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Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

We arrived in Vietnam a few days ago. Our tour of duty started in Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon).

After getting off the bus from the airport we were met by the usual crowd of people selling rooms for ridiculously low rates. As it happens we’d already booked our room so we just had to fight past them to reach our destination. It was located down what you might have thought was a shady alley but it was actually a quiet haven away from the raucous city.

We were delighted to find Ho Chi Minh was about 1 degree cooler than the hot steaming streets of Siem Reap! After a short recovery we headed out for drinks and a bite to eat with a couple of fellow travellers we’d met earlier. We enjoyed our first taste of Vietnamese food but there was room for improvement on the beer front! We then headed to a local bar to see the 2nd half of the F.A. Cup…I wish we hadn’t bothered! Cheating Blue Nose &$%%£^^^&^!!! Not that I harbor a grudge against them for winning the double.

The next day we explored the city of Ho Chi Minh beginning with a visit to the War Remnants Museum. It houses a very interesting collection of photos taken during the Vietnam War or the American War as they call it here… It’s a pretty one sided view of the whole war but still very interesting and the camera doesn’t lie eh.

Heavy fire power


Fighter Jet

Afterwards we hunted down some more lovely Vietnamese cuisine for lunch whilst trying to avoid being run down by a passing moped or two…hundred! Yes it’s very much the city of the moped. No point in waiting on the pavement for a gap in the traffic. Here you just close your eyes, hold your breath and go for it.

Moped Ville


Eyes on the road please

We selected a bar from the guide book for drinks in the evening. True to form the place wasn’t there anymore. We agreed previously never to trust the guide book for bars and restaurants so I don’t know why we expected it to be any different this time!

The day after we visited the Cu Chi tunnels. These are the tunnels built by the Viet Cong and used to avoid capture by the Americans. They actually started building them during the earlier war with the French. You can attempt to climb down as I did but you realise that it’s not advisable as a westerner. Even though they have now widened the entrance for visitors it’s a tight squeeze as you can see below. Still there is a further section which is widened to accommodate most folk. The tunnels stretch for around 250km in a spiders web like formation. Much of this is now collapsed though. Afterwards you can shoot a variety of guns including AK47 and M16, not really our thing but popular with the tourists.

Going in at Cu Chi Tunnels

After Ho Chi Minh we headed up the coast to Nha Trang for some fun in the sun.

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Where has the time gone?? Suddenly we’re moving on again, this time to Vietnam. Today is our last day in Siem Reap before we fly to Ho Chi Minh tomorrow.

We’ve spent the past few days finishing up our volunteer project at Bakong High School and learning to cook Khmer style. We managed to get the pictures for the school printed and displayed in the new P.E. classroom. The teachers and school kids seemed pretty pleased with them. It was lovely to see all the kids running into the classroom, they were so excited to see photo’s of themselves.

Teachers at Bakong High School with the Group Shots

A Collage of Prints from Bakong High School


A second collage of prints from Bakong High School

Yesterday we took a Khmer cooking class at one of the local restaurants. It was a great experience and we have a few new recipes to inflict on people back in England now! First we were asked to pick 2 starters, 2 main courses and a dessert from the menu. Afterwards we went on a tour of the local market to see where the ingredients come from. The market was a hive of activity and quite an eye opener. Afterwards we got down to the business of making our food. We opted for fresh spring rolls and banana flower salad for starters, followed by Beef Lok Lak and Fish Amok for main course. We finished it off with Sticky Rice Flour for dessert. After making it all we got to enjoy it in the restaurant, it’s fair to say we rolled ourselves out afterwards!

Mud Fish an essential ingredient for Fish Amok

Gutted


Weighing Fish


Chopping Away


Teacher and Student


The fruits of our labour


Beef Lok Lak


Fish Amok

In Siem Reap you’re often approached by young kids selling postcards and guide books amongst other things. It’s sad to see this because you feel they don’t ever get a childhood. We got talking to this little chap you see below. He was happy to pose for pictures and share a few stories.

Street Seller Siem Reap

We finished our day watching the sun go down from one of the temples, a fitting end to a great day.

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Temple-tastic

We spent the weekend visiting the majestic temples of Angkor. We started early…very early to catch sunrise at Angkor Wat. The stunning sunrise was well worth the 4am wake up. We managed to get a nice quiet spot before the bus loads of tourists turned up.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

We then looked around various other temples in the so called “Grand Circuit”, including our favourites Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm. There was a great deal more restoration work on many of the temples compared with several years ago. The heat was draining though so we returned to base at midday, we’d been up since 4am so it felt like a full day!

Banyon Temple

Windows of Buddha


Guardians of Angkor Thom

We had a more relaxing 6:30am start on the Sunday to visit some of the more far flung temples.

Monday morning was spent working on the pictures we’d taken for the High School. We presented the pictures to the teachers so they could select their favourites for printing. The afternoon was spent celebrating my 21st birthday (again…). Gem organised a few nice treats including a massage at the FCC Spa, this is one of the nicer hotels in Siem Reap. It was great to hang out by the pool afterwards. We then enjoyed birthday cake from our favourite cafe “Blue Pumpkin” before having drinks and dinner in the evening. A very nice day!

On Wednesday we’re going back to the school to complete our project. We’re looking forward to seeing the finished pictures displayed in the High School.

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You might think from the blog title that we have been on a culinary indulgence again! However, this is not the case this time. As part of our volunteer work we had an early start at Bakong Primary School. At 6:15am each day the kids are given breakfast as part of a program called Food for Thought. The idea being they receive a good hearty breakfast so they can concentrate on their studies and have some nourishment for the day.

It was a great experience for us. We arrived to see the children all busy cleaning the school!! I mean could you imagine the school kids in England doing this! The children here are so well behaved, well mannered and appreciate the opportunity of a good education. It’s an eye opening and humbling experience, you realise that the western school kids could learn a thing or two. I think we take education for granted and to see how appreciative these children are really brings it home. Following a clean of the school the kids are invited to sit down and have breakfast before lessons start at 7am.

Waiting Patiently


Breakfast time at Bakong Primary School


Setting the world to rights!

Following breakfast they all clean their teeth. As mentioned in the previous blog post a clean water supply has been installed at the schools to enable this initiative.

Teeth Cleaning Smile

Group Teeth Cleaning

Once the breakfast and teeth cleaning are out of the way it’s time for class. We had the opportunity to witness the English lesson for a short time. Before the lesson starts the kids wipe down all the lesson books too. They were all very well behaved and seemed to enjoy the English lesson.

Kindergarten Class


English Class at Bakong Primary School


Afterwards we moved on to the High School for the next part of our project. Here we were tasked with taking pictures of the various sport teams. The football, basketball and volleyball teams have all won trophies recently and wanted some pictures to display. The walls are very barren at the moment. We created a number of shots of each group along with some action photos as the teams took their P.E. lesson. Tomorrow we will visit the school again to decide on which pictures they’d like to get printed. Afterwards it’s off to the local print houses to negotiate a deal. We’re hoping to get some nice shots displayed in their new classroom this week.

Girls football team


Basketball Team Trophy Photo


Volleyball Team


Running the ball


Is it in?

We’ve really enjoyed the whole experience, it’s been both refreshing, humbling and sometimes sad. It was especially touching during the food for thought breakfast, you could see how desperate some of the children were for a meal. Many came back for seconds!

We have a few other things left to do in the school this week as well as some temples to visit over the coming days.

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So we have arrived in Siem Reap, the site of our temple exploring and also volunteering. We’ll be spending around 10 days here, most of which will be dedicated to volunteering with Caring for Cambodia (CFC). CFC is a charity that sets up and runs schools in Siem Reap. Like most areas in Cambodia education is not guaranteed. What CFC do is very good and we saw today first hand at Amelio school. Not only are they providing education, training teachers and building better facilities for learning but they also provide meals through their Food for Thought program. Each morning the kids receive a meal, something that is often not provided by the families due to lack of money. Following this they have classes from 7am until 11am, before recommencing in the afternoon from 1pm until 5pm.

Today we had the opportunity to look around the Amelio school. This was the first of 5 schools they have set up so far, named after the founders of CFC. We were both a little surprised to see how good the facilities were. Massive improvements have been made over the last 2-3 years. They have only recently received a clean water supply donated by Planet Water Foundation. This has enabled them to push forward on teaching the children about hygiene. Also each child is given a toothbrush, ensuring they clean their teeth each day.

Our specific project is centered around another school we will be visiting tomorrow. We will be creating photographs of their sporting teams and various other aspects of school life. One of the aims will be to make the children feel good about themselves and encourage them. We hope to create a small exhibition of these photos at the school.

We will start early tomorrow with the Food for Thought program at Bakong primary school. Here we will help with giving breakfast to the children. We’re both looking forward to this and the rest of the project.

You can find out more about the charity here http://www.caringforcambodia.org . A word of warning though, the website is a bit flash heavy and doesn’t seem to work all that well, something they are looking to revamp.

Here’s a few pictures from today’s Amelio school visit.

Amelio CFC School

Writing Hard at Amelio School

Classroom life at Amelio School

Lunch time break at Amelio School

Heading home from Amelio School

Schools out!

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More tea Sir?

Before we left the vibrant city of Hong Kong we decided to treat ourselves to a little culinary luxury on a Sunday afternoon. We took the ferry across to Kowloon and headed straight for the Peninsula. It was time to sample their fine afternoon tea.
We arrived at 2pm – which is the time they commence the serving of their famous tea. Once we walked through the grand doors of this marvelous hotel we instantly saw the long line of locals and tourists all in their Sunday best attire. Our hearts sank a little as we walked past the long line to join the back of it! We were already starving and we were soon registering the fact that there may be an hour wait or more. Sigh. The tea dining commenced and the queue started to reduce and to distract ourselves from our tummy rumbles we enjoyed ‘people watching’ and looking at the sweet treat delights that we would soon taste. The wait was worth it. We thoroughly enjoyed fine sandwiches and scones (although they weren’t quite as good as Mummy McManus’ scones!) They finished off the tea with this amazing coffee creme brulee which was just divine!
There was beautiful classical music being performed by a quartet and pianist in the balcony above the dining hall.
It was a beautiful way to say goodbye to HK.

Lobby bar at the Peninsula for afternoon tea


Afternoon Tea at the Peninsula

Here’s a few more select pictures from Hong Kong.

Life is a tram


Long Day


Tai Chi

Photography is art

The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn to catch our flight to the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. The first thing that hit us as we left the plane was the heat. Oh my goodness it was hot, hot, hot. And then the next thing that struck me was the number of mopeds and bikes on the road. They were everywhere and I could already see that crossing the road was going to be quite a challenge!!
We arrived at our hotel which was nice but we were very much back to the backpacker life style! Neil has already been to Cambodia before and noticed quite a big change from when he was here five years ago. The roads have improved a lot and there are definitely more cars and even more bikes on the road. There is also the start of high rise buildings. But there is still a lot of poverty, many begging street children and people living in very basic housing.
As soon as we left our hotel to explore the city by foot we were frequently asked every couple of metres if we wanted a ‘tuk tuk’ ride. The drivers are all very nice and mean no harm – just desperate for business.
I was quite surprised how well Phnom Penh is catering for the tourists with the many choices of lovely restaurants and cafes. Plus they all offer free WIFI which is more than what was offered in Oz and Hong Kong.
On our first evening we went for a ‘happy hour’ beer in the FCC. Most bars offer happy hour from 5-7pm where all drinks are half price and beer is a bargain $1. We were sat on the balcony which overlooks the busy main street and the tonle sap river. The street below is packed with locals who come out to grab food, chat to friends and even work-out on the promenade! It was quite a sight to see a mix young and old all doing what appeared to look like the Macarena! When we went by to look closer we got chatting to a local girl who explained it was an exercise class! It’s the hip thing to be doing in Phnom Penh! Well it beats working out in a gym I guess!
We also took a peek at some of the local food stalls. We were horrified to see one stall selling what looked like fried cockroaches and other bugs! Needless to say we weren’t tempted to try the local street food!
That evening we decided to try some typical food from Cambodia which is known as the Khmer Fish Amok. It’s a dish made from white fish in a mild chili, basil and coconut sauce. We also tried a mango salad and both were divine! I just love Asian food.
The next day we negotiated a deal with a tuk tuk driver to hire him for the day to take us around the sights for $15. Our first stop was S-21. Neil had warned me it was going to be quite a harrowing experience. S-21 used to be a high school before the Khmer Rouge invaded and made it into a prison, interrogation and torture centre. Needless to say there were many horrific sights to see and stories to read. We were also shown a documentary film about the Khmer Rouge reign and listened to some personal stories from some of the survivors. It was all very moving and emotional.
After leaving S-21 the tuk tuk driver drove us to Choeung Ek, more commonly known as ‘The Killing Fields’. This was the execution ground for the torture victims from S-21. It is a very peaceful place. In the centre there is a tall glass tower which is filled with cracked skulls of men, women and children exhumed from 129 mass graves in the area. There you can lay flowers and burn incense as a sign of respect. As you walk around the fields you can see parts of clothes and bones protruding the earth which is very disturbing to see. It was hard for me to comprehend that such atrocities have happened in my life time and not that long ago. The trials for justice continue to this day.
I am writing this as we are enroute to Siem Reap. The boat service is not running at the moment so we are making our way by road. It should be a five hour journey.

Photo’s from Phnom Penh.

Monks in Phnom Penh


Tuk Tuk Driver


Colonial Buildings Remain...just


Lunchtime Phnom Penh


Cheeky Monkey!

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