Saturday, December 30, 2006

New Year, New Blog Design
We hope you like the recent rennovations to code brown. Inspied by 1970's kitchen design we have given the place a decidedly retro feel. Park your sunburnt orange torana out the front, step inside, I have a Marvin record playing and theres a fondue stirring on the stove. Enjoy.

The new year also brings a new job for Bec - hooray! Bec starts work on January 8 with Social Services Cambodia as a Social Work Training Advisor. It sounds like a great job and a good bunch of folks to work with so we are very excited.

Happy New Year to All.

Bec & Ben

Sunday, December 24, 2006




Saturday, December 23, 2006

Seasons Greetings
It has been a while since I (Ben) have posted. I have nothing of note to really say. Soya milk still consumes my life and I’m loving it. We wanted to wish everyone a great Christmas (or Khmer-istmas as we have come to know it here). We have low key but enjoyable festivities planned. Nic and Melissa are here and we will spend as much time as possible with them until their departure back to Aust. on boxing day (applications for new friends are still open folks). We will also be joined by Sven (who is actually Australian, not Swedish) and our good friend John.

Whilst posting I would like to say thanks to Nathan (aka Nifty, Scatronix and Monsignor) for his precious tips that have enabled full stereo recording in my home studio. The tips have been revolutionary and only required the purchase of a few small stereo plugs. This has established renewed productivity in my favorite pastime - very amateur music recording - Lifesize Order rides again. Thank you Nathan.

And while Im at it, well done with your hearty contribution to "Movember"- you grow the nastiest handle bar moustache this side of Paul Sr. (of Orange County Choppers Fame).

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

All things novel...
Ah Ben and I love this time of year in gets cold! Well our definition of cold. I mean it's still warm during the day but with a nice breeze...but at's cold...really it is...last night I watched tele without the need to have a fan on - miraculous! I even put on a jumper...but that probably doesn't mean much to a lot of you back in Australia who have seen me wearing a jumper on a 30 degree celsius day. Clearly I am not the best gauge on temperature.

And speaking of novel things...I also did something crazy and out of the ordinary yesterday - ironing!! With our dear Ming being sick, Ben and I are left to fend for ourselves - shocking I know! I hear you all gasping with horror that we might actually have to clean up after ourselves. Your concern is noted and appreciated.

Anyway, yesterday I ironed Ben's shirts! I was worried I might have forgotten how...but domestic servitude is like riding a never forget.

Today, I'm trying to muster up the strength to clean the bathroom. My least favourite household chore. Maybe I should bake a cake instead?

Friday, December 15, 2006

An unwell Ming Yim
Yesterday Ming Yim had an operation on her throat, I think for a thyroid problem. So today I went to visit her in hospital. I wasn't sure initially if I would be able to go as Ben and I had been advised that the hospital may charge her more if they knew she had contact with foreigners. Crazy I know. But Ming Yim's niece assured me that it would be fine and so I got the room details from her and made a time to visit.

It was a bit of an adventure finding Ming Yim in this hospital, due to a combination of arriving at the wrong entrance, not speaking enough Khmer and all sorts of muddles. But through Ben and his excellent staff at work and their liaising with Ming Yim's daughter, I managed to find my way there.

Ming Yim was in fine form for someone who had just had an operation on her throat. She's one that loves a chat and so having tubes come out of her throat and being bandaged wasn't going to stop her. She's a stubborn thing as well, so she insisted I sit on the bed with her, well lie on the bed with her. That we eat oranges together, that we both have a sleep and that I stay for hours. She's quite good at getting her way :)

I have to say, going to the hospital was an eye-opening experience in itself, if not a little confronting. The building is quite beautiful architecturally speaking but it's not that clean...and it is very sparse. The rooms seem more like prison cells and the equipment very primitive. There is no nursing staff to speak of - all patient care is provided by the family. So who knows what happens if you don't have any. The family provides all the food and does things like changing the colostomy bags, washing the patient and being there to attend to their needs. Ming Yim's daughter looked quite tired...might have been all that bossing around by Ming.

Ming had me laughing while I was there though, as she made funny comments like; "this room isn't very nice" and "there is no television for me to watch". If I didn't know any better I'd say she was bored. We talked a lot about the trip to Siem Reap and she talked about missing Andrew and Anth...and how her sister Oum Sim cried when she saw the photo of the two of them because she's sad they went back to Australia. So I think Ben and I are being requested to visit Kampong Speu in the near future and to stay the night. I also said to Ming that we should go down to the beach one weekend and she had me just about naming the date.

I plan to go back and visit Ming again tomorrow and take some food (she really seemed to enjoy those oranges). I took her some Soy milk today (always doing what I can for Ben's business) and Ming drank one very might have to get her more of them as well.

Here's hoping she has a quick recovery as it's not nice seeing her unwell. Although I think she needs to have some surgery on her arm as well, I'm not sure why but her Doctor, who is apparently a foreigner said that he couldn't do it when he operated on her throat. So I'm not sure about all the details but hopefully it's not serious.

Ming Yim had quite the entourage with her which was nice to see. We even had a patient from next door drop by for a chat. He was an elderly man with no teeth and a lovely cherub like face. I asked Ming Yim, after he left if he was her boyfriend and got quite a playful slap.

Anyway, I hope this post finds you all well...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Bangers, Burgers and Bad ideas...
It's no secret that Ben and I love Bangkok. You all may have worked that out by the frequent jaunts we make across the border and whilst we know some people see it as a sprawling concrete jungle...we see it as a haven of great food, shopping and movies...a place to indulge our Western sensibilities. So with a three day weekend at our disposal, we added in an extra day and spent 4 jam packed days in Bangkok with Nic and Meliss.

We revelled in our usual pleasures of Japanese food, markets and shopping centres but this was no relaxing break from the grind of Phnom Penh. We were on a mission...and the mission was Christmas shopping! We ambitiously imagined that we could shop for all the presents we needed and then mail them from Thailand, as it's cheaper, faster and more reliable than Cambo post. But like some good ideas...this one was not meant to be. Bugger! Why didn't we let our fingers do the walking and do all our shopping online?

Anyhoo, whilst we did manage to shop up a storm in exhausting, "I can't move my legs anymore" fashion; the postal system was where our plan fell short. You see we had Monday as a public holiday in Cambodia (Human Rights Day) and what do you know...Thailand had Monday as a public holiday too...for entirely different reasons but a holiday nonetheless (theirs was Constitution Day, which is ironic considering their constitution is presently nul and void). Anyhoo, despite information on the Thai postal website indicating that the main Post office would be open, it was closed. So there we sat, after days of shopping and after a nightmarishly fast taxi ride across town with the dawning realisation that we had no ability to mail anything. Bugger again!

However, with some quick re-packing we have managed to haul our load back to PP, to pay higher costs, for slower and more unreliable services. Aaaaah well. So if you receive a Christmas parcel from us in February...know that we tried to send it so it would arrive before Christmas. If you don't recieve a gift from us then it probably got lost or stolen in the mail. Honestly... ;)

And moving right along....

Most of you know what sophisticated people Ben and I are (why do I hear raucous laughter?). So it stands to reason that one of the first places we would go to eat in Bangkok would be Burger King...naturally. Ben, hungry for the mouth-watering and addictive taste of fast food decided to order a Triple Whopper. Huge understates the size of this burger entirely! As you stare at three beef patties piled up, one on top of the other, you begin to wonder how it is humanly possible for any person to fit this beast of a burger into their mouths. But alas Ben conquered his whopper in record time. Well ahead of the guy eating one a few tables away. However, not long after devouring the beast he fell victim to its power...experiencing cramps, nausea and general unwellness that usually comes with food poisoning. Was it the burger? Was it the oily omelets purchased on the street that morning for breakfast? Tough call...but suffice to say it wasn't pretty and our blog title sums it up. Aaah living in Asia...and eating Western fast's dangerous.

But the fun did not end here. We went to the movies! Nic and Ben saw "Casino Royale" (boring macho stuff) and Meliss and I went to the only chick flick that was playing...not to mention the only other option of an English movie aside from "Happy Feet". We daringly (stupidly?) bought the tickets for this movie without knowing anything other than it was called "Material Girls". We were of course dubious as to how good it was going to be. As we neared the cinema we saw a poster for it and discovered it starred Hilary and Haylie Duff. We became even more dubious. We entered the cinema and got sardined between a lot of Thais. The movie started and Meliss and I were cringing within minutes...but with optimism and joy at being in the cinema we persevered, believing it could only get better. It didn't. After an hour we could endure the pain no more and had to trample over quite a few Thais to get out of the cinema. After leaving, we concluded that the only way to enjoy that movie (as everyone else in the cinema seemed to be) was to have English as a second language and to not have acquired that much. Unbelievably, painfully, mind-numbingly torturous!

Speaking of bad ideas...Meliss and I were bemused if not a little concerned that balloon skirts seem to have made a come-back in Thailand. But it's not just balloon skirts, there's balloon tops, balloon shorts, balloon 3/4's madness I tell you. Now I am not without a history of balloon skirt wearing. I got into it in the 80s when I was a child with poor taste (although not that much has changed really). I teamed my white balloon skirt up with a black and white leopard print crop top and a thick elastic belt. Nice huh? Speaking of elastic belts, I saw a woman wearing one at a market in Bangkok as well...and she was high-panting it! What is going on? It seems to me that balloon skirt madness is spreading more quickly than bird flu ever could. Please tell me this hasn't happened in Australia or other parts of the world???? If you get an inkling it's on its way...alert border security and commence locking down the country.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Farewells are no fun...

This week saw us farewell Andrew and Anthea from Cambodia...while we console ourselves with the fact that it's not farewell is the end of an era of living together in the 'bodge'...things just won't be the same here anymore. There will be no more seeing Andrew wander through the house in his "special house uniform" or become hypnotised by the sight of F1 on tele, no opportunity to catch a bit of Magnum PI together before going to work (although it not being on tv anymore doesn't help that either) or competing to see who can get the Cambodian Daily or Bangkok Post crossword finished first.

Andrew and Anth have been exceptional friends to have had in Cambodia - and there is a huge gaping hole here guys, now that you have gone...although I must admit...we didn't even give your bedroom a night to miss you Andrew before Ben and I relocated all of our things in there and "zhussshed" the house as we said we true "togetherness project" style.

But back to the farewell...

Yim came to the airport to say goodbye to Andrew and Anth and it was an incredibly touching goodbye...not to mention a tear-jerker. The fondness and love she showed to both Andrew and Anth was really touching. I had quite a few more tears in the tuk tuk on the way back home just thinking about it and letting the fact that you both were actually leaving sink in. Yim was incredibly sombre but she said something that I thought was quite beautiful (although slightly cheesy)...but allow me to explain... While we were at the airport there was a huge downpour of rain...which was somewhat unusual, as right now it is not the rainy season...and the rain that fell seemed to be centralised over the airport, as when we travelled back home we noticed that none of the surrounding roads were wet. So Yim concluded that it was Cambodia's way of farewelling you both (the country shed its tears) and in Cambodian culture, it is apparently good luck if it rains when you are embarking on a journey. So there you go.

Andrew and Anth - we miss you! Hope you're having fun back in Australia!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Fruit Salad
Due to umpteenth technical difficulties our blog site has not been updated as regularly as we would have liked so I’m going to post together a series of recent news and events in our parts of the universe…

Embracing technology and the Super Information Highway
It’s official…we have upped the ante in terms of communication and sold our souls to afford having internet at home. There is nothing like the sheer bliss of sitting on your own couch and surfing the net. We have embraced all manners of websites…

We have this here blog…which we will attempt to update as often as possible in our own topsy-turvy fashion.

We now have a flickr site…the address of which will be revealed in good time when we have gotten around to uploading more photos.

We are signed up for skype…so all of you out there keen to chat with us online…get on board! In the meantime we'll work on getting it to last more than 5 minutes before it drops out....

and we've....

Switched to the new blogger for the power of pictures...
For some mysterious reason unbeknownst to us, blogger would not post our photos no matter how diligently we tried. Sometimes it said that it had posted them but there was nothing there...other times the computer said "no". I can't begin to tell you the level of frustration felt but now having signed up for the new version...we are back in business. So here are some photos of our trip to Siem Reap with dear Yim that I had intended to post.

‘Allo Stranger!
Now, despite learning as a child that you should never talk to strangers, lately Ben and I have discovered that unless we do, we’ll have no friends and besides, someone can be a complete stranger one minute and the dearest of friends the next. This leads me to introduce Clare Mulvany.

Clare, up until a few Tuesday nights ago was a complete stranger to us but through the grapevine of our multitude of friends (we’re so popular - although seemingly not in Cambodia), she got in contact with Ben and I and asked if she could stay a wee while at our place. Being the hospitable people that we are we were more than willing to oblige and it is to our great fortune that we did.

Clare was a delightful and entertaining house guest, who we instantly warmed too upon meeting (No honestly Clare, we really did!). She has been travelling the world interviewing “social entrepreneurs” or people who are affecting innovative social change. Naturally Ben and I said; “Look no further than us” but with an impressive list of previous interviews, even we can see how we don’t quite make the grade...well Ben Clare did go to the Soy factory with Ben and get a guided tour.

Anyhoo, if you are interested in the book that Clare is writing and are keen to follow her on her travels, go to:

The 49th Annual Conference of Canines

Keynote Speaker: Gow

Last night Ben and I were awoken by the less than dulcet sounds of the annual conference of canines on our street. We are hoping that this conference was a one night only affair because another night of disrupted sleep will not be tolerated.

“Gow”, our landlord’s dog howled on and on and on last night. Clearly he was on his soap box and had a lot to say to the other neighbourhood dogs. I imagined him discussing the following agenda items:

1) Why do our owners never take us for a walk?
2) How come Western dogs get designer beds and doggy couture and we’re excited when we get a meal from the bin?
3) How to avoid becoming a BBQ meal at the Chinese restaurant - open discussion (I'm not intending to be racist here - this is actually an issue in Cambodia – dogs are stolen and sold for reasonable money to restaurants in Phnom Penh).
4) Should amendments be made to the rules of dog fighting in streets?

Clearly these agenda items required lengthy discussion as Gow did not stop ranting for hours and every now and again you would hear the dog across the street pipe in with the odd comment. Then if the symphony of howls was not enough, the whiney cats that live next door started to chime in…it was at this point that Ben and I could cope no more and Ben decided to put an end to this chaotic orchestra. Unfortunately, Ben’s efforts at diplomacy and reasoning went unheeded by Gow, and the conference continued for some time. Mind you Ben going downstairs mid-conference freaked Gow out enough that he lost control of his bladder...Gow that is...not Ben.

Needless to say Ben and I are both sleep deprived and what we would call Cut Pants Magoo.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Position Description

Position Title: Friend (Level 10)
Job ref no: NIGE-NO-M8S
Applications close: Dec 15th 2006
Salary range: This position is on the “Mates Rates” Award scheme - in other words there is no money to speak of; or perks, aside from the odd shouted drink or meal and the sheer enjoyment of our company.

Job description
With the impending departure of Andrew Benoy, Anthea Long, Nicolas Telford and Melissa Fraser, Calling Code Brown would like to announce the vacancy of four Level 10 Friend positions in their Social Life Department. The positions are all based in Phnom Penh and are offered on an initial two year contract with a three month probationary period. Starting date is January 2007

Specific Duties include:
Regular lunch and dinner meetings
After hours drinks
Regular and frivolous communication through emails and text messaging
Occasional domestic and international travel
A willingness to play cards

Essential Selection Criteria:
Must have had at least one years experience being a friend of Benjamin’s and Rebecca’s
Sense of humour
Ability to tell witty and entertaining stories and hold both intelligent and juvenile conversations

*Calling Code brown is an equal opportunity employer and strongly encourages couples with children to apply, as we’re not ready to have our own but sure like being around little people.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

“Dahling” in Kep and Kampot

“Dahling” phonetically in Khmer roughly translates to mean “to amuse oneself or go around for fun”. Every Sunday is “Dahling Day”, as many Khmers work a 6 day week, so Sunday is often a day of rest and relaxation…a time to go for a picnic or Sunday drive.

We, as in Ben, Nic, Meliss and I had a “Dahling” weekend. We rented a car and drove down to the coast on Saturday to a small provincial town known as Kep. It used to be the place to go in the 1960s for high-rolling Khmer’s, even the King had a residence there. Now it is a dilapidated town that is slowly coming back to life. It is quiet and peaceful and it has to be said, the serenity rivals that of Bonnie Doon! There is nothing like the soothing sound of a generator mixed in with the gentle hum of cicadas but in contrast to the everyday noise in Phnom Penh: construction, dogs barking, children screaming, seller’s catch calls and general traffic; it was a welcome relief.

We stayed at a Nature resort (BTW, this is not code for nudist colony); which was a series of bungalows set amongst lush garden and overlooking the sea. Sounds ordinary I know but we managed to endure it. We ate fresh seafood and lay about in hammocks completing sudokus and reading and observing wildlife that made it into our bungalows; such as a Tecko (largish lizard) and a couple of frogs.

The countryside really is picturesque at the moment, so we drove around taking many photos. Not even a flat tyre disrupted our travels – Nic had it changed within 10 minutes, all while a crowd of onlookers from houses across the road watched on and admired Meliss’ white skin.

Ben and I have become quite taken with renting vehicles and exploring…so stay tuned as we continue to traipse through provincial Cambodia and obnoxiously brag about our escapades on this here blog!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Combining Cultures and Touring Temples (by Bec)

* Warning: this blog entry may have the tendency to be overly sentimental but it is with good cause I assure you…

Another water festival has come and gone. This time, instead of spending it with the masses in Phnom Penh we headed to Siem Reap. As amazing as Phnom Penh is at this time; doubling in population size (and the cities preparation for this – installing 50 porta-loos to cope with the influx of 1 million people); the fireworks; the boat races; the Moomba-esque like floats on the river…none of this could compare to the special weekend we had.

Enter Yim and family.

Now some of you have heard of our dear Yim. She is without question, a mother to us and an amazing woman with all that she has gone through in her life. She works 7 days a week, day and night; living with a woman we know only as Madam…in what seems like an indentured slave arrangement. Yim also works for us 5 afternoons a week cleaning our house and doing our laundry. I was adamant when I first arrived in Cambodia that Ben and I weren’t going to have a “maid”, as it seemed far too colonial for my liking…but once we moved in with Andrew, Yim was part of the package and so I had to adjust to having her around. It didn’t take long for me to embrace not having to do the ironing or cleaning the bathroom…but more than that…to embrace Yim. The relationship that Ben, Andrew and I have formed with her is an incredibly special part to living in this country…and one that I hope will continue even after we leave.

So this past weekend gone…we (Andrew, Anthea, Nic, Melissa, Ben and I) took Yim and some members of her family to see the National pride of Cambodia – Angkor Wat. There is no way for me to describe the importance of such an event to a Cambodian person…particularly to a family who most likely would never have made it there otherwise. To be honest, I’m not sure it’s even possible for me to grasp the full significance. But if you factor in that Yim has probably never had a real holiday before and she is 55 years old; she had never been anywhere aside from her home province and Phnom Penh; and she never expected in her life that she would get the opportunity to see Angkor Wat; then you start to get the idea of just how special this was. Yim’s own words say it best…and I apologise but I am somewhat paraphrasing here but the intended meaning is the same:

“I’m so happy I feel like I’m sixteen”

“I’m so happy I don’t need to eat”

These combined with continual smiles, comments on her family all being very happy, repeatedly saying thank you, hugs and constant affection…and you start to get an idea of how humbling this experience was for Andrew, Anthea, Nic, Meliss, Ben and I. Organising this trip took so little on our part…and yet the meaning it holds for us all is truly special.

So the highlights!

** Seeing Yim’s face as she saw Angkor Wat for the first time and watching her take turns walking hand in hand with Andrew, Ben, Melissa and Anthea.

** Observing Yim’s family spending time together relaxing and sightseeing.

** Seeing Yim’s surprise when she realised that there were more temples than just Ankor Wat:
“I’m Khmer and I didn’t know there were other temples and that they were so far apart”.

** Watching Yim strike up conversation with anyone and everyone as we walked around the temples…she frequently got guided tours and additional information from temple staff and just enjoyed chats with other Khmer’s there as visitors.

** Observing how much interest Yim took in finding out about each individual temple, the carvings, the history, and making sure she remembered all of the temple names so she could tell other friends and family about it in her home province of Kampong Speu.

** Watching Yim pretend to be an Apsara dancer at Angkor Wat, Preah Khan…and several other temples.

** Watching Apsara dancing on our final night at dinner – observing the beautiful costumes whilst eating delicious food. Yim and family totally enjoying the production with Yim constantly asking me to take photos of the performers because they were so beautiful.

** Detouring slightly on the way back to Phnom Penh to see Beng Melea temple and getting a guided tour through the site that felt quite adventuresome as we scaled old stones and climbed and weaved our way through the temple ruins.

Now this highlights list could go on and on…so perhaps it’s better just to say that this was one of my favourite trips to the temples and I’ve been there five times now…talk about privileged! Good time’s people…good times!

Friday, November 03, 2006

(spelling and pronounciation both uncertain)

Happy Water Festival from Ben and Bec!!

May your Dragon Boat come home first this year.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Ants will take over the world… (by Bec)

Forget cockroaches with their indestructible bodies of steel…it’s ants that will take over this world with their sizeable armies.

Red fire ants are one of the things that Ben and I have adapted too since moving to Cambodia. We have accepted that all food, including cereal, pasta, rice, biscuits…pretty much everything must be stored in the fridge to keep it safe from ants. We have gotten used to them crawling through our kitchen, bathroom, lounge area and bedroom in their neat little lines. We have even gotten used to Yim, our Khmer mother spraying our house with a whole can of insect spray so that you practically need a gas mask to enter the premises…but there comes a point when these tiny creatures send you crazy…and they can make you snap.

Examples being: when they bite you and leave nice large red lumps on your skin that are somewhat painful…or when they cross the line of personal space and invade your wardrobe, crawling all over your clothes…or your bath towel…leaving nice bites as you attempt to dry yourself off.

Thursday night however, they staged what I call “Operation rice coup”. I had cooked up a rather tasty Aloo Mutter and was preparing to cook the rice when I discovered, as I washed it that ants were floating to the surface. Not fazed at this stage, I calmly scooped them out….but the more I scooped the more they kept floating to the surface. Then I looked at the bag of rice that I had only just bought and saw ants teeming inside and out. Enraged by their presence I grabbed the can of insect spray and gassed the lot of them. I felt satisfied for about two seconds before I immediately regretted the decision. Not only did it mean no rice for dinner but it also posed complications for how to discard the rice. I couldn’t throw it directly in the bin, as there is a community of people that live at the rubbish tip and I was concerned they might get sick or die if they decided to consume it. So I bagged it up and put it to the side not sure what to do with it.

The next day, I was relaying the story to my Khmer teacher who was very amused. She said I had been on the right path with scooping them out as they floated to the top…unfortunately my short fuse saw to the end of that solution. Anyway, Morivan suggested soaking the rice for a few days, as that would make it go bad and no one would want to eat it. So I placed the rice in a bucket with water and put it in a corner of the kitchen.

When Yim arrived in the afternoon I had a little scuffle with her, as she was determined to rescue the rice and even my pleas of it being toxic were not going to deter her. I had one of those moments of realizing that I was a stupid and wasteful foreigner who had destroyed perfectly good food and worst of all I was prepared to waste it. There’s nothing like a bit of shame over a bag of rice.

So after two days of soaking, Andrew, Anthea and I were standing in the kitchen last night and we were surrounded by an offensive odour that was not too dissimilar to vomit. It took about 20 minutes for it to dawn on me that the odour came from the rice in the bucket, which had started to bubble away. It smelt rancid! So I moved the bucket outside and put a bag over it while I worked out what to do next. Curse those ants!

Per Ben’s suggestion, I ended up disposing the rice into a multitude of bags (so environmentally friendly of me) hoping that it would contain the smell. It was not an easy operation and a fair amount of rice and water ended up on the ground and required some mopping up afterwards but rest assured people, I have the toxic waste secured…now I just need to wait for the garbage truck that comes down our street playing Xmas music and I can consider my work here done.

A lesson has been learnt through this…let the ants eat their rice (or our rice)…and do not attempt to gas them as it will only lead to a ridiculous string of events and offensive odours.

Ironically, the story does not end here. Having written this blog entry yesterday, Ben last night sustained some nasty bites after taking a shower and using an ant infested towel to dry off. Is nothing sacred to these ants? We just want to live in harmony!

Monday, October 16, 2006

"Of Coups Caves & Coffee: surviving Northern Thailand with no musical accompaniment."
Ok, so it wasn’t that long ago that Ben and I had one of the most civilized holidays in Asia we’ve ever had…not to mention one of the most enjoyable. Maybe it was having the freedom of a vehicle; or the good roads even if at times chunks of road were missing due to landslides; or maybe it was the good coffee houses we stumbled upon along the way; or perhaps it was the seamless coup that took place without us ever being aware…but this holiday was everything you want a holiday to be – scenic, fun and relaxing. There were many highlights but rather than giving you a blow by blow account of them all, I’ll just talk about a few and share some photos…as I’d hate for you to get bored.

Hill tribes and cultural sensitivity
Political correctness seems to go out the window when it comes to hill tribes. Take the Karen (Kayan) tribe, a group that have fled persecution in Burma and now reside in Northern Thailand, as refugees who are sensitively referred to as “the long neck people” or “giraffe people” by the Thai’s. They are an amazingly beautiful looking people due to their traditional dress and the long wire coils the women wear around their neck giving the illusion that their necks are longer than they are. This of course makes them a tourist attraction and we are guilty as charged for wanting to see them and take photos…even if we know that it smacks of exploitation and a lack of cultural sensitivity.

Despite being challenged on how we felt about all this, we chose to visit one of the villages anyway, which involved driving through small creek beds that dissected the roads we were travelling on and navigating our way past a group of tourists riding on elephants – the usual hazards on roads in Thailand.
At the village itself we paid an entry fee before we were allowed in and this apparently assists the various tribes in the area (at least we hope it does). Additionally they support themselves by selling merchandise to tourists that come to stare at their exoticness. Not wanting to appear as though we were there only to gawk, we did our best to engage with the locals. Here’s a picture of Ben with a Kayan women who was selling CDs of her music, which Ben purchased…the CD has a very haunting country sound…quite cool.

Yes, Ben did steal the guitar and did a performance of “Free love on the hot love highway” for everyone in the village …well maybe not

Our Travelling Tribe
Here is where we planned to include a photo of our nomadic tribe embracing the culture of the Karen people and showing our respect of cultural difference but blogger does not want to cooperate and upload the we'll have to work out another way to share this image with you...but in the meantime, so you know who was on this magical are the names...
Gareth, Meliss Nic, Ben and of course me...Bec.

Meeting John Spies
Part of the fun of our holiday was that we didn’t extensively plan it…we just went with the flow each day…and on one of these days we headed to an area with limestone caves and stumbled upon a guest house called Cave Lodge, run by an expatriate Australian guessed it…John Spies.

John has lived in Thailand for 30 years…longer than Ben and I have been alive…and he has some very interesting stories to tell…which conveniently he has written into a book…and we were lucky to pick up a draft edition before it hits the publishers.

While we were there we ironically discussed with John the political situation in Thailand and asked him whether he thought there was the potential for another coup. He said yes and we talked about what previous coups in Thailand had been like to live through…then the very next day…what should happen in Thailand…but a coup. Of course, as we have mentioned…we didn’t know it occurred until the day after.

Clean teeth and tunes
There was only one not so happy aspect to our journey…and that was the mysterious disappearance of my iPod and Gareth’s toothpaste. We were parked at a waterfall, with only a handful of other tourists around, just outside Pai. We were gone not more than 10 minutes but it was enough time for some weirdo to steal my iPod and Gareth’s toothpaste from the car…thus ending any chance of music for the remainder of our journey. Poor Gareth was forced to suffer tooth decay - devastated by the disappearance – I mean who steals toothpaste? I mourned the loss of my pod but upon returning to Bangkok Ben surprised me by buying me a replacement that was an improved version of my old one. The story therefore has a happy ending, plus we discovered the joys of book recitals as we traveled. The group had the pleasure of my dulcet tones as I read a book provided by Meliss, there’s nothing like story-time to get you through long car trips.

Pictures can say more than words
Enough babble…stay tuned for our flickr site and photos of our travels...we were going to include more photos here in our blog but they take so painfully long to flickr it is...Gaz I know you'll be pleased.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Strange Weather in Kampong Cham (by Ben)
I went to Kampong Cham yesterday to meet our "soya bean guy" and learn more about soya beans and how they grow. It was a very useful excursion and I can now say I have seen a soya bean plant and understand how people harvest them. We had lunch at our guys house located in a moderately sized village on a side road about 30km's before the actual town of K Cham. Its a very scenic area with every house in the village drying soya beans on tarpolins in their front yard.

However the most interesting thing that we saw on the day did not come from the legume family. Whilst driving up we noticed a vertical line of cloud in the sky. This line progressively grew until there was an eventual "touchdown" and a huge water spout reached from the lake it was transversing way up into the sky- very cool. We managed to take some bad pictures that really do not do it justice - they are very grainy like a picture of big foot.

Perhaps we can still sell them as I hear people made quite a bit of money selling pictures of the spout that appeared at the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap recently.

Here are the pictures...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Meet Meatbee
Very exciting news! Ben’s friend from days of old and cold in Canberra (Kate or "Kart") is in a band called Meatbee. Last week they reached the No. 1 spot on the Triple J unearthed charts.

Unearthed is a forum / competition for up and coming musical artists in Australia - a bit like Rock Star Supernova but with some credibility and hopefully a happier fate in store for Meatbee than what befell poor Toby. Ev's Toby, Ev's.

Now that I have discovered how it is done, a link to the Meatbee site will be included free with this blog. We still have large L plates on when driving this confounded contraption on the information superhighway. But it is fun, what does this button doXX4$3wwilh...0000.

Coming soon - pictures and stories from our trip through NW Thailand - titled "Of Coups, Caves and Coffee - how to drive up and down hills for 5 days with no musical accompaniment".

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Welcome! We are glad you were able to make it.

Bec and Ben have been contemplating the pros and cons of bringing another weblog into the world for some time, and we always deferred. The reasons for now taking that defining step of registering a blog site have been part peer pressure, part a need for better communication with family and friends and part political events in our part of the world - you see, we just experienced our first ever "coup-d-e'tat".

As you most likely know this occurred in Thailand where we have been holidaying for Pchum Ben. The Thai's excel at many things and orchestrating near seamless changes in power is certainly one of these. We had been in more remote parts of the North West and only discovered the coup had taken place whilst watching BBC World over breakfast - a whole 24 hours after tanks moved in on Bangkok (we had come down from the mountains like hill-billies).

Aside from TV news there was little (in english language format especially) that would indicate anything had changed. I'm not sure the military in our neck of the woods had "got the memo" on the first day - but it could explain why we were not allowed to get too close to the border with Myanmar.

In a nutshell, it is for stories like these that we have created our blog. We will not guarantee all entries to involve political intrigue and tales of power wrenched from the hands of unscrupulous individuals, however we will attempt to make every entry interesting in its own way and when it is not include a photo, or two if needed.

So what is the name all about you ask? - Calling Code Brown? - this was really Bec's idea, after initially thinking it a little crass I have come around (I'm not a crass person Benjamin :) - Bec). Code Brown is a term in our social circle for sudden and sometimes violent bowel movements that can and will occur to individuals who reside in areas where populations of nasty bacteria are above recommended levels. Code Brown's can also be categorised, much like cyclones, into Category A, B and C anal events depending on their severity. I need not go on as this blog is not intended as a forum for toilet humor or the daily happenings of our colons (unless there happens to be a coup in that neck of the woods).

We plan nothing grand with this blog - it will be a sporadic update of our lives (well the more eventful parts at least) and a forum to share any music or art that we may wish to inflict on you. I like the blog for this reason - we put it out there and if you ever think "what are those guys up to" you can log on and find out. Much better than impersonal group emails, which we weren't that great at sending anyway.

Enjoy. Benjamin & Rebecca - Chiang Mai September 2006.

(is that kind of sign off appropriate for a blog?)