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I finally made it to the adventure of a lifetime and now I'm a citizen of the World. Indy author, blogger, in love with being an author - Mom of two grown children and widow of the most wonderful man to ever live - Devon "Pete" Hall.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Royalty, Glitz and Good Eating

Perfect view of the central area of the Royal grounds.
I began my exploration of Phnom Penh by visiting two very divergent hot spots – The Royal Palace and NagaWorld, the one and only hotel/casino in town.

The grounds of the Royal Palace are beautiful and where the King and his family really do live. I expected guards everywhere but there aren’t even many attendants, at least on the day I visited, which happened to be the anniversary of the King’s coronation. Things were so slow all around and I felt like I had the place pretty much to myself. 

The model in the foregroind is Angkor Wat.
There’s too much history on the site for me to explain everything (probably not particularly well) so I’ll refer you to the link at the bottom of the page for more information. However, here are some photos of the sheer beauty of the place. 

The lobby at NagaWorld.
Bistro Romano
After about two hours of wandering the Royal grounds, I headed to NagaWorld for little slot action and an Italian meal at the Bistro Romano, a well-reviewed restaurant in the hotel portion of the huge resort. I lost a little bit, took pictures galore and then asked 5 or 6 people where the Italian restaurant was. Finally one of the very elegant-looking concierges led the way to the escalator to food heaven. There were several quite distinctive eateries to choose from, but I was hell-bent on some tasty pasta. Mission accomplished – with a wonderfully creamy ham and mushroom pasta and bread basket with yummy roasted veggie purees for dipping.  

Robert brought me this fabulous mac & cheese.

The next day, with my appetite for pasta piqued, I went two doors down to the Lazy Gecko restaurant for an amazing mac & cheese lunch accompanied by smiles and conversation with Robert!

Breadbasket at Bistro Romano
Mac & Cheese at Lazy Gecko

Terrific website for more information about the Royal Palace

Friday, October 30, 2015

Phnom Penh’s Great Art Deco Market

The lovely ceiling at the Central Market.
The Central Market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, was built in 1932 and has retained its Art Deco architecture and feel. Actually, it reminded me of Grand Central Station in New York City to some degree.

The Central Market frontage
The layout is very logical with the central domed area being “jewelry land” and the four arms of the market each comprising a different product area, such as home goods, clothing, ladies clothing and needs (such as manicures and pedicures), and then odds and ends such as luggage and toiletries, etc.

Lovely silver purses and teapots
It was hard to walk through the jewelry area without stopping, in fact, I succumbed three times buying gifts for others and a smoking hot pair of earrings for myself.  But the kicker was all the glitter. Those who know me know I LOVE a store in the States called Charming Charlie’s, which specializes in ladies accessories, especially bling! Well, this market has no shortage of bling. My gaze kept being caught by sparkle!

I felt very comfortable in this market and the prices were about 50% less than I’m used to in California, so it was a very nice experience. 

Outside the market
On the drive over, my tuk-tuk driver took me through some of the
The jewelry cases.
back streets, which was a bit of an eye-opener. Coming into Phnom Penh from the airport I was astounded by its modernity, relatively courteous traffic and cleanliness. The older streets house a very poverty-stricken population and literally thousands of tuk-tuk drivers struggling to catch a potential passenger’s attention. Happily, it has not reached the level of squalor – nowhere near – I saw in Manila, so it wasn’t a shock, just a reality check.

A nice street in the "hood."
Again pretty good street
I also asked my driver to take me to the U.S. Embassy, thinking I could just stroll in and have a little walkabout. Seriously. Sometimes I amaze myself. I did get in the front door, mostly because the Cambodian security guard couldn't understand what I wanted. The very nice guard inside calmly explained that I either needed an emergency or an appointment. Who knew? Probably every other reasonable person on earth. But I did manage to see my embassy and take a picture from across the street. This picture doesn't reflect how big, modern and basically awesome the compound is but I thought my U.S. readers would enjoy this little glimpse. 
My discreet shot of the US Embassy in Cambodia

So, I've already visited the Royal Palace and will be posting on that one next. Keep coming back because I have lots more planned for Cambodia.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Leaving Lovely Chiang Mai

New friend Mike
All day my heart has been a bit heavy because it was my last day in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I have loved this city for a month now and, as I told my daughter, I felt like I was leaving a little piece of myself behind.

My wise daughter, Vanessa, made the most wonderful comment, "No, Mom, it's more like you're collecting little pieces of yourself everywhere you go." Isn't that just the most wonderful way of looking it?

But the day was saved by meeting a new friend, Mike from Australia, in a coffee shop and having the most wonderful conversation. So, here's a picture and we'll be staying in touch. Yay!

I also thought you readers might enjoy a few of the pictures I've taken that had nothing to do with any of my posts but I think are interesting.

So, here you go as I wave a fond farewell to Chiang Mai.
Giant Boy figure in front Central Festival Mall.
I just call this the blue gate. I'm not sure what it signifies.
A quiet spot at Chiang Mai zoo where I sat for quite awhile.
One corner of the 700-year-old wall around old town.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Stairway to Nirvana

The throngs going up and coming down.
I would love to write a stunning piece that in some way was worthy of the beauty of the temple on the mountain of Doi Suthep, but I don’t think anyone could convey its majesty. This in spite of the throng of visitors on the day I went to the mountain.
Zeroed in so he steps would be visible.

High in the hills north of Chiang Mai the temple sits at the top of a reported 330 steps. I didn’t count them – or rather I stopped at 88 because I was out of breath. After every three or so flights, I stopped for a breather and prayed I’d made it to the top. For me, it was grueling, and I was more than a little relieved to see many younger people struggling as well.

When I finally reached the peak, I stopped for an ice cream and to sit in the shade for a while before entering the sacred areas. I watched as children acted much as they would in Disneyland and thought how amazing it was that this place was, indeed, both holy place and entertainment. Most were very respectful of the sanctity of the place, but it was arranged to accommodate tourists as much as worshipers.

Just a few of the bells - each about two feet long.
Before I even entered the actual temple area I felt myself relax and slow down and I’m someone usually bothered by crowds. For some reason, the many, many people didn’t bother me this time.

Once I shed my shoes and the last staircase into the temple, I was too blown away by the beauty and odd sense of tranquility that I simply walked around and took all the pictures I could. 
The stunning golden dome and nearby pagoda.

The temple itself is surrounded on four sides by bells, and I found myself ringing three – one for each of my lost loved ones – and listening to the distinctive sounds each one gave out.
Famous reclining Buddha


A long time passed before I shook myself out of a reverie sitting on a bench around the base of a tree, a lovely fuchsia bush near the bells and then I walked around and explored the grounds. There was a stunning view of the city, a plaza and various stations of Buddha. The golden dome and pagodas surrounding it were wonderful. It was indeed a lovely representation of Nirvana – a place or state of bliss.

Just barely visible behind the golden monks is a painting of other notables.
The feeling of pure awe didn’t leave me for quite a while and as I reviewed the pictures, it returned. I’m looking forward to Angkor Wat next month in Cambodia. I’m quite sure I will re-experience the awe.

My final discovery was the elevator both up and down from the temple. I'm glad I didn't know it existed until it was time to go down. I'm sure I would have wimped out and I'm rather proud of having made it to the top!

Plaza - amazing
City view

The "other" view from the top - of the elevator shaft.

Zoo Time in Chiang Mai

I hadn’t ever seen a panda in real life, so I was determined to go to the Chiang Mai zoo because they have a couple of them, Giant Pandas, although only one was visible that morning. TripAdvisor reviews weren’t very good and unfortunately, they were pretty accurate. 

The panda was the first exhibit was the exhibit I headed to and although I had only paid 150 baht to get in – about $4.50 – I was surprised to have another 100 baht fee to get in the panda exhibit. Actually almost everything costs extra – the aquarium, the shuttle, the Snow Dome (not sure what that was), etc.
Isn't she pretty?Just look at those eyelashes!

I really loved seeing the panda and I’m glad I went for that reason alone. The zoo is set over many acres and it would take real fortitude and extreme physical fitness and no children to experience it without the shuttle bus (there used to be a monorail systems, but no more, just lonely tracks). About half of the animal enclosures were empty and it wasn’t the heat of the day, so I don’t think they were just sleeping (I wouldn’t have blamed the animals if they were – it was hot!).

This is the first thing you see!
However, I had some of the best curry I’ve had in Thailand at their little cafĂ© and at “in town” prices. I bonded with one of the ostriches (or least I did from my point of view). Also, the elephant fountain that greets you at the entrance is spectacular and perhaps if I’d paid for and experienced the aquariums I would have been more impressed.  

So, in conclusion, if you’ve seen a panda, you might want to save your zoo experience for another city. Bear in mind (no pun intended) that this post is written by a former resident of San Diego, which has an absolutely fabulous zoo. There I admitted it – I’m zoo-spoiled.