Saturday, March 22, 2008

My brand new China dream - slightly shattered...

A portrait of my new bride by Chris

Bend rim (hard to photo)

Smashed left shifter

Right shifter also kaput!

Coming back from Kratie, I could not wait to touch down. Like a groom awaiting his new bike, I mean bride, Chris (he has one too) informed me that my custom fitted Surly Long Haul Trucker Touring Bike was finally ready. Each part was carefully selected, from Brooks B17 English leather saddle, Mary On One Bar, the controversial love it or hate it handlebar, Shimano 2008 XT componentary on most parts and Maxxis Overdrive Kelvar protected tires. It was a joy to ride it back from his home in Lakeview on a lovely Saturday evening and I took the long road home. Comfortable, crisp, responsive, sturdy and oh, soooo smooth - ready for my ride to China.

One crazy Malaysian guy has just successfully rode home from Duke University to Malaysia, a total of 27000km over 10 months on the Surly LHT. I can't wait to test mine over a longish ride which I am planning soon to Mersing, a Malaysian town 200km for a fund raising event for Cambodian children.

Unfortunately last night, I made a mistake of lending this pride and joy to a 18yo teenager who in turn lend it to his 16 yo friend without permission. The result was disastrous, my one week old China dream ticket crashed. My heart was pierced and I was fuming mad! It was not a pleasant sleep I had to say the least. I wonder if anyone has had such an unpleasant experience?

Guess this Easter, the learning point for me is forgiveness. Also, to put people before things but ah, this is my "bride". Anyway, a closer inspection of the damage revealed smashed up LX Shifters (good thing I did't opt for XT), scraped Avid brake levers and a bend rim for now.

I hope my young friends will learn something about valuing and respecting the trust given to them. And if they can learn a little about being a wee bit more responsible in handling other people's things, then this painful experience of mine will be worth it, shattered dreams and all...
The message of Easter is - the death and resurrection of Jesus brings life to us and strangely, I believe that message of hope is relevant here too.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Small town Kratie, big time memories.

Elegant boulevards thanks to ze French!

Our dolphin spotting boat.

Glorious sunsets everyday - pic by Jem

Bringing hope to people in need...

Duck foetus anyone?

Kratie, 1958 or 2008?

Good luck or answered prayer - our Dolphin spotting trip was a success. The launch point is 15km out of town and we scootered there 3 up, passing quiet and friendly villages. Not longer than five mins in the mighty Mekong River, a family of 4/5 dolphins surfaced and played around our boat. It was exciting spotting these beautiful mammals just coming up so gracefully for air and it was a challenge to take their pic. Several other boats too immediately gathered around us and we just were awe strucked to see such magnificient and graceful animals. In this part of the Mekong near Kratie lies numerous islands (esp during dry season) and we landed on one measuring about 10 by 4 m.

This little expedition for the Kratie Dolphins apparently made the top 20 best outdoor Asean adventures in this US travel site -

Our gracious hosts, Tokyo and Sith, later brought us to the Kampi Rapids where bamboo shaded shelters lined by the fast flowing river. Lying on a hammock, listening to natural water symphony and just enjoying the cool breeze was a delight words cannot adequately describe.

Rural Kratie is a peaceful 3 street provincial town by the Mekong that seems oblivious it is 2008. We rode on a horse drawn cart, passed languishing French bungalows along wide tree-lined boulevards and savoured the serene country lifestyle for a few days. I enjoyed cycling my CM micro-bike in the morning and was surprised to see how busy and bustling the market was. As usual, squealing kids were fascinated to see a 8" wheeled bike and crowded around for a photo.

It was also a joy to visit the Provincial Hospital to see Cil at work - providing consultations to Cambodian Physios and helping out with patients. They taught an elderly lady who suffered a stroke several months ago, to learn how to walk again and the smile on her face was heartwarming. Also, a little Celebral Palsy toddler was treated and his young parents were shown techniques to help his physical development. Its times like this I wished I had the healing touch!

We were introduced to two types of Khmer food while in Kratie - Duck foetus and Beef on hot plate. As much as our Cambodian friends tried to persuade us to eat the foetus, I was squirming as it looked like those shock tactic ads by anti-abortion groups. Eating the foetus was supposed to make you "strong". But we truly enjoyed this hot plate dinner called "Ko Lam Phnom" or Cow on the Hill (literal translation) where small slices of fresh beef are cooked over a hot pot that looked like a small hill. Eaten with a special fermented soy bean paste and washed down with cold beer, it was heaven! Jem insisted we had to have it again for our last dinner there.

Our trip ended too soon but I am reminded again that our Creator is keenly interested and involved in all aspects of our life, even spotting dolphins. Who needs luck when our lives are in His sure hands?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Visiting the Irrawaddy Dolphins

CM carried on Tuk Tuk - Angkor Wat

Hope to see you!

We're off again Fri Mar 7 - this time to Kratie, Cambodia to see this special dolphins. I'm no Jacques Cousteau but its fascinating to learn that fresh water dolphins do exist in China, Vietnam, Burma, Amazon among other places. National Geo reported that only about 160 of these magnificient creatures are left in the Mekong and if nothing is done, they risk extinction. Thankfully, the Cambodian authorities have banned net fishing and this is a big step in the right direction.

Kratie is 340km north east of Phnom Penh and my wife Celia is assessing a Rehab Clinic there, so that is the "work" reason for this trip. Its also Jem's school holidays and what better than show him that reality is far more superior to virtual reality, at least in the case of this science excursion. Keeping my fingers cross that we will be able to encounter those lovely dolphins.

I hope to do a spot of cycling in PP with my buddy Stephen, Principal of Cambodian Methodist School. This is my preferred way of discussing and planning the Father's business. He always seems to know all the nooks and crannies of PP's backroads so new discoveries await. As there will be a fair bit of travelling in taxis and tuk tuks, my folder of choice is once again the Carry Me. I know, its not fair to my other folders but its 8kg and exceptionally compact.

Size does matter!

"All things bright and beautiful, the Lord God made them all..."