Tuesday, February 22, 2011

So last night I wrote a letter home on the patio of the hostel. Outside a drunk from the halfway house next door was rambling about something or other. He was one of those sketchy rail-thin types who always seems to be taking his shirt off and still thinks mullets are cool. Under his well worn ball cap of course.

I went down to the front steps to hang out with some friends who were having a smoke. I ran into them coming from the bathroom, laughing. They looked at me then told me they had to wash their hands. I cocked my head and raised an eyebrow in that way I do. They laughed and told me that some dude asked for a smoke and insisted on shaking their hands. Apparently he was pretty greasy and they felt the need to wash their hands.

Shortly after the guy rambling drunk returned and my friends began to laugh and whisper. Same guy. So drunken white trash mullet guy wanders around a bit, considering coming up the walk to talk to us. After pacing by a few times he heads across the street towards the park. He paused on the sidewalk and looked up a row of flag poles. He then decides to climb one. Both hands wrapped around the post he braced his leg up against the pole and started to walk his way up. He got exactly 1 step before realizing he hadn't the coordination or balance to do such a thing.

His next plan was to climb a large tree. I ficus maybe. A large tree full of bats. And spiders I imagine but bats for sure. He got about ten feet off the ground where he came to a huge knot in the tree where a branch had once been but had fallen out to make way for an eventual moron. Buddy put his hands into the knot and put his feet up above them making a mentally deficient letter y. Y is for, yeah, this is gonna hurt.

Our hero then decides to try and use his ankles to dig into the tree and somehow hoist himself up. Thats when his grip broke. He fell a full ten feet to the ground flat on his back. He landed hard and made the exact sound you would expect. He sat up for a moment and looked dazed enough. I noticed his ball cap managed to stay on just before he fell back into a spread eagle position.

He lay on the ground for quite some time. Eventually his hillbilly buddy comes out in a wife beater with a large beer. He walks over and checks out his buddy. Genius number one sat for some time before getting up and declaring he was fine. He staggered to his feet then fell into the tall grass. He then squeeled with delight, and like an attention starved child rolled around in the tall grass making a huge racket.

Even in his hulking drunken state, hillbilly two had little regard for his buddy and walked away. Eventually genious 1 came back. He saw us watching him, (but pretending not to) and swung by to say hi and let us know not to test gravity, because it works. He was covered with red marks from his fall and several bug bites.

I commented that he's likely to get rabies and my friend Janko told me there is no rabies here. That blows my entire proposition from my last post. Fucking hell.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Welcome to Sydney! It's batshit crazy here!!

There are large bats living in trees outside my hostel. They fly at night and sound like mice. They come out around dusk, earlier if it's been raining. I know some bats carry rabies. If a person is inflicted with rabies, and left untreated, they will begin to show signs of zombie-ism. Slurred speach, staggering, aggressive behaviour, uncontrolled mania, drooling, spasms, hallucinations, trouble breathing, itching. Or a Friday night at the Cosmo in Moncton. I wonder if that place is still open.

Huge freakin bats in Sydney!
I arrived by plane a little over a week ago. My room mates at the hostel were 3 young Finnish folks. One of them, whom I became friends with, told me that there were alot of crazy people here. I didn't know what he meant. A few days later he pointed out a lady sitting on a bench in the park across from the hostel. She was chanting/screaming/wailing/speaking in tongues. Antti (my new Finnish buddy) told me that a few days earlier he was out for a smoke (Europeans all smoke for some reason) and he saw her staring at him and it really creeped him out.
A few nights later a group from the hostel was sitting in the park late and the woman was worked up into a frenzy. Yelling, wailing, laughing. A couple of the young drunk Brits harrassed her a little. Classy I thought.

Someone told me that 50%  of Aussies will experience some sort of mental disorder.  Thats a big number. (Mental disorder could mean anything, and I have actually sourced it. I'm no journalist, do your own research if you're so concerned about it).

The next day I was walking down the street to see an apartment. An old bedraggled man with a matted beard, long matted hair was coming the other way. I had my head phones on and was rocking out to The Dirty Heads. As we passed he suddenly screamed. Like a bark or a grunt or something. Scared the shit out of me. He did it on purpose too. I was going to fight him over it but I realized that he'd probably infect me with fleas. It is most likely his super power. Besides he had to get back to being Rob Zombie.

Days later I was visiting one of the harbours and I noticed an older, very drunk man feeding the pigeons, as well as these freaky assed long beaked black headed birds that are ugly as sin. They were surrouding him, landing on him, on his hands, his head. People slowed to watch and he seemed to relish the attention. Later he ran out of bread and packed, then repacked his bag. Then he staggered a bit and circled his bench. He then staggered to another bench where a middle aged couple, who looked kind of dorky, were sitting near the edge of the bench. I'd say there was half a cheek left on that bench to sit on. The bird man of Circular Quay decided he'd sit on that narrow wedge of real estate. So he sat sideways and fell into the dork on the bench and sort of leaned on him. He was promptly pushed to the ground for his troubles. Poor bastard. He staggered back to his own bench .

One night, I was standing outside the gates of my hostel and this couople was walking and incredibly inebriated (probably crazy) guy home. His hostel/halfway house is next to mine. He was barely able to balance his own weight. They asked if he was ok and he slurred yes, then they asked if he could get in ok and he thanked them for their kindness and said he'd see them later. He was speaking as if underwater had a hair lip.  He went through the gate then darted around again. He looked at my, I was fiddling with my iphone, and said, "Wherszit?!?" I just looked at him. He spun in a circle patting his pockets the way a dog might if he thought he'd left his tail in his other pants.  He then said "Maphone! Fuckngo!" Apparently he lost his phone. I suppose his sponsor's number is in it which would make it very important to him. He then stagger-ran up the street. He looked behind him as he went and ran straight into a post, which slung him around unceremoniously and dropped him to the asphalt. None the worse for where, he got up and moved on. What a trooper!

Last night a girl visiting the hostel was punched in the mouth by and Aboriginal lady. From what I heard it was unprovoked, but its been my recent experience that drunken Brits are probably asking to get punched in the face.

The theories about the crazy like behaviour in Sydney have ranged from something in the water, to too much, sun, to a degenerative disorder caused by the inbreeding of a nation of criminals over several centuries. All scientifically sound hypothesis-es. I however, don't think we should count out the bats. I mean, where does bat shit crazy come from anyway?

Here's a vid of the bird man. I missed most of his more entertaining antics.

Shark!! Diving off Don Phi Phi, Thailand

Went diving today!
Did my emergency ascent today. Dive 3. Did buddy breathing, mask removal, getting really good at bouyancy. 

We descended and at 6M I had a hard time equalizing my right ear so we went down slowly. All sorts of amazing things down there. Saw several black fin sharks. Very very cool. 

Dive 4
We landed beside a giant outcropping of rock. We suited up and got wet. Stunning coral mountains under the waves. Clown fish, giant eels, and some sort of lobster running along with something in it's mouth. Found out later it was a giant shrimp. Big as a lobster though. Huge schools of tiny fish darted in different directions, travelling in unison giving the illusion of a flag being battered by the wind. 

My right ear hurts a little bit and is full of water... Have to deal with that before I fly. 
Dive 5
Last dive wasn't so great, cold and a bit murky but there were SO many fish!! We could see them jumping out of the water as we pulled into Phi Phi don. They were swimming in great schools as we eased our way in and around them. Mackerel groupers, small tuna, moray eels hiding under rocks waiting for prey. 

So I am now a PADI certified diver. 55 more dives and I'm a dive master. That might take a while....

Leaving Thailand


Scuba diving of Don Phi Phi in Thailand
saw black tip sharks here

 I'm thoroughly pissed off and sour at the moment. The boat ride from krabi was pleasant enough, got some sun, no one bothered me, listened to the white album most of the way to phucket. Not my favorite beetles album but there are some gems and you can't deny the outrageous talent those guys have.  

Short bus ride to the airport. I've a brutal sore throat which has surely been brought on by 3 or 4 days of la few hours of sleep each night from staying in the hottest hostel on the planet. Each morning I woke up completely dehydrated with sheets soaked in sweat. 2 of those mornings I had a 7am scuba trip lined up. They were awesome by the way. 

 I'm on a plane. Got the window, one row behind the bulkhead with all the footroom. Some couple with a baby is in those seats. A screaming baby. Beside me is a nice older couple, but all around me are really really hot Aussie chicks! Why can't I be sitting with them? (it's karma, I stole a pen from the hostel this morning)

Another baby off to my left just went off. Seriously, why the fuck do babies need to fly? They dont understand or appreciate any place you take em. They don't like flying, that's why they cry all the time. I think its cruel to make a baby fly. It should be against the law. 

 I get to the airport and it's completely insane. I have to get security checked walking in. They checked all but my carry on. Then I have to walk past passport control to check in. I go to check in and they they tell me I'm 18 kilos over and it'll be almost $350 to cover the extra weight. I lost it, I told her I couldn't pay, that I flew here with the same amount of stuff I'm leaving with. 

Oh shit, the lady beside me is telling the flight attendant (whos a guy and also a nurse) that she's sick and has been vomiting and had diarrhea. 

So anyway, I end up paying 180$ for my luggage. I'm livid. I'm Gonna call Visa and tell them I was extorted. I'm going to call the airline and tell them I took a massive dump before I got on the plane, so could they maybe credit me a kilo or two? 

I then find out that I have to retrieve my luggage in Melbourne to go through immigration, then haul it around to the next flight. Assholes. 

Speaking of which, someone's got a full diaper. Hope it's not one of the couple beside me. Fucking hell I hate kids on planes. 

So I go through security and they X-ray my stuff and give me the wand. I go buy some m&ms, halls and water. Oh, they're announcing my flight... I should go line up. So I do. 

 I'm standing there behind two gorgeous girls, neither of whom I'll be sitting with, as we shuffle along. We get to the gate and there's ANOTHER security stop. They go through my bags again, in case the M&M lady slipped my some high grade horse to sell off in Aus I suppose. Then they take my fucking water. I couldn't believe it. I actually argued with them. "it's not even opened, plastic seal is on it" 
Nope, no dice. The guy behind me had his motorbike helmet taken. I told him the leading cause of plane crashes was insane terrorist Aussies heatbutting their fellow passengers. He agreed with that.  

 So far the flights not bad. The kid in front on me reeks but could be worse. I get to watch the last half hour of Despicable Me which I missed when we landed early in Thailand. Gru is about to steel the moon, the minions are ecstatic. 
Day 1 in Aus
Well, I guess that's it for Thailand for now... Off to sunny Australia. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Temples

At 5:30 my driver picked me up and took me to the national park. I bought a 1 day pass and had my pic taken. They gave me a pass with my photo on it I handed to staff at most temples.

Angkor Wat at sunrise. Pretty cool, but instead of sitting with the unwashed masses waiting to get a perfect picture if the sun coming up over the temple, I went around the backside and took pics of the walls getting hit by the first rays of sun. It was a full half hour before the sun was visible on the other side. I snapped on my iPod and had The Doors cracking away as I explored the ancient halls.

For the next 8 hours I climbed stone stairs that were almost vertical, snapped pictures of statues, carvings, releifs, pillars and stone. I mingled amongst crowds from around the world.

Women and children lie in wait as you approach each structure. Desperately they try to hawk their shirts, table runners, scarves, books and cold drinks.

They'll offer one thing, and switch to another. They will then just repeat the price over and over. You'll often be swarmed by three or four at a time. saying no means nothing. You just get the price again. They will walk with you the entire stretch between the parking lot and the entrance of whatever temple you're ar. Prices get cheaper as you get farther into the park I found out. I got a couple of t shirts and a book about the temples.

I visited about 9 temples built by kings, devoted to religious sects moslrlltly forgotten. The sheer feats of engineering to construct these offerings of stone in a time before cranes, winches or the block and tackle is impressive. The level of detail and complexity in the reliefs is inspiring. Tales of wars and triumphs, visions of dancers, elephants, horses and demons, and giant serene faces gazing endlessly at the four corners beyond the horizon adorn almost every free space.

The temples are amazing but after 8 and a half hours in the blazing sun I was done.  Back to the guest house for a nap.

Strange tales of Thai.

Thai people can't add
Yeah, that's a gross generalization, but this is my story - go write your own if you don't want to read sweeping generalizations about an entire country. You hit a shop here and the sales folks all have calculators. Big ones. You ask a price for something and they type it out on the countin' box then immediately hNd it to you for your counter offer. I thought it was just for communicating. Three days ago I bought a boat ticket for 600b. I gave dude 1000. He had to use the calculator for the change. Then I started watching. It happens all the time. Quick, three nights in a room at 400/night... How much do I owe? Thai hotel clerks need to use a calculator to figure it out.

White guys on mopeds
There's a strange cultural phenomenon here. I remember a video years back by good Charlotte or Blink 182 maybe. One of those bands with so much black eye makeup, hair dye and tattoos that they look like walking shadows dressed up like white folks for Halloween. The video had a bunch of geriatric actors dressed and behaving like teenaged idiots. Just being young and stupid. They could have filmed that in Krabi Thailand

Scores of enthusiastic silverbacks can be seen screaming through the streets at night on scooters. Long grey hair, white goatees, beer guts hanging out over their ancient crotches and resting on the vinyl seat of a 125cc speed machine. Often a significantly younger Thai girl is riding pinion , or sometimes driving if grandpa has had one too many vodka/prune juices.

You'll see them trolling along, stopping in front of the 7-11 to chat with the young Thai girls taking a break from riding thier scooters to get a coke and a new sim card. The Thai girls, some of them I mean, I know how you feel about generalizations, are completely game. They'll see some newly invigorated Ben Gay receptacle and wave saying "hello my boyfriend!". Hey quickly stops reminiscing about his Plymouth Rock landing and say "hey where you going!?" all excited and titillated. Then they become a very unlikely scooter gang, roaring off into the night to the next cocktail bar/bamboo hut.

It's like a playground for old divorcees who've found a new lease on life.
Viagra is a terrible thing...

Cultural differences
A good friend lived in japan for a spell and told me the girls there had an annoying habit of talking with hi pitched childlike voices. This has been confirmed by some other former inhabitants if the land if the rising sun I know.

The other night I was walking by some seafood place and a lady out front is saying Hi to everyone walking by. Common practice here, and tough work, the boardwalks are slammed with tourist bastards in the evenings.

So this lady is saying hi, over and over, you can hear her 3 doors down. I want to buy her a pack of "Fishermans Friends" and give her a hug. Then all of a sudden, she practically screams, in a voice a full 2 octaves higher and several decibels louder "halloooooo! Welcooooome!". I actually jumped it had startled me so.

I didn't think about it again. Well, I've walked by this place a few times since, it's on the was to the beach and near the diveshop I've been hanging out at. It's happened 3 or 4 more times. Then I noticed, she only does it when there are Japanese people walking by. I stood and watched for a few minutes last night to confirm my suspicions, it she did it again about a 2 minutes into my investigation when a Japanese couple walked by. I recognized them by their hello kitty backpacks and the professional grade cameras where their faces should have been.

Some of the best food comes from carts on the street. Theres a ton of competition and there's no small amount of pride in the traditional dishes they tend to serve at a third of the price of a restaurant.

Thais generally do a pisspoor job of western food in general. Breakfast is weak at best, burgers are not made of beef. They do however do a good job on pizza. They tend to favour thin crust pizza cooked in a wood oven. I've had 3. All fantastic.

McDonalds, BK Pizza Hut, and others are slowly making their mark here. It's a shame that a place with such a rich culinary history is being diluted so a few assholes can make a few more bucks selling mystery meat disguised as cheeseburgers to a ballooning society. I hope Ronald McDonald and that creepy ass king from the BK commercials have massive heartattacks resulting in quadruple by passes, then spend their days in a home for the infirm, being visited less and less often over the years by Mayor McCheese, the Hamburgler and Grimace, all of whom are anxiously awaiting their deaths and a healthy inheritance. The petty infighting would have begun on day one.

Thats all I got for now.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Just about a perfect day

I found Nemo - Saying goodnight
Feb 7 2011
Up at 630, picked up a friend at 7 and hit the dive shop at 715  20 mins later a bus picked us up and drove us to a longtail boat. We transferred to the dive boat from there. Once there the divemaster discovered that I didn't have my open water cert. Well. Lots of chattering on German... Phone calls to the main land, heated debate about my fate. They finally decided that I would do a "discover scuba" dive, then the money I spent would get put toward my open water. Sweet

For breakfast we had sticky rice and mango, fried dough with condensed milk, bananas, and sticky rice with spicy coconut. Amazingly good.

Filled out some forms, wrote a test on material I last read almost a year ago (92% thank you). Finally I got in on the 2nd dive. Anemone reef.

My first open dive was unreal. We did some skills then descended. The coral was amazing. Fish of every colour flippered along alone or in schools of hundreds. My instructor kept tabs on me and I stuck close.  The whole thing was exhilarating.

Back on the boat we had lunch , rice with green curry, and some sort of veggie stir fry. It was all great!  We paddled to the next spot about an hour away and suited up at shark point.

The wild life underwater is amazing, giant schools of tiny fish, reefs that tower above you, stripped eels, neon finned little fish. I saw a leopard shark, they are a neat little shark.  Sharks have to keep water flowing into their mouths and out their gills to breathe. Therefore they most continually move.   This brilliant little fella sleeps all the time. He dies so by lying on the sea bed with his head in current, so water just flows through him while he dozes  Its the equivilant of sleeping at you desk while wearing glasses with eyeballs painted on the lenses.   We also saw a barracuda, great big black shrimp, clown fish (nemo), and on and on. I was limited to 12 m because of my cert issue, but still there was lots to see.

We steamed back to shore, about an hour and a half run, some folks got picked up about halfway on a longtail and went to a different beach.

We unloaded and figured out how I was going to finish the course. After much Deutch squabbling we got it settled and I left.

My new traveling companion, Bianca, had left before me to get cleaned up for dinner. I picked her up on the way and we went to my hostel so she could use the net. Hers didn't have it. I went up and showered off the salt and got changed.

We got dinner at the beach as the waves lapped the sand just yards away. Dinner was amazing. Thai barbecue, corn on the cob, baked potatoes. We ate and chatted about nothing in particular. She told me in broken English about some of the places shes dived around the world. I told her about hockey.

Later we wandered up the beach where she bought a lantern. She lit it and we waited for it to fill with heat to ascend. Finally it lifted gracefully from her fingertips and slowly floated to the stars.  We watched it sail away into the night for a long time until it gently flickered out and disappeared.

We ended the night with a drink and watched a fire show on the street outside "the Coconut Bar"

We left, and walked up the strip to her bungalo and said goodbye. She's now off to koh samoi, I've another 2 days in Krabi. Traveling is funny. The only constant is you. New hostels, new scenery, new friends; but as soon as you get to know a place, a person, or a custom, it's time to move on. The shotgun approach to life I suppose.

Koh phi phi for 3 dives tomorrow.  Can't wait

Monday, February 7, 2011

Krabi - open flies and ass massages

Thai people have this annoying habit of extending the last syllable of every word fir about three beats. There's a little upwards inflection at the end... You want Thai massaaa-aaage? Next stop station Surat Thanieeeee-eee. You want order some pad thaaaa-aaaai?

First thing in the morning when you're tring to sleep and the porter is announcing every stop on the way to your destination it's really aggrivating. And he repeated each station over and over as he passes through the sleeping car.

On the way to the beach...
Sir you want to buy a suuu-uuit? Tailor just for yoooo-oooou. No I don't want a suit, I'm wearing flowered shorts and a wifebeater carrying a towel and sun screen. Unless there's a board meeting at the beach and Donald trump is gonna fire someone, I'm not in need of a tailored suit, two shirts and two ties at the moment. But thanks dude, good eye! Of course I'll probably need a suit at some point when I'm in Aus and will kick myself for not investing the $100.

I'm pretty good natured but after a while you get tire of politely smiling and saying Mâi ao khàp khun(no thank you). Yesterday on the way to meet a friend I had been pitched about 50 items before I got half way to where I needed to be. At one point some guy looks at me "sir..." I cut him of and sigh "Mâi ao khàp khun..." with no small hint of aggitation. "but sir, your zipper is down". I turned, looked down, saw the errant fly and just looked at the guy embarrased. He was just trying to do me a favor and I was growly. I laughed and gave him heart felt thanks in Thai and zipped up. He realized I was apologetic and just laughed. They really are easy going and nice here most of the time.

Tonight I booked a scuba trip, booked a hotel for tomorrow, bought a dry bag and got a coconut oil Thai massage. I smell like a piña collata. Little did I know that the coconut oil doubles the price of the massage. However, I felt so good afterwards I gladly ponied up the $12. Shoulda asked for a receipt :).

The massage was great, in an open air gazebo on a lane following the beach. I could hear the waves and, at a nearby resort, a guitar player was crooning soft rock ; tears in heaven, hotel California, bob marley tunes, brown eyed girl... All the stuff I used to play down at the beach when we had bonfires.

The funny thing about the massage was, she had me strip down right there in the salon, which is open to the road. So I get down to my skivvies. Luckily they werent a ratty old pair. Then she has me lay on my belly, throws a towel over my posterior, and prceeds to tuck it into my underwear. Now half my ass is hanging out for the whole beach to see. Not only that, she spent a great deal of time working on my glutes. With her elbows. Apparently massages get pretty personal. More than once she had her hands in my CKs and I wondered if MY coconuts were going to get oiled.

At one point she was actually walsing up the backs of my legs. It felt fantastic.When all was said and done I got up feeling groggy and happy. I actually walked away without Laing then I went back and apologized and paid with a tip.

Then I joined a new friend of mine from Austria and I got a bite at a resort where they had a fire show. Spinning flaming batons etc and a fire breather. Very cool. The food was divine. I'd gotten the buffet so I snuck out two pieces of chocolate cake from the dessert cart and we ate them on the beach whilst paper lanterns were set afloat at points all along the beach. Now I'm at the hostel and ready to fall asleep. Time to set the alarm and try to get 6 hours sleep before my big scuba day. Back home everyone's Monday is just beginning. Have a great day everyone, we'll see you in the morning...

Friday, February 4, 2011

I'm on a Bus watching Cambodian movies

I'm on a bus to Phnom Penh. They've got some Cambodian flick porting where the star is some kid about 10 in a kanga hat wearing little John Lennon styled glasses. He apparently has the super power of never shutting the fuck up in a high pitched staccato voice and not being smacked upside the head. Cinema in SE Asia is incredibly campy. He's made friends with a young monk/ninja girl who breakdances. Where the hell are my headphones at?

On the last bus they showed The Green Hornet. I'm not even sure that's hit theatres yet. It must have, but still... DVD quality, perfect sound, not some cheap "sitting in the back of the theater with a handy cam" job. I didn't watch it, but now I see that I should take advantage of such opportunities.

Chance encounter at Bayon

Thanks for taking this pic Helen!
Ran into a former co worker yesterday and his lovely companion at a temple called Bayon. They were celebrating 25 years together on this trip. We chatted for ten or fifteen and he gave me his card.
Later that day I got an email from him asking if I'd like to meet for a drink. They met me at the Temple Club and we had beer and chatted for a few hours. It was great catching up. Really nice guy and he's been around the world dozens of times and has great insight into traveling.  He's put me in touch with another co worker who is living in Bangkok, so I'll try to hook up with him after my flight this afternoon.

This morning in Phnom Penh, a town 300 kms away, I drove by them in a Tuk Tuk on the way to the airport as I was leaving lunch. We all just waved and laughed.

In Cambodia

In Cambodia, a pitcher of beer is $2 if you know where to go
In Cambodia, 11$ will get you a sufficient room... It's dingy but clean, free wifi, and a bottle of water.
In Cambodia they have a dish called Amok that is an amazing curry with a lemony undertone
In Cambodia, just because you think you're going to fart doesn't meant that's what's about to happen (maybe that's where the term running amok came from, think about it)
In Cambodia they have cops just for dealing with pan handlers
In Cambodia toilet paper is pink and they give you a roll when you check in
In Cambodia, cars, scooters and Tuk Tuks drive so close together that they sometimes touch
In Cambodia the local beer is Angkor and it's very good
In Cambodia they sometimes serve beer with ice
In Cambodia you can hire a guy to drive you around for 5 hours for 20 bucks
In Cambodia they use American money
In Cambodia the panhandlers are trying to sell me weed
In Cambodia the Tuk Tuks are fancy wagons like carriages pulled by 100cc scooters
In Cambodia along the river in Phnom Penh Angkor Beer is 1.50$ for a pint
In Cambodia people come up to you during dinner and try to sell you bootlegged DVDs and books 
In Cambodia they don't have the book I'm looking for
In Cambodia the threat of malaria is real and you have to put on alot of bug spray
In Thailand applying bugspray while visiting a butterfly farm is considered offensive 
In Cambodia if you need electricity, you climb a pole and get it
In Cambodia it's almost bedtime because like is visiting a museum that illustrates the atrocities of civil war at 8 am
In Canada Luke rarely gets up before 9

Cambodia- Phnom Penh, The Killing Fields

Cambodia is gorgeous.  The scenery is amazing, the people friendly and quick to laugh. Along the hwy from Phnom Penh I saw straw huts on stilts, and huge grey cattle wandered in front if the bus. An American ex pat from Vietnam told me that last year on this route they hit one.

At 8 this morning I went to the killing fields, or at least the memorial at Choeung Ek 15 km south of Phnom Penh.  They show a short clip then there is a photo museum. The players are illustrated, photos of victims, the process of execution and examples of the tools they used are presented in glass cases.

Outside you can see the actual indentations in the land where the mass graves are. Over 8500 bodies.  There is a tree cheerfully named "the killing tree" where guards held children by their ankles and swung them against the tree, dashing their heads and killing them. Many of the captors were barely in their teens themselves.  A glass case holds the clothing from many of the unearthed victims. Another encases the bones, mostly arm and leg bones, of many victims. Most shocking of all is  commemorative stupa at the center of the compound filled with thousands of skulls of the victims at Choeung Ek. The whole thing is shocking.

My next stop was s.21,  Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a security building ordered by Pol Pot. It was a school converted to a detention center in Aug 1975. It is by all accounts a veritable house of horrors. The Khmer rouge regime was build on a fallacy it could never realize. They meant to create a completely independent and self sufficient state. The destroyed the National bank, and took apart the freemarket system. The idea was to create an agriculturally based society. People were forced into slave labour in the fields.  They captured intellectuals, pop stars, monks, politicians, random citizens, and their own party members with reckless abandon. They detained, tortured and killed roughly 20000 who were at some point detained here over it's 4 year existence.

The conditions were incredibly in humane, cells scarcely 3 feet wide by 6 long held up to 2 prisoners. They were given ammunition cases for their waste and subsisted on a rice soup that was mostly water.

They were tortured until they gave up the names of friends and family for any number of imagined crimes. The people named were in turn rounded up and tortured as the morbid cycle continued.  After a 2-6 month stay they were told they were to be taken to better housing, blindfolded and loaded on trucks. At the killing fields loudspeakers blared to cover the sound as one by one they were unloaded, and beaten with a metal pipe at the edge of a mass open grave. Then their throats were slit, or heads removed. Once dead they were cast into the pit and the next victim was brought forth.

It's hard to fathom the atrocities committed at the two sites, and hundreds of others around Cambodia. The lady who we'd hired as a guide had personally lost many family members. It was heartbreaking listening to her tell her story so plainly, as if talking about something so removed as Ancient Egypt or the dark ages. I'm glad that I had come to visit this place, but I don't I'll ever be back.

Images of Choeung Ek

Choeung Ek Genocide Center
Paintings buy a survivor of S.21
Trucks leaving S.21 for the killing fields

Prisoners beaten with a club, then their
throats cut
Thrown into a mass grave

Actual skulls showing the damage
inflicted by different instruments. Mostly
farming implements.

A thatched roof covers a mass grave of roughly 455 victims

Its barely 12 feet by 20

Barbed wire on the walls surrounding the complex
serve as a pointed reminder of the conditions
of the DK regime

The sign here says "Please don't walk on the mass grave"
It struck me funny. 

The Killing Tree
The center of the complex is this 'supa' that
commemorates the victims. Offerings of flowers and inscense
placed at the foot of the steps

From the steps looking in
Inside are shelves behind glass where perhaps thousands
of skulls of victims sit, staring endlessly
About 4 stories of shelves filled with skulls extend up
the monument
S.21 Images

After capture victims were photographed,
forced to give a biography then shackled.
Of the 4 buildings, building C has been left how it
was found. The balconies were covered in barbed wire
to prevent suicides
Victims were shackled together onto pieces of iron rebar
Many died and were left to rot for days amongst the living
On the upper floors of the school, tiny cells were built.
They are roughly 3x6 and housed 2 people. The
ammo box on the floor was for waste.
Prisoners were chained to the floor of their cells.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Made a snap decision 2 days ago to hit Cambodia. Met a cool Aussie lady on the plane to Chiang Mai who talked me into it, waffled till the other night coz Chiang Mai was so cool. Took the sleeper train to bangkok last night, 13 hour jaunt but met a couple cool girls from wisconsin and we chatted for 4 or 5 hours. Killed time in bangkok by booking my train fr bkk to Surat Thanie for the 5th, booked my rooms for Phnom Penh and Siem Reap for the next 3 nights , then my hotel from the 5th to 7th in krabi. From there 3 days in kho lanta then 1 night in Phuket, flight to Sydney. Time flies...

Looking forward to the killing fields tomorrow in Phnom Penh; then Angkor Wat the day after...

Fish Massage

No, not part of the ping pong show you dirty dirty girl...
All over the big cities in Thailand are shops that have these fish tanks out front. They're full of little yellow fish. For about 3 dollars you can put your feet in for 15 mins and the little water breathers will swarm your feet like crazy little pirannas. The deal is that the eat dead skin.

Well on day 2 of my trip to Kho phi phi I neglected to sunscreen my feet. They burned horribly, to the point they blistered. Yesterday, when I decided to come to Cambodia, I had to book a train. Once you book with an agency someone delivers the ticket. So, with a half hour to kill, and feet that were peeling like a single mom with a Coke problem, I said what the hell.
I tell the lady at the travel agency/scooter rental/fish brothel that I want to try. So she washes my feet, gives me some flippies, I paddle on over to the aquarium of horrors and dunk in my shoe trees.
Well my friends, I was attacked. My feet were enveloped in a school, nay! a swarm of fish. At first it was not really pleasant. It was a very strange almost electric sensation. But then it felt good, real good. It was like having hundreds of little fingers massaging your tootsies.
People walking by gave me strange looks. Apparently moaning in ecstasy while getting, quite literally, eaten by fish is taboo. I just said " fuck you! You can't judge me! If fish foot love is wrong I don't want to be right!"
Actually I politely said "yeah it's weird at first but it feels kinda nice, you should try it" but I had ire in my heart, don't doubt it!!

After 20 mins the girl came back with my ticket and I had to give up my life of sub aquatic piedal decadence. For now.