The ISIS Group Australia team has just returned from their trip to Cambodia with charity partner SeeBeyondBorders. This blog will document their journey in a seven part series. ISIS NSW has supported SeeBeyondBorders since 2012 and this was the first time we have sent a team to Cambodia.
Our pioneer team is:
- Phillip Wicks, Commercial Manager
- David Reid, Site Manager
- Megan Kennedy, Executive Assistant to the Group Executive
- Byron Subota, Project Manager
- Chris Wegmuller, Project Coordinator
- Elyse Glenn, Executive Assistant to the NSW General Manager, Peter Marix-Evans.
Our team objectives were to help to restore a school building which had received damage from a severe storm, and participate in the SeeBeyondBorders sport and hygiene program.
In the early hours of Friday 7th February, our team made their way to Sydney airport to depart for Phnom Penh. Although feeling a little weary, everyone was excited at what lay ahead. After a brief stopover in Singapore for a few cooling beers on the roof, we arrived in Phnom Penh on Friday evening.
As the sun came down on our way to the Golden Gate Hotel, we were struck by the organized chaos of the traffic. Two, three, four, up to five people piled on to motos [motorbikes], weaving in and out of traffic; tuk tuks, cars, motos and trucks all competing for a piece of the road; lanes a mere suggestion; horns blasting in a friendly raucous. On motos infants were held on their parent’s knees or balanced standing like skittles – it was as shocking and impressive as a circus performance.
We then met with Ed Shuttleworth for dinner at the beautiful Khmer Surin restaurant, just around the corner from the hotel. It was a great introduction to traditional Khmer cuisine, and gave us the opportunity to relax, recharge, and prepare for the week ahead.
We started our assimilation in to Khmer culture with breakfast at Browns, and enjoyed a cup or two of the best coffee in Cambodia, so we were told.
En route the group stopped to see a building site and discussed the many and distinctly different safety practices from what we are used to back home!
We followed this with some sightseeing, starting with visiting the Royal Palace. We had a very informative guide with excellent English who showed us the beautiful buildings which include a temple with Cambodian silver tiled floor – each floor tile weighs one kilogram! The solid gold Buddha at the centre of the temple inlaid with diamonds was striking.
In the afternoon we visited the Central Market for some retail therapy and to try our haggling skills. The aisles extend from a central domed meeting point to warren-like lanes of stalls organized into sectors of any items you could possibly need – electrical items, shoes, handbags and luggage, jewellery, souvenirs, fabric, curtains…the rows of stalls were seemingly endless.
After a big afternoon of shopping we headed out for an evening on the Mekong River. Seeing Phnom Penh by boat is a fantastic way to see the city from a new perspective. Monks sitting along the city-side conversing, people dancing, the dredging in the centre of the river. In contrast to the city side, on the opposite bank we were able to see the fishermen, mostly Vietnamese, and their boats which they live in moored along the banks. We saw Khmer house boats moored there too with people going about their daily business, preparing dinner, washing hair. It felt incredibly intrusive at times as we witnessed what here in Australia are very private activities taking place in what in essence is a public space.
When travelling, have you ever felt intrusive, even if this was not your intention? What was your experience? How did you feel? What did you do?