Monday, June 28, 2010

What On Earth Are We Doing?

That's a big question - I think we should all ask ourselves that question from time to time but I really just meant we'd let you know what are we doing in Cambodia...

Well, after our time at the orphanage in India we got to thinking that we'd like to see some other organisations that are doing good things for struggling communities. We had considered Africa and South America but as both funds and time are running out we decided to look in South East Asia instead. Whilst in Langkawi we contacted a number of organisations that we had researched on the Internet and organised for some visits. Cambodia seemed to have a great deal of attention in the NGO world so we thought that it would be a good place to start.

We have already visited an orphanage in Phnom Penh and are having dinner with one of their staff tomorrow night to learn more. Yesterday we met an Aussie & 3 Canadian interns working on a water project in rural Cambodia and also an American father-daughter team who were involved in a number of activities with aid organisations. In the next few days we have some more meetings scheduled with other organisations to learn about the range of projects that are offered. We also have contacts in Siem Reap and in Chiang Mai, Thailand who are primarily focused on school building projects.

We are learning a lot about what is out there and we hope to share this with you all in the coming weeks & months via this blog.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Where in the world have we been?

It’s been a whirlwind 3 weeks since we last blogged. Since then we’ve shopped in Kualu Lumpur, lazed by the beach in Langkawi, Jazzed it up in Hua Hin, been caught in flash flooding in Bangkok and are now comfortably settled in Phnom Penh.

We’ll do the highlights in point form to make it easier for those with poor attention spans:

• Getting back to “modern civilization” (KL) after hot, sweaty and chaotic Kolkata
• Miriam’s first breakfast – muesli, fruit & yoghurt
• Watching the World Cup with fellow travelers in Langkawi
• Romantic dinner on the beach on a tropical island

• Spent 3 days being entertained by the annual Hua Hin Jazz Festival
• Meeting loads of interesting people at the festival -
 a UK couple who retired here after years spent in Dubai;
 a multi-millionaire businessman, his two Thai ‘maids’, his purple jack russell cross & snappy alsatian cross, (we popped back for drinks at his beachside villa);
 a guy from Florida, now teaching English at a school in a nearby town.
 the millionaire’s ex-wife at her Thai speaking home church, along with some other members (enjoyed some local cuisine, sticky rice, spicy dip etc.);
 a French & Thai couple at a seafood restaurant, who spend 6 months here, 6 months in France, and a lot of time in Bali by the sounds of it.
• Having dinner at a road-side cafĂ© in Bangkok when the heavens opened and the water rose & rose and rose…watching the antics of a crazy guy, shopkeepers and foreigners was very entertaining, it wasn’t until the water reached our feet and the cockroaches started climbing onboard that we decided to leave, wading through knee deep water home.

• We only just got here but we did have a lovely wine & cheese night in our room whilst watching the New Zealand World Cup match last night

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Goodbye India, it's been real....

Well, the Indian holiday is almost over now as we leave the cool Himalayan foothills tonight and endure a 14 hour bus ride, 18 hour train ride and then 4 hour flight. We’re not looking forward to the travelling as it will be through some of the hottest parts of India where the scorching summer heat is reaching +45C. Luckily on the train we are in an AC compartment – let’s hope it doesn’t break down. SE Asia here we come....

Our time in Manali was hampered by Miriam catching a cold and thus preventing us from doing some of the walks we had planned. This was no real problem though as our hotel was very good, the balcony view was awesome and even the room-service was better than average. For someone who has never been in snow (Brad), the alpine peaks beckoned and after Miriam’s cold had abated, we headed by bus to the nearest skiing slope to try and scavenge enough snow to make a snowman (or castle). Alas we were about a month too late and the only action on the slopes was zorbing and paragliding with the nearest snow a long way off. At least my favourite conversation piece is still intact – Northern Europeans/Americans are amazed by the fact that a well-travelled gentleman as myself has never been in snow…

Top 3
Awesome views from balcony – not bad for a $10 room
Momos (Tibetan Dumplings)
Long, strenuous walk up a hill and being rewarded with “Sound of Music” scenery

Bottom 3
Miriam’s cold (she’d recovered by the end)
Manali Cider – not nearly good enough
Lack of snow

Dharamsala / McLeod Ganj
Back in the 50’s things were getting a little bit hot for the Dalai Lama in Lhasa, Tibet so he decided to form a government-in-exile somewhere which turned out to be here in India. The town is at 2000m so escapes the relentless heat of the plains and has a pleasant, Tibetan feel. Large numbers of Tibetans have fled across the dangerous path between Tibet and India and most make their home here, waiting for the possibility of an independent Tibet so they can return home. Many of the cultural traditions and skills are being preserved here and the excellent museum (I’m usually not a big fan) offers an insight into an ancient society that sadly, might not be around for much longer. Having been to Lhasa, Tibet in 2007 I wish I had visited this place beforehand or at least read a few more books on the topic as to appreciate what I was seeing.

Since Miriam had been well for a few days, she decided to eat something toxic and then spent the next few days violently expelling it out. She’s really not had a good trip since the orphanage with 3 separate illnesses pretty much spanning the entire month away. As for myself I’ve been in good health most of time and have started to climb the nice, but predictable hotel room walls. This has been the most social of all places for me as I’ve had long talks with fellow Canadian, Iranian-German, Danish, American and Spanish travelers. The female part of a Canadian couple was feeling a bit like Miriam so the male part and I went for a great walk up a steep hill in manly fashion, neither of us daring to call it quits for fear of being un-manly. During the hike we discussed our deadly creatures and it’s been decided that bears, crocodiles and snakes are hardly worth worrying about but a badger-like critter called wolverines are just plain nasty.
Miriam eventually recovered and yesterday we went for a great walk, visiting 2 nearby towns and even played a bit of pool where Miriam soundly beat me twice in a row.

Top 3
Meeting lots of interesting people who have seen snow and can speak many languages
Learning about Tibetan history
Bacon & Eggs for breakfast….it’s been so long……

Bottom 3
Miriam sick…again
Met an elderly New Yorker with severe Parkinson’s disease – impacted me a bit
Missing out on seeing the Dalai Lama – Couldn’t go as Miriam was ill….