Vancouver’s sub-standard train system

I’ve been so impressed with the transportation systems in Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand and around Europe, particularly the trains.They’re very clean, have some kind of gating system that ensures almost everyone pays for their fare, and run very efficiently.

When I left Vancouver in 2013 to work in Cambodia, I was happy to hear that the city was installing turnstyles because a long time ago, someone had the not-so-bright idea of just using the honour system and trusting that people will pay their tickets. And TransLink lost a hell of a lot of money with this system, which would in turn, force them to increase fares to make up for it, making it less attractive and feasible for people to take public transit.

It would be much cheaper to hire an engineering consultant from Asia that actually designed the train system to be robust and functional. If trains broke down as much as they do in Vancouver or operated at the slow speed for the volume of people in Asia, there would be a riot. Bangkok’s population has a much higher volume of people taking the train and it is very efficient and I’ve never had to skip a train even in rush hour to get where I needed to go in the crowded city.

Fast-forward two years and over $190 million dollars later, the planned Compass Card system still doesn’t work. I went back to visit Vancouver for a month last year and took the SkyTrain almost every day and these are just a few of the daily problems I encountered:

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The kindess of travelers

I’ve been in Siem Reap for almost three years and many of my Cambodian friends are the most hospitable and friendly people I have ever met in my life. The thought of leaving Cambodia makes me so sad because it’s hard to find Western people with the same level of hospitality.

I left Siem Reap yesterday to see one of my best friends Christina in Barcelona. She is the reason I came to Cambodia for the first time in 2009 to do a 500 km fundraising bike ride for the PEPY NGO.

I was lucky to be reminded that there are friendly and generous travelers around. I’ve been settled in Siem Reap so being there for awhile sometimes makes me doubt the level of friendliness among travelers.

When I got one my first plane, there was a traveler who didn’t speak much English. But he immediately helped me put my carry on bag in the overhead and helped call the stewardess when I needed something.

On my route I had to transfer through Ghangzhou China and Paris to get to Barcelona. China Southern Airlines is nice because if you have a long layover they do a free transfer to a big hotel for you to stay in, even if it’s not overnight. My layover was eight hours and a shuttle bus took us for just three hours then back to the airport.

I wasn’t really in the mood to be social with the other travelers because I was grieving leaving Siem Reap. While we were walking to the hotel reception, one girl asked me if we were going to the right place. I said yes and asked her where she was from. When she said Barcelona, we immediately started chatting and explained to her that I was meeting a friend there.

After the hotel we stuck with each other and kept each other company during our long layover. She was so nice to offer to pay for our airport snack and drink and she said it was my early welcome before coming to Barcelona.

I told her I will treat her a coffee once we have time in Barcelona. The time went by a lot faster while we were chatting and we planned to meet up with our friends.

It’s a good thing we were together because in the Air France gate, we didn’t hear any announcement that the gates we were supposed to board on was different than our boarding pass and we almost missed our flight. We almost boarded a long line going to Bordeaux instead of Barcelona. We were five minutes away from missing our plane.

The views from the plane of the big puffy clouds, water, mountains and friends, were spectacular during this flight. How a plane works and being able to travel anywhere is magical and a huge privilege that I hope some of my dearest friends can experience.

When we finally arrived in sunny Barcelona, I didn’t have change from my 50 Euro bill to pay for the Aerobus. She was so nice to tell me she had enough change to cover both of us. Of course I said I would pay her back but she didn’t seem too concerned about it.

This is my first time in Spain and at first glance, I’m fascinated with the style of the buildings, restaurants and vibe of the city. I’ve been so used to Asian architecture the last few years so it’s nice to see a very different style and a blend of people from all over the world.

She told me where to get off the bus and was very genuine in telling me to message her as soon as I get a number so we can meet up.

It was great that she was there so I’m not just sulking and thinking about how much I miss people in Cambodia.

The beginning of a 2-week ceremony honouring ancestors in Cambodia

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On Sunday, September 27, I went with my Khmer (Cambodian) family to go to a pagoda 40 km outside of Siem Reap where my friend’s mother in law lives to celebrate the first day of Pchum Ben, a religious celebration where Cambodians pay their respects to their ancestors for up to 7 generations. People celebrate for two weeks leading up to the national holiday on October 11, 2015.

During this period, the monks chant all night without sleeping and people go to the pagoda as early as 3:00 a.m. to offer food. 95% of the country is Buddhist and during the holiday, people offer drinks, rice, or other food for the monks to eat and they believe these offerings will benefit their deceased ancestors.

Here is how I spent my morning with my Khmer family:

Road trip!

My Khmer family was so nice to buy a truckload full of drinks, salt, rice and other items to offer the small pagoda 40 km outside of Siem Reap in a poor community. The pagodas in Siem Reap receive a lot because many people go to the ones in town.

The beautiful green landscape in the countryside that appears during the rainy season.

This is a small pagoda where my Khmer family made their offerings in the countryside. They were raising money to expand it. We arrived while they were doing the ceremony, which lasted up to a few hours. We didn’t stay because we were going to each lunch at my friend Konnitha’s mother-in-law close by.

Kids playing just outside the pagoda.

This is Konnitha (left) with her cousin (right) on the way to her mother-in-law’s house.

This is a custard apple fruit that is grown on Konnitha’s mother-in-law’s farm.

These are Konnitha’s grandmas eating before lunch.

I love how so many kids in Cambodia know how to entertain themselves and use whatever is around them to play. They don’t need a lot of toys and things, they just need to use their imaginations.

Our countryside lunch was comprised of ribs, curry, fried fish, and pineapple.

The whole family ate together.