16-year-old gym buddy launches me on new adventure

Happy Khmer New Year! See you again after next week.

View of Tang Koh, an island more than four hours from Sihanoukville in the Gulf of Thailand.

View of Koh Tang, an island more than four hours from Cambodia’s Sihanoukville in Gulf of Thailand.

It all started with a conversation about the Great Barrier Reef.

I mentioned to Mike, 16, who works out at my gym, that I had put the reef on my bucket list. He said that the only way to view the natural wonder was by scuba diving.

Quixotically following the teenager’s advice, I immediately deposited $200 with Scuba Nation, a first-rate diving concern that offers PADI certification with half of the underwater instruction at a Phnom Penh swimming pool.  The second half Continue reading

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To locals there is nothing like Cambodian New Year

Dangerous and exhausting as this transportation looks as the New Year approaches, sometimes passengers dare death by riding atop vehicles.

Dangerous and exhausting as this van transportation looked Friday before the New Year, sometimes passengers dare death by riding atop vehicles.  They reflect how powerful is the tug to go home.

Phnom Penh is emptying out as I write this, just before the start of the Cambodian New Year. The exodus has begun.

The holiday is a three-day celebration when the Khmer people head for party points, seaside resorts and, most important to them, the rural provinces and farms that mean “home” to them. Consider this sad post on Facebook from a student/waiter I know at the cafe where he works:

Why all of u give me alone? I’m really lonely….. All of u can go to ur homeland n happy but I can’t…. I really miss my homeland so much. I want to meet my family…. What should I do? How can I do?

Siam Reap, where Continue reading

Reflections on three weeks of travel in Cambodia

A major artery in the capital city of Phnom Penh (click to enlarge photos)

Among the numerous images that I have retained from my recent travels in Cambodia are two indelible ones.

Those impressions involve a family in the seacoast city of Sihanoukville on the one hand and, on the other, works of tourist art in sprawling markets as well as in hotel rooms and lobbies.

In a country of grinding poverty, there is no avoiding beggars, child laborers, individuals asleep where they work or on the street, shop after shop that literally is a hole in the wall, and one-room hovels that many must call home.

Thanks to Nicholas Kristof’s superior work aimed at ameliorating and his writing on humanity’s deprivations around the world, child labor, sex-trafficking and child abuse cannot be far from one’s thoughts.

What remains engraved in my mind is Continue reading