September 27, 2011

home sweet home?

Well, after a hard decision to leave flooded Siem Reap (we could barely get out of our hotel, 200 tourists were evacuated from some temples by air during a flash flood so we thought it better to cut our losses and go back during the dry season to do Angkor Wat right) we traveled much earlier than planned to our new home, Thailand.

But the story doesn't really start there, nor end.

Sitting in our hotel in Siem Reap, watching the rain come down and the rapids grow in the river along the street in front we needed to get out so we decided to make the trek to higher ground, and not an easy one, about 100 meter long road/river took 30 minutes to walk against the fast current, bus tidal waves splashing brown water in our face as they charge by. Finally coming to the bridge, the only place in town not covered in water, we found the party. People and food vendors all congregated on the bridge talking, eating, laughing, jumping into the water and wrestling with friends, with no where else to go. That's when Eric decided he wanted to make a rope swing on a perfect tree jutting out over the river. As we walked through the few stalls at the market that were open to find rope, it was determined that some day drinking was in order on that blustery day. Well, five pitchers of frozen strawberry margaritas later, it was rope swing time. Eric was like a monkey in the tree and a big hit for the rest of the night. The whole thing is a bit blurry for both of us but I somehow snapped some shots and pictures always tell the story better than my drunken memory anyway.

Dedication.

the white giant can draw a crowd!


I don't think your boat is gonna make it dude...

WEEEEEEEE!!!




the rope swing made a "big splash" -harharhar

Long story short, we got drunk, built a rope swing, lost my favorite flip flops, we booked our tickets to Bangkok, threw up a some quesadilla, drank a coke and boarded a 10 hour bus, with a tequila hangover, huge backpack and a long day ahead. The border crossing wasn't the most relaxing I have encountered, to say the least, but with only a little bitching (okay Eric, maybe a little more than a little) we finally made it  to Bangkok in the late evening. Dropped off at Khao San Road, I was excited and nervous to be in the city that I will now call home. Finding a cheap guesthouse with a balcony overlooking the street seemed like a great idea at the time, until 4 in the morning when the music was still bumping and I was still trying to recover. I think crying on my first night in the new city I am going to live in is now officially a tradition. While I don't think Khao San will be my regular hangout (traveling has really made me hate tourists, how ironic) I am excited to explore our new home, find a job (I have three interviews set up already!) pick out an apartment and get settled. Man, Korea spoiled me, now I have to do all this on my own.... deep breath... Here we gooooooooo! Pin It

September 23, 2011

flooding in Cambodia

We arrived in Siem Reap to explore ancient temples and fabulous wonders late last night. The drive from Phnom Penh was beautiful, water surrounding the road everywhere you look, sometimes covering the road. There were many huts and small towns along the way and I was saddened to see many of them were flooded or had water up to the door when the house was on stilts. Rainy season in Asia. I guess you get used to it?

Our tuk-tuk drove us to some guesthouses to find one in our budget and as we passed the river through the center town, we realized we might be getting wet.  After a long night of (not exaggerating) torrential down pouring, we woke up to this...

this is the street in front of our hotel.


and riding bikes and walking through this...


still smiling!
poor guy :(

It is crazy in Cambodia right now, pouring rain as I type, the river has overflowed most of the streets in the town (near old market, central market and the other side of the river especially). Watching all the locals make the best of it, playing, swimming and horsin' around made it too tempting and I played in it for a while too. Who doesn't love to play in puddles during a storm!? Didn't have as much fun as these guys though!

 I hear that it is bad in Thailand right now too, hopefully it will chill out enough for us to make it over the border. This is the forecast is for the area, good thing Angkor Wat is on high ground!


Not just anywhere you can have a river view quite like this!




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mental picture.

I wished I could capture it on camera but I knew nothing could catch the awe-inspiring details except for my mind. The sheer power of the SE Asian monsoon is a sight to be seen, to be heard, to smell. The humid morning watches the gray clouds roll into the city and by late afternoon, into the night, dense rain envelopes as far as you can see. Standing on the balcony, I am in awe of a typical, rainy season night in Cambodia, of where I am at that moment, of everything that got me to that point. Trying to take a mental picture of the scene, I have to write.

Looming 5 floors above, I have a bird’s eye view of the action below, the tuk tuk’s covered trailers carrying tourists caught in the storm, the soaked teenagers riding their bikes and splashing each other with no care in the world, puddles gathering with dirty, lukewarm water. In the distance, beyond a big courtyard, the haunting peaks of the palaces look like they are floating in the fog, only dimly lit by the few streetlights. The exotic structures leave me breathless every time, like something right out of a picture book. But right outside my door.

It will likely rain all night, the moist morning sun brings the hot air, that is cooled at night in an endless cycle. The deafening sound quickens and slows through the window, rain is a strong force in Asia, making the rivers flow, the land green and lush, slowing down life just enough so that is okay to just sit and watch the rain come down, the wet world go by. I knew I could not take a photo of rain misting my face, the wind whipping the smoke above the city, the rhythm of the fat drops on the tin rooftops, the white clouds wispy in the sky. The contrasts of old and new, rich and poor, happy and sad, ugly and beautiful, mixing together in this land that has been known by many names. This place stimulates all your senses and the best memories are tucked away in your mind.


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September 18, 2011

history

I've been very lazy lately, I had meant to blog more often, since we are traveling so slowly and I have the time. Yet I find myself always finding something else to do! From laying on the beach, to walking through a street market and stopping at several vendors for some snacks (fried bananas, YUM!), or learning about the history of the country I am falling in love with. Talking with everyone, tuk tuk drivers and children, makes you think about what's fair in the world and sometimes question God, and that takes a lot of time! After riding go karts or spending our day at a museum that was once a school then turned into a Khmer Rouge prison and torture house for four years, we can finish off our night with dinner, where we share our meal with a 6 year old boy with holes in his clothes, who eats every grain of rice, even the vegetables he obviously didn't like. A perfect day seeing the real Cambodia, past and present, topped off with ice cream and cake with the little boy and another one of our favorite little girls who speaks very good English, a child's smile can really make my day!


the picture seen around the world.
I have also been indulging in some reading on the long bus rides (and on the beach) trying to educate my American public school ass on the recent history of the places I am. While in Vietnam, I bought a copy of The Girl in the Picture from a boy on a bicycle, and I read it in 4 days on the beach, and the bus ride south, learning much more than I ever learned in a textbook,visiting the places I was reading about. The book gives factual information about what went down during the Vietnam war and follows a girl and her family, who became famous and then exploited by the Communist regime in Vietnam after a photo is captured of the girl running naked down the street covered in napalm. It was an eye opening look into war and post war in the region, a side of the story I had never heard before. Visiting the war memorial in Saigon (Ho Chi Min City) I was ashamed while reading and seeing about all the horrible things Americans did in Vietnam, so much death and long lasting problems. I think this is a important book for everyone to read, as an American, we cannot forget something so close to our roots, it is a reminder of what we humans are capable of. .

Eating a "happy" pizza along the river in Phnom Penh, a small woman in a wheelchair, sold us a book called, First they Killed my Father, which was heart wrenching but extremely interesting to read. I barely remember hearing the names Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge before researching Cambodia in the recent months. 1/5 of the Cambodian population was wiped out in 4 years, only a little more than 30 years ago. There are not as many older people here as in other places, it is noticeable. The bodies of the innocent babies, women and elderly still lay in the fields just outside the city, aptly named the "Killing Fields." It is madness that this city full of life and culture was stripped of its people and arts such a short time ago, filled with only prisoners and Khmer military. I have learned so much about this part of the world and about myself on this trip, with constant ups and downs of traveling in a place with so much beautiful history and so much pain. It has made me so grateful for my life and while it so hard to see the sadness and hungry people in the streets knowing there is no way you can help them all, a warm smile and kindness is the best way to share peace.

smiles :)

Uncle Ho at the post office, Saigon.

Artwork at the American War crimes museum 

We will be in Phnom Penh for a few more days because I am a terrible planner and forgot to straighten out our visas for Thailand (this visa stuff is harder than it should be) so we are staying at a beautiful hotel on the edge of the Royal Palace grounds, with golden and earth red ancient roofs surrounding us as well as small food and clothing markets.

One of my favorite movies when I was young was the King and I, the blonde English teacher riding through the streets of Siam seemed like the ultimate adventure; now I hope to find a king who has kids that need a teacher, the starkly different culture sometimes feels unreal to me. Soon we will have to enter reality again (if you can call Bangkok reality, I mean) and job searching will commence. I don't want to rush into anything, you know how I am with commitment, but the job market is looking good for me. For now, I guess I will go find something else to distract me, maybe visit a temple with a resident elephant or another happy pizza. Maybe both...

Wishing happiness for my friends and loved ones all over ~






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September 2, 2011

Good morning Viet Nam

Just a quick thought on this hot evening in Viet Nam while the whole country is celebrating their National Independence day from France, we just returned from the Central Highlands where it was cold and rainy. We drove scooters over 300 km (I drove my own, my first time driving in over a year and first time ever on a motorbike, I did pretty damn good if I do say so) and it was a beautiful drive through lush, green jungle. I love this country and love traveling slowly through it. Soon we will head away from the beach to Saigon, then cross into Cambodia through the Mekong Delta. SE Asia is my heaven.



Sunrise while on the sleeper bus going down south. 

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