Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sun's visit

On Monday I went to pick my friend Sun up from the Siem Reap International Airport. Here she is coming out of the airport - she travels light! I was so happy to see her!

Sun was impressed and surprised with how modern the airport was. Like many people, she had assumed because Cambodia is a third world country, everything must be shabby. She was also surprised at how large the houses in Cambodia can be - like the guesthouse we rented. She asked how much it would sell for in Cambodia. I have no idea but the landlady said she was offered over USD1 million for her house and land (60m by 70m). Sun could not believe it.

I met Sun at my first job - she was the designer and I, deputy editor, at the magazine we worked at. I've known her for more than 11 years now! She is very talented and has lived in London for almost a decade, working as a designer. She was telling me how expensive Singapore has become. She had to lug home a Nespresso (some kind of trendy coffee machine) for her family because it cost SGD300 in the UK and SGD650 in Singapore. A branded handbag was 50% more in Singapore than in the UK. What's happened to Singapore? Singapore used to be the place to go for electronics and designer goods, and the UK was known as "Rip-off Britain".

Well, partly the pound has dropped. But the other thing is that goods in Singapore usually arrive through designated distributors (middlemen), which take their cut. In the UK, you can now buy things through Amazon, direct from the maker.

Sorry for the digression, this was supposed to be about Sun and her visit.

I took her to the Old Market to do a bit of shopping after she went to the temples alone (at USD20 a day entrance fee, it is not something I can afford to do often). This nice young lady showed us how to use a kroma (traditional Cambodian scarf that has multiple uses). Sun is wearing it the traditional way for women. 

Here she is with the kroma on her head using her girly iPhone, studded with pink crystals. Very surreal - who'd have imagined a young woman to be wearing a kroma on her head and using an iPhone at the same time!

Sun has a kind heart and bought two books ($5 each) from Khim, aka "Jerry". Khim is a 16 year old Cambodian boy who lost one leg due to a car accident in Phnom Penh. He told me he was compensated with USD2000 by the driver of the "big car" but had to give $500 to the police. I asked why and he said it was because the police stopped the car from driving off. He then spent about a thousand at the hospital for the operation and to "buy blood". He has been selling books around Pub Street and the Alley since his dad died and family moved to Siem Reap a few years ago. Khim is a very happy, optimistic boy.

I did not take enough photos of Sun and with her. She actually stayed at our guesthouse and was our first customer. I took photos of her in the big bed with mosquito net but it's in her iPhone. She'll have to email me the photos!

Sun was around when I signed the contract for the new Bloom shop. Yes, we are moving! Our lease ends this month and the landlord is jacking up the price to an unrealistic amount so we are moving. This space is 200m from the Old Market, near all the "Happy Pizza" shops and the new D's Books (which moved from Pub Street this year - no doubt also due to increased rent).

Sun thinks I should have a projection on one wall, relating the Bloom story (that's her arm there!). She told me I can get a second hand projector cheap in Singapore because it is old technology. This is the space - currently used as a parking lot for the owner's motorbikes. It's longish and has a lot of potential, I think. But I am no interior decorator. If you have been to the Bloom shop, you will know how amateurish it is. Not at all slick like some of the other souvenir shops in town.

Soon it was time for Sun to go. I asked her what she thought of Cambodia. She found Cambodians "very sweet" and the town and shops interesting. She plans to return next year with her family which will be great because she is such a cute and bubbly person. I really had a great five days with her and miss her already. Sun took Om Pheon's tuktuk everywhere and left the Bloom guesthouse team a small tip when she left, so they were very happy.

I took her to the airport. Her Silkair flight was delayed by 15mins so we sat chatting. Suddenly there was a commotion and we saw the airport staff using a broom to hit a snake. It stopped moving and this man tried to brush it to the side. Not knowing I speak Khmer, the man told his friend I was "cherkoot" (crazy) for wanting to take a photo of the snake.

The dead snake in front of the airport trolleys. Sun was a little freaked out - I guess you do not see snakes in many airports around the world. But I think snakes are part of nature and wished they did not beat it to death.  But many Cambodians are scared of snakes, I suppose for good reason.

After leaving Sun, I saw this on the way back from the airport: Cambodian families waiting for a plane to take off.

This was the plane, a Vietnamese carrier. I told Om Phoen to stop for a bit and saw the plane take off. It was very loud! Om Phoen asked me if this is what I take to go home. I said something like that. Planes are pretty amazing. This is how they work.

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