Tag Archives: cambodia tourism

Why I Donate and Volunteer While Traveling

There is no arguing that donating items or volunteering your time is universally a good thing to do. I especially enjoy doing this when I’m traveling. For me, it’s a wonderful way to feel more connected to a destination. In fact, my favorite travel memories and connections have been when I volunteered or donated supplies to those in need. I am so fortunate to be able to travel and visit different parts of the world. It’s a small thing I can do and it goes farther than many realize.

cambodia habitat for humanity

My first travel volunteer experience was with Habitat for Humanity in Cambodia. It was truly so meaningful to me. I learned so much about myself on that trip. I had never been to Asia before and knew no one on my build. I had never seen that kind of poverty before. But working side by side these people living in poverty to build them a better home was truly so enriching. I will never ever forget the local people working on my build. They were such kind spirits that touched my heart. And, I believe they won’t ever forget me either.

india

But there are other small ways to give back that don’t take a week-long commitment. When I traveled to India I worked with an organization called Globe Drop to find a donation opportunity. I was able to purchase items in India for an orphanage of girls. The purchases helped the local economy and cost a fraction of what it would in the US. It was a win-win. All I had to do was take the time to buy the items and then go deliver them to the orphanage. A small amount of time that went a long way making these girls learning and living experiences better.

jamaica

Another small way I helped on another travel adventure was to collect and deliver children’s books to a foundation in Jamaica that help to educate impoverished children who would not otherwise have an education. People are always looking to give away books over time and, in many cases, they’d like them to go into good hands. I just took a little time to build up a collection and then contacted Rockhouse Foundation and asked if they would like them. They said yes so I packed them up in my bag and traveled to Jamaica. Again, the delivery just took a little time out my day and was so worth the cause.

peru1

My most recent volunteer/donation experience was in Peru. My friend and I found an opportunity to help orphan children with their school work and play with them for a few days in Cusco. To see their smiles every day brought so much laughter and joy to us. The same organization, Peru Trek 4 Good, that connected us to the orphanage also collects clothing and toys for poor people living in the mountains. My friend and I were able to bring three suitcases full of clothes, coats and toys to be delivered to a small Andean community as Christmas gifts – more than 200 parents and children. Again, so many people have things that they want to give away that others could really use. It was just a matter of collecting items, paying to get them to Peru and delivered to the organization. We were thrilled when we saw all the happy faces at Christmastime.

peru trek 4 good

This week I’m off on another volunteer adventure in travel. I’m excited to be participating in a new concept in travel – Impact Travel with Fathom. I will be cruising to the Dominican Republic and doing a few service projects over the days I’m there. I can’t wait to get my hands dirty and see the smiling faces of locals there. You really learn so much through these experiences and get more locally connected. I think Impact Travel is the way forward. You’re helping out others, raising awareness and empowering people to think about traveling and giving back.

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reduce, reuse, recycle – Cambodia

recycling lessons this first world gal learned in a third world country!

while there are a few environmentally unfriendly things going on in Cambodia, for example, scooters & truck exhaust surely aren’t meeting any emission standards. AND then there’s the littering issues – which apparently have greatly improved! there’s a lot i discovered about Cambodia that IS environmentally friendly. it may simply be that it’s a third world country and because of limited funds and resources they are more cautious with their use of things. no matter what, i found this refreshing as we are having to go back and make up for our excessive misuse in the ‘developed’ world.

one of the reasons i went to Cambodia was to participate in a Habitat for Humanity house build there. thirty percent of the population in Cambodia lives in poverty. like on a $1.25 a day. just to put things a little in perspective, the family i built the Habitat house for has a household income of $225 a month. definitely not enough to become landowners and build a home without the help of Habitat for Humanity. i truly love this organization and believe whole-heartedly in their mission. Habitat scrutinizes applicants to find the right people to help, knowing their example will in turn help others. they believe in a hand-up not a handout. the homeowners are expected to work on their own homes and future Habitat homes in their community. HOW FABULOUS!

never having done a build before, it was a very eye-opening experience, to say the least. for starters, the limited materials and tools used was interesting. talk about ways to recycle and reuse. scrap wood was fashioned into a rickety ladder. broken bricks weren’t cast away but later used as rubble to fill the foundation. trows were used to mix and place cement for wall building BUT also as tool to break bricks in half or quarters. whatever was needed to complete the walls we were building. nothing was thrown away – all materials were used in one way or another.

then there was the water people used because of the lack of piped water to the homes. they had huge ceramic pots that collected rain water. this was their everything water – baths, cooking, drinking. each house seemed to have two per household. people have asked me since, were these pots covered? how did they sanitize the water? to be honest, i’m not sure. we used this water during the build and were told to be careful not to contaminate it in any way. we used it to wash our hands AND we watched children bath in it. drinking and cooking – well, perhaps they boil it first. i really cannot say first hand. in any case, they were not wasting that precious rain water that they pray for since it’s vital to their survival.

from what i saw, they literally reuse and recycle everything. cans get turned in and glass bottles get reused to sell petrol for motorbikes. it’s fascinating. even the cement bags like we used during the build are recycled and made into items sold in stores and markets all around. i’m talking made into luggage bags, placemats and even little fashion clutches. i even witnessed scrap fabric being bagged up and sold for furniture stuffing.

it made me realize how much we toss away that could be repurposed. i think those Cambodians are actually quite wise in their use of things. have you ever stopped to think how you could reuse, reduce or recycle things you have used in your life?

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cambodia starts with the letter P

PCAMBODIA

i know what you are thinking… either there’s a silent P in the word Cambodia or lola has lost it and no longer knows how to spell! there’s NO silent P. the ‘lost it’ part, well, the world can be my judge!

when i reflected on so much of what i saw and learned in my two and half weeks in Cambodia many of the adjectives and objects, as it turned out, began with the letter P. of course there are plenty of other words that describe this fascinating and wonderful place too.

here are some P Cambodia words:

PHNOM PENH – the capital city of Cambodia.

POOLS – little sanctuaries of water can be found throughout the country.

PASSION FRUIT – found in cocktails, smoothies and salads everywhere.

PAJAMAS – not just for nighttime! pajamas are a daytime fashion statement in Cambodia.

PRAYERS – incense & candles burning everywhere for the spirits that have passed on.

PIGS – crossing roads, hanging from street carts, served as an offering to ancients in prayer for rain.

PEACEFUL – quiet soft-spoken people. buddhist monks are everywhere in Cambodia.

PHOTOGENIC – beautiful people with gorgeous smiles who enjoy having their photo taken.

POSITIVITY – despite their difficult past and slow path forward, people have an overall positive attitude.

PEDICURES – fish pedicures are a common practice in Cambodia.

POOR – people are living in poverty.

PRETTY – once you get over the culture shock you can see through the differences in lifestyle and find the beauty. the beauty of the thatched roofed houses and hammocks swinging. the painted cement block houses. the brightly colored scooters. the multiple different tuk tuks. the store front after store front offering the same things that suddenly become pretty.

POLLUTED – not only are there trash pollution problems but the trucks and scooters everywhere burning god knows what kind of gas certainly doesn’t help with air quality.

PALACES – from the royal palace in Phnom Penh to the temples of Siem Reap, there is beautiful architecture everywhere in Cambodia.

PALM TREES – it is tropical, let’s not forget, and this added bonus only made lola love Cambodia more.

PENANG CHICKEN – a meal i frequently had & loved while in Cambodia – yum.

PEOPLE – people everywhere. sprinkling the streets, sidewalks, country roads. sitting in their thatched houses – smiling & waving back at you.

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Cocktails of Cambodia

MMMM Cocktails of Cambodia

that’s right! the drinks were divine in Cambodia. AND i think you know i’m a tough critic in this category since i’d like to pride myself on being a bit of an expert! it was as much of a surprise to me… a 3rd world country that is into cocktails?! say whaaaa?!!

YEP i felt pretty much right at home in Cambodia. this country LUUURVES its happy hour. and everything is already dirt cheap – BONUS for lola! i’m talking $4 mojitos that are now $2 – incredible! let me give you my Cocktails of Cambodia tour:

Best Drink

the gigantic red wine at Topaz in Phnom Penh. it must have been the glass but i was impressed!

Worst Drink

probably the mojito at Titanic in Phnom Penh. it was just ok and i had to wait like half an hour to get it!

Most Usual Drink

definitely has to go to the red bull & vodka buckets at the Temple Bar in Siem Reap. YES i’m that lame that i’ve never had a bucket before. BTW this should also be listed as most lethal of cocktails of Cambodia!

Biggest Booze Surprise

the local beers were actually quite tasty!

CHEERS – lola

 

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phenomenal Phnom Penh food – Cambodia

lola didn’t go starving

enjoying the good life in Phnom Penh

i’m sure you are wondering what the food scene was like in Cambodia. i’ll admit, i wasn’t sure what i was going to make of it. i’d either love it or hate it, i figured. i was also nervous that my stomach might not approve. well, i’m pleased to report that the local cuisine was delicious and if you got tired of Khmer or Thai food you could certainly find alternatives in the way of Western food. thank goodness i was physically working hard in Cambodia’s capital city or i might have ended up as big as the house i was building!

during the first half of my stay in Cambodia, when i was in Phnom Penh for the Habitat for Humanity house build, our breakfast was included in the price of our hotel accommodations. while i’ve never been one for an all-exclusive, it was nice to have the simple breakfast option right there on property each morning. we were expected to be up and at em and raring to go build by 7:30am each day. a decent breakfast was pretty much essential to our success.

fab lunch at an open-air restaurant – this says cashew chicken in Khmer

our lunch was also fixed in our costs for the build budget. every day we went to the same great outdoor restaurant on a pond near the build site. our boxed lunches were always prepared and waiting for us. we were able to choose from 20 different options – all local cuisine. i had red & green curry, penang chicken and cashew chicken. it came served with rice wrapped in a banana leaf & it ALL was delicious. we were given an hour and half for lunch each day and inevitably each of us would end up napping in our open-air huts – either on the floor or in a hammock. i could really get used to this ritual that’s for sure.

as for our dinner options, this was self catering holidays style, which is my preference. i really enjoy researching and trying some of the best, new/up & coming or well-known spots when traveling. after all, what better way to immerse yourself in the local culture than through the local cuisine! thankfully Phnom Penh food didn’t let me down.

notable places to mention:

lola sampled the classic Negroni at FCC

FCC (Foreign Correspondent Club) down on the riverfront, this classic joint has a great bar and view of the Mekong River. since 1993, the FCC has been known to serve stiff drinks to anyone from journalists to diplomats to movie stars. who couldn’t love an establishment with such a storied past during the early days of Cambodian peace. TOTALLY lola’s style and one of those places you just “HAVE TO” visit when in Phnon Penh.

delish eats for an important cause at Friends the Restaurant

Friends the Restaurant is a Khmer tapas bar that’s run by a non-governmental organization (NGO) – Mith Samlanh (which means friends in English) – “to support the needs of street children, their families and their community. the projects of Mith Samlanh aim to facilitate the children’s social reintegration into their families, the public school system, the workplace, and their culture. at Friends the Restaurant these street children are learning to become chefs and servers. Mith Samlanh offers food, shelter, medical care, training and educational facilities for over 1,800 homeless, vulnerable or abandoned children each day.” it felt absolutely appropriate to dine a place with such a humanitarian cause PLUS the tapas were outstanding and it was a great value.

authentic Cambodian at Khmer Surin

Khmer Surin is a wonderful authentic Cambodian Khmer restaurant with a lovely atmosphere. the amok is a must-try (fish or chicken steamed in coconut milk curry) at this well-known establishment. YUM! the ambience couldn’t have been prettier. the first floor features gardens, 2nd floor is Cambodian-style seating on cushions on a balcony and the 3rd floor is open-air seating with view of Phnom Penh. it was as beautiful as the food was tasty.

swanky hip French at Elyxir

Cambodia is also known for its French influences and so i was thrilled to try a newer trendy spot, Elyxir, a modern French wine bar. we chose to sample many plates off the menu and after dinner we hung out for post-dinner cocktails by their amazing outdoor pool. another notable luxe hip spot, Topaz, even at over a decade old, was quite trendy. this was an upscale French gastronomic experience and truly to die for. it was a perfect way to finish off our build week and time in Phnom Penh.

from start to finish – everything was parfait at the luxe French Topaz

one place that we patronized that i would not recommend is Titanic. while it’s on the riverfront and has a live Apsara show, it is very touristy and over-priced plus the food and service are ok at best.

at all of the other restaurants mentioned, the food was fantastic for the value and the service was terrific. dinners ranged from less than $20 to $40 for the upmarket Topaz. this ALWAYS included cocktails and/or wine. not too shabby, eh? you can most definitely eat well for not very much money and this is just a small sampling of Phnom Penh food!

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