Let’s face it in many ways Cambodia seems disconnected from other parts of South East Asia. While the world marvels at the economic powerhouses of Singapore and Hong Kong and lauds the development leaps of Thailand and Malaysia, it often seems that Cambodia is being left behind. We never get to see international music legends on worldwide tours here and the top professional sports teams never visit. It often seems as though Cambodia is missing out.
Going for pizza in Asia is like buying new David Bowie albums – you remember how good it’s been in the past, and you really want it to be good this time, but you know in your heart of hearts that disappointment is the only likely outcome. You wander in whistling Heroes or Life on Mars, you shuffle out humming Hello Spaceboy.
I live in the Sukhumvit area of Bangkok, just a short tuk-tuk ride from Asok BTS station. The balcony of my condo has fantastic views of the gleaming towers of the ‘new’ Bangkok – shopping centres, luxury hotels, office blocks. In 10 minutes I can be shopping at Tesco, Boots or H&M, sipping a latte at Starbucks, or having lunch at McDonalds, Burger King or Subway. In short, this part of Bangkok, the part in which, along with Silom, most tourists spend their time, is much like any other modern city.
In 2012/2013 applications to the UK’s Universities and College Admissions Service (UCAS) dropped 6.3% year on year and it is expected that this trend will continue for 2013/2014 admissions. In actual terms, this means that there were 40,000 less applicants for university places in the UK which represents a significant fall.
The reason for this is in large part due to the introduction of tuition fees. The majority of universities in the UK charge the maximum permitted amount for British students of £9000 ($14,500), which means that many families having to prioritise how they spend their income simply do not view sending their children to university as money well spent.
Current bank interests are so risible that even money held in interest paying deposit accounts is losing value. The rate paid is not keeping pace with inflation so in real terms, people saving in these accounts are actually losing money. It is a frustrating situation for people looking to save for their future, but if you want to grow your savings in real terms you need to invest in something that is offering a real return.
Every year, the students at Phnom Penh’s Northbridge International School complete a 24-hour challenge to raise money for charity. Over the past few years, the students’ excellent efforts have led to thousands of dollars being raised for charities in Cambodia and Africa. At the same time, the event encourages the children to think about others less fortunate than themselves as well as engaging them to work together in a fun and healthy collaborative challenge.
People talk about it at the water cooler, or over drinks after work. They talk about tossing it all in and buying a one-way ticket to someplace else. Maybe somewhere overseas, to some rustic third-world capital where the living is cheap and the weather is always perfect.
Luxury travel isn’t just about travelling by private jet/limo or staying in 5* hotels, though that is of course part of it. What’s equally important is enjoying unique, authentic experiences and really getting under the skin of a destination, and seeing things that most tourists miss. That’s why many of our clients like to give expensive upscale restaurants a miss every now & then, and enjoy Asian food the way the locals do – on the street.
In the film Gladiator, Russell Crowe, playing a Roman General, is told, “Death smiles at us all … all we can do is smile back.” Truer words were never spoken in relation to Torajaland, a unique outpost amid the thousands of islands comprising Indonesia. Several elements make Torajaland stand out for those interested in overseas adventure. There’s the unique Torajan architecture. The inhabitants were former headhunters. The Dutch tried to conquer this area and only did so through the spread of Christianity. It is also famous for being a region where outstanding coffee is produced.
A few months back my good Cambodian friend Sinan called me & told me he was doing a road trip on the alternative route from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, via the city of Battambang. As it had been a while since my last trip to Cambodia, and visiting that country is always an absolute pleasure, I decided to hop over & join him.