drying on a rack.

Rice paper - Battambang, Cambodia

While there I made a little friend. She looked worried until she saw herself on the camera screen, then she was all smiles.

Girl - Battambang, Cambodia

Girl smiling - Battambang, Cambodia

We stopped at the Ptea Teuk Dong Street Family Center for a delicious lunch ($4). PTD takes in street families and abused women and teaches them vocational skills for 1 year including sewing, weaving, furniture making, food preparation, and agriculture. After a family completes the program they are given a plot of land with a small wooden house and start-up funds for a small business. Besides buying lunch I bought a super cute handmade purse for $5.

Lunch - Ptea Teuk Dong, Battambang, Cambodia

I had been feeling really dizzy all morning so mom and I ditched the rest of the tour and chilled out in the hotel for the afternoon. At 6:30pm we went back to the Phare Ponleu Selpak NGO for an hour long circus performance ($8). It was lots of fun. There are no animals, just people doing acrobatics and juggling. There were stories being acted out so I guess you could say it was like a play on uppers. The performers were very talented; the pictures don’t do them justice.

Circus - Phare Ponleu Selpak NGO, Battambang, Cambodia

Circus - Phare Ponleu Selpak NGO, Battambang, Cambodia

Circus - Phare Ponleu Selpak NGO, Battambang, Cambodia

Circus - Phare Ponleu Selpak NGO, Battambang, Cambodia

Afterward we had dinner at the restaurant there. It was very good, except for the questionable squid things that looked exactly like squid, with eyes and everything, but the chefs insisted was imitation squid… I skipped that dish.

Tomorrow we have a long-ass 6.5 hour boat ride down the river and across Tonle Sap Lake to Siem Reap. I hope it’s fun :p

Phnom Penh: Colorful Cambodia’s Capital City

Posted in Cambodia on February 13th, 2010 by Vagablonding – 2 Comments

Mom and I landed in Phnom Penh late at night on Friday, February 12th, after many hours of flying. The immigration process was painless; the visa cost $20 and customs stamped a lot of stuff I couldn’t see and took my picture. Unfortunately the official taxi stand closes around 10pm so we had to hire a random taxi which cost $9. From the taxi I saw a guy getting the crap kicked out of him by two other guys on the side of the road. Ouch.

We stayed the night at the Town View Hotel where we had a room with two twin beds, air-con, hot water, mini-fridge, and tv for $17 a night. It was very nice.

On the morning of Saturday, February 13th, we went to the top floor of our hotel and enjoyed the view before walking to a restaurant for breakfast.

View from hotel - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Buildings - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

For breakfast we got bread and jam for $1, Chinese fried noddles with veggies for $1.50, coffee for $0.70, and free tea. It was yummy; the bread here is delicious thanks to the French influence.

Breakfast - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

After breakfast we decided to wander in an arbitrary direction and we ended up coming upon a market full of fruit, flowers, meat, fish, and tons of people buying their food for the day.

Vegetable stall in the market - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Meat stall in the market - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Fruit stall in the market - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Market - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

In the market there were many beggars. I gave this lady a dollar because she let me take her photo.

Beggar in the market - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

We stopped to look in wedding shop with lovely dresses and over the top tiaras inside. There we met the people who own the shop. The man knew perfect English because he escaped from Cambodia to Australia during the massacre. He told us about the places he had been in the US, and introduced us to his wife and daughter. They invited us in and gave us cold bottles of water and a banana. The wife and daughter are learning English. The wife was too shy to practice on us, but I chatted with the 13 year old daughter for a while and her English was quite good. I exchanged emails with her and told her she can write me and keep practicing her English.

On the way back to the hotel for a rest we passed a celebration for the Chinese New Year. Men and boys dressed in red played music while men in dragon costumes danced into the temple.

Chinese New Year celebration - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Chinese New Year celebration, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

There were lots of locals watching the celebration as well and when the kids saw me taking pictures they wanted me to take their pictures too.

Local kids - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Also I saw this sign near our hotel, I think it’s hilarious:

Rambo sign - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

In the late morning we rested before checking out and taking a tuk-tuk ($3) to our new hotel, the Sokha Heng Guesthouse. The guesthouse is near the Royal Palace and the waterfront where the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers meet, a much more touristy part of town. Our room has all the same amenities as the Town View Hotel. I don’t know how much it costs per night because it’s included in the trip cost of the Intrepid Travel tour we are about to start.

Family - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

After checking in, mom and I wandered down to the waterfront to get some lunch. When we passed a Lebanese restaurant called Le Cedre I knew I had to get a falafel sandwich ($3.50) because they’re tasty… and also to make Ryan jealous 😉 it was very good, but I think the ones in Costa Rica were just a tad better.

Me at the waterfront - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Flags - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

There were more Chinese New Year celebrations going on at the waterfront. People were burning incense, leaving flower offerings, and releasing little birds into the air over the river for good luck. We sat in the shaded grass and people watched until it was time to go back to the hotel for our Intrepid welcome meeting.

Fruit seller - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

This guy wasn’t celebrating, just sitting on his motorcycle looking intense:

Man - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

For dinner we went out with our Intrepid group to a restaurant that employs orphaned kids, helps them learn English, and teaches them food service skills they can use to get jobs later in life. I was still full from lunch so I had a small plate of fries for $2 and an Angkor beer for $1. The kids that work there and also the beggar children know our group leader well. One little girl aged maybe 7 or 8 who was selling copied books started making fun of him saying ‘no way you don’t have a girlfriend!!!’ It was too cute. Not cute enough to get anyone to buy a book, though.

In the restaurant were THE most annoying tourists I have ever been around. This drunk middle aged fat Australian guy, along with his obscenely loud and equally pudgy daughter, was causing quite a scene when he very loudly and repeatedly asked the waiter if he could buy a marijuana cigarette from him and got douchy when told no. Apparently they are staying at our guesthouse because as I am typing this they are here in the lobby. His daughter is telling her brother about how he apparently crashed a bar playing music after leaving the restaurant, sat at the drum set and tried to play, then tripped over a stage light, broke it, and refused to pay for it, and finally got kicked out. Now he is eating a banana I just saw him pluck from the Buddhist shrine. What. An. ASS. I am trying to be all Dalai Lama and see this as just an opportunity to practice my patience but man is it hard.

Anyway, tomorrow we are going on a cyclo tour around the city in the morning. In the afternoon we are going on what our group leader has dubbed “the misery tour” where we will see evidence of Cambodia’s very dark and recent past at the Tuol Sleng torture centre and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek.