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Saturday, July 22, 2006
 
And, it's bag drag day again!  Mike is off at 5 PM, me at 8:30!  Ready to come home for a little while. . .
 
Spent our last night at a Marine House Party and our friends Serena's new bar, then back to the hotel where the boy's played pool until 1:30 AM (I went to BED!).
 
A few "clean-up" things to do today, dropped the coffee maker off to Jeff at the Jungle, said our good-byes around town. 
 
Home soon!

Thursday, July 20, 2006
"Paranoia will destory ya'"
 
Ever since I had my bag snatched, I am paranoid about carrying anything around this town.  Yesterday (finally), I went shopping for all the little things I need to bring home, and ended up sending a 26 pound box of stuff home!  Purses galore!  But, because I'm so paranoid I had to wear Mike's shorts to the market, with money and phone and passport stuffed in all my (his) different pockets. 
 
I had my passport because LaLa and I decided to venture on down to the police station and attempt to file a report about my bag.  As always, I'm sure, what a trip!  I don't like going to police stations anywhere, but I know that without an official report, our insurance company will do nothing.  Everyone there spoke, read and wrote English (SHOCKING), so that was easy. . . it was just the bribing part that was alluding me.  I knew I was supposed to bribe them, but they were making it SO hard.  After two hours of filling out paperwork and repeating my story, they insisted I return at 3 PM with something from the Embassy. 
 
I wasn't able to reach Mike until later in the afternoon, and he had spoken to the RSO, who was going to send me down there with one of his Investigators in the morning.  So, I blew off returning to the police station (who I had given no money to, they told me to pay later, when I got the report).   Sarin (the investigator) and I returned this morning, and boy, were they MAD.  First they were upset that I hadn't returned yesterday (they waited until 7 PM, knowing they could count on rich foreigner for good bribe), and when I didn't return, they ACTUALLY CALLED THE EMBASSY LOOKING FOR ME!!! 
 
Then, I show up with an Embassy official who called their Major to be there, so they knew the possibility of getting any money was now NIL.  But, it only took about 15 minutes to get the report, and then about 15 minutes of kissing the Major's butt, to get out of there.  But, before I left, and in front of the Major, I looked directly at the guy who was trying to bribe me yesterday and asked him how much money I was supposed to pay.  He was like, "Money?  We don't want your stinking money" (Okay, I paraphrase), but I tossed him a knowing look and left with my escort.  Glad we're leaving soon, though.  This guy could probably have me robbed/killed/runover with a blink of an eye, and he knows where I live!!!  Will lie low. . . heehee.  If he would have just done the report yesterday, without insisting on some paperwork from the Embassy that doesn't exist, I would have paid my bribe, taken the report and been on my way. . . so pretty much his fault, although I'm sure he's not looking at it that way.
 
After that debacle, Lala and I went and picked Savi up for some shopping!  I wanted to go to Central Market to see the gal I bought from last year, but Savi insisted on going to Russian Market, which is much further away, so we could "save some money".  Okay, whatever. 
 
I was trying to buy a large quantity of the bamboo purses I brought home last year, but was hard to find someone that had a lot of them.  They begged, borrowed, and stole, though, so now I have a bunch of them, and some more cloth bags and purses, a few shirts, etc.  But Savi was just hilarious bargaining with these girls,  Anything I picked up SHE would tell THEM what I would pay.  Got pretty good deals, though I think I could have done the same with my gal at Central Market.  It's just SO HOT AND MISERABLE in those markets.  A couple hours is surely way too long to spend!
 
Trying to keep busy these last days, but has been raining like crazy and Mike has had a pretty messed up stomach (and we both took a cycle of WORM PILLS after returning from our weekend away).  Main things are done, spend tomorrow packing I guess.  I don't leave until 8 PM on Saturday, so will have plenty of time then.
 
Oh!  By the way, I'm "googleable" now.  Just type in rickistout and I should be the first thing on the google list.  If you google "Around the World in 80 Beers", I'm about 20th.  Google is now in the dictionary.  Funny word.
 
Thanks to everyone for all the emails!  I was starting to feel a little isolated.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Gotta love the US Embassy and their concern for us.  Last week when I had my purse snatched, Mike reported it to the RSO (Regional Security Officer), and he ENSURED us that someone would accompany us to the police station to fill out a report.  Of course, no one has contacted us, and Mike has asked repeatedly about it, and nothing.  So, tomorrow I go with Savi and Jason's driver Lala (who also was soooo cool enough as to go down to Sharkey's the day after I was robbed and INTERROGATE the moto driver's there, see if anyone knew anything) to file a police report.  Plus, I'm going SHOPPING!  Yeah!  I have NOT even been to Central Market since I've been here, hilarious as I used to go at least twice a week last year.
 
Another REALLY bad thing.  As I mentioned before I lent Jeff at the Jungle Bar all my CD's (mostly Buffett) to copy to his computer.  Well, tonight I was trying to upload some songs to my new phone and realized that almost EVERY SINGLE ONE of my CD's had been absolutely maliciously vandalized.  Scratches, chilli sauce, something that looks like glue (and I don't even want to think about THAT), fingerprints, one of my U2 CD's actually has a chip out of it. . . Apparently someone at the Jungle Bar has itout for me. 
 
Ironically, I had a really nice day with three girls from the Jungle Bar and one guy (security dude) at the local pool (where they only charge me $5/person instead of $10 like the hotel).  It was fun, but again, felt a little like babysitting.  I'm hungry, I need to go, etc.  I think I'm being taking advantage of a little.
 
And, my return ticket to Bangkok has mysteriously disappeared, and apparently I need to buy a new one.  Funny.  At least Thai Airlines cares, they told me I just need to PROVE MY TICKET IS MISSING.  Anyone know how to do that???? 
 
And,just one other little thing.  Trying to get something done here is like pulling teeth from a gorilla on Meth.  I needed to get some pictures developed the other day, pick up some coffee and smokes from the supermarket, and it took me 50 MINUTES to do those two things!  What!?!?  They told me to pick my pictures up "in the afternoon", so I go back at 3, and they're not done.  So, I try again at 8 PM, they're done, but they've only made one copy of each instead of two like I asked.  GEEEEEEEEEEEZ!
 
ENOUGH OF THIS COUNTRY, ARGHHH!!!!
 
Okay, enough crying.  We are still managing to have some fun, even with all the crap that has been happening. 
 
FUNNY THINGS:
 
The Khmer are so superstitious.  They believe in numbers so much (I believe this comes from the Chinese influence).  They will actually pay hundreds of dollars for a phone number they think is "lucky".  I've looked at the lists, and I can't tell the difference between the high dollar ones and the low dollar ones (except the high dollar ones seem to have a lot of the same numbers in them).  Whatever.  Like anyone here can afford that. . .
 
They don't like to take pictures with three or seven people in them.  Bad luck.  But 37 is okay (in case you were wondering).
 
They believe in Karma really strongly.  Like if you do something bad, something bad will DEFINTELY happen to you (hard to tell by my latest experiences)
 
They have NO IDEA what Mc Donald's is (I would think they would get this through simple pop culture, i.e. movies, TV, music, etc), but NO.  NO ONE knows what Mc Donald's is.
 
They have no concept of geography outside SE Asia.  NONE.  Most of them can't point to America on a map.
 
Many people, when you tell them you're from America, say, "Oh, ooosa."  Meaning, of course, USA, sounding it out phonetically.
 
Not to make fun, but it is strange.  It seems their education is so removed from the rest of the world.  People seem so much younger and more innocent because they have no idea of anything outside of their own experience.  It also becomes a little annoying, as I have befriended a few, and after a while you feel like there is nothing to talk about.  They don't watch the news, read the newspapers, etc.  They barely care that much for what's happening in this country, let alone another one. 
 
Surprise, Surprise, though.  As much as I whine about the tuk-tuk and moto drivers, we've actually found one we really like.  His name is Mr. T (really Mr. They), he is HONEST, speaks good English, and has another job teaching Biology to 15-18 year olds out in the province.  He's cool.  And, I'm sure he will miss our US dollars when we're gone.
 
Paranoid about carrying my new phone around.  Kind of defeats the purpose.  Going to spend a ton of money tomorrow, and afraid to carry it around.  Nice.
I'm trying my best to support the local economy, just don't want it ripped from my hands!
 
Mike was sick all day today, that's not cool.  Hopefully he will have recovered by morning. . . We both took de-worming pills last week to get over whatever we might have got in the province, hopefully that hasn't caused the trouble.  Gotta love de-worming.
 
Looking forward to getting home. . . can you tell?  Have my hotel in Milan booked for Sunday night and expect to pull in about 10 PM on Monday night.  Mike will be home on Sunday night.
 
Will probably post before them, but who knows!?!?
 
Sometimes you're the bat, and sometimes you're the ball, eh?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006
 
Well, after a wonderful weekend, I guess it only makes sense that the first night back in PP I would have MY PURSE STOLEN RIGHT OUT OF MY HANDS BY A MOTO!!!!  I am sooooooo MAD!  Got my purse, my money, my credit cards, all three sets of our new darts, my PHONE, my favorite earrings!  ARGHHH.  I was ambushed by three moto's. 
 
Now I have to go to the police station and file a report.  Trying to keep the right perspective, didn't get hurt, everything except the earring can be replaced (gift from Frederique, my Aunt), and I can claim it on my insurance, but STILL!!  It just makes me MAD!
 
Had a small pool party today with Vanny, Lin, and Jeff from the Jungle and his girlfriend Vathey.  Was fun.  Replaced my phone this morning.
 
Tomorrow is Kona's 9th birthday party, we're going bowling.  We blew a picture of him surfing up to poster size as a gift.  It's neat.

Monday, July 10, 2006
 
Oh what a blast!  Nine of us in a mini-van cruising the roads of southern Cambodia!  We were so lucky that Jason and Savi invited us three (Mike, Scott, and I) to join their family for a four day getaway down to the coast.  If we had went alone, we would have missed soooo much, plus probably wouldn't have done it the same way as they did, and would have missed out on a lot of cool things.  And, it's always a riot to travel with Khmer people, as they can translate, negotiate, and know all the cool spots and people.  Savi's aunt Sray Mao and her sister Savin don't speak any English, but we still managed to communicate and enjoy each other's company.  Sray Mao had never been to the beach before, so that was fun to watch her play in the surf, eat fresh caught crab, etc.  She had 'the vacation of her life' as Savi says.
 
We left Thursday afternoon about 3 PM, bound for Kampot, which is near the ocean, but on a river.  This used to be a pretty big tourist destination, but has fell off a bit in the last couple years.  However, Jason, being from Hawaii, has found the only place in Cambodia that it's possible to "surf" (more on this later), at a place called Bodhi Village.  Now, this is definitely not a place Mike, Scott or I would have considered staying, far too rustic of a life for us, but it turned out to be such a cool experience. 
 
It's totally a "guesthouse", which is like one step up from a hostel, but still involves shared baths, communal dining, no air conditioning, pretty much no privacy, etc.  BUT WHAT A COOL PLACE!  The owner is a guy named Hugh, and as you would expect he's a laid back hippie kind of guy, and he has a partner named Dee, who's Cambodian but grew up in Minnesota.  These guys are crazy, they have the only Tuk-Tuk in Kampot, which they DROVE down from Phnom Penh, took them 6 hours!
 
We arrived just after dark, after 3 1/2 hours in the van and a few stops to make "shi-shi" (pee pee).  Jason's oldest son, Kona, who is 9 this week, was traveling with us, and a bit hungry and cranky after all the time in the van, but is a really cool kid and has stayed at Bodhi before.  So, we all sat down and had some great honey soy chicken and grilled vegetables while Kona had apple juice and french fries.  We introduced ourselves around to the other guests and basically just chilled out on the huge bar/patio/deck for the rest of the night.  The two bartenders, Salmoan and Zan, were gay, and so was one of the guests, so there was a lot of kidding around going on in that department.  Then we had Dee, Sray Mao and Savin talking to each other with a completely fluent translator, so that was a great opportunity to get to know each other better. 
 
Prior to our arrival, they had got quite a bit of rain in Kampot and Sihanoukville, so the water in the river was pretty high and running pretty good, but all the roads were prety washed out and not so great for our mode of transportation.  But, we managed to not get rained on hardly at all the entire weekend, so someone must not have informed the vacation God's that Mike and I were off for four days. . . heehee.
 
Based on popular opinion, the most important thing to a Khmer woman is FOOD, and each province in Cambodia is famous for some specific delicacy, and the south is "stink fruit" and crab.  The girls were just giddy with excitement about going to the market in the morning for these two yum-yums.  However, they go to bed around 9 or 10, and get up around 5 or 6, so I knew I wasn't going to be a part of this experience directly, but got the overspill.
 
By the time Mike and I got up on Friday, they had left for the market, but hadn't returned.  Now, the main reason for staying at Bodhi Village (at least for Jason), is that Hugh has a 200 hp ski boat that Jason "surfs" behind on the river.  Basically waterskiing with a surfboard (of course, Jason as a true Hawaiian, has a surfboard with him).  However, the surf board never got unloaded from the van before the girls and our driver, Poohi, went to the market.  The plan was to do some surfing in the morning, then jump back into the van around noon for the couple hour drive down to Sihanoukville.  But, we had to wait for the van to return, as Jason doesn't know his wife's cell phone number (!).  Too funny.  Anyway, they came back with a HUGE bag of crabs (about 8.5 pounds), which were our new traveling companions for the day.
 
Jason was the only one with the ability and daring to surf behind the boat, but we all went for rides IN the boat.  It was really fast and could turn on a dime.   COOL!
 
So, after some brunch and showers, we all piled back in the van for Sihanoukville.  Driving through Cambodia is really beautiful, however, it does tend to repeat after a while.  Rice paddies, water buffallo, house on stilts, rice paddies, water buffallo, house on stilts, etc. . . But, it is really pretty.  Boy, I am glad to not have been born in some provincial village in Cambodia, though. . .
 
Arrived at Serendipity Beach about 5 on Friday, cruised the beach bars, chatting with bartenders about best places to stay, and having a few beers.  Looked at a few rooms ranging in price from $15 - $30, and opted for the higher price at Malibu Beach Resort.  Our own toilet and air!  What a treat.  Was right on the beach, small little place, cute.  During our earlier beach cruise we had met Roger at Bayon Beach Club.  He's a friend of Jungle Jeff's, so we decided to bring the crew down there for dinner around 7:30.  Had a wonderful surf and turf BBQ (Mike and I actually split one), and Sray Mao, Savin, and Savi BROUGHT THE CRAB to the restaurant, just to finish it up (I swear to you, the four Khmer's ate all that crab TODAY!). 
 
We went back down the beach to Eden after dinner and had a "few" drinks until about 1:30 AM.  The girls all went to bed early (except me, that is), but Kona hung with us the whole time.  He was learning how to twirl the "fire balls" that the fire dancers use, and generally not hanging around with us, meeting the neighbors.  At one point he asked the bartendress (a Canadian woman) for Connect Four (game like tic tac toe) and she gave him a knife and fork.  Lost in translation even with the English speaking folk. 
 
Island hopping on Saturday.  Met up with everyone at internet cafe/breakfast joint to make plans while the girls were at the market.  Jason made the mistake of reserving a boat without Savi's input, and when she returned she berated him good.  Turns out we were NOT going to take a boat from Serendipity, but drive to her Aunties restaurant in Reap Park (about 35 minutes away), cook and pack a lunch, and take a much shorter boat ride out to Bamboo Island.  So, that's what we did.
 
Arrived at Auntie's, hit the hammocks on the beach while she whipped up some garlic shrimp to go with the stinky fruit and corn on the cob (YUMMY) we were bringing out there.  Took a 30 minute boat ride, then walked ten minutes to the other side of the island where there was supposed to be some pretty good surf.  We swam and surfed for about 3 hours, walked back to the other side, took some rustic showers (tap and a bucket), and had a beer. 
 
As we were packing up the boat, Savi was really excited about something and kept pointing to another island.  It was about 5 PM around now, so I didn't really know what she was trying to tell me, but ended up we were in search of some "shells" or something.  We anchor off shore and the boat driver and Savi go flying up into the interior of the island.  Now, Jason doesn't know what's going on either, so he follows them, comes back and reports that they are waist deep in brackish water picking some kind of "fruit".  Ends up they come back to the boat with just a TON of snail like creatures.  Seems this is the best place to get them in all Southern Cambodia.  Anyway, Savi was PUMPED UP about this.
 
Barely beat a thunderstorn back to Aunties, chilled out in the hammocks for about an hour while nibbling on left over shrimp, then cruised back to Sihanoukville for dinner at Bayon (THE BEST PIZZA I'VE HAD IN CAMBODIA), and camped out on the beach until about 1 AM.  Heading back tomorrow, and not liking the idea.
 
There were times on Saturday that it was hard to believe we were in Cambodia.  No one hassling us for money or trying to sell us something, idyllic scenery, wonderful cool breezes from the water, everyone looking content and happy.  I guess this is probably the "real" Cambodia, and I have to say, despite it's lack of modern conveniences, it's COOL!  And, there's so much undeveloped waterfront property here that it's unbelievable.  Jason said a friend of his bought some property right on the ocean for $3000!!  I want some!
 
To help us adjust to the idea of going back to civilization we decided to hit this waterfall in a National Park on the way back.  Heard it was beautiful, a nice place to swim, and usually only the locals about.  Found it with no trouble and it was awesome!  Hung around for a couple hours, did a little swimming in the cool, sweet water (no salt!), had a snack and boarded the van for an uneventful if not uninterrupted ride home.   It took us about 4 1/2 hours to get home, and we had to laugh at the amount of sleeping and eating going on, but was done safely, so that's all that mattered.
 
THINGS THAT WOULD HAVE MADE IT BETTER:
  • No stink fruit in the van.  This fruit smells like sewer to Westerners, heaven to Khmer's.  One little piece can thoroughly saturate the inside of a van, causing one to retch violently (okay, a slight exaggeration, but it does STINK!!!).  Jason did put his foot down after Saturday, and told Savi no more stink fruit.  Everytime we stop at the market he would kid with her, and say "no stink fruit!", and she would say, "I KNOW, honey, I know".
  • Not having to try and transport a styrofoam cooler full of snails back to PP.  The stryofoam squeaked against itself all the way back, and we had to run all around S-ville looking for a cooler on the way back from Reap Park.  I'm sure Savi will enjoy them, though.
  • On the walk across Bamboo Beach there were these INSANE worms all over the place.  Big, black things about the thickness of a jumbo crayon.  It was GROSS!  (For those who don't know, I'm crazy scared of worms of any size)
  • Not having to worry about where I put my feet, what I put in my mouth, etc.  Worried about contracting a case of internal worms. . .

Otherwise, we had an intensely cool time!  Here's some pics!

countrysideatsunset.jpg
Rice paddies at sunset on the way to Kampot

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Jason skurfing behind the boat, getting some major air, ready to wipe out!

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Beach at Serendipity, Sihanoukville, Cambodia

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Hanging in the hammocks at Reap park, waiting for food and boat

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View from Bamboo Island

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Mike catching a wave at Bamboo island

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Sun peeking back out

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Mike and I at the waterfalls (duh)

Thursday, July 6, 2006
 
Off to Sihanoukville for the weekend!  Will try to check mail there, but in case of emergency, cell phone number on home page.  Have no idea where we are staying once we're there, but being that it's low season, I don't think it really matters, should have a lot of choices.  I was looking yesterday for a place down there and they have guesthouses for as low as $3/night!  Probably won't go that cheap. . .
 
Had a fun 4th of July which included an excursion to the go-kart track (finally).  Met up with Jason and his son Kona for late lunch, then off to the track.  Go-karting in developing countries is quite different than in the US, as they don't have quite the same liability issues that we have, so these little suckers MOVE!  Real long track, probably about a kilometer, with lots of twists and turns, and hill and a nice long straight away.  We were appalled at the price when we arrived, we were supposedly on a recognizance mission for Kona's upcoming birthday party, and when they told us it was $10/ten minutes, we all went into sticker shock.  However, after being on the track for about 6 minutes, my body was screaming to quit. 
 
It requires a bit of upper body strength to sling these carts around the track at full speed, and being that low to the ground in something a little less than a lawn mower size you get thrown around quite a bit.  I have bruises all over both my hips, both my knees, along my back and a blood blister on my heel where my foot was resting above the brake.  I feel like someone put me in a blender and I look like I finally evoked a good rage from my husband!   Also a very HOT sport, worked up a pretty good lather underneath my crash helmet, and elsewhere.  We were all soaking wet by the time we were done.
 
Anyway, after a 20 minute recovery period we decided to go one more time.  Silly.
 
Afterwards, we came back into town, took showers and hit the 4th of July party at Jungle bar (free burgers and chili fries!).  We were all feeling a little tired, but managed to sneak over to Dingo bar for a couple on the way home.
 
Will have pics and details of our weekend excursion of Monday!  Have a good weekend!

Monday, July 3, 2006
 
Another weekend in Phnom Penh. . . Had an interesting one.  Friday night went out a threw darts, Scott joined us later.  We went to a bar called Walkabout (owned by an aussie), where we have been before.  It's usually full of bar girls, but when we go there as a couple, no one bothers Mike.  Funny, though, after Scott arrived, we suddenly had an audience and an entourage.  They spent some time trying to figure out what the "group dynamics" were, and I think they finally asked the bartenderess to ask us.  Conversation as follows:
 
Bartenderess:  Are you family or friends?
Me:  Mike and I are family, Scott is a friend.
Bartendress:  He's not your son?
Me:  MY SON? (side note:  Scott is 34, I am 36)
Bartendress:  No?  Not your son?
Me:  We are basically the SAME AGE!!!!
Bartendress:  Well, he looks SO MUCH YOUNGER than you. . .
Me:  OK, Shut up, I think you are done talking now.  (side note:  I'd had a few gin and tonics, not usually this rude)
Bartendress:  Um, Ah, I
Me:  Go away, this conversation is finished!
 
Geez.  These Cambodians have no sense of tact, I swear.  I've been told my hair is too short, I look old enough to be Scott's Mom, and had my belly rubbed and asked how many months along I was.  Not good for the old self esteem . . .
 
Anyway, the bar girls started flocking upon the news that Scott was a free and available male.  Mike and I had stools at the bar, and Mike got up to throw his darts and turns around and there's a bargirl in his seat. 
 
Mike:  (Calmly)  Now, what the $*&# is this?
Bargirl:  (scampers away without saying anything)
 
We had a few more drinks and headed to the Pickled Parrot with Scott, left him there and headed to Dingo Bar.  Very late when we got home, so slept until 11 AM on Saturday.  Went down to Riverside for breakfast, worked on crosswords for a couple of hours and ran into Scott.  Sat around for a while longer, and headed back to the hotel.  That night we were off for another bowling expedition. 
 
But first, Serena, who used to manage the Jungle Bar was having her grand opening of her bar, The Sugar Shack, so Scott, Jeff and I went over there to check it out and wish our good luck upon her business.  Typical bar girl bar, but saw Serena, had a bite to eat, and went back to the Jungle to grab the girls who were going with us, Lena, Visal, Vanny, and Sari.  Met up with Jason, Savi, Kona, Savi's sister Savin and brother Rooti.  What a crew!  Needed three lanes!  We bowled until 12:30, then went to Riverfront for some "dancing", the girls danced.  THEN back to Pickled Parrot, then to Dingo Bar again, then when we got back home (AT 4 AM!) the World Cup was playing in the hotel bar, so Scott and Mike sat and had a beer. . . I went upstairs and promptly fell asleep in my clothes and slept til NOON!
 
It is so fun (and funny) to watch these girls bowl.  First of all, most of them have never done it before.  Second, they are all soooo tiny, they have to use the lightest balls, and Third, they actually do pretty good!  I think all of them had strikes.  They LOVE it.  (These girls are Jeff's bar staff, most of them quite young, around 20, and NOT BAR GIRLS.  They all go to school during the day and work at night, slinging beer, and are quite innocent).  I told Jeff that we had created bowling monsters for him to take care of after we were gone.  I'm going to have a small pool party on Wednesday for a few of them, they also LOVE to swim.  They all call me Mum, which is okay (after all, they're not 34!!!).
 
Obviously, we did very little on Sunday.  Did watch "The Da Vinci Code" though (gotta love $2 bootleg DVD's).  I thought it was pretty good.   Mike, never having read the book, found it a little harder to follow, being that we had no subtitles for the French. . .
 
Planning a four day weekend trip to Sihanoukville with Scott, Jason, Savi, and Kona.  Leaving PP on Thursday evening, driving halfway there, stopping at some guesthouse on the river where we can go tubing and swim in a waterfall, then finishing the drive on Friday (four hours total driving, 2 each day) to the beach.  Coming back on Sunday.  Jason's arranging for a van and driver to take us there and back.  We wanted to do this last time we were here, but never made it, so glad to have another opportunity.
 
Tomorrow, being the first paid vacation day of the year, Mike doesn't have to work.  A few of the bars (Freebird and Jungle) are having 4th of July parties, so I'm sure there will be some festivities going on.  Alas, no fireworks, but we did get to see some last time we were here.  Also, talk of making our own with Mentos and pop.  Check this out http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/experiment/00000109  Click on the video link to watch.  I can't believe they're showing KIDS how to do this!  What a mess!
 
Okay, enough science lessons and drinking exploits for today. . .

Thursday, June 29, 2006
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
 
Here's a few pics from over the last 6 weeks (!), ranging from Albania to Cambodia.

albania.jpg
Building across from us in Albania

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Surreal light on mountains in downtown Tirana

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Muslim chain of restuarants like McDonald's, only hallah

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Mini-horses running down the street in Tirana

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Kruja Castle

albcast.jpg
View through the trees. . .

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Castle parapet in Somma Lombarda, Italy, just outside Milan

during2.jpg
nice pic by Scotty

sleeping.jpg
Nap time on the sidewalk of Phnom Penh, Cambodia

bike.jpg
How to move a bike from point A to point B in SE Asia

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE:  Thanks to Scott for taking all the cool pics from our renewal ceremony!  He bought some new lenses, and did great with them!
 
DUMBEST THING I DID YESTERDAY:  (Background into this, so you understand better - Phnom Penh is absolutely OVERRUN with moto taxi's, which are basically mopeds with an extended seat on them, and they are constantly hawking you and honking at you trying to get you on the back and a dollar from your pocket.  They are literally everywhere, yet so are just normal Cambodians making their way wherever on mopeds.)  So, anyway, I'm out walking around yesterday, and the wind picks up and the clouds are looking threatening and you can smell the rain in the air, so I figure I'd better hightail it back to the hotel.  There's a kid just getting on his moto right near by, and I jump on the back and ask him to take me to the LeRoyal.  He gave me a strange look and asked, "You need to go to LeRoyal Hotel?", and say, "Yeah" and he looks at me real strange, but then takes off.  About halfway home I come to the realization that he's probably NOT a moto-taxi, A:  because he wasn't hawking me to get on his moto, B:  He's driving like a bat out of hell, and C:  He's not asking me any questions or trying to be my new "best friend" in Cambodia.  So, basically I just jumped on some guy's bike and demanded he take me somewhere.  We were out last night and I was telling Scott and Mike this story, and we figured that guy was probably sitting in a Cambodia bar somewhere laughing it up with his friends about the crazy lady that hopped on his bike today.   I did give him a dollar, though. . .
 
This place is such a crack-up, though.  I can't walk ten feet without seeing something that makes me laugh out loud.  Between the moto's zipping around carrying just about anything you can imagine, from 100 dead chickens to a car hood (!) and the overloaded trucks with ten people sitting on top of the load, ducking under electrical wires to little Cambodian kids stripping off their clothes and DIVING into a foot deep fountain.  Little brown butts everywhere!  It's just funny.  It can be heartbreaking, too, but I'm trying to focus on the funny.  I think they get a kick out of me, too.  Big, tall, blond falang walking around taking pictures, laughing out loud.
 
Tuesday night when we went bowling (again), Jason and Johnny bought some remote control speed boats for the kids (yea, right).  Yesterday, they went to the pool they usually go to, but it was overrun with teenagers (some kind of youth day or something), so they came over here instead.  It was hilarious.  It was Johnny and his wife LyLy, her brother and two of his kids, and Jason's son Kona and LyLy's daughter Sreyla!  An entire tribe of people in the pool with remote control boats.  The boats died, gave up the ghost, after about 12 minutes, but John became the new pool toy after that.  They stayed for a couple hours and had some lunch.  Nice afternoon at the pool!
 
Last night we went to Freebird for pizza and darts and air conditioning.  It was a hot one yesterday, but today is much cooler, nice breeze, lots of clouds.
 
Mike's work here is just about finished, so I don't know what he'll be doing for the next three weeks around the Embassy.  Now that we're finally back to work, they'll probably send us home. . .
 
 

Tuesday, June 27, 2006
OOPS,WE DID IT AGAIN!
 
After careful planning and much work (NOT), we had a successful renewal ceremony along the banks of the Tonle Sap river in Phnom Penh last night.  Funny, I'd been emailing with the preacher since Albania in regards to everything, but met him for the first time last night.  VERY nice guy from Kentucky.  Him and his wife are on their first overseas assignment (married 30 years themselves) and have been here about 18 months.  Finding lots to do to help better the Khmer people.
 
Had 7 friends there to help celebrate, Scott (of course), Robert and Mandy, Jason and Savi and Jungle Jeff and his girlyfriend Pathai (Jeffy's in LO-OVE!!), and were later joined by some new friends, John and Lilly.  John and Jason are really good friends and he just returned from Iraq (he's married to Lilly and they live here in PP).  Met at the Himiwari (where we stayed last time and they have a lovely outdoor patio along the river), had a few pre-ceremony drinks, did the deed as the sunset, then a few post-deed drinks and off to our favorite Italian restaurant where I had reserved the balcony.  Nine wonderful people and Mike and I for dinner under the stars! 
 
And a mighty thank-you to John and Lilly, for before we knew what had happened they paid the bill for the ENTIRE TABLE!  How very nice.
 
Then we all went over to the Jungle Bar where Jeff comped us all on drinks.  Big Thanks to him, too!
 
What a fun night!
 
Rumor has it we are going bowling tonight.  We'll see.
 
Been back in Cambodia for a week today.  Seems soooo much longer.  We've done so much, seen so many people, drank so many beers. . . heehee.  Been really nice to come back and have a built in support group of friends already waiting for us!  Probably won't even want to leave when we're done!  And, so far we don't have any work assigned, so maybe we just won't!
 
Last time we were here I was so haunted by this place.  Of all the countries we've been to, this one had the biggest affect on me.  So much so, that I really didn't want to return.  However, things seem different now somehow, and even though I know the same scuzzy things are happening and the same corruption and hopelessness still exists, I can find some joy with the Khmer's I know.  It feels nice.  Having fun and living large in Cambodia!
 
I still hate the tuk tuk drivers, though. . . LOL.
 
Waiting for wedding pics from Scott, will post all then.

Sunday, June 25, 2006
 
Getting some flack regarding pictures. . . here's the story on that.  Besides the general fact that I'm lazy, I'm also out of space for pictures on my website, and it will take me some time to sort out what needs to come off the website so new stuff can go on.  Maybe I'll do it later today, maybe tomorrow.  Just so you know, I WILL post some pics, but I don't have that many great ones to share right now.
 
Scott did finally show his face in Cambodia on Thursday night.  We had went to have dinner, and then called the Jungle, and found out he was there with Jason and Savi (the couple whos wedding we went to out in the province last time we were here).  So, Mike and I jumped on the same moto and cruised over there.  Start of a four day stretch of staying out too late and drinking too much beer.  Imagine that. . .
 
Friday night we went to a party at the Marine House.  Last year there were no Marines here, but now they have a full detachment.  They need to get going on their fundraising for the Marine ball, so will probably have a few parties while we're here.  Nice kids.  Afterwards, we came back to the hotel bar and watched some World Cup.  Scott had to go to the airport to get his luggage and when he came back he joined us for a couple beers, then he went out and we went to bed!
 
Last night was a hoot.  We had a group of about 20, half Cambodian girls, half Western guys, and me. . . Started about 8, finished about midnight.  Didn't bowl well, but had a lot of fun (and beer).   May be a relation there. . . you think!?!?
 
We have a good friend, Ron Taylor, who we have worked with a lot, that works for the "parent" company of Mike's company.  Scott visited with him last weekend in Virginia just before he left to come here and Ron went to Kazakstan.  Apparently (and forgive me for not having all the details, we've not been really well informed on this incident), right after he arrived in Kazakstan, he got mugged, beat on the head and left.  When the police found him, they thought he was drunk (don't know how long he laid there), and didn't know he was an American (?), and put him in jail.  By the time they figured out he wasn't drunk and was a foreigner and hurt (I don't believe he ever regained consciousness during this time), he had severe swelling on the brain and was necessary to air-vac him to Helsinki.  The latest we've heard is that is somewhat communicative, and in serious condition but stable.  What a horror!  I doubt he'll be traveling much anymore.  This is the same friend that had a heart attack last year in Germany, just before he was supposed to fly to Cambodia.  If I was his wife, I would ground him!
 
Not a lot planned for today, had a late start and just sitting around watching CNN, working on crosswords, drinking coffee.  May just order room service for "breakfast", may qualify for lunch if we wait much longer. . . Probably head down to Free Bird for pizza and darts tonight. 
 
Tomorrow is our six year anniversary!  Getting remarried along the river, dinner at our favorite Italian place.  What fun!  Will have a pretty good turn out, Scott, Jason, Savi, Robert and Amanda, maybe Jeff from the Jungle.  Poor Scott, this is his third time he's had to watch us do this!
 
Pics soon, I promise.
 
 

Wednesday, June 21, 2006
 
Oh, I forgot this funny thing that happened yesterday.  We were sitting in the Jungle Bar and this Cambodian guy walks in and starts talking to us with a California accent, passing out business cards for his new donut and coffee shop, USA Donuts, just around the corner.  Seems he grew up in California, owned a Dunkin Donuts there, and moved back to bring donuts to his native country.
 
Jeff, the owner of the Jungle, is from California, and he says that 90% of all the donut stores in Cali, as of about 6 years ago, are owned by Cambodians.  Now that's funny.
 
Anyway, I guess it's a sign of progress that someone is coming BACK here, eh?
 
Went for a hot and sweaty walk down to the grocery store this morning to pick up coffee filters (we forgot yesterday).  We packed our coffee maker that we bought in Albania and brought it over.  Not a bad idea, traveling with one. . .  So, I conveniently forgot about the sights and sounds of Phnom Penh around the Central Market area.  As I was approaching the door of Lucky Supermarket these four Cambodian dudes are lifting up one of the stones in the sidewalk, presumably to do some work under the sidewalk, and as they lift up this block it is like a thousand years of bad breath coming up from the bowels of the city.  MAN!  I hate to think what is under all this concrete.
 
Also forgot about the utter organized anarchy of the traffic.  Watched a cyclo and a moto collide.  No one injured, no one even yelling.  Boring.
 
WINNER OF "FUNNIEST T-SHIRT I SAW ON A CAMBODIAN WRITTEN IN ENGLIGH TODAY" CONTEST:
"I make shit up"
Wonder if she had any idea what it said.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006
 
Despite the hot and stick of Thailand, we actually had a pretty nice time in Bangkok and Phuket.  We met a lot of interesting people, didn't do a whole lot during the day (although Mike did play golf on Saturday before we left in Phuket, I passed, WAY WAY TOO HOT!) except lounge around the pool and wait for it to rain, had some real nice dinners of wonderful Thai food and Singha beer.
 
Our hotel in Bangkok, as I mentioned on the Thailand page, was really nice, and the Hilton in Phuket was nice, too.  It sat on 75 acres of gardens, with ponds and walkways and bridges throughout.  It had four different free standing hotel buildings, and three different pools.  Also, several restaurants, but besides breakfast, we just couldn't justify paying the kind of money they wanted, so ate out every lunch and dinner.  Directly across from the beach (no hotels on the beach in Karon, very nice).
 
Major strange fact about the hotel.  They had peacocks all over the place.  And, these were "free-range" peacocks.  They were everywhere.  They would wind through the breakfast tables in the morning, and if you weren't careful, steal food right from your plate.  I would think that some of the guests might be a bit leary of this, with all the bird flu hype and such, but no one really seemed to mind.  Peacocks are very loud birds.  Especially when they make their "cry" in the lobby of a brick hotel.  They sound like cats mating.
 
There were also these very brave black birds with bright yellow beaks, legs, and spots on their wings that would swoop down on your table and sit and "chat" with you.  I took a lot of pictures of peacocks. . . until the novelty wore off, which took about ten minutes and one breakfast. 
 
Also, saw my first snake in Thailand.  It tried to get on the elevator with us.  Long, skinny, and green.  I'm sure he was harmless, but you wouldn't have known it by my reaction.  I think he was on the verge of a heart attack.
 
On our first night in Phuket we walked down the beach to a roadside shack and had some seafood.  I picked out a big ole fish, they cooked it.  While we were finishing eating, it started to POUR, so we moved away from the edge to avoid getting wet and joined four girls at the table next to us.  Get this, one of them was from Byron Center, Michigan (for those not in the know, that's about 10 miles south of where we live).  The four of them are doing volunteer work on some big Greek boat that cruises the world doing Christian charity work.  Was fun to meet them.  Two of the girls have been on the boat for 2 years, and have been to 28 countries.  All were in their early 20's.  What a great opportunity.
 
Also met a guy taking scuba lessons at the hotel pool from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and a guy in Bangkok walked up to us and started chatting that was from Detroit, Michigan.  Man, are the only people crazy enough to go to Thailand during monsoon season from Michigan?  heehee
 
Other highlights of our Phuket/Bangkok trip include:
 
  • Getting a foot relexology massage at the massage parlor across from the Montana Bar, and having Bah, our waitress, bring beers across the alley for us while we were having our hour massage.  Big Falang (thai word for foreigners) spread out in leather recliners having a foot rub with beer.
  • Deciding to get a haircut at the same salon a few nights later, and a lot drunker.  Waking up with no hair. . . NOTE TO SELF:  Never get a haircut when you're drunk!
  • Meeting two German female tourists from Munich.  One girl was Thai/German, had left Bangkok when she was four (her mother married a German).  The other girl was German and traveling with her boyfriend.  MANY men stopped the German guy and asked how much he paid for "bar fine" for German/Thai girl (who of course, could understand, and was very offended).  Implying, of course, that she was a Thai prostitute.
  • Meeting Swedish couple in Bangkok on their honeymoon and playing darts with them the night before we left.  She works for Warner Brothers in Sweden.  What's up, Doc?

Probably more funny moments, but not remembering them right now. . .

And, despite my huge reservations about returning to Cambodia, and the fact that we've only been here for about 9 hours, I can honestly say it's kind of nice to be back.  We are staying at the Raffles Le Royal Hotel, which is very close to the Embassy, and very quaint.  We have a full suite, with kitchen, MICROWAVE (as soon as I typed that list of things I hated about third world countries, this is the second microwave we've had), living room with balcony, bedroom with balcony, private bath.  The hotel is kind of a "grand dame" type place, very old and British looking with a semi-famous bar called the Elephant in the lobby.  Apparently the hangout for journalists in the 70's.  Very cool.   Beats the heck out of the hotel we stayed at last time.  What's up with that?  Stay three months in the not so great place, one month in the awesome place.  Only drawback is it's really not walking distance to anywhere we want to go except the Embassy.  Good news, public transport is cheap!  Lots of moto-time.  Will have to try to avoid another muffler burn, though.

Checked in, Mike went into work for a couple hours, and I took a nap!  When he returned we went down to the Jungle to see Jeff and "the girls".  They were all glad to see us, and also looking forward to Scott's arrival (of course, they are all in love with him)!

The Tonle Sap river is flowing the opposite way as last time we were here, and the water level is very low.  Makes the whole riverfront look very different.

Have a pastor lined up for next week to remarry Mike and I.  Will rent a boat and cruise the water for a half an hour or so, then off to Le Duo for dinner. 

Okay, more later.

Thursday, December 15, 2005
 
Unless I decide to take a nap this afternoon (which is a very likely possibility), I have had my last sleep on our Cambodian bed.  It's time to come home!!!  Our 10 days back since Thailand have been pretty unreportable, except three timely events.
 
1.  "The 12 Beers of Christmas" Cyclo Pub Crawl
 
Last Saturday night, Mike, Scott, Jason and I, along with 26 other "Barang" (Khmer word for foreigner), deployed on a mission starting at 8 pm to go to 12 different pubs around Phnom Penh on a Cyclo.  A cyclo is the oldest form of transportation in Cambodia (besides your feet), and is basically a oversized wheelchair with a unicycle attached to it, powered by a stately looking Cambodian gentleman.  In the 3 1/2 months we've been here, we have not ridden in a cyclo, so now was the time!
 
We met at Freebird (starting point, bar number one) at 6:30 for some food, and departed on our journey at 8 pm.  We were quite a sight to see, a parade of 30 cyclo's snaking through the mostly deserted, moonlit streets and back alleys of Phnom Penh's bar districts.  Needless to say, it was a drunken evening.  I arrived back home after 4 am (it's a bit hazy, as you can expect).  Mike came home about an hour earlier than me, and he was out.  I know because I accidently head-butted him getting into bed, and he didn't even groan.  We had to "add" a few bars in between our scheduled stops, as we were next door to familiar haunts, so I think our team actually made it to about 16 bars (again, it's hazy).  We even took turns driving our cyclo's around town, which was far easier than it looked.  I did about four legs myself, feeding my cyclo driver booze and cigarettes.  Although I sure felt it the next day in my derrierre region!
 
A good time had by all, if reports can be believed.

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Me, fueled by beer and nicotine, giving Mike a test drive on an unpaved road

2.  "Dengue Fever" party at the Jungle Bar
 
Jeff, the owner of the Jungle Bar (see photo below) has semi-sponsored a visiting band from the US called Dengue Fever to Cambodia, and in their honor had a BBQ at the Jungle on Monday night.  We arrived about 7 for all night happy hour and free food!  While we were there, we met Holly and Tang, two cool folks here doing aid work with heroin addicts.  After a couple beers and some conversation, we started talking about "Snow's Bar".  This is an infamous place among the ex-pat community here in Phnom Penh, and not the first time we've heard of it.  There's always talk of being at Snow's around town.  Now, this is not your typical Cambodian Western-run bar.  First of all, it's on the other side of the river, where nothing else is, and second, it's actually in his house.  He is an Aussie who's been here teaching English for over 12 years, and he started having people he met over for drinks.  After years of this (he has an excellent location right on the Tonle Sap river), he decided to renovate his house into a bar, and it's basically by invite only.  Plus, no moto driver or Tuk-Tuk would ever find this place. 
 
Anyway, Holly and Tang offered to drive us there on Wednesday night (my last night in Phnom Penh) for a drink.

3.  Snow's Bar
 
So, we met up with Tang and Holly at the Jungle, and Mike, Scott, Jeff and I piled into their car and drove across the Japanese Friendship Bridge to a dirt road along the river and went to Snow's.  A few familiar faces there, and quite a treat.  Too bad to have met cool people like Holly and Tang during my last four days here, and even sadder to never have been to Snow's until my last night.  Very mellow place, like going to a party at someone's house, with a great balcony with wicker, overstuffed chairs overlooking the river.  Very quiet, peaceful, relaxing.  A wonderful "Ciao" to Cambodia. 

Monday, December 5, 2005 (20 days til Christmas, 11 days til I'm HOME!!!)

Back in Camodia!  If you want to see/hear about our Thailand vacation, click here!
 
Didn't do a whole lot upon arrival yesterday, unpacked, sent the laundry in (and a lot of it, when you expect to spend the entire time in your bathing suit and only wear it twice, you dirty a lot more clothes!), and went out for a quick bite.  Home and in bed with my book (and husband) by 10 PM.
 
Today was cool in the morning, so zipped around town on the back of a moto-taxi to grab a few things, then home to work on web page, iron laundry, hit the grocery, etc.
 
Got this in my inbox the other day, thought it was pretty funny:
 

 

For those of you who watch what you eat, here's the final word on nutrition and health. It's a relief to know the truth after all those conflicting
nutritional studies.

1. The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer
heart attacks than Americans.

2. The Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer
heart attacks than Americans.

3. The Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer
fewer heart attacks than Americans.

4. The Italians drink a lot of red wine and suffer
fewer heart attacks than Americans.

5. The Germans drink a lot of beers and eat lots of
sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

CONCLUSION

Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English 
is apparently what kills you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005
 
Well, we survived Water Festival.  Thursday night we walked (!) over to Freebird for a quick dinner, then decided to try and escape the crowds by going cross town to the bowling alley.  After an adventerous moto-ride with Scott, Mike and I on separate moto's winding through hordes of traffic trying to stay together (we got separated a couple times, but all managed to meet up on the other side of the chaos) and over bumpy, pop-holed filled side roads in the dark, we finally made it to the bowling alley.  Scott had invited Sokvy, a young lady who works at the Jungle Bar and her sister to join us, so we had five.  Had a nice time bowling until about 10 PM, when the bad ranch dressing from the Freebird kicked in.  YUCK.  Up all night and in bed the next day with stomach trouble.  Decided the new tourist ministry's campaign should be "Cambodia -we're better than Chad, barely". . . LOL.  Second time I got sick from food at the Freebird, think I'm done eating there!
 
Since Saturday the weather here has taken a spectacular turn for the better.  We have a really nice breeze everyday and the humidity has dissipated and I find myself wanting a little sweater at night.  I LOVE IT!  Hopefully it will be the same in Thailand.  Scott and Mike enjoyed the cooler weather on the golf course Sunday, but this week I opted to stay home.  Got a little sun on Sunday and Monday mornings. . . I haven't been in my bathing suit since we arrived, so need a little bit of base to bring on vacation!
 
Sunday afternoon we got a little restless.  Went down to the Jungle Bar around 3:30 to have a beer on the riverside, then decided to head over to Coyote Ugly and shoot some pool.  Brought our Jimmy Buffett CD's and Scott and had an "ALL BUFFETT, ALL THE TIME" afternoon and evening.  Ran a few people out, but may have converted some Cambodian's into Parrotheads. . .  Robert, who owns the Ugly, is from Key West, so he didn't mind.
 
Been hanging out at the Jungle Bar for the last three nights, enjoying the breezes and the riverfront.  Ready to go, though.  I'm all packed!  We both really need a break, and Phuket and Samui sound like the perfect places for it.  After much deliberation and shopping on the internet for hotels and airfare we decided to spend 6 days on Patong beach in Phuket and 4 days on Chewang beach on Samui, flying back on the 4th of December.  Supposed to be some wicked snorkeling, and of course we will golf.  I'm looking forward to some boat tours.  Both Phuket and Samui are islands on opposite shores of Thailand's southern peninsula, but they have many occupied and unoccupied minor islands around them that are supposed to be spectacular.  Pray for no tsunami!
 
Just looked out the window and saw Sambo the elephant strutting down the road after a hard day's work.  He's so cute.  Only elephant in Phnom Penh.
 
Well, wishing all a Happy Thanksgiving!  Wish we were home for some turkey, stuffin' and pumpkin pie, but our plane leaves at 3:20 PM on Thanksgiving, so we will miss all planned activities here, as well.  Maybe we'll have some Thai Turkey Curry on the plane. . .

Thursday, November 16, 2005

 WATER FESTIVAL

 

Imagine a combination of Mardi Gras (without the drunkenness and debauchery) the Rose Bowl Parade, Ebay on land, and a boat race version of the Kentucky Derby and you can envision what Water Festival is here in Cambodia. 

 

Like every time we are in a country celebrating a traditional holiday, a lot of the historical and cultural aspects of it just don’t sink in for us.  All we see is the very top layer.  It’s like trying to explain Thanksgiving to someone who has no appreciation or understanding of the history of the United States.  So, the behavior of the Cambodian people that we find strange is actually just them having fun, enjoying their three day holiday to the max. 

 

The entire three day holiday centers around the first full moon of either late October or early November (depending on the lunar calendar), which was Tuesday night.  It’s a celebration of the Tonle Sap river and the life providing sustenance it provides to the rice paddies and the people of the region.  Somewhere over time, this also involved extensive long boat racing, mostly to display the power of the ancient Cambodian war ships (their Navy, so to speak).  Now, it’s a “friendly” contest between different provinces, and for the first time this year, different countries, as there are boat teams competing from Burma, Laos, and Vietnam and China.

 

The population of Phnom Penh has at least doubled with the people from the provinces getting here by any means; boats, bikes, moto’s, trucks fully loaded with people.  When they arrive, they set up a small vending area along the street of along the river, and this becomes their home for the time they are here.  They have no money for hotels, nor are there enough hotels to accommodate them.  Basically, the entire town has turned into a campground, but a peaceful, very crowded one.  Some are selling handicrafts from their province, others are selling edible delicacies or cold drinks, while still others have the unavoidable “fair games”.  Traffic on most main roads is closed off, and the constant parade of people from one attraction to another is overwhelming, a virtual sea of people.  Again though, as most of these people are so poor, there is no unruly behavior due to alcohol per se, just about a million and a half people trying to have fun.  The government sponsors fireworks every night and a lighted float parade directly after.  These events wind up around 8:30, but the people continue to prowl the streets until the wee hours of the morning, enjoying free concerts, fellowship, and whatever other activities they can amuse themselves with.  As we are in the East, the sun rises early, and so do they, off in search of another day of entertainment. 

 

However, the main focus during the day is the long boat races.  We have coverage of all the races for 15 hours a day (they rerun them, as if once is not enough) on our Cambodian television station (in Cambodian, of course, so we have no idea who is racing, or sometimes even who won!).  We don’t quite understand the procedure, but know that today (Thursday) is the last day and the “finals”.    These boats are amazing!

scoping.jpg
Scoping out the competition from the riverside

digging.jpg
Digging in for the race

Tuesday morning I went out for a walk in the morning to immerse myself in the sites and smells and sounds of water festival.  Very interesting and overwhelming.  My near six foot stature and blond hair were much to the amusement of a lot of the children and some of the adults I encountered.  In return, I was fascinated at the breadth of “yummies” being sold and the diversity of the people.  As I neared the end of my walk that morning I encountered a very disturbing sight.  Some family had transported their poor child to Phnom Penh as a begging tool or freak show, I’m not sure.  Here was a child about 18 months old, completely normal from the neck down, but who’s head was a large, misshapen watermelon with empty eye sockets.  I decided not to post this picture here, as it is quite gruesome, but if you want to see, click HERE.

 

I watched some of the boats practicing for the race, then returned to the hotel to cool down (I was soaking wet).  At about 3:00, Mike called and said we were meeting at a local bar on the river with a balcony for a water festival party, so off I went to meet up with the usual suspects.  We had a birds eye view of the races, the fireworks, the float parade, and the crowds on the street.  Along with enough beer to get half of Phnom Penh intoxicated.  Around the time the fireworks ended we were getting restless, so we found a vendor on the street selling plastic and Styrofoam toy airplanes, bought all twenty of his inventory (for about $8), and brought them up to the balcony.  We spent about 40 minutes entertaining ourselves and the people on the street launching them down into the crowds.  Our “party” was half comprised of “barang” (westerners) and Cambodians, mostly Savy’s friend’s and relatives. 

Mike and I have been sharing a cold for the last couple days, which starts in your back and neck, then moves to your head.  He’s done with the stiff neck and back part, but I’m still working through it, so neither one of us was up for a long night.  We decided to try and find transportation home about 10 PM, and secured two moto’s to wind us through the throngs of people on foot and other fools on moto’s.  Very hilarious and entertaining crawl home.

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Mike moto-riding through the crowd, imperial palace lit up in the background

So, with the exception of watching the people from our hotel balcony and the fireworks from the hotel patio, we are about done with water festival.  It’s just too mad!  But, glad to have had the opportunity to experience it to the extent that we have, and glad to see the Cambodian people enjoying themselves in the city.

Update on our time here:  We will depart here on Thanksgiving Day for Phuket (Puh-ket), Thailand for golf/beach vacation, and return to Phnom Penh for the actual Embassy move-in on December 5.  Will be eating plane food for our Thanksgiving dinner, apparently. . .

Monday, November 14, 2005

A fairly uneventful week, as far as things go here in Phnom Penh.  Visited our local haunts all week, Monday at the Hope and Anchor, Tuesday Freebird, Wednesday FCC, Thursday Le Duo, did a little shopping at Central Market.  The usual activities that get us through the week.  Oh yea, Mike worked. . . heehee.

 

We didn’t have much planned for the weekend, but that quickly changed.  Scott has been telling us about a bar called Silverado where they have a live cover band from the Philippines playing every night.  We’ve wimped out on going so far, but decided Friday night was the night.  Had a mediocre dinner at Pancho Villa’s, stopped into the Dingo Bar for a “pick-me-up” and grabbed a couple of moto’s to head cross town to Silverado.  Arrived about 9:30 and the rest of the crew (Scott, Jason, Savy, Corbett, Rose, Mark and Jeff) showed up a couple minutes later.  This bar reminds me of the “theme” bars in Itaewon, Korea.  American Western décor (hence the name, eh?) with lots of tables sitting around.  However, unlike every other bar in Cambodia that we’ve been to, we were the ONLY WESTERN PEOPLE there!  Unbelievable.  And fun, the band was great, their song selection vast, and the beer was cold and wet.  The evening quickly turned into “Jason’s Last Stand”, as him and Savy are getting married in the province tomorrow, and we are invited!  Mike and I left everyone there around 1:30 for a solitary moto cruise through town.  We were having fun passing a bottle of beer back and forth (NOTE:  This is not dangerous, I promise.  These moto’s move at about a top speed of 8 mph, and we were the ONLY people on the road).   On the contrary, what is dangerous are muffler burns.  I have muffled (no pun intended) my amusement for two months at the western chicks walking around with round moto-burns on the back on their calves, but to my dismay, I must now join the club.  In my defense, I disengaged myself from the back of the moto without any injury, but in my unsteadiness while reaching into my purse for the mandatory dollar to pay my motodriver, I staggered into the muffler.  A Cambodian souvenir of the most lasting kind.  It certainly wasn’t my worst muffler burn, but as always, I hope it is my last!

 

Out of necessity, Saturday morning was a slow one.  We managed to get down to The Jungle around noon for my obligatory Banana Pancakes and Mike’s plate of grease.  Jason had arranged for a van to come and pick us up at the hotel around 3:30.  Made it on the van, with Jason’s best friends and brother from Kauai, Hawaii.  First stop – BEER!  Not really what I needed or wanted, but didn’t want to stand out, so I had a few on the hour drive out to the province. 

 

Now, like all cultures, the Cambodian wedding ceremony is unique.  It is an all day affair, starting for the ladies at 4 AM with full make-up (and I’m talking FULL) and intricate hair styles and traditional clothing.  Savy will change her clothes and her hairstyle at least four times today.  The ceremony usually gets started around 6:30 AM (of course, we weren’t there for any of this) and the festivities last until around 11 PM.  Now, most of the people who were in the wedding were out later than us last night, so my sympathies were with them.  We arrived during what appeared to be the “afternoon reprieve” before Savy got into her Western style wedding gown.  She was dressed in a very pretty formal dress and Jason in a three piece suit. 

This was a unique experience for us, to travel out into the countryside as guests of a wedding.  We are talking rustic.  Limited electricity, no running water, no shower, palm woven houses on stilts, mud roads.  They have a courtyard in front of their house, but the wedding tent is out in the lane stretching from one side to the other.  This is where they had the cake, the DJ, and a few tables.  The whole village turns out, most of the kids half dressed and amazed at our digital cameras, tall physiques and white skin.  I got into a butt-bumping match on the dance floor with a bunch of local women (who were probably related to Savy, but the English out here was limited, to say the least), which was probably some type of Cambodian ritual that I’m totally in the dark about.  As we sat having dinner we had to snicker at the stray cow passing through the street, under the wedding tent, and on along his way.  It was amazing to see this vast group of people who happen to live in the same village all celebrating Savy’s marriage and helping out in any way they could.  Savy’s parents house is made of wood, on stilts, with a open area underneath.  Inside square footage about 800 square feet, if that.  Savy’s Mom, Savy and her son, her two brothers, their wives and 3 children all live here.  It was an eye opener, I’m telling you.  I cry if I can’t have a hot shower, most of these people have probably never seen a shower.  And hot?  I can’t even tell you how hot is was out there.  Once the sun set, the slight breeze we had been enjoying during the afternoon completely stopped and it was still as death out there.  With about 200 people crammed into a small area, the heat was unbearable.

At about 9:30 we decided we’d had enough “local experience” and along with Jaqueline (Jason’s Mom), Mark, and Corbett piled into the air conditioned oasis of the van and headed back to town.  We got home just before 11, but were still a little wired up from the evening.  Weren’t able to head to bed til just about midnight.  Golf in the morning, so not going to get much sleep!

 

Off to the course on Sunday morning at 7 AM, returned home for showers and naps.  Headed out for dinner around 6, went to the Hope and Anchor for a quick night cap, and home to watch a movie.  We needed some rest!

 

After today, the next three days are Water Festival, which basically consists of tens of thousands of people pouring into Phnom Penh from the provinces for boat races along the river.  This is supposed to mark when the Tonle Sap river changes it’s directional flow.  I don’t think it’s actually switched yet, though.  They say it stays still for one day, then reverses.  There are already hundreds of boats lined up along the river, practicing for the upcoming races.  Each boat represents a group from a certain province, and is built with pride (and whatever money they can come up with out in the hinterlands), then brought here for the chance to win bragging rights of being the fastest paddled canoe (although canoe doesn’t really cover it, most of these boots look like they seat about 80 people).  Will report more on this later, as events unfold throughout the week.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

We arrived safely back in Phnom Penh yesterday tired, hungry and thirsty after a horrendous six hour boat trip.  I decided with the amount of semi-boring narrative (and 80+ pictures to post), to make a new page.  So, if you want to relive our Siem Reap trip with us, click on the link above that says Siem Reap.
 
Before we left I had to go and buy a new hairdryer (I fried mine in Bangkok).   I walked over to the handy Pencil supermarket and bought one for $10.  Got home, opened it up, and found it had an AMERICAN plug, which works for me, but seems strange to be selling here in southeast Asia!
 
On Thursday night, after a nice dinner at the FCC, we headed down to the Hope & Anchor for some darts.  For whatever reason, I got a wild hair and decided I wanted a white russian.  Now, all the girls that work here speak English to some degree, but sometimes they can be a little hard to understand.  I asked Nika to make me a white russian, then turned my back and continued playing darts.  When she brought it to me, I tasted it (it was fine), and then decided to quiz her on what she put in it, as she looked a little confused when I ordered one (probably because I never had!).  Here follows the exact conversation I had regarding my drink.
 
Rachelle:  What did you put in this drink?
Nika:  "Kahlua, vodka, and breast milk."
Rachelle:  "WHAT!?!?!"
Nika:  (repeating exactly) "Kahlua, vodka, and breast milk"
Rachelle:  "Breast milk????"
Nika:  "Breast milk!!!!"
 
Needless to say, I'm a little concerned at this point, so I grab Bopahl and ask her to ask Nika what she put in my drink.
 
(uncomprehensible Cambodian)
 
Bopahl:  "She says she put Kalua, vodka and fresh milk in there.  Why?  Is it bad?"
 
HAHAHA
 
After Nika found out what I thought she was saying she began to hit me repeatedly.
 
Ah, Cambodia, you gotta love it.
 
 

 

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

 

Forgive me for being excited, but I finally am!  Our airline tickets for the weekend are bought and our hotel is booked.  Siem Reap here we come, ready or not!  I am a little sad that we only have two days there, but two days crawling around in this heat looking at rocks will probably be enough!  We will take the boat back on Monday morning, it is a 5 hour cruise.  Have talked to a few people who have done it recently and they say prepare to be grounded a few times, as the water level is down.  That should be interesting.  Angkor Wat will be awesome!  We’ve heard it compared to Machu Pichu.  If it can live up to that, then cool!

 

We are staying at a “boutique hotel” called Passaggio in Siem Reap for $39/night.  I have a list of about 50 hotels up there, ranging from $3/night to $1500/night.  Not many mid-range, it’s either guesthouse with shared bath and possible hot water or extravagance beyond our meager budget, but this place looks nice.  The rooms are 40 meters square, which is quite large (bigger than our room here, I think!).  It’s owned by some Swiss, is fairly new, and has been getting good reviews.  You can check it out at www.passaggio-hotel.com if you are interested.

 

Have a lunch and shopping date today with Bophal, I need to get a backpack and maybe some placemats and anything else that strikes my fancy.  Tomorrow I have a lunch date with a gal names Sherry.  Her and her husband will be off to Burma next year as there next post and she wants to pick my brain.  I think I will “make” her go to “Le Duo”, this Italian restaurant that we LOVE.  I’ve been craving their calamari salad all week.  Mike and I split a small one on Saturday night and now I can’t get it outta my head. . . I also indulged in some three chocolate mousse that wasn’t bad, either!  However, I think I will top my salad off with some Canoli.  Luigi, the guy that owns the restaurant, is from Sicily and he scoffs at our time in Rome, saying now we will eat some “real” Italian food. . . too funny.

 

Had a nice weekend, Friday we laid low in order to be ready for golf on Saturday morning.  Played golf Saturday, then in the evening watched the fireworks for the King’s birthday.  They lit them off right across the river from our hotel, we felt like we were under attack.  The glass was shaking and the noise was echoing through the corridors.  It was pretty cool (because it was only fireworks!).  Then we had a double date at above mentioned Italian restaurant, home early.  Sunday out for breakfast, a little walking around, huge crowds for the King’s birthday out and about.  Monday was the official holiday. 

 

Looks like we will have a short break just after Thanksgiving before Scott and Mike need to be back here for move-in in December.  Think we will head up to Phuket, Thailand (nice resort area with great golf courses, and pronounced Pu-Ket) for a few days.  Scott said he would probably go with us as well.  Will be nice to play golf on an actual golf course. . .heehee.  Mike’s leave date has been extended to December 23, my tickets are to return on the 15th.  I think I will leave him unsupervised for a week and use my existing tickets if all goes well.  Someone needs to put up the Christmas tree at our house. . . NOT!  Well, maybe. . . who knows.  Sounds like a lot of work.  We should have one, but it ain’t our first Christmas and we didn’t have one last year, we barely had furniture!

 

This bird flu thing is driving me crazy.  Being here in the “danger zone” doesn’t scare me at all.  I think the whole panic is a bit of overkill.  Not saying the mutation is not going to happen, but if it does we still have nothing to combat it really, and the world (read:  first world countries) is only worried because it might affect them!  What about the 3 million people who die of diarrhea each year, or the untold millions who die of malaria.  These diseases are way easier to combat, but don’t “concern” us, so oh well.  Hopefully, we won’t have to worry about it mutating, it seems in the two and a half years since they “discovered” the strain that it might have already done so.  I think that the chickens are at the most risk here!  And what would happen to the world if chicken (a cheap source of protein worldwide between eggs and meat) became scarce and expensive? (Interesting link here shows that bird flu has been among us since at LEAST 1925  http://www.nature.com/nature/focus/avianflu/timeline.html)  It will probably be something we aren’t even paying attention to (or throwing billions of dollars at) that will get us in the end.  Enough said.  End of ranting.

 

So, look forward to next week when I can post some pictures of our trip! 

Thursday, October 27, 2005

 

Up the street from us is a driving school with at least 10 cars for training.  Occasionally I see people actually driving slowly up and down our streets in these cars.  In Cambodia, (obviously) there is no actual driving test, written or operational, to obtain a driver’s license.  It’s all based on bribery and money (like everything else pertaining to the government here).  I wonder what this school is for. 

 

In front of the new Embassy where Mike is working there are about 30 planted palm trees, the really fat kind that look like pineapples, in two rows along the walkway.  The other day he witnessed about half of them being replaced, as the originals had a little yellow on the top.  Our tax dollars at work.  No reason the US Embassy should have to incur any type of yellowing of their palm trees, that’s for sure.  What would the neighbors think??

 

Our friend Ron is in Germany right now, he was supposed to travel here for the end of the project.  However, he had a heart attack in Germany so he has been “grounded” for a while.  Fortunately he is okay, pretty much had the heart attack in the hospital.  Also fortunate is he decided to have these problems BEFORE he arrived here.  The hospitals here are a sight to see, Imagine the images you see on the nightly news of hospitals in Pakistan and Iraq and you get a pretty good idea of the facilities here.  I think the prisons are probably more hygienic. I would HATE to have to go there for anything.  Apparently, all westerners are advised to go to Bangkok for any medical problems.  I don’t think I would have any problem obeying this order.  There was an article in the daily Cambodian rag here the other day about black market blood.  They have closed almost all the blood donation centers (due to lack of graft, I’m sure), so now if you are in need, someone goes out into the street to try to find some blood for you.  It’s a great deal for the donor, he gets a meal and $5.  However, I’d hate to be the recipient. . . who knows what kind of blood you are getting, especially with about 40% of the population being HIV positive.

 

I just finished reading P.J. O’Rourke’s “Holidays in Hell”, which is a satirical and political look at some of the worst places on the planet, socially and politically.  Unfortunately, the closest he was to Cambodia was Singapore and Seoul, but sounds like Nicaragua in the late 80’s might have been close to here.  A funny and thoughtful book, though.  

 

The Cambodian people love to hangout on grass.  Every night around 7 pm they start to congregate on any piece of grass in the city.  The “rich” bring plastic chairs and a blanket, the less fortunate sit on the ground.  They’ll sit there until about 10:30 (which I think is the official Cambodian bed time, as the streets completely empty out after this).  They play badminton (without a net) and some type of hackeysack (the hackey sack can apparently be made out of anything, fruit rinds, gravel in a sock, etc.)  It seems a somewhat silly way to pass the time, however it probably beats sitting home and watching television every night (although I’m sure that’s not an option for these folks, those who can are probably doing just that).  Cambodians tend to be quite early risers.  On the weekends when we go to golf, we usually leave the hotel around 6:30 (an UNGODLY hour if you ask me) and the streets are absolutely packed with traffic.  I wonder what they are all doing so early. 

 

My friend Bophal, who is the fiancé of Peter who owns the Hope & Anchor, our dart hangout, has become my personal shopper.  So far she has bought me two shirts and advised me to buy a Cambodian wrap style skirt (which I do like very much).  It’s hilarious, though.  The one shirt is way closer to lingerie than clothing in my mind, and made of wonderful 100% polyester, so pleasant in 90 degree temperatures.  But, it’s the thought that counts, right? 

 

We are going to Angkor Wat the first weekend of November, I think.  We will probably take the boat there and fly back.  Something to look forward to.  It’s becoming a little boring here in Phnom Penh.  Should provide some good photos, though.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

 

Spent a little time at a few of the local markets this week.  What an interesting concept.  Unlike the mega-malls of the modern world, these are labyrinthed structures, crowded, hot, and full of strange (and sometimes obnoxious or noxious) scents.  Everything is for sale here, from crackers and toothpaste to bike tires and car parts.  Unlike our modern mall, there does appear to be some organization to what part of the market you need to go to get a particular thing.  Most of the health and beauty aids are all together, 60 stalls selling the exact same thing.  You wonder how anyone makes any money.  It reminds me of a microcosm of Seoul, where you had to travel to a specific part of town to buy a specific product (i.e. electronics, sporting goods) and when you arrived to that area you are surrounded by 100’s of stores selling the same products.  Even Tokyo had a large section of town devoted only to the sale of electronics.  In the Western world we want to “distinguish” our store and products from others, it seems here in Asia it is better to be in a crowd and hope to get your share.  They also have fragrant food courts in the middle selling everything from skinned frogs on a stick to fried rice and mystery meat.  Haven’t had the guts (no pun intended) to try any food here yet, but I know you could eat like a king for well less than a dollar.

 

And, these are the “newer” markets where everything is indoors, cleaner, and a little more expensive than in the vast, sprawling outdoor markets that exist everywhere (see pictures from earlier postings).  Did a short visit to local outdoor market Wednesday to get the heel of my shoe fixed.  Fifty cents and I was walking again.  It was a little “princess heel” (for those of you who know of such things), and they don’t have replacement parts apparently, as this guy carved one for me out of a piece of thick, black rubber.  Take what you can get, I guess!

 

If one was a “petiter” thing than I, you could outfit yourself with bras, shoes, and clothes pretty cheap here.  However, for me, it is a bit of a challenge.  I did manage to find a pair of cute flip-flop styled shoes yesterday that were close enough. 

 

Another odd thing is the combination of American Dollars and Cambodian Riel that exists.  As an American, shopping and eating in mainly “western oriented” places (the supermarket instead of the street, the inside restaurant instead of the temporary place with the tiny plastic seats that spring up on the sidewalk every evening), I don’t have a lot of use for riel.  The biggest bill they have is 10,000 which equals $2.50.  I rarely have any amount of riel on me, usually about 30 or 40 cents worth.  Which, if you are a local, will buy you a bag of fruit, a moto-ride, or parking for a couple of hours, but if you are a “rich” westerner like me, will buy you nothing.  The outcome of this system, and the fact they have no coins, just bills ranging from 50 to 10,000 riel and the mighty American dollar, the average Khmer doesn’t know how to add and subtract numbers non-divisible by 10.  I never thought about how much of our basic learning of math is probably focused on making change or figuring out “If you have a dollar and buy three apples for 27 cents apiece, how much money do you have left”.  Thank you to my third grade math teacher. . .  They seem to have no reason to know what 65 minus 34 is, as that would never happen!  In effect, they’ve solved our “penny problem”!  Of course, 50 riel is about the equivalent of 1.25 cents, sooo. . . .   But, even at the mega-modern supermarket, everything is priced with a 0 or 5 at the end.

 

Between Scott, Mike and I we seem to have “adopted” about six street kids who expect a dollar from us everytime we see them.  This is of our own making, unfortunately, but they have such sob stories and speak such good English, and are just so darn cute, it’s hard to say no.  The word is getting around, however, and now it sometimes seems we travel with a bevy of children everywhere we go.  These are our famous “book-sellers” I wrote about earlier, and now that I’ve bought every book they have in English they have resorted to basically begging.   A couple of them I want to throw in my suitcase and send home. 

 

Another paradox is transportation.  Everyday and night an entourage of tuk-tuk’s and moto’s sit outside our hotel fortress, waiting to transport us to whatever our destination for what basically equates to more than an average daily wage for a Khmer.  If you make “friends” with one driver, than all the other drivers are mad at you, but if you aren’t “loyal” to the guy who actually remembers your name, then you are a bad person, too.  Either way you will get sneered at, see fake crying faces when you board your chosen vehicle, or worse (and more scarier) is that everyone knows where your destination it, and you worry about being mugged when you leave!  I would think they would appreciate that we use them all, so they always have a chance, instead of being picky and just riding with one or two people, but it seems a Catch-22.  Our friend Jason has a saying (and a song, as a matter of fact) about us being “moto-meat”, which is hilarious.  We are thinking about getting some t-shirts made with a picture of a moto in a circle with a big line through it that say “Say no to Moto” on them or “I ain’t no Moto-Meat”.  Regardless, it’s starting to become a hassle.

 

Oh, you would have 19 cents left. . . . heehee.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

 

Okay, I knew we weren’t living in one of the top ten cities in the world, but to read that Phnom Penh was ranked 122 out of 127 cities worldwide as least livable?  EXCUSE ME????  Have you ever been to N’djamena, Chad???  Apparently not, because it didn’t even make the list.  I googled, looking for the complete list, but to no avail.  If anyone finds it, let me know, I’d like to see a complete listing of all the cities they rated.  Mike’s last stop, Lagos, Nigeria, did rank worse than here, though.  Was good to have skipped that one, I guess.  Interesting bragging rights; “I spent three months living in the 6th most unlivable city in the world”.  Heehee.

 

A little bit of the “flu” (don’t know if it was “brown bottle flu”, “ucky food flu”, or just a 24 hour bug) earlier last week.  Good news is it wasn’t “BIRD FLU”.  I’m so tired of hearing about the upcoming pandemic we MIGHT have if this virus ever bothers to mutate (which in three years it hasn’t).  Another State of Fear from the media, me thinks.   Don’t think I will play with the chickens, however.

 

Had a nice chili dinner at Robert and Mandy’s house last Thursday with two other couples from the Embassy.  They have a beautiful huge house here, unbelievable.  Huge mahogany wrap around spiral staircase, rooftop terrace (complete with pool table), etc.  Very nice.  Maybe Mike SHOULD join the State Department, beats the heck out of a hotel room.  Of course, then I would probably have to cook, clean, etc. . .  hmmm, nevermind.

 

It’s no secret now that my girlfriend Kenya is pregnant, so I will announce it here for anyone who knows her!  She is my friend that was living in our house for a little while.  I’m going to be an “Auntie”.  Congratulations Kenya and Kevin!

 

Tried to go bowling last Friday night.  Apparently they have one bowling alley here with 6 lanes, and everyone says it's always empty.  Bowling must not have the same appeal to Khmers as it does to us Michiganders.  But, we didn't get a group together, and decided not to go it alone.

 

Saturday night we went to a real divey bar down by the lake with a group of people from the Embassy for dinner (cold spaghetti and deep fried whole frogs), drinks and karaoke.  It was a birthday party for the bar owner, who apparently was a "kept woman" of some ex-Embassy employee who when he left set her up with this bar (he could have got her a little better location!).  Strange mixture of Westerners and Khmer family members, with a cake cutting ceremony complete with sparklers and silly string!

 

Another hot morning on the golf course Sunday, not much else doing. 

 

As yesterday was an American holiday, I went shopping with two gals, Mandy and Joyce.  Didn't buy much but movies and a CD case.  Saw some cool stuff, but it was sooo hot in this market that when we exited out into the open air (and mind you it was 89 degrees yesterday), it actually felt cool.  Was quite an experience cramming down those narrow alleyways, looking at junk, trying not to get robbed, molested by beggars and "fan kids" (who for about 12 cents will ineffectually wave a piece of stryfoam at you while you shop).  Out in about 80 minutes, then went to lunch and I showed the gals a nice art gallery where I am longing for a certain piece of art. . .

 

After they dropped me back home I went next door and got a haircut.  A Vietnamese guy who has worked here at a "French" salon for 12 years.  He cut it alright.  I almost cried!  I have BANGS!!!!  Granted, I'm not happy.  Two inch bangs in this humidity with my colics and curls is NOT gonna work.  But, what can I do??  He can't put it back!

 

So, that's all the news for now.  Sorry this post got up here so late, some of it was supposed to be here Friday, but for some reason didn't post.  Unless I posted it somewhere else that I can't find. . .

Monday, October 3, 2005

 

Another fun weekend in the Cambodian humidity.  Friday was an easy evening, meeting Mike, Scott, Robert and Corbett (and later Robert’s wife Mandy) at the Coyote Ugly after work, then off for some German Food at a place called William Tell, then darts (Robert and Mandy are avid dart players, so was fun).  It was a fairly early night, as we started early, and Saturday was made for laying around doing nothing.  Headed out for a snack in the late afternoon, then went to the FCC for dinner and ended up sitting up on the balcony watching the weather and the river and the people.  Up Sunday for preplanned brunch that fell apart, but Mike and I went anyway. 

 

Afterwards we decided to walk along the river and see if we could rent a boat (with a captain, of course) for a couple hours.  It was a very hot, still day and we thought cruising on the river might cool us down.  However, the boat we ended up on was just a putt-putt boat, but we did make it around the corner and into the Mekong for a little while.  Lots of fishing shanties/boats long the river, mostly Vietnamese people who come into the country to fish during high water.  The water is finally receding in the river, and supposedly there is an island right off our hotel, but we’ve only seen signs of a little grass poking through the top of the river (or maybe the tops of trees, hard to say).

 

dscn1289.jpg
Colorful fishing boats along the river

Met up with Scott, Jason and Savy on Sunday night and played Connect Four and Jenga at BarBaDos bar.  I haven’t played Connect Four in probably 25 years, so that was fun, with a bit of a learning curve.  Savy beat me three games in a row right off the bat. 

 

Jason and a lot of the guys who’ve been here for a couple years have been staying at a hotel around the corner from ours off the river for about 1/3 the price as our hotel, so Mike wanted me to go over and check it out today.  It’s a tough thing to weigh out, we could save some money each month, but the rooms were a little depressing (think 70’s roadside hotel) and they don’t have internet connection, pool, health club or our extensive breakfast buffet.  I think we are spoiled and will stay put. 

 

Was nice to take a week off from playing golf (just because of the heat), but we missed the planned activity.  Getting pumped planning our trip to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat, hoping to fly one way and take a boat one way.  See a little of the countryside.

 

FUNNY PRODUCTS IN CAMBODIA:

 

Feminine Virginal Wash - does this make you a virgin again?

Pink Nipple Cream – don’t know if the cream is pink, or is supposed to make your nipples pink, nor do I really care.

Breast Enlargement Cream – for $1.40 a big bottle!

Laxative  Tea – and it works like a dream!

 

Of course, the Cambodians, like all Asians I’ve met, have a vast desire to have “white” skin, and there are shelves and shelves of these products and creams available to make you whiter.  I’ll go over and take pictures of these products, I didn’t have my camera with me today when I discovered them. 

 

All available at our nearby Pencil Supermarket, so get your orders in!

 

Successfully found a battery for my phone last week with my moto driver’s help.  $10, what a deal.  Have been keeping the local DVD bootleg market in business, have probably bought about 15 movies so far.  Some good ones, if you haven’t seen them are “The Human Stain” and “House of D”, especially “House of D”.  Also have been reading quite a bit of literature about Cambodian history, three to look for at the library are “First They Killed My Father” by Loung Ung, “When Broken Glass Floats” by Chanrithy Him and “The Gate” by Franciois Bizot, the only Western prisoner to be released by the Khmer Rouge.  Of course, this is not uplifting reading, but still historical and informative, and well written if you’re interested.

 

I received a blond joke via email the other day that made me laugh.  Funny thing, three days later heard it from another Westerner we didn’t know in a bar here.  The internet is an amazing thing.  Anyway, here’s the joke.

 

A blond is sitting on the subway reading the newspaper and the headline says “12 Brazilian Soilders Killed in Skirmish”.  She says, “Wow”, and leans to the gentleman next to her and asks, “I can’t remember, how many is a Brazilian?” 

 

Groan.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

 

I’ve always said that my favorite beer is “wet, cold, and free”, and Friday night provided ample supply of that!  Scott, Mike, Corbett and I grabbed a cab to the Angkor “factory” (apparently they have no concept of the word brewery here, but whatever) for a private party in the Pub there.  Mike’s boss here at the Embassy rented the space for the night which includes all the beer you can drink (did I mention it was free?) and a karaoke machine (JOY!).  I spent 8 months in Japan and avoided the inevitable karaoke, only took two weeks to break down the wall here.  I won’t go into details except that it was UGLY, as anyone who has heard me sing can attest to.  Anyway, they had some great food catered in, and we spent about 5 hours schmoozing with Embassy personnel and each other, lubricating our throats with FREE ANGKOR BEER.  I only had one. I have no other way to measure my intake, as my glass never seemed to be empty the entire night.  Met some very nice people, including a gal who is going to try and get me some contacts in order to do some volunteer work while we are here, which would be interesting, plus give me something to do a few days a week.  Afterwards, we headed to Sharky’s for a nightcap (like we needed that), where they had my second favorite beer, “wet and cold”, and at $1/pop, almost free.

 

Needless to say, Saturday was a tough morning.  Had a little slow start on the day, but managed to get down to the Hope and Anchor (our dart hang-out) for some brunch.  After a little food we felt a lot better, but we had a pretty tough afternoon planned.  We were off to Toul Sleng (former Khmer Rouge S-21 prison) and the Killing Fields.  We spoke to Peter (owner of Hope and Anchor) and our friend Shane at brunch about our plans, and they were very pessimistic about our planned activities. 

 

Grabbed a Tuk-Tuk for the afternoon, and off we went.  S-21 is pretty much a Cambodian version of a concentration camp.  Prior to 1976 this site was a high school, but during the Khmer Rouge uprising was converted to a prison and “interrogation” (read: torture chamber) for any anti-KR or suspected anti-KR citizens.  This was the last stop before the killing fields for over 14,000 Cambodians.  Unfortunately, because the Khmer Rouge was trying to bring Cambodia back to a farming based country, the majority of people first targeted were those with an education, so almost all professional people and their families went to slaughter first, thus eliminating the very people who could have possibly planned and financed some kind of rebellion.  There were four more “branches” of this prison surrounding Phnom Penh, plus “re-education” camps throughout the country, which were not much better.

 

It was horrifying.  Unlike the German holocaust, they made little effort to hide what was happening here, and much evidence of torture implements are still on display, as well as leg irons and gallows.  When the Khmer Rouge fell, they found 14 bodies still chained to beds, tortured to death, and they took pictures of them.  There are 14 cells on the first floor of one building that were torture rooms, and the pictures of each of these last victims are hanging there above the beds with the scene recreated, minus the body.  The bodies have been properly interred within the walls of the prison now, saved from mass burial at the killing fields.  Only 17 people survived their detention here.

 

Walking through the museum seemed a bit surreal, as you could tell it was an academic setting, wheeled chalk boards and some desks still remained in some areas.   Also unlike the holocaust, every victim here was photographed (this was only 29 years ago and less, so cameras were abundant) and extensive biographies taken from each prisoner, usually elicited by torture, to find other “enemies of the state” who they may have been associated with.  There are room after room of photos of these “enemies”, mostly young children and women.  Over 2000 babies were also killed en masse here, and not individually recorded, although there are photos of toddlers everywhere. 

 

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Torture room

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rooms and rooms and walls and walls of victims, some defiant, some scared, some actually smiling

This place literally made the hairs on my arm stand on end.

 

After a couple hours we were pretty sick to our stomachs, and the sky decided to let loose it’s daily monsoon, so we skipped the Killing Fields (which are located about 5 miles away) and came back to the hotel.  Will have to go another day for that lovely experience, or maybe not.

 

Saturday night was an early one, as Sunday held more hot, sticky, sweaty golf for us.  We had dinner at the Hope and Anchor, we had told Peter we were dying for some corn on the cob the other day, and he promised us some for dinner tonight.  It was awful.  Definitely not that delicious sweet corn of Michigan, someone eat a couple ears for me.  Large kernelled and mealy, no sweetness at all.  Shortly after we arrived, Peter’s fiancé, a Cambodian gal, left with her brother on his moto to go home.  About 10 minutes after they left, she called Peter crying.  Some other moto stole her purse from her shoulder, pulling her off her moto onto the road, scraped her up pretty good, plus she lost her purse.  She was now at the police station, and in order for them to do anything about it they needed a bribe.  “Sister, you cannot expect us to use gas, cell phone minutes, etc., trying to track down your thieves for free.”  Nice system.  She was pretty much unscathed and had no idea who had done it, so she just went home.  Apparently, now the police are mad at her for reporting the incident, but not giving them anything for it!  They literally told her that the next time it happened not to bother even reporting it!

 

Sunday, we were up at 5:30, teeing off at 7:45 for another wonderful round of Cambodian style golf.  This week we were smart and rented a cart.  Our caddies were more appreciative this week as well!  There were six of us total out there, and we had a pretty good morning.  Back to the hotel by 2 for a much needed shower and nap. 

 

For dinner we went to a place called “Friends”, which is a tapas style restaurant owned and operated by various charitable organizations (referred to as NGO’s, non-government organizations) that have organized a vast network for helping young Cambodian kids off the street and out of gangs and lives of crime.  They learn a trade at the restaurant, and hopefully can find jobs outside after their internship.  They also operate a school, an art gallery, and another restaurant here in Phnom Penh.  It was invigorating after Saturday’s excursions and the general feeling of the endless cycle of poverty here to see a functional network providing alternatives to a seemingly lost cause.  Their literature says they currently “employ” over 1800 young people at various occupations, keeping them from living on the street, and providing them with a structured environment with an education.  Very refreshing, and good food, too.  Yummy sweet potato French fries with curry mayonnaise.

 

Monday passed fairly uneventfully for me, although my phone has given up the ghost.  I need a new battery.  Seems the one in the phone has puffed up and the back won’t fit on my phone anymore.  Will have to put my phone on a diet.  That’s my goal today, to find a new Sony battery. . . hopefully will not be too challenging, as it is hot and sunny out there today.  Mike doesn’t like not being able to get a hold of me during the day, though.  I think he fears some Cambodian will rip me off my moto.  I think if they grabbed a hold of me it is far more likely they would come off THEIR moto. . . . J  Did go out to dinner at a nice Italian restaurant, owned by a Sicilian and his wife.  Had some swordfish and pasta, Mike had spaghetti and meatballs.  Was very good and reminiscent of Rome, including the very romantic setting outside with cute ornamental gaslit streetlights and a beautiful garden, right up until the monsoon started again. . . oh well, can’t have it all I guess.

 

Still going to the gym every weekday morning before breakfast.  As anyone who knows me well knows this is a phenomenal occurrence. . . .Especially as I’m the Queen of instant results, and I haven’t seen any either on the scale or in how my clothes fit.  Probably because I spend most of the rest of the day sitting around on my butt. . .

 

So that’s all the news that’s fit to print for now.  Will keep you updated!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Just a few pictures from this past week today, spent most of the day watching a horrific downpour from my hotel window, has cleared up now though, just in time for our 6 pm departure to the Angkor Brewery party. . . now if we just knew where it was. . .  Will need to Google that!

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Wat Phnom, on a hill, in a circular park, with a big clock in front (?)

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My new friend Sambo, the elephant. I will ride him sometime while I'm here. . . maybe

Thursday, September 22, 2005

 

Although I’ve been to many poverty-ridden countries, and also many Asian countries, I have to say Cambodia has a flavor of it’s own.  Although isolated from much of it by not understanding/speaking/reading the language and being “sequestered” in a nice hotel surrounded by other nice hotels, I can see the difference in the people here versus other places we’ve been.  It seems almost like a lawless society, and although I’ve seen many private armed security guards hired by some of the nicer bars and restaurants, I’ve yet to see one policeman or police vehicle, or even hear a siren.  Not that it feels unsafe or scary, just that it would appear that anything goes. 

 

Although Mike may argue this, I know I saw a tired “old” grandmother (probably my age) trying to sell her naked grandson on the street the other night.  This woman had the look of a heroin or opium addict, staggering down the sidewalk in front of the river with a young, naked toddler in tow (probably under 3 years old).  At one point, she just couldn’t stand up any longer, and fell over head first onto the sidewalk, right on top of this poor child.  Of course, now he’s crying and screaming, and reaching to her for comfort that is not going to come.  After a verbal and somewhat physical tussle with one of the security guys, she finally moved on, practically dragging this unfortunate, unclothed, howling child behind her.  Later, we saw her just sitting on the curb, staring into space, while he lay against her leg sleeping.  Needless to say, it was quite disturbing, depressing, and put a damper on my evening, not to mention the damper on this kid’s LIFE! 

 

It makes you wonder what would have happened in a city of a million people in America?  Someone would have intervened (like the security guard here?), but would the police have been called?  I don’t know.  But, it does seem that the Khmer (native Cambodians are referred to as Khmer), don’t have much respect/concern for there fellow countrymen.  For the most part, the Khmers we’ve encountered seem to be a friendly, if somewhat uninterested, participant in the daily workings of Phnom Penh.  As some of the few Westerner’s around town, we don’t attract many stares, or even the most common question, “Where are you from?”, they just kind of accept our presence unquestionably.  I don’t know if they are uninterested, or just don’t have the time to wonder in their own lives.

 

Not to mention the rampant prostitution going on in every bar and restaurant, and probably all over the streets. . .  I don’t even want to get into that.  It is disheartening to watch the “working girls” flow into Western oriented bars like Sharky’s at around 8:30-9 pm every night, some looking as young as 15 or 16 (although there is a sign out front saying no one under 18 allowed, I haven’t seen anyone checking ID’s).  You see the same girls every night, and there modus operandum is to immediately sit down (invited or uninvited) with the first available foreign man who is not with a woman.  Even when we go with Scott, the three of us always have another girl hanging over Scott’s shoulder trying to interest him in her.  Even if you ask them to leave, or tell them you are not interested, it does nothing.  Most of them speak passable English, and all are very pretty. 

 

One of the youngest gals we’ve seen in Sharky’s (my guess is definitely under 16, but I couldn’t really say) was there the other night with an even younger girl in tow, whispering in her ear as she guided her around the bar, obviously showing her the ropes, possibly even telling her who to watch out for.  I tried to take her picture, but she refused.  The Khmer manager told me it was not a superstition thing, but that she wanted no proof that she was actually there. 

 

Now, these girls are not employed by the bar to entertain men, they just come there to work and shoot pool.  The employees have polo shirts with STAFF in large letters on the back to help differentiate them from the girls who are for sale.  Now, in some of the other bars we are at, the girls who serve you actually get a salary from the bar owner, but are also “selling it” as well, if you are interested.  It is completely and totally unavoidable to go anywhere and not have this, except maybe the FCC and some of the finer restaurants in town, but still not sure. . . And they say more and more of these young girls come in from the provinces and Burma everyday.  Their dream?  To take their trade to Bangkok, and then possibly to Japan.  And these are not even the brothel girls, which is another whole story.

 

On a brighter note, we have met many young, industrious, semi-getting-educated children on the street participating in legitimate business.  And, although it is disturbing to see them working until 11 pm or later, I hope they have a brighter future in front of them.  Some agency has outfitted many of these kids with baskets of books, mostly about Cambodia’s history, Pol Pot, or Lonely Planet guides to here and neighboring countries, as well as postcards, and let them lose to sell them.  Being the sucker for cute kids and books that I am, I’ve bought quite a few.  They are not uplifting literature by far.  However, the kids are neat, funny, and sharp. 

 

I also found a paperboy hawking the Herald Tribune the other night (which I haven’t seen outside of the hotel’s business center, one copy, usually out of date, and not available to be taken outside of the business center), and have arranged for him to bring me a copy everyday at 10:30 am.  The paper retails for $2.50 here, and he charges me an additional 50 cents to deliver it.  Plus, I usually give him some candy, biscuits, cookies or fruit in addition to the money.  His name is Pung, and his English is good as is his reliability.  He’s also about 13 years old.  The hotel staff finds it hilarious, I think, as they always laugh heartily when I come down to get my paper and pay him.  Oh well.

 

We are invited to a party at the Angkor Brewery tomorrow night (local beer), with much of the Embassy staff, so that should be fun.  Going to try and get to the Killing Fields one day this weekend, but still trying to figure out the best way to get there and have a tour.  They’re not far, just about 15 miles outside the city, with museums and such.  Should be another uplifting endeavor. . .

 

We didn’t make it to either of the markets last weekend, but I went to the Central Market yesterday, and to Wat (Temple) Phnom the other day.  The market was disgusting, with little if anything there I would be interested in buying, plus the smell is indescribable.  You walk from one stench to another through cramped alleyways surrounded by stalls selling almost indistinguishable goods from one another, until you make it to the large center, which is primarily jewels and gold of some quality or another.  Glad Mike didn’t have to endure this, as it would have been a much shorter trip.  I will return to take some pictures, I just didn’t have it in me that day. 

 

The Wat was okay, small and not much to see, but surrounded by wild monkeys.  The only other place besides a zoo and the jungle I’ve seen so many monkeys was Gibraltar.  They are everywhere, and not shy of people.  They also have an elephant at the Wat named “Sambo” that you can take a short ride on.  Will try it before I leave, but again, just didn’t have the desire to be the only Westerner in sight sitting atop an elephant. 

 

The rainy season continues with about one torrential downpour a day.

 

Sunday, September 18, 2005

 

Thursday night we “found” Sharky’s bar, located just off the main drag and owned by a guy from North Carolina.  Specializing in Tex Mex and Louisiana cuisine, a very nice spot, although after about 9 pm fills up with working girls.  Food is good, though, I had a burrito about the size of a football.  Stayed there for a little while, then ventured off to another place to meet up with a guy working here that Scott had met in Moscow, Jason, and his fiancé Pave.  Nice, quiet place with a balcony overlooking the river.  But behind the red curtain was the dance club, which was quite a sight.  A stage with about 10 Cambodian girls dressed in sequined cowgirl outfits doing some kind of rhythmic, synchronized dancing with a bunch of old guys watching.  Not in bad taste, they keep their clothes on, just very strange. . .

 

For the amount of bars targeted to Westerners, there seems to be very few tourists and ex-pats to fill them.  Rode by a Thai restaurant with a very good reputation the other night, not one customer in there. . . just lots of workers standing around looking for someone to feed.

 

Friday afternoon I finally was brave enough to hire a motoscooter to take me to the Embassy to meet Mike and Scott after work.  We were going to investigate an Oktoberfest tent party outside one of the hotels, so I asked the fellow with the scooter if he knew the Sunway Hotel.  His response, “Of course I know, hop on!”  So, off we went across town, slowly and carefully winding our way through cars, SUV’s, trucks, pedestrians and Tuk Tuk’s.  Unfortunately, because he spoke fairly good English, he kept turning around to talk to me.  I would have preferred he kept his eyes forward, but I arrived safely.  The Oktoberfest was a bust, we would have been the only people under the tent, so we walked across the way to the Coyote Ugly, where the guys have lunch occasionally.  Had a few beers and played some pool with the bar girls, then Mike and I grabbed scooters to go home.  Ordered a little room service and watched “Crash”, went to bed early so we could get up at 5:45 in order to go golfing.

 

If you haven’t seen “Crash”, I highly recommend it.  A very disturbing look at racial tensions and stereotypes in America.  A movie that really makes you examine your own prejudices and inner thoughts, as well as how other people think, too.  A very human movie.

 

Up early as heck Saturday morning, grabbed a quick breakfast and Tuan picked us up at 6:45 to head for the golf course.  We had been warned that the course was not that great, and it was true.  This could possibly qualify as one of the worst courses I’ve ever played.  We all had caddies to pull our clubs around, and we walked the course from 7:30 to 12:30.  Was very warm and sticky.  The greens were thoroughly saturated with water, and shaggy as heck, almost impossible to putt on, or even to get the ball to the hole.  It was interesting, and I know we will go again, but good to know what to expect now.  Mike had a good day out there, though, scoring an even 80 with back to back birdies!  Can’t say the same for myself. . .

 

On the way home from the golf course we drove by one of the large garment factories here in Phnom Penh during lunch hour.  About 300 young women out along the streets finding lunch.  We offered to drop Scott off, but he turned us down.  Although we were still in town (only about 4 miles from the airport), it was an interesting drive through some very rural living conditions.  And again, I must say, the invention of the plastic bag may be one of the biggest banes of man.  Every developing country we go to, as soon as you leave the city, the landscape turns into a colorful collection of plastic bags wrapped around trees, fences, floating in rivers, filling the ditches.  Someone please figure out what to do with these things!   I always vow to never use another one after seeing such things, although do a bad job of keeping this vow. 

 

Came home, cleaned the dirt and sweat off of us and took a nice nap.  We were thoroughly tuckered out.  By the 15th hole I could hardly pick up my club to swing.  Back to Sharky’s for dinner, then to the Hope and Anchor bar with Scott to play some darts.  Couldn’t beat Mike or Scott there, either.  Must be my golf clubs and darts are jet lagged. 

 

Today we are going to either go check out the Central Market or the Russian Market.  Should be some good photo opportunities and will be able to check out what deals are available here.

 

Interesting fact about the river (Tonle Sap).  It is currently at high water, draining into Tonle Sap Lake about 300 kilometers from here.  Apparently the banks of the river and the Lake keep much flood water out of Cambodia and Vietnam.  However, in about two weeks the water level will go down (due to the end of the rainy season), and the river will actually reverse its flow.  For two days it will have no current, and then start flowing from the lake back to the Mekong.  They have a large festival to commemorate this event, with thousands of small boats racing on the river.  Something to look forward to seeing, as our hotel sits right on the river!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Well, so far we’ve been to the driving range, have found two bars with dart boards, and have a tee time for 7 am (!!!) on Saturday morning, ate a lot of food, and drank a few beers, so life is good.  We also ran into a friend of ours we met in Brazil at the bar last night, so had some beverages with Dwight.  Good to see him after almost two years!  It’s a small world. . blah blah blah. . .

 

Literally not much happening here in Phnom Penh. This is the kind of place where people go to do nothing.  For the first time today we had sunshine and no rain (so far).  Sorry about lack of pics so far, but Mike has been taking the camera to work all week in order to take pictures of the poor state of their equipment (submerged in 3 inches of water, no problem, it’s just electronics, right?), but today I finally took the opportunity to go for a walk and take some pictures!

 

Main mode of transportation around the city are moto’s (scooters) and motorcycle powered Tuk Tuk’s, which seem expensive to me, but we take them all the time.  Not unusual to see a family of four on one moped, saw five last night.  Also saw a guy transporting a 12 foot ladder (silliness) and today I saw a guy with at LEAST 100 dead chickens hanging off his, feathers and all. 

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Mekong River flowing along main drag our hotel is on

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Some cool dude just hanging out under the tree along the street

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These stands are everywhere, like vending machines in Japan, the biggest grapefruits I've ever seen!

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Unmotorized sleeping Tuk Tuk driver

Wandered through the local street market today, saw some pretty scary things. 

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Streetside haircut anyone?

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Cambodian gas station - Fill 'er up, please

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Fruit market. . . do all these beautiful little bar girls grow up to look like this?!?!?

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Although we have a kitchen, I don't think I'll be buying my meat here, look at the pig head!

This town reminds me of what Bangkok was probably like 50 years ago before it turned into a fleshpit and convention city.  Kind of like time travel.  Lots of Westerners around, most of them own the bars. . . There are plenty of bar girls around, though, if you’re looking for some satisfaction.  We were in a place the other night where the bar girls out numbered the patrons.  They all shoot a pretty mean game of pool, so the guys were getting their butts whipped (just in pool).  No language problems here, either.  Almost everyone speaks some English and all the menu’s and signs and such are better translated than in Japan.  They could use a few more street signs, but at least the streets have names!

 

Found a used book store up the street (YEA!), and bootleg DVD’s of good quality are available everywhere for $2.  Bought “Crash” today on recommendation of many.  With the happening nightlife around here, don’t know when we’ll have a chance to watch it.  Maybe on Sunday when we are exhausted and Mike has to go to work.  Or possibly Friday night, as Saturday morning golf is going to come awfully early I believe. 

 

Anyone remember the caviar pizza story from Moldova?  Well, here they have “Happy Pizza”.  Any guesses what the secret ingredient is?  Marijuana! 

Our hotel is nice and I’ve been utilizing the health club everyday this week.  Must be just the jet lag getting me up so early, we all know it ain’t motivation!  Food and beer is good, though, so better work it off somehow, I can guarantee it won’t be walking around like in Rome, as it is just too darn hot here for that.  We are in a prime location right along the Mekong river, and just a short wander up the street are many good restaurants and bars.

Monday, September 12, 2005
 
A long trip, but we have arrived.  Definitely the rainy season here, but the cloud cover seems to keep the heat down, which is nice, but the humidity is killer already. 
 
Flights here were GREAT, even though Mike was sitting in the front of the plane in business.  I lucked out, my flight from Chicago to Tokyo had two empty seats next to me, so I sprawled my big girl self out and slept a lot on the way.  Had to deboard and switch airplanes in Tokyo, which made me a little melancholy, seeing Tokyo from the air, seeing all the signs in Japanese, the dried out wrinkled squid snack packs for sale, the Asahi beer. . . but, alas, we are on to a new destination.
 
Landed in Bangkok a little after 11 pm, grabbed a Day Room at the airport, which was like a little hotel room, all the basics, had a nice nap before our 8 am departure to Cambodia.  Quick flight and suddenly (yea, right), we were here!
 
Did a lot of sleeping on Friday afternoon.  Our hotel is nice, and very conveniently located as far as bars and restaurants, also have a very large (by Asian standards) grocery store right across the street with all kinds of goodies in it.  Should be able to get just about anything we need.  Good looking pool area, just haven't had any sunshine yet to enjoy it, and the health club is nice enough.  Had an hour and 10 minute work out this morning.
 
Friday night we laid pretty low, ordering room service and checking out our English language channels.  Saturday morning we were up early (thanks to the inevitable jet lag), had a nice breakfast and did a little exploring.  Got a wireless card for my computer, but haven't been able to make it work yet, only Mike's computer works so far.  Went to lunch at a historic bar called the Foreign Correspondence Club, was used during the war as a journalistic hangout, just up the street. Took an afternoon nap, then out on the town with Scott until 2 am.  Lots of nightlife here, and we found a dart board!
 
Sunday was definitely a day of rest.  Got our phones working, watched the rain, did some crosswords, took a long nap, then more room service and watched one of our $2 DVD's (Sahara, with yummy Michael McConneghy).  After all, it was a school night!  Think the jet lag is almost passed, although I was up at 6:15 this morning. . . crazy.
 
Will go out and take some pics today if the weather clears up, raining like heck out there right now.