Cambodia

Children or beggars? Or both? - In Europe, we teach our children not to accept sweets or anything else from strangers. Not healthy, not hygienic, not safe. Why does that change when people visit a developing country? There, the poor and pitiful children with their beautiful brown eyes must be craving for our sweets, pens or old toys. In general, the … Continue reading Children or beggars? Or both?
The apple of my eye - The apple of my eye.
Roman catholic church, Bokor Mountain, Kampot - Bokor mountain is an old French hill station, abandoned after Cambodian independence. There is not much left, but there still are a few ruines, amongst which this church. New developments are starting in the area, so it remains to be seen how long it will last.
Phnom Sampeu, Battambang - It looks like a common temple on a high hill, but it’s much more than that. Phnom Sampeu is one of the Khmer Rouge torture prisons. When prisoners had confessed, they were simply pushed over a cliff, to fall to their death on the rocks below.
Bamboo train, Battambang - It’s no more than a bamboo platform on wheels and the ride has more of rollercoaster than a train, but it definitely offers a thrill. Especially when the cows beside the track refuse to move or when the cart in the opposite direction moves at full speed towards you on the single track.
Banteay Chhmar, Banteay Meanchey - Everyone who knows me, will be aware that I love to climb over old stones, enjoy discovering mossy ruins and like to discover hidden treasures. That far away Banteay Chhmar is one of my favourite Angkor era temples will be no surprise.
Water hyacinth - Water hyacinths are a crime, because they grow so fast they threaten to cover the lake and block all boat traffic. But enterprising women discovered you can make beautiful things from  them.
Kbal Spean, Angkor, Siem Reap - Thousands of lingas carved a thousand years ago in the bed and banks of the river, adorned with reclining Vishnus and other Hinduist gods.
Preah Vihear temple - Since the 2013 judgment from the International Court in The Hague, ruling that the area around the temple is Cambodian, access to the temple and safety has slowly improved. As it is on top of a hill and quite remote, it’s still not the easiest Angkor era temple to reach, but the ornate decorations and … Continue reading Preah Vihear temple
Prasat Preah Ko, Thala Barivat, Stung Treng - Around 500 years older than most of the Angkor temples, is Prasat Preah Ko in the small village of Thala Barivat.
Monks in the grass - They sit opposite the Sopheak Mitt waterfalls, in the tall grass, invisible from the road. No one knows why they are there or who put them there. They are the head monks of the main pagodas, forever immortalized in stone.
Our hammock is our boat - Children treat themselves to a play in the hammock before having to assist their parents again
A Khmer workshop - The location: a large room in a luxury hotel in Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville or Siem Reap. The tapestry on the floor and the paint on the walls have colours that in Europe were modern during the ’70s or ’80s of the last century, a large fake chrystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling. In the front … Continue reading A Khmer workshop
Creepy creatures - They fly, crawl or jump. They feel slippery or rough, hairy or smooth. They are totally harmless, or not entirely. We find them nasty or weird or simply inconvenient. Creepy” creatures.
What I’m proud of - I’m proud of this: The surprised understanding in her eyes when slowly she starts to grasp that you really don’t beat up a thief, but hand him over to the authorities unharmed The young lady who, after a lot of hesitation, seizes the microphone and gives her presentation to the dignitaries herself instead of leaving … Continue reading What I’m proud of
The best way to fight corruption is to legalise it - “So, that’s my quotum for this week.” The police-officer closes his book with traffic tickets and rises from his chair at the large window, where he has overlooked the rather derelict Amsterdam shopping street. I look at him and don’t ask the obvious question. No, this is not the most effective way of policing, we … Continue reading The best way to fight corruption is to legalise it
Labour circumstances in construction work - In the Worldbank’s “ease of doing business” index countries are compared on the way in which government facilitates companies and investements (top 3 : Singapore, New Zealand and Hong Kong). The index scores factors like how easy is it to get electricity or credit, how well ownership is protected, how easy is it to get … Continue reading Labour circumstances in construction work
Inequality - A car drives out of the parking garage. It’s huge, squared, black with a grey painted bonnet. A Rolls Royce. The guard of the parking garage runs to the exit and blocks all traffic on the road so the Rolls can drive away easily, the driver gives him a bit of money for it. It’s … Continue reading Inequality
Neighbours - Dutch people don’t like Germans. Ok, I immediately admit that is a gross exaggeration. Germany is our most important ally in Europe, it’s our largest trading partner and most tourists come from Germany. But still… a war and a lost World Cup soccer final are more important. Grumbling about Germans is part of Dutch folklore … Continue reading Neighbours
Sunset - Kampot is one of the upcoming destinations for tourists travelling in Cambodia. The small town itself has a laid-back atmosphere with nice restaurants and places to stay, beautiful colonial buildings and a busy market, but without the hectic so prevalent in Phnom Penh or the amount of tourists of Siem Reap. The very diverse places … Continue reading Sunset
Outside Phnom Penh - Phnom Penh is a city with 2 million inhabitants, a number that’s way too large for its infrastructure. That causes a continuous bustle. Traffic that’s impossible to navigate, especially during rush hour, but also a cacophony of sounds. The city doesn’t have any real green parks, the spaces that are supposed to be parks, are … Continue reading Outside Phnom Penh
Understanding Cambodia - And then again I don’t understand it at all… The longer you remain at a place, the better you think you understand the people, their habits, their culture. That works for me in Cambodia as well. So by now I understand that a Cambodian on his moped, who passed me at the left side and … Continue reading Understanding Cambodia
Healthcare - In Roka, a small village of 1700 inhabitants in the province of Battambang, more than 200 HIV-infections have been discovered in the last two months. Among these are small children and people of over eighty. In one family with 16 members, 15 have been infected. Cambodia has a good track record in reducing and preventing … Continue reading Healthcare
Christmas in Cambodia - More than 95% of the population in Cambodia is buddhist, and it’s the national religion, so Christmas is something Cambodians don’t celebrate. No holidays, no Christmas trees or decoration, no family gatherings or church visits. Anyway it’s difficult to get that Christmas feeling when there is a clear blue sky and temperatures are around 30 … Continue reading Christmas in Cambodia
Nature in Angkor - Besides the gorgeous temples and impressive statues, Angkor has beautiful nature as well. It’s situated in a 400 km² large National Park, which means the forests are still largely intact. Nowadays the large roots of the trees overgrow the temples again, which adds another dminsion to the magic of the place.
International volunteers day - Today is International Volunteers Day. For this day, VSO made a short new movie, ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Have a look here:
Attend a training? - According to Eric Sidgwick, the Country Director in Cambodia of the Asian Development Bank, civil servants attend a training because they get paid for it. No, they don’t come because the training is so interesting, or because they will gain new knowledge and skills. They don’t come because they will be able to do their … Continue reading Attend a training?
Idyll? - A green environment, the black earth covered with grasses and herbs.. The branches of the large, fully grown trees reach for the blue sky and provide shade to cover against the burning sun. Some of the large pits in the uneven ground still contain water from the last rainshower, paths winding between them, emerged because … Continue reading Idyll?
Water festival in Phnom Penh - The most important festival in Phnom Penh is the Water festival. There are many festivals and festivities in Cambodia, with three big events spread out over several days. In April there is the Khmer New Year, in September there was Pchum Benh and around full moon in November there is the Water Festival. Both other … Continue reading Water festival in Phnom Penh
Across the continents - Asia and Africa, two completely different continents. Different cultures, different habits, different people. Concerning Cambodia and South Sudan, there’s also a different level of development. Still, there are things that are alike. Some problems are the same. In both countries, the national government wants to lay as many tasks as possible at the local level, … Continue reading Across the continents
Faces of Angkor - Hundreds of eyes follow you on your journey through Angkor. Eyes, faces, carved out of stone or carved into stone, with large bodies or small figures. Gods and demons, people and animals are everywhere. Prominent on the gates, hidden in the base of a pillar, bearing the bridge or chiseled into the walls, a new … Continue reading Faces of Angkor
Garments - Two weeks ago I bought a new pair of trousers at the market in Siem Reap, by far the most touristy place in Cambodia, as it is the gateway to Angkor. It’s the first garment I bought here. I usually wear skirts in this hot climate, but sometimes pants are just easier to go out … Continue reading Garments
Temples of Angkor - Angkor Wat is the most famous but certainly not the only temple in the 400 km² large archeological park Angkor. We cycled for three days and have seen only a small part of it. Here an impression (and certainly nothing more than that!) of the temples in Angkor.
Angkor Wat - It was a hazy morning when hundreds of people gathered at the pond. Cool still, but that wouldn’t last long, just waiting for the sun. Slowly the sky turned brighter until the moment was there, the first rays showed themselves from behind the building and reflected in the water. The light changed from red to … Continue reading Angkor Wat
Governance structure - In Cambodia my job involves strengthening of the local governance. To be able to do that, you’ll have to understand the structure of the governance system in the country. That’s not really easy… here’s what I got from it now. Let’s start at the international level. In Europe, the UN is often perceived as something … Continue reading Governance structure
School exam - Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world (Nelson Mandela). Every year, the final exams for secondary school will cause a lot of stress for many teenagers and their families all over the world. For many young people in developing countries, the result of that exam will have a … Continue reading School exam
Transport - Cambodians use everything available to transport things and/or people. Here some examples from daily life.  
Finally a verdict? - “In 1975, when I was 10 years of age, the Khmer Rouge came to power. They forced my family, my parents and 7 children, to move away from the village where we lived. As happened usually, they separated the family. My parents were brought to one place, the children were dispersed over other locations. In … Continue reading Finally a verdict?
Snow chains - It promised to be a pleasant morning, the temperature around 20 degrees, the sun just broke through the clouds and the cars drove up the hillside with snow chains. In the middle of the road a lorry was parked, the wheels sunk till the axles, the driver had tried several times to get out by … Continue reading Snow chains
Money - The first time in a new country there’s the getting used to the new currency. What does it look like, which units are there, what is actually the value? It is, except of course for the Eurozone, part of getting used to local habits. The Cambodian currency is called the riel. In riels, there are … Continue reading Money
Distance from the disaster - My breath catches in my throat, I take another look at the page I just opened. It was a morning like every other one, after starting my computer a brief look at the world news on the site of a Dutch newspaper, expecting nothing special.It’s really there, on that newspaper site, more than one hundred … Continue reading Distance from the disaster
Rain - It rains in Phnom Penh. It rains hard and it rains often. That’s not strange, considering the rainy season has started. Every year, from June until October, there are only a few days it does not rain. But if it is so normal, why are they so ill prepared? Last Friday we cycled from the … Continue reading Rain
Chocolate sprinkles - One of the best known images of Dutch people going on holiday, is that of the family with a caravan behind their car, going to France for three weeks, taking food for the whole period because all the products they’re used to at home are not available there.The bags with potatoes, tins with vegetables, cans … Continue reading Chocolate sprinkles
Phnom Penh - Lady Penh slowly stood up and stretched her back. She had been working in her small garden the whole morning, and she could feel she was not as strong anymore as she had once been. With noon approaching it became time to go into the shade. She went back to her house, that she had … Continue reading Phnom Penh
Traffic - He drives straight at me, the visor of his helmet open, looking relaxed. For a moment I’m confused. Am I really driving at the right side of the road? The motordriver doesn’t go left or right, just drives on. Then I realise this is normal behaviour in Phnom Penh and I move to the left, … Continue reading Traffic
Do what I believe in, part 2 - The first week of June I will leave Europe again, this time to go to Cambodia. Until that moment I’ll be busy with administrative and medical procedures and buying things I had to leave behind when leaving South Sudan. Most important, I’ll try to meet up with as many people as possible in this period.

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