Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Phnom Pehn to Battambong

Its been a while since I last posted but I've had a hard time moving fast. I'm not sure if its because I've been traveling for a while or because of what I saw but I just can't seem to move fast. I spent about a week in Phnom Pehn and then came here to Battambong yesterday. I actually liked the city a lot but thats mostly because of the lakeside area and the guest house I was in. Let me see if I can quickly go through what I did.

The day after my last post I went into the city with Elena (The girl from London that was in the shared taxi with me). We went to the center market, which is a large market that is in the old main bus terminal building (so now there isn't a main bus terminal). She had some stuff to get and so did I. Then we walked to the riverside and went to the FCC which is a resturant called the forign correspondence center. Its an old building that reporters have been going to for years, so there were war photos everywhere. The drinks were expensive so we just had one beer then went to a pizza place.
The view from the FCC
The Grand Palace
At the pizza place I ran into Ty and Cy (two of the Hawaii guy's that were with Moo when I first met her). We hung out and talked and then they walked to the lakeside with me while Elena went to the Vietnamese embassy. We hung out at Same Same for a while and then arranged to go to the Killing Fields and S-21 with paul (one of the tuk tuk drivers, my favorite). I think that night I went to the Moskito Bar nearby where one guy at the guest house works, and the manager helped open Bhodi Villa's.

The next day the Killing Fields and S-21 were hard things to see. At the Killing Fields there are so many bodies that in the pathways you are actually walking on bones and pieces of clothings from the bodies. It was hard to take pictures so I didn't after a couple. So many people died there in such horrible ways. There was one pit of all beheaded people, another of just women and children (there was a tree next to this pit used to smash the kids against the tree in front of the mother). Then S-21 wasn't much better. Its a high school and elementary school that was changed into a torture and detention center in 1975. They had pictures of the last bodies they found there, old torture equipment, and blood still on the wall. Again it was like you could feel all the horible things that had happened there. For the rest of that day I just relaxed, played pool, and played chess.
The Killing Fields

The next day I went into the city with John (a tall tatooed buy from london with a bald head and a huge beard) and Christian (a german guy) who both live at my guest house. We went to the shopping center for ice cream and then went to the top and saw and amazing view. There was a skating rink on the top of the shopping center also. John left to do some CV stuff (he is applying for jobs here) and Christian and I went to the Russian Market. After Christian got presents for his family we got a tuk tuk back to lakeside but a storm had just begun.

The tuk tuk driver went slow but it was still a crazy sight. The city basically began to flood. Some roads just turned into rivers a couple of feet deep, but the moto drivers and cars just went right through it. We didn't see the worst of it and got back to the guest house safe but other people told me about how the water was deeper than their motorbike, or how outside our guest house the water was about 2 feet deep in the street (it was half a foot when we walked through). It is crazy to me that the city would flood that much because it may have been a two hour long downpoor but I have heard in the rainy season those same rains can last 24 hours and imagine what would happen then. I also wonder if the bad flooding near lakeside has anything to do with the fact that they are filling in the lake.

That night I did the staying out all night thing. I was with John and other long time people, it was a group of 6 total, and then 8 later in the night. We went to some girly bar to pick up one guy's girlfriend, then went to Pontoon, and then Heart of Darkness. Pontoon is a club on the river in a boat that plays trance music all night and people dance and stuff. Heart of Darkness is a famous club from movies like pontoon and city of ghosts. It was a high roller club with lots of rich Cambodians and was in an old french building.

The next two day I literally did nothing. I hung out at the Same Same guest house, played pool, played chess, drank beer, and watched some movies. I got to know everyone at the guest house and got really comfortable so I just didn't want to leave and go out traveling really soon. I also planned to do the internet both days but just didn't get out of the building. Its nice because the city is chaotic but at the guest house the lake is right there, and lots of cool people are about so its easy to just hang out and move from one conversation to another forgetting how crazy the city is.
The Lake from Same Same

Yesterday I came here to Battambong by bus. There are not many farang here. Its a small city basically, similar to Kampot but without the river (there is a river but its smaller and very polluted). I'm not sure what I think about it yet. I just went out to eat last night and met a large tour group, and today I walked through the market. Maybe tonight I'll check out the main bar in town that I've gotten a couple of flyers for from a guy who lost his legs.

Maybe its because of what I saw but I'm not as keen on traveling around a lot right now. I want to see Ankor Wat and a nice guest house people have told me about there, and I think I want to go to the 4000 island group in southern Loas but that might be it for me. I've been gone for a while so I miss my friends and family and am a bit tired of traveling. Before being in large multi cultural groups was new and exciting but now it is normal. I hardly have the drive to learn about people or cultures anymore, I just want some relaxed people to play a game with or something. Recently I've met a lot of people who kinda feel the same so its been easy to just relax and play games without really talking too much.

This could just be how I've felt recently and will get back into the spirit of traveling in a few days, but if its not, then I can go home whenever I want. One couple I met in Bangkok showed me how you can just show up there and get tickets through the travel agencies cheaper than you could buying tickets over the internet, so that is probably what I'll do to get home. I'll go to Siem Riep and see the temples and then will decide if I want to make my way up to Laos or just go back to Bangkok.

Well, thats all for now. I don't have many pictures and don't have the camera with me so I'll post whatever I have later. Also I'm sorry for sharing such a graphic image with everyone. It has been hard to deal with having seen a life lost so I think I described the experience in a bit too much detail to try to help it leave my brain and just infected all of you with the image. Anyway, peace and love to everyone.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In Phnom Pehn

Now I'm in Phnom Pehn. I like the area I'm in even though it will be destroyed within the next year, and I've seen one of the most graphic things I've ever seen. I can't seem to get this image out of my head and its been affecting me all day. It's like a bustling Asian city here without skyscrapers, without all paved roads, without rules (which is normal in Cambodia) and with a lot of bicicles and motorbikes. Its hard to be away from Bhodi's but its nice to be on the move again.

My last day at Bhodi's I went on a boat ride up the river. When Chenda (one of the people that work at Bhodi's) asked me if I wanted to go I figured I might as well or else I'd just sit around all day. Before the boat ride I swam down to Jess's to help her move some big things, then she came on the boat also. It was a nice calm ride up the river with a bunch of people I'd come to know kinda and we just drank beers and went for a ride.
On the boat
Sunset from the boat

The last night there was also fun just hanging out with the bar tender, who also lives there, and drinking and playing pool. Then in the morning I did my normal morning swim but this time swam all the way to the other side and hung out in the abandoned building over there. That was nice, and a good ending to my time on the river. I booked a shared taxi with another girl from the guest house that also wanted to go to Phnom Pehn.

The shared taxi was an interesting experience. The two of us shared the front seat of a normal car, there were four people in the back, and another Khemur person shared the drivers seat. It was a spectical but normal to the Khemur people. The roads were bad and unmarked for much of the way. The driver kept his left signal on most of the time and passed everything he could but also had to slow down a lot for the dirt sections. Also there were oxen driven carts sharing the road also. Then, near the city a horrible accident happened.

We were very close to the city so the street was packed with mostly motorbikes, but also cars, large trucks, and bicicles and people are always trying to pass people in a generally chaotic patturn. We were maybe two cars back when it happened. Basically I saw a teenage girl on a bicicle start to wobble bad (I think a moto cut her off), she did maybe two to three wobbles and then toppled over. She fell right into the road, right inbetween the wheels of a large gravel or dump truck. Her head landed under the truck and the back wheel just went right over her head squashing it like a watermellon.

We were so close I could see everything very clearly. There is no way she lived and I knew it the second that wheel went over the head. It was so fast, she was alive one minute riding the bike like so many other people and dead the next. I can't seem to get the image of the wheel riding right over her head out of my head. We drove right passed her then turned around and drove passed her again to go into the city. I think the truck stopped right there and wasn't going anywhere so the taxi spun around and went into the city a different way, but it made it so we saw her body up close twice. The second time there was a huge puddle of blood that was not there the first time. This is all kinda hard to write. It was all like something you'd see in a movie but I actually saw it happen before my eyes. I don't know if I'll ever be able to look at a crowded street the same again.

Anyway after that we had to haggle for a tuk tuk into the lakeside area of Phnem Pehn where some travelers have recommended that I stay. The area is nice. Its a little allyway tucked away but is full of guesthouses, bars, resturants, and internet shops. Its like Khao San but better, or kinda like the streets in Phi Phi but better. All the guest houses are long and narrow and have decks that overlook the lake, and the sunsets over the lake. Last night I just checked into the guest house ($2 a night) and then went out to the deck to talk to people and relax. The girl from Bhodi and I drank together and ate together but didn't tell anyone about what we saw. I think it was too upsetting for either of us to have a big conversation about people dieing with these poeple we had just met.

The only problem with this area is that they are filling in the lake right now to build on top of it. You can see to the left that they are filling it in with sand and gravel. They will fill in the entire area where the guest houses currently are, destroying the whole area, and then will build some kind of development or buisness area. It really makes me sick to think that this wonderful lake and area of the city will be completely destroyed within a year. The company doing it is some Malaysian company. This whole counrty is up for sale and its obvious everywhere, especially when your watching a beautiful sunset over a lake that will be some sort of development.

Today I woke up slow, and moved slow. I was going to go on a walk around the city but left late. I met some kids I had met at Kho Phan-gan and then also in Sihanoukville at a little cafe. I sat down and three of them caught busses to leave the country and the fourth stayed around. We just watched a movie and now I'm here. The rains have come early this year so its rained hard the last few days but its a welcome rain because it cools it off and most of the time its almost too hot to walk, or even sit. Anyway, thats all for now. Peace
PS. I added pictures and two video's. The oldest video is from the floating market.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Still relaxing at Bhodi's

It is really nice here at Bhodi Villa's in Kampot. For the last couple days I've ventured out some but I really like the vibe here at the guest house. I was going to go to Kep, and to Rabbit Island which is right off the coast from Kep, but instead I decided to chill out here longer and take a day trip to Kep. The plan now is to head to Penom Phen tomorrow and then towards Siem Riep.

My bed in the dorm room

The chill area

The bar area

The deck down on the water

The floating bungalows from the deck

The chill area from the deck

A few days ago after I posted on here I was going to go to town with Jess and the Israelie couple but my back tire went flat. We went from Bhodi's to Jess's place which is called the Blank Canvas and then when we left there the tire went flat when going on the road. I decided to turn back and hobble to Bhodi's and they continued to town.

The girl here called the bike guy's and the tire was fixed pretty quickly but I got food in the meantime. I still went to town and hung out with the paper people at the Rusty Nail. There has been a group of people staying here that all work for the Penom Phen post. They have been getting so drunk and partying so hard it is interesting to think that some of the articles I've been reading were written by these guys.

Anyway, after drinking with them a bit, I left when there food came and went over to Jess's place to hang out for the evening. We just chilled on the water and talked and went skinny dipping in the river. After a while we ate some rice and vegetables and then I went back to the guest house to sleep. Its cool walking around here because there are fire flies so it does feel magical.

The next day I relaxed again in the morning having my normal morning swim and then an interesting character came into the bar. It was an older guy with two mixed Khemur kids. He was insulting to the Khemur people and just kept talking about it and talking about how in Norway he would be arrested for drinking a beer like he was and letting his kids run around. So this strange character got most of the people in the place leave and eventually I went into town to eat the ribs at Rusty's and all the Bhodi people were there. I sat down and played cards with some of the guy's and then ate the ribs. They were actually the best ribs I've ever had. The tire on the back wheel of the bike was going flat again so I just went back to the guest house and relaxed.
Yesterday I traded bikes and then went into Kep for the day. First I went to the Epic Arts Cafe in town which is a performing arts center and cafe for disabled people in Cambodia. That was nice and then it started raining so I stayed there for a bit. When the rain cleared I left for Kep but did end up driving through a down pore but by the time I got to Kep I was dry. Kep was nice and very busy with people. I walked through the crab market and then went to the beach. The beach was narrow and golden in color and again full of Khemur people. I think there were so many people because it was the Saturday after the new year. Anyway, I drank a beer and then went back to Bhodi's and played pool until I went to sleep.

The Kep beach

Now its the morning here and I've had my morning swim and am using Jess's computer again. Its interesting here at Bhodi's because besides the long term travelers who stay here a lot of people from NGO's also stay here for days off. They do intense work around Cambodia and then come here to unwind so much of the time they are getting very drunk. Its very interesting.

A kitten and mom that live in the dorm also

Well, I need to leave here soon or I'll get stuck so the plan is to go to the city tomorrow. Till next time...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In Kampot for the Khemur New Year

Kampot, or more specifically the Bhodi Villa guest house on the river (I actually haven't been to the town yet), is very nice and relaxing. There is a community here that consists of a bunch of long term travelers or people that decided to stay and live in this area. The place is right on the river and you can swim in the river which is nice in the heat of the day, and there is plankton in the water so at night you can see all the colors as you swim (like places on the ocean). I think its kind of a magical place where time slips away and you can completely relax.

A few days ago I left Sihanoukville in the morning and got here by 10 or so in the morning. It turned out that someone didn't show up to stay at the floating bungalow on the river the day before so I got to stay in it. It is an amazing bungalow that is literally floating on the river so you can feel the ripples and your sleeping about 1 foot above the water level. I swam right away and laid in my bed feet from the water. I was still not feeling great so I just slept a lot and relaxed all day.

Back of the sunset from the floating bungalow

The floating bungalow

The river view from the floating bungalow
That first night was the beginning of the Khemur New Year so at exactly 1:36 am all the Khemur people lit incense and did prayers to the spirits, and the new year began (its a three day celebration). I stayed up for the 1:36 celebration and lit some incense saying my own prayers to whatever I believe in. The new year here is more of a spiritual celebration that has to do with their version of Buddhism than a huge party. Unlike the Thai new year which is also happening right now but is more of a huge party throwing water around.

I really didn't do much the next couple days because I just wanted to enjoy my bungalow and get better. The second day here I met a girl from the US that is living two doors down the river. She is renting an art place with group paintings on the walls that anyone can contribute to and there are also canvases with art all over the place. It was fun to relax there, talk to the girl (Jess), and swim of course. That night she showed me the plankton, which I can't believe I didn't notice because I swam at night the night before.

Jess's place "Blank Canvas"

The next day I met Jess in the morning and then we rented bikes to go up to Bokor Mountain. Bokor Mountain is a cool place that was used for a huge casino/resort for the french near the turn of the century. Then due to the hatred of the rich that the Khemur Rouge had it was sacked and burned along with all the rich residents that were also on the mountain. For a long time it was fought for by the different armies because of its stategic location and today the building are still standing and burned.

View of the area from about half way up Bokor Mtn.

Me at the top of Bokor Mountain

Right now Bokor Mountain has been closed because of some huge development that is going to happen up on the hill (development is rampant here and without regulation, so if your connected and have money you can do whatever you want) and opened up just for 4 or 5 days for the new year. Because its open only for a few days for the celebration and then will close for another year there were tons of Khemur people up there. There were large groups of families having picnics in the abandoned buildings, even in the old casino.

Some cool art in an abandoned building

Jess and I had a great time seeing the burned out buildings and all the happy Khemur families. Also the casino was very big and had large halls and balconies and it was fun to imagine what it would have been like if it wasn't completely stripped and burned. The view was also amazing with a huge cliff that went down to the flatter land next to the coast. The last cool aspect was that up on the mountain you were at cloud level, or above it, so clouds would drift in and then flow over the ridge adding a cool misty-ness to the area. Overall it was a really cool place and I feel extremely lucky to have been there for the only 4-5 days its open in two years.

The casino

The main hall inside the casino

Then last night after we got back from the mountain there was a party here to celebrate the end of the new year. It was an interesting party but I mostly just played cards at the bar with some of the regulars I have met. I didn't stay up too late and then went to bed in the dorm room (I had the floating bungalow for two days and now I'm in the dorm). Today I've just been relaxing and am using Jess's computer that she has left at the bar for people to use with the wifi. My plan is to use the motorbike I used yesterday to go and actually see the town of Kampot.

Its nice to be away from the touristy areas of Cambodia. There are not people trying to sell things to you everywhere here, and I feel safer. Cambodia is a very strange country, beautiful and ugly at the same time. Its a religious country but due to the years of Khemur Rouge rule much of the culture has been destroyed and replaced with a desperateness that you can feel. People were forced not to practice Buddhism and just work as slaves, so today people care a lot more about money than anything else. But so many people can't earn money, most people make 1-2 dollars a day. Most people don't even have a place to live because the land prices are actually pretty high so they just squat wherever they can. The number of abandoned buildings is astonishing.

There is also so much corruption in the government and just everything. Most things you would want here you can't buy but need to know someone who can buy it for you, like sim cards can't be bought buy foreigners. Even the motorbike rental was just that the people here called someone and then about 15 minutes later the bikes were dropped off for us to rent. The land thing is where the biggest amount of corruption is because very few own land because of the price but people live everywhere. Because of this when someone does something with land, like an ugly misplaced development, a bunch of families are pushed off the land. This financial crisis could not have come at a better time for Cambodia because the land prices are going down, and the developments are stopping so people aren't getting kicked off their land as much and the natural beauty is not being destroyed like it was only one year ago.

Anyway, overall its a beautiful place and anything you would want to do you can. Thats what a lot of people like about Cambodia. There really are no restrictions on anything. If you can pay for it you can do it. There is even a place where you can shoot a tank if you have 300 dollars to spend. Also, you do use dollars here. I guess 5-10 years ago they decided to start using dollars because the riel was having so many currency issues. Today you use dollars for everything and riel is used for change. You can spend riel for anything also but its always translated into how many dollars that riel would be worth. Because of the riel/dollar thing there are no coins here which is kinda cool. Well, thats all for now, no pictures again because I'm using Jess's computer but I'll get them up eventually. Peace and love to all

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Still in Sihanoukville

Now I am traveling alone again. Basically we were all just crossing paths. Dharma left first then Gabe left the next day and then Sarah left today. Sarah and I were going to go to Kampot today but I got very sick. Most travelers know what kind of sick I'm talking about but starting two nights ago I could hardly get to the bathroom, couldn't keep anything down, couldn't hardly move, just slept and sweat. Now I'm feeling better. At least I've been able to move around today and have kept everything down.

I haven't really done much in Sihanoukville, just a lot of catching up with friends. After my last blog I got desterbing e-mail from a friend that got me very worried. I think everything is fine but for a couple days it was hard for me to think of much else. Also everyone else kinda just wanted to relaxe on the beach. They have had much more of a culture shock than me coming to Cambodia starting with scams right across the boarder. Then there are the crazy stories you hear. It just isn't as safe here due to the poverty of the people. You can tell by all the armed guards protecting the guest houses here.
Chillin on the beach
Chillin in front of Gabe and Sarah's room.

That night Dharma, Gabe and I went out to the beach to party a bit. It pretty fun. There were those comfortable chairs all around to sit on and the music was the same as it always is, this house stuff or whatever. We ended up staying up late dancing and talking to people. I ended up meeting the owners of one of the clubs. Even in the party scene you can tell a difference because anything goes here. If you can pay for it you can have it. Corruption is rampant and in your face. Even the prime minister is an ex Khemur Rough officer.

The next day after Dharma left Gabe, Sarah and I had a mellow morning and then went to the market in the city in the afternoon. The market was a big market with stuff you would need, not touristy stuff. I needed some stuff and so did Gabe and Sarah so we shopped around a bit for what we needed. Then looked for a place to eat but decided to get closer to our guest houses before it got dark.
Gabe in the tuk tuk going to the market

We ended up eating at a pizza place and meeting a middle aged guy who is engaged to a young Khemur girl. He just seemed completely in love with her and I'm not sure about how she felt. I'm sure she was very happy to get a more secure life and probably money for the family but he was so much older. Also the language barier seemed pretty big. We thought she would speak more english base on how he talked about her but when she came she could not speak much.

Anyway, that night after hanging out in their room after dinner I decided to stay because I was really tired, then I got sick. I basically could not leave the room the entire next day and just barely kept the water down. Gabe left that morning, and Sarah left the next day, which was this morning. By this morning I could walk and even ate some toast. I've been doing ok all day. Its a good thing I know how to take care of myself when sick, just drink and sleep.

Tomorrow I'm off to Kampot. I still want to go there and I'm feeling well enough to travel. I bought a ticket today from my guest house (which I haven't spent much time at becuase I was always at the other guy's place) and then a girl next to me suggested a place to stay at, but then realized it may be full because of the time of year. The Khemur new year starts tomorrow and so rates in Sihanoukville are going up, another reason I wanted to leave. The girl dialed the guest house and I talked to them. They had some shared rooms, or dorm rooms available so I booked. Only 3 dollars and it should be a relaxing place to get through the new year. Thats all for now, and the usb doesn't work here so I'll all pictures later. Peace and love to all.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

In Sihanoukville

This morning I woke up early to knocking on the door from my guest house manager waking me up for the bus ride to Sihanoukville. The ride was not too unpleasant. I was taken to the bus terminal on a bus from my guest house then we went to Sihanoukville. I slept most of the way, or I should say tried to sleep. The road was pretty good because they just finished building four bridges over rivers along the way and repaving the road. I guess just last year you had to take four ferries in order to get from Sihanoukville to Koh Krong.

As soon as I got off the bus there were taxi drivers all over me but there were enough tourist that I got out pretty good. A nice moto driver ended up taking me to the place I asked him to, which I guess is not that normal. When I got to the guesthouse I got a room and then tried to call Sarah (she called me on the bus from Bangkok to Trat and gave me the Cambodian number). Again I have lost my phone. It must have fell out in the bus, but now its really gone. I'm not sure if I'm going to get a new phone because now it seems like its not destined for me to have a phone in Cambodia. I still might buy another one but for at least a few days I'll see what its like without one. At the guesthouse I just borrowed a phone from worker there to call Sarah.

It turned out her, Dharma and Gabe had come to Sihanoukville the day before in the afternoon and evening. They were staying at a guest house only a couple minute walk from me. Its the guest house that most of the moto's take the people to no mater what they say, even my moto driver mentioned it to me. So I walked down there and it is really good to see close friends after you've traveled with them for a while, and then seperated for a while. I'm used to seeing them while traveling and know what it is like, plus now its the four of us that know each other the best as a group in Seattle also.

We all caught up on what we have been doing and soon after I got there I ran into the British girls that I met in Sukhothai. I ate some food with them while the rest of them got ready to go to the beach. We also caught up on what we've been doing because they have gone to Lao, Vietnam before coming to Cambodia 5 days ago. But I did realize how diferent it is catching up with close friends compared to people you've spent 2 days hanging out with.

The beach was interesting. There were really comfortable chairs everywhere under umbrellas with shade, a nice perfect sand beach, and little kids selling bracelets and all kinds of stuff everywhere. Dharma and Gabe started buying a couple bracelets and soon there was a group of 5 to 10. I did buy a newspaper from one but then tried to just sit and read. Some of them were really pushy but they were only kids. It definately affected the beach experience. One of the kids said that down the beach where most of the tourists are that they are not allowed to go.

The sunset tonight

I haven't done much else with my day, just catching up and eating food. Now everyone is tired because last night they all partied for Sarah's birthday, and I'm tired because I've traveled a lot. We are all trying to figure out what we are doing in Cambodia. I think Dharma and Gabe will be around tomorrow and then go back to Thailand the next day, and Sarah and I are going to try to travel to gether for the next week or so before she moves on to somewhere else and then I see Penom Phen and Anchor wat before I go towards the Loas boarder.

Cambodia is a very different county. You can tell just from the roads, but the desperatness of the people for a sell is also apparent. The guy's have been telling me that the harassing by kids like today has been almost a constant along the tourist trail. I have to keep telling myself that I am in a different country becuase I was getting so used to Thailand. The people here act different, they look different, and have such a different history. I'll go through the tourist trail but I'm excited to see some towns most people don't see also. Well, I'm tired and need to sleep so thats all I got. Goodnight or good morning.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

In Koh Kong Cambodia

Well its been a long time again since I posted a blog but that is because I was having so much fun and then had to rush to the Cambodia boarder because my visa was about to expire. I have done a lot of fun stuff and decided that I actually like bangkok so this post will be a long one because I would like to tell as many details as I can.

After my last blog Alyssa, Shawn (Hawaii friends) and I went to have some street food at the place I like and then went to the Blues Bar for some drinks and Moo met us there about an hour later. The bar was really small and cool with very good blues music. It was almost amazing such a place exists because only like 20 people or so could even fit inside. At the bar I ran into Mark, the older guy from Australia I met in Koh Chang. It is crazy how small the world can be sometimes. I had a really good time and made plans to meet Alyssa, Shawn and Moo the next day at the JJ market (or Chatuchak Market) and then go to the floating market the next day. That made it so I had to run for the boarder when it was all done but it was well worth it.

The group of us at the Blues Bar

The next day after I had some breakfast I started walking towards the subway through China town (I took the skytrain one day so I wanted to try the subway). I called Alyssa on the way and found out that we weren't going to meet at the market until later in the day so I decided to stop at Wat Pho on the way (thats the Wat with the big reclining Buddha. On the walk I was practically walking next to a Swedish girl so I introduced myself and we went to the Wat together.

The Wat was cool. Similar architecture as the grand palace and associated Wat and the Buddha was impressive. We walked around the Wat looking at all the building and Buddha's and talking. She was in her last year of high school and came to Thailand for a final project working with an orphanage, she wanted to teach them to swim or something. After the Wat she decided to walk with me through China town as I walked to the subway because she wanted to do some shopping. On the walk some dark clouds were approaching so she turned back around half way and I just made it into the subway before the rains came.

The reclining Buddha

Wat Pho

When I got out of the subway it was still dumping so I waited inside the terminal until the rain calmed down. When the rains died down I began walking through the market and when they stopped I called Alyssa and said they should come on over and meet me (they were waiting for the rain to stop). The market was crazy! The biggest market I have ever seen with all kinds of crazy stuff like a full section of pets and an art section that was like a museum. I met Alyssa and Shawn and they said Moo was just behind them (she was coming straight from work).

At JJ market

We walked around the market for a while and then went to visit with Moo's friend that is an artist and has a display in the art section. It was cool to hang out there because when I walked through by myself I saw all the Thai people hanging out and thought to myself "boy they look like they are having fun, wouldn't that be fun to hang out with these guys", then later I was. After a few beers we went to eat at a good place Moo knows and her friend came and another guy from the market. By the time we left the market it was closed so we had to scale the fence to get out. The food was excellent at the place Moo took us to. It was cool because we just sat down and Moo ordered for us and she knows what is good.

After dinner we dropped the two guys from the art gallery at a place to catch a taxi and all went to Moo's place to sleep so we could get up in the morning for the floating market. In the morning we had some traditional Vietnamese breakfast and then got on the road to go to the floating market. The market was great and it was nice because you could tell Moo loved it and was not just taking us there because we were tourists. The market was on some isles along a river with shops and there were venders in boats along the river. It was quite crowded with very little farang (which you know makes me happy) and it took a while to go anywhere.

The floating market

After walking around a bit we got on a boat to go up the river and visit some temples that are some of Moo's favorite temples. I always get strange feeling and chills when going to the temples and seeing the people praying. Its like I can feel the spirituality in the air. Also Moo could tell us about the temple and what people were doing so it made the whole temple experience that much richer. A couple of the Monks at the temples blessed me with water and gave me bracelets, one of which I still have on. The monks seemed to give me special attention and Moo said it was because I looked like a holy man in the woods, and because I look like Jesus (how many times have I heard that).

A really cool old temple that Moo brought us to

After getting back to the floating market we got some food and while eating the power went out. It actually made the market a bit cooler because candles started popping up everywhere and there was some acoustic music across the water. We went over towards the music and while watching and listening the power came back on (I got that on video). We sat down for some drinks and then headed back to Bangkok.

Sunset over the floating market

Hanging out having some drinks at the floating market

They dropped me off at the subway for me to get back to the Kao San area and we all said goodbye because I was leaving the next day. Almost right away I realized I lost my phone and started to freak out. The only place it could be was in Moo's truck or at the market, so I rushed back to my guest house as fast as possible and got onto the internet. I knew they were going to go to the internet place after they dropped me off so I hoped I could catch them. Luckally I did catch Moo while she was on the internet and she did have my phone in the truck, so I just packed my bag checked out of the guest house and took a taxi to Moo's place. I was reunited with my phone and we all stayed up really late talking. It was really nice talking to Moo because she told me a lot about Thai culture that I didn't know and I could tell her about farang culture so it was a mutual exchange.

The next day we just had breakfast, went to a photo place for Alyssa, dropped me off at the bus terminal, and said our goodbyes again. The bus ride went fine (I slept most of the way) and I got a place easily. The place I was at organized trips to the boarder so I had to be up at 5 am the next day, which is today. Of coarse again I couldn't decide if I wanted to go straight to Sihanoukville or stay at the boarder town of Koh Kong and just decided last minute to go to Koh Kong and see what it was like.

This morning I woke up early before the sun was up and started the journey to the boarder (no where near where the fighting is, I did look into it). We all got to the boarder before the gates were open. It was quite a spectacle with Khemurs waiting to get into Thailand to work and a row or motorbike taxis lined up to drive then to work. The people got on the bikes almost as fast as the bikes could come and were zipping off before the people had hardly got onto the seat. The boarder went fine because I already had a visa and I negotiated hard to not get ripped off getting into Koh Kong.

Koh Kong is a really nice town. In the morning I talked to a Khemur guy who works with an NGO on green farming and stuff, we talked for about an hour. Then I walked to the market to get a bowl of noodle soup. Everyone talked about how the Cambodians try to rip you off but here they seem very honest. I just ordered stuff and worried about the price later like I would in Thailand. After breakfast I walked around the town and ended up meeting an old retired British guy and we went for some coffee. He was an interesting guy who has lived in the area for over 10 years (Thailand and Cambodia) and was very blunt about the fact that he is a sex tourist. I try not to judge so we hung out for a while and talked about our different perspectives on life. I even went back to see where he was staying because it is on the water, a bit nicer, and cheaper than where I am staying. After lunch with him I headed back to my guest house for a nap, had some dinner, and now I am here.

All in all Cambodia is very nice so far. Tomorrow I have a ticket to go to Sihanoukville. I would probably spend a few days here but I know Sarah, Dharma, and Gabe will be going to Sihanoukville tomorrow and it would be nice to meet them. Dharma and Gabe are headed back to Thailand for the Thai new years so if I don't go to meet them tomorrow I might miss them and I would like to catch up on what we have been doing while traveling apart. Well thats all for now, I think it is very long but I got all the details in. I could probably write more about my feelings and perspectives on some stuff but then it would be way too long.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Bangkok's growing on me

The last couple days in bangkok have actually been really fun. After writing this blog a couple days ago I took a nap and then went on a walk around the area. I went to a park near the river first where there is a fort. I looked at the river and then left passing by some break dancers and watched them for a while. Then I went to Kao San and walked down that street. I wasn't sure what to do, just listened to music that sounded good.

I was looking through CD's at this stand and then turned around to see an elephant on the road (kinda sad). Then standing next to me was a Thai girl that recognized me and I recognized her. After talking for a bit we realized that we met in Mae Sot. She was with the three guy's from Hawaii that I met that were staying in the same guest house as me. Her name is Moo and she was entertaining two girls and a guy from Hawaii also. We all hung out for the night and then around 1 they took a cab back to Moo's place after we made plans to hang out at Moo's the next day for some dinner.

I wasn't quite tired so I actually went to a club on Kao San called "the Club" and danced to the house music for a while until I was tired. The next day, yesterday, I woke up lazily and went to the street food place that I like. Again I ran into the Colorado guy and the German girl. We talked while eating and then they went off. Soon after that I met a British couple and we ended up talking for about 3 hours. They just came from India and Nepal the day before, and are both really good people.

While hanging out I was getting texts from Moo saying we were meeting at her place at 6:30 and how to get there. I took a nap after talking to the British couple and then left at about 5:30 to go way out to the edge of Bangkok. I took a motorbike taxi over to the skytrain. Then the skytrain to the very last stop, and then a taxi to Moo's place. It all took way longer than I thought it would because of trafic and I was an hour late.

The night was really fun. We all ate the amazing food that Moo cooked and then played Jenga until we started to get tired. The guy and girls from Hawaii are really nice and Moo is fun. Her condo is really small (Thai style) and she had cushins on the floor that we sat on to hang out. I ended up sleeping there on the cushins and so did everyone else (it was just too far from the Kao San area).

This morning Moo went to work early. She works in some sort of construction industry for a company that her brother owns. Then the rest of us woke up a bit late. They all planned to go to Kanchanaburi today. After a while we got hungry so we went to the mall near there and ate in the food court. After that I bought some new headphones (my other ones broke in one ear) and then we went back to the condo. It was late so they decided not to go to Kanchanaburi today, but one really wanted to. So we all got a taxi to Kao San because I needed to pick up my passport with the visas and they wanted to see about the bus to Kanchanaburi and the one brought her bags to leave today because she wanted to get out of Bangkok.

Now I'm doing this and will meet up with the two that are left and hang out with Moo again. This all has been nice becuase I'm realizing this is an ok big city, with all the bad big city stuff, but some nice things too. Most of the people in Thailand work here so there are jobs and money, and if your not on Kao San they leave you alone and live their lives. I still want to meet the San Fran guy I met a couple days ago and hang out in the Sukomvit area so I actually might stay an extra day to do that (it will be saturday night tomorrow). Plus I realized I don't have time to go to the big Koh Chang so I'm just going to Trat near Cambodia until my visa expires and then going to Cambodia. I have my visas for Cambodia and Laos now and my passport back so everything is looking good. Well I'm off to go meet the friends I've made and figure out what we are doing for fun tonight!

I'm back on the internet with my Hawaii friends and I added a bunch of pictures that I got from the group. Some new ones from the trek, full moon party pictures, and some others so check them out if you want.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

In Bangkok getting visas

I'm back in Bangkok and it's the same city I remember. The main thing I notice is that there are a lot less travelers now. Before it was busy even at 2 in the morning but now there are a lot less travelers here. Its a good thing and a bad. The streets are easier to manouver through but the hustlers are a bit more agressive because they have to be. Last night I had three thai whores grab my arm and insist that they were coming back to my room for boom boom. I practically had to push them away.

So, after my last blog I went with Tom (the British guy) and Ben (the Finland guy) to the Ranong hot springs. It was the first time either of them had been to a hot spring. They seemed to enjoy it and deffinately were not used to soaking in really hot water. When I got all the way in the 108 or so water they were both impressed. I think that was a good hot spring for first timers. After the soak we just went back to town, had something to eat, and then went to the room in the guest house and had some beers before going to sleep (Tom and I shared a room).

The next day was a basic traveling day but the bus ride took way longer than expected. We all woke up around 9 and had some breakfast. Then we packed and went to the bus terminal. They were both headed over to Koh Phan-gan, so they went together, and I was headed to Bangkok. I missed the 10:30 bus so I had to wait until the 13:30 bus. The ride was so long I didn't get into Bangkok until about midnight. I had met a nice guy from Colorado with his girlfriend from Germany on the boat from koh Chang, then at breakfast, and then on the bus to Bangkok, so we shared a taxi to Kao San Road. They are good people and we split up once out of the taxi.

I walked straight to the place I stayed at before that had the 150 B single rooms. Again the lack of people was evident right away, tons of rooms open, and not hardly any people milling around. As I got closer to the guest house I could hear live music. There was a rock/punk concert in the street about 2-3 doors down from my guest house with a decent sized crowd. I checked into my room got a beer and joined the crowd. It wasn't quite my style of music but the scene was fun to see. It was mostly Thai people and what looked like Indian people (I think because it was an inian resturant that was putting on the concert).

The music ended around 1 and the crowd was very drunk and not ready to stop partying. I talked to an indian guy from Bangkok and a Chinese guy from San Francisco that lives in Bangkok now. They were fun to talk to and after the crowd had disipated mostly me, the San Fran guy, and a friend of his from Texas who also lives in Bangkok went to central Kao San to have a drink. It was fun to talk and maybe they will take me out to have some drinks in a neighborhood that is more local tomorrow. They both didn't like Kao San very much because of how it doesn't really feel like Thailand and is some kind of perverted western place.

After some drinks I went back to my room, thats when the whores wouldn't leave me alone. Before I stayed out that late but I think all the girls were employed in people beds but now there just aren't enough people to boom boom all the whores. Today has been a lazyish day. I got breakfast and ran into the Colorado guy and the German girl again, then went to deal with the visas. I paid for both the Cambodian visa and the Laos visa and its lucky I did it now because the embasies are closed next week and the following week because of holidays and there are only two more working days left in this week. So, I had to pay to get both of them quickly but I think it will be worth it.

It is amazing how fast this 15 day visa is going by. I only have 6 days until I have to leave the country. I have to spend two more days here and then I only have 4 days to see something and leave. That doesn't give me enough time to see the big Koh Chang like I wanted to so I've decided just to go to Trat for a couple days and then to Cambodia. I was one day late to see Gabe, Dharma, and Sarah because they all left in the morning for Cambodia the day I got in at night. Maybe I'll see them in Cambodia when I go, maybe not, I'll just keep in touch and see if it works. Also this blog thing is interesting because now I have gotten some comments from people I don't know or can't figure out who they are (like Tofu Hunter). I bet there are a lot more people reading this than I realize which is strange and cool at the same time. Anyway, thats all for now, peace and love to all!