Monday, December 12, 2011

The beauty of the Cambodian drags.

They're beautiful, talented and oh so courageous. The first openly out and proud performers in Cambodia. Welcome to the Blue Chilli.


Eigh is our driver, and at times, translator.  He is a lovely man who has been so good to us while we've been here. 


Slum living within a derelict Phnom Penh cinema. 5 year old Bi lives with three other families in one room. Bats chitter away on the vast, high ceiling above while a giant mound of rubbish, home to numerous rats, marks their entry way.   The families are living within one of Cambodia's golden age cinemas (circa 1960s), now derelict.  

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Last look: North Korea in Phnom Penh

I wrote about this restaurant two months ago. I've been wanting to return every week now for the David Lynch-ian waitress dancing, singing and instrument playing that goes on here every night of the week. Basically, the waitress that has just brought you over your steaming meat soup, (or cabbage pancake if you're me), suddenly appears on stage playing synthesizer and singing all your favourite songs from the homeland.  Everyone is wearing candy coloured, highly flammable frills and perfectly maintained smiles.  I wish I could of filmed this for you, it's the most surreal scene I've ever seen, and all delivered with a sort of dead-eyed charm.

Lunar eclipse

Our last Saturday night in Phnom Penh was spent watching a full lunar eclipse (the last until 2014) and enjoying the charms of the city's infamous North Korean restaurant.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Towards an iron silk road?

On our moto tour of southern Cambodia, we chose to take earth roads where ever possible. It was a necessary treat to leave the roar of the highways for the relative safety of back roads. These red dirt roads defected from the national highways through sometimes grand archways, or trailed off, hidden between homes. Sometimes dusty, other times precariously rutted, these roads are the picturesque, well traveled veins of the provinces.  One such back road, well more of a footpath really, snakes along beside Cambodia's unused railway to cut directly across waterways, villages and fields. 

After 80 years of dubious maintenance and 30 years of war, resuscitation may well be close for Cambodia's unused railway.  Reports from 2010 weave a tale of proposed connections with Vietnam and Thailand, effectively finishing the 'iron silk road' that will for the first time, connect southeast Asia with Europe.  With the help of Australian funding, a functional railroad system will apparently be in place by 2013. At the end of 2011 however, the stretch of railway we followed was but shiny ghost tracks, glinting pink and silver off into the heat and distance. 

Determined to try the narrowest of local roads, we joined a small stretch of Cambodia's 612km unused rail track   We wound our way precariously along a rail-side, foot-beaten track that connects villages to fields, families to commune councils, sellers to buyers.  At times the bikes struggled to bite into the loose gravel, or the shoulder disappeared altogether, leaving us to negotiate space with people passing with livestock and market goods.  

Growing up in NZ, hanging around rail tracks goes against every bone in my body.  In Cambodia the ghost line offers up children wavering in the distance, indistinct in the heat. People and cattle move up and over, cats and chooks explore the lines, yet no trains come.  It will certainly be a different country once the trains start moving again.  

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Some scenes from the village road a few weekends back. I especially loved the heat, the storm clouds approaching and the absolute flush of green, courtesy of the recently departed rainy season and perfectly offset by Cambodia's red soil. Come to think of it, we'll soon be in the red of the Australian outback!  More photos underneath...

Friday, December 2, 2011

On arriving in Pursat, we were told the one guest house in town was full due to a contingent of researchers that had arrived to measure the amount of malaria around. I don't think the town had ever seen so many strangers on one day! Oh joy, I thought to myself - raging hordes of mosquitos, and I haven't brought with me any anti-malarials.  Layering up my full strength deet insect spray, we were spotted in a house, our 7 person research team distributed across 4 king sized beds with grubby sheets.However, dawn with it a revelation... each of mosquito nets turned such beautiful jewel like colours. 

Under the mountain

My favourite time of day is sunset in Cambodia, particularly so if I am in the provinces. The landscape, which holds such variation in colour already, decides to reflect back the sky's changing colour from the water logged paddy fields like a scaly, iridescent patchwork quilt. Then finally, night starts winning.

These photos were taken from a moving car as we traveled deep into remote Pursat. We were on our way to a once poor village, booming now due to new logging industry from the virgin jungle that crouches, waiting, up the mountain behind.  If you like, have a look at each photo by opening them in a new tab - the sunset-scapes feel painterly.  The moving car contributes to the feeling of brush strokes, and the sky is smudged with grey.