Monday, 25 July 2016

Kicking It In Phnom Penh

"Every parting is a form of death, as every reunion is a type of heaven."
~ Tryon Edwards

After one of my best friends Amanda moved away to Phnom Penh together with her feline bosses Crumpet and Maneki, we stayed in touch via social media and e-mail, and Amanda would make occasional return visits to KL. Nic and I made a short trip to Phnom Penh over a week ago to spend time with Amanda and the cats.

Our plans were to have a relaxing trip, spend time with our beloved friends, visit some local tourist attractions and support local NGOs. I was not emotionally ready to visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Choeung Ek genocide memorial centre, and expressed my intention to both friends. Nic agreed. We had both read up on Cambodian history and the Khmer Rouge, and appreciate fully well that terrible things had happened. I was very badly affected watching The Killing Fields and am self-aware enough to know that I would not be able to deal with visiting the genocide memorial centres emotionally. Nic agreed, and we both believed that there are other ways of honouring the people of Cambodia, for example, by learning about their culture and supporting local communities, artisans and NGOs. So that was that. The genocide museum and Killing Fields were out of our itinerary.

I had a trying week trying to get my national ID and passport renewed just days before the flight, and Nic and I both had to arrange for petsitters, housesitters and boarding services for our canine and feline children. I was exhausted from lack of sleep and pretty much slept on the entire flight to Phnom Penh.
Taking a tuktuk from the airport to Amanda's place.
Rambutan Resort, one of the few LGBT-friendly resorts in the country. We stopped by for tea here.
Reunited and it feels so good.

Rambutan pie with coconut ice cream for tea at Rambutan Resort. Pretty incredible combination.
Lotus flowers and palm fronds at Rambutan Resort.
Amanda's awesome bamboo bicycle.
We were thrilled by all the healthy plants and fishes in Amanda's garden, managed and maintained by the landlady's son.
Amanda's sizeable balcony, where we had a lovely dinner of tortilla chips, homemade guacamole and white wine.
Maneki and The Crumps -- Yin and Yang. So good to be reunited with them.

The Central Market. Loving all its Art Deco architectural features!

Pastries and traditional cakes at the market.
Doing the touristy thing in front of random monuments and bridges.
Not sure what she's selling. I think it's palm sugar. Took a photo because it looks fascinating.
Typical Cambodian street scene. Some colonial architectural features there. And again, those crazy wires. Bunches and bunches of untidy telephone/electrical cables overhead. Everywhere.
"Friends 'N' Stuff": A great shop selling goods that help local communities and non-profits.
Friends Café at Street 13 serves tex-mex cuisine to raise funds for community projects and provide job opportunities and on-the-job business and culinary skills training to former street children.
Trunkh at Street 13 sells gorgeous artsy stuff, as well as Lucky Iron Fish.
Gorgeous folk art pieces at Trunkh.
For USD25, you get to bring home one Lucky Iron Fish, and another will be donated to a rural Cambodian family. This Canadian NGO does praiseworthy work to improve the health of rural families. I bought two online in the past, to be donated to Cambodian families in honour of Serina​ and Aravind​'s birthdays, so this is my third purchase of a Lucky Iron Fish.

Taken at the courtyard of the National Museum.
Getting USD1 Cambodian Ice Coffee from a street cart. It was served in what seems to be strong ziploc bags.
Outside the Royal Palace, while the Queen Mother stares at us with consternation.
The sign says 'Ministry of Cult and Religion'.
Gee, they actually have a government ministry overseeing the running and management of cults here. Where I come from, they'd just declare cults illegal and shut em all down!
Pyramids of lotus pods for sale everywhere.
At the Monument to the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk. Spot the mynah on the head of the King Father!
The Independence Monument, situated at the Traffic Roundabout Of Death, Where Nobody Observes Traffic Rules or The Traffic Flow, And Where Nic and CovertOps78 Narrowly Escaped Getting Run Over By Homicidal Tuk-Tuk Drivers.
Cocktail hour at Che Culo! with my two besties!

A Halal vegetarian Chinese Indian Cambodian restaurant.
This, my friends, is globalisation.
I had to take a picture of 'Arthur & Paul', an gay bar and hotel, even though we didn't enter it, because it has a Mondrian wall. OMG, guys. A Mondrian wall. This makes me so, so, happy. Can you sorta kinda tell I sorta kinda LOVE Piet Mondrian?
Managed to arrange for a meetup with my friend Julia who happened to be in Phnom Penh the same week! What serendipity!
Great lunch and a nice long chat, and plans to meet up again in KL.
Russian Market, Phnom Penh -- a very fascinating place.
Leatherworker at the Russian Market.
The whole population of Cambodia seemed to be out at the riverside of Tonle Sap on Saturday night.
Trying to decide where to go for dinner.
Bohr's Bookshop in Phnom Penh. Had to tear ourselves away to go have dinner.
Tapas at Friends Café. It was a busy night for them so service wasn't excellent, but the food was good and our support helps street children learn business and cooking skills.
Whole street of Happy Pizza places. We took away one from Pink Elephant.
Goodbye, my dear friends, until we meet again.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Urban Sketching: Phsar Thmei

A rough sketch I made of the Phnom Penh Central Market (Phsar Thmei) on 16th July 2016.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Vanishing Points

Vanishing Points
each verse and stanza is an inside joke.
our lives intersect once again.
three old associates
brought together by
coffee, cats and kismet.
we break bread
in easy companionship
over white wine and guacamole
as motorcycles putter in the street below
past jumbles of wires
and labyrinths of potholes.
that sleepless night as i feverishly sketched
the domed art deco roof of the market
on the back cover of a book
i thought about the pain and sweetness
and inevitability of parting.
now the parallel lines of our lives
that had converged
in this beautiful broken city
must again scatter.
we embraced and talked vacuities
of flights and schedules
so no tears would flow
until you are out of sight
a white speck on the horizon
as the tyres swerve and lurch
weaving past roadside offerings
and gaping fissures in the pavement.
stanza and verse
stanza and verse
wheels revolving on their axis
until they unite us once more.
a farewell
followed by a homecoming.
you take my backpack from my shoulders.
your hand feels large
and unfamiliar
on the back of my head.
happenstance too
brought you into my life
on our strange disparate journeys.
phantom lines
that should never have merged.
protocols of friendship
that should never have been broken.
you say something innocuous and gallant
and i reply that 'cute' is another way
the patriarchy describes 'non-threatening'
and ask if you do not find me threatening
as i try to match your stride.
your laugh is not unkind.
my dusty sneakers finally catch up
with your cowboy boots
as the car door slams
and the engine roars to life.
and i realise how this too
must end in a departure.
a delicate dance
of fractured hellos and goodbyes
when the trajectories of our lives
intervolve and collide afresh.
gam zu l'tovah.
i know that this, too
is for the best.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Down At The Farm

I accepted an invitation from Prof. Chan of the Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia to visit Kebun Kaki Bukit, an experimental organic farm managed by her friend David, over a week ago. It was a Sunday morning and I decided to make the trip on my way back to the parental home. I love to learn about permaculture and water-saving technologies, as well as edible gardening, and saw this as a good opportunity to explore the feasibility of organising a visit-and-volunteer session or just a field trip for Green Living.

It was quite a long drive and the farm is actually located in Kuala Selangor, near the firefly-watching site, and not Rawang. Response to Prof. Chan's invitation was fantastic and lots of city slickers turned up to learn more about sustainable and eco-friendly farming.
A selfie while we wait to receive our mugs of herbal tea containing pandanus leaves, borage, and all manner of yummy homegrown things.
A water-saving aquaponics system.
Another water-saving aquaponics system made using discarded ice cream tubs.
A vertical aquaponics planter.
A Herb Spiral.
Prof Chan introducing the farm volunteers, Maya and Katrina.

Yardlong beans!
Birds-Eye Chillies!
Cabbages! (I don't know why, but each time I see cabbages growing I think of John Betjeman. Probably because of a particular line in his poem, "Slough".)
Aquaponics gutters! With spearmint and other herbs growing in them.
Permaculture fish pond. The fish waste will be used as fertiliser.
Physalis plants!
Green rambutans!
Amused by the passionfruit growing out of a mango tree!
My friend Julienne is tickled pink by the invasive passionfruit, too!
David demonstrating hot composting.
Back to the grind, haha!

To arrange for a visit and explore the possibility of volunteering, please visit Kebun Kaki Bukit's Facebook page at: and contact David Mak for further information.