Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"The Winter's Tale" at Esplanade Theatre, Singapore

Suffice to say that I’m very excited to find out what’s coming to Singapore next year. Having missed Avenue Q there this year and looks like will be missing Mamma Mia! in KL later this year, I would need to make sure that I don’t miss this one too.

The Winter's Tale
By William Shakespeare

26 - 31 March 2009
Esplanade Theatre, Singapore

The Bridge Project is a major new transatlantic venture for director Sam Mendes (Academy Award winner for American Beauty), Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and The London Old Vic, which is run by Kevin Spacey (Academy Award winner for The Usual Suspects and American Beauty).

Sam Mendes will direct The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare in 2009 starring Simon Russell Beale, Sinead Cusack and Rebecca Hall (Vicky Christina Barcelona) from the UK; and Richard Easton, Josh Hamilton and Ethan Hawke from the US. Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) is proud to be one of the five co-commissioners to have created this prestigious production.

Singapore will be the first – and only Asian stop – on the world-tour in March 2009 which will be presented in Singapore in collaboration with Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay.

Tickets available at

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cambodia Trip '08 – Day 02: Traffic Scenes in Phnom Penh

Several shots of the traffic conditions during the early mornings in Phnom Penh.

(Calm before the traffic storm)

We started our days in Phnom Penh quite early with breakfast around 7 am. Thanks to the early sunrise there, Phnom Penh was already quite busy by the time we sat down for breakfast. Soon enough the road in front of our hotel was a chaotic mess of cars, tuk tuks, motorcycles and bicycles. It was a wonder looking at how anyone can negotiate safely in that mess.

(Chaos commence. Four lanes of traffic at a crossroad without a traffic light)

As I stood there looking at the traffic, I was trying to figure out what traffic etiquette was in play in this busy crossroad. As far as I can figure it out, it was a free for all out there but surprisingly no accidents happens while I was observing them. I eventually noticed that while it seems that “who has the bigger balls” rule the right of way on Phnom Penh streets, they give each other a wide berth to react to the other road users in front of them. Since the traffic moved at a much slower pace than I’ve seen in KL when they are not idle in traffic, the drivers here have more time to respond to any traffic obstructions in front of them. KL motorcycle users would definitely be well served to learn from their Cambodian counterparts who do not weave in and out between cars.

(Carefully crossing the road)

With the lack of traffic lights and pedestrian crossing, I would not say that Phnom Penh is the easiest city to walk around in. That being said, I do think that it is better than Manila where one would be trying to avoid being crushed by jeepneys when crossing the road. Thanks to the slower traffic here, crossing the road involves making sure that you are clearly seen by the incoming traffic and that you make most of the gaps between cars when you cross the road. Awareness of the traffic flow was definitely key to crossing the streets safety there. When in doubt, always best to follow the lead of a local crossing the road since they have been doing it for much longer than any tourist could hope. It would also be best not to dilly dally when crossing the road since while the incoming traffic will slow down when they see you crossing, they will not stop for you. Streets in Phnom Penh would definitely be the last place you want to perfect your catwalk strut when crossing the road.

(Cross road at one of the bigger boulevards)

Most of the traffic in Phnom Penh were bicycles or motorcycles. While I didn’t notice any differences in the bicycles that they used, I noticed that a lot of the motorcycle there have been modified to have a bigger seat that could fit 3 people at once which they would use to the fullest way possible. The same motorcycles are also used to pull the tuk tuks that would fit anywhere between 4 to 8 people at once. An interesting item of note was that almost all female I’ve seen riding the motorcycle as a passenger would sit side saddle style regardless if they wore a skirt or long pants. It was definitely a sight rarely seen in KL.

Cars were mostly a luxury for the average Cambodian. Most cars that they have on the roads there were Japanese recondition cars brought in from outside of Cambodia. At an average of 4000 riel (Cambodian currency equivalent to 1 US Dollar) per liter, petrol was definitely expensive for an average office worker who earns an average of USD 80 – USD 100 per month.

(Traffic scenes outside of Phnom Penh)

As we traveled further out from the Phnom Penh city center, it was apparent that the roads were less well maintained. Thanks to the recently passed rainy seasons, the roads outside of Phnom Penh were muddy and riddled with pot holes. The number of heavy vehicles that seems to increased outside of Phnom Penh definitely have made their mark on the bumpy road. One would need to have both patience and a well padded backside to travel long distance via land on these roads.

(Award winner for the biggest pot hole I have ever seen. It spanned across the road)

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Bottom Top" at KLPac

Looking forward to see this play which begins this week.

KL Performing Arts Center (KLPAC) Presents

“Bottom Top”

'I want my son to sit beside his 'special friend' as he sits beside me at my wedding'.


'Bottom, Top' is a story about a 52-year-old mother, Bertha, who is about to re-marry. As she prepares the guest list with her son, Melvin, they screen through the women and 'men' in their lives to invite as guests for the limited 150 seats at the Oversea Restaurant. Secretly, Bertha is trying to find a seating partner, and ultimately a partner for her single gay son Melvin, and suggests men in her life such as the 'market butcher's son' and the unmarried 40-year-old distant uncle who is suspected to be gay. Melvin, however, thinks he has better taste.

Follow the two as Bertha remembers her past flings and Melvin educates her on the social construct of his 'different' world.

This comedy will see the return of FARIDAH MERICAN to our stage. Faridah is set to appear alongside the playwright himself, MARK BEAU DE SILVA, a two-time BOH Cameronian Arts Award nominee for Best Original Script. To top this powerhouse mix, the play will be directed by KLPac’s Artistic Director himself, JOE HASHAM.

Director : JOE HASHAM

Date & Time:
27 - 30 NOVEMBER 2008 @ 8:30 PM
29 – 30 NOVEMBER 2008 @ 3:00 PM (Matinee shows)

Venue :

RM 25

Box Office :
(KLPac) 4047 9000 / (TAS@BSC) 2094 9400

PROMOTION: Get 10% OFF if you purchase tickets to Bottom Top (27 – 30 Nov) AND Gemuk Girls (4 – 7 Dec) in a single transaction / receipt!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cambodia Trip '08 – Day 01: Getting There And Settling In

After months of planning, the day that we were to start on our Cambodian adventure finally came!

As planned, both my traveling companion and myself left my apartment at Sunway around 11 am to catch the KTM Komuter heading into KL Sentral. We were suppose to meet up with some of the rest of the traveling group there but due to some last minute changes, the meeting place got changed to the LCCT at a later date. Since there was not much for us to do at KL Sentral, we headed out to take the AirAsia Skybus service to LCCT which took awhile before leaving the terminal for LCCT. We both kept track of how many times the bus people called out that they were leaving in 5 minutes time and yet never moved from the terminal.

Eventually the bus did leave and we arrived at LCCT without incident. This trip was my first time since they moved the bus stop at LCCT closer to the new building extension where the new food court was. I did think of checking the new section out but in the excitement of going on the trip, I totally forgot to do it. We did, however, do the customary pre-flight meal at the terminal McDonalds since the rest of the traveling troupe had not arrived when we got there.

Once everyone got to the meeting point, we proceeded with the check-in process and immigration control. Thanks for the items that we brought with us to distribute to the people who we would be meeting in Cambodia, the check-in process took a little longer than I’m used to. I usually just breeze through this process but then again I have never traveled with a group this big. There were 15 of us on this trip which consisted of people who worked in my friend’s office and some of their families. It was interesting trying to figure out how to fit in such a diverse group when I didn’t know any of them prior to this trip.

Our flight to Phnom Penh that afternoon was unfortunately delayed by 15 minutes. We finally took off at around 3:30pm and things went smoothly for the first hour. We started to encounter turbulence around the time we crossed the Gulf of Thailand and the flight got a bit bumpy then. It didn’t help that we had the noisiest bunch of aunties and uncles sitting in the front of the plane. They were all talking in Mandarin at the top of their voices virtually all the way much to the annoyance of everyone else on the fully booked flight. The turbulence we encountered didn’t even disrupt the card game that this group had going the moment the plane left the ground. I don’t think that I have been on a flight that was as noisy as this ever in my life.

We finally touched down to slightly overcast skies in Phnom Penh. Due to the time zone difference, we gained an hour as we set our clocks back to 4:30 pm local time. The Phnom Penh International Airport was quite quiet the day we arrived with our flight being the only one arriving at the time. We didn’t have to wait long before we could pass through immigration and collect our luggage. We met up with our local guide, Ustaz Farid Hosen from the Cambodian Muslim Intellectual Alliance (CMAI), who would be traveling with us during the trip.

On clearing customs, we loaded up our bags into the charted minivan that would be our main method of conveyance for most of our trip. As our merry group made our way from the airport into Phnom Penh, we had a short welcoming speech and trip briefing from our guide as well as tour leader. The drive into Phnom Penh was a bit slow thanks to the end of the day rush hour. It didn’t help that it also rained quite a bit as we made our way through the throng of cars, motorcycles, tuk tuk and bicycles. We soon reached the Holiday Villa Hotel at Monivong Boulevard where we will be staying in for the duration we were in Phnom Penh. Thanks to the rains and the late arrival, we decided to check into our rooms to rest before dinner.

(View from inside the charted van as we drove from the airport into town)

(L: We saw many people riding 3 to a bike in Cambodia, R: Cambodian version of the tuk-tuk)

Our first dinner in Cambodia that night was at the City Cat Bubble CafĂ© which was owned by a Malaysian businessman. A combination of local and non-Cambodian fare were listed in the menu which had only pictures of what they looked like, their name and not much else in terms of information. It was also funny trying to figure out what something was made out of based on the name of the dish. The menu listed some decidedly strange things like a hot pudding drink that tasted like really runny custard and egg soda which I’m assuming is eggs beaten into sweet soda water. We finally decided to let our local guide to order for the group.

Thanks to the owner being a Muslim, all the food served in this restaurant was Halal. A lot of the workers at the restaurant were also local people from the Champa community who were able to understand Bahasa Malaysia to varying degrees. Some more than other because they have worked in Malaysia before coming back to their homes in Cambodia. We would later encounter many such people in our journey.

While waiting for our food to arrive, I took note of the surrounding as it was fairly strange looking. Having high partitions topped with artificial plants did give an impression of being in a forest while you dined in one of the open tables. There was also small private rooms off to the sides of the restaurant for hosting small dinner parties. The most eye catching details however has to be the tacky pink inflatable hearts that were placed on each pillar. I have no idea what would have prompted anyone to put those pink hearts on the wall.

(L: City Cat Cafe exterior, R: Interior of the cafe)

(L: Side rooms with green lights that were used to call the waiters, R: The pink hearts on the pillars)

We didn’t have to wait long for our dinner to arrive. I didn’t know much of Cambodia food to tell if what we were having was something uniquely Cambodian. If it was then it did look and taste like a milder version of Thai cooking. We had planned to drive around town after we finished our dinner but it was still raining and the group decided to take an early night in. Once we reached the hotel, my traveling companion and I decided to walk around the block to see what was around close to the hotel. First order of business was to figure how to safely cross the road since traffic in Cambodia seems to be coming from all sides all at once. Not wanting to risk our lives trying to cross the wet road without being able to properly see the incoming traffic, we decided to just walk around the block. Other than the street stalls, bakery and pubs, there was not much opened at that hour near our hotel.

(Busy traffic at Phnom Penh after dark)

We got back to our hotel after our short walk and got called to help sort the items that was brought from Malaysia to be given out to the people that we will be meeting on this trip. Most of the items were clothes donated from the group in Malaysia as well as school supplies. After chipping in to help organize the care packages, we went back to our rooms to retire for the night as we had a really early morning the following day.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cambodia Trip '08 – Back Home Safe & Sound

918 pictures taken to be edited
20 pages of hand written travel notes to be edited
2 hotel accommodation reviews to be written up
5 research sites to be followed up for collaborating information

Cambodia travelogue entries will be coming soon!
(or at least after I unpack my backpack)

Trip highlights

  • Cars, trucks, taxi, tuk tuk, bicycles and more – The Madness of Cambodian Traffic
  • “How do people here cross the road?” – figuring how to cross the road without becoming roadkill
  • Humid days and rainy nights in Phnom Penh
  • “Our future starts here” – An outsider’s view of the Cambodian Champa community
  • Children of the Champa
  • Washed out roads are not a deterrent – adventures in remote village communities
  • My walk through Choeung Ek Killing Fields
  • Stuck in A Jam aka “Next time must remember to check when the public holidays are”
  • Toul Sleng aka S21 – Giving voice to those who have been silenced
  • Faces, Voices and Presence – Encounters with The Victims of S21
  • Breaking the bank at Russian Market, Phnom Penh
  • “Sir! Sir! I Give You Special Price!” – The Art of Haggling
  • A different kind of market – the art deco splendor of Phnom Penh Phsar Thom Thmei.
  • Vibrant Colors at the Phnom Pehn Royal Palace Complex
  • Lazy ride down the Mekong River
  • Phnom Penh to Siem Reap by land aka "I think my butt already went to sleep 2 hours ago"
  • A Warm Welcome – Visit to Muslim Community at Trobang Chuk Village
  • Late night shopping at Center Market, Siem Reap
  • Majestic Angkor – Visits to Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Bayon temple complexes
  • Water Living – The boat houses on the Tonle Sap
  • Cambodian Cultural Village – where kitsch meets culture
  • The Journey Back

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Cambodia Trip '08 – Pre Departure Notes

This trip started as an invitation by blogger friend to accompany him on his company trip way back in March if I remember correctly. I was well into my Indonesia trip planning by then so I was already well on my way in my tour of ASEAN countries. The chance to add Cambodia to that list for this year was definitely welcomed especially when it includes the chance to visit the famed Angkor Wat temple complex. Unlike my previous trips, I didn’t have to organize anything for this trip as it comes in a packaged tour selected by the company. While I usually try to avoid going on these packaged tours, I think I like to let someone else take the reins on organizing the trip this time and not worry about the details.

I’ve been reading up on what to expect when I get there from friends who have been there before. I also bought a guidebook for Cambodia to use if not to add to my collection of guidebooks of the places that I’ve been to. Since most of our program there have already been decided, the reading up that I’ve done is for me to absorb the background of the area and figure out what distinct attractions that I should not miss when I get there. Angkor Wat is definitely one of the places that I’ve been reading up about since it will be the highlight of my trip there. Having visited Borobudur earlier this year, I’m really looking forward to add another of South East Asia’s historical wonder to the list of places that I have experienced personally.

In addition to Angkor Wat, our tour program will include a cruise on the Mekong River as well as visits to the Central and Russian markets in Phnom Pehn. We are also scheduled to visit the Tuol Sieng Museum as well as the Cheung Ek Killing Fields. Having watched the “Killing Fields” movie as a child, I’m fairly certain that I would be affected by this visit. I’m trying to steel myself for any possibilities given the nature of those two locations. A lot of blood and lives has been lost there and I do not doubt that some of that energy will linger on there which may affect people who are attuned to those energies. Definitely will look out if I have another supernatural encounter like the one that I had while on the trip in Jogja earlier this year.

I’ve already bought a new backpack to take with me on this trip since the one that I borrowed from my brother on the last trip to Indonesia came back worse off than when I started. I still have yet to exchange my money into US dollars for the trip partly hoping for a better exchange rate. With the exception of a few small items that I need to buy to bring with me on the trip, I’m pretty much good as to what to pack. I just need to start planning my packing list and make sure that I don’t forget anything important. In my case, as my last travel troupe will attest, it’s more of a case of planning to leave things behind as I do tend to over pack items for a trip.

Tentative travel schedule

7 – 10 Nov : Phnom Penh
- Tuol Sieng Genocide Museum
- Cheng Ek Killing Fields
- Mekong River Cruise
- Central and Russian Markets
- Cambodian Royal Palace
- Champa Village visit

10 – 12 Nov : Siem Reap
- Angkor Wat
- Siem Reap Market