5 THINGS TO DO IN PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA

What to do in Phnom Penh??

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Eating Out in Phnom Penh – My Favourite Restaurants

Eating out in restaurants back in Ireland or any other western county can be pricey and sometimes only happens on special occasions. And when I talk about eating out I don’t mean a take away from Lennox’s or Four Star Pizza. I mean going to a restaurant, sitting down, having food, a few beers and catching up with friends. This is what Phnom Penh does best!

There are hundreds, if not thousands of restaurants in PP to choose from, some better than others and some hidden gems that are rarely talked about by the expat community in order to keep off the backpacker trail.

TripAdvisor is a great way to visit some of the top places to eat in a city, but sometimes it doesn’t have everything, or some of the establishments do not receive the recognition that they deserve. It is good to use TripAdvisor as a guide, but don’t take is as Gospel!

The following are some of my favourite places to eat in PP:

  1. Chat and Chew – No. 54, St.172, Phnom Penh
    Owned by Sony and his wife, it is a nice small friendly place where you are always greeted with a smile, and if you’re luck you will get one of the two tables outside. The walls are decorated with various pictures of the Khmer culture, from Khmer boxing to the rural rice fields.
    Chat and Chew is a local spot for most Expats in PP who have tried a lot of different eateries in the city. It’s breakfast options vary from omelettes, to muesli to a full English Breakfast, and my personal favourite, egg and soldiers!
    Main courses are the main reason that the expat community keep coming to Chat and Chew. Burgers, pasta, pizza, salads and the Western Specialties such and Chicken Cordon Blue, Beef Wellington and BBQ Ribs are all top quality and ensure that you don’t leave hungry.

    Chicken Cordon Blue

    Chicken Cordon Blue

    Its local Asian and Khmer Menu offer some cheaper alternatives to the Western menu. Nasi Goreng, Fried Rice/Noodles, Khmer curry, Amok, Chicken and cashew are all available. The unique taste from each dish will ensure that the next time you return you will want to taste something new and see it can beat your last order.

    Nasi Goreng

    Nasi Goreng

  2. The Irish Place – Street 110, No. 119, Phnom Penh
    Phnom Penh’s equivalent to Cheers, the place where everyone knows your name. Ran by Pat Hurney from Dublin, Ireland, The Irish Place is the only TRUE Irish Bar in the city of Phnom Penh. The Irish Place is full of Expats who come for the cold beer, atmosphere and the FOOD!!
    Best option to order on the menu is the Fish and Chips. If you manage to fish this serving you are doing very well for yourself! (a half portion option is available)
    If you manage to wake up early, get yourself to The Irish Place for full Irish Breakfast, complete with tea and toast! This is by far the best breakfast in PP and luckily is still not too famous. But for sure the word will spread like wild fire!
    The toasted sandwiches are the best in town, proper bread, proper cheese and peppered ham that is second to none!

    Fish and Chips

    Fish and Chips

    FULL IRISH BREAKFAST

    FULL IRISH BREAKFAST

    The Irish Place also offers accommodation upstairs so be sure to check it out!

  3. Katy Peri’s Pizza – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qc2IMxyLhAw
    First of all this is a mobile wood fired pizza oven that makes the best pizzas in PP! Hands Down! It only opens after dark because the guys who work there have other jobs in the morning. After 11pm it can be found on the corner of St 51 and St 172 and it will stay there until about 4am or until they run out
    So its location varies during the the week 5pm-10pm:
    Monday- Showbox
    Tuesday- Bluedog
    Wednesday –Bluedog
    Thursday – Showbox
    If I didn’t mention it already, this is the best pizza in PP! Small pizza’s start from $3 to $5 for a large! Words can’t justify the taste of this pizza. Just ask any person who lives in PP and they will tell you about it.
    It is usually consumed at about 3am after Howies or Love Bar. If you are lucky, you will get a seat and a table to eat off of.
  4. Restaurant 18 – St 108 (Next to the Night Market)
    This is a local Khmer beer garden style place where you can find all the local delicacies and free flowing Anchor! The menu is similar to a phone book and is full of pictures of the food that they have to offer. There is always a BBQ flaming in front of the restaurant, a fish tank that offers the freshest of fish and personal cook-it-yourself gas burners for soup or fried meats.
    Some of the best dishes on the menu are the fried frog, mango salad, battered prawns and the whole fried fish.
    With jugs of Anchor going for $2 a pop, it is a great place to meet with friends, chat, drink and eat before the night ahead

I’m starting to get hungry now so I’m going to stop!

Distribution of Materials in Som Roung Village

Continuing on from a distribution project started back in Spring 2013, SCAO has adapted its distribution of materials to the poorer families in Som Roung Village. The project started off by distributing rice and fish sauce to families. Now we have had more donations of various different materials from all over the world.

Fifty of the more vulnerable families in Som Roung were invited to SCAO II on Sunday the 17th of August. At 8am as the volunteers started to organize the materials, the families started to gather around the school. It was organized that the families would receive clothing that was donated by various volunteers who had worked with SCAO previously. These items of clothing ranged from young infants to adult clothes in both men’s and women’s styles.

The clothing accompanied the main material bag that the families would receive.
This bag contained the following:
5 bars of soap
toothbrushes
toothpaste
1 mosquito net

With the rainy season approaching within a month, these items will be essential to the families in the village. With the rising water, comes stagnant water and stagnant water is an ideal breathing ground for mosquitoes. Malaria is not a major concern in Cambodia, but Dengue Fever is. Dengue Fever cannot be treated and there is no medicine or vaccination you can take to prevent it. However, through the correct use of a mosquito net you can reduce the risk of a mosquito biting you or your family. Mosquito nets are a highly valued household item that is essential for a family living in rural Cambodia.

SCAO would like to thank the following for their generous donations that helped to make this project a success:
Rotary Club Phnom Penh in conjunction with other Rotary Clubs worldwide.
Jean and James Downey
Rebekka Nagy
Kathy Walsh
Nicola Corless
KPMG Singapore
CIA FIRST International School, Phnom Penh

This distribution project is something that we would like to keep running long into the future. If you would like to get involved or if you would like to donate items to SCAO please do not hesitate to contact us through email: info@savechildreninasia.org

Teacher Training at SCAO

In the end of June SCAO II hosted an Irish volunteer Kathy, a teacher with 9 years experience, who was very kind to provide two teacher’s training in both schools. As for new volunteers, as for Khmer assistants, fresh breath of new and slightly different vision of education was very productive and useful.

At the training Kathy and teachers were speaking about classroom management and classroom control, teacher and student position and lesson planning. Kathy was sharing her experience in Secondary school in Ireland, and how she sometimes manages trouble behavior and issues in the classroom. Although, she admitted that because of cultural difference and not similar background of the students, she wouldn’t use the same approach in Cambodia what she’d use in Ireland. She gave some good examples of type of situation where she would act very different with Irish and Cambodian student.

Kathy also pointed at importance of lesson planning, what was introduced in schools by previous Education Officer Natasha. Kathy highlighted that each lesson should have different type of activities so student’s won’t lose their attention, what especially important with the youngest ones.

In very informal and relaxed way Kathy and teachers were sharing their classroom stories and finish very satisfied about the meeting. Kathy also left her email address so anyone who faces not easy solving situation can write her and ask for advice. After visiting SCAO Kathy went for her vacation around Cambodia.

Blood on YOUR Clothes

Have you ever been clothes shopping and saw a stunning new jacket for a bargain price of €60 and thought to yourself ‘I wonder how much the person who made this jacket gets paid?’ Realistically probably not, it may have dawned on you once or twice but it is only a brief thought. In Cambodia the wage for a garment factory worker is $95 a month. Yes, $95 USD a MONTH. The majority of these garment factory workers are female. With this monthly wage they have to support their families with food, shelter, healthcare and education. Could you do it?

Right now in Cambodia these garment workers are striking for better monthly wages. The people who make the clothes you wear are looking for a fairer wages. However, the current ruling government party, the Cambodian People’s Party, led by Hun Sen (61) has other ideas. Rallies by workers have been suppressed with batons, electric cattle prods, water cannons, rubber bullets and live ammunition. So far the death toll from these protests stands at four dead, 30 injured and 23 detained/kidnapped.

$160

Adidas, American Eagle Outfitters, Debenhams, Esprit, H&M, New Look, Nike, Primark, Puma, Tesco and Under Armour are just some of the companies that sub-contract the factories that employ these exploited workers. The workers unions are looking for a wage increase to $160. The Ministry of Labour set the wage at $100 per month after protests on the 24th of December. Meeting this wage of $160 a month wouldn’t price the multinationals out of Cambodia. This wage is still competitive with China ($141) and the Philippines ($177). The problem, according to experts is not just the increase in monthly wage, but that this wage increase may lead to future expectations that are unsupportable. Part of the problem is that these workers unions are corrupt themselves. Union leaders are being treated to all expenses paid training workshops in Paris. The government pays off the union leaders instead of paying the workers.  When the workers unions don’t do their job, the people take to the street.

Razor wire

According to the International Labour Organisation, Cambodia’s garment stitching is the country’s largest industrial sector. Employing 400,000 workers and accounting for $5 billion in annual exports, 35 percent of GDP. All these exported clothes make it to the retail stores in Europe and the US. Consumers are usually unaware of these protest situations because of minimal media coverage on these issues. Instead of hearing about an unarmed female food vendor being shot in the chest with an AK-47 in Cambodia, we are informed that Justin Bieber has been arrested for drunk driving. Where do Western priorities lie when it comes to important current affairs?

AK-47

Cambodia has a devastating history. The US bombing of the country as part of the US-Vietnam War from 1969-1973, the American bombers dropped more bombs by tonnage into Cambodia, than all of the Allied Forces combined during World War II. The hyper-communist Khmer Rouge regime ultimately followed from 1975-1979. This extremely violent rule was led by the infamous Pol Pot who initiated Year Zero. The entire population was banished to the countryside to work in the rice farms. Any person that was in anyway educated or who worked for the government was executed. By 1979 nearly 2 million people had died from starvation, forced labour and killings.

The current Prime Minister, Hun Sen, was a Khmer Rouge battalion commander who defected to help lead an invading Vietnamese-installed government that ran Cambodia from 1979 until the late 1980s. Hun Sen has since controlled Cambodia for 28 years.

In recent times we have seen Middle Eastern leaders such as Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak deposed during the Arab Spring. When asked if he may fall similarly to the Arab Spring dictators in 2011, he strongly responded, “I not only weaken the opposition, I’m going to make them dead…and if anyone is strong enough to hold a demonstration, I will beat those dogs and put them in a cage.”

Just 12 hours before I sat down to write this article, violence erupted in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Riot police prevented demonstrators from entering Freedom Park, where they intended to protest against low wages and the continued detention of 23 people.

It is clear that the people of Cambodia are not happy with the current political climate, especially after a national election that was marred by extraordinary voting irregularities. The people continue to take to the streets looking for justice. Here, they are being met by the cold hard fist of the Cambodian government in the form of batons, electric cattle prods and in some cases, live bullets.

No one knows when blood will stop staining the streets of Phnom Penh. One thing is assured; it is the blood of the vulnerable members of Cambodian society, the people looking for fairer wages, whom make the clothes that we wear.

Riot Police

Article for UCC Express

Building an Education and Community Centre in Rural Cambodia – http://www.scao-school.org

A lot of people in UCC do not even know this course exists, and a great majority of people do not even know what the course entails when I tell them. In fact when I tell them what I studied, I am usually met by a blank expressionless face. However since its establishment in 2005, this course has grown and developed in so many different ways. It attracts international recognition and interest from all over the world, from Asia to Africa and everywhere in-between. Graduates from this course are scattered all over the globe, in countries like Uganda, Myanmar, Cambodia and Mongolia, to name a few. It is a truly unique university course, and the first undergraduate course of its kind in Ireland.

I graduated from BSc International Development and Food Policy (IFDP) in UCC in 2012, and a passion to work overseas was something that grew within me during the four years of university. The course has a mandatory 6 month overseas work placement in a developing country in third year. My placement was in Kolkata, India. This was an amazing six months, and it is something that I will never forget. Being taken out of your comfort zone and dropped into one of the poorest cities in India is a real sink or swim moment. IFDP does not just educate you in the classroom through lectures, projects and assignments, it makes you think for yourself, develop your own ideas, plans and personally develop in ways that no other course does.

When I graduated in October 2012, I had to ask myself the same question that every other recent graduate asks, “What next?” There are a limited amount of answers to this question; do a Masters, get a job working in a shop or bar, look for a job in your field, emigrate, or go on the Dole. I on the other hand decided to look for alternatives to these options. I wanted something in my field of study and I wanted to go travelling. I found an Irish organization called SCOOP Foundation who was advertising for a volunteering position in rural Cambodia as the Development Officer for a small Cambodian NGO called SCAO. During the interview I was offered the position, and I decided to go for it, what other alternative did I have that was better than this? Looking back now, it was a life changing decision, and one of the best decisions I have ever made.

SCAO is a small organization that has only been established in the past five years. It runs two schools in rural areas just outside the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. Combined the schools offer free English classes to over 500 children aged 4-22 years of age. The classes are thought by international volunteers who come from all over the world to work at SCAO. We also have computer classes in both schools with over 60 students learning how to use Word, PowerPoint, Excel, email and CV creation. Finally, our newest vocational training project is just a year old. The Hairdressing and Beautician Project already has 8 graduates, and currently 24 in partaking in the current class.

Since my arrival a year ago, we have made huge progress in community development in Som Roung village, where one of the SCAO schools are located. I designed a survey to find out what are the main struggles that face local families in the village every day. Three trends soon emerged from the survey; lack of access to clean water, lack of access to a toilet and lack of access to healthcare. So far we have implemented over 350 ceramic water filters into homes, thus giving over 1,500 men, women and children access to clean safe drinking water. We have constructed 11 toilets for some of the poorest families in the village and there are currently plans to construct more in the flood plains of the village. Finally we have developed an educational healthcare awareness program in the village that takes place every 3 months.

My next biggest project is by far the most difficult, but it is the one that will have the biggest impact. SCAO are currently funding for the construction for a new Education and Community Centre (ECC) in a rural village called Prey Ponror, located 25km northwest of Phnom Penh. This ECC will be as environmentally and financially sustainable as possible. The ECC will have solar panels on the roof to provide electricity for the school, a water harvesting system to reduce the use of water, and a school garden to provide vegetables for the school. Financially the ECC will be sustainable through the volunteers who come to stay and teach at the school.

The new ECC will run similar projects in Prey Ponror Village. In the school there will be free English classes for children of all ages and all levels of English. A computer room will be constructed and computer classes will take place on a daily basis.

The biggest obstacle to overcome in the construction of this school is the financial costs. SCAO has partner organisations that are going to be fundraising for the new ECC. However, this is just going to cover some of the costs. For the remaining costs we are looking to the international community to come together and to donate towards the construction of the school. www.scao-school.org is a website that is specially designed for the fundraising of the new ECC. On the website you can symbolically purchase items for the construction and furnishing of the ECC. People can purchase items from €2-€12,000 depending on their generosity. I would urge people to have a look at the website and to pass it on to their friends and family.

As SCAO is an organization that attracts volunteers of all ages and from all over the globe, volunteering offers an alternative summer to a J1 or inter-railing. If you are interested in volunteering for SCAO, check out www.savepoorchildreninasia.org