Want to shake up your life for 2014, but don’t know how? AsiaLIFE has the answer, with five pages of practical tips to help keep New Year’s resolutions on track. Words by Ellie Dyer, Marissa Carruthers and Joanna Mayhew. Photographs by Conor Wall.
Getting fit: It’s that nagging resolution that always turns out to be as fleeting as Cambodia’s cool season. Luckily, the country has numerous opportunities to trick your body into shape without your social life missing a beat.
For a start, try learning the ropes at Kid’s City. The multi-coloured building on Sihanouk Boulevard, opened last year, offers the first indoor climbing in the capital. Don’t let the name deceive you. The 10-metre-high walls — including rotating holds and timed climbs — will challenge adults’ strength and flexibility week to week. The centre also boasts ice-skating and laser tag, with all activities two-for-one on Mondays.
For a more local experience, check out Olympic Stadium for sunset aerobics classes. At least 10 groups, spread across the rim of the stadium, exercise to a variety of tunes and charge just 1,000 riel per workout. The sprawling complex also offers tennis courts for rent ($3 per hour) and a 50-metre swimming pool with diving platforms ($1.50 for foreigners).
Setting exercise goals is key, and Cambodia is now home to several races to train for. Run near the beaches in May’s Sihanoukville Half-Marathon or tour the temples with December’s Angkor Wat International Half-Marathon. Siem Reap’s inaugural full marathon is also set to take place in August. In Phnom Penh, take advantage of the 14 races listed on the Running in Cambodia website, or train for April’s Mekong River Swim.
You don’t have to go it alone. Tri-Cambodia organises regular swims, runs and bike rides, the Phnom Penh Hash arranges runs and walks every Sunday ($5 for foreigners), while the Phnom Penh Runners host long runs on Sunday mornings. For cyclists, the Phnom Penh Bike Hash rides through the countryside once a month ($12 per a trip). For more leisurely rides, rent a pushbike for as little as $1 at travel agencies on Street 278.
Team sports are also a great way to expand social circles and stay in shape, and here you’re spoiled for choice. Co-ed netball is on tap every Monday at Hope International School, ultimate frisbee takes place three times a week at various locations, and the Cambodian Eagles Australian Rules Football offer annual memberships ($50) with training twice a week.
With fitness options for every day of the week, your FOMO (fear of missing out) will stay in check despite the inevitable bar invites. And your body will thank you for finally checking the peskiest resolution of all off the list.
WAYS TO GET FIT
Play ultimate Frisbee
Scale a wall
January is the perfect month to start thinking outside of the metaphorical box, thanks to the Our City Festival, which is set to take over Phnom Penh from the 17th to the 26th. Events include a village festival at the White Building on Sothearos Boulevard on Jan. 18, with sunset performances on the iconic structure’s roof.
If you’re inspired to pick up a paintbrush, a dizzying range of paper and art materials can be found at stationary stores like the IBC and independent retailers — a good one is located on Street 19 near the Royal University of Fine Arts. But if you’re hesitant to go it alone, there are also plenty of group lessons to help spark your inner van Gogh.
Sao Sreymao teaches art classes at Romeet Gallery on Street 178 every Saturday, with children’s sessions starting at 11.30am and adults at 2.30pm. Each lesson focuses on a different artistic technique, from still life and portraiture to illustration and watercolour. All materials are provided.
Phnom Penh Community College is another good stop-off. The college, on the corner of Street 294 and Street 63, hosts accessible classes where pupils can learn a range of new skills. Sessions provisionally booked in for January include a double photography workshop and a wine-tasting course, with mid-week art lessons also in the works.
If craft is your passion, Stitch ‘n’ Bitch is a thriving group that holds informal gatherings for knitters, crochet enthusiasts and embroiderers. Attendees normally bring supplies along, but free knitting lessons and materials are being provided on Jan. 7 and 16 at Java Café from 6.30pm as the group works on knitting cyclo covers as part of a “yarn-storming” project for the Our City Festival.
For amateur dramatics, join The Phnom Penh Players — a well-established group that puts on an annual pantomime among other performances. And, with the beauty of Cambodia at your doorstep, why not make the most of your camera skills? Nathan Horton runs weekend workshops for all ability levels, which include practical lessons and field trips to locations such as Silk Island and Kampong Chhnang. Photographer Michael Klinkhamer also runs daily four-hour tours and workshops starting from the FCC.
THINGS TO TRY
Learn a new skill
Improve camera skills
See the arts festival
Using technology to do some of the hard work for you, by keeping track of outgoings via your phone, is a good
first step. Free apps like GoodBudget enable users to divide up a monthly income into categories — like food, travel, savings and accommodation — and then track payments to ensure pre-set budgets are met.
Making the most out of the capital’s wealth of bargains and free attractions can also help. Why not peruse the city’s multitude of free art galleries, take the family on a walk around the Grecian monuments of Diamond Island, or use your legs as transport with a dusk stroll along the riverside (the free gym equipment is an added bonus for
If you can’t cut out consumer spending or need to source household essentials, then shop sensibly. Local markets are a great start, as are the wave of 2,500 riel shops that have spawned in the capital over the last six months.
Second-hand shops, especially those offering Japanese goods, are also a good source of cheap yet classy crockery. Thrift store Toto on Street 47 is a treasure trove of unexpected items, including household goods, furniture, clothes, bags and shoes.
Buying indulgent items at canny times can also benefit your wallet. Many bakeries, including the Cambodiana hotel (from 5pm to 8pm) and Kirya coffee (after 5.30pm), offer a range of goods at half price late in the day.
For fashion addicts, second-hand clothing can be found at BKK market; or shop vintage at Color on Street 13 or Lost ‘n’ Found Vintage on Street 63. With expats constantly leaving Cambodia, and their belongings, behind, try holding a clothes swap. Get a group of friends to bring any surplus or abandoned wares to a central point, and pick out your favourites for free.
Facebook groups like Phnom Penh Buy and Sell often feature cut-price kitchen items being sold by departing foreigners. And, while we’re in the kitchen, cutting down on food costs doesn’t mean taking a hit on taste. Street food is cheap and tasty. Try our favourites, grou-aj anng (grilled quail) for around 4,000 riel a pop, or a bowl of sweet plai ai cake balls for about 1,000 riel.
TIPS FOR BELT TIGHTENING
Download budgeting app
Go for family walks
Eat on the street
Living or working in the Kingdom doesn’t necessarily come hand-in-hand with expansive knowledge of the country. So, if you’re not local, why not make it your New Year’s resolution to delve deeper into what Cambodia has to offer?
Getting off the beaten track is an excellent way to experience the Kingdom’s diversity. With an abundance of eco-tourism trips springing up across Cambodia, you can also help protect its natural resources while having fun.
The village of Chi Phat, in the Western province of Koh Kong, provides a gateway into the Cardamom Mountains, with a large waterfall and historic burial jars hidden on rocky crags nearby. Homestays can cost from as little as $3 a night, with eco-lodge options from $13 to $20 per night.
To Cambodia’s east, the sleepy town of Kratie is not only home to freshwater dolphins but also the rare Cantor’s Soft-shell Turtle. The Mekong Turtle Conservation Centre (free entry) is set in the grounds of an impressive 480-year-old pagoda and runs a fascinating breeding project.
For those who think they already know the country inside out, why not learn how to survive in the wild? Former French Foreign Legion soldier David Minetti, who spent five years training in the depths of the South American jungle, runs K1 Cambodian Jungle Trekking, which specialises in tailor-made trips that teach survival techniques and take avid adventurers deep into the Sre Ambel jungle.
For a child-friendly taste of the wild, try Phnom Tamao Zoo, about 40km outside of Phnom Penh, where visitors can walk among enclosures full of deer and get up close to sun and moon bears at the on-site sanctuary.
And if nature doesn’t appeal, educate yourself from the comfort of a seat. Both the Bophana Audio Visual Resource Centre on Street 200 and Meta House on Sothearos Boulevard regularly screen Cambodia-centric documentaries and films.
Sports fans can spend a free afternoon watching kick-boxing live at the CTN arena, near Japanese Bridge. From 2pm, a string of fighters take to the ring, but be warned it gets hot ringside. Or perhaps get in on the action yourself by trying out the ancient martial art of Yutakhun Khom at the Selapak school of Khmer arts on Street 110, where pupils can also learn the graceful art of Apsara dancing.
Learn Survival Skills
Attend Khmer Arts School
Visit Chi Phat
Get started at Wat Langka on Street 51. The temple offers free one-hour Buddhist meditation sessions on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 6pm, though donations are welcome.
If an hour of silence and focusing on your breathing is too much, spend an afternoon poolside — and don’t feel guilty, you’re allowed to take time out. For $7 worth food and drink purchases, you can spend the day around Patio Hotel’s infinity pool, which features stunning views of Phnom Penh.
Sometimes, life in the smoke can get too much, so try heading out of town. Get a beachside massage by the calm waters of Rabbit Island off Kep, lounge by the river in Kampot, or head to the thriving arts community of Cambodia’s “rice bowl” of Battambang.
Alternatively, laze the day away in a hammock at one of the many bars that line the Mekong about 10km outside of the capital on National Route Six, or spend a day messing about on the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers. Phnom Penh Fishing Tours ($15 including dinner and drinks) visits some of the best spots to land a prize catch, with a fish cooked up with pepper sauce and sour mango at the end of the day.
Leaving the hustle and bustle of city life can be as easy as jumping in a tuk-tuk over Japanese Bridge and getting on the small ferry to Koh Dach, which sits about 15km from the city centre. The island is the perfect place to enjoy a peaceful picnic, explore the paddy fields and be serenaded by the gentle clack of the community’s silk looms.
But taking time out doesn’t have to mean peace and quiet. Beefing up your social circle is a sure fire way to get the serotonin levels flowing. With a string of networking events taking place across the city monthly, there’s no shortage of places to find new friends. Try the monthly Tapas Fever night at Doors on Street 47, with free flow tapas and selected wine from 7pm to 9pm ($20
IDEAS FOR R&R
Meditate @ Wat Langka
Catch the ferry to Koh Dach
Fish for supper