Wednesday, August 26, 2009

You never know who you'll meet in Wellywood

As I've mentioned before M is a big fan of the written, spoken and dramatised word. He is also a big music fan with a huge range in taste- a bit like his mum really. He was pretty disappointed to discover that New Zealand was in a bit of a concert lull when we were there in July. He was, however, to read that Guillermo del Toro, currently living in Wellington while he films 'The Hobbit', was going to be at a book signing just down the road from where we were staying in Wellington. We staked the shop layout early in the day and returned about an hour and a half before he was due to arrive. There were only a handful in the queue at first but it soon grew around the bookshelves and out the door into a wet and biting Wellington evening. Right on time the man of the hour took his seat and began at the beginning of the line laughing, joking and chatting comfortably with each and every book clutching fan. Many had DVDs of Pans Labyrinth and Hellboy as well as copies of 'The Hobbit' and 'The Strain' for signing. There were about 20 or 30 ahead of M and we watched as del Toro made a personal connection with each one.

He asked M whether he had read 'The Strain', the first of a vampire trilogy he co-authored with Chuck Hogan who also wrote 'The Standoff' and 'Prince of Thieves'. M admitted he hadn't yet as he'd just picked it up in Singapore on the way to New Zealand.
Del Toro looked up.

'Where do you live?', he asked.

'Cambodia', replied M 'but I am a kiwi.'

Guillermo looked more than a little surprised and a bit amused as he asked, 'And do you like it there?'

'I do' said M 'It IS pretty cool'.

Del Toro went on to question him about where else he had lived and what we were doing to get to travel to such amazing places.

You never know who you could meet in Wellywood.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Happy Happy 3

It's my nieces birthday today (August 26th-I've noticed that Blogger hasn't changed the day yet). She is 3. We haven't been around for much of her life, in fact I have been home only twice since she was born, once just after she arrived and the second time only a month ago. It is her house that B lived in on weekends though, while he was at school, the house he has his 'room' in and hers is the house he goes to when he needs a break from work and flatting. I love that my sister has made her home his and I love that he gets to have a special relationship with his little cousin.
Happy Happy G girl. We miss you !

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Word is...


Word is that a certain person is in Cambodia at the moment. I haven't seen her although I was at the Elephant bar, Raffles, where she stays when she is in Phnom Penh, for sundowners last Friday. Since July 2005 she has held Cambodian citizenship and has made various donations to both humanitarian and environmental causes including the Maddox Chivan Children's Centre and a forest conservation project and wildlife sanctuary in northwest Cambodia and done her bit to help highlight the issue of landmines. She has a stilt house in rural Cambodia somewhere too.

J met Matt Dillon waiting for his driver at the front door of Raffles last year and they exchanged a few sentences. His association with Cambodia goes back to a visit in the early 90's inspiring him to debut his directing abilities with the grungy movie City of Ghosts, filmed in Cambodia, in 2002. Since then he reportedly flies back into the country fairly frequently to catch up with his friend Snowy who has a bar on the 'other side of the river' called Maxine’s Pub after his Daughter, The Blue Bar ( because it is an old blue house ) or simply Snowies.

Apparently Hugh Jackman and his young family holidayed in Siem Reap just before his 40th birthday last year. The rumour was corroborated by a couple of Australian magazines I read while in Singapore that had pictures of . Of course we were here, 5 hours away by road at the time.

The only international movie star I have 'meet' in person is Billy Connolly who I bumped into, literally, on the street in Wellington in the mid 80's. I was working in a continental cake shop at the time and still wearing the uniform- a blue dirndl with puffy sleeved white blouse. With minutes to spare till closing time I was racing around the block on an errand I'd put off and then forgotten about. I cut the corner and smacked straight into his belly. After peeling myself from the footpath, dirndl akimbo and cheeks firey hot, apart from saying a rather blurted 'sorry' I didn't dally. Years later, while living in Samoa, I whistfully admired a photo of Billy and our friends on the beach at Tanu Beach Fales (a much loved holiday spot) and regaled my tale of 'meeting' Billy. His wife, Pamela Stevenson, was sailing the steps of Fanny Stevenson, Robert Louis' wife, and writing 'Treasure island'. We had seen Pamela and the ships chef in the only store resembling a deli earlier in the week and like most of Apia had seen the huge luxury yacht in the harbour so had been hoping to catch sight of Billy himself and get myself another tale not involving a dirndl wrapped around my waist.

Tanu Beach Fales photo from

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Italy for christmas

Gondolas in Venice (photo from )

We 4 are making plans to go to Italy for Christmas. Both B and M get 3 weeks off but because B has to fly here from New Zealand first and home again afterwards we are squishing a trip from Milan to Venice, Rome, Florence and finally Brindisi in 2 and a bit weeks. Its exciting to go somewhere 'developed' for a change and scary because, although we are planning the accommodation, we are going to wing the train travel bit and just buy tickets on the platform.
I can be a spontaneous traveller when we are just tripping over the boarder where decent accommodation can be had for 50USD for all four of us but when we are dropping at least 100€ on a 'cheap' hostel things require a bit more research. I use Lonely Planets Thorn Tree forums and tripadvisor for opinions and tips and sometimes virtualtourist and the Frommers forums but lately we have been having electricity fluctuations, fans speeding up and then slowing down to a near crawl, that knock me off the internet necessitating reconnection, a complete closedown and restart or sometimes even a total unplug and reset of the wireless router - making the whole journey of discovery a very slow and frustrating process.

Still ....Italy at Christmas!...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The pie, the monkey and The Lunch Box

M hankers for pie, something thats not too easy to find in Phnom Penh.

A couple of months before we went back to New Zealand for our break M answered an after school phone call from J.

'I'm bringing home pie' he thought he heard.

Hopes were dashed when a couple of hours later J arrived home with 'Thai' for dinner. Fresh spring rolls and green mango salad a poor substitute for the meat and pastry combination the average Kiwi eats 15 times a year and the search was on in earnest.

Eventually J heard, from an Aussie, there was fairly decent pie to be had from the 'Rising Sun' and since Australians, like Kiwis, consider the humble hand sized pastry an indelible part of their national and cultural identity, J headed straight over. Pie in hand, later that evening, he was waiting on the 'footpath' outside his office for our driver when he felt a sharp tug on the elbow of his crooked pie carrying arm. There rising to barely knee height sat an adult male Macaque accompanied by two, slightly smaller, hench-monkeys, his eyes fixed firmly on the pie bag. A deft flick of his long fingers, a tooth bared smile and he was off up the street his prize carried above his head in triumph. J arrived home with no pie but an only in Cambodia tale to tell which was not much conciliation for the empty tum of a pie eyed boy.

During our holiday in New Zealand there was a requisite amount of pie consumption and on our return we discovered AusKhmer, which sometimes had them warehouse style, involving the careful negotiation of boxes of wine and jams, now has a sample of their instore stock on airconditioned shelves at 'The Food Pantry' -including pie- although it wasn't last weekend when we checked.

Finally, after following a tip from the expat grapevine, we tried The Lunchbox, a new sandwich bar that had opened in our absence and there in the refridgerated cabinet were 3 golden, flakey nuggets- PIE! Needless to say we bought them all up, pocketed a menu and enquired about delivery- the occasional hot pie for lunch would make a welcome change from the chicken wraps M takes to school. The verdict? They were not quite as good as New Zealands best but they were definately good enough to gain a place on our it's-too-hot-too-cook-who's-up-for-takeout list.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Whale Rider

Finally there is a movie theatre of sorts opened up here. Its actually more like a movie lounge. Kiwi couple Martin and Janette have opened 'The Flicks' in a shophouse on St 95. The theatre is just a room, in a shophouse, but with two new airconditioning units- very important as the room has, by necessity, no windows- a white wall- the screen- and a kick ass surround sound system it is a welcome addition to hot sweaty hours with nothing to do. At the moment the patrons lounge on long floor cushions, on a three tiered wooden floor, which is fine by me, but Martin said they have couches planned as well. The Kiwis in Kampuchea went enmass the other night for a screening of 'Whale Rider' and M and about 12 of his friends went after school a couple of days later to catch 'Chicken Run' -they may be relatively mature teenagers but they still enjoy animation on the big screen! It is a welcome addition to Phnom Penh.

If you haven't seen Whale Rider I urge you to seek it out.

It was Keisha Castle Hughes first film for which she was nominated for an Oscar and I think she gives a fantastic performance as Paikea, the Whale Rider.

Friday, August 7, 2009

He met the King today

J had an audience with the King of Cambodia today. His majesty, Norodom Sihamoni, wanted to thank those who had donated to the new Childrens Foundation- in person.

Born 14 May 1953 Sihamoni is the eldest son of Norodom Sihanouk and Norodom Monineath Sihanouk. His name is made up of of the beginning of each of his parents names- Siha- from his father and- Moni- from his mother, although his official title as King is much longer-Preah Karuna Preah Bat Sâmdech Preah Bâromneath Norodom Sihamoni Nai Preah Reacheanachakr Kampuchea (whew!), in romanized Khmer, or His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni of the Kingdom of Cambodia, in English. His mother, who has a Khmer mother and a French Italian father, is Sihanouk's 7th wife. King Norodom Sihamoni has 12 half brothers and sisters, by his father's various relationships but only one full sibling who died of a heart attack aged 49, in 2003.

He is a small man with the posture of a dancer (he is a trained Ballet dancer and taught Ballet in France for 20 years) and a quiet charisma that envelops rather than knocks you over. He is often photographed smiling, unlike the more austere Thai King and speaks fluent French, Khmer and Czech (where he spent most of his schooling years) and is also comfortable speaking English and Russian.

So, on a Saturday morning dressed in a dark grey suit, red tiki cuff links and a red and dark blue tie, J set off, with our very nervous and excited driver behind the wheel, to Malis, an upmarket restaurant for protocol instruction. With not enough room for all the attendees in the van The Prince and J got back into our car and drove the few blocks to the Royal Palace where they were met at the door by the King.

I got the details when J got home a few hours later. The King, he said was a quiet, gracious man. He took the time to talk to each and every person involved, speaking in either French or English depending on the nationality of the person he was addressing. J was humbled and honoured to have met - The King of Cambodia.