Posted by: Simon & Becci | February 10, 2015

Market research

I recently read that the UK’s largest supermarket chain, Tesco, was closing 43 of its stores around the country following a dip in sales and profits over the past couple of years.

As it attempts to revive its fortunes and surge ahead of its competitors once more, I wondered if the supermarket giant could learn a few things from how things are done here in Cambodia, where a trip to the market is always great fun. So, here are a few suggestions to get Tesco back on top….

1) Make the shopping aisles narrower


Here in Phnom Penh, shopping is not about wide aisles, soft background music and carefully labelled goods. Its about people, noise, smells and negotiation. Shopping in the UK has become impersonal – you push your trolley around speaking to no-one and then scan your goods at a self-service check out. Here its about chatting to a toothless older lady as she weighs your kilo of carrots. Tesco – bring back the life!

2) Offer fresher produce


Like many supermarkets, Tesco has a “quality and freshness” guarantee, and work hard to bring the best products to its customers. However, I think they have missed a trick. Why not copy the markets here and offer really fresh products, that are in fact, still alive? In Phnom Penh you can choose your fish and watch it squirm whilst the seller skins it alive and prepares it for you…..

3) Create drive-through shopping


Han-Na models her rainy season moto wardrobe…

For those in a hurry, but who still want the personal touch rather than buying their groceries over the internet, how about a drive through section where you can select your goods and pay without having to get off your motorbike? From personal experience, I can tell you that’s its fun in the daytime but amazingly atmospheric at night!


Toul Tom Poung market in the evening

4) Worry less about hygiene


Becci hunts for some bargains (notice the fresh meat and vegetables side by side)

This one might be somewhat of a controversial suggestion, but buying fresh vegetables and meat that have been left out on the side with flies landing on them all day is a treat for both your nostils and your tummy. It is also good exercise – rather than nibbling on pre-packed, pre-washed salad, you have to make sure you spend several minutes over your sink scrubbing your vegetables when you get home!


5) Turn your car park into a food court at night


Without any doubt, this is my top suggestion. There are lots of lovely restaurants in Phnom Penh, but hands-down my favourite place to eat is in the market car park that gets converted into a food court when the sun goes down. Park your moto, pull up a chair, chat to your friends, watch your fried rice freshly cooked in front of you, drink a freshly made fruit smoothie and pay less that $3 (£2) in total.

Just think of the potential for creating community in the supermarket car parks around the UK! Maybe I’ll bring a couple of woks with me next time I’m in the UK and give it a try….


So there you have it. Maybe Tesco will find some of these suggestions of use. After all, every little helps….

Posted by: Simon & Becci | December 9, 2014

Runner Runner

This coming Sunday sees the 2014 BBC Sports Personality of the Year announced in the UK. So, who will get your vote? Jo Pavey? Lewis Hamilton? Or maybe current favourite Rory McIlroy?

I would like to throw in a last minute candidate: my wife Becci Brown. Here are the reasons why I believe she should win the coveted trophy….


(NOTE: Most of what follows is true. Some might be just a little bit exaggerated….)

2014 has been a year of unparalleled sporting success for Becci. Following her achievement of swimming across the Mekong River in world record time earlier this year, Becci sets her sights on an even more challenging goal: winning the annual 10 KM race at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap that was held last weekend. Over 8000 people from 78 different nations entered the event this year, so Becci knew her competition would be tough.

After several months of gruelling training to prepare herself for the humid conditions in Siem Reap, Becci arrived at the world famous temple complex in peak condition.


She and her training partner, Han-Na Cha, arrived at the course shortly after 5am on Sunday morning eager to begin, along with friends David and Miri who were among the favourites in the longer half marathon.

Excitement mounted on the start line

“Tension” mounted on the start line…

Before the race finally got underway! Becci was so confident of success however that she and Han-Na hung back to allow others a head start

Before the race finally got underway! Becci was so confident of success that she decided to hang back to allow others a head start

Very soon, though runners were trailing in her wake

Very soon, however, runners (and pushchairs) were left trailing in her wake

She and Han-Na then pulled into an unassailable lead, even having time for a selfie....

She and Han-Na pulled into an unassailable lead, even having time for a selfie at Bayon….

...and to take pictures of the beautiful surroundings

…and to take more pictures of the beautiful surroundings


Crowds gathered at the finish line as they awaited the return of the runners

And unsurprisingly, Becci won the Gold!

They were not disappointed. Unsurprisingly, Becci won the Gold!

What more do I need to say? This Sunday: vote Becci!

(Thanks to Han-Na for the pictures!)

Posted by: Simon & Becci | November 25, 2014

Art attack

I love God’s promises. I love to pray into them. I love people having fun. I love being creative. And I love it when all of these things come together!

During a recent week of prayer in the church, we used various creative ways to help us to think about and pray into different pictures and promises that God has given us over recent years. We shared some of these photos with people at the leaders conference in Sydney earlier this month, and their enthusiastic reaction encouraged us to share them a bit wider, so here you go…

The Statue of Liberty

One of God’s promises to Liberty Family Church in Phnom Penh is that we’ll be like the Statue of Liberty: visible and bringing hope and freedom to people.


So we asked people to write down on this banner what God’s freedom means to them in Khmer or English (Statue of Liberty pose not required).

The arrow and the bridges

Another guiding picture we’ve had is of an arrow being shot into Phnom Penh and then bridges growing out from the city into the provinces and nations around.


So we asked people to pray and stick an arrow onto somewhere in Cambodia where they’d love to see us send people to possibly plant a church in future….


….and then stick another onto a different nation. (One arrow was put in London, so watch out for a Cambodian church plant there in a few years time!)

The two rivers

Finally, we received a lovely prophetic picture of the church being like two rivers who join together. When they join the waters are so well mixed you don’t know which river the water has come from. The river goes on to become a great river that brings life everywhere.

We have understood the two rivers to represent Cambodians and those from overseas joining together in the church.


So we decided to paint the picture of the two rivers using our hands


One river painted by Cambodians….


…and one by foreigners (no Lucia, not Zombies)


The end result: one great river!

Our prayer is that these would not just be nice pictures or activities, but by God’s grace, would become a reality over the coming years.

If you’d like to read someone else’s take on Liberty Family Church then have a read of this short and encouraging update from Peter and Susan Brooks.

Posted by: Simon & Becci | October 8, 2014

Top five uses for a moto

Any resident or visitor to Phnom Penh will know how many uses there are for the humble 50 – 110cc motorbike. Wherever you go in the city, motos buzz around like bees: on the street, on the pavement, driving against the flow of traffic on the wrong side of the road and much, much more.

We have posted about the joys of moto driving before, but to celebrate three years of endlessly entertaining moto driving, Becci and I would like to present the top five uses for a moto in Phnom Penh….

5) For your entire family

Whilst UK law relating to seat belts and booster seats makes it difficult for couples with three small children to own a car much smaller than a minibus, in Cambodia there are no such problems. Family of five? One moto? No problem….


Becci has also seen a baby being held and bottle-fed by her father whilst he was driving, which I’m not sure would go down that well in Coventry.

4) As a bed

Tired from the heat of the day? Just find a shady spot, pull your moto over to the side of the road, lay back and relax!


3) For purchases

Whether it is something that you need delivered, or something that you have purchased and need to bring back yourself, the humble moto is easily big enough for all of your transportation needs.


The classic “pane of glass on a moto” image courtesy of our friend Garry Byles


If you add a small trailer to the back you can carry even more things “securely”….


2) For wandering monks

Monks kitted out in bright orange robes are a familiar sight walking the streets of the city, but at the end of a long day moving from house to house, requesting a free lift from a passing moto driver seems to be all the rage.


1) For live animals

How did the chicken cross the road? Tied upside down on the back of a moto with all of his friends of course! The same things happens to ducks, whose supple long necks mean that they look and quack at you when you drive past them on their way to the market.


We have thus far failed a get a picture of a live pig in a rattan basket upside-down on the back of a moto, which is always a sight to behold. If its a bag of live fish you are looking for though, the guy below will be happy to help…


Posted by: Simon & Becci | September 28, 2014

Year Four begins…

If you are a regular reader of our blog posts you will have noticed a rather lengthy break in communication since the start of June. Sorry about that. I promise to do better.

The past 3 months have been a rather unusual season during which Becci has stopped working at Hope School, we have moved house, visited England, Scotland and France to see friends and family, hosted visitors to Phnom Penh and more, all of which have distracted me somewhat from blog writing.

With the expanding Brown side and of the family in Lyon

With the expanding Brown side of the family in Lyon…

...and the expanding O'Brien side in Scotland

…and the expanding O’Brien side in Scotland

In the past couple of weeks we were also also due to visit Japan to speak at the Grace City Nagoya church camp until I managed to come down with Dengue Fever the day before we were due to fly, thus forcing our trip to be cancelled. Mosquitos. Grrr. Dengue is a bit like Malaria, so not much fun, and I’m happy to report both that I am now fully recovered and that the church camp went really well in our absence.

We have now started our fourth year in Cambodia (amazing how time flies) and I have been reminiscing using some of our (many) pictures recently. As I did this I discovered a selection of amusing signs that we’ve come across. So, as a light hearted way to reboot the blog I thought I’d share a few of them….


I don’t know what the Khmer says, but in English does this mean that everything is allowed?


Ok, attention to detail required. Sopheak models a lovely T-Shirt highlighting the Kingdom of England’s flag and most famous landmark. Oh hang on….


Beware peeping toms in the toilets? Not the warning most women want


Apparently this only applies in the countryside where no-one else is around. Against the wall by the side of the road anywhere in the busy city is perfectly acceptable judging by male behaviour


My personal favourite. Amazing the difference one little vowel can make. However I think this idea might be worth marketing for those times when you just need to let off steam…


Posted by: Simon & Becci | June 4, 2014

Bye Bye Tokay

So, after nearly three years in Phnom Penh we are moving house. Following Steve and Mollie’s example and moving to a slum was tempting, but we have opted for a nice apartment instead! Its fairly near to where we live now but with 2 bedrooms and only 4 bathrooms (!) is a fair bit smaller than the P’teah L’Veng where we are now.

photo 2

The apartment complex that will be our new home!

It will be both an exciting and sad day when we move out at the end of this month, as so many happy memories of our time here thus far are intrinsically linked to our current home.

Of course there are things that we’ll be happy to forget such as our water tank bursting, Becci being trapped in the shower with a rat, and the night when a cockroach fell from the ceiling and landed on Becci’s neck while she was sleeping!

It will also be a welcome change not to have to park our motorbikes inside the house, hauling the heavy metallic gates open and shut each time we do so, or have rubbish from the local area blow in under our door.


Becci shows her speed gate locking skills

One of the things we will really miss is being lulled to sleep each night by the sound of our neighbourhood Tokay geckos. First time visitors to the house are always taken aback when they first hear the amazing mating calls that these geckos make, and join in the game of guessing how many “to-kay, to-kay” calls the gecko will make before he runs out of steam.

However, until recently we had never managed to spot one as they seemed to hide away until after dark. All of that has now changed! First of all we got a close up one night as the Tokay explored our kitchen door….


Having concluded that we looked friendly, the gecko has decided to take up residence immediately about our front door and has brought a friend along too….

P1010292Its two weeks since we took these pictures and there’s no sign of the geckos moving on – apparently above our door is THE place to live for fashionable Tokays in Phnom Penh.


So, if you are looking for a house to rent in Phnom Penh which comes with the possibility of a large, multi-coloured lizard falling on your head each time you open your front door, please drop us a line!

Posted by: Simon & Becci | May 20, 2014

The sound of rats and smell of their urine….

“At night time we got so hot, and the sound of rats crawling around us and the smell of their urine was a bit unnerving, plus the shouting of the drunken men outside and the extremely loud TVs next door….”

Intrigued? Disgusted? Read on…

One of the great privileges of living in Phnom Penh is that we get to meet some pretty amazing people, who are doing some pretty amazing things. And none more so than our good friends Steve and Mollie Brown.

Having lunch with Steve and Mollie on their visit to Phnom Penh on Sunday

Having lunch with Steve and Mollie on their visit to Phnom Penh on Sunday

Steve and Mollie are from Grimsby (via Leeds) in the UK, and have been in Cambodia for nearly two years working for Iris Ministries. Iris are of one several organisations fighting against the massive injustices of human trafficking, child slavery and exploitation that are widespread across the country, which lead to devastated and broken lives, families and communities.


Steve and Mollie were part of our church for 18 months before moving down to the coastal town of Sihanoukville earlier this year to help lead the Iris projects there. As they moved they felt God call them to do a number of things including giving away many of their possessions, and to live in one of Sihanoukville’s slums for a month!

The link below is their story of the time they spent there during April (the hottest month of the year). You may not know Steve and Mollie, and may never meet them but can I invite you to be inspired by their courage and faith for a few minutes?

Posted by: Simon & Becci | April 28, 2014

Mekong River Swim

In case you don’t know this, Phnom Penh is the meeting place of two rivers: the Tonle Sap and the Mekong. The Tonle Sap is a remarkable river whose flow changes direction twice a year as it fills and then drains the largest freshwater lake in South-East Asia (also called the Tonle Sap) in the rainy and dry seasons respectively. The mighty Mekong meanwhile is a mere 4350km long as it journeys from Tibet through six countries before emptying into the South China Sea. It can swell to several kilometres in width in places, and this week Becci swam across it!


She did this alongside 139 others in the annual “Mekong River Swim” just north of Phnom Penh early on Sunday morning. Sadly I was not there to witness it, so join with me in reliving her wonderful experience…..


Becci (complete with competitor number tattoo) and her friend Susan get ready to start


The participants had to swim a stretch of river about 800 metres in length


Firstly they had a pleasant cruise to help them cross to the other side


Becci and Susan were rather excited…


On the far bank it was a case of paddle along the mud bank, get set, and go!


Can you spot Becci?


Rescue boats lined the course as the swimmers made their way towards shore


Finished! A delighted Becci makes it across in 88th place in a time of 16 minutes 34 seconds


Becci and several of her colleagues from Hope School (including our friend Mike Emery from Coventry) celebrate their success

Becci has already noted the date for next year’s swim and has started a campaign for me to join her…..

(Some photos courtesy of Kee Park and the Mekong River Swim website).


« Newer Posts - Older Posts »