On taking the hobbits to Isengard & exploring New Zealands South Island

During the last weeks of September I was travelling around the South Island of New Zealand. I tried to sum up my impressions to describe what i’ve experienced so far and were i’ve been. Hope you guys enjoy reading about it.

Christchurch

My first few nights in New Zealand were spent in Christchurch, a city on the East Coast of the South Island. Christchurch was really damaged in 2011 when a wave of earthquakes hit a city, which is why up to today there is a lot of renovating and building going on in the city and it has lost its appeal. I had decided to stay there a bit longer to get sorted and acclimated to the new culture and mainly climate. I didn’t really do any interesting things beside a day trip to the nearby Banks Peninsula. The weather was really great and I just hung around the harbor of Akaroa for a while and then went for a walk to a small monument. Instead of going on about all those details, I’ll just add some pictures. Akaroa was such a beautiful town. It’s a place where I would probably stay for weeks if I were an author searching for ideas for my next novel.

Lake Tekapo

After 3 nights in Christchurch I took a bus up to Lake Tekapo. The town itself is really small and located right next to the beautiful pristine lake. Unfortunately I’ve only spent a night there, but I still had enough time to walk along the lake and enjoy the calm and quiet atmosphere. Tekapo is know for it’s beautiful night sky and even though I didn’t go up to the observatory , I got a chance to gaze upon the stars at night.

Queenstown

Nearly every person that told me about New Zealand also told me about Queenstown and I had to promise everyone to spend some time there as well. Unfortunately it was raining during my whole stay in Queenstown and I didn’t enjoy it that much. In addition I really started to miss Cambodia and my life there, so I missed out on the whole Queenstown experience. However one day, I did a horse trek and got to see some of the filming locations for the Lord of the Rings movies, which I was really excited about. Some of the locations I saw, where Isengard, Lothlorien and Amon Hen for any other fellow Lord of the Rings fans.

Wanaka

My next stop after Queenstown was Wanaka. I didn’t really have an idea what to do there, but when I got there I met another girl that I had already seen in Queenstown, and together we rented out bikes and went for a 3 hour ride along Lake Wanaka. The sun was shining and it was really nice to get outside after all the rain in Queenstown. In the evening I met some people from Vancouver and we ended up playing Settlers of Catan and talking for hours.

Franz Josef Glacier

This one was actually just a stop that I was somehow forced to do, since the bus didn’t go straight to Punakaiki, where I actually wanted to go. I arrived there around 4pm, after crossing the Haast Pass and going along the West Coast of the South Island. It was raining again and I was too exhausted to go out and do anything – especially since there wasn’t anything to do with the rain. Next morning my bus left early so I didn’t get to do anything that day as well. The glacier must be really nice to see but due to the rain all tracks and activities where shut down. I’ll just need to do this on my next trip to New Zealand.

Punakaiki

Punakaiki is a tiny village on the West Coast between Greymouth and Westport and known for the so-called “Pancake Rocks”. Initially I had planned to only stay a night – one woman I met and told about my plans actually tried to convince me not to stay there, she said that the bus stops there anyways to go see the Pancake Rocks, so I wouldn’t need to spend a night there – but upon stepping out of the bus and looking at the rugged coast with the wild waves, cliffs and mist wavering above the beach I instantly knew that I wanted to stay longer. The backpackers was right next to the beach and a really comfy small place. Punakaiki was the first place that I enjoyed that much, I was so content to just be there and stare at the wild sea for hours even though it was windy and rainy outside. I ended up staying for three nights, meeting lots of interesting people and taking long walks along the beach and the Pancake Rocks.

Abel Tasman National Park & Nelson

I stayed in the Nelson Area for a whole week, since I was visiting the mother of a friend and Zoe, my friend from Germany, who is currently studying in Nelson. My week there was probably the most relaxed so far. It was great to stay in one place for a while and not always get up early to do sightseeing or catch the next bus.

One day I went on a day trip to the Abel Tasman National Park, which was about an hour drive from Nelson. I took a water taxi up into the National Park to Bark Bay and then walked down to Anchorage Bay where I was picked up by the boat again. The trail led me along several bays, bridges and bush. It took me about 3,5 hours to get to Anchorage Bay.

During my time in Nelson I also had the opportunity to meet up with Zoe again, who had already visited me in Cambodia in May. It was great to spend some time with her again and we had an amazing, long weekend.

Nelson was my last stop on the South Island and after a week I took the ferry over to Wellington on the North Island to stay with a friend for a while.

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March (& April) Madness – Catching up Part 1

So i haven’t written anything in months. By now I should probably acknowledge that blogging isn’t really my thing – or at least, blogging continuously isn’t. However i’m still going to try to tell you a bit about the past 4 to 5 months here in Cambodia.

Midterm Seminar in Kampot – March

Every “weltwärts” participant agrees to visit three seminars. One before the stay abroad, as preparation, a second one, halfway through the year abroad, to reflect on experiences and talk about what’s to come, and the last one, after ones return, to discuss living back in Germany.

The Midterm Seminar took place in Kampot, one of my favorite places in Cambodia.

Together with participants from “Brot für die Welt”, “Mission eine Welt” and “Banyan Tree e.V.” we, that being the other four Red Cross volunteers and me, spent a week living in bungalows right by the river, talking about our experiences with Cambodian society and culture, our work placements and our expectations for the next months. Most of the other volunteers were also placed within organisations in Cambodia but some were also working in Thailand and Malaysia.

It was great to meet so many new people that all made similar experiences and to share views and opinions on our volunteer service with each other. Fortunately a bunch of the other volunteers also works in Phnom Penh, so we didn’t have to say goodybe to them after that one short week.

Vacation in Vietnam – April

During the Khmer New Year holiday, Emilly, Melli (a former SCAO volunteer) and me traveled through Vietnam. On our way we met up with Cecile (another former volunteer) and Steffen, a German friend of ours.

Emilly and me started our journey by bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), where we met Melli. From there we went to Mui Ne, then Hoi An, Hanoi and Halong Bay and back again.

While in Vietnam we managed to use every possible way of transport there was. We walked, rode bycicles and motos, drove in cars, rode trains and busses, made a boat trip and travelled by plane.

Even though we were constantly on the move (about 2300 km back and forth) i really enjoyed Vietnam and its diversity. In  HCMC Emilly and me were fascinated by the fast and, in comparison to Cambodia, quite developed city. In Mui Ne we were able to hang out at the beach – even though it was super windy – and visit some desert like sand dunes. We were also introduced to Vietnamese hospitals when Melli injured her foot.

Hoi An is an old chinese trade city. While there we felt like we travelled back in time. Lots and lots of lampions, beautiful bridges, tiny alleys and traditional chinese music. It was by far our favorite spot on the journey. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to explore Hanoi, but we had some delicious Vietnamese coffee in one of its endless coffee shops and fantastic food. From Hanoi we booked a two day cruise through Halong Bay, north of Hanoi. Once we reached Halong Bay, we were quite disappointed with the foggy weather, but nevertheless the bay was spectacular and we had a great time on the boat.

After 12 days of eating Pho, drinking Vietnamese coffee, not learning a singe word of Vietnamese and praising Vietnams infrastructure, Emilly and me headed back to Phnom Penh.

It was great to visit Vietnam and leave Cambodia for a while. It made me appreciate a lot of things in Cambodia and also helped me to change my view on Cambodia (and Vietnam as well) a bit, take a step back from my loving, forgiving opinion before. Even though i enjoyed my trip to Vietnam immensely, i’m so glad i’ve chosen to spend my year abroad in Cambodia.

 

Moving into my first apartment – April

Before heading off to Vietnam for our vacation, Emilly and me started to search for apartments to rent. We both had made the decision to move out of SCAO and decided to move to Phnom Penh together.

I’ve absolutely loved my months living at SCAO, but after 8 months of not having my own room, much less my own bed and sharing a bathroom with 16 children it was time for me to move from the village to the city, into an apartment with doors. In addition there are just a lot more things to do in the city and you are closer to more things than out in the village.

Emilly and me found an apartment close to the Russian Market, in the south of Phnom Penh, that we really liked and could affort. We signed the lease shortly before our vacation and told them that we’d move in when we came back from Vietnam.

We came back on a Tuesday evening, worked Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and were planning on moving on Saturday. Friday evening Emilly called me and asked why we shouldn’t move in right now. I had no idea why not, so we packed our bags and made our way to our new apartment. The first night was spent cleaning and planning.

Now, after already living here for nearly 3 months, i’m so glad we moved. At first i wasn’t really sure, about leaving the village and my family at SCAO, but i still see them everyday at work, so it’s fine. It’s great to have your own room, your own fridge and most of all, your own huge balcony. Even though it’s not always easy and i feel like i have to learn a looooot of new things with me now living on my own, it feels great.

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things that have been happening

I haven’t really had a lot of time to write on this blog recently so i just want to tell you a little bit about some things that have been happening in my life here and at SCAO. About some of these topics I might write a bit more detailed soon.

1. My family visited me (December & January)

Mid December my mother, her husband and my brother came over for two weeks. I showed them Phnom Penh and SCAO and after that we went to Siem Reap, visited the temples of Angkor Wat, went swimming on the beach in Sihanoukville and ate Seafood and walked through the jungle in Kep and Kampot. We had a great time together and I was so grateful I could spend Christmas and New Years together with them. Plus they brought me a bunch of great stuff from Germany. I already miss them a lot already. And I’ll write more about our travels together as soon as I find some time.

 2. Christmas Celebration at the SCAO Schools (December)

We had two Christmas Celebrations at SCAO. One at SCAO I, where I work, and one at SCAO II. Unfortunately I missed the one out in Sam Roung because I was travelling. But both of them were a blast.

We bought food and drinks for all the children and gave out free toothbrushes and toothpaste to each student as a Christmas present. Afterwards we had a talent show that involved a lot of dancing and singing, played some games and enjoyed each others company. It was great to see all the volunteers, staff and children come together. Even though the spirit of Christmas is not really believed in in Cambodia, it was still a nice reason to celebrate and be grateful for each other.

3. Trip to Sihanoukville with the Center Kids and some volunteers (January)

One weekend in January “Estrellas de Camboya” a partner organisation of SCAO sponsored a trip to the beach in Sihanoukville for all the children living in the Center. When me and some other volunteers heard of it we immediately decided to join them. We left early on a Saturday morning, arrived around noon, spent all day on the beach and had dinner all together. Same procedure the next morning – the kids got up around 6 o’clock just waiting to run to the beach. We spent as long as possible splashing around in the water and riding banana boat until we finally had to go back in the early afternoon. It was a great weekend and a wonderful opportunity for the everyone to see the beach and let go and relax for some time.

4. Weekend on Koh Rong Samloem (January)

I spent a wonderful weekend together with Mira and Svenja, two other German volunteers, on an Island called “Koh Rong Samloem” just off the coast of Sihanoukville. I’ll write about this soon. But for now let me just say, a lot of sleep, beach, snorkeling and fruit shakes.

5. 3D painting workshop at SCAO I (January/February)

At the end of January a former SCAO volunteer, Carl, returned and brought some friends with him. Unfortunately they couldn’t stay for a longer time but during their time here they made a huge 3D dot painting with the students of SCAO I. Please read more about the workshop on Carl’s blog:

http://volunteeringabroadblog.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/dot-painting-in-3d-2/

 

 6. ID Cards for students at SCAO

We have decided to let all the students at both SCAO schools have ID Cards. For this we have been taking pictures of every single student, had everyone fill out an application form in Khmer AND English and collected money from everyone (around 30 cents for one ID card). After all of this was done the real work began. Typing all the names of all students into word documents. Sounds easy, but gets really tricky when you have to type Khmer. Luckily I some of the girls in the Center helped me out and did all the Khmer typing for me – I owe them big time. Soon after we brought the files to the copy shop and today Peter and me picked up the finished prints. Tonight we put all cards into their plastic sleeves and prepared most of the ID cards. Hopefully we’ll be able to hand them out in two days, on Thursday. I can’t wait to see the children receiving their cards and everyone running around with the ID cards around their neck.

7. Spending Valentine’s Day with pals! (obviously February)

This year I spent Valentine’s Day with some of my students and one of the Khmer teachers at SCAO.  We actually had a day off for February 14th, however not because of Valentine’s Day, but because of Meak Bochea, a Buddhist holiday.

We met at the room of Srey Lat (Khmer teacher at SCAO and friend of mine) did our nails, hair and makeup and then went to Phnom Penh. First stop was Wat Phnom, a small temple on top of a tiny hill in the north of the city. We walked around the hill and took a bunch of pictures – with/without sunglasses, hands in the air, peace, smile/serious, etcetera etcetera. Same thing at the riverside and Royal Palace. Afterwards we walked to the independence monument. At first the plan was to do the whole photo shoot thing again at the monument however it was already dark when we got there so we “just” walked there, sat for a while and took some pictures of the monument itself – without us. Even though this is probably not something that I would have done in Germany – or have done the last time in grade 8 – it turned out to be a lot of fun!

8. Improving my Khmer

I have now been studying Khmer for almost 4 months already. Everyday Leon and me come to study at Srey Lat’s place for one hour. In the beginning we concentrated a lot on learning vocabulary and our spoken Khmer. Around December we started to learn how to actually write and read Khmer. Even though we are far from actually writing long sentences and reading whole words, i already do know all the consonants & vowels and am able to write2 or 3 sentences. All of them being similar; I go to the market and buy vegetables and meat. She goes to the market to buy vegetables and meat. Srey Lat and Lilli go to the market and buy vegetables, and so on. Yes, I know, great conversation starter.

So i hope this gave you a quick peek into some things that have been going on recently. I know i’ve said this before, but i will really try to write on here more often.

All the best from Cambodia,

Lilli

Trip to Kampong Cham

The past weekend I spent traveling to the countryside with one of my students from my Pre-Intermediate class.

On Saturday my student, Channa, came to the Center and asked if I would like to go to Kampong Cham with her. “Today?” “Yes”. “Now?” “Yes. And Lilli, can you stay for a night?”

So there it was, decision made. Twenty minutes later I had packed my stuff and was ready to go. Only then it occurred to me to ask: “How are we going to get there?”

We went with Channa’s moto. 3 hours on the back of a moto riding on dusty, bumpy streets. For me it could not have been more fun to be honest. Even though it was not the most comfortable way of traveling we sure had a lot of fun and I got to see so many things along the road.

For the people in the countryside we sure must have been an odd picture. Two girls on a moto, one Khmer and one barang, wearing our masks + helmets, only our eyes visible and one backpack in between us.  We passed rice fields, water buffalos, villages completely covered in beige dust and abandoned looking schools. Since Kampong Cham is in the east of Phnom Penh, we crossed both the Tonle Sap and the Mekong. A long part of the way we drove along the banks of the Mekong, the lifeline of Cambodia.

After three hours we arrived in the village where Channa’s relatives live. We first visited her grandmother who is living in a wooden house on stilts, next to mango and banana trees. Even though I now speak enough Khmer to get along and have something that you could almost call a conversation, I could hardly understand a word that her grandmother said and I was just constantly smiling and nodding while Channa was translating.

Later we went to the market, bought fresh food and then cooked over the fire. Another occasion where I was asking myself what have I really learned all these past years at high school in Germany? Sure I know a lot about academics, but when It comes to really basic and simple things I’m screwed up. Yes, I can cook some easy meals, but cooking the Khmer way and over fire I was just stunned. And Channa could not understand how I could not have learnt that when I was younger.

After having a really delicious dinner, which for some reason also included watermelon with salt – a thing that I just cannot understand, I love adapting to the culture and tradition in Cambodia, but pairing nice sweet watermelon with salt is something that I will NOT get used to – we met some friends of Channas family and after a while it turned out that the wife was also a High School teacher at the local High School in Boeng Chhuk, where I live. We spent quite a while talking to them and I could also convince them to bring their children to SCAO.

That night Channa and me slept at her grandmother’s place. On the bamboo floor, just a small mat underneath. It was one of these moments that I was so stunned to be in Cambodia. Even though I’ve been living in this country for almost 6 months now, I still have days that I can’t really believe I am in Cambodia.

Even though I didn’t sleep too great, due to the hard floor and the praying of the monks at a nearby funeral, I had a good night. Next morning at 8am I was the last person to wake up in the whole house. Channa and her grandmother had already been up for hours.

After a quick shower in the outside bathroom, Channa and me joined the funeral of one of her far relatives.

In Cambodia people have a funeral 3 days after someone dies, and then 100 days after and 300 days after the death again. The funeral we went to was a 100 day after funeral, so maybe imagine it more like a memorial, instead of a real sad western funeral.

Channa knew nearly everyone at the funeral and I stopped asking who was who quite soon after I realized that I would never be able to keep up. There were some cousins here, some neighbours there, aunt or wife of someone etc.. In the end it didn’t really matter. Everyone just comes together to commemorate the deceased and enjoy each other’s company.

Channa and some of her cousins and other children showed me the corn fields and we took a walk through the countryside. A walk in Cambodia equals walking reaaally slow and stopping every minute to take some pictures with your phone. Not exactly what I’ve known from Germany, however still a lot of fun to see the Cambodians posing for all the pictures – and yes I’ve also done some posing myself. Why the heck not?

Around noon we had delicious food again. However this time I was the subject of conversation due to the fact that I’ve told them I could not eat any meat or fish. Well I’ve had these conversations before so again – smile and nod. Actually it didn’t even bother me much, I was just way to happy to be there and enjoy the food – nice seafood salad without the seafood. We also handpicked some guavas, and had freshly boiled corn from the field just behind the house.

After the funeral Channa showed me another part of the village and we visited her aunt. This time though, we didn’t do much because we were so full from the food at the funeral and tired as well. We just relaxed in hammocks for a while, had some more food – fresh mango this time – and then Channa showed me the place where people cut the bamboo, put it into water so they can slice it and then later sell it. Again pictures of us in front of the bamboo were taken.

Around 2 o’clock we decided it would be best to go back, because we wanted to arrive back in Boeng Chhuk before it would get dark. So we hopped on the moto and drove all the way back. This time we also had to take a detour because there was a construction ahead and nearly lost the way. But thanks to a bunch of friendly and helpful people from a village we could find our way back and got back to SCAO safe and sound.

I’m so thankful that Channa asked me to join her and showed me her village in Kampong Cham, I had a wonderful time, one that I will certainly never forget.

Mondulkiri

Due to the “Water Festival” SCAO closed the school for three days and I had the chance to go explore Cambodia a bit more.

This time we, we being Leon, Emilly, Karo, John, Cecile and me (all of us are volunteers working for SCAO) decided to take a bus to Sen Monorom, a small town in the Province of Mondulkiri.

Mondulkiri is in the north-east of Cambodia and together with Rattanakiri, one of the most unexplored and remote provinces of Cambodia. Other than most of Cambodias countryside, which is flat and full of rice fields, Mondulkiri is very mountaineous, harsh, and much colder and windier than the rest of the country. Many of the hills are covered with rain forest and the province is known for it’s wildlife and enormous waterfalls.

We started our journey on Saturday morning at seven. This time we did not go with a large travel bus, but with a ford transit with only 15 seats. Alas the bus was way faster and also did not stop every 15 minutes to let someone out or in. Because Emilly, Cecile and me already got up at 5 o’clock in the morning to go to the market to buy some fruits and snacks for the journey, we slept a long time of the busride. When I woke up there were already no more rice fields to be seen and instead I could see over the hills into the beautiful country of Cambodia.

Upon arrival in Sen Monorom, the one and only town in Mondulkiri, we started to look for a guesthouse. This time we had been clever and booked out bus tickets in advance, however we didn’t think that I would be necessary to also make a reservation for a guesthouse … – well I definetly would have been.  At first, we waved everyone who offered us a moto or a guesthouse away, because we wanted to look in our travel books before deciding on a guesthouse. The first guesthouse we checked out was really nice and even had a room for three people left, however they wanted to charge us 20 $ a night. Deciding that it was too expensive for us and the bed too small, we called another guesthouse – they were completely booked. Then we remembered a guy that had offered us his last bungalow and called him. He picked us up with his car and we were already super happy to have found something. Then however we noticed that the drive out to the bungalows was quite long. We decided not to care, unless the bungalows would be really really nice – they were not. Or at least they were not what we wanted to settle for. We then went back into town, after apologizing to the guy that we would not take his kind offer, and looked for other places. We called all places listed in out three different travel books – all of them either being completely booked or not answering the phone. Then we called the first place again to see if we could still take the small room – surprise, surprise, also taken. After at least one and a half hour of calling guesthouses and wandering down the streets of Sen Monorom, we decided to call Mr. Den again (our bungalow guy) to pick us up and stay in one of his bungalows.

Karo, John and Leon, who took a different bus than Emilly, Cecile and me, had also arrived by the time and were already waiting for us at Mr. Dens Place, since they didn’t even try to find another place. All of us pretty tired from the journey and especially the guesthouse search, we decided not to do anything to big anymore and just rented motos to see a small waterfall close to our bungalows.

At dinner we met Peter, SCAO’s development officer and some friends. They made the whole trip from Phnom Penh to Sen Monorom by big bike and had arrived approximately 5 hours after us.

The next morning we got up early (again) and went Elephant Trekking. Mr. Den took us to a small village of the Phhnong, the natives of Mondulkiri, where we met our elephant and our guide. We started off with Emilly and Cecile sitting in the basket on top of the elephant and me on the neck of the elephant. Karo, John and Leon walked alongside us.

Sitting on the neck of the elephant was an indescribable feeling. I could feel the every movement of the giant animal, its leathern skin and its long bristles prickling through my pants. Riding through the jungle on top of an Elephant you suddenly had to look out for all the higher leaves and branches and duck yourself constantly.  After about one and a half hours we reached a river and made a rest. We had some lunch that Mr. Den gave to us and afterwards swam in the river and climbed a small waterfall. Later the elephant and our guide also joined us in the river and we had the chance to wash the elephant and swim with him.  On the way back, we changed, and Leon, Karo and John were now riding the elephant. It also started raining – what would a rainforest be without any rain? – and at the end of our hike my feet were completely muddy. However all of us were smiling like little children after the adventure that we had just been part of.

After going to “Mondulkiri Pizza” for dinner, where they told us we had to wait 50 minutes for the new dough to be prepared, just to tell us after 15 minutes of waiting that they were out of cheese and could not make any more pizza for us, we decided to come back the next day and ended up having dinner at the same place that we went to the night before.

On Monday morning we had to move out from our bungalow and move into other rooms at a Khmer Hotel, because Mr. Den, owner of our Bungalows, had a group of people coming that wanted to rent out all bungalows so he decided to offer us the hotel rooms for the same price and basically “threw” us out. The whole procedure took a while and when we were finally finished and had some breakfast we had to solve another problem.

We- now already seven people, since a German-Canadian guy, that we met, had joined our group – all wanted to go see the Bou Sraa waterfalls, 38 kilometres east of Sen Monorom. However we only had 3 motos and couldn’t find another one in whole Sen Monorom to rent. Since we did not want to go with 3 people on one moto on a street that was just red dust and/or mud, we decided to split up. The guys took the motos and us girls wanted to take a shared taxi.

The taxi that should’ve picked us up at 2 didn’t even bother to show up so we quickly decided to hitchhike and just stop a car to bring us to the waterfalls. Easier said than done. We stood at the road for at least 40 minutes without getting at least one car to bring us to the waterfalls. After waiting for what felt like hours, we finally managed to find a car that was going in the right direction. Only negative thing, the driver wanted each of us to pay 4 $. Since we were all desperate to see the waterfalls we agreed to pay the price.

The Bou Sraa waterfalls were incredible. Both of them are quite high and it’s amazing to see the water crashing down on the rocks with that much power. It was so loud that we had to scream at each other to understand anything. Since the waterfalls are the most famous attraction of Mondulkiri it was packed with people having picnics and taking iPad photos in front of the waterfall. Not only were there many people, there were also masses of garbage lying around and you could always see some empty cans or bottles floating in the water. Nevertheless the experience was amazing.

Because we had arrived quite late we didn’t have the chance to stay very long since we wanted to be back in Sen Monorom by sunset and we figured that we wouldn’t find a car to take us back if we waited any longer. Luckily we left at the right moment. The boys were already back on their motos and drove off. Only three cars were left on the parking space. All around us jungle. The first car didn’t have any space left for 4 girls, the second would have taken us back to Sen Monorom but then they remembered that they were going back the next day and the third car first denied but when we offered them to sit outside on the truck bed they agreed to take us back. We were so glad that they offered to take us.

The ride on the truck bed was probably one of the most fun things I have done in a while, and one of the coldest as well. After 20 minutes we were all freezing and wrapped in our towels.  We were almost back in Sen Monorom when the car suddenly stopped and some of the children that had been sitting in the front came out and joined us on the truck bed. We were quite confused and asked where we were going. They told us that we go up to a mountain to watch the sun go down. Lucky us, we had also planned to go there, however we wouldn’t even have made it, since we were too late and the boys had the motos and did not bother to go on top of the mountain with us. Hence we drove up there with the family, watched the sunset – which was one of the most stunning sunsets I have ever seen – met the boys up there and took a bunch of pictures together with the family.

After a while we all climbed back onto the car. We were sure that now we would go back to Sen Monorom, but the family decided against it and drove off into the wrong direction. A little bit afraid that they were not staying in Sen Monorom and hadn’t understood us we told them to please turn around. One of the children however explained to us that we were just going to go to another tourist attraction called “Ocean of trees”. By the time we arrived, you could hardly see the “Ocean of trees” and it was freezing.  We climbed of the car again, acted like we would take some more pictures, smiled, and then climbed back up the car.

We arrived back at the hotel, the boys already waiting for us, and together with Peter and his friends we went straight to “Mondulkiri Pizza” looking forward to have some delicious pizza with mozzarella cheese. There was not a lot going on but this day the guy told us he had enough dough and cheese and everything was fine. Aside from the fact that we had to wait 3 full hours to get all the pizzas. It took them at least one and a half hour to bring out the first pizza, and another 20 minutes for the next one and so on. Plus they forgot one of the pizzas we ordered and just because Karo was to fed up with waiting we told them to leave it and Karo grabbed some food at another place. The pizza was really nice, unfortunately what we will remember is not the nice pizza but waiting 3 hours for it. If some of the boys would not have had a snickers from the supermarket in between waiting they probably would have gone crazy.

The next day we left Mondulkiri and headed back to Phnom Penh. After a six hour bus ride there was nothing better to see all the familiar faces at the center and arrive back home.