Monthly Archives: August 2013

I Heart Cambodia

IMG_6444The original title for this post was “You had me at croissant,” but on reflection, it didn’t seem right to correlate my affection for this country to a baked good, especially one that’s a legacy of French colonialism. Nevertheless, if you stick with me, I’ll explain my flakey pastry quip in a few paragraphs.

But back to my crush on Cambodia. I am really and truly enamored with this incredible nation and its people, despite the heat, the humidity and the fact that I have received more bites from my nemesis (the mosquito) while here than in my entire two months in Malaysia. So enamored that I even bought an “I heart” Cambodia t-shirt, despite being heard to say, “Why does anyone buy those silly tourist shirts?” in every other place we’ve visited. I think that’s called comeuppance.

How do I love Cambodia? Let me count the ways. Continue reading

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“Why did the world let this happen?”

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Cate asked the question half way through our visit to the Killing Fields, a 45 minute tuk-tuk ride outside Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. The site of atrocities almost impossible to fathom, where many of the estimated two million Cambodians killed during the Khmer Rouge reign of terror lost their lives in barbaric fashion.

She shook her head back and forth and looking into her eyes I could tell she was both dismayed and angry.

I didn’t have an answer. Continue reading

Categories: Cambodia | 5 Comments

“Rate our toilet, please…

IMG_2109…on a scale from very poor to excellent.”

Two things ran through my mind: “Are you crazy? How could anyone rate this bathroom even average?” The second was, “I’m in heaven! Toilet paper! Toilet seat covers! Hand sanitizer in the stall! Soap and paper towels at the sinks! Ooohhhhh!” Continue reading

Categories: Kids Only, Singapore | 3 Comments

Borneo: From the Sublime to the Mundane

His steely eyes stared back at me intently. Was it curiosity I saw in them? Uncertainty? Irritation? Maybe he was still waking up, adjusting to the light of the sun as it burned away the mist lurking over the murky river.

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It was almost unsettling how human he seemed in that moment. A macaque monkey hanging out on the banks of the mighty Sungai Kinabatangan river, eating his breakfast of leaves and scrutinizing the rag-tag group of travelers floating just feet away in a wooden boat. In that mesmerizing moment, I wouldn’t have been shocked to hear him admonish us for disturbing his morning bliss. “Yah, what d’you want? I’m trying to eat my breakfast in peace, man. Time to move along.”

But of course he didn’t. And of course we did – move along, that is. Continue reading

Categories: Borneo, Malaysia | Leave a comment

Risk is a Relative Thing

IMG_5950“Loosen your vice grip on the steering wheel,” I willed myself, as I scanned the ever-twisting mountain road ahead for pot holes (countless potholes), as well as other potential dangers, like oncoming drivers who seemed to get a thrill out of passing on blind spots. I averted my eyes occasionally to check the speedometer. Don’t drive faster than 70km/hour on a spare tire? That was the rule, right? Or was it 50? We weren’t sure. Continue reading

Categories: Borneo, Kids Only, Malaysia | 1 Comment

We hit rock bottom with Steven Seagal

Maximum-ConvictionThe day started off on a positive note. We arrived at the bus station on time, purchased our tickets and picked our seats. A tour bus rep sauntered over and provided a detailed overview of the day ahead, including all the ins and outs of the border crossings on our trip from Brunei to Sabah, Malaysia (many, many border crossings, resulting in 10 new passport stamps). To put things in context, this kind of informative overview is never provided here…  as in N.E.V.E.R. When you get on a bus, train or boat, you sit quietly and hope for the best.

The bus rep estimated (optimistically, it turned out) that the trip would take about 7.5 hours. Continue reading

Categories: Borneo, Malaysia | 5 Comments

Making friends in Brunei

No we didn’t meet the Sultan. But I guess we could have as I inadvertently timed our trip at the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Hari Raya festivities (the only time the Sultan opens up his palace to his subjects and visitors).

We did one better — we hung with a local family from Kuala Belait. Even for the geography buffs reading who can point out where Brunei is on the map and even its capital Bandar Seri Begawan, I bet you don’t know where we stayed.

When I first envisioned going to the island of Borneo, I didn’t give much thought to visiting the Sultanate of Brunei. Continue reading

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A New Malaysia

What do orangutans, longhouses and foosball have in common?

Your answer might be, “Uh, nothing.”

My answer: They can all be found in Kuching, Malaysian Borneo.

The name of the city, Kuching, is thought to derive from the Malay word kucing, meaning cat

The name of the city, Kuching, is thought to derive from the Malay word kucing, meaning cat

Continue reading

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Duality

“Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.”   – Paul Theroux

My eyes scanned the quote as I sat at the funky bar of the uber- cool rooftop lounge at the Singgahsana Guesthouse in Kuching, Borneo, chatting with an academic from Denmark whose area of study is travel and tourism, with a focus on “independent” travelers such as us. (Anders looked upon us with some fascination as apparently extended travels with children as young as ours – and three of them to boot – are not that common, at least not according to his research.)

Chilling with a Tiger beer at the Singghasana Guesthouse bar

Chilling with a Tiger beer at the Singghasana Guesthouse bar

Continue reading

Categories: Borneo, Malaysia | 4 Comments

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