Sunday, December 27, 2009

In Vagator, Northern Goa, India

Goa is not really India, its Goa, one of these tourist/traveler created beach paradise places. I am in northern Goa which is known as the more touristy/party area, which is why I'm here before New Year, and it is the right place for that. I have met so many heads that come here every year, or have been here for many months, and many of them live very similar life styles to mine. But there is that element of fakeness with all these foreigners that have come here to create their own paradise. All in all, its a pleasant place to be and many people consider this a version of paradise, so I've been able to get to know a good group of people and get into my comfort zone.

On Christmas eve night I met a nice Norwegian guy at the internet cafe that was also traveling alone so we hung out for the evening to celebrate together. We just went to a small hole in the wall bar and drank some. Then we found some street food around midnight that was in front of the church garden square. That was cool becuase there were lots of dressed up Christians going to the midnight mass and the church and garden had tons of lights. After food we just went back to the guest house and hung out a bit before going to bed.

I woke up early on Christmas day because check out was a 9 am, so I packed and got a taxi to Vagator. I paid for the taxi because I really didn't feel like dealing with the public bus that involved a transfer in Mapsa. It only took an hour to get here and I was checked into a pretty nice guest house by 10. The guest house is actually more than I'd want to pay but its new years so the prices are higher and now that I've found some cheaper places I can't be bothered to move, plus they are all full.

After a nap I made my way down to little Vagator beach. It is a very nice small beach with rock outcrops on either side. Up on the hill is 9 bar which used to be the hip spot but now is just an empty bar that plays really loud Goan trance trying to relive the old days. On the beach there are a bunch of women selling stuff that are very pushy and anoying but after a few hours they all knew my face and left me alone. I went into a beach bar called the Boom Shankar that was playing loud mellower music that drowned out the 9 bar. I actually really like that place and have met several people through hanging out in that bar.

On Christmas night I hung out with a nice Irish guy I met at the Boom Shankar and two Indian guys, it was a pleasant evening of good conversation and a couple games of chess. The next day I spent most of the day hanging out at the Boom Shankar. I had been moving for three days straight and needed to relax, plus the Boom Shankar is my kind of place so I could pleasantly spend my day there reading my book and talking to other travelers. I became friends with a guy raised in Eugene but lived in Holland for 20 years and is much more European than American, named Keola (which is a Hawaiian name). Later the Irish guy came back and we relaxed while watching the sun set. I called it an early night and just went to my guest house, had some dinner, read, and went to sleep.

Yesterday I got out and walked around the area a bit trying to get the know the layout of the Vagator/Chapora area. I walked the long way to little Vagator so I could see where some of the clubs people talked about are located. At little Vagator I ran into Keola and he took me over to Chapora because he had told me about it the day before and offered me a ride. Chapora is actually about as far from my guest house as little Vagator so I can walk there easily. Chapora is an amazing little town, it is definitely the shakedown street of this area. There is a juice shop that is packed and a tree outside in the center of town that is always just full of people. Everyone is relaxing, talking, and smoking chillums in such a open and free way. It makes me wonder, because police are everywhere else enforcing the law but not in Chapora and everyone knows the mellow place is Chapora.

After a couple hours drinking juice I headed back to my guest house for lunch and to read my book. I actually read through sunset and then went to the Boom Shankar at the beach but there wasn't anyone I knew, so I headed up the hill to the Chill Out Bar where I ran into a friend of Keola's and I hung out all evening talking to different people. I talked mostly to a guy named Kevin who was a wealth of information and a fun guy to talk to. Today I am going to meet Kevin at the Chill Out later and go to a big festival a bit further south of here for the day. Everyone seemed to know a handful of the DJ's that are going to be at this festival and talked very highly of them so I figure I'll check it out, plus I got a group of friends to go with.

Some thoughts I've had while being here are that I come to the same realizations every time I travel (well basically the same as last year). Like that I like my life in the States and have developed a life that I fully enjoy. I like my good friends better than most of the people I meet, sometimes I'm lucky but not all the time. I'm not traveling out here for all this touristy stuff. I'm here and am going to do my best to enjoy myself but I party at home I don't need to find it on the other side of the world, plus I like my parties better. But for some reason I always feel obligated to see the places everyone goes and talks about just so I know I'm not missing something. I'm here to experience culture and see new and different things. So basically I'm going to do new years, then go to southern goa to see that, and then move on to hopefully more cultural and exciting things.

Insights into Goa are strange. Like I already said it is a place created by foreigners but also each state in India is actually more similar do different countries in the EU than states in the US. The laws are so different and the boarders have real check points (in this way more intense than the EU). So Goans really do consider themselves different than the rest of Indians and treat other Indians as immigrants. As a result most Goans are well off and the majority of the Indians are immigrants. Another thing is because of the parties and all the foreigners the police get tons of money in bribes. This made it so the police station is actually the biggest nicest building in the whole area. Also Indians are fighting to get into the Goan police force so they can get their cut. There is a four year waiting list and they usually are only allowed to be here for about two years until they have to go back to where they came from. That makes it so the police that are here try to get as much as they can while they are here. All this makes it feel very much like a police state (similar to Jamaica), and has made it so I'm not renting a motorbike because I don't have an international license. People say its no problem but you have to bribe the cops a couple hundred ruppies every time you go through a check point. I don't feel like dealing with this so I'm trying my best to walk everywhere or hitch rides with people.

Anyway, that's all for now, I have to get ready to go to this festival and see what the day brings me. Pictures aren't uploading correctly, maybe at the next place. Peace and Love to All!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Arriving in Mumbai India, to Panjim Goa

The flights and transport from Orion's flat to the airport went well. Actually the transport to the airport went better than expected and I left an hour early and arrived at the airport an hour earlier than expected. The plane ride was good and I sat next to a really nice British woman that is moving to Goa permanently. She was really kind and told me all about Goa and invited me to go to Christmas dinner with her in Vigator and possibly see her Portuguese Villa that her and her husband bought.

I got into Mumbai at around one in the morning. I got a taxi from the pre-pay booth which I guess is the most reliable way but the guy didn't know the hotel I booked over the internet. We drove to the area and kept asking other taxi's and rickshaw's (same as tuk tuk's in SE Asia) until we ended up at the right place. Then the rooms were being worked on so they took me to another hotel owned by the same people. It was actually a very nice and fancy hotel but in the middle of some slums in Mumbai which isn't too hard since a huge portion of the city are slums.

the view from my window in Mumbai

In the morning I talked to the receptionist about getting a night bus to Panjim and then ate my complimentary crappy breakfast. After arranging the bus I decided to walk around the area of the hotel to get some sort of feel of what Mumbai is like. I didn't realize how poor the area was until I was walking around. For one I was the only foreigner I saw in about 2.5 hours of walking up to a couple Km from my hotel. The main street was crazy so I ducked into a ally/street, it felt safe because of how many people were walking there (and it was pretty much).

I wish I could describe what it was like in these slums accurately. I was never more than a meter away from anyone to give you an idea of how many people were in this area. All the buildings were constructed and built very close to each other occasionally with very small alleys between them (which I never walked into). Almost every building had a store front and they were small establishments that did nearly everything, with a mettle workshop, next to seamstress, next to a tea shop, next to a clinic, next to a cell phone spot, next to a shoe fixing place, ext. There were even goats and chickens around, and some area's with Buffalo's in a corral thing. Random unofficial markets were all around, I turned one corner and saw a vegetable market in a slightly wider part of the walkway. Personally I've never seen a place with such obvious poverty without any begging.

After walking around a bit someone offered me some tea and I stopped and drank some tea with him and and his friends. Even with the poverty he would not let me pay, which left me with a good feeling, but then the next person that talked to me tried to sell me drugs. A police guy told me I should be careful of pick pockets, and another 3 guy's tried to sell me drugs (I guess that's the only reason a foreigner usually walks around there). Finally I decided to go back to the hotel when someone asked me what I was doing and I said walking around and he responded “you want to see poor people?”, I said “No, living people”. But that made me think twice about walking around anymore. I did not take any pictures of the slums because I did not want to walk around a bunch of poor people with an expensive camera.

Next I ate some lunch in the hotel and the receptionist took me to the bus station to help me find it because he was off his shift and it was on his way home. He was really nice and it took us over an hour to get to the bus station because of traffic. I got an idea of how extensive the slums are and we drove through the Mumbai National Park because there was less traffic that way. He helped me get into the bus then I was off on a 16 hour journey to Panjim, 3 of which were just getting out of Mumbai. That has to be the biggest poorest city I have ever seen. One cool thing I saw was in one neighborhood a lot of kids were playing with those Chinese fighter kites which I know my dad would have thought was cool.

Now I'm in the capital of Goa Panjim in a very cheap place (which would be cheaper is it wasn't right before Christmas). This is a cool city that's small enough I can walk everywhere, and it has a lot of Portuguese architecture because Goa used to be Portuguese. I had some lunch which is funny because I still don't know what most of the food is so I choose something and order it without knowing whats going to come. So far everything I've ordered has been good.

my guest house my room is the right grate on the very top, not a balcony

a walking bridge from where I am over to the buses

some cool statues in town

Now I'm in my room after taking a nap. Its cool having this netbook because I can write this in my room without paying for internet and then just copy it in the internet cafe. That's all for now, and I have been gradually getting my traveling feet back. Meeting all these people that love India, especially Goa helps, but it also feels good being in a third world country. India definitely has all the smells, sounds, and colors associated with a third world country and is more intense in these ways than anything I've ever seen, in a good way!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Beginning of Another Adventure

I'm off on another winter of traveling. I actually left Seattle 5 days ago and flew to London to see a very close friend named Orion from college that lives in London now. The plan this year is to travel for four months with three and a half months in India and a week in London hanging out with Orion on either end of the trip. It was actually the same price for the plane tickets straight to Mumbai and with stopping in London and it had been way too long without seeing Orion. It was been a great few days hanging out with Orion and meeting some of his friends and sharing stories from the last four years.

The first night I was here which was Thursday I relaxed at Orion's flat with him and his girlfriend Julia. It was a really nice and relaxing and I was tired from all the traveling. It snowed that first day and the next morning there was a light layer of snow on the ground. Orion and I went on a little walk in the morning to get some fresh air and see what the snow did to the city. Then we didn't do much all day but talk but there was a lot of catching up to do.

That night we went out drinking on Londship Lane in Duliich with a bunch of Irish rugby fans because one of them is Orion's fiddle instructor and we were invited out. We didn't get out until about 10 and actually got turned away from the bar when we got there. Orion's friend was able to get us in but I guess we weren't dressed up enough for that neighborhood. We only went to that first pub and then one more and went home before they closed but Orion and I remember coming home but not getting into bed but we both woke up in our respective beds.

So the next day we both felt like crap all day, it really doesn't make much sense because we didn't drink that much. Anyway, we were invited to a party that night in a penthouse with a great bunch of people and pulled ourselves together by around 10 again and headed to the party. It was an amazing little party up on a penthouse condo with a DJ, jamming in another room, about 20-30 people and an amazing view. Orion says its the best view of London he has seen and I can believe it. We ended up staying up very late, the party didn't start winding down until about 5. I have always been impressed with the kind and nice friends that Orion meets and this party showed his ability to meet good people.

That party basically destroyed the possibility of doing anything the next day since we woke up at 2 in the afternoon. We just recovered and cleaned up the flat making some curry for dinner and going to bed early.

Today I woke up early with Orion because he had to work and walked to the train station with him. Then I went back to the flat, ate and hung out until mid day when I headed into the center of the city to meet Orion for lunch. He works in a very busy area in the center of town but we met up fine and went to a pub for lunch. After that I walked around the city and saw Trafalgar Square, and the Parliament Buildings but went back to the flat quickly because it was pissing down rain.

Right when I got back to the flat the rain turned to snow and the city started having problems. The buses even stopped running. I actually leave pretty early tomorrow and I hope everything works out. Its not that big of a deal though because its one flight so it can be delayed and I'll still be fine. Well I'm off a friend of Orion's that he lived with in Edinburgh when I visited him for a month, so we've had a nice dinner all catching up and its about time for sleep to prepare for some more traveling tomorrow. Sorry about the absence of pictures but I haven't pulled out the camera at all.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Back in Seattle

I'm back in Seattle and jumped right into my life at home. Its funny how happy I am to be home but also how quickly I miss Southeast Asia. When I first came back it was a beautiful day and you could see all the mountains. People kept asking if SE Asia was more beautiful than home but I just said it was different and where we live is very beautiful in its own way. Well, I'll finish the story of my trip and the first couple days back home.

The night after my last blog I met up with Dharma for lunch and then hung around Khao San. We walked around and said hi to all the people Dharma has become friends with while there. It was really fun because he has met a lot more people on the road than me, we even ran into Shy who had missed his plane twice. Then at night we met up with Moo and had some drinks with some of Dharma's friends and some of Moo's friends that work in a travel agency on Khao San.

That night was really fun and I ended up becomeing really good friends with one of Moo's friends named Natt. We drank on Khao San then went to a club to dance. Moo left at about 1, and then I stayed dancing. At the end of the night it was just me and Natt. Meeting Natt changed the end of my trip because the next night I also hung out with her, and Moo, Dharma (it was his last night), and a couple of his friends. Some of us met up at 8 in front of Dharma's guest house.

At dinner I ran into a British friend of mine from Don Det who hung out with us for the night, and then while drinking at Chart on Khao San I ran into Clause from Cambodia. It was really fun to catch up with Clause at the end of our trip. Moo met up with Natt and Su (another friend from the travel agency) and then met us at 10:30 or so after closing the store. That night we all drank buckets because it was Dharma's last night and we all wanted to party. Moo got very drunk so Natt and I helped her back to her condo at the end of the night.

The next day I packed and then spent the last hours with Natt before I left for the airport. The flight was long but I slept most of the way due to the sleeping pills. There was a 10 hour lay over in South Korea and I just slept that whole time also. After the flight I was happy to be home but it was an amazing last few days and deffinately left me want to come back to Thailand sooner rather than later.

When arriving home somehow my Dad and I missed each other in the airport and then my Mom showed up randomly so I left with Mom. We tried calling Dad but he left his phone in the truck so Dad ended up waiting in the airport for 3 hours, leaving after he heard a page that I did for him in the bagage claim area. It was a strange way to come home but after all the confusion was over everything was great.

I found out that the very next day there was a barbeque and basket ball game at my old elementary school Summit. Then the next day there was a final performance in the theater in the school. This year is the last year of my elementary and middle school, I could have gone there for high school but I left. The Seattle School District closed the school this last year, so the 09 year is the last. I even went to the city hall meeting to try to keep the school open but we failed.

It was really fun to go to the school events and see all the old faces but I am still jet lagged so after the gatherings I would fall asleep until early in the morning. After the basket ball games I went to meet a close friend and ended up falling asleep at his friends house then went to his house and slept until 5 the next morning. Then I had more events for school to go to and a big reunion after the event that night.

Yesterday I recovered some more and began a garden project in the back yard with my parents. I'm beginning to get over the jet lag but am already leaving tomorrow for California for a music festival. A close friend of mine from College (Adam) is in a band and playing in a small festival in southern Cali. So another close friend (August) and I are going down there and going to see hot springs on the way down and back up. Adam may even come with August and I to a few hot springs after the festival and shows that we will go to with him.

Anyway, I'm hitting the ground running and living my life here and already beginning the fun of traveling in the western US. This will be my last blog until I leave on my next trip. I could continue to write about my life here in the US but I feel like that is my personal life. I have this blog to document my travels, keep my close friend and family informed about what I'm doing, and share my experiences and impressions of other countries and cultures. Now that I'm back home the main purpose of this blog is done but I will continue it next winter on this same website. I think I'll go to India and/or Nepal, probably leaving in December. Until then, peace and love to all!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

In Bangkok and have Ticket home

The trip to Bangkok from Don Det went well. I caught a boat at 11 and then went to Pakse from the dock, then went on a bus through the boarder to Ubon, and finnaly had a overnight bus to Bangkok getting into the city at about 5:30. All in all I actually slept on the bus and got to Bangkok relatively rested. In the morning I just had some coffee waiting for things to open.

When places opened I checked out a bunch of places but nothing was cheaper than what I had found on the internet so I just bought the ticket from the internet. So now I have the ticket and get into Seattle at about 12:30 pm on Thursday. Its funny because Dharma gets back just one day before me on the exact same flight, if I had just bought the ticket originally from the internet then we would be on the same flight home.

After dealing with the ticket thing I figured out that Dharma was getting into Bangkok today, and then called Moo to hang out. We met up here at Khao San and had some food, and then went to the big shopping mall to go see a movie. I don't have much energy so that sounded perfect. The theaters are different too because you choose your seet, not first come first served, and the seats are almost like recliners. We saw Angels and Demons and it was pretty good.

Then after the movie we went to JJ market to see Moo's artist friend that works there because it was Sunday (JJ market is only on the weekends). That was really fun. We just hung out with the artists and drank a bunch of beers. Then people wanted to go to this one neighborhood that is very well known as the gay area of the city. I said I go if Moo was there with me. So we went and it was interesting. Of course because we were with artists the one place we went to was an art gallary/bar. Then we just had some noodle soup before going back to Moo's place.

This morning Moo had to work so I got up with her but then relaxed for a few hours for the trafic to die down in the city. When it was 10:30 or so I got a taxi back to the Khao San area. When I got here I took care of some stuff and then saw Dharma was on the internet so we connected and I went over the the internet cafe he was hanging out in. We caught up a little but he had to check into his guest house still and shower so I'm going to meet him in a few minutes for some lunch and who knows from there. I know Moo wants to hang out again and meet Dharma so thats probably going to be what happens.

I have been really surprized how comfortable I am in Thailand. I know what food is good. I know more words than any of the other places I've been, and the roads and stuff are practically as good as home. Its nice that I feel comfortable here. Thailand is a really nice country with an interesting mix of western and eastern cultures. Anyway, thats all for now and my next and last blog might be from my house in Seattle. Peace and love to all!

Friday, May 22, 2009

I'm on my way home

I'm in a beautiful island on one of the largest rivers in the world and all I want to do is come home. I just feel drained and like I don't have the energy to go and see anymore tourist sights. I wanted to try to see a temple thats near here, a plateau thats said to be beautiful and one of the largest waterfalls in southeast asia but I just don't have the energy. I don't want to go see some sights and not appreciate them because I'm too drained and really should be home resting for the next adventure.

I'm not planning on quitting my travels all together. At home I am going to festivals, camping, going on hot springs road trips, and whatever else comes my way. So I'm going to continue my travels just within my own country and doing activities that I know I love. Also I do plan to continue traveling every winter as long as possible, and continue to write blogs about every place I go. I think I will be a better traveler and have more fun when I'm re-energized and ready for new cultures. Maybe next year I can make it 6 months.

I haven't done much on Don Det due to the lack of energy and general lack of interest to go see some sights verses swim and read. I've made a routine of waking up and going to one of the restaurants next to the beach and ordering an iced Lao coffee and reading. Then ordering breakfast when I'm hungry enough, and go swimming at the beach when I'm hot and sweating. I still go to the reggae bar at night, and its always packed every night until they shut off the lights at 11, or 10:45.

The water buffalo relaxing in the water agian

I like being in a place that has limited electricity. It attracts a certain kind of crowd that I really get along with. Plus I don't really need the power, during the day you can swim, and after 11 you hang out at the beach with a fire or at bungalows with candles. But they are installing power lines right now to bring 24 hour power to this island. The lines are actually already up and complete and power is said to be here anywhere from 2 weeks to 5 months. It makes me sad because I'm worried about how this place with change, but also happy because I got to experience it.

The view from my bungalow

One very strange thing that has happened is that there is another Andy from Seattle here at Don Det. He actually left this morning but the odds of two Andy's from Seattle that don't know each other at all being in Laos are slim to none. It came up because a guy I met the day before said "Hi, Andy from Seattle" to me and I came over the beach and started hanging out with him, and then the other one just walked up and said "I'm Andy from Seattle what do you want". I've hung out with him a bit and he's a good guy, strange coincidence though.

One day I did do something here and went tubbing down the river. It really was not that exciting but it was nice to do something. At my usual coffee and breakfast place in the morning some travelers asked if I wanted to go and I said it sounded great. A boat took us up the river and then we floated down near one big island. We basically floated back towards Don Det and the beach and the guy in the boat just waited till he saw us and zipped in the boat across the river to pick us up.

I've been hanging out with different people almost every day because I've been with people that have been here for a while and are leaving. So each day I meet some new people and hang out with them periodically throughout the day. I've gotten tired of all the normal travel talk because its all the same. So I just hang out and don't talk much, speak up when the conversation is interesting but otherwise just relax. Its still nice to be with people though and most people understand how I feel because like Cambodia many of the travelers here have been out for several months.

Sunset tonight from the Indian food resturant

So today I bought a ticket for Bangkok tomorrow. I'm just going straight there and buying a ticket home. The boat leaved at 11 am tomorrow and I get into Bangkok at 6 am the following day. Then I'll just take care of the ticket thing as fast as possible and hang out with Moo until I fly home. Thanks to everyone that have followed my blog, its been a nice place to express my opinions and tell my story. Until Bangkok, peace and love to all!

Monday, May 18, 2009

In Don Det in Southern Laos

I finally arrived in Laos to Don Det. All in all I was 9 days over my visa and it was 5 dollars a day so I payed 45 dollars to get out of Cambodia. The border was a bit of a joke. There was one gate with a small shack on the Cambodian side then another 20 meters away on the Laos side and that was it. There was hardly any trafic and we had to wait for an hour for our bus and only one van came to cross the border. The trip was good up to the border. I left Phnom Penh at 7 am almost missing my bus because I stayed up too late. Then I stayed one night in Stung Trung in Cambodia and left the next morning 2 hours late for the border.

The boarder

Don Det is a cool island in the Mekong. Its in an area called the 4000 island group where the Mekong gets really wide and there are several small islands throughout the river. In the dry season (which it is in water levels at least) several of the smaller sand islands are exposed and there is said to be over 4000. I can believe it because you can see 20 just looking out into the river in any particular direction.

When I arrived here I just got a bungalow on the sunset side (but I can't actually see the sunset from there) and then went to the little beach. The beach is where the boat dropped us tourists off and it kinda looks like a fake bit of sand put in the center of the bars and resturants but maybe its real also. Several people just hang out and swim and drink beers. There is also a water buffalow that hangs out and gets into the water at the beach or rests on the sand, he is so relaxed he doesn't care if people grab his horns, or jump on him or anything. There is also a parret that flys around and I've seen locals call him over and it land on their shoulder.

The water buffalo hanging out before and after the sunset

The sunset from the beach

I met some cool people on my first night and had dinner with them. That night I actually got sick from the indian food but I still went to the same place the next night with them because they really like the place. I spent the whole next day with them just relaxing and talking. Today two of them left and I have spent most of the day reading. Now I'm here and just ran into the third person I've been hanging out with and we may go to the Reggae bar to hang out after the internet.

There is only electricity here in the evening from the time the sun goes down until 10:30 or 11. Its like the small Koh Chang in Thailand in that way. I like it in places like this because it attracts a good group of travelers. Here on Don Det it seems like what most people do is hang out in the Reggae Bar until the power goes out and then move down to the beach for a bon fire. The first night there was a bon fire but it was funny because people had a very hard time starting it. Eventually it was lit and it was a nice fire with a lot of people around it, maybe 40-50 total. Last night it rained so there was no fire, we will see what happens tonight.

So far I like Laos. I can feel the difference even in this short distance into the country. I can't put it into words quite yet but its nice in Laos, less hectic then Cambodia. I still don't know how much I'll travel in Southern Laos. I'm here so I feel like I should see the temple near here and a plateau near here but I don't know if I have the energy. Whats the point in seeing something if I'm just seeing it so I can leave and not soaking it up. But I'm down here so I will probably go see a couple things before leaving. Anyway, thats all for now. I'll add pictures later because I don't have my camera now.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Finally leaving Cambodia

So a week ago when I was leaving Siem Riep I found out there is no direct bus to Kratie but I would have to change buses in Phnom Pehn so I decided just to go to to city. I traveled with a friend Rich from Scottland that I met at Garden Village and spent the entire last day hanging out with. We took the bus to the city and then came directly to Same Same.

Coming back to Same Same was like a big welcome home party. At first there wasn't anyone there but then one after another people I knew came out to hang out and say hi. All in All there were the Cambodian tuk tuk drivers, Mr. Hi, Mr. Paul, and Mr. T (he has never heard of A-team), then John the baptist, T-bo, and the Swiss guy (Claus), Rich and me. It was nice because we all new each other and hung out like old friends for the next few days. People thought we were traveling together then when they found out we were all from different countries they were impressed to see a group of 5 solo travelers from different countries all hanging out together.

hanging out on the deck and watching the sunset

Looking out the deck at the lake, and into Same Same at the hang out area

I really like Phnom Pehn, or really just Same Same but the city is nice too. I spend my time just relaxing around the guest house with different people. There is always someone to hang out with. One day the group of us went to the shopping center so we could take pictures from the top, but thats the only real activity we did. One night the rest of them went out to Candy, a girly bar, but I stayed back that night. It is so strange that a full week has gone by here in the city again but I like it and let time slip.

View of the old market (used to be a bus terminal)

You can see the lake on the left (all big buildings are under construction like that one, and see all the cranes in the distance)

Now I have overstayed my visa by 7 days but finally booked my ticket today to leave for Laos tomorrow. Everyone was making fun of me yesterday because they all got tickets to leave this morning but I didn't get my ticket yesterday so I was spending one more day here. I've said one more day for the last 4-5 days, but today really is my last day. With all the western friends gone I have more motivation to actually leave the guest house and get some things done, like the internet right now.

I wish I had more to tell you about the last week but really its just been nice relaxing here where I feel like a bunch of people know me. Don Det should be nice in Laos but then thats probably it for the traveling this year. But also at my pace right now it could be a month until I'm home and all I see is Don Det. All in all I like Cambodia. Its a tougher country with the good and the bad all mixed up together. But the good is really good and the bad is really bad. It reminds me of Guatemala with all its beauty but also a war torn country with extreem poverty, but Cambodias history is even more bloody than Guate's.

It is strange how everyone loves Hun Sen even with how evil and money grubbing he is. The people love him because they credit him with stopping the fighting. They say he is the one who made it so Cambodians stopped killing each other, so no mater how much money he takes, or land he steals, he is loved. I can actually understand that because people here still feel the anger from all the killing and just don't want to ever see a gun again. They will work hard and long hours for next to nothing as long as there is no danger of being killed.

Another strange thing about Cambodia is that the travelers are different. In Siem Riep and Sihanoukville they were normal holiday tourists and travelers, but not so much in the rest of the country. The travelers are either like me, as far as being more adventerous and being able to handle the extreem poverty. So those people travel around for a long time and spend a lot of time getting to know the country and people, maybe even volunteer for a while. Other travelers (besides the NGO workers) are trying to excape from something. Tons of people are here because of legal problems at home and you can get away with anything here. It has become known for that, and its true, so drug addicts and other people with problems come here to live the rest of there lives. These travelers add a strange aspect to the country because in some cases they are worse that the begging locals.

Anyway all is good here and I'll write from Laos when I get there. Peace and love to all!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Angkor Wat was Amazing

Now I've been in Siem Riep for about 5 days and have been to the temples 2 full days. A full day of temples makes you very tired so it is difficult to do two full days in a row, but there is so much to see. Angkor Wat is one temple but the whole area is over 50 temples. I decided to go to a bunch of smaller temples around Angkor Wat one day by tuk tuk with a friend, and another day on bicicle for the center big temples. Each temple is pretty different than the others so every one was interesting. I'll try to label all the temple pictures with what temple it is (and there are a lot, now 1/3 of my pictures are from 2 days of temples).

The first day I was there I just relaxed all day. I met a very nice french guy (his name is T-bo in english but its really spelled Thibault), who ended up being friends with John from Same Same in Phnom Penh. We hung out with a dutch guy all day and talked. T-bo and I made plans to go to see the smaller temples the next day by tuk tuk because he already saw all the big ones. It is very easy to spend all day at the Garden Village because you can choose your own music from a huge selection, get whatever food you want, check e-mail (if your ok with 30 min waits between pages), play games, and relax freely talking to cool people.

The next day T-bo and I met up in the morning and got a tuk tuk. The ride was fun and we saw a lot of cool temples. The best temple of the day and maybe my favorite of all was one we had to pay the tuk tuk extra to go to because it was off the normal tourist track.. I'll let the pictures do the talking for the temples because I could go on and on. In a lot of places its all about the carvings, just amazing and all over the place. And in other locations the size is so big but you can never really capture it on camera.

Prasat Kravan
Banteay Kdei
Srah Srang reserviour

Pre Rup

Banteay Samre (My favorite, I think)

riding between temples

East Mebon

Ta Som

Neak Pean

Preah Khan
Sunset over the outer Angkor Wat wall
After a full day of temples, I relaxed again for a full day. There is not a lot to say. I was with a group of 4 danish guys a lot, T-bo, and a Sweedish guy. T-bo and the Sweedish guy were going to Battambong the next day and then going to try to get a train to Phnom Pehn. I guess there is one shipping train every two days on the railway but no passanger trains and they want to ride on top of the shipping containers. I wonder how that has gone for them.

The next day I rented a bike in the morning and headed off for the big Angkor Wat. I met a Dutch guy when I was renting the bike and we traveled together to the temples. He was a cool guy and we had a good day together. Because I missed the main temples and he was only there for one day we both wanted to do exactly the same temples. These were bigger and more fantastic but I liked being in cool places where there weren't a lot of tourists. Angkor wat was not my favorite but Bayon in Angkor Thom was amazing. Anyway here are more pictures to do the talking for me.

Wedding Ceremony outside Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Ta Prom (the tomb raider one)

restoring the temple at Ta Prom

Ta Keo

Thameanon and Chao Say Thevada

riding between temples

Victory Gate of Angkor Thom

An active temple in Angkor Thom

random ruins inside the walls of Angkor Thom

Bayon in Angkor Thom

Sunset from Phnom Bakkheng
Yesterday I just relaxed again all day, recovering from the bike ride and temple walking which took a bit out of me. This time I hung out with a guy from London, a girl from Canada, and a New Zealand guy with a Czech girlfriend. I didn't do much again just watched football and talked, and looked into what I want to do in southern Laos. Later we all went out for some stall food at night.

Today I'm here and am planning to go to Kratie tomorrow, its a town on the Mekong between Phnom Pehn and the Laos boarder. Today is the last day of my visa so I will overstay it a few days so I can spend a few days in Kratie before I go to the boarder and the 4000 island group, which are a bunch of islands on the Mekong right on the boarder with Cambodia. These temples really have been amazing and the Garden Village guest house is great so all in all Siem Riep has been a wonderful experience and I'm ready to go to Laos!