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!

A Typical Phnom Penh Weekend

Its very cliché but its very true, ‘living for the weekend’. No matter what your work is, you want Friday to arrive as soon as possible and just let loose for the few days of freedom that you have.Nothing changes when you move to the other side of the world! Friday is Friday, but here in Cambodia it comes 6 hours earlier than it does in Ireland! So that’s a benefit!

Once Friday hits out in Som Roung, it is Creative Friday. This usually means, painting, drawing, jigsaw’s or movies with the students. So this is a nice way to ease yourself into the weekend mood. I finish my class at 2pm and unless there is something important to be done in the school, I will usually leave the village at about 3pm(after a noodle soup) Leaving the school on my moto, I usually stop to say goodbye to Sovanred, Da and Visal, who are usually chilling out the front with the neighbours. Switching on my iPod I drive out of the village waving to the students who are playing games out the front of the school and in neighbours gardens. Once I hit the main road it takes me around 45 minutes to do the 20km to Phnom Penh. I head straight for our usual guesthouse, ‘Grandview Guesthouse‘. We discovered this guesthouse around 4 months ago and it is has been the place of choice since then! Located in the Lakeside area, it is a quite and i bit of a run down area of the city, that in its good days used to be the main place to be in PP.

Grandview Guesthouse. Don;t let the name fool you, there used to be a ‘grand view’ of the Lake, but a few years ago the lake was sold to the Chinese and they filled it in with sand. They did this to try and build new buildings, complexes and a shopping centre, but to this day it just remains a big empty dry lake. To be perfectly honest we dont come here for the view, even if there was one.
We come here for 3 simple reasons;
1) It is cheap! That is thing that people look for when they are going to stay in a place, especially backpackers, you go for the cheapest option. So for $4 a night we get a room with either a big bed or two twin beds, and each room has its own bathroom attached and a big window. This mightn’t seem like much but what else do you need?? Your only using it for sleeping off a hangover!
2) The Staff! It has been over 4 months now that we have been staying there every weekend, so the staff in there know is pretty well!! After all we are their best customers. Every time we walk in the door they are happy to see some regular faces walking in the door. We have become such good friends with them that one of the guys invited us to his sisters wedding that was taking place 40km outside PP. This was a great honour for us, after all we are just guests in their guesthouse! So ya it is safe to say that we have become quite good friends with them!
3) The Lounge area! This is a big open area that most guesthouses around PP lack. It is a nice area with loads of couches, wifi, TV and a pool table. However it is the food and how fast it is served that makes this place special! The food is very cheap and I have no idea how it comes out so quickly! And if you want to make some small alterations to a dish there are no issues!

So after checking in to the guesthouse I usually find myself in the lounge area doing a few pieces of work that need good internet in order to get completed, while having an ice cold Klang beer, of course! (its the weekend) I usually hang out there for a while and wait of the rest of the volunteers to arrive in to decide on what we will do for the night!

The Pub Crawl- After having a few warm up drinks while playing pool in the guesthouse we usually head for 65! This is a small Khmer restaurant on the side of a side street. Now before I get into more detail, the name of the bar is not actually 65, its some Khmer name. We call it 65 because a jug of beer there is 6500 Riel ($1.60) which is pretty damn cheap! So after a few jugs in 65 we head towards the next bar! This bar is the bar that will make or break your night, you will either go out and have a great night, or go out and have an awesome night and not remember a thing!!
Mekong River Bar- Again I have been going here for the 7 months that I have been in Cambodia, almost every weekend. So the bar tenders in there know us all and know that when we order a cocktail that we want it Klang!(strong) This is another great thing about this bar, the cocktails cost $1.75 each! But only during happy hours which are 7am-Closing time. The Long Island Iced Tea in this place will kill you the next morning, especially if you have three! It is basically like a shot of rum, tequila, gin and vodka mixed into one glass with a drop of Coke for the colour. So ya, 4 shots in one glass is going to ruin you, but in the good way!! We usually leave at closing time, just after midnight, and head around the corner to the next establishment for a sing song!
Heartbreak– Ahhhhh Heartbreak……where to start with this one? Julius’ first love, singing and not giving a shit, turning the bar into our own little club, and just generally having a mess!! They have a TV located above the bar and a song book that you can choose which song you want to butcher! Some of the faviroutes are anything by The Beatles, Better Man, Hotel California, She’s The One and Save Tonight. We usually stay here for an hour or two  our until the owners get sick of our singing and turn off the music! Next stop is the night club area.
Street 51– This street is home to Sorya Mall, which houses dozens of bars in an open air shopping centre. Our personal favourite is Swiss Bar, which serves tasty food and refreshing beer! The bar tender Chaly is a legend and every time I walk in he immediately hugs me and asks if I want my regular Vodka and Sprite. This bar allows you to put on your own music on Youtube and play pool for free. Its a nice area to top up on your alcohol before the nightclub!
Heart of Darkness/Pontoon– These are the two main clubs in PP that all the people go to. Heart of Darkness is always free in, and Pontoon charges $6 before 4am. Pontoon is the better of the two clubs but given the state you are going to be in this stage, you won’t even know where you are!

So this is your typical Friday and Saturday night in Phnom Penh. The rest of your weekend depends on how hard you like to drink and how well you handle your hangovers!

During the weekends then when you have time to spare there are a lot of other activities that you can do to pass the time.

There are 4 cinemas in Phnom Penh that we go to. Two of them are big multiplex cinemas that show the big blockbusters and some movies in 3D. The cinema here costs between $3-6 for a show and you can get your popcorn and coke in there for a reasonable price compared to back home. The other two cinemas are independent cinemas called The Flicks and The Empire, these cinemas are small and very comfortable. You can drink beer or wine while you watch some of its alternative and independent films. The seating in these two cinemas is what really makes it, there are huge cushioned floor that you can lay down on with pillows, to make yourself as comfortable as possible. Entry to these cinemas is $3.50 and you can stay for as many showings as you like (3 showings per day) This is a great way to eat away some hours in the city.

Massages- South East Asia is famous for its massages. They are cheap and places can be found all over the city. Prices can range from $4-15 depending on the place and the treatment. Our place of choice on the weekends is Long Beach Plaza Hotel AKA Plaza. Here you only pay for your massage ($6-8) and you get a swimming pool, gym, sauna, steam room, hot and cold tub and as much iced tea as you can drink. There are two sections to this spa, one for men and one for women, so it is a nice time to take a chill and just chat with the lads about the mischief that we got up to the night before. This is by far the best way to cure a hangover, just walk straight into the sauna and sweat out all the toxins that you poisoned yourself with the night before.

Obviously there is a whole section that I could write on food to fill in this section but I am going to leave that for another more detailed post.

So ya that is an insight into my average weekend in the great city of Phnom Penh! If you have any places to add leave a comment!

Most people who pass through Phnom Penh don’t like it, but give it the time it deserves and you will fall in love with the chaos, the people and everything in between!

Mekong Island

Image

Mekong Island

On Paddy’s Day we brought the kids to Mekong Island for a day trip to the beach. Sand castles were built and destroyed and skin was sunburnt, but it was a great day out!!

Wet Dreams – Songkran and a crazy motorcycle ride through the jungle

Now that I’ve got you attention, let me tell you a tale of four naïve volunteers, their Honda Dream’s, the jungle of Northern Thailand and Songkran water festival!

We had just arrived in Chiang Mai from Bangkok on an overnight train that took 14 hours. This however is not as bad as you may think, in fact, it is by far the best way to travel long distances in Thailand. The cost of the ticket was 800 bhat (just under $30). We each had our own fully horizontal bed, complete with pillow and blanket. Before we got on the train we took a quick stop in a 7-11 for a couple of beers and two bottles of Sang Som rum. The train even has its own restaurant/party carriage where we spent most of our time. So when you were fully loaded with drink and ready for bed all you had to do is stumble back through the swaying carriages to your bed and pass out. When we work up we were arriving in Chiang Mai. Perfect!!

Double checking our route

Double checking our route

Anyway, planning our route was the first part of this expedition. We bought a map and set our sights on the northern town of Pai. There is a main road that connects Chiang Mai and Pai, this takes you through the valleys on a nice tarmacked road. Or there are the other alternative route that are never travelled by tourists. It came down to a flip of a coin on which route we would take, like it literally did come down to a flip of a coin (heads or temple) And the alternative route came up temple, so our choice was made by fate. Little did we know what lay ahead of us because of that simple flip of a coin!!

With our motos rented the previous night we awoke early at 6:45am to begin our journey at 7am. We estimated the length of the trip at around 150km to get to Pai, so around 6-7 hours. (How wrong we were) However because some of us are not ‘morning people’ we did not leave until 8am. Looking at it now, that hour lost us a valuable hour of sunlight. Getting out of Chiang Mai was easy, there was not too much traffic and the roads in Thailand are a lot more organised than those in Cambodia. We headed north until we had to turn off the main road to find our alternative route. Once we turned off this main road that was fully of trucks, buses and fast cars we were greeted with one of the best roads that I have ever had the pleasure of driving on. It was the perfect combination of a smooth paved road, seamless inclining bends, and awe inspiring views that would distract you from the road ahead!

Our bikes out side the cafe after breakfast

Our bikes out side the cafe after breakfast

After making it out of the city and off the main road we decided to stop for breakfast as a small cabin at the side of the road for some morning Pad Thai. After filling up we set off once again, stopping every so often to take in the sights and some pictures of the interlocking green valleys. We tried to stop along the way at a couple of waterfalls and caves; however these had all been turned into tourist attractions and had an entrance fee. For me this is not the way that you should experience some of Mother Nature’s greatest sculptures. It just reminded me of how lucky we were in Koh Kong when we found the giant secluded waterfall. We did however come across a cave, while it was a tourist attraction, it did not charge and entrance fee. Here we found a deep cavern that bore its way in to the monstrous cliff-face. Equipped with just the flash lights from our mobile phones we entered the cave to explore. The impeding darkness quickly engulfed us and sounds of the unknown cause paranoia to set in and it soon had us exiting the cave quite quickly.

Caves we found along the way

Caves we found along the way

Back on our Honda Dream’s again we set off again. For those of you that are unfamiliar with motos, the Honda Dream is the most popular and reliable bike in South East Asia. It is perfect on big roads and with its 125cc engine it can reach a good pace. Its handling and gear changes are second to none and it there are ever any issues with it, most mechanics will know how to fix it. But what really sets the Honda Dream apart from the other motos is its endurance and ability to overcome any terrain that is throw at it, be it mud, water, gravel, or all of them combined! It really is the ultimate bike and it was just what we needed for this trip.

We stopped for food at Yang Moen at 3pm with around 4 hours of sunlight left. The next part of road was going to be the worst of the trip, on the map that we bought it said that this road is only passable in a 4×4 during the dry season, on our Dream’s we could handle anything.  Even before we set out we knew this, but we didn’t realise how bad it was actually going to be. While finishing our food we tried to guess at what time we would arrive in Pai and what we would do for the night. Let’s just say we were way off guessing our arrival time in Pai. The first half of the road was an enjoyable change from the perfect tarmac, now we were driving on sand and rubble, up and down through the green hills. A flat tire here would be a disaster for us, but luckily that flat tire came on a different road.  The conditions of the road would change dramatically every hundred metres or so, but this just added to the excitement that was building up inside us.

Some of the road conditions that we encountered

Some of the road conditions that we encountered

This was short lived however, and soon we came crashing down to reality when we came to a cross roads that was not on our map. There was a village at this crossroads and we asked a family for directions to Wat Chan. This was a rural village in the middle of the jungle in Northern Thailand and no one spoke English. He pointed us to turn right at the crossroads, but I am pretty sure he had no idea of what we were asking him at all!! Hoping for the best we took his directions and headed off right, we travelled along a road that was so bumpy and full of potholes even the most equipped 4×4 in the world would have struggled on. We carried on for a half an hour until we came to a village that was completely and utterly deserted. There were around 15 houses in the village and not a soul to be found, and the road that we were stopped within the ghost village. We decided to turn around and to head back to the crossroads and see if we could get better directions. We found a guy that spoke a little bit of English and he showed us a different way and ensured us that his way was indeed the best way to get to Wat Chan, but it would take us over two hours. Now we were in a race against the sunset. For you how don’t realise the importance of getting off the road after dark have not travelled by road in a developing country. It is a dangerous place to be even during the day, let alone at night. The biggest vehicle has the right of way regardless of everything else, and us on our motos wouldn’t stand a chance.

The new road, in the middle of no where!!

The new road, in the middle of the jungle!!

Racing against the inevitable darkness we began to encounter roads that we getting worse and worse, until we came to another village deep in the forest. This village was slightly unusual because all the way we had been driving on dirt and suddenly in the middle of this village they were building a concrete road. This then forced us to go around the road that was still wet, and through someone’s house. This involved driving through a fence, up huge earth steps, under a house and around all the animals that they kept! At this stage we had started to gather quite an interest from the people of the village. Once we got around the road works we stopped to ask the locals how far Wat Chan was. This was a lot more difficult to communicate than you would expect because none of them there spoke a work of English, and none of us any Thai. So through various different forms of communication we realised that we were still at least 2 hours away from Wat Chan. This is the point in our journey where real panic and worry started to set in. This resulted in high tensions between the 4 of us, and anything that we said or did got on someone else’s nerves. This was the first real sign that everyone was worried about where we would end up. To add to this situation, my moto stopped working; whenever I gave it power it wouldn’t respond and just cut out. This was a very worrying situation to be in. The fact that we may already have to spend the night in the jungle, as well as trying to get a powerless moto out too would be a disaster. Thanks to a local ,with what looked like a giant spliff, he got the bike working again, as I said, the Honda Dream is an extremely reliable moto.

The locals fixing my bike

The locals fixing my bike

We now knew which direction that we had to go in but we did not know what condition the ‘road’ would be like. This was fine for 15 minutes until we came to yet another split in the road. It was at this point that I turned to the guys and said to them that we had two options; 1) Carry on the road but we didn’t know what lay ahead. 2) Go back to the village that we just left and ask for help in getting us out of the dense jungle. We opted for the latter and went back to the village. We were fortunate that two guys were already packing to go out to the main road and they said that they would guide us out.

If it was not for these guys we would never have made it out. The road that unfolded before us was made up of all sorts of obstacles and challenges for us to get past. Small wooden bridges, followed muddy crevasses and then climbing up 50° hills with dykes on either side of the foot wide path. This was a huge challenge for us and it could have gone very wrong if someone took a stumble or hit a bump and fell off. That’s not to say that we never fell over during all of this. I took a couple of falls and my moto took a serious beating but we made it through. After this exhausting drive we finally made it out of the jungle area and out onto the main road! First stop was petrol.

While at the petrol station there was a huge sense of relief that we were out of the jungle and finally back on a road that was on the map. Nevertheless tensions were still high and words were firmly spoken between a few people. We decided to try and put it behind us until we had reached somewhere to stay and have a well needed beer! We still had an hour drive to go until be reached Wat Chan where we would try to get a place to stay for the night, and now there was around 15 minutes of light left so we had to get going. Driving in the dark is something that you have to be cautious about most of the time, but especially so when you are driving on a dirt road that was full of huge potholes that you can’t see until the very last moment.

The condition we were in after 13 hours driving in the jungle

The condition we were in after 13 hours driving in the jungle

The best feeling that we had all day was when we were driving along this dirt road and suddenly we hit smooth tarmac, this indicated that we were on the main road to Wat Chan! This was the biggest sense of relief that I have experienced in a long time. As we sailed along this road we all started to cheer and beep our horns in excitement, now it was smiles all round. We found a guesthouse in Wat Chan, got something to eat, had a beer and went to bed. We were all tired, dirty, dusty and delirious from 13 hours of riding, but the important thing was that we weren’t sleeping in the jungle that night!!

We arose with the sun the next day hand travelled towards our original destination of Pai, 57km away. This was a beautiful ride through the mountains as the sun was coming up, I couldn’t help but stare off into the mountains and realise how lucky I am to have the chance to do this! It’s something that I will never forget. We made it to Pai at 11am and got some lunch, we decided not to hang around and just start off back towards Chiang Mai, this time taking the main road! This road was superb, new smooth tarmac combined with hair-pin turns made for an entertaining journey home. Lars was not so lucky because at about half way he got a flat tire, better on a main road than in the middle of the jungle. A nice Thai family with a pickup truck were happy to help and loaded the moto into the back along with Lars.

Lars and his moto in the back of a pick up truck

Lars and his moto in the back of a pick up truck

They found us a mechanic that would fix the tire and didn’t want any money in exchange. With this slight inconvenience out of the way we finally made it back to Chiang Mai. It was here that we were greeted with buckets of water being thrown at us while we drove. Entering Chiang Mai then was total madness!! The streets were full of people, cars and pickup trucks all taking part in the beginning of Songkran! We made it back to our guest house wet, exhausted and filthy, but at least we made it back. Now we could concentrate on the 3 day long water festival that awaited us!!

Songkran Water festival

Songkran Water festival

SONGKRAN!!

Party time- 300 children, lots of food, loud music, limitless fun!

Image

All the preparation of the food for the party

After the survey had been completed, it was the turn of the children to have some fun. This day was set out to promote SCAO to the people of Som Roung Village. Within in the space of about 5 hours we would have had approximately 400 people through the gates of the SCOOP School in the Village. So it is easy to say that the day was nothing less than a major success!

The day for the volunteers began at 8am with a mass delivery of tomatoes, onions, carrots, pork and bread. The food that would be served to the children was a tomato based sauce inside a bread baguette. In order to feed over 300 children there needed to be a lot of ingredients. However it was not the children that inflicted the most damage to the volunteers but the onions. There are plenty of ‘certain’ methods to prevent you from crying while you are cutting onions, but none of these worked. Some volunteers were left in tears and regretted putting mascara on that morning. None the less we all powered through the pain and finished off the prep, all be it with a few cut fingers.

DSC02334

Children waiting to be let in through the gates

The party was originally supposed to begin at 3pm, but because the household survey ran longer that expected, it did not begin until 4pm. There was a clear increase in the decibel level coming from the children outside the gates between 3-4pm. These children were ready for a major party!!

It is near impossible to describe the scenes that unfolded once we opened the gates for the children. With too many hyper children to count we estimate that there were approximately 300 children in SCAO that day. Like a plague of locusts to a crop field, the first victim was the table distributing the food. There was no order for the children to queue up in, and even if there was it would not have been obeyed.

With the children now fed, they changed their attention to the drinks table. This table was manned by 5 volunteers and Khmer teachers, but with 300 thirsty children’s’ focus now on this table, there was a Cold War standoff. It began with the first opening of a bottle of fizzy cola. The children could already taste the imminent sugar rush and they swarmed around the table. We handled the situation the best we could, we set up an efficient production line of loading ice into plastic cups, filling the cups with fizzy drinks and then distributing them to the children. We did however have a casualty in this battle. A 3 litre bottle of fizzy strawberry drink was dropped in the rush to fill the drinks. Unaware, somebody picked it up only seconds later and opened it. An eruption of bright pink form rushed upwards from the bottle and soaked the people unlucky enough to be close to it. These people wore the battle scares of pink stains for the rest of the day.

Being attached by the children with talking powder

Being attached by the children with talking powder

Once the food and drinks had been given out to all the children it was time to dance! With two 4 foot speakers pumping out the latest Khmer music, the children’s sugar rush hit its peak and the place was bouncing! All the children from SCAO, of all ages and from all classes were dancing until their legs could not hold them anymore. It is a great experience as a teacher to see your students in such an environment outside the classroom. To see them really having fun and playing with all the other kids is something that I will always remember.

Music and dancing is something that goes hand in hand with the Khmer people. Setting up a music and dance project in the New School is now one of my goals while I am here. But firstly to do this I need to get funding to put a roof on the roof of the school. This would add an extra area to the school that could facilitate dance and music classes, as well as yoga classes and a general recreation area for the children to play in then they are finished their classes.

The view from behind the drinks table

The view from behind the drinks table

We must have danced for over 3 hours, and towards 7pm you could see the sugar wearing off and the children becoming more and more exhausted. With the sugar burned out and the party winding down we could take the time to reflect on the extremely successful day that we just had. The day would not have been possible without the help and dedication of the volunteers, Khmer teachers, local neighbours, the children, Pacha Youth Foundation. Volunteering and working for an NGO is never a single persons job, you need to be able rely on the support of the people around you to achieve your goals! I am lucky enough to be working with some of the most inspiring and dedicated people I have ever met.

Distributing Rice and Fish Sauce to the poorest families of Som Roung Village

DSC02306

Wide view from the front of the classroom of all the 50 households

IMG_0397

Myself distributing a bottle of fish sauce to an elderly woman. This woman in-particular has no source of income, and supports 3 grandchildren

The household survey that I developed had taken a back seat for a few weeks. This was due to a number of different factors. SCAO‘s first ever Annual Report was the main reason, and I had a lot of work to do to make sure that everything was in order for the report to be finished. But I can explain this in a future blog. Another contributing factor was the fact that only Vibol (Khmer teacher) and I could carry out the surveys.  However the opportunity arose for me to reach a large number of households in a very short time period with the visit of our partner organisation, Pacha Youth Foundation. Gabe from Pacha Youth wanted to throw an event for the people of the village and the children that attend the New School in Som Roung.

With collaboration from myself, Gabe and Mr.Sameth (SCAO Director) we decided on distributing 10kgs of rice and a bottle of fish sauce to 50 of the poorest families in the village. This was my best opportunity to access 50 households in one area, and at the same time. This was a chance that I could not let slip by!! We decided that the families would arrive to the New School at 1.30pm and we would then conduct the surveys accordingly. I had 6 groups of 2 people conducting the surveys. It was always a volunteer taking down the answers of the questionnaires and a Khmer teacher acting as a translator. I feel that this team worked so well because we all work together on a daily basis, we all know each other very well and thus communication between the two is almost perfect! I owe the success of the mass survey collection to the volunteers and Khmer teachers who helped out on the day! Thank you!

The surveys threw up similar answers that I had been hearing before from the families that I had previously interviewed. No access to a toilet, no clean drinking water, and an average income of $40-$70 a month! This information has truly inspired and motivated me to do something about these problems that people face in the village that I have grown to love so much. For us Westerners it is difficult to imagine having to leave you house and go to the bathroom outside in a field. But this is a daily task for these people, they don’t even think about the luxuries that we have. I have the drive now to set up public toilets in the village. This would dramatically increase the living conditions of the people, increase hygiene standards, and decrease the rick of illness from unsanitary conditions.

IMG_0417

Gabe from Pacha Youth Foundation and I handing out bags of rice and fish sauce

Som Roung Village has had a very special influence on my life. It is the people that you meet everyday who have a bright joyful smile on their face, the students you pass on your way to get noodle soups from the shop, the next-door neighbours to make you feel most welcome in their front garden, and most of all, the real sense of belonging to a village community! These people do not have a lot, but they are willing to give everything and help! This is something that I most admire.

Once my time comes to leave Som Roung, whenever that is, I will hope that I have left something behind that betters the community.