Sunday, February 28, 2016

Most Unique Restaurant South of The Equator

Most Unique Restaurant South of The Equator

“There are hundreds of restaurants in Bangkok that serve chicken. Why do you want to compete in that market?”
“I think there is still room one for one more, but were need a gimmick to make it different from all of the others.”
“I know, we can say that the chicken is cooked with 22 herbs and spice, that’s twice what the Colonel uses.”
“Not good enough! How about if we also make some yummy corn fritters to go with the chicken and fries?”
“Maybe, but still pretty mundane.”
“Some restaurants are using coupons that give you one free chicken dinner after you have purchased ten others.”
“It’s time to start thinking outside of the box. We need to get creative and do something radically different!”
“What are you suggesting?”
“How about if we throw a cooked chicken up in the air, catch it in a plate and then take it directly to the table that ordered it.”
“Instead of throwing it, why don’t we shoot it out of a cannon?”
“Too noisy, but how about using a catapult?”
“Now we are getting somewhere! Why not shoot the chicken out of a catapult and then catch in on a plate?”
“Great idea, but instead of just catching it on a plate, lets have the waiter catch it while riding a unicycle?”
“Whoee! Now we’re really cooking! I think we can really get people excited if the waiter caught the chicken on a spiked helmut while riding the unicycle up a ramp after it was launched from the catapult.”  

And that my dear readers is my speculation of how the famous Flying Chicken Restaurant in Bangkok was born. In our last night in Bangkok this was where we ate our family dinner and it was a hoot. It was like dining in a circus tent kitchen where anything goes. 

The food was average, but the kitsch was unique. If you order flying chicken on the menu, your chicken is shot into the air, caught on the spiked helmut of a unicycle riding waiter and delivered to your table in an upright posture with a flag stuck in its head. You won’t get served like that anywhere else in the world.

To add to the festivities the restaurant allows adults and children to “catch” a chicken just like the waiters if they choose. You can join in to sing karaoke to the patrons or you can reserve a family karaoke room for a private party. 

To say we dined in the most unique restaurant south of the equator cannot be challenged. Without a doubt, for uniqueness, it even transcends Bangkok’s Cabbages and Condoms Restaurant which we also visited, but that is another story. Once you have eaten flying chicken you will have a hard time settling for ordinary chicken in a box

Friday, February 26, 2016

Traveling in the Sky

Traveling in the Sky

Often during our stay in Bangkok I feel that I am some kind of underground animal who lives in the shadows. It seems that much of the time I walk the streets I am sheltered under a concrete umbrella. That cement parasol is actually a part of the Bangkok elevated Skytrain transportation system, usually called the BTS.

In the 1990s, the ground transportation in Bangkok became so congested and the air so polluted from all of the automobile traffic that the government knew that they had to solve the problem. When the average speed of cars in the downtown area during rush hour became less than seven mph, the demand for change led to building the BTS.

In 1999, the BTS was officially opened with a series of 23 elevated train stations zooming along about 60 feet in the air over top of many of the cities major roadways. This concrete railway in the sky is fantastic! Today there are an average of over 500,000 riders daily using 34 different stations and extending over 36 kms. The system is fast, clean, relatively inexpensive, reliable and safe. What more could you ask for?

Anytime that you are in a popular or business area, the Skytrain is visible whizzing over your head. Sometimes I am not in a BTS served part of Bangkok and there is still a concrete snake high over my head. It is one of the dozen elevated highways that have also been built in the air to allow ground traffic to flow more quickly. Adjacent to Berkley School, where the family teaches, there is an eight lane main highway with two, three lane service roads running parallel on both sides. Then, above this 14 lane speedway, there is another elevated highway with at least six more lanes. It has to be seen to be believed. And this is only one of many mega highway arteries within Bangkok.

In addition, Bangkok has an underground metro system that services other parts of this huge city. There is a special rail link from the airport to the downtown core and there are plans to add another dozen or more BTS stations to extend the two main lines further into the suburbs. Anyone who works near the Chao Phraya River, which divides the city of Bangkok, is served by a speed boat taxi and ferry service up, down and across the river.

On the actual ground there are endless cars, a bus system, thousands of taxis, motorbike taxis, and tuk tucks to move passengers along the surface. During morning and evening “rush” hours you can spend hours crawling along looking for an escape route, usually to no avail. 

Anyone who complains about traffic in Calgary just needs to spend an hour or two in a car in Bangkok to begin to understand the real meaning of “traffic congestion”. Each day when I leave our condo, I walk under the shadow of the BTS, climb 100 stairs to the departure platform and avoid the heavy traffic by travelling in the sky in a modern train to my next destination. It is a life saver! Thanks BTS!

Thursday, February 25, 2016



As I continue to explore the teachings of Buddhism, I came across this poem that I found quite interesting. I offer it to you as some final simple thoughts upon which to reflect:


If you realize that all things change,
there is nothing you will try to hold on to.
If you aren’t afraid of dying, 
there is nothing you can’t achieve.

If you want to shrink something, you must first allow it to expand.
If you want to get rid of something, you must first allow it to flourish.
If you want to take something, you must first allow it to be given.
This is called the subtle perception of the way things are.

The soft overcomes the hard.
The slow overcomes the fast.
Let your workings remain a mystery;
Just show people the results.

True words aren’t eloquent;
Eloquent words aren’t true.
Wise men don’t need to prove their point;
Men who need to prove their point aren’t wise.

If you look to others for fulfillment,
You will never truly be fulfilled. 
If your happiness depends on money,
You will never be happy with yourself.

Be content with what you have;
Rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking, 

The whole world belongs to you.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

This Little Piggy Went To Thailand

This Little Piggy Went To Thailand

I just finished a delicious lunch of some small pork ribs and fresh bread today in Bangkok. Mouth watering good! It got me to thinking how much pork has been a factor in some of our travel adventures. In fact, it is interesting how differently pork is viewed in various parts of the world.

When we lived in Turkey we were pork deprived. As a Muslim country, the consumption is forbidden in the Koran and as a result there were basically no pork products available when we were first there. When we would fly home to Canada, via Frankfurt, our breakfast in the Frankfurt airport was always bacon and eggs. It was like a drug injection for a junkie. On our return trips, we would always buy ham, bacon and pork chops in the airport stores and then ration it out slowly over the ensuing months in Turkey. 

One day, I met an expat who told me that there was now one butcher in Istanbul who sold pork. That news was like waving a treasure map in front of Jim Hawkins from Treasure Island. I was directed to find an unmarked store, beside a Shell service station in a destitute part of Istanbul, with no further information. My initial search was hopeless as there was no evidence of a butcher shop anywhere. My eyes finally noticed a collection of street cats patiently hanging out around a doorway. As I approached, the door opened and a man tossed out some meat scraps to the cats and I had found pork Nirvana. 

The owner of the shop was Greek and had opened a pork store to basically service the expat community. I have never felt more successful at anything than arriving home bearing a packet of sliced ham, bacon and other luncheon meats. For the next year or two, I made dozens of trips to the secret pork store, usually accompanied by another salivating foreigner who was suffering pork deprivation.

Fast forward fifteen years to our three month stay in Thailand. Obviously, the Buddhist faith does not have the hangups that other religions have about pork. Pork products are everywhere. 

The Thais love pork more than they love beef or chicken. Sidewalk vendors often sell pork on a stick or pork kebabs. Most restaurants serve ground pork, minced pork or stir fried pork in noodle, rice and soup dishes. If you want, you can eat bacon or ham, pork chops or pork ribs. As scarce as it was in Turkey, it flourishes in Thailand. Good quality beef is rare and is available on a more limited basis. 

One of the more unappetizing looking pork dishes is boiled pork hock. This unattractive offering was also very popular when we lived in Poland and was called Golonka. It is pretty difficult to make a large pork hock or knuckle, sitting in a broth of beer or juices, look tasty or appealing, yet they are often seen bobbing about in large pots of Thai soups in the street markets like floating mines waiting to detonate. 

We usually don’t make our travel plans based upon what kind of meat products are available in our destination country. Our experiences have shown that there are some pretty extreme alternatives in different countries, so you just have to be aware. Porky Pig would love Turkey and avoid Thailand at all costs.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

It’s Been That Kind Of Day

It’s Been That Kind Of Day

In the middle of an exotic winter vacation the God of Reality reminded me that there are still a lot of things that can be a problem. Today, was that kind of day, where anything that could go wrong, did go wrong!

I was earning my Laundry Badge for the Senior Retirees of Bangkok Association by washing and drying the weekly supply of socks and shorts. At the same time, Sawyer and I were hanging out as everyone else was out and about running errands or shopping. 

Sawyer was watching a movie on his computer so I headed home next door quickly with the dry laundry to put it away. When I arrived at our apartment I couldn’t unlock our apartment door. I wiggled, jiggled, squiggled and wiggled the key in the lock some more. To no avail! The lock on the door was broken and I was locked out.

Panic mode hit me. I knew that it was no use trying to explain the problem in my limited Thai (three words) to the front desk. Instead I decided to phone the lady we had rented the apartment from. Since I did not have her number, I had to phone my son who had her number. He sent me her phone number and then my phone informed me that I needed to add more money to my account before I could make another call. Of course, I had no idea how to do that, nor any money, as my wallet was inside the locked apartment.

My sharp mental acuity then reminded me that I could text her and tell her to phone me immediately as I had an urgent problem. She did call quickly and informed me via her cell phone that there was nothing wrong with the lock. She must have been a practising psychic and repeated that observation several times before telling me she would come by in an hour. 

Sawyer and I waited patiently, and lo and behold when she arrived her key would not unlock the door either. She just couldn’t understand that, as it had always worked before. She phoned the maintenance man and in a show of solidarity he tried to open the door, but he too failed. In the middle of our struggles, Darlene called and my phone went dead as it had not only run out of minutes, but had also run out of power. Our misfortunes just went on and on.

Finally, it was agreed that a locksmith would be called and he arrived surprisingly in ten minutes. After fifteen minutes of repairing the broken lock, we had access to our apartment. All that was left to do now was recharge my phone, top up my phone minutes, get my wallet and take two aspirin!

A broken door lock in Canada would not have been a problem. In a foreign country, where you don’t speak the language, and the three other adults with phones are in outer space, and your phone is dead and has no minutes left, and you have no money on you, that becomes a whole new ballgame. Think about it!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Let’s Exploit People, Not Elephants!

Let’s Exploit People, Not Elephants!

The elephant is emblematic of Thailand and a major tourist attraction. A significant movement has started within the past couple of decades to prevent the exploitation of these massive pachyderms.

One camp believes that the elephant can be used as a beast of burden, an entertainer and a source of revenue for the owner. The opposition believes that the animal should not be used for forced labor, ridden for pleasure or made to perform circus type tricks to entertain tourists. Recently, logging operations became illegal, thus making a lot of elephant labour unnecessary and putting a lot of elephants and owners out of work. New profitable uses of these five ton beasts needed to be found and, of course, that is why we are where we are today. The good news is that animal rights activists have begun to make some inroads in improving the elephants’ lot.

During our elephant experience, we were involved in feeding and bathing the animals, but there was no riding and the animals were well treated. Personally, I have no issue with an elephant being ridden or trained to perform, but I do not condone abuse, neglect or any activity that could be injurious to these gentle animals. Since the government does little to govern the use or abuse of animals, it is probably a good thing that an outside group has taken up their cause.

At the same time as we are fighting against elephant exploitation, we seem to be ignoring comparable human exploitation. Many of the tours offered to foreign visitor are trips to visit “hill-tribes” in the vicinity of Chiang Mai. One that we visited, in conjunction with a wat tour, was a tribe that originated in China and was actively involved in the heroin trade decades ago. Their little mountain village was very remote, but a very large shopping market had been set up by some local entrepreneur to sell every conceivable object, little of it relevant to the local culture or tribe. A few locals contributed to the show by dressing up in ethnic costumes to add some authenticity to the performance. It seemed very staged and contrived.

Another “hill-tribe” that is overrun by tours and tourists is the tribe of long neck women who wrap metal rings around their necks in order to appear to stretch them to extraordinary lengths. In reality, the neck is not extended but rather the collar bone and rib cages are depressed. This old tribal custom, is now being exploited by tour companies with little regard for the health, dignity, or well being of those on display. It is comparable to the old circus practice of charging admission to view the bearded lady, the lobster man or a set of siamese twins. 

In Thailand, there do not appear to be any advocates fighting for the rights and dignity of marginalized humans that are similar to the animal rights activists who are seeking to prevent the exploitation of elephants. Is there something wrong with this picture?

The reason, of course, for both exploitations is the same. You can call it free enterprise, entrepreneurship, or simply taking advantage of a business opportunity. I just call it human greed! Our world is driven by the pursuit of the Almighty Dollar and no place is immune from it, not even the remote hillsides of Thailand!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Tidbits, Morsels and Dribbles!

Tidbits, Morsels and Dribbles!

A couple more Dalai Lama observations that I found interesting:
“What surprises me most is “Man”, because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he doesn’t enjoy the present; The result being he doesn’t live in the present or the future; He lives as if he’s never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.” – Dalai Lama

“Whether one is rich or poor, educated or illiterate, religious or non-believing, man or woman, black, white, or brown, we are all the same. Physically, emotionally, and mentally, we are all equal. We all share basic needs for food, shelter, safety, and love. We all aspire to happiness and we all shun suffering. Each of us has hopes, worries, fears, and dreams. Each of us wants the best for our family and loved ones. We all experience pain when we suffer loss and joy when we achieve what we seek. On this fundamental level, religion, ethnicity, culture, and language make no difference.” – Dalai Lama

A little article from the Bangkok News recently:
New Delhi: Nearly 600,000 Indian men who have sexually harassed or taunted women will receive a text message from police during the New Year reminding them to be on their best behaviour. “You and your phone are still under observation. Hope your conduct is upright now. We wish you a Happy New Year,” says the greeting from police in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. The messages will be sent to “eve-teasers” - the South Asian term for the sexual harassers of women - today. “The message to eve-teasers, or pesky callers, is a reminder that the police have their record. It is meant as a deterrent.”

Interesting television practises:
Whenever anyone is smoking during a movie scene, there is a little cloud that obscures the actual cigarette. You can see the smoke and the act of smoking, but the evil cigarette is censored. Seems a little bizarre when you witness the violence and brutality that is often seen in movies along with drinking and other debaucheries. 

At 6 pm every night all TV channels are taken over by the government to broadcast a 20-30 minute, I assume, political commentary. No exceptions! A good time for supper or a bathroom break, where you will not have to be afraid of missing the program you are watching.

Dentist Fees: Again, as is the case in Mexico, I am astounded by the dental fees that are posted at the many dental clinics in Bangkok. For example, a filling costs $26 Canadian, an extraction $36, cleaning $36 and a dental implant $2000. It feels so good to know that back home we are so abused by the dental profession regarding fees, that I might just get a tooth pulled for the hell of it. At $36 it’s a steal! What is wrong with this picture?

Seat belts are compulsory on buses. On the windows of the bus there are stickers that read, “Belts compulsory, no excuses”. A very responsible attitude to be sure. The only minor flaw is that all of the seat belts are locked shut underneath the seat. If you wanted to actually use a seatbelt, you would practically have to crawl under the seat to undo the belt and then try to rearrange it to use over your lap. To date, I have not seen anyone who was that committed to its use!

Finally, for all my teacher friends: We have a mission ahead of us. In Thailand last month, 200,000 grade twelve students wrote government exams and the results were dismal. On average, students failed 8 out of the 9 exams. Their highest score was 56% in Thai language. Their averages were: social studies 34%, English 30%, math 28% and science 26%. The government insists educational reform is essential. I propose that we slap together a submission for major education upgrading and get in on the reform bandwagon. If you are with me, just let me know by email and we can get started. Knowing the talents of my readers who are educators, it will be a piece of cake! Let’s get cracking! First Calgary Catholic, then Thailand, tomorrow the world!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Ultimate Double Whammy For Today’s Travellers

The Ultimate Double Whammy For Today’s Travellers

Both of my readers are on the brink of asking me the following question, “ What has changed the most about international travelling in the past fifteen years?” After a couple seconds of reflection, I can identify quite a number of major changes.

One of the biggest changes has been the availability of wifi or Internet access in every corner of the world. In fact, it is available in just about every hotel or apartment. One of the first questions most travellers ask is if the hotel has Internet access. It is as critical to today’s globetrotters as clean drinking water and a warm shower. I recall as late as 2003, searching the back streets of a little Turkish town to find an Internet cafe and today these cafe are almost obsolete. In many places they are now called Starbucks!

During the same 2003 trip, I was on a tour with twelve others along with their assortment of twelve cameras. Today, the 35 mm professional camera and the point-and-shoot variety are less and less visible. The camera phone has overwhelmed the old camera market. While camera buffs may scoff, today’s iPhones take excellent photos, that you not only can edit immediately, but send to anyone around the world, instantly. Phone cameras are not only easy to carry and use, but they are less intrusive and can take candid photos without being obvious. Wifi and iPhones are the ultimate double whammy for today’s travellers.

My mind’s eye is still locked into images from old newsreels and movies from the 1950s and 60s. When I went to China in 2009, I envisioned grey tunic clad Chinese, travelling on foot or rickshaw all wearing the conical straw hat. To my surprise, Beijing was crowded with thousands of inhabitants wearing jeans, T-shirts, polo shirts and up scale chic Western clothing. I saw more Mercedes than rickshaws and a North American major city transplanted in China. The amenities of our world are now everywhere. For example, while Calgary struggles to compete one ring road, Beijing has six, with the outer one 120 miles in circumference! Also, driving at 70 mph in our bus we were practically blown off the road by a bullet train that must have been travelling over 100 mph. The old world everywhere is getting very new!

Local travel has changed in so many ways as well. No more little Mexican chicken buses (except maybe in Mexico), but rather modern diesel driven coaches, monorails, subways, elevated trains and modern airports. I think a new state of the art airport is opened every month. I remember waiting for a plane in Balikesir, Turkey in a brand new terminal in a town I had never heard of before. In China, we flew on three Chinese airlines, which all departed on the scheduled minute and landed on the button. And customer service was first rate. Not the kind of experience, I had in earlier flights in Sierra Leone where I had to pay six bribes just to get to the waiting lounge and hope our plane would show up! Travel in foreign countries has gotten so much easier!

On the downside, from my perspective, is the globalization of our consumer market. Franchises from North America and Europe have circled the globe. Not only monsters like IKEA and McDonalds, but smaller operators like Payless Shoes and Boots Drugstores are available everywhere. The small independent merchant is slowly being forced off the street and can no longer eke out a living selling bottled water, or packs of Kleenex, or a cob of corn on a corner. The unique ambience, that I loved in my early travels, is vanishing. The ideal of most lower and middle class Asians is to become more like the westerners they see on TV and on the Internet. I can understand the lure of many of our perceived wonderful life style amenities, but the cost and quality of life issues that are attached are not even considered. But you can’t stop “progress” and you can’t define someone else's dreams.

I have loved travelling for the past fifty plus years, still love it, and am glad to have experienced it in all of its forms and shapes. Observing the continual and ongoing changes is even part of the adventure.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Substitute Teacher For A Day

Substitute Teacher For A Day

Despite protesting and screaming that I didn’t want to substitute teach for Kelly at Berkley International School in Bangkok, here I am. I relented under a barrage of persuasion and decided that perhaps substituting in a few high school English classes would provide some new insights into the international school scene. 

I left for school by taxi with Wayne and the kids at 7:00 am, which is a time most normal people are just thinking of getting up. We arrived in five minutes and I was set up in the classroom with the computer hooked up ready for action and all I needed was a class of students. At 7:45 a jingling chime signalled that all staff and students were to assemble around the flag pole in front of the school. The Thai flag was raised, there was a pledge recited, a small grade one play was presented and the day’s lunch menu read out to all. A nice elementary-touch start to the day. 

Period 1: Prep period, no class

Period 2: From 8:45 to 9:35 a class of eleven grade nine students arrived for action. Just before they arrived, a lady delivered a plate with twenty banana muffins and a quart of milk, with glasses, for a snack. The kids picked up their snacks, pulled out their own computers and spent the period working on the their assignment which was posted on something called Google Classroom. The class was a resounding success and I was feeling my groove!

Period 3: Back to back classes - a bit of a hardship, but I persevered. From 9:40 to 10:35 a class of nine grade eleven students descended upon me. For fifty minutes they worked quietly on their assignment and I only requested that they not fall asleep, but if I did, they should arouse me gently. Watching students working hard provides little stimulation.

Period 4: The ESL support students were sent to the resource teacher so I was rewarded with a well deserved break. Thank goodness!

Period 5 : As a special bonus before lunch I was blessed with another prep period. A welcome relief after the hectic pace of the morning. 

Lunch: In order to prepare for the afternoon workload, a diverse Thai/American choice of lunch options was offered in the school cafeteria. There was a buffet of yellow curry, chicken and rice, omelettes, cooked vegetables, chicken nuggets, baked potatoes, soup and an extensive salad bar. That should get me through the rest of the day.

Period 6: The one grade ten student who usually comes in for independent study chose instead to go to music. Darn, I was so looking forward to teaching a student! 

Period 7: 2:05 - 3:00 pm  The last class of the day promised fifteen grade ten students. They came, they sat, they computered, they left! Another successful class of inspired instruction. 

At 3:01 pm I guided my weary body out the door, left the campus and because I had a tiny bit of energy left, I walked the one kilometre back home under the blistering Thai sun. The most difficult thing that I did today was write my name, Mr. Ken, on the white board. The highlight of the day was lunch. I have submitted my resignation as a substitute teacher to Berkley School, as I am not capable of handling this kind of torment and abuse more than once.

PS I was paid $100 C.
PPS Should I give it back?
PPPS Who took advantage of whom?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Some Closing Impressions Of Cambodia

Some Closing Impressions Of Cambodia

For most people, whether to visit Thailand or Cambodia might be determined by the flip of a coin. In order to add a smidgen more information to help with the decision, I present the following observations and anecdotes. It is understood that a one week visit to three cities in Cambodia is a rather limited sample, but here are a few of my experiences.

It appears to me that Cambodia is much poorer, in general, than Thailand. The rural areas are serviced by poor dusty roads and most of the homes and local villages are dependent on a single water well while no sanitation is obvious. I always wonder how the people ever stay healthy in such a dusty environment in winter and soaked to the skin in monsoon season. When I complain about hot summers or cold winters at home I just need to remember my little Cambodian experience. One sanitation tip that I did witness was a washroom where the men’s urinals had a pineapple kebab in the trough to enhance the smell. At home, I have seen moth balls used, but never skewered pineapple!

Corruption is one of the countries biggest problems at almost every turn. We experienced two examples first hand. When we landed in Siem Reap, we lined up with a hundred other passengers to get our Cambodian visa. I asked a custom officer who was standing near me if the fee was still $30 per visa. He said yes but if I had ten dollars more he could get it done so that I didn’t have to wait. I handed him our two passports and $70 and in five minutes he had bypassed all of the others in line and his buddies fast tracked our visa. A pretty good $10 investment on my part, although I was also supporting the very corruption I am criticizing. At one of the Angkor sites, I caught the eye of a police man, and he pointed at the police badge on his chest and asked, “ Do you want to buy it?” I was so taken aback I didn’t have a chance to think about it. I am sure corruption also exists in Thailand but I have not witnessed it in the same way. 

Travelling through the country, the roadsides must have at least five little shops in every kilometre selling everything you can imagine - drinks, food, fruit, clothes, etc. One day I wondered what all the yellow liquid was I saw in racks in front of many of the shops. They were bottled in one and two litre used Coke and water bottles and I assumed they were a kind of local lemonade or fruit drink. When I asked our guide, he told me all of the little yellow bottles were gasoline! In fact, every roadside shop was a potential roadside bomb. Because over 50% of all vehicles are scooters or small motorbikes, all their gas tanks can hold is a litre or two. Wow, talk about a disaster waiting to happen!

It is not uncommon to see people riding bicycles, scooters, and motor bikes everywhere. They are definitely the vehicles of choice. There are often 3 to 5 riders on one bike or they are carrying a cargo that almost makes the rider invisible. When you drive past a high school I estimate there are at least 400 scooters and 100 bikes parked in the parking lot. The highways are all single lanes in each direction. With all of the shoulder traffic, cattle, dogs, farm implements and a few trucks, driving is a game of zig zag or twist and shout, at 60 mph. Driving is not for the feint of heart!

On the positive side, the people who we interacted with were very kind and friendly. Our tour guide, who was born in a Cambodian refugee camp, and our driver, who was born in a slum village that he took us to see, couldn’t have been nicer. They were both polite and ever vigilant. Whenever we were climbing a staircase or over an obstacle, they were always there with a helping hand or a word of caution. I haven’t been this babied since 1944. I could get used to it!

Hotel staffs were also extremely friendly and helpful. The last two hotels we stayed in gave us a departing gift when we checked out. When was the last time one of our finer western chain hotels said thank you for your business by presenting you with a handmade scarf?  Never, you say! In Cambodia, it seems to be the norm. 

Finally, I would advise those interested, to travel to Cambodia soon. It is very cheap relative to accommodation and meals. One night we had a seven course meal in a special restaurant that teaches disadvantaged youth cooking skills. We had dumplings, corn fritters, a diced pork salad, and steamed pork buns for appetizers and then chicken curry and a huge dish of prawns and rice followed by two desserts for the astronomical price of $15 per person. The prawns alone would have been $20 - $30 at home. Siem Reap in particular is a wonderful archeological site that is going to explode in popularity very, very soon! You have been forewarned!