Posts in Travel

So this is the Goodbye Cambodia post

So this is the GOODBYE CAMBODIA post as I left the country on August 13, 2021. I thank everybody who has ever supported me on this almost 12-year journey. An utmost colorful chapter in the book of my life.

Thank you for your connection here, your dedication in Phnom Penh, your time to escape to the most comfortable movie theater South-East Asia has ever had, and your desire to see it grow into what it became.

Kolyan Keth now runs the Foodoo – The $5 Gourmet Dinner Box project, which I founded when I saw the need for dinner box deliveries three years ago. My pride and joy for better bread baking in Cambodia, Sandwich Heaven, is passed onto the hands of the highly professional Khmer managers. I keep the secret recipes for my vegetarian nut cheeses by The Nutcracker with me (I can always restart such production elsewhere again). The Phnom Penh’s English Book Exchange with a collection over over +1250 English fiction books has moved to Botanico Wine & Beer Garden.

My latest project, the literary magazine The Quiet Reader, will always stay an online project with the world’s most beautiful short stories by new and emerging authors. But imagine a Best Of-book, one day. To be continued…

The Flicks Community Movie House is closed forever and the venue has been stripped bare. What an enormous joy and connection with the community that job gave me. I don’t think I will ever meet that many people as through an operation like that.
I am so happy the ceiling plates did not fall down in the last weeks, the projector lamp didn’t die, the AC only needed one final re-gas, nobody fell through the termite infested floor planks below the carpet — so it can all nicely collapse on its own, in peace.

Living in Cambodia allowed me to travel and experience the different cultures in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia (where the earthquake tremors gave me some serious PTSD for months), Singapore, Malaysia, but also further away in Japan (which is “the most beautiful woman I have ever met, but I have no clue what she’s saying”), South Korea and China.

Thanks for all the memories, drinks, the foods, foreign friends visiting, the laughs, the journeys, pub quizzes, bike rides, brunches, beaches, sports, islands, and the many celebrations that made it all too unforgettable for the rest of my life.

Cambodia surely has its ups and downs and I have had my share (and enough) of all tropical diseases you can throw at me (I will tell you about that unforgettable typhoid experience for a few beers), but they are experiences nobody can ever take away from me.

There is a expression going around that if you can’t handle yourself (or a business) in Cambodia, you can’t handle yourself anywhere else and I see a good sense of truth in there.

Cambodia is a weird, sometimes baffling, but other times a true magical kingdom of wonder – that will always keep you wondering (and bribing the relevant ministries).

I am moving on, pursuing my dreams and passions. It’s time for a new life elsewhere.

To cite a recent fan mail: Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU.

The day my music died

Back to this day, June 25 in 2009.

I escaped my home in Amsterdam for a week off and bought myself a night train ride to Italy. And after a few days in the metropolis city of Milan, I continued on to Rome in a 3-hour train ride through the green country side. I was able to couchsurf with a young Italian couple living in the outer suburbs of Rome.

They basically took my hand and dragged me along in their Italian life. When they were working, I managed to explore Vatican City, I saw the Pantheon, ate pizzas and saw the impressive Colosseum. And I probably visited all 19 basilicas, because I am a nerd. And I did what the Romans do: eat all that delicious gelato ice cream. All day long. It was a hot summer day.

In the early evenings I would meet up with my hosts again and life was very pleasant. We played music, they invited friends over or we went out for drinks.

I was very lucky when one of my hosts had to work in the security department of a big stadium concert. If I wanted to join her. Yes, of course. It was a concert by Tiziano Ferro. “He is the Michael Jackson of Italy. Our biggest pop star!”, she said. I remembered that name. Tiziano had a little summer hit in The Netherlands earlier (youtube). Thanks to my hostess I was able to get into the stadium if I only could just help out the people in their wheelchair area in front of the stage and make sure they are all happy there. What a blast that was. And the crowd sung along. I learned some more Italian and the concert was an absolute joy to attend.

It was just after the show, when I was taken backstage in the catacombs of the stadium and waiting for my hostess to be finished with her job, when the mood changed by a full180 degrees.

I had a received a text message on my phone from a good friend in The Netherlands. Everybody around me seemed to have received such a message. People were on their phone sending more messages. This wasn’t the time yet when we all had data and could surf to the BBC website for a news update. It went by phone and texts. People were in disbelief. Some people cried.

The night ended in mourning. Playing the music. Sharing stories. Have more wine or beer. Staring out of the windows.

It was the day Michael Jackson died.

That World Blogging Forum 2009 in Bucharest

It is 2009. It all started with a suspicious email.

“Hello Ramon, we are inviting you to come to the World Blogging Forum in Bucharest in two weeks. Let us know your details and we arrange the flights.”

Me: “This is a scam, right?”

“Not at all. Have a look at our website. We have a full program with many bloggers from all over the world and are backed up by the Romanian government and all. Oh, and it will all take place at The Palace of the Parliament [only the second biggest building in the world]. We need you to be there too.”

We were not “bloggers” like how they are known nowadays. All participants were mostly the first ever people publishing on the internet. Some participants had no rights or freedom of expression in their own country. Some could not come because they were afraid. Others were arrested and detained when they returned to their home country after this event.

It was one of the highest honors to be present and discuss along with people with such caliber.

This was in times when we were still figuring out what this Twitter thing could mean. The world was modernizing really fast and phones lost buttons and became smarter. Don’t even think about uploading a video from your phone onto Youtube yet, though. Instagram did not even exist for another 3 years.

This ended up to be one my most dearest experiences ever. The people. The ideas. The care by all the English University students. Tours. The parks. The enthusiasm. (The after parties). Bucharest.

How to keep a place forever in a heart.