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C / field trip / nagar glass factory

glass-headerA bunch of Phnom Penh friends have jumped ship for the newer, more exciting emerging market of Myanmar, and now live in the Yangon. Those guys are the worst. But it means that I travel to Myanmar every few months to catch up, eat a different kind of noodle, and explore a new place.

Honestly, in the 10 or so times I have been here in the past two years, I have never really loved it. The people are amazing and kind and smart and funny, but it has been tough for me to be excited about the actual city. It’s a working city and not made for tourism. So in my struggle to find cool things that make the city fun, my buddies Laura and Bill pointed me to an old glass factory that had long since collapsed. The prospect of wandering through a condemned building and overgrown vines to dig for chunks of broken glass sounded like the best treasure hunt ever to me. It was.glass-3So this past weekend, we did just that. After being warned of the massive mosquito/spider/possible giant snake situation ON THE WAY THERE, we arrived and bathed in Deet. It felt like equal parts Indiana Jones and Terminator, but with looking for decorative vases. glass-4glass-7I found a few vases and glasses I love, but my favorite things were the fused glass chunks that I dug out of the dirt. When I brought them up to the very lovely lady managing the little shop, she laughed and gave them to me “as present.” Apparently no one else wants glass garbage.glass-2After this field trip, I am coming around on Yangon. I think I am spoiled a bit in Phnom Penh, as it only takes 20 minutes to get anywhere, and it’s easy to get around in English. Yangon might be more difficult to get navigate, but there are treasures here that are well worth the trip.

I will go back to the glass factory, and next time with more water, more bug repellent, and a big old basket. If you are in the neighborhood and want to check it out, you can find the factory here:

The Nagar Glass Factory

Address No.152, Yawgi Kyaung Street, Hlaing Township

Tel.: 95-1-519718, 95-1-526053

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caitsig


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T / a weekend jaunt to kampot

As I may have mentioned before, we are spoiled by weekend getaways living in Cambodia.  With the sea and the mountains only two or three hours away, who could resist?  So a gaggle of us girls (including one of my favourite photogs) gathered our bikinis together, as well as 10 bottles of wine for a weekend free of responsibility, full of amazing live music (it can be sparse over here), great food and paddleboarding to while away all of our work related stresses.  It was fabulous.  I highly encourage repeat doses.

So on Friday night, we piled into a van waiting to whisk us off 150km away to Kampot, the little river town that continues to ooze more charm every year.  Having nursed some nice wine on the way down, we dropped off our luggage and the bestest canine travel companion at the equally charming Dutch-owned Village Vedici.  We immediately got down to business and headed over the river to see visiting Toronto band, The Digs play with favourite Phnom Penh soul singer, Rhiannon Johnson.  And oh my gosh, they were amazing.  Playing on a rickety deck at Bodhi Villa, this band was oh so tight.  There was a heck ton of dancing with some of the best people we know in Phnom Penh.  A smidge of paranoia about jumping on said rickety wooden deck floor while the Digs’ cover of Satisfaction was flooding the soundwaves. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the week.

villa-vediciOur Saturday was as blissful as Friday night was boisterous in fun.  Lounging around the Villa Vedici pool set perfectly in front of the Bokor Mountains, nursing sore muscles from a night of dancing.  Mango shakes. A tuk tuk ride into town set us in front of the next place that would complete our weekend: Café Espresso.  I can’t divulge too much because we’re intending to feature them in a future post, but holy cow, dare I say best brunch in Cambodia?  Phnom Penh restos have a lot to learn from Angus, his wife and their beautiful baby Matilda.  All I can say is that we are still dreaming about that meal we had there.  And I’m insanely happy to have brought home some super aromatic, buttery, heart fluttering single source Thai Arabica beans that they serve there.cafe-espresso

lunchThat meal, the espressos, the Kampot Salted Caramel milkshake prepared us for the next part of our weekend of bliss.  We headed a couple of kilmeters down the Kampot river to SUPAsia.  That’s stand-up paddleboarding for all of you waiting to be converted.  Colorado-native Anne has been running SUPAsia in Cambodia for the past two years, offering paddleboarding tours not only in Kampot, but down big chunks of the Mekong to boot.  We did a happy 2.5 hour little tour through the little canals of the Kampot river, through the Green Cathedral and into the sun setting over the mountains with Anne as our guide.  And as the resident paddle boarder in our group, I was the only one to have fallen in.  In any case, I loved this so much, I’m already planning to go back next month.

paddleboards paddleboarding-gridOur blissfully packed Saturday ended with yet another tight as Rocky’s buns performance by the Digs and Rhiannon right at our doorsteps at Villa Vedici.  The day couldn’t have ended better.  More ecstatic dancing ensued.  I may have gotten tired of drinking wine as we concluded our eighth bottle of the weekend.  Bodies were very sore the next morning.

the-digs-and-rhiannonWe eschewed plans of jogging and cycling back to Café Espresso (what were we thinking?), and hopped into a tuk tuk for the last time we would have the best brunch in Cambodia (pancakes to die for).  Well at least not until next month when we return.

brunchAnd with one more dip into Hans’ pool at Villa Vedici, farewells to people we’d see the next day at the gym, we headed back to Phnom Penh, committed to making a monthly return to the dosage of calm that Kampot has to offer.  If you’re in Cambodia, I highly recommend.  If you’re not in Cambodia, you should move here now.

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Details:

Kampot is approximately 2.5-3 hours, 150km from Phnom Penh.  Buses are available through Giant Ibis from Phnom Penh.  For more flexibility, taxis and minibuses  can also be hired for 85 USD and 170 USD round trip.

Rooms at Villa Vedici range from 30-45 USD and face the river.  Bungalows to accommodate larger groups can also be rented.

If you’re in Toronto, I highly recommend stopping by the Drake on Thursday nights to catch the Digs live!

Rhiannon Johnson and her band can be caught singing the best soul and jazz in Phnom Penh at the Doors among other locations.  Keep updated on her schedule!


All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.

 


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C / Sailing in the Andaman

jump

Last week, I went sailing with a group of friends in the Andaman Sea, off the coast of Thailand. It took me most of this week to recover from the constant feeling of sea legs and overall wobbliness, but I already miss being out on the ocean.

5 days. 8 people. 1 catamaran.

The Trip

ADMMAP

le map

We hired a captain for the trip, because we shouldn’t be trusted with something as valuable as a boat. We left from the north of Phuket the first day, taking the scenic route, and did a bit of island hopping.  We sailed around the north side of Koh Yao Noi, hitting Koh Panak, Koi Yai, then scooting around to Koh Hong and Koh Roi, and sleeping at Koh Kudi. We explored some lagoon caves, did a bit of local prawn shopping and dragged a few free loaders off the back of the boat.

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Indian Jones came on our trip

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the prawn shop

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hitching a ride

After sleeping in the front nets of the catamaran (less comfortable than I had hoped for) we set out for Koh Roi and Krabi. En route, we stopped at Koh Nok where we were able to “hike” up the side of a very steep hill, and look out over the sea and all the islands. This was also the place where we took photos to post when it is snowing in North America.

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i hear it’s cold where you are

We were able to sail the rest of the way to Koh Roi that afternoon, which is also known as Chicken Head Island. This is because the island looks like a chicken head. Very clever.  We pulled in and decided to take a stroll on the beach, and ended up with one of the best sunsets in the history of the universe. See below.

Chicken-Head

looks like a…chicken

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eh

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two become one

sunset

blammo

The next morning we did our fair share of snorkeling, an important daily ritual on this trip, and then picked up a few free loaders in Krabi.  We spent most of the day playing around Railey Beach, and of course, had to explore the Cave of Dicks. The Cave of Dicks is technically a shrine to fertility, but doubles as a haven for obnoxious tourists to take silly photos.
The night was spent checking out the phosphorescent algae along the quiet side of Koh Phi Phi. Well, it was the quiet side until we got there and got a little crazy with the coconut juice. There will be no photos.

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this is a map. this is the ocean. this is the storm we are going directly into.

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winter is coming. hahahahah i’m just kidding its Thailand

these guys want to party

these guys want to party

Because it is insanely gorgeous and I never get tired of it, I made everyone get up early and go to Maya Beach. This is the beach where the movie, The Beach, was filmed, and it still smells like Leonardo DeCaprio. It’s almost as pretty as he is. Because we knew we were going to hit some weather the last few days of the trip, we took off as the Russian tour boats were pulling in and sailed into Koh Phi Phi for some dry land and noodles.

Koh Phi Phi was hit hard by the Tsunami in 2004, so I am fast to forgive the tackiness, but I can only take so many sunburnt tourists and Full Moon Party t-shirts. After filling up on pad thai and crazy spicy curry, we grabbed our supplies and got out. We sailed to Koh Rachi Yai, famous for its sunshine and snorkeling, and it rained for 500 hours.

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“stop playing with your dinghy”

We got in some amazing snorkeling the next morning off of Koh Racha Yai. The water was perfect and the rocky night on the boat was worth it.

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under da sea

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darling its betta down where its wetta

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soggy in koh racha yai

Sadly, there aren’t many pictures worth posting after this, which is ok because it was the last day. The storm moved in on us, we remained soggy and wishing the rocking would stop. Then lightning hit our boat. We didn’t sink or drown, but I did learn how thankful I am for wind shadows, Xanax and Kahlúa.

caitsig

 

 

 


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C / Chiang Mai

Whew. After 10 days of traveling around Thailand, I am back in Phnom Penh and drinking as much coffee as my body will take. I still have sea legs from the sailing part of the trip, so this post will be mostly photos.

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Our view of Chiang Mai from the Sala Lanna rooftop pool

The first leg of our Tour-de-Thailand was Chiang Mai. I had heard wonderful things about this artsy-jungle haven in the north, and was not disappointed. Sure, the old city has a lot of tourist stuff, but people come here for a reason. We stayed at the gorgeous Sala Lanna on the river and grubbed on khao soi as often as possible.

We wandered around the city for the first day, snacking and looking at pretty stuff in the very cool, and very young Nimman neighborhood. It felt a bit like the Brooklyn of Chiang Mai, and I loved the heavy artistic influence of the area.

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Photo by Sala Lanna

My belly loves Chiang Mai.

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Khao Soi dreams

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Drool from top left: pork and chili dip with puffed rice, market snausage, pad thai for breakfast.

Getting artsy-fartsy in Nimman.

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Disco Dog in Nimman

Beer republic

Solid bar signage in Nimman

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Mosaic of the King

We made it out of the city for a day and went white-water rafting on the Maetang river, which was my very favorite part. I love rafting anyway, and rafting + elephants will be hard to beat.

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The Maetang River outside of Chiang Mai

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Serious faces of the safety brief.

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This is why we have a safety brief

Ok that’s all I can write without getting seasick. Part two of the Tour de Thailand (the sailing!) up on Thursday.

caitsig


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C / go away / chiang mai + andaman sea

The Cambodian Water Festival starts next week in Phnom Penh, and since that means MILLIONS of people will be descending upon our fair city, I will be getting the eff outta here. Bless Cambodia and their 25 public holidays.

This is what I am missing.

This is what I am missing.

A group of us kids are going to Thailand! Our first stop is Chiang Mai. I have wanted to go for years, and I am so excited. I can’t wait to hike and go white-water rafting and eat gigantic bowls of khao soi until I pass out. I have been scouring Paper Planes for local tips on food and adventure in the area. Written by an expat living in Chiang Mai, there are a ton of great ideas up on the blog. With the best timing ever, she just posted a Last Minute Travel Prep Checklist, which I am using this week. So ready to get my exploring on.

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Chiang Mai local

After our time up in the mountains, we are heading south, to the Andaman Sea, where we are renting a sailboat for the week. I have done this a few times before and while I generally like to go to new places every trip, this one is worth returning to. There are few places in the world where I am totally calm, and the abundance of coconut drinks and snorkeling make this spot pretty perfect for chill out time.

If you have any suggestions on what to see/eat/do in either place, I would love to know your thoughts!

Evidence on why I am going back, below.

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Catamarans in love

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Long boat at sunrise

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Dinner.

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Can’t even handle it

Oh, and if you lived inside my head, this is what it would sound like.

caitsig

Photos: The Khmer Times, National Geographic, Cait

 

 

 

 


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T / Kep…2 ways

the the sea - headerThere’s this place in Cambodia.  It’s just oh so special (enough for the New York Times).  And for many of us long-time Phnom Penh-ers, it’s become that second or third home to run away to when the smog and the traffic of this emerging economy gets too much.  So on any given weekend, you can count on seeing familiar faces there.  The best thing about Kep, a tiny coastal town on the southern tip of Cambodia, is that you can make it into whatever you want it to be.  And in the past month, I was beyond the luckiest chick to be able to have it in two spectacular ways.

Kep 1.0 – Party Kep

About a month ago, our friend and Captain of Logistics, Lucinda, organized a big group of us to descend upon Kep in celebration of her husband’s birthday and as a last bang before the goodbyes for our pal Leah and her amazeballs fam. That big group of us wound up being comprised of 18 adults, one toddler, four bodacious babes and two adorable dog friends, and it was probably one of the best weekends ever.

IMG_5823Our big convoy set up camp at the Villa Romonea, a hidden gem of a Kep villa that you can rent out in its entirety to 12 adults and their collection of bubs and animals (you may also reserve individual rooms at the villa if it is free). Our other friends stayed at the nearby Kimly Lodge, just a stone’s throw away from us.  Stephane, the manager of the Villa Romonea property that was built in 1968 in the style of nouveau Khmer architecture, treated us like we were staying at a friend’s home and everything was taken care of for us; from getting Kep’s famous crabs onto the table for al frescco lunches and dinners, to making sure our poolside soundtrack had the appropriate speakers. Those monsoon clouds even parted for us.

IMG_5708And what did we get up to?  Each morning, we woke up to a big spread of breakfast in the kitchen.  And after that? Well, I spent the entire weekend barefoot and in the pool, with its infinite flow into the rice paddies below.

IMG_5723Some peeps went for jogs by the sea, hikes in the national park. Others went to the sea in Hobie cats you can rent from the Sailing Club next door.

kep lunchWe had open air seaside massages that Stephane arranged for us.  There were big family style meals with the best seafood the region has to offer (the coconut curry crab is to die for).  And of course – jugfuls of Cait’s homemade Bloody Mary. Simply the best.  And come on.  Look at that view.

We stayed up to the wee hours after the bubs had gone to bed, under the stars, talking about nonsense and how we would fare when the zombie apocalypse came. Jamieson on the rocks for night caps. No afternoon naps were to be had because we were just having so much gosh darn fun, so we tumbled into bed for the deepest slumber.

Kep 2.0 – Sensual and Stormy…

And on the other hand, Kep can be for renewal, and boy did I need it.  So after finishing up two weeks full of very intense, sigh-inducing, massage-needing work, my man and I ran off to get taken care of for a little bit.

IMG_5290And geez, were we taken care of. Regardless of the monsoon conditions that made its expected return.  We were lucky enough that Knai Bang Chatt (from here on known affectionately as KBC), one of Cait’s faves in Kep, was having a super awesome 2 nights for the price of 1 deal (deal ends on Oct 31!).  And so, as KBC virgins, we jumped on that deal in a big way and wound up in the stunning Seaview Room (#4) with the perfect view of the ocean, a veranda to watch the sun set from and the finishing touch: complementary bed time snacks!

IMG_5289To boot, we were housed in original buildings that were also built during the 1960s in the style of nouveau Khmer architecture that was all the rage.bed and foodTheir in-house restaurant, The Strand, comes with a French chef who does the most sumptuous meals. The perfect little date night. Stinky cheeses included.

Hyperlapse is the best thing ever.

And the best place to watch the storm sea from. While the rains eventually did come in with their monsoon season fury, we found shelter in their lush little library, and watched the surge blow through while digging into long awaited books.

KBC breakfastI also had a thing for their breakfast time (seriously – look at how they plated that muesli)…which you could also have in front of the sea.

So that was Kep.  Only 3 hours away from Phnom Penh, and it comes in any way you want.

Either way, everyone gets crabs (the right kind).

tiffsig