Monday, February 18, 2013

Palm Wine and Sea Creatures in Kampot

As I was returning to Kampot town from a recent walk through the Cambodian countryside, I saw a place deserving further investigation.

palm wine shop in Kampot, Cambodia

What had caught my attention were the large bottles of "home-brewed" palm wine--a unique-tasting alcoholic drink a mototaxi driver introduced me to several years ago in Kampong Chhnang. Of course I ordered a glass.

jugs of palm wine

After the drink was poured, they encouraged me to have something to eat with it. After all, they had a delectable treat.

basket of edible sea creatures

What were they? At first I had no clue, and nobody knew the English word for its name. But I found out it was a sea creature of some sort. I think.

So I had one with my drink.

palm wine and cooked sea creature

Based on its texture and what I had previously seen at a local market, I wondered if it was a large sea mollusk that acquires a flower-like shape after being cooked. But I'm not sure, and a quick online search hasn't helped me out. I'd appreciate hearing from any readers who may recognize this culinary delight.

Whatever it was, I enjoyed it with a spicy dipping sauce. After finishing it and the palm wine, I met a few of the other people there.

Cambodians enjoying food and drinks

three young men enjoying palm wine

And was guided out to the back where they suggested photographing the view.

view of Cambodian countryside outside the town of Kampot

I am very glad I visited this provider of fine palm wine, and it was one of the highlights of a long walk. Maybe someday I'll know for sure what I ate. Later, I'll share something I ate in Cambodia that proved to be much more of a challenge because I knew exactly what it was.

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Walk in Kampot's Fish Isle

In the next few posts I will share some of my experiences exploring the countryside of Kampot town--the capital of Kampot province in southern Cambodia. This post covers a walk I took south of Kampot in an area known as "Fish Isle". The photos include a variety of buildings, passersby, people I met, a dog, and some salt fields. I have much to say, but for now I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

house on stilts over water

girl riding a bike on a dirt road

house on stilts

three people riding a motorbike on a dirt road

girls wearing hijabs riding bicycles

workers at a salt field in Kampot


a building in the salt fields

girl and boy riding bikes

adults holding little children to pose

girl holding young child

two people riding a motorbike on a dirt road next to a palm tree

Thursday, February 14, 2013

On the Phone in Kampot, Cambodia

Based on the two earlier sets of photos (here and here), nobody was able to guess my current location. I can't say I am shocked. I was not familiar with Kampot before first traveling to Cambodia three years ago. Based on a recommendation I had planned to visit Kampot then, but difficulty in finding a room during New Year's caused me to head elsewhere. Fortunately, this time I was able to find a room without problem.

Today I will just share a single photo. During one of my long walks into Kampot's countryside, I noticed a little girl engrossed with a toy phone at a small openair store. I pretended to answer her "call" on my mobile.

little girl sitting amongst toys for sale at a small shop

I think it is safe to say I provided an unexpected moment in her day.

More scenes from that walk, elsewhere in Kampot, and also Phnom Penh are on the way.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Two More Scenes Not In Malaysia

Not surprisingly, there were fewer guesses than the previous time for the most recent edition of "where am I?".

One reader's guess, "Java", especially caught my attention because I nearly ended up there for the Chinese New Year's holiday. The winner for the most creative / entertaining guess so far goes to Pete. He asked "Are you golfing at Pebble Beach?" and submitted a link to the photo here to support his claim. However, if that's the same tree then apparently there's been a recent one kilometer change in the sea level. Plus, there are no golf courses nearby.

Since nobody has yet correctly guessed the location, I will share two more photos. They both include some clues.

tourists near some rocks and a statue

salt fields

Again, any guesses? This will be the last chance as I am eager to share some more substantial posts.

One more clue: Java is quite a bit closer than Pebble Beach.

UPDATE: Answer here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Two Scenes Not In Malaysia

As I mentioned before, I am now not in Malaysia.

Time for an old game. Here are two clues for where I am spending part of this year's Chinese New Year's holiday week:

tree and an old church in the background

mountains, tropical trees, and a river with a setting sun

Any guesses?

The last time I tried this, the first person to identify the location was a reader in Zoetermeer, Netherlands. I think the above photos present a trickier case, unless you have happened to visit here before. So I'll add one more small clue. The church in the first photo is no longer a place for religious services.

Tomorrow as I recover from a little too much sun (I was better prepared for the mosquitos), I hope to reply to some recent comments from readers. More soon.

UPDATE: More scenes here.

Monday, February 11, 2013

One More Train Ride in Malaysia

driverless train at Kuala Lumpur International Airport

A few days ago I had the opportunity to look out the front window of another driverless train in Kuala Lumpur. This one traveled between terminals at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Not surprisingly, not long after the ride I boarded an airplane. But I have no photos like the ones from Xiamen and Hong Kong.

Although I am no longer in Malaysia, there is still more I plan to share about what I saw, experienced, and learned in a country full of diversity. But posts about my new location are also on the way...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Choice and Fashion of a Hijab

During my time in Malaysia, it was common to see females wearing a hijab--a headscarf worn by many, but not all, Muslim women. I often marveled at the apparent quality of fabric and the variety of colors & patterns on the hijabs.

One day in Melaka, I met these four young women from Indonesia who were traveling together:

four young women from Indonesia

Two of them are Muslim. Two are Catholic. Of the two Muslims, only one wore a hijab. In a discussion, the Muslim traveler who was not wearing a hijab said that wearing one is a "choice" for Muslim women in Indonesia. She also said that some females will wear the hijab only for reasons of fashion. For them, the hijab is simply another accessory in their attire, and they are not wearing it for a religious purpose.

Her comments were particularly striking to me because on two earlier occasions Western women traveling in Malaysia commented to me about the many hijabs they were seeing. Both women thought it was oppressive for Muslim women to be expected to cover themselves more than men.

In each case I replied by asking, "Do you feel oppressed when men are able to walk around topless and you are expected to cover your breasts?" The first woman considered my question for a while. She never replied. The second woman said it is different since in both Muslim and Western cultures women are expected to cover their breasts. I asked why that had anything to do with whether it is oppressive. She had no reply.

There is so much to explore in the topics raised by these discussions. But for now, I will just add that I wish I could have introduced the two Western women to the travelers from Indonesia. I suspect with some appropriate nudges another fascinating discussion would occur.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

"Power of Crepe is Power of Love"

Sometimes I have so many thoughts about a particular scene I wonder if it may be best to simply share it and say nothing at all.

cafe with pink seats / heart tables and a sign on the wall saying "Power of Crepe is Power of Love"

But in case you're considering the sign at the above Crepe Signature cafe in a Melaka mall, here is some insight about its meaning from Crepe Signature:
Our slogan is: “Power of Crepe is power of Love”. Our hope that every customer can enjoy crepes with happiness, love and warmth of a family.
I'll add that, as far as I can tell, their slogan is rather unique.

Just another scene from Malaysia. And I'll leave it at that.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Melaka River

Previously I shared a view of the Melaka River from "my office". The view definitely proved conducive to prolonged pondering. The river also provided some rather enjoyable strolls. And one night I had the idea to sit next to it while sharing a bottle of wine with a friend. From that experience I discovered two things: 1. Finding a bottle of wine on a weekday night in Melaka's historic city center is more challenging than I would have expected. 2. Melaka's mosquitos have a strong affinity for people who drink wine next to the river during evening. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable experience.

So, in honor of one of my new favorite small rivers, below are a few photos of the Melaka River taken during some of my walks. Maybe they can inspire some more pondering.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Lanzhou Potato Interlude

Due to my travels, most recents posts have focused on Malaysia. For readers who are yearning for scenes from China, here is where last year I bought some spicy potatoes in Lanzhou, Gansu province:

man and woman selling potatoes and other foods in Lanzhou, China

Some more scenes from Lanzhou can be found in my posts "Zhengning Street Food Night Market in Lanzhou, China" and "Chinese Being Friendly to a Foreigner in China".

And yes, they were good potatoes.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Flying Above the Kampung Kling Mosque

I spent this evening sorting out some upcoming travel plans, including a likely air flight. In that spirit, here is a flight I recently saw above the Kampung Kling Mosque in Melaka, Malaysia.

bird flying above the Kampung Kling Mosque

More later...

Monday, February 4, 2013

An Attack in Melaka

Late last night while sitting on a 2nd story porch overlooking the Melaka River, I heard a woman scream something. For a brief moment, I was uncertain what to make of it. But her screams quickly increased in both frequency and volume. So I rushed to the edge of the porch. Roughly about 150 feet away on the dimly lit walkway next to the river I saw a woman crouched down and a person, apparently a male, physically harassing her. There was no quick and easy way for me to get down to the walkway, so I belted out a loud "HEY!" The man froze and then took off running to disappear down a alley. The woman quickly got up and ran into one of the nearby buildings.

A minute or so later I was able to make my way to where the woman had been. Several other people who had heard the screaming were also there. None had seen the struggle, but one person had seen the man running away. I saw what appeared to be the man's sandals and one of the woman's sandals. There were also a couple of potted plants in the area that had been knocked over. We were not able to sort out which building the woman had fled into, and we learned little more. Given some warnings I've seen posted in Melaka, I suspect what I saw was an attempted purse snatching. But I don't know. All I know is that the woman got away.

The End. Kind of...

Normally, I probably wouldn't have thought of sharing this story here. Sadly, it is not particularly remarkable for many places in the world. And while it is good to take some precautions, Melaka feels much safer to me than many cities in the U.S. But the experience touched on another topic I've discussed here before.

Prior to hearing the woman's screams, I had been speaking with a man I had just met. He is from Chongqing, China, and we had been discussing topics such as Chinese politics and censorship. After I returned to the porch, he praised me for scaring off the attacker, who he had seen as well. I explained that no praise was necessary. All it took was yelling. It is just what you should do.

But he shook his head slowly and said, "People in China would not have done what you did. They would not want to get involved." He later added, "I did not think to yell like you."

His words brought to my mind the incident in Foshan, China, where many people ignored a severely injured little girl who had been hit by a truck. None of them even yelled for someone to get help. I still have no sure and complete answer to what that tragedy says about China or about human psychology. But even in that case, one person finally did try to help the little girl. I know not everyone in China refuses to get involved when strangers need help.

And I think... I think if the man from Chongqing ever again experiences something like what he saw in Melaka there is a better chance he too will get involved, even if it is just by yelling.