Why do we rest here? As Trish put it “It never disappoints.”
I took many pictures the last time I stayed at Veranda. It was raining, which made the stone walkways clean and reflective with water, great for photos. This time the weather was perfect for sitting at the pool, taking a hike, thinking and writing in beautiful places.
The jungle is lush and full of noises around our bungalows. A trailing vine is lodged in our bathroom skylight, along with a few small lizards that call it home. Birds fly around in the rafters of Secret Restaurant, accustomed to sneaking into the morning breakfast buffet for some rice or whatever else they can steal. There are so many good views with comfortable seating that I have trouble deciding which one to enjoy.
What makes a place restful? For me it means some things which are decidedly Western, but I am who I am and cannot fool myself into thinking I love to “tough” it all the time. I like:
Reliable wifi, easy to access and in lots of places
Security, room locks that work, a safe, reasonable amount of privacy
Cleanliness – clean, clean, clean
Good maintenance – my air conditioner was leaking water and a man with a ladder was here within minutes, at night, to fix it. Things work that are supposed to work.
Good food – there is regular delivery of organic produce, although I don’t know what that means over here
Simplicity – the natural stone and wood materials are found everywhere here, the colors are lovely and restful
Peaceful people – soft spoken, helpful and courteous, all
Veranda has all this and does it with a difference that clearly reflects the Cambodian culture. It’s not exactly like any place else that I’ve ever been. Love to rest here. Thank you Cambodia.
I’m supposed to be in training for a hike this fall, but this trip to Cambodia has meant a lot of sitting, and only a few walks around the city markets. Every day my activity app messages me “I see you have not met your daily activity goal…”. Okay, so quit it! I’m going for a walk in the jungle.
Veranda Natural Resort is built on the slope of a mountain, as it rises from the coast. Behind the resort the mountain continues to rise and it becomes Kep National Park. The trail entering the park is wide enough to be called a road, although at some points it only allows a moto to pass. The entrance is guarded by a “ranger” in a small hut who collects a dollar from me and returns to his mat to lie down. I head out, armed with a bottle of water and my phone (with only half battery life, oh no…).
I have gone only a few steps when I come to a restaurant! Who would expect to find Breton Pancakes and homemade ice cream up here? The Cambodians are opportunists. But I do not stop.
The trail is shady and the grade is gradual so it is very comfortable walking. I do have to watch my feet though because there are rocky areas and tripping or turning an ankle is a possibility. I stop whenever I have to take in the view or read a sign, like this one telling me what lives along this jungle trail.
I’m not sure how national parks in Cambodia compare to ones in the U.S. but I am pleased to see that they do have markers on the trail telling me how far I have gone, and the elevation. And as the trail climbs there are benches at scenic overlooks with the name of what I’m seeing painted on the back of the bench.
I’m trying hard to stay in the middle of the trail and look out for things hanging from the trees (insects). There is a pleasant breeze up the side of the mountain and as the trail winds steadily upward, around clefts and ravines there are a lot of unfamiliar noises. I recognize bird calls, an insect noise almost like a fire alarm, and something that could be a monkey, or maybe just a large lizard.
At 2.5 kilometers I find that the trail is maintained by a number of organizations and clubs, including the Squirrel Association. I conclude that they don’t hunt for fancy names for their groups here. I decide to continue on, hoping to get to the Remarkable Tree in 690 meters.
But I don’t make it. I do cross over the summit and find another valley, and as the road descends there are a lot of remarkable trees but I’m not sure which one is actually named that – unless it is this one with a sign I can’t read.
I did only a short portion of this trail, since I didn’t have enough time to complete the loop. But now that I know it’s here, maybe next time!
Phnom Penh is an inland city, full of people, noise, traffic, trash, heat, commerce… in general, it’s the kind of place everyone needs a break from once in a while. Many people here go southwest on Highway 3 (there are no numbers above 5 for their major roads) to the coast for access to the sea. There are beaches, resorts and other opportunities to enjoy nature and “get away from it all”.
One of the highlights for our team, and all the Asia’s Hope families is our outing to Kep, one of the seaside communities. Our team raises enough money to take children and staff from all six homes for an overnight stay at Rock Royal Hotel. It is a short walk from Kep Beach for ocean swimming, but also has a large pool.
On Saturday morning, we packed up and left Phnom Penh, traveling in three busses. There apparently is no seat belt law, or limitation on how many people can be packed into a bus. Two families in each bus, plus our team, and some university students, meant that people were standing, sitting on other’s laps and using the middle aisle. The children love being together with us and each other like this and some of our best conversations happen on the bus rides. It is a two hour trip, more or less, depending on road conditions. There are some very nice roads being built now but often “road conditions” refers to how many cows are on the road, how deep the holes have gotten, etc…
We arrived close to check in time. The families carry their own food with them because it is immeasurably easier and cheaper to feed everyone that way than to try to descend on a restaurant with 150 hungry kids. After eating they all headed to the pool for sun and fun (and the resulting exhaustion).
Our team had lunch at the Sailing Club, one of our favorite spots on the water. This is the oft photographed dock which we all have in our picture banks.
Our evening meal was with the house parents at a restaurant that they love, Kimly Seafood Restaurant. They are such a great group and have a lot of fun conversing and eating, and watching us order and eat (and laughing at us). We often do not know what to order since everything that sounds familiar to us turns out to be quite different, except for French fries which, surprisingly, are the same everywhere. I often opt for vegetarian dishes, or chicken. This night I got adventurous and ordered fish and chips. The French fries were exactly what I expected, the fish was totally different ( also as expected).
We all met together after dinner for a message and worship time and entertainment for those who weren’t too tired to stay awake. Julie and I weren’t among that group so I’m sure we missed some good things but we got some much needed sleep.
The next day we were up early enough to beat the crowd to the breakfast bar. That was part of our plan since we were familiar with what happens when 150 hungry kids wake up and descend on the buffet. We made it just in time.
Afterward our whole group met for worship and a message one more time. Then the kids loaded on the buses for a short jaunt to the beach. Some swim, some just enjoy the sand and sun. The men and boys had a “soccer” game on the beach. Since the bus drivers don’t allow wet, sandy people on the bus, they left to go back to the hotel while the beachgoers walked back. It was check-out time. The retreat was over except for the ride home.
This break from their normal routine is a much needed respite. That being said, it is also a common experience to all of us that going on vacation entails some work. The fact that they approach their work so calmly and efficiently is always remarkable to me. The helpers shop for food, pack it up and take it on the bus. The children are instructed to be ready on time, and they are. They pack up their suitcases (which most of them have purchased on our trips to the market) and take them to the bus themselves. They go around to all our team and say thank you and give goodbye hugs. They pose for pictures, and take plenty of their own. The buses leave for Phnom Penh.
At least I think it’s day 2. When the trip actually starts I soon lose track of what time to call it. It makes no sense to keep on referring to the time in the zone I just left. I’m not sure what time it is where I’m going and the intervening time is hard to identify. The lights in the plane are kept low/off except when a meal or snack is being served.
The longest flight is over and I am in Seoul, South Korea with about 15 minutes until boarding for the last six hour flight to Phnom Penh. It is 6:15 pm on June 5. I began the journey from home at 3:30 am on June 4th but somewhere in there I crossed enough time zones to gain nine or ten hours.
Getting my shoes back on after 13 hours of sitting was more difficult than I expected. Technically, I know it’s healthier to stay hydrated. Realistically, it’s airline torture to be trapped in your seat with a full bladder so I am staying more on the “dry” side. When I think about how many people were on the plane, for all those hours, with so few facilities I get in touch with my claustrophobic self real quick.
However, I do eat all the meals, and almost all the snacks. It helps to pass time. I hadn’t heard of most of the movies but I did watch three and parts of a fourth. I couldn’t finish Star Wars: Rogue One. I used to love science fiction as a highschooler, but since then it seems more like a waste of time. So many of the movies seem to turn to overuse of sex and/or violence in an attempt to entertain and end up being distasteful and boring. I didn’t end up reading as much as I thought I would either as I kept thinking I should try to sleep (but couldn’t).
Later: It is over. I am here and breathing a great sigh of relief. On the last flight I had a seat between two men, and we had friendly conversation as much as we could without knowing much of each other’s language. One was from Japan, the other from South Korea.
I was so grateful to be on the ground and out of a sitting position at the Phnom Penh airport. There were probably 50 of us in line to apply and get visas, and as usual at least ten very stern faced men and women sitting behind glass taking all our passports and passing them down the line to each other. I can’t figure it out – some of them don’t seem to be doing anything. We wait at the end of the line for our passports to be returned with the visas attached, one at a time. Although I was early handing mine in, I was second to last getting it back. Although I paid $3 to have a picture taken, no one took my picture. But I was motioned on to the next desk. Every time I shoved papers back in my pack, there would be another need to drag them out again. They seem to like regulation and uniforms and scaring tourists. Not one smile, all business. Oh well.
My lone suitcase was going round and round on the carousel, thankfully no waiting for that. My hotel driver was outside the building holding a sign with my name. It was so sweet! The Double Leaf Hotel is near the Russian Market and I am very pleased with the room and the service. It is now 12:30 am here and I certainly should be tired enough to sleep, except that my internal clock says 1:30 pm and is trying to be alert. I will make it adjust. So glad to be here safely and be able to rest.
In about 12 hours I’ll be going to Cambodia again. It is always a surreal experience for me, as I am such an unlikely candidate for such far away travel. I’m old enough to be a grandmother and never had expectations of going farther away than the edges of my own country. I don’t necessarily have a yearning for travel and can’t imagine why it has happened to me (for the fifth time now!) except to say that an unseen hand must have picked me up and dropped me on the plane.
These days preceding the flight have been filled with hectic activity, not leaving much time to think about the trip, but when I have thought about it…
How different will it be for me, doing it alone this time?
I don’t have suitcases full of toys, crafts, and medical supplies this time. What am I supposed to do with all that room? Take clothes?
What will I do with those 26 hours of travel time if there are no good movies? if it’s hard to get up and walk around? if I can’t sleep?
I hope I don’t break the hot pink headphones I borrowed from Gracie.
At last I’ll get to be that person at the airport looking for someone holding a card with my name on it.
I wonder what the taxi fare will be – have no clue. I should have handled more of my own money matters on trips before.
I wonder if I will remember the children’s names, or even recognize them after two years. They’ve grown so much. I wonder if they will remember me…
A real hotel this time, not a guest house with known hosts. The Double Leaf Boutique, at the exorbitant price of $40 per night. Times have changed!
I wonder if my aging computer will make it through the two weeks. And my phone’s camera…
But I’m not going to take as many pictures (haha – I say this every time). I’m just going to put new dates on the old ones.
I’m not going to buy anything at the markets. No, not a thing. I don’t need anything.
I’ve seen their chickens. How am I ever going to stay on my paleo diet?
Two weeks without my favorite pillow, should be interesting. I’m tired already. And beds in southeast Asia are mostly hard in my experience.
I shouldn’t have cut my own hair – this is how they are going to remember me forever. There will be photos…
How has the country changed? I wonder if the roads have gotten any better.
How many hours of TV will the husband log while I’m away?
It’s the last few hours and I’m making myself finish packing. I’m hoping that once I get there the long trip will be forgotten and I will regain my enthusiasm, but for now, I have to admit I’m lacking in that category. I’m asking God to show me, definitively, why I am doing this. And I know he will.
As we three travelers finished our journey to Cambodia, it was hard to keep track of what day it was. It was actually early on Thursday that I finished this, or so I’m told. You will probably also be confused by the time you finish reading.
Our flight to Phnom Penh is only six hours long and I am on it now, as I write. FT is 9 am Wednesday but over here when we land it will be exactly 12 hours later. I can tell my body thinks I should be awake, although I am confused enough that I will be able to go to sleep when we get to the guest house. It is always good to have that rest at the end of a long time of being in a non-restful position.
I have been studying the pictures of the children in PE 4 and PE 5, hoping to learn the boys names and review the girls. Even though I have seen them for three visits now it is still hard to remember the names that are very similar, especially when I have not done anything specific with them. I would like to call them all by name but it is unlikely…
We are in a fairly large plane and it is full. We have been given the only meal we will have on this leg of the journey. We were given papers to fill out to apply for our visas. The price of a visa has gone up from $25 to $37 and we will get ours at the airport when we land. So far the trip has been uneventful but I am almost afraid to say that.
FT 12:45 pm Wednesday but in PP (Phnom Penh) it is 12:45 am on Thursday. At about 10:30 pm we had a rather rough landing and disembarked. Some of this detail is going to be boring to many but I’m hoping it will give daughter Julia an idea of where to go and what to do when she travels here alone on Saturday. I have never had to do it unaccompanied, thankfully. Everyone getting off the plane does pretty much the same thing so following the crowd is a good way to go. This airport is older, has a few holes in the walls, and a lot of strange additions to it – not at all like Korean airports. We are directed into a large room where lines are forming along the left wall. There is a counter with a lot of uniformed men, some women, behind it. They take our passports and $2 for a picture, then we stand in a group at the right of the long counter. Our passports are passed along the officials and end up at the last man who tries to pronounce our names in a way that we will recognize. Good luck there. He also holds it up so the picture can be seen. We pay $30 for the visa and get our passport handed to us again.
One more checkpoint as we move through the large room. There are several stations with an agent waiting to take another look at the passport, stamp it three or four times and give it back. We are now official tourists and the next stop is right in front of us – the baggage carousel. And by this time the bags are there and circling. Everything arrived undamaged and on time. There are carts to help us move it all. As we get near the door the waiting crowd spills through and starts the greeting and hugging. A lot of the kids have come, some of the dorm students, and a number of adults from Asia’s Hope. It is a royal welcome.
We are driven to the Green Pasture Inn, which is the guest house we have always stayed in, but now it has new management and some changes. Still it is familiar and feels like “home, sweet home” as Mike says. I have my double room, since Julie will be joining me in a few days. The “air con” gets turned on and, as usual, the password for the wifi doesn’t work. We’ll have to figure that one out in the morning. So for now, goodnight.
Checking out a rubber manufacturing plant in Cambodia (please tell me you haven’t done this…)
On a recent trip to Cambodia, our small group of foreigners got to tour a rubber plant in Kampong Cham province. Not only was this something one doesn’t get to do every day, but we almost didn’t get to do it that day either. There were union protests taking place in the capital city of Phnom Penh and the guards at our rubber factory thought we might be coming to incite a riot. Fortunately our tour organizer was from that province and somehow knew the right things to say. We all paid $1 to get in. This was a very self-guided tour. This was the full extent of our supervision as we roamed the premises at will.
Rubber tree sap is white and really quite beautiful. It’s collected a little like maple sap used in making maple syrup. There’s the hole in the tree trunk, a little spigot and a pail. I’m not sure how they get the sap from the grove to the processing building but once there it’s put in long storage vats and a chemical is added. The sap solidifies. It looks a lot like cheese (mozarella).
The long flats of raw rubber go into a drying machine where they are chopped up and dried. I’m actually making this all up because there was no one to tell us what was really happening but we got a pretty good idea just by the looks of things. These are the drying machines.
The rubber is not as attractive when it is dried – yellow/brown and dense. It comes from the dryers, still on it’s conveyor belt and drops into a compressor where it’s made into blocks.
The blocks of rubber are trucked out to other factories where they are made into various rubber things. Rubber bands? I don’t know. This is where our tour ended. There were about eight of these long open buildings but this was the only one that was in operation at the time. It appeared to be off-season for rubber. This is a very warm climate and the buildings are open, as I said, and didn’t have fans – only natural ventilation. The workers were often shirtless, shoeless and definitely were not wearing hard hats or protective anything around the machinery. Evidently there aren’t a lot of lawsuits in Cambodia. We were free to walk around the machinery, through the plant, touching, poking and asking questions without interference. It was really quite interesting.
What things are still made with real rubber? Do you know?
I’ve been out of mine so long today that I’m forgetting what it is like to be in my comfort zone. Loud, loud music that is not culturally familiar, much heat and little water, crowds of people, very few of whom I can communicate with, and those I can understand I still can’t communicate with because of deafness due to loud, loud music. It seems that our mission team is very well organized but somehow we English speakers are not understanding enough to prepare ourselves for each step as it comes, (Or could it be that God knows we would be resistant/scared/freaked out if we understood ahead of time. Yeah, that’s it.)
We are always being asked for the unexpected. What is the matter with us that we don’t expect to be asked to talk, lead, teach, play games, and do physical exams on sick villagers? The excitement is building as I contemplate having to see patients and dispense remedies, depending on an interpreter to know what problems I’m supposed to address… in the heat, in the dirt, under a tent, amidst confusion. We are called on to be flexible and all we can do is proceed. This may turn out well, it may turn out not so well, but either way it will only last about three hours tomorrow. I’m just sayin’ I’m thankful for that and I think I can do it.
I would say that I can hardly believe that I am here in Cambodia, were it not for the fact that the 20 hours in an airplane seat were all too real. Every year the padding seems a little thinner (on the chair or on me – not sure which).
But as time goes by I am a bit more appreciative of the work it takes to get an airbus full of people half way around the world safely and in relative comfort. I need to qualify “full of people” because we noticed that although economy coach was full, there was no one in first class. Those beautiful chair/beds were empty and what a waste it was.
On Korean Air there is always a flight attendant within sight and paying attention. They communicate clearly and are efficient in serving everythìng from beverages to hot towels. They fed us, turned out the lights so we could sleep, woke us up and fed us again. I’m not sure, but I think part of their schedule was an attempt to reset our internal clocks to the time of our destination. And it works… kind of.
So we are now at the end of our first day in Phnom Penh, the sights of which are getting to be familiar to me. I’m wondering what I will notice this time that I have not noticed before. I find that I am looking less at the garbage, the crazy wiring overhead, the ornate buildings and looking more at the faces of the people I pass on the street. And I wonder where this will lead.
But to be precise, I don’t really know which way you would say Cambodia is from where I am. I could get there in almost any direction because it’s pretty much on the other side of the world. I think the plane flies north over the pole.
After hours and hours of seeing nothing because it’s dark, I usually look out on what I am guessing are the mountains of Siberia. I remember thinking how cold, rugged and barren that area looks from up in the sky (and probably from down on the ground too – I’ve heard things about Siberia). We land in Seoul, stand in several lines, change planes and fly for another six hours to Phnom Penh.
Things really warm up there. Suddenly I’m back in a climate much like the one I left in Florida and surrounded by excited children. The hugs and smiles just don’t stop and their helping hands take all our bags and they lead us to the transport vehicles. All 40 plus children and house parents come to get us and come again to see us off ten days later. Kindness, gentleness, patience and love, love, love… from them to us.
This December I will be taking my third trip to Cambodia. Things change so fast over there. This year instead of being scattered all over the city of Phnom Penh in rented housing, the children have five new homes in progress on a central campus. There was not even one building on the property last year. The church and education center was the first to be built. The jungle has been cleared away, gardens have been planted. Thanks to Facebook I see pictures of foundations being poured, tile being laid, landscaping taking form. And yes, they take lots of pictures of their food too. I am eagerly anticipating this visit.
And of course, the children are growing up, The older ones are making plans for educating themselves in university and the trades. Last year a men’s dorm for university students was started and was amazingly successful. This year the women are also getting a dorm and some of the Asia Hope girls will be living there as they go to school. I will probably get a chance to talk with them several mornings before they head out and I’m looking forward to encouraging them and telling them how special they are.
They are truly Asia’s hope for the future. I am so blessed to have a window on the changes taking place there – and an opportunity to meet needs as they are expressed. Last year donations from many friends helped provide needed prophylactic medications for all 15 orphan homes for two years, plus some equipment for medical examinations. That was one FUN shopping trip! I am asking for donations again this year, if any readers are so inclined. I can guarantee that the funds are put to good use. God provides, but you are his vehicle.
Being there always inspires me, and I think it will inspire you as well. I’m just sayin’, stay in touch if you want to watch this year’s trip unfold in December.