I Thought I Saw a Spider, But…

This afternoon, we visited Wat Phnom, a Buddhist temple. It was built in 1372, and stands nearly 30m tall. It is the tallest religious structure in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. In fact, Wat Phnom is the central point of Phnom Penh. We are lucky that Wat Phnom was so close to our hotel; it was a roughly 10-minute walk in.

I learned that the sanctuary itself was rebuilt several times in the 19th century and again in 1926. The interior has an altar complex with a large bronze seated Buddha surrounded by other statues, flowers, candles and items of devotion and worship.

There were plenty of great photo opportunities.

We didn’t walk into the temple since no photos were allowed, and it was very busy/crowded and smoky with the burning of incense.

I don’t typically wear sunglasses, but the sun is ridiculously bright here and I’d hate to have squinty eyes in all my photos. Dad’s becoming a really good photographer and I really appreciate having him here for all these candid shots. 😎

Grandpa and I lounged around the pool again in the afternoon. When we come back tomorrow, he would like to drink fresh coconut water from a coconut, which we can order from the bar.

In the evening, we took a tuktuk to Khmer Surin, an authentic Cambodian restaurant.

Here, we enjoyed:

  • fish amok (Goby fish in banana leaf)
  • pineapple fried rice in a pineapple – this was my favourite part
  • deep-fried seafood and vegetables with sweet chili sauce
  • spicy chicken green curry
  • sour lime coconut soup with mushrooms and shrimp
  • chewy tapioca balls in coconut cream
  • mango ice cream
  • coconut ice cream in hot chocolate sauce

When we got home, I washed my hands in the bathroom and noticed something on the ground that, upon first glance, I’d assumed was a spider. It wasn’t – it was actually a teeny, tiny baby gecko!

What a peculiar and cute way to end the day. I really think those little geckos are too cute.

Plans for Tomorrow

  • Russian Market
  • Wat Langka
  • Independence Monument
  • Statue of King Father Norodum Sihanouk
  • Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument
  • Wat Ounalom
  • Poolside Grandpa gets coconut drink

Lunch and Dinner Restaurants for Tomorrow

  • Romdeng
  • Friends

Have a beautiful, lovely afternoon, everyone 🙂

I Needed Ice Cream

Hello! It’s now 8:03 AM on Sunday, January 7. It’s been an incredible first week of 2018 so far, and it’s just getting better and better.

Last night, Grandpa and I went for a walk – but not before the waistband of his PJs broke and we had to stitch it up with a makeshift needle made of a bent bobby pin and a bandaid. It was fun to improvise this creation.

Afterwards, Grandpa showed me his diary. Since he’s learning English, he writes entirely in English. It’s truly so impressive, and he’s so humble about it.

Dad and I went for a walk to the Tonle Sap, a river that eventually becomes the Mekong river. I learned that the low tide level of the river in Cambodia is lower than the high tide out at sea, and the flow of the Mekong inverts in Vietnam and up to Phnom Penh. The flat Mekong delta in Vietnam is prone to flooding near the Cambodian border.

We liked the Sisowath Quay a lot, and it was fascinating to see all the different boats and guess what they were used for.

Afterwards, Dad took a bit of a nap while Grandpa and I went for a little walk. We explored the pool, the fitness centre, the massage clinic, and both cafes. It was very enjoyable to watch the sun set.

For dinner, we dined at a restaurant called Khéma. Khéma is a French restaurant on Pasteur Street. I ordered the lobster bisque, which had a piece of crab ravioli underneath, as well as a cheese gratin. Grandpa loved his cheesy French onion soup. We were lucky to receive a complimentary plate with pate and sausage.

Dad liked his carbonara, which had thick-sliced bacon and a rosemary garnish. Grandpa’s spaghetti bolognese was, according to him, typical. My mozzarella and spinach cannelloni was quite tasty, too.

For dessert, I had the chocolate fondant, AKA molten chocolate lava cake. There was so little vanilla ice cream, and I needed more to go with the rest of the chocolate cake, so I ordered an extra scoop. I am, in case you haven’t noticed, in love with hot chocolate desserts and cold vanilla ice cream. This was a beautiful way to end the day.

This is the view outside our hotel. The blue skies and grassy knolls are beautiful.

Brunch at Feel Good Cafe consisted of:

  • potato, pepper, onion, and cheese omelet for me, with tomato relish and baguette bread
  • Dad had scrambled eggs with potato hash and bacon
  • Grandpa ate fish and rice porridge with some veggies and garnishes

After the meal, I savoured this hot cheesecake tart. It was divine and reminded me of a different, but equally delicious, version of the cheesecake tarts I devoured when living in Toronto last year.

The brunch came to just over $20 USD, including drinks.

Then we returned home so I could plan a few things, check out the maps, and consider doing a trades course with Dad and Grandpa and some local professionals via Backstreet Academy.

Keep updated for more! The next few days are sure to be exciting – then we’re off to Angkor Wat, which is in the city of Siem Reap.

A Café with a Beautiful Cause | Royal Palace

Good morning!

This morning, I felt great and refreshed after a long, cool shower – then we hopped onto a tuktuk to our first tourist attraction. We also thought it was cool that Jacqueline Kennedy stayed in our hotel, Raffles, during her stay in Cambodia. Jacqueline Lee Kennedy Onassis was the wife of the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, and First Lady of the United States from 1961 until his assassination in 1963.

The Royal Palace cost about $30 USD for the three of us to enter, and it was worth every dollar.

It was in the mid-thirties in terms of temperature, and while we were uncomfortably hot, the sights made up for it. What a beautiful place.

There was plenty to see. From Wikipedia:

“The Royal Palace (Khmerព្រះបរមរាជវាំងនៃព្រះរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជាPreah Barum Reachea Veang Nei Preah Reacheanachak Kampuchea), in Phnom PenhCambodia, is a complex of buildings which serves as the royal residence of the king of Cambodia. Its full name in the Khmer language is Preah Barum Reachea Veang Chaktomuk Serei Mongkol (Khmerព្រះបរមរាជវាំងចតុមុខសិរីមង្គល). The Kings of Cambodia have occupied it since it was built in 1860s, with a period of absence when the country came into turmoil during and after the reign of the Khmer Rouge.”

“The palace was constructed after King Norodom relocated the royal capital from Oudong to Phnom Penh in the mid-19th century. It was built atop an old citadel called Banteay Kev. It faces towards the East and is situated at the Western bank of the cross division of the Tonle Sap River and the Mekong River called Chaktomuk (an allusion to Brahma).”

“The complex is divided by walls into four main compounds. On the south side is the Silver Pagoda, to the north side is the Khemarin Palace and the central compound contains the Throne Hall and to the west is the private sector or the Inner Court. The buildings of the palace were built gradually over time, and some were dismantled and rebuilt as late as the 1960s. Some older buildings date back to the 19th century.”

For lunch, we dined at the beautiful Daughters of Cambodia restaurant. It is a very special place, because it changes the lives of girls forced into the sex trafficking trade by teaching them to cook and sew. According to their site, Daughters of Cambodia helps at least 100 girls each year walk away from sex work, and experience psychological and physical healing while improving their quality of life. Eventually, many girls are promoted to head chefs, business managers, counsellors, receptionists, and production line managers.

Onto the food! We enjoyed:

  • cheesy garlic baguette
  • pumpkin soup with parsley, cream, and baguette
  • spinach eggs Benedict on a homemade English muffin
  • chicken, bacon, and mushroom béchamel crepe
  • crispy chicken tenders with french fries and garlic aioli
  • hot chocolate brownie with caramel ice cream

From the Daughters of Cambodia website:

  • Daughters of Cambodia exists to empower those trapped in the sex industry in Cambodia to walk free and start a new life, with healing, dignity, and the means to prosper. 
  • We offer a wide range of rewarding jobs, with opportunities for promotion, in our attractive and innovative social enterprises.
  • We teach our clients how to sustain their new life-styles in non-institutional settings, and we provide recovery programs including social work, counseling, medical treatment and life-skills classes. 

After that, we purchased some lemongrass soap and visited “Cambodian Rexall’s” for insect spray and sunscreen.

Our final stop was the National Museum, which we browsed while chatting about the history of this magnificent country.

That was it for the morning of Saturday, January 6. What a lovely way to spend a typically cold, wintry morning. 🙂

I’m excited for our evening, but for now, will just rest in our nice and air-conditioned hotel room.

Two Glorious Meals in Cambodia

After a couple spectacular days in Taiwan, we were welcomed to our hotel in Cambodia, RAFFLES le ROYAL, with iced ginger tea and the friendliest smiles. Phnom Penh is the capital city of Cambodia, and we are staying here for four days.

Our hotel room, on the third floor, is clean, spacious, and quite luxurious. We quickly unpacked our suitcases, which didn’t take very long since the three of us packed three small carry-on luggages.

We headed downstairs, to the hotel restaurant, for lunch. I didn’t have much for breakfast, aside from a peanut butter and chocolate chip LARABAR that I’d packed for the plane ride, so I was very excited about diving into a feast here in Cambodia.

Dad enjoyed the garlicky baked snails and lemongrass beef skewers. They came with small kai-lan vegetables and rice. My grandfather loved his poached ocean salmon, which was served with fresh vegetables and a leek cream sauce. For myself, I didn’t hesitate to order the creamy cauliflower soup for an appetizer, and the mushroom risotto for my main.

My entrée of mushroom risotto was hearty, incredibly rich and cheesy with a decadent Parmesan flavour, and was served with a freshly-grilled slice of focaccia slathered with pesto. I absolutely loved it and would return to this hotel restaurant in a heartbeat.

Dessert was actually a buffet, and I managed to keep my sweet tooth reined in by grabbing just two desserts – a chocolate mousse cake and a slice of kabocha pumpkin with custard.

Afterwards, Dad and I did some exploration. We walked for about a block in the sweltering heat before coming back to the hotel. It was seriously H-O-T, especially after so long in ice-cold Canada. Toronto, in fact, broke a 58 year-old temperature record for it’s -40 degree temperature today.

The pool at our hotel is lovely. I felt so happy dipping my toes into the water, wishing I’d packed a bathing suit.

Dad and I wandered the corridors and balconies, enjoying all the new sights and smells and sounds. We chatted a lot, and before we knew it, wandered back to our hotel room to rest.

For dinner, the three of us hopped onto a tuktuk. According to Wikipedia:

The auto rickshaw is a common form of urban transport, both as a vehicle for hire and for private use, in many countries around the world, especially those with tropical or subtropical climates, including many developing countries. Most have three wheels and do not tilt. An exception is in Cambodia, where two different types of vehicles are called tuk-tuks, one of which (also known as a remorque) has four wheels and is composed of a motorcycle (which leans) and trailer (which does not).

I truly loved the night view in Phnom Penh, especially with all the Christmassy lights and decorations.

Dinner was enjoyed at Malis, a modern, fashionable, trendy, yet traditional restaurant in the heart of Phnom Penh. They serve delicious Cambodian cuisine and are renowned for its fresh seasonal produce, delicate flavours, and wonderful servers.

The three of us ate:

  • Kampot Rock Crab Red Curry: Hand-picked Kampot crab cooked in a natural fully-flavoured crab broth with red chilies, red curry spices and coconut milk, served with rice
  • Bamboo Shoots and Smoked Fish Soup: A smoky and refreshing vegetable soup made from an age-old Cambodian recipe in which finely sliced bamboo shoots are cooked with baby corn
  • Wok-fried Eggplants: Roasted aubergine wok-fried with fresh garlic and a shallot vinegar sauce
  • Fish Amok: This traditional dish is made with goby fish fillets marinated in a lemongrass curry paste and steamed in a banana leaf basket

We couldn’t miss dessert.

  • Durian Delight: Taro style dumplings cooked in coconut milk and ginger sauce with Num Ko corn and durian ice cream
  • Malis Mousse: Jasmine flower infused mousse with hints of Cambodian honey and ginger, circled with fresh seasonal fruits and served with a crunchy rice ‘Kamao Thort’ and coconut ice cream

We were more than full, happy, and satisfied with the meal and the generous servers. In the end, the meal came down to less than $60 USD for the three of us, and we were all stuffed. We hitched the same tuktuk to go back to the hotel.

It’s now 10:20 PM here, and I think I am going to start planning tomorrow’s schedule. Dad vetoed my protests to visit the Tuol Seng Prison and the Killing Fields, as well as the Genocide Museum (boo) but will most likely approve my other suggestions.

These are some of the places that I can’t wait to visit in Phnom Penh:

  • Central Market
  • Wat Phnom
  • Sisowath Quay
  • Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda
  • National Museum

Thank you for reading today, and I can’t wait to update with more.

Curdy Soy Milk, Live Octopi, and Taro Ice Cream

Kicked off yesterday morning with an early-early-early morning walk through Taipei. You can see the Taipei 101 peeking out from behind these buildings. I love taking selfies with Grandpa!

For breakfast, we went to a place that sells shao bing (sesame flatbreads), you tiao (oily Chinese donuts, or crullers), and dan bing (egg pancakes). This place is incredibly popular, incredibly busy, and we were incredibly jet-lagged, so we arrived early to beat the line. I liked dipping my Chinese donut into the sweet soy milk, but I also tried Grandpa’s savoury hot soy milk, which was very curdy and loaded with green onions, sesame oil, and soy sauce.

Afterwards, we visited a temple/funeral home to pray.

I really like the metro, or the MRT, in Taipei. Compared to the subway/skytrain systems of Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, the MRT of Taipei is very clean, organized, and systematic. We headed to Wen Nai Nai’s house (Grandma Wen). She is Grandpa’s friend, and they’ve known each other for over four decades.

For lunch, we dined with my great-aunts at a seafood restaurant, where I ate way too many deep-fried oysters and way too much pork noodles. So delicious and 100% worth the potential stomachache, but I think I avoided it 😉 There were even live, wriggling octopi for sale!

We shopped the market at Tamsui, and bought a few things, from Taiwanese iron eggs to sticky blob toys.

I also had a delicious, massive taro ice cream cone!

We hung out with Dad, Grandpa, my grandmother’s second sister, and my grandmother’s sixth sister. We visited my grandmother’s third sister and her husband in their apartment near Tamsui. Their apartment is stunning, and I’m a big fan of the giant windows.

Finally, we were off to Cambodia. It was a 3ish-hour flight from Taipei, and I loved arriving in Phnom Penh. It was hot, humid, and absolutely amazing. The rest of my day in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, was exciting, though restful, and I can’t wait to show you more photos tomorrow.

Thank you for reading!

First Day in Taiwan

Good morning? Afternoon? I’m not sure what time it is over in Canada, but I’m writing this from a hotel in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, and it is currently 6:00 PM. And why am I writing instead of exploring? Dad and Grandpa are both sound asleep. 😴

Note to self: next time, do not travel with an overprotective, hyper-vigilant father and a 90 year-old grandfather unless you want to spend valuable daylight hours of “exploring time”, bored in the hotel room 😉

Anyways – I decided that, instead of cancelling activities or forcing myself to wake up early in order to blog, that I’d just post whenever I got the chance. Initially, I wanted to post Travel Journal entries daily, but quickly realized that would be quite a challenging feat. Hope this quick post is good!

Vancouver to Taiwan

Relaxing at YVR before the 12-hour flight.

Taipei

Arriving at TPE, the airport in Taiwan (about an hour from Taipei). Our taxi driver gave us some persimmons. Sunrise happened at about 6:30 AM, and these are some observations I made:

  • everyone wore masks to guard against the pollution
  • it was lovely to see so many Taiwanese people like myself and my family members (well, duh, we’re in Taipei, but it was interesting because most of the Asians in my area of BC are from China or Hong Kong)
  • bathrooms didn’t have toilets, but rather the traditional Chinese “hole in the ground”
  • mountains, compared to Canada, are flatter and undulate less
  • Taiwan smells just like how I remembered it – like a combination of stale cigarettes, sewage, incense, and boiled tea eggs
  • there are so many motorcycles and tall, worn buildings
  • crosswalks permit up to 80+ seconds for people to cross the street
  • many colourful billboards and banners, promoting brands like Canon, Nikon, and HuaWei, that reminded me of Kathmandu

Our hotel is called the Taipei Hero House, and many veterans live here. Dad accidentally made a $10 CAD phone call, which was pretty funny.

For breakfast, we ate at the Taipei Hero House, where I had bean curd, yellow melon, chopped radish, and tea eggs.

In the 7-11 in our hotel, there are some pretty unique drinks and snacks, like this bag of strawberry Lays.

Exploring Taipei – it’s about 20+ degrees during the day. I like the bakeries and colourful street vendors.

Subway passes and time at the bank (the most boring three hours of my life!).

Lunch at a beef noodle soup restaurant, where I had spicy beef intestines, crispy fried shrimp balls (huge, but really tasty!), tiny pork wontons in sweet and spicy sauce, tofu noodles, seaweed, and, of course, beef noodles in soup.

For dessert I had these tasty filled waffles from a street vendor. One was filled with taro, the other red bean. I liked the taro one more.

That was pretty much it for our first day, before I fell asleep at 4:30 PM 🙂