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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bicycle No More?

This was the scene 1 month ago when I first blogged about the bicycle situation in Pasir Ris.

One month later, the bikes are gone. Is it due to the holidays and everybody is away?

Well no, there is this big sign put up by the Town Council on the removal of bicycles. Me, I would like to think that my earlier blog post has something to do with the Town Council's enforcement although I cannot be sure.

But of course, sign or no sign, there will be some soul brave enough to take a gamble that the Town Council will not enforce the rule and park their bicycle right under the banner. I hope the bicycle can tow away.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

SMRT CEO next move

Since the 2 break-in at the SMRT compound and the recent spate of break down, SMRT CEO, Saw Phaik Hwa has been on the receiving end of the stick from the public for her inept handling of  the problems and her lack of empathy for the commuters.

Everybody remember this and nobody remember that firstly she is no engineer or transportation expert and is merely a retailer. Secondly, she single-handedly transform the very bland and stale stations into vibrant bustling "Xchanges" and thirdly in the process increased SMRT profits from $56.8m in 2002 to $161m in 2011. 

With her vast retail background, I am sure she is more than well suited to solve the problems of commuters. I am very sure her brain must have lighted up and her eyes go $$$$ when she read the experience of the poor commuters who were trapped in the train without light, drink and food! 

So I am pretty sure her next move, sorry guys, hate to disappoint you here but she won't be resigning, will be to introduce a new retail experience for train commuters:

Drumroll please..... tada tada........
Photos lifted from various sources off the net
What were you expecting? Think of it. Food and drinks are banned in the trains. Train break down and  commuters get stuck in train for hours. Hot, thirsty and tired. What better way to alleviate their suffering than to sell drinks and maybe snacks to these poor souls and make more money for the SMRT.

Brilliant isn't it? Now you know why she is not resigning. She is too busy coming with new retail ideas for the SMRT!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Food in Cambodia

I had expected the food to be like Thai food but was really surprised that it was more Chinese and Vietnamese than Thai and certainly very palatable to our taste bud. But unfortunately, the food are not so cheap with an average meal being about US$3.

Vietnamese "popiah". This seems to be on the menu of practically every restaurant.

Cambodia Barbecue. Actually it is a combination of steamboat and barbecue. They use a piece of pork lard to grease the metal portion and small slices of various type of meat are then placed on it to cook. Our this set comes with crocodile meat although we couldn't differentiate which was which. Some other stalls also serve theirs with snake meat!The soup at the side is for the vegetables.

At another place, the barbecue steamboat came with these lot of vegetables that looks really like the wild plants in the forest. And they were rather tough and frankly not very suitable for the steamboat.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Scams in Cambodia

The situation in Cambodia is much better than Thailand. Here, one can take the tuk tuk or taxi without worries. Most places are safe to walk alone even at night. Only worries might be the land mines:)

But there are a still a few scams floating around though.

Most blatant is the "Fish Massage" which is everywhere.

But instead of using real "spa" fish ie Garra Rufa which is a type of sucker fish, here the Cambodia used another type of fish.
The real thing
The fish a sort of tilapia or cichlids used by the Cambodian. The problem with these fish is that they do not eat the dead skin like the real spa fish but are simply nibbling away at the human fresh!
The fake fisb
At least the fish scam cost only US$1 and maybe some loss of skin and fresh. Not a big deal unless you suay suay go and catch some diseases from the water.

This young lady was carrying a baby and going around being “friendly” with tourists. We had been pre-warned by our guesthouse owner. The modus operandi is to tell the tourists that she has no money to buy milk powder for the baby. To alleviate the suspicion of tourist who do not want to hand over cash, she will suggest that the tourist pop in to one of the nearby convenient store and buy a can of milk for the baby. When the transaction is done and the tourist is satisfied that he/she has done his/her good deed for the day, and after he/she walk off, the lady will return to the store and sell the milk powder back to the store at a discount. She gets her money and the store gets a small cut. Win win situation for everybody except the tourist!

Most tourists to Cambodia know that the country is improvised with many orphans and war victims. Not wanting to hand over cash to the many aid organizations around and have it misappropriated by officials, most tourists will bring over stationeries etc for the schools and orphanages. We too did the same thing lugging over a stack of stationeries. And we were so happy when we saw this school just 3 doors away from our guesthouse.

It claims to be a school for the poor children in the neighbourhood and every evening when we walked back to our guesthouse, we could see tourists happily conducting English lessons for the children. So we handed over our supplies to them.

Our joy was rather short-lived though when we were told the school was a scam. How so? Firstly, the school purports to offer schooling for the poor children in the neighbourhood who cannot afford to go to normal paid school. If that was so, why was classes conducted only in the night and not day? Secondly, most of the children cycle to the school. If they were really poor, they would not have been able to afford the bicycle. And thirdly, the area the school is in is considered one of the more affluent neighbourhood. There are no poor families in the area!

Apparently, what the school did was to entice tourist to contribute cash; there is a huge collection box at the entrance; or supplies which they could sell off to shops. So we were one of the suckers.

But considering the extent of the scams in Thailand, Cambodia’s scam pales in comparison. At least for the time being.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Angkor Wat

Our main purpose of this trip was to run the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon but of course just seeing the temples during the run is definitely not enough and so we made a return visit after the race.

We only had half a day so our friendly tuk tuk driver brought us to the main highlights of the immense complex

Angkor Wat. This has got to be the most famous of the temple complex in Cambodia.

Angkor Thom/Bayon. I find this more interesting than Angkor Wat.  There are a series of temples here - the central temple being Bayon. Climbing up and down the place was all joke and the sidekick who has a fear of height was terrified of climbing all the way up to the top but she did it!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Siem Reap

We didn't have much time in Siem Reap but we managed to spend half a day visiting the Floating Village, Kampong Pluk, where the villagers stay in floating houses on the Tonle Sap. 

There is even a school and a temple!

Children playing in the water. I can't imagine seeing a scene like that in Sg!

After the boat ride, we went on a temple hopping spree.

First on the list was the Wat Preah Inkosei, which was supposed to predate Angkor but what we saw was a lot of Stupas.

Next we walked to Wat Bo, one of the oldest temple in Cambodia.

Next up was Wat Dam Nak, a former royal palace

These 3 temples had been extensively made over yet retained some of the old structures. Not so, for the next temple, Wat Prom Rath which although the oldest in Siem Reap has bee so extensivelyt madeover, it looks so new!

Next: Angkor Wat

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Phnom Penh

We have only a few days to spend in Cambodia yet we took the 6 hours + journey overland from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh just so that we can see the Killing Fields. I know there is something morbid about wanting to look at death but this genocide in Cambodia was huge and something that I think everybody need to see to understand how deviant and cruel human beings can be.

The is is entrance to the Killing Fields, officially known as the Choeung Ek Genocidial Center.

Part of the place was so beautiful and tranquil that if not for the various signs and pits all over, I can never imagine the horrors that have been committed there.

Inside the stupa at the entrance is where all the remains of the victims of the Khmer Rouge are stored.

Just one of the many signs in the Centre telling the stories of what behalf the poor Cambodians.

From one Killing Fields to a Killing School, we went to the  Genocide Museum or Tuol Sleng Prison. This was a school that was taken over by the Khmer Rouge and turned into a prison where the prisoners are tortured in the day and driven to Choeung Ek to be killed at night

A school exercise station converted into a gallow used to suspend prisoner upside down and where they are dipped into the pot of cess below.

Some of the remains of the prisoners
Seeing is believing and it is hard to believe that any human can be so depraved that he or they can order the death of so many innocent peoples. I hope the on-going trial of the remaining Khmer Rouge leaders will bring a proper closure to the victim's families and the perpetrators will receive their due whether from the Cambodian authorities or from Power higher up!

Next: Back to Siem Reap

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Long Route to Phnom Penh

I can't believe that we took almost the same time it takes 1 to fly to the USA for us to go to Phnom Penh from Singapore!

We had booked the Silkair flight from Singapore to Siem Reap instead of flying in direct to Phnom Penh which would have taken just over 2 hours. But since we were returning to Singapore from Siem Reap and it was much cheaper to have a return ticket from the same airport, we had no choice but to fly in to Siem Reap first. The problem was, while the flight itself direct to Siem Reap also takes about 2 hours, this flight we took has to fly via Da Nang airport, Vietnam with a 40 minutes transit. Naturally, to add to our discomfort, our flight took off late by about 20 minutes from Singapore, took off another 40 minutes late from Da Nang and landed late in Siem Reap. All in, we were delayed by about an hour and a half with the flight itself taking over 7 hours!

Nevermind, we were met at the airport by our friendly tuk tuk driver who took us to our hotel in Siem Reap. But we were suppose to go straight to Phnom Penh, so the friendly guy at the hotel or rather guesthouse, allowed us to bath in one of the room and we then took the 12midnight bus to Phnom Pehn. Sadly, like our flight, the 6 hours bus ride turned out to be more like 71/2 hours. Sighed! So all in, it took us over 14 hours just to reach Phnom Penh from Singapore. 

 Speaking of our bus ride, this was our ride. Looks ordinary enough?

Imagine our surprise when we climbed inside to see 2 rows of bunk beds!
We got our beds but it was a rather uncomfortable sleep though. The bus was quite stuffy and smelly and the blanket that was provided didn't look very clean. But it was a midnight trip and everybody including the many Caucasians just hunker down and make the best out of it.

Next: Phnom Penh