Posted tagged ‘Pursat’

A Tale Of Two Countries by Diane

April 18, 2010

We’re sorry we haven’t blogged in ages.  We make no excuses, it wasn’t intentional, we just stopped writing about the great travels we were taking.  We haven’t stopped the traveling  – we’re moving around SE Asia and enjoying our time here even more than we imagined.  Through it all, Michael has captured great images and we’ve uploaded a small grouping of them now.  Two of our recent trips are really worth sharing so here’s a snippet of description to go with those photos.

February 2010 – Incredible, indelible, indescribeable, intoxicating India
Kerala is the shining jewel state of southern India.  We wanted a slow and easy way to take our first India vacation so we opted out of the Taj Mahal and the challenges of the North.  We chose well.  After two days in the dusty, trashy, noisy, chaotic streets of Cochin and the charms of the old Jew town quarter, we drove high into the hills to the tea plantations of Munnar.  The cool mountain air and stunning nature was cleansing, sweet relief.  This is the India you never knew existed.  The next time you are letting your tea steep, take a moment to imagine the steep slopes on which those leaves grow.  You cannot help but appreciate the effort and artistry that convene in this common cuppa, and to understand why so many cultures imbue it with reverence and ritual.  There’s magic in them there leaves.  Next our expert driver navigated the mountainous switchbacks to take us to the coastal backwaters of colourful Kerala.  The houseboat rental through this region was the highlight of our trip. Life is lived on these waters is sparse simplicity but according to an ancient traditional rhythm.

Every moment in India is one of contrasts; ordinary vegetables enlivened with perfumed seasonings, stifling heat refreshed by white bright smiles; and so many shades of brown, weather-worn people, wrapped in a dazzling rainbow of cottons and silk.  The whole journey felt like a feast for the senses and India’s “other-worldly” quality lingers long in our hearts and heads.

For the photos, click here.

March 2010 – Pursat and Phenom Penh, Cambodia

A year ago, for our 10th wedding anniversary, we sponsored two children from rural Cambodia.  For Easter this year, we decided to go and meet them and spend some time in their villages and see how we could help out.  We collected heaps of clothing, books and toys, caught a 6am flight to Phenom Penh and then took a 4-hour drive North to the small town of Pursat. A group of Americans started an organization called Sustainable Cambodia back in the 90’s, after visiting there and realizing they simply had to do something to make a difference. And what a difference they’ve made.

They focus on water sourcing through well digging, water catchment and purification and schooling.  We spent three amazing days visiting the poorest villages we have ever been to, distributing the clothing we brought, (which fell grossly shy of the need) and savoring the spirit of these warm, smiling, hopeful, even-when-hopelessly-poor people.  We put shoes on feet that had never worn shoes before, watched as women and teenagers blushed and giggled when handed new panties and received more than our share of blessings from people who were as grateful for our presence as they were for the supplies.  We bought each of our families a bicycle, that will be used by every member of the family over the course of a day.  We were VIP’s at a “diarrhea party,” which was a role-playing skit put on by the older students to teach the very young about cholera and the importance of using water filters.  It was a serious subject but as we’ve come to see in this country with a tragically serious past, it ended like most events–loads of laughter, hours of dancing and non-stop singing.

We spent Easter weekend in Phenom Penh, reveling in the Frenchness of it all– great coffee, bread and bistros.  It’s gentler than Hanoi and less seedy than Bangkok and it has a peaceful pace that envelops you.  There are lots of NGO’s (non-government organizations) operating retail and arts and crafts shops as well as restaurants, all in an effort to make amends for the atrocities that befell Cambodia.  And it’s working!  My favorite hours in the city were spent watching motorbikes, laden with lives and livelihoods, pass in front of our hotel window.  We went to help others and we received more than we gave.  A Happy Easter in deed.

For the photos, click here.

Our time in Asia is ending in a few months, we’re still weighing our options and frantically trying to decide if we can squeeze in Laos, or Nepal or Japan, or should we go back to Bali, Siem Reap or Phuket!  Good choices all.  We’ll keep you with us in our hearts and look forward to the chance to share some of our stories with you when we meet again.