As you know, I recently spent a week in Melbourne, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the little things that I didn’t even realised I’d been missing.  Here’s a list (some were mentioned in my last post).

  • Pubs – there are plenty of bars in Cambodia, but nothing compares to a nice cosy pub.
  • Pies – a big warm pot pie with a massive serving of mashed potato on the side.
  • Pints – We don’t actually get pints in Sydney so nothing to miss there.  But I enjoyed them in Melbourne, and when combined with the first two points it was just perfect.
  • Drinking water from the tap.
  • Being cold – or rather, becoming warm when you’re cold.  Especially when you step from the cold tiled bathroom into the hot shower.  Ohhhhh, soooo nice.
  • Walking on an unobstructed footpath – I didn’t stub my toe once!
  • Solid poo! – I know, too much information.
  • Clean dogs that I can pat and cuddle without fear of catching a disease.
I’m sure there were plenty of other things, but these are what stood out.

To my cherished readers,

I apologise for being absent for some time.  Last week I started a Juris Doctor program (a post graduate law degree, no I won’t be able to call myself doctor) at RMIT.  I’m doing the course through Open Universities Australia, so it is all by distance.  Except for the first subject, which is done over three intensive weekends at RMIT in Melbourne.

I had planned to fly out early on the Wednesday morning, which would get me to Melbourne a day before the class started, allowing me time to buy my textbooks and do my readings.  I had friends visiting at the time, so one of them joined me in the tuk tuk with my good friend and tuk tuk driver Mr Riem, and we headed to the airport bright and early.

Once we had arrived at the airport I made a quick stop at the bathroom before checking in, where I wondered if it would be a problem that I hadn’t printed off my itinerary.  My thought process was ‘It’s only ever been a problem once and that was with Qantas, it shouldn’t matter and it hasn’t mattered all year.  Won’t be a problem this time, I just need to give them my passport… Shit, I forgot my passport.’  The toilet stall spun briefly around me as I registered what I’d just done and I walked out to my friend feeling distinctly nauseated (nothing to do with the previous night’s martinis).

My flight was in an hour, a normal trip home would take 40 minutes, but in this traffic even longer.  I called my other friend who was still at home, but of course, the tiny part of me that is occasionally security conscious had locked it in a drawer and the key was on my keyring in my handbag. Grrrrrr!!!!!!  My friend and Mr Riem both took the entire responsibility for my stupid mistake upon themselves and apologised frequently on the way back home.

I booked another flight for the next day and made it to Melbourne without any hassles (I’d prefer not to talk about the profound waste of money that I don’t have).  Unfortunately I arrived in Melbourne at 9am on Friday, my class started at 2.

I stayed awake and thoroughly enjoyed the three days of classes.  I indulged in pubs and pints and pies.  I stayed with an aunt and uncle, fell in love with their house and their dog and never wanted to leave.

But here I am, safely back in the Penh.  But not for long!  My time here is nearly at an end and I return to Sydney on 26 March.  Am I sad?  Yes, but I am also ready for the next challenge, whatever that may be.  I’ll let you know when I do.

For those of you following the story of the kitten, he is still alive and well. The staff at The Vine named him Samnang, which is Khmer for lucky, and it seems he has lived up to his name. I did not make it to the village earlier in the week as planned, so I did not get to see him.

When I arrived at The Vine yesterday afternoon one of the staff approached me tentatively and told me that the kitten had died. Before I could react with more than open mouthed, silent shock, another staff member quickly intervened and told me this was not actually the case. A cat in the village had recently given birth and Samnang was taken to her for some much needed mothering. It seems the first staff member, upon not seeing him, had concluded that the worst had happened.

So, on the plus side, he is being cared for. On the negative side, I don’t get to see him, and I’m told he was starting to open his eyes. Oh well, I have to care about what is best for the kitty, not for me.

Not too long ago Elysse and I visited the Silk Farm just outside of Siem Reap. Students live and study here for one year, and upon completion return to their home towns (or to wherever they want, I suppose) to work and train others. They only train in one small part of the very lengthy process, which shall be outlined below.

First, the worms are fed mulberry leaves, which I’m told is the same in Australia. They are kept in cupboards in a wooden building on stilts. The stilts are in water to prevent ants getting in and eating the worms.

Silk Farm in Siem Reap

The worms are then left to make cocoons, which is where the silk comes from.

Silk Farm in Siem Reap

Silk Farm in Siem Reap

Silk Farm in Siem Reap

In nature it looks more like this.

Silk Farm in Siem Reap

Some of the cocoons are kept for breeding purposes, the others are put in the sun. The drying process kills the growing worms inside.

Silk Farm in Siem Reap

They are then placed in boiling water. The outside of the cocoon starts to unravel and this is caught up and fed onto a large reel. The thread from the outside of the cocoon becomes raw silk.

Silk Farm in Siem Reap

The process is repeated with the inner part of the cocoon, making finer silk.

Silk Farm in Siem Reap

The thread is then cleaned and stripped of any lumps.

Silk Farm in Siem Reap

It is dyed using natural dyes.

Silk Farm in Siem Reap

Silk Farm in Siem Reap

For some reason I didn’t photograph the design part. Some women are trained in marking the threads for the patterns. They tie plastic at various points before dying to create the colourful patterns which are then woven very precisely using a loom.

And then pretty things are made! Check out this awesome cocoon dress!

Silk Farm in Siem Reap

My purchases included a silk pillow case (it had an elephant on it, I couldn’t resist), a silk head scarf, and yes, I’m the person who bought two cotton scarves at a silk farm.

Silk Farm in Siem Reap

At the end of last year I spent a very fancy weekend at the Four Rivers Floating Lodge in Koh Kong. Very luxurious!

The Lodge can only be accessed by boat similar to these. We were picked up by the Lodge.

I’m happy and relaxed already.

There’s always one.


There are 12 large and luxurious tents, complete with double bed, couches and arm chairs, a very nice bathroom with plenty of hot water, and a small balcony from which you can dive into the river for a swim.

I was too busy swimming and reading to take any photos once we arrived. Sorry.

Yesterday I posted on Facebook this photo of myself and the cute one day old kitten in our office in the village.

This morning we walked into the office to be told that his mother had been hit by a car earlier that morning. The staff were feeding him, but the food wasn’t great and we (I say we, but my colleague’s concern was much greater than my own as she had nursed two abandoned kittens before without success) were very worried about him. It wasn’t possible for either of us to take him back to Phnom Penh. So we left the office with heavy hearts and no kitten.

But upon returning to The Vine we were told that the staff here would be able to look after him. So after lunch I jumped in The Vine’s big army green coloured four-wheel drive and we rushed back to the office at breakneck speed (or so it felt to me, it was probably only 60k/h). I ran inside to rescue the little kitty who was still alive and seemed well. The driver had seemed a little confused and unimpressed when he had been told where he was driving me and why, but as soon as I climbed back in the truck with the itty bitty kitten he crooned ‘oooh, toooic’ which means ‘oooh, small’.

We then drove the very short distance to the market where they had no kitty formula (expected) and no baby formula (unexpected). They also had no eye droppers so we settled for a baby bottle, although it would be too big. I was then advised to go to the pharmacy, but upon arrival we found they couldn’t help us either. We decided in the end to get condensed milk and see how we went from there.

It started pouring rain on the drive back and it was an incredibly jumpy ride. I tried to hold the kitten still, but he insisted on trying to climb all over me, his little face with his closed eyes nudging at my neck, presumably trying to find food. He also covered my beautiful kroma (a Khmer scarf pictured below) with yellow poo.

Upon our return the staff rushed into action, one of the men heated water to add to the milk, then cooled it down checking the temperature regularly. We then started feeding, I had the honours, but I could see how interested the boys were, so I handed the task over to them.

It soon became obvious that this wouldn’t work, it was too big. So they resorted to spoon feeding him.

After feeding him we looked for Nisa, The Vine’s resident cat, in the hope that she would clean him and take care of him. I laid him on the ground wrapped in my kroma and stood back to see what would happen. Nisa stared at him warily for some time. I had to run downstairs to get my computer and when I came back Nisa was smelling him, but she ran away when she saw me and hasn’t come back.

A friend on Facebook suggested a syringe, and I happen to have my medical kit on me. What else could the syringe be for but to feed orphaned kittens? He’s being looked after by the staff now. Hopefully he makes it through the night! I’ll let you know.