Sunday, July 27, 2008

I Heard It On The News.. They Say Its Khm-er Rouge!


I have almost recovered from my flu and during my days spent at home hibernating and getting better, i've rearranged photos that we will post here and on Flickr! This is gonna be exciting, i can feel it in my furrrs!

So now we are back on track with my next post on Cambodia!

We didn't take as much pictures as we should have in Cambodia mostly because our thoughts were focused on merely 3 "touristy" attractions - Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek and Angkor Wat; definitely an outrage to budding enthusiast (WHAT! Nothing to shoot? Are you from Planet Ignorance?!!) But its true, we didn't take as much as we should've but the ones we have were definitely memorable.

We took our maiden flight on Jetstar Asia and what initially was a mere 3 day trip to Siem Reap (on a $3 promotional low-season fare!) became a $200+ trip when we extended it to one week in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap! The Travelling Teddies are impulsive travellers who always always try to extend their trips to the maximum number of days and of cash too! Haha!

Anyway, we touched down in Siem Reap and made our way to Phnom Penh first... on wheels! Yup, the coach ride was bumpy but satisfying to take in the sights, the sounds, the smell... to recollect thoughts and... to catch up on our sleep! But Cubbies made some friends on the bus, and this one in particular is probably the cutest of the lot! We didn't talk very much because Cubbies speaks Bearish English and she speaks Khmer!

Khmer-Speaking Kiddo

In Phnom Penh, we put up at the Hotel Cara, which was conveniently located near the Central Wat and accessible to anywhere in the city by foot (just a matter of whether you are interested to walk!). We paid S$138 (US$100) for 3 nights stay and includes breakfast (with the same food served) every morning and a 97+ cable channels to blow your mind away. Room is comfy of course, nice queen size bed, clean and a toilet that will fit one. Can do with a little bit of cleanliness with the shower curtain but no problemos - TTT can deal with that perfectly (remembering the Horrifying Shower Curtain incident in the shared dorm/toilet in Europe).

Hotel Cara

After a night's rest, we made our first day of travel, which cost us about US$10 a day, to the most important sights first, on our 4-wheel ride: The ever comfortable, open-air, 20km/hr ride on the Cambodian Tuk-Tuk. For US$10, he promised to take us to 3 Hot Spots - Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Cheung Ek Killing Fields and the Russian Market.


Our first stop was the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21), which reminded us so much of the atrocities of the Hitler Regime. Even though you are free to roam on your own, you can also hire a guide to take you around the museum (which we paid US$8 for; the price which almost had Cubbies eyes popped out!). Local guides often have personal experience / encounter with the prison or the Pol Pot's regime and are often your source of living history. I have to admit, it was quite sad and disheartening to see the sombre look on our guide's face whenever she tries to explain certain things or relive certain personal stories as she goes around. Life must've been really difficult to plough through during those days...

Tuol Sleng

After an hour of one disturbing exhibit to another - we paid a visit to the Cheoung Ek Genocide Memorial / Killing Fields which is located about 15km outside of Phnom Penh. Now when you travel out to the Killing Fields, be sure to put on your shades and probably wrap a towel around your face because the ride is very bumpy and very dusty!

When we arrive at the Cheoung Ek, there is a certain kind of sterile, disinfectant smell about the air which was definitely a very human, stale smell of death. Not something the TTT is used to of course! After all, the killings only stopped in 1979 when the Khmer Rouge were defeated by the Vietnamese; and 8,985 men, women and children were unearthed only after the liberation of the Khmers Rouges.

The Killing Fields

The Cheoung Ek was the location where the Khmer Rouge took their prisoners for execution within 24 hours of capture. This definitely wasn't TTT's favourite visit but it was both heavy in the heart as well as an eye-opener and reminder for the TTT - that mankind is capable of such animosity, cruelty and atrocity, beyond anyone's wildest imagination.

Moving on from the Killing Fields, our Mr. Tuk Tuk took us to the Russian Market for some 2 hours worth of shopping. We didn't have pictures of the Russian Market but our experience comes with a very useful tip.

Everything you need to find in Cambodia, you can almost find it in the Phsar Toul Tom Poung (Russian Market; not to be mistaken with P'sar O Russei) at a much much cheaper price than anywhere other central / night market in Siem Reap / Phnom Penh.

You can find everything you need here; hardware goods, drinks and cooked food, antique furniture, traditional carvings and handicraft, hand-woven silk, music, movie and computer CDs, silverware, gems, books and maps, backpacks and bags and shoes and clothing.

And while Meebops was busy haggling prices for the Royal Cambodian Silk, Cubbies prowled around for some cheap DVDs of her favourite TV shows!

Foodies ALERT! There are more halal food you can find here in Phnom Penh than probably anywhere else in Cambodia (not even in Siem Reap!). The fare includes Indian and Thai/Cambodian cuisine. Now, do not expect a 5-star food fare but reasonably small, clean and comfortable shops along the riverfront.

Our first stop that night when we reached PP was to have dinner at Kabab Shop. Well, of course, Cubbies expected Kababs (middle-eastern meat wraps) but no no... This Kabab Shop sells Indian/Chinese /Pakistani cuisine. Prices are a little steep (as all Indian cuisine are) but taste was quite mediocre for the price.

The Travelling Teddies rate The Kabab Shop - 2.5 out of 5 Paws!

The Kabab Shop
#1, Street 104
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

On our 2nd day, we explored just a little further down the river scavenging for our lunch, at the ever popular Mekong Tours & Guest House; which apparently tripled up as a restaurant come GuestHouse come travel/tour agent. Its located at the very end of the river and right next to the mosque. So if you don't know where you're going, just head towards the direction of the mosque! Despite the raving reviews, TTT finds the food at Mekong Tours just of acceptable taste and not quite impressive as expected though the dining areas are very clean and there were no annoying little houseflies wanting a share of your meal! The experience was pretty apathetic but the price was reasonable. We had nothing to complain of course - Food was halal and that was all that mattered!

The Travelling Teddies rate Mekong Tours & Guest House (Restaurant) - 3 out of 5 Paws!

Mekong Tours & Guest House
43AB, Street 86
Phnom Penh

And on our final night in Phnom Penh, we gave the humble Malaysia Restaurant a shot. In actual fact, we were looking Rabbit Restaurant (Rabbit or otherwise known as Bunny, is Cubbies' little alter ego) which claimed to serve authentic Chinese food, and which happens to be Cubbies favourite! But alas, we couldn't find the shop. So we bumped into Malaysia Restaurant, which serves pretty authentic Cambodian food. Now, TTT has no experience eating Cambodian food at all. But being eager travellers and adventurous by nature, TTT ordered all things Cambodian. To our surprise though, all things Cambodian are all things soupy and veggie and fishy - which is not a perennial favourite of one of the Teddies.

The Travelling Teddies rate Malaysia Restaurant - 3 out of 5 Paws!

Malaysia Restaurant
#20Eo, St 130
Phsarkandal I District
Khan Daun Penh
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

After dinner on our last night in PP, TTT went for a "Seeing Hands" massage, performed by the blind, with part of the profits going to help the sight-impaired of Phnom Penh. They have a few "copies" in Siem Reap but as much as you can, try to visit the one in PP, located opposite the Phnom Penh General Post Office. For US$ 5 an hour (used to cost even less!), you can relax and wind down while your friendly english-speaking masseur explains what has been bugging you lately (only physiologically of course)... You will be amazed at their accuracy!

Definitely a 5-star treatment!

The Travelling Teddies TIP!

Cambodia uses two currencies in tandem; the local currency (Cambodian Riel), and the US Dollars. Small shops will quote prices in Riel while guesthouses and upscale restaurants will make use of the greenback. Both currencies are accepted everywhere but be mindful, when you change your currency to Riel, be sure to use them all while in Cambodia because it is worthless outside the local soils!

Next Up: Siem Reap!


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Cuaca Pat KL Tak Berapa Elok La...

My immunity level deteriorated since our return from Cambodia, possibly because of the lack of rest and extreme weather conditions. It didn't make things any better when I had to travel the very next weekend upon returning to Singapore, to Kuala Lumpur, for work.

Its the haze, stupid...

I've always loved travelling to Kuala Lumpur (which is very often). You know, KL-ians are very friendly (and though sometimes over-zealously friendly to the extent that they call you "Makcik" (which is aunt in Malay) when in fact they are waaay older than you), the general environment is relaxed, food is in abundance and cheap and basically a fun place to be in, any time of the year. I love KL and in fact, i find it very fascinating to speak to Indians and Chinese in my mother-tongue language (which is Malay) and get an understanding and reply in return. Something i cannot get with the other races back home...

But this week in KL was the worse i've ever been. The pollution was horrible... Thick clouds of haze totally engulf the entire city of KL and almost instantly i fell into a physical frenzy - I couldn't sleep, I tossed and turned in my bed and after waking up to empty my bladder for the upteenth time, i became nutty as a fruitcake - i started crying out of sheer discomfort and the fact that i had to work the very next day drew me up the wall. It was plain madness and being a 2-year old cubbie didn't help either. I needed someone to care for me... but i was alone.

This is the haze in KL on Tuesday. Thick smog covered the otherwise clear blue skies. The smoke in this picture is not representational of what you can see with your eyes when you're there. Its worse than it looks! Terrible!

The strangest thing was even though i was sick to my bone, i was actually feeling constantly hungry. And it was a good thing that my associate, De Lange, needed company from me too. Being his first time in Kuala Lumpur and coming from the dangerous city of Johannesburg, he quickly embraced the freedom he could get in this metropolitan city.

And so we went out on 2 occasions - the first to BB Hailam Chicken Rice, which is just towards the end of Jalan Bukit Bintang - very popular and very moreish rice and steamed chicken. And on the 2nd night, together with our other associate, Jackson, to Tarbush Restaurant where we pigged out to middle-eastern food, and also where i had the largest serving of Lamb Briyani ever! (I heard they called it, "The Middle Eastern Portion"). Huge, HUGE chunks of lamb over savoury rice and boiled potatoes - It was the best item available in the menu!

Too bad, i didn't take as much pictures as i should have (yes, blame it on the weather again...) but partly because i wasn't in the mood and the only thing i ever wanted was to finish my meal as soon as i can and curl back into my bed in the hotel.

But in any case, i managed to get an image of what the briyani looked like:

There will be more to come. But first, i have to get better!


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Trying This Remotely!

I seriously dunno if this will work or if i will use this function at all but in case it does, well then, good!

Oh Boy!

Anyway, we'll see how this works then. Post now!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Meebops First Hello

Hullo everyone...

Cubbies has started the ball rolling here. For all of you visitors. Thank you for dropping by to listen to the lil adventure of Cubbies. She's only two, but she's a brave little bear who love to paw around the world.

I guess you'll hear more of Cubbies lil adventure soon. And some from me too. Cubbies is busy pawing around her photos...wondering which one she shall put up first.

Till then.. Ciao..


Friday, July 4, 2008

The New Princess Cubbies of Bel-Air?


I wanted to post some of the pictures we took in Cambodia but we have yet to select the right ones - ones that are less blurry, ones that will not put us in compromising spotlight (like Cubbies drying her furs...) as well as ones that i took without the hands or the legs or the head.

And i'm itching to update our blog everyday just to get things in a good momentum. So i thought, maybe i should put up work-travels pictures that didn't need much editing.

I was in Hong Kong for work in April 2008. Meebops wasn't with me this time cos she had to work. So armed with my camera and unabashed cherubic enthusiasm, i explored the island on my own two little paws including paying HK$ 6.50 every evening, up on their wonderful double-decker roller-coaster bus ride, swooshing in and out of alleys and flyovers (that is squeezed in between residential flats/apartments)! How magnificent!

This is Hong Kong at dusk!

Anyway, to start things off, here was my seat on the plane; squeezed in between 2 humanoids. I remember crying (no.. not because i had to travel alone but...) while eating and watching one of my favourite movies, The Kite Runner, on the in-flight entertainment system.

When we touched down at HKIA, they have 3 different types of airport transfers i could choose from:

The Airport Express
Oh! They now have trains into the City too! Just like the KLIA Express in Kuala Lumpur. Its an excellent service train (i personally think) that will connect you to the heart of Hong Kong in 23 minutes! (different travel times for other stations in between) Yup, its that precise. Trains run every 12 minutes and prices range from HK$ 5 (AsiaWorld Expo) to HK$ 100 (Hong Kong Island). When you get off, there are free shuttles that will take you to your hotels (but famous, and expensive ones only!). Neat!

By Public Bus
Just like in Singapore, HKIA provides a bus service that will take you into the city (which is always a treat!) so that you can take in the sights while you travel to your destination. Prices on these buses ranges from HK$ 3 to HK$ 48 (depending on distance) and has 6 different route types to choose from: The A, E, N, S, R and DB routes. Those who travel light can try this option out but those who travel like they are migrating animals should consider the train or taxi.

Well, as for me... Animals, Bears or Cubbies were not allowed on board trains or public buses. So i had to go for Option 3, Taxis.

By Taxi
As they say on the website,
"In Hong Kong, there is no shortage of Taxis...", which is really true and i marvelled at that idea. If only where i live, Taxis are that easy to hail down.

Anyway, the taxis in Hong Kong are metered (another systematic approach) and will take you downtown in a quick, painless, efficient way. The taxis are VERY roomy and comes in 3 different flavours - Red for the "Urban Taxis" that will take you to downtown HK; Green for the "New Territories"; and Blue for the "Lantau Island" taxis. Fares for the taxis travelling from the airport are fixed and includes bridge/tunnel tolls.

BEAR NOTES: For your own personal gentle amusement; try having a casual conversation with your driver and i promise you, only in Hong Kong can you hear English spoken in an almost amicable sing-song way, which i affectionately label, The Oriental English.

Moving on...

They put me up at the Le Meridien Cyberport Hotel, which was a really modernistic, boutique hotel with smart-functioned rooms. The Cyberport district is situated in Aberdeen/Bel-Air area and touted as the IT, Digital Media Centre of Hong Kong. I simply cannot describe in words how fabulously scenic and tranquil Aberdeen is (and not to mention, RICH). The hotel is perched on Telegraph Bay and i'm telling you, if there is one place in Hong Kong where the air is fresh and the scenery breathtaking, this is it.

The Cyberport has convenient but basic amenities available for use such as restaurants, ATMs and supermarket (just ONE) and a bus terminus. Enough for those working and staying in the area. Anyway, if you live in Aberdeen/Bel-Air, you don't take public transport (BAH!). Oh, and to think that with all that technology and adult stuff buzzing in Cyberport, a children's playground at the mall appeared out of nowhere. You never know, there may be future little Bill Gates lurking around!

OK, Foodies
ALERT! Do not expect a 5-star room service menu here. Food listings are limited at the Cyberport and if you ever decide to eat in, do be mindful of the "delivery charges" (that will bring food to you from the hotel's restaurant at Level 4 to your room level). I was famished when i got to the hotel so i had to order a snack. And so i chose something so simple and i thought, with the least surprise; A Hamburger.

Oh! This isn't just your ordinary Big Mac. This is a REALLY HUGE burger that is juicy, tender yet simple (no ketchup, no mayo). Just patty, pickles, lettuce and tomatoes wrapped in a bun, that, as you can see, so shiny, you can see yourself on it.

But dig this... It is by far, the most expensive burger i have ever eaten in my Bearish life. A plate of juicy simple hamburger, steak fries and an almost inedible bowl of coleslaw. How much did Cubbies paid for it? HK$ 240!!! Which is S$ 42.
Have you ever paid so much for a hamburger?

Huge patty nonetheless. Yummy but pricey!

More pictures of my "view" from my room as well as the areas surrounding it:

This view - Telegraph Bay (or some say, Repulse Bay)

A close up of the bay area. Stunning...

Hong Kong skyscrapers, as taken from my usual evening bus rides from Cyberport to Central on service no. 30X.

Connaught Road, Central, Hong Kong. Taken at Central intersection, atop the overhead bridge (that is connected to 4 shopping malls).

When i was there, the Hong Kong International Film Festival was on and i was lucky enough to get to a Full House screening of Hana Makhmalbaf's award winning feature "Buddha Collapsed Out Of Shame".

And to wrap things up, i took this picture while walking along the streets of Causeway Bay. Do surf in comfort at this telephone booth. Well i personally don't think it will be comfortable to surf or work while you stand amidst the bustling street, but it'll definitely help, especially when you're looking for something on the internet and need it urgently! There... your own little cubicle.

Ahh... For anyone looking for Muslim (Halal) food in Hong Kong, my advice is Kowloon. Cross over from Hong Kong Island (mainland) to the Kowloon district, where you can find more halal cuisine than you can in mainland. Just for starters, this was what i ate on my first night in Hong Kong:

I can't remember what its called but its Chicken grilled to perfection (that you can almost taste its burnt/smoked flavours), with turkish salad, fries and topped with mint sauce. Definitely very moreish and tasty.

My first bite was my first love...

Istanbul Express

Shop F-1, G/F, Rose Mansion,

1 Prat Avenue, Tsim Sha Tsui

(Located in the Hart Avenue)


Five **Bearishly Things You Must Do While In Hong Kong (simplified version is Hong Kong, according to CUBBIES):
  1. Take the bus into the city and have fun swooshing and swishing in between apartments!
  2. Watch "Symphony of Lights" from either the Hong Kong (currently the area is barricaded due to upgrading works) or Kowloon side of the Victoria Harbour. Its like nothing you've seen before!
  3. Don't shop at Causeway Bay (go to Stanley Market instead for better bargains!) but people-watch. You haven't seen chaos if you haven't seen Causeway Bay.
  4. Ride on the Topless Bus and feel the chilly wind in your hair (as well as feel dwarfed by the skyscrapers) to the Hong Kong Tram station. Then hop on the Tram, on the Central, Admiralty and Wan Chai route and experience bustling Hong Kong in a nostalgic way.
  5. Shop, not at regular stores, but at factory outlets! Brand names, for less!

And the one thing every Teddy must do, breathe in the fresh (mountainous) air! Its good for your bearish lungs!

** Bearishly - Cheap, sometimes free, painless fun!


Thursday, July 3, 2008

I Don't Know Where To Start!

So much to say, so little time! Yes i admit, i looooove talking about where to go next (on our global adventure to conquer the World with my two little paws!) and where we've been. And with my newly acquired love for photography, it now becomes a visual documentation of our life, which is really neat.

And to start things off, maybe a post on our most recent globetrot - CAMBODIA!

Walking out to explore Phnom Penh's city on our last day there (before we move on to Siem Reap the next morning), armed only with The Lonely Planet as guide, we decided to take our own "Cambodia Walk", starting from Wat Phnom hillside park, which was conveniently located near our hotel (Hotel Cara). Wat Phnom apparently is the gateway, leading to all streets within the city (Its true! We tried it out!). Now, this hillside park was once touted to be a "no-go zone", because of illegal and vice activities carried out within its compound (you still find questionable characters there in the evenings!) but it is a nice walk nonetheless.

This caricature was spotted at one of the entrance in the park. What's amazing about it is its fully "loaded", with firearms! Yup, fully sculpted with machine guns to be exact, probably taken during the war or after the fall of the Khmer Rouge.

I don't know what this meant but it sure gave me a general perspective of Cambodia - A nation built on violence, hardship, war and bloodshed. The result? Widespread poverty and suffering.

But the refreshing thing is what used to be a national secret within its walls are now a treasure anyone can devour. But warning! Life is harsh in Cambodia and a visit will strip you off your pampered sheltered life.

Nonetheless, its definitely worth it!

"Give it another 20, 30 years maybe... Cambodia will be a country global businesses will flock to..."
Meebops said.

Well i can't say it any better than that!!! More power to Cambodia!


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

We Are Officially... UP!

Yes mommies, daddies and friends...

The Travelling Teddies are finally up and running after days and nights of toiling and tossing in bed, squinting at the bright computer screen (and hurting my eyes in the process), trying to figure out my HTML scripts. I know very little about HTML. And so far, its been FUN.

I haven't been working very much too. Just trying to figure out how i put this image up and how i change this colour to this colour and all the different typefaces too.

So i suppose its fair to say now, the effort is paid off.

Meebops! We are ready to rock and blog!

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