Friday, 27 April 2012

Chatting with Jimmy from Siem Reap, Cambodia

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

In my previous blog post here I spoke about Jimmy Chan Sarath and the incredible work he does at the English school for children (Jimmy's Village School) that he founded and runs in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

I mentioned also that because of Jimmy's incredibly busy life we hadn't had the opportunity to sit and chat in more detail about his work, his school or his students.

I was intrigued by this young man who gives so much of his life to help others and naturally wanted to know a little more about him and the children...Jimmy very kindly gave me some of his precious time to answer these questions via email.

How did Jimmy's Village School come about and what were your initial objectives for the school and its students.

I wanted to help underprivileged Cambodian children with their education. The education  system in Cambodia still requires a financial contribution from the parents and many of the poorer children are unable to afford to complete their schooling. I was helped by my family and tourists to convert the front of the house into a school room.

How important is it for the children of Cambodia today to learn English?
I'm sure you understand that English is a universal language in commerce, science and engineering, not to mention tourism, and will be very important for the children's career prospects.

You mentioned to me that you also teach other subjects other than English to your students, what are these other subjects?

I try and teach them about things outside of Cambodia. General knowledge; such as culture, geography, history,...etc.... about the world around them.

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
Students having fun while waiting for their class outside school

When I was at your school one day you mentioned to me that currently students in the school system are not being taught about the Khmer Rouge period of Cambodian history, why is this and do you think this will change in the future?

The recent history of Cambodia is no longer a taboo subject and from this year  onwards it is to be gradually introduced into the school curriculum. 

What sort of background do most of your students come from?

They are poor children from villages. Their parents are typically farm workers, cleaners, waitresses or street vendors - they live very hand to mouth lives.

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
Boys at Jimmy's school ready to learn

How do the children enroll in your school?

They just turn up! They hear by word of mouth.

Are children in Cambodia taught English in the mainstream schools?

Yes they are.

What is the percentage of children receiving an education in Cambodia?

About 45% to 55 % of children do not get an ongoing education as they live in rural villages and have no transportation to get to school.

What are your future plans for Jimmy's School.

I would like to construct a new school building in the village on a new site. When I am able to get an overseas scholarship i will open an international school after my graduation.

How can others help you in achieving this goal?

They can help with cash donations and advice.

The children I met at your school were incredibly warm and receptive and  appeared very motivated to learn, are most Cambodian children as receptive?

They are probably just like children of any other nationality – although I expect  more eager to better themselves. Furthermore, we educate them more about morality.

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
oops... turn those fingers the other way around guys!

They also appear to be very respectful and polite which is so beautiful to see..... in general how are children brought up in Cambodia, is it a very traditional upbringing?

Yes, in Cambodia children are very deferential towards their elders – it is a Cambodian tradition.

How would you describe life in Siem Reap?

Depends on who you are. For tourists its a pleasant destination. But I'm sure you will have noticed on the streets there is a big gap between the rich and poor.

How can future visitors to Siem Reap help out at Jimmy's School.

Through cash donations, their time and advice.

Do you have a website or an email address for interested people to visit and learn more about the great work you are doing?

I am on Facebook “Jimmys village school”. 
Telephone number: 855+(0) 92 847 265. 
Email: jimmysvillageschool@ 

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

 Angkor Wat is breathtaking.

Just to change the subject matter a little and to give future visitors to Siem Reap an inside tip... can you share with us your 5 top things to do in Siem Reap?

Angkor Wat
Bakang mountain (You can see Angkor Wat from here)
The floating Village
Koulen Mountain
Visit Cambodian villages in the countryside

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
Outside the lovely Golden Banana Hotel in Siem Reap (which I can highly recommend).

Thank you so much Jimmy for your time and for all that you do for the children in Siem Reap.

Millie xx

Monday, 23 April 2012

Jimmy's Village School, Siem Reap, Cambodia

There is no greater joy nor greater reward than to make a fundamental difference in someone's life
Mary Rose McGeady

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
The happy and industrious scene from the street with Jimmy at the whiteboard

Jimmy from Jimmy's school in Siem Reap, Cambodia is doing just this...making a huge difference to hundreds of Cambodian children's lives and doing it every day of the week.

One evening as I was walking the streets in Siem Reap I couldn't help but hear and notice a very happy sounding group of children sitting at school desks in the front yard of a house. Very hard to miss!

I love to poke my nose in when I am traveling (no point leaving home otherwise)! and it looked like everyone was having a great time, so I stopped to find out what all the FUN was about.

I'm happy I did.....Jimmy, bounced up and introduced himself and his school 'Jimmy's Village School' and I learnt that this particular group of children were one of three groups that come every evening of the week and Saturday mornings to learn English (as well as other subjects that Jimmy feels are important for the children).

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
Jimmy serving lunch for a Saturday afternoon party at the school.

Jimmy is Cambodian and himself from Siem Reap. He founded and runs the school single handedly (with some help from volunteers when possible), and as I watched him that night with the children in each of his three classes I quickly realised that  Jimmy was certainly not your ordinary kind of guy.  

While we never had much time to chat about the work that he is doing, he is visibly passionate about his teaching and has plans for future expansion of the school.  I can certainly testify to how much these children adore and respect him, you don't have to spend too much time at the school to get an appreciation of their special relationship.

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

I returned a handful of times to the school to help with a few of the lessons  and to interact with these beautiful children.  My favourite class to watch was the 7 steps of hand washing as recommended  by the World Health Organisation.  When Jimmy asked me to take this session I embarassingly had to admit to not knowing them.  The kids however certainly did and they made the whole ritual of hand washing a lot more fun than it has ever been before! 

If you are in Siem Reap please stop by Jimmy's school and help out where and when you can. You'll love seeing Jimmy in action with the children and if you are lucky enough you will get to be involved in a lesson or two (its up to you how many).  These kids are clever, funny and loving (you'll never get so many genuine hugs at the one time again)!

Even if you do not have enough time to stop by and help out teaching you can still pop in (from 5pm to 8pm) with stationery, clothing, dental items or a cash donation. All of the above are very much needed and very much appreciated.

To locate the school;  I don't have the exact address but it's very easy to find.  Cross over Sivatha Boulevard from the Old market and head away from the river, it's the first little street on the left, walk maybe 50m and you'll find it on the left. (The Golden Temple Villa is located on this same street if you need a landmark). 

If you would like to get in touch with Jimmy's Village School join them on facebook or you can email Jimmy at;

Whenever I feel  there is little hope for the world and its problems I think about people like Jimmy, they are the real heros of this troubled but still beautiful world. 

Thank you to all of these incredible people.

Millie xx

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Oh Damn.......nude hiking banned in Switzerland!

Photo taken from BBC World News website

Yes, its's over guys, no more nude yodelling / walking in the Swiss alps. 

(I'm allowed to laugh at this....I'm Swiss myself)!

Apparently nude hiking has been taking off in Switzerland and while there is no federal law against public nudity there is one against public indecency. (Who decides which naked body is decent and which is indecent is my question).

The offended and traumatised, were a family with young children who were forced to deal with the site of a naked man hiking past them while relaxing in the picnic area of a Christian drug rehabilitation centre. The male nude hiker was fined, and he later appealed.

(This all happened in the ultra conservative canton of Appenzell, where they only granted women the right to vote in cantonal matters in 1990....yep that's.....1, 9, 9, 0)!

The man's appeal was recently thrown out of the federal court and the $109 fine was upheld. Word of warning this new ruling applies to the whole of the country.

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
Lake Léman taken from the town of Yvoire

While on the subject of Switzerland, something a little more serious but interesting (to me anyway). Five referendums were held last month, (not unusual for this country) one of which was the initiative of the trade union Travailsuisse who advocated the' 6 weeks of holiday for everyone'.... it was rejected by 66.5% of the voters. (They currently have 4 weeks). I'm not sure that would happen in many other countries of the world.

Switzerland has frequent referendums in regards to changes to their constitution and laws and they are a tradition of the direct democracy in this country. For more information on their political system click here

PS... Proud to be Swiss and Australian :-))

Swiss Watching - Inside Europe's Landlocked Island by Diccon Bewes

Millie x

Monday, 16 April 2012

Antonia Deacock, founder of world's first adventure company dies

Photo of Antonia Deacock from The Australian Travel & Indulgence Website

Back in 1958 Antonia Deacock was one of a team of three women to  drive from England to India and back (a journey of over 16,000 miles and certainly not your average adventure for a group of women back then). 

They also completed a 300 mile trek into Zanskar, a remote Buddhist Kingdom in Tibet (making themselves the first ever white women to do so).  

Antonia Deacock passed away in Sydney on March 25th.

Here is an excerpt from an interview The Telegraph did with the three women back in April 2008, titled 'The housewife explorers who climbed the Himalayas' it gives you an idea of how unprepared, fearless and adventurous they were. (I love them already)!

They were the first European women to venture into Zanskar, where foreigners were forbidden to travel for political reasons. Probably the first European women to cross Afghanistan unescorted, they even climbed a virgin peak and named it Biri Giri (Wives' Peak). Yet the trip was the antithesis of professional exploration today. The women packed plimsolls, umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun, and skipping ropes to maintain fitness. They dressed in their husband's long johns, drank pints of Brooke Bond tea (Eve, by mistake ordered enough 'to keep' a family going for 150 years'), and insisted their two Ladakhi guides have jam as part of a proper balanced diet. Morevoer, at the planning stage, neither Sims nor Deacock could drive. (Both passed their tests just before departure). 

Read the full interview here

Antonia Deacock along with her husband Warwick set up the world's first dedicated adventure travel company Ausventure, as well as writing a book on her incredible adventure, titled No purdah in Padam.

Sounds like she had an interesting and bold spirit and a life well lived, good on her.

Books about some other intrepid travelers are;

Millie x

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Addresses in lantern lit Luang Prabang

 © Copyright Millie Brown

I am sure you all know by now how much I love the town of Luang Prabang (in Northern Laos), its people, its heritage and its uniqueness.  I hope sincerely that this gorgeous place can retain its authenticity as the years pass and it finds itself welcoming more and more tourists.

The UNESCO World Heritage listing has saved much of Luang Prabang from having its shabby chic french architecture and traditional wooden Lao houses razed to the ground, and has helped Luang Prabang retain its old world charm. I am told that it is in fact one of the most authentic towns  to be found in southeast Asia today and the current restriction of disallowing any large tour buses to enter the town's centre can only be a good thing.

Having said all this, tourism is of great importance to the people of Luang Prabang and in fact for a lot of Laos, so I imagine the challenge will be to keep its renowned old world charm and laid back atmosphere while still catering to the tourists. So far so good. 

 © Copyright Millie Brown
Early evening and some flowery old world charm on Luang Prabang's main street

One of the most delightful areas of this town is the main street itself, (Sakkaline Road & Sisavangvong Road, they run into each other), its where you will find many of its cafés, restaurants and little shops. But certainly do not restrict yourself to the main street, wander the other streets and alleys, they hide all sorts of treasures.

In case you ever venture to this southeast Asian jewel here is my little book of addresses (it's little because I am only including the places I have personally experienced, and that have either taken my eye for some reason or been personally recommended).

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
Lantern lit dining terrace on the bank of the Nam Khan
Where to Stay

My first visit was spent at The Apsara Hotel which sits opposite the Nam Khan river on Kingkitsarat Road. The position is excellent, a 2 minute walk to the main street and the tranquility of the river opposite. I would have stayed here again for my second visit if i could have.

Rooms and bathrooms are just as they are photographed on the hotel's website. The open air restaurant, bar and reception area has a low key tropical feel and leads onto a terrace. The staff could not be more helpful or considerate, (being greeted by Khamsing's beautiful smile each morning at breakfast was the sweetest start to each day). Their terrace restaurant is also a great place to enjoy their Asian and western fusion dishes. 

There is also The Apsara Rive Droite (as you will see on their website) , its gorgeous but on the other side of the river to the centre of town.  Here you will find a tropical garden and pool.  If you don't stay here, take a walk over the Nam Khan via the bamboo bridge and visit anyway).

My second stay was spent at the Riverside Guesthouse, a cheaper option than the Apsara.  It has the same location, situated opposite the Nam Khan river on the same street.  If you are traveling by yourself I advise you not to take the single room as it is very small.   Half way through my stay I moved from the single room to the front double room with a balcony (a large and more comfortable option).  This guesthouse is a good choice if your budget is too tight for the Apsara. Both hotels have a terrace dining area on the bank of the Nam Khan.

Other hotels that have caught my eye while wandering Luang Prabang are;
Satri House here , Villa Chitdara here  Belle Rive Boutique Hotel here & 3 Nagas here

Where to eat

If you are staying at The Apsara, take breakfast at the hotel, the setting and the breakfast itself are great. However when I was at the Riverside Guesthouse I would go to one of my two favourite 'french' cafés on the main street for a croissant and coffee.  

Le Banneton (café french bakery) - 46 Sakkaline Road (spelt many ways Sakaline, Sakkarine, Sakkaline)!! for great bread and pastries (photo below)

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
Le Banneton

Le café Ban Vat Sene, on Sakkaline road, great for lunch, dinner, pasties coffee or glass of wine. It belongs to the same group as the renowned L'Elephant Restaurant, The Mango Tree, and The 3 Nagas.

Just a warning before I mention the restaurants, I am certainly no food critic (and I never remember to jot down what I have eaten) but I do love food and the following are restaurants I have enjoyed and that you may like to try.

L'Elephant Restaurant (French) here
Enjoyed the french ambiance and the food.

Sala Café Restaurant - (French, Lao, Thai & Vietnamese dishes) sits opposite the Nam Khan river on Kingkitsarat road. I have eaten or stopped here for a glass of wine many times and enjoyed the  terrace setting and the food. Yum to the spicy Larb salad, a Thai dish with minced beef (or other meat) served with sticky rice.

Tamarind Restaurant and cooking school - Kingkitsarat Road - Their terrace is always overflowing with clients, but to be honest I cannot rave about the one meal (and one course) I had here. However it was... one meal, and it is overflowing with people every night and day so they must be doing something right. Worth a try.

3 Nagas here the restaurants are attached to their very elegant boutique hotel (which comprises of three heritage listed buildings). Serves Lao and western dishes and you can choose to sit either in the restaurant or over the road in their luscious garden terrace, I enjoyed both.

Utopia here I randomly stumbled on this and love this new find. For a complete chill on the shores of the Nam Khan river head to this den of relaxation. You can chill on  the bamboo terrace overlooking vegetable farms and the river while eating a mouth watering sandwich, take a yoga class on the deck as the sun rises, play a game of 'beach' volleyball, lounge in the open air bar or garden (dotted with old UXO  bombs, a very sad and violent story behind these, dropped during the 'secret war', and I think it is fitting to bring it to the attention of travelers ). Very cool place, don't miss it (photo below)

© Copyright Millie Brown
Lounging on the deck at Utopia (they describe it as 'zen by day groovy by night')

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
Bamboo terrace at Utopia

For another interesting bar location and another random find of mine, take the bamboo bridge (photo below) over the Mekong river, turn immediately left and follow the path to a little rustic bar, sit on tree stumps with a beer Lao and watch river life play out. (Sorry I do not know the name of the bar but its the only one there so you won't miss it).

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

This bamboo bridge will take you over the Mekong river (photo taken at dusk, note the smokey light, March is slash and burn season in Laos).

Blue Lagoon restaurant I have not eaten here but it was personally recommended to me) here

Un petit Nid Biblio Bistro 98 Sakkaline Road (another personal recommendation) and located in a heritage listed building.


Even though I am not a 'shopper' per se I still managed to 'pop' into most of the shops while strolling the main street.

Firstly you cannot go to Luang Prabang without visiting their famous colourful night market, this takes place every night of the week (I'm not sure about low season), and takes up half of the length of the main street. My favourite buys are the elephant slippers, the bags and the scarves, and even though I'm not the biggest  shopper on earth I still managed to weigh my luggage down with far too many of all of the above.

If you love a silver ring, bracelet or anything else in silver there are many shops to visit on the main strip and as you can imagine the choice is huge and the value excellent.


Again... I am not a keen clothes shopper, and I like it to be over in a matter of minutes if it can be, and funnily enough in Luang Prabang it took just that... minutes to find that perfect little black summer dress that a lifetime never found in Australia.

You may have the same success if you 'pop' into either of these two gorgeous low key stores on the main street...they are; 

Bamboutik (46 Sakkaline Road)
The little black dress (label Phao) that I purchased here is made from exquisite bamboo cotton and there is an interesting local story behind the label, read it here  

Another little black dress was picked up in another favourite store of mine on the main strip but because of a lost notebook (that contained most of my travel notes :-/) I am unable to tell you the name! 

However you may fall upon it; divine range of jewellery with an equally lovely range of clothing, situated on the left hand side of the road if walking west and only opened late in 2011. Not much of a tip really when there is no name attached to it but I was their first customer back in 2011 and I promised them after my second visit that I would include them in my blog (it's definitely worth a recommendation).

There really are so many high quality local handcrafts and other products available in Luang Prabang that it is impossible to give them all a mention here.  You will discover them as you move around, its all part of the fun. There are clearly many very talented, industrious and hard working people in Laos.


Last but not least, my favourite shopping experience, wandering the morning food market.  I have mentioned this experience in previous blogs on Luang Prabang, but I can't bypass it here because it really is the most colourful and eye opening shopping experience of all.  It's also a brilliant way to interact with the locals and buy some fresh fruit for the day. Get up early for almsgiving (see post here) and then make your way to the market.

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
The fishmonger in action at the morning food market

There are also many, many other fantastic discoveries to be made in the town of Luang Prabang and outside it, however that's another post for another day.

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
Almsgiving in the early hours of the morning is one of the most beautiful moments of the day in Luang Prabang

PS... Massage
After all that browsing, discovering and shopping don't forget a good massage or spa treatment. I love L'Hibiscus on Sakkaline Road no 45. Clean, relaxed tropical atmosphere and great massages. Enjoy

Millie xx
Post and all material © Copyright Millie Brown 2012

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Happy Easter - Images from the island of Paxos, Greece

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

For this post I am leaving Asia and heading back to Europe.

Easter last year I was on the gorgeous and unspoilt Greek island of Paxos, and celebrations were spent with a local family enjoying succulent lamb on the spit (smoked in Rosemary) and washed down with an 'interesting' homemade red wine.

One of the greatest joys I experience through travel is undoubtedly the people I meet and the moments I capture with my camera.

Accommodation on Paxos
The gorgeous Pithari Villas
(I had the divine studio apartment with balcony overlooking the harbour and I didn't want to leave)!

© Copyright Millie Brown

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

Wishing you all a very happy, safe and chocolate filled Easter (join me back in Asia next week).

Millie xx

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