Wednesday, November 30, 2005

new city, finally!

well, i got myself on a train and am now in ayutthaya. i got conned into an expensive train (the next cheap one was at 2pm, which was like 5 hours away. so i had to pay about 10 times more to leave earlier) ticket but the ride was short and comfortable. this city feels a lot more like the rest of asia, which is nice, but the city itself isn't really nice - yet. i'm staying at a really cool guesthouse though which is perfect for chilling... not that i haven't been doing a lot of that already!

i've just burned cds, and that took a few hours of my day. i now have two memory cards and i'm really happy about that. tonight i'm going on a night temple sightseeing thing, to view the ruins all light up. it should be beautiful. and tomorrow, i will be renting a bike and going around the island, checking out the sights.

i plan on staying there for about 4 days and to head off to kanchanaburri right after for about 3 days. then, it's back to bkk (for the 3rd time!) and then down south, finally...

somebody might get the wrong idea...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

saying goodbye again

i will be saying goodbye to bangkok for the second time tomorrow. i am heading north to the old capital of ayutthaya to check out old temples and more khmer ruins.

i can't believe that i've been in thailand for nearly two weeks already. i've been feeling really lazy and haven't been doing much sightseeing or moving around. i need to get crackin' if i want to see this country!

really i wish that there was more to say... but lazy days and long nights don't make for much story telling. the highlight might be winning two pool games at one of those winners stay on setups. i lost two afterwards, but with one ball left. i think i was in disbelief. i guess playing with pros like any vietnamese or khmer folks has really helped my game!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

weekend market

this morning i headed out to the famous "weekend market" here in bangkok, which is supposed to be the place to get anything you want (hum, excluding girls). well, that turned out to be the truth, maybe even an understatement.

the market is gigantic, really. the biggest i have seen thus far on my trip. you can get anything there, from a squirel (pet) to a couch. you can buy turtle meat or awesome tshirts designed here in thailand. and they have the absolute most incredible orchids i have ever seen, all for less than 200B ($5). the place is madness: it is rumoured to have 200k visitors a day. there are so many stalls, alleys and everythying that the whole thing gets overwhelming. where to start? where to go next? and then, the need to resist buying everything cool...

all i have to say is that i'll need to go back again. perhaps next weekend!

stuff n' things

on thai girls.

i have said in my previous post that i was glad to have met the thai girls. that is mostly because it was a wonderful experience to actually get to know and befriend thai people. it allowed me to get past assumptions about thai girls in general (although, i'm still convinced that there's a whole lot of prostitution, casual sex and girls after people's nationality going on). i got to know real, wonderful people and see how they interact with each others and farangs. these girls are lovely with people, they are warm, outgoing, funny and just love to have fun. they love playing with children and they cry when you hurt their feelings. and by hanging out with them i got to hang out with many other thais. they're fantastic people. i can see why so many fall for them.

when we go out clubbing here in bangkok and we dance and have fun, i wonder if people wonder about these girls, about me, about what's going on. i'm sure that many do, just as some look with judging eyes (same same) when young, beautiful thai girls hang out with old, fat men...

on the dichotomies of bangkok.

i have said that i would get back to this statement, and i really wanted to because i think that it's important to know that bangkok is not one thing.

bangkok seems to be a city that keeps growing, without the old stuff getting replaced. bangkok is a city whose architecture includes buildings that rival the worst chinese buildings in being so decrepit, ugly and falling apart. bangkok also has some of the most incredible high rises that rival those of any western countries. they have super modern boutique everything: they like to make the new stuff pretty. bangkok has for transportation ferries and old busses, mercedes and old cars falling to pieces. you can ride a tuk tuk or you can ride the uber modern sky train. you can eat in very fancy restaurants with great design and wonderful food - the kind that you'd pay a fortune for back home. or you can eat at street stalls anywhere in the city for less than $1 usd. you can go shopping at some of the biggest malls in asia or you can shop at the market. you can buy real hermes or fake. bangkok also has one of the coolest looking youth culture around. bangkok is new and old. trying to be modern while holding on to traditions. in bangkok, you choose your experience.

on farangs in general.

for those who might not remember, farang means white person, or foreigner, in thai. tourist in bangkok and ko samet are quite different than from what i've seen and those i've met in other countries. it seems that thailand is a lot more about partying, going crazy. people come here for thailand only, not mostly as part of a greater vacation it seems.

because of this it seems that the whole place is really a meat market. guys are after girls, thai or farang. they try and try with different people until they get something from it. people get drunk, get silly, look crazy. the kind of thing that you'd think they'd regret the next morning (and suffer through, as well) but apparently no one really cares. they're on a vacation and that's all that counts...

it can get annoying at time. embarrassing.

Friday, November 25, 2005

goodbye ko samet!

today we said goodbye to ko samet. in a way, i was kinda glad. i had enough beach and sun and stuff. which is kinda scary considering that the entire rest of my vacation will mostly be beaches... ah! i might run away to the cameron inlands in malaysia and hide there for a while.

anyhow, i said goodbye to: amazing thai massage (better than sex, i think!), my first encounter with vanilla flavoured vodka since home (i was *so* happy!), too much drinking, too much dancing, too many guys trying to get with me (really, it gets annoying. what a meat market!), short nights and lazy days. my time with the thai girls was great actually, especially the one i was sharing my room with (her name is amp).

tonight i am back in khoasan road. i have to say that i'm appreciating it a whole lot more now, along with bangkok. the dichotomies in this city are simply amazing and i guess that i wasn't seeing them before. i will talk more about that another day though.

i've just eaten diner at a very fancy restaurant with the thai girls and i have to say that it was the best thai food that i have ever eaten. to die for! and they paid for everything (close to 25 usd in food, just crazy!) so i now am going to my room, getting dressed up and going back out to buy them lots of drinks.

i'm glad that i've met them.

Monday, November 21, 2005

ko samet, ou comment je me suis ramasser a partager mon lit avec une magnifique thailandaise

[a la joie de tous mais pas des anglophones, voici ma première mise à jours en français. svp ignorer les fautes!]

donc. ce matin, départ pour ko samet, une île thai a 3.5h de bangkok qui est supposée avoir la plus belle eau de la region. je me prépare, fait mes valises et puis l'hollandais avec qui je part m'annonce, comme ça, au dessus de mes oeufs brouillés que deux thaïlandaises qui a rencontré hier soir dans un bar vont nous accompagner dans notre voyage. super! il essaye de me convaincre qu'elles ne sont pas des putes (il a du constater mon expression faciale a l'annonce de la nouvelle) a quoi je réplique, "oui, oui, c'est ça".

on fini par partir (et à ce point là j'essaye de trouver une façon de m'en sortir mais je n'arrive pas à en trouver une bonne, donc j'abandonne et je les suis, car je veux quand même voir l'île). on saute dans un taxi, on achette le billet d'autobus et 15 minutes plus tard, on est en route. il n'y a que 10 personnes dans l'autobus donc on s'instale confortablement. ce qui veut dire: thai #1: elle baisse sont siège et dors. moi: je prend deux sièges, j'écoute de la musique et je regarde "man appart" (je ne peux pas l'écouter, c'est traduit en thai). l'hollandais et la thai #2: ils s'enlassent et puis s'embrassent et puis dorment, mais peut-être pas dans cet ordre la. donc, ça deviens bien évident que ce n'est pas avec lui que je vais partager ma chambre! ça change la dynamique et puis je me sens un peu coincée. et je suis déçue de lui aussi, qui a tombé pour une thai comme tous les autres cons ici. bravo champion! très original.

on embarque dans le traversier, la mer est belle mais mouvementée donc on se fait arroser. ont entre dans un "taxi" (un pickup remplis à rabord de gens) et ont prend le chemin de ao cho, l'endoit où les bungallow sont supposé être très abordable. et bien, le moins cher que je trouve coûte 200B ($5 usd, divise par 40 - la chambre la plus cher est à 3800B) mais c'est une chambre bien pire que ce que j'avais gratos à sihanoukville au cambodge. donc... les filles décide de prendre des bungallows à 500B la nuit, et puis pour une raison que je ne sais pas, on accepte. on négocie un deal de l'enfer pour les chambres mais le staff changent d'idée. je marche la plage mais tout est plein. merde!

mais la plage! elle est petite, jolie, très mince sinon innexistante par bout. mais il y a plein de bars cool et au bout il y a des bungallows a faire rêver. les plus beau que j'ai vu a date, excluant les pamplets de fiji et etc. donc, l'endroit est bien, l'eau est belle (il y a des vagues ici, donc pas l'effet picine des cartes postales, ce qui rend la couleur difficile a juger) mais ca coûte cher. je vais donc passer demain matin à essayer de mon trouver un bijou pas cher... ce qui risque d'être impossible.

bon, pour retourner au punch de l'histoire: les deux thai. la première, celle qui a amouraché l'hollandais, n'est pas très belle. j'ai même eu des doutes sur son sexe (quoi, y'en a partout ici!) mais je pense être un peu parano. mais la deuxième est incroyablement jolie et gentille (et originalement bizarre, elle s'est fait poser des dents de vampire. mais je sais pas pourquoi, ça lui va). desfois je ne comprend pas les gars.

donc. on a trouvé deux chambres mais j'ai bien du lui demander avec qui il allait partager sa chambre. 10 minutes plus tard on me confirme que je vais partager mon lit avec la magnifique thaïlandaise. ce n'était pas prévu. c'est un peu bizarre.

je dois être la seule farang (étranger/ère en thai) dans ce pays a partager mon lit avec une thai et de seulement dormir.

il y a une première fois à tout, comme on dit...

Sunday, November 20, 2005

is bangkok growing on me?

today was spent sleeping in (the first time in a very long time!), talking to my floor mates (great people), visiting the imperial palace and the wat that holds the emerald buddha and last but not least, spending too much money on new clothes!

the imperial palace and the temple around it is simply incredible. they put cambodia's equivalent to shame, there's no question about it. the temple complex is by far the best one i've seen as of yet: it is uterly shinny and elaborate, with a crazy mix of mirrors and ciramic mosaics. like one big disco ball.

and the shopping! after looking through the racks i just blew 1000 bath (like, 25 dollars) on a new bikini, a sarong, a skirt, 2 t-shirts, 1 tank top and 1 necklace. but, the best is yet to come. i've found one incredible street stand that sells amazing shirts, pants and skirts. they type that gets into urban outfitters and for which they charge tons for. i swear, the buyers at urban shop here for everything, from shirts to belts and bracelets. i'm gonna go crazy! (i think that i've been shopping-deprived for too long and it's all coming out at once. but it's such nice clothes! and it's so cheap! so it's ok, right? but then, how do i fit it all in my bag?)

as for my feet: as i said yesterday, katy went to see a dermatologist today. well, he concluded that we did in fact have worms! isn't that sexy? i think that's about the worst thing i could have caught (i mean, for the gross factor), although he said that they would "naturally" die soon. regardless, she got extra meds for me and they will thus die in 3 days. thank god! i knew it wasn't an allergy...

and lastly: i am leaving for ko samet tomorrow, my first thai beach! i'm a little more excited now. i can't wait to see the sand, the surf and just relax. and catch more worms, maybe??? why not!

Saturday, November 19, 2005


yesterday katy and i said goodbye to cambodia and made our way to bangkok.

for this we took a taxi ride to the border, which turned out to be much better than expected. whereas other travelers we've met said that they've done that journey in 9 to 11 hours, we did it in 4.5 hours. pretty impressive! the road was bumpy though, quite impossible to sleep and stand still for a minute. you just sit there and get whacked about - thank god for seat belts. when the road was good though, our driver saw it to be a good idea to go at 80km/h. this might not sound like anything to those back home but we're talkling about a skinny dirt road with tons of cyclists on both sides. the kind of road in canada that we'd but a 30km restriction on. enough to get my nerves going.

once the border crossed (where the thai are kind enough to warn us that if we're caught with drugs, we get a life or death sentence), we headed to the train station for a journey longer than that of the bus, but cheaper, and well, more appealing. we've had to wait 3 hours for the train to leave but that wasn't so bad. the ride on the train was great: we had hard seats but they were a little padded, and we both had two seats to ourselves for most of the trip. this train was really cool, with fans on the ceiling and the windows completely down. i stuck my head out to better enjoy the wonderful purple sunset and its reflections on rice fields.

we arrived in bangkok at 8pm, one hour later than expected. our journey from siem reap lasted 14 hours, but was comfortable and easy compared to the stories that we have heard. no bribing for a bus. no fallen bridges. no walking with our bags for many kms. no pushing a bus stuck in the mud. well worth the extra money.

we then grabbed a taxi (tuk tuks were trying to rip us off) and headed out to khoasan road, the infamous backpacker's hub of asia. i have to say that i was not expecting it to be like that, at all. i guess that no one can imagine what it's like because it's so out of this world. clothing stands, neons, hippies that look like they've been there forever, food stands, bars, thai girls in skimpy dresses, tourist getting dreds done on the street, etc etc. and really that's an awful description. complete madness. quite different though...

it was weird coming to thailand. i didn't feel ready to leave cambodia and i wasn't excited about coming here. this is quite peculiar to me because thailand is the country that i most wanted to see on this vacation, from when i started planning it. i've been wanting and planning to visit thailand for over three years now and now that i'm here, it's just not exciting. i don't know why. maybe it's the fear of being stuck on beaches for a month, doing nothing. maybe it's something else. who knows.

the city is a big, urban, developed one. it feels like "home" sometimes (not really, but the closest so far) and i guess that there's no charm to that.

to add to the charmless i've spent my early afternoon at the emergency room of the "mission hospital", a christian medical foundation of seventh-day adventist. i had to laugh though when our taxi pulled up to the hospital (the driver decided which one) and i saw that sign. katy's feet have become much worst from the "bites" that we've caught from sihanoukville. mine are acting up as well, so we thought we'd better get it looked at again just in case. what was worrying us was the formation of trails between the bumps: it looks like the kind of things that would be caused by worms stuck underneath the skin (yuk). but the hospital staff insisted again that it was an allergic reaction to god knows what. i still feel like we're being missdiagnosed because we are no longer being exposed to the alergene but yet keep getting more and more reactions from it, which seems odd to me. anyhow, i was given cortisone cream, antyhistamines and painkillers to shut me up. katy is going back to the hospital tomorrow morning to see a skin specialist (as they put it). her feet are quite nasty, infected, and well, i won't get into it. but maybe that guy will have a clue... because it's been 9 days now and it's not getting any better, but only worst.

well, i am off to face khaosan road again. there's so much nice clothing there that i might end up spending lots of money getting a new wardrobe that actually fits and looks nice enough so that i don't stick out like a traveler everywhere i go (ie, looks good enough to go out in). maybe then i'll stop resenting all of the girls that always look well put together and who are wearing fancy outfits. maybe.

thank you cambodia

cambodia is a wonderful country, that i will remember dearly and try to go back to anytime i can. unlike with other countries that i have visited so far, i didn't leave cambodia feeling that i had seen enough of it. i didn't leave ready to leave, ready to see something else. i left relunctantly...

cambodia is a country with many problems. the government is corrupted and seems to do little in order to help it's population. laos, a country that is also very poor, did not feel poor to me at all but cambodia felt very poor. the capital was dirty, smelly, littered with garbage and had many people living on it's streets, begging for anything they could get. there was beggars in china, but this felt different. to see whole families living on the street. to see people really hungry, really dirty, and not faking it like it often was in china. to feed a child your meal because he asked, and see him eat it so fast is really difficult. in their eyes you can see the hunger, the despair, the appreciation for what i couldn't finish on my plate. somehow it doesn't make you feel better though, to know that you've helped one... there are so many others.

the cambodia government is rumoured to have an aid budget of the size of belgium's annual budget. that means, it's a big one. so why are people starving? why do they spend only 0.3% of their gdp on health care? why are there landmine signs in front of rice fields, where people work everyday? why do children have to work to pay for their english education? why is english school costing as much as $10 usd a week for classes of 4 hours a day? there are so many questions about this country, and the social irresponsibility of the government.

there is also something to be said about irresponsible (french) tourists. please! stop feeding the kids candy. do you really think that they can afford dentists? everywhere you go and you are met by a young child you get a "hello! give me bonbon." if you say that you don't have any, then they ask for chewing gum, miam miam, money, pens, anything. if you don't have anything, they get angry. a little girl told me that if i didn't buy a cold drink from her she would cry. is giving in to this really any way to help them? you're teaching these kids a horrible lesson. there are other ways to help them, this you can be sure of.

but cambodia is a beautiful country, with wonderful people. the best looking folks so far as well! so many times i've been floored by the beauty of some of them, especially women and girls with curly hair. just incredible. the children know that they look good as well. they smile at you and ask if you want to take them in picture.

i loved their rice fields, punctured by palm trees. i will remember angkor, the colours of the bricks, the details in the walls, the grandeur of everything. i will remember the children, playing in the mud and with each other, blissfully happy. the water buffalos, neck deep in the mud. the children on the beach of sihanoukville, trying to sell you anything in order to pay for their education. kids playing in the water, for hours. the sunsets over this country. the relaxed atmosphere of sihanoukville. the great food. the bad, awful roads. the smiles. the bad karaoke on bus journeys.

i will return. one day. hopefully.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

angkor rocks and then gets drenched

today was the second day in beautiful, incredible angkor. i have to say that i've been taking too many pictures but surprisingly today i ran out of light before i ran out of memory space. we were visiting ta phrong, the most famous angkor temple picture-wise (the one with the temple deep under the roots of trees) when it started to pour. an incredible downpour, enough to flood everything and turn streets into rivers. i got annoyed because i didn't get the time to finish the temple and now have to go back tomorrow... when the rain finally stoped we headed to bayon, the other famous one (for it's faces) but by then the light wasn't good anymore and i had to give up. so, tomorrow will be a very full day: angkor wat, the rest of angkor tom and ta phrom. hopefully it won't rain!

famous ta phrom and bayon, angkor, cambodia. fresh pictures from today. what a treat!!!

later tonight we will book our transportation to bangkok. we have decided to hire a taxi to take us to the border, about 6 hours away from here on what might be the absolute worst road in se asia. then it will be a train ride into the capital. it should be easier, really. and hopefully i won't regret the decision to not to the distance by flight.

Monday, November 14, 2005

i guess that i better start off by saying that i am doing much better now... i guess i caught food poisoning from that incredibly tasty lobster i had on the beach on my last day. i had a sneaky suspicion that it might get me sick but it tasted so divine... the bad part of it only lasted 24 hours really but my stomach still feels fragile. regardless, i am back at eating delicious foods because i can't resist them. for example: pumpkin ravioli in a ricotta and basil sauce with shaved parmesan; panini stuffed with roast beef, roasted peppers and swiss cheese; and tonight the best vegetarian pizza yet with a greek salad. yum! i swear i'm doing a gastronomic tour of asia (although eating not so much asian food since i've arrived in indochina).

we are now in siem reap, the city closest to the world famous angkor temples. we arrived today after a 6+ hour bus ride to a pretty unimpressive city... ie, as we pulled into the bus station, i told myself "this can't be it". a hole! ha! but we are now living in a charming backpacker area close to the center of town, which is beautifully decorated for the water festival that starts tomorrow (full moon). the festival celebrates the change in the flow of the river that goes through cambodia, the only river to change it's flow in the world (the monsoon causes the largest fresh water lake in se asia to change the river flow). there are also tons of fancy hotels (sofitel, meridien, the new hotel de la paix: we see these and we think - good pastries!) and great little shops around as well. not such a hole after all! just a bad first impression.

we arranged for a tuk tuk driver to drive us around the temples for the next 3 days and have purchased our 3-day angkor pass this afternoon (mine is blessed with one of the worst pictures of me ever). we also got to go in and see the sun setting on angkor: it was beautiful, incredible. but the steps! so steep! they should warn people about them. they're dangerous enough in bright daylight, they're just crazy in the dark.

we have seen the gate to angkor wat, one of the main temple complexes here but have not gone in. it looks gigantic. tomorrow we will do the far away temples as katy's feet are covered in bites from god knows what that she (and i as well, but not as much as her) acquired in sihanoukville. her feet have hundred of bites (i have less than 10) on them and are very much swollen up: it's quite nasty to look at and it's killing her with pain and hitching. she's just not a lucky girl with stuff like that!

ps. there's a cockroach on my computer screen. "that's hot!"

Saturday, November 12, 2005

whiplash and other unfortunate events

the day after out eventful adventure on the banana boat was marked by a severe neck pain and the inability to fully move my head. i got whiplash, and it suxs. just touching my neck lightly hurts, but otherwise it only hurts when i try to move too much. last night i discovered as well that it makes it very difficult to sleep because it limits my moving around - i have to carefully turn or litterally move my head with my hands. lots of fun! getting out of bed is really hard and so is washing my hair, because i can't put by head back.

i've also been sick for the first time since this vacation has started (minus my two colds). on the bus back to phnom penh i started to feel sick and thought that it was motion sickness due to looking down a lot looking at guidebooks. but once we arrive in the city the dizziness didn't go away. i got ready for dinner and i just felt more and more nauseous. i ordered food (not too smart) but didn't touch it, and ended up giving my soft tacos (this restaurant serves the best mexican food i've ever had, so this was quite annoying!) to a lady and her child who were begging for food right outside the restaurant. she gave me wonderful smiles, and so has every other person i've ended up feeding or giving water to during my week on the beach. anyhow, dinner involved many runs to the toilet where i was finally sick once and thought that this might make everything better. it didn't, really, and i spent the night vomiting everything and nothing that i had in my stomach (along with wonderful diarrhea). finally managed to keep in 3 sips of water at around 6am and haven't been sick yet, but it feels very fragile, and i feel like crap. i've eaten a little bit of plain rice but it hasn't been sitting too well and i tried drinking rehydration salts but it tasted like absolute shit so i had to stop because it was making me feel even worst. i'm tired because i haven't been sleeping, and my entire body hurts... like i've been hit by a truck.

we were supposed to go see the imperial palace today but i couldn't phantom the taught of walking it in this condition so we have decided to stay one more day in the hopes that i will be better tomorrow to see it. frankly i don't know, because i still feel very weak, my stomach is on fire and i still feel like i might pass out anytime soon.

please don't worry about me if you are worried after reading this. i'm just quite lucky to not have gotten sick before and i much prefer having a couple of hard days rather than a constant hard time as katy has been going through. i just wish that i knew what caused it...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

stuck in paradise

today was supposed to be our last day here in beautiful sihanoukville. we were set to leave at 2pm this afternoon but somewhere between looking at the sea and getting a massage we decided to stick around for another day. a wonderful idea, i think!

although... note to self and everyone out there, don't go in the sun after getting a massage: oil and sun = sunburn. but it's also due to spending 3 hours swimming... also went on a "banana" boat for the first time today (somehow it's a pink pencil but heck, same same). it turned out to be not a fun thing at all... you really fall down hard and hurt yourself each time you're thrown off the boat. my life jacket had straps that went between my legs and each time i fell off i ended up with the worst possible case of painful wedgy ever. i might have swallowed a couple buckets of water and snorted way too much as well... and as it was clever put, the ride was a $2 enema. sweet!

anyhow, my entire body is now on fire from this awful sunburn i am now left with. but at least, i didn't get the usual rash i get at the beach. it was there a little bit, on and off, but nothing like usual. this might be from not wearing sunscreen and staying in the shade...

other than that there hasn't been much going on... late nights, early mornings... the bad thing about staying here at chiva's is that you're staying "in" the party, and it gets impossible to escape it or to try going to bed early... i did try going to bed yesterday at an impressive 10pm but soon was back downstairs playing pool in my pj because the music was too loud and well, if you can't fight it, join it. ended up in bed at 3...

as a quick follow up to my last post, regarding the party we were handing out flyers for: it turned out to be quite a success if i can say so myself. i did some quick head counts during the night and at points there were about 50 people in here and at least 70 people came out to party. for here, that's pretty incredible. mama was really happy with her profit! and papa spent the night shoving mekong buckets (mekong whiskey, red bull, 7up and lime) at us, literally. he would say : no talk, drink! if we were not all sucking on a straw. the night went down easy, composed of many drinks, lots of dancing around the fire and a session of phosphorescence swimming in the middle of the night... followed by sunrise... and completed by only 2 hours of sleep.

and now here i am. it is raining outside but the sunset is quite beautiful. i've been covered in sand for days now.

i still don't know how i'll manage to tear myself away from this place.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

no slave labour

we moved into chiva's shack on the beach yesterday, after spending half the day at the hotel pool (where i really hurt my foot tripping on a metal slat on the floor, took out a chunk under my foot trying to get at a wicked bat hanging under an umbrella - thank god for that tetanus shot). it's much nicer to be directly on the beach, as well as not having to walk dark streets with scary dogs or having to wake people up to get back into our hotel (all hotels shut their gates at like 10-11 pm in indochina. crazy!).

i was skeptical about "free"accommodation because nothing in life is really free. so when katy asked me if i'd mind handing out flyers for the party here tonight i thought, well, they're putting us at work. but no! mama "paid" us with an extravagant seafood platter for lunch, the biggest i have ever seen filled with fish, shrimps and calamari. yum! and all we had to do for it is walk around the beach and hand out flyers, pray that people show up. pretty sweet deal!

the rooms here are basic but fine, and you get to fall asleep and wake up to the sound of the waves crashing... life is so tough here! i might never want to leave... really, i swear. and katy keeps telling me that there's no beach like this in thailand, so chill and quiet... empty at times, aside from children selling bracelets and the manicure ladies.

today i had a little girl (who has been following us around everywhere, trying to get us to buy anything, but she's really sweet) show me how to do lotus flowers in origami. priceless moments like this, they're hard to come by.

Friday, November 04, 2005

happy anniversary to me!!!

today marks a big milestone in my trip: i have now been away for 100 days. sounds pretty crazy to me, but overall it went by really fast, and really well. i have 134 more days to go, and i'm sure when it's all over i'll want more days ahead...

we are now in sihanoukville, at a lovely resort with an incredible pool, which we can see from our room. we're a block away from the beach, and we love our hotel with it's comfy cushion padded beach chairs but will be moving hotel tomorrow in order to partake in the "real" backpacker sihanoukville experience. after walking the beach yesterday (which is incredible) and having many happy hour cocktails we were invited to stay by "mama"(the owner of the place) at her hotel (upstairs from the bar) for $1. by this, i mean not per person, not per day. for $1. for everything. for as long as we want. somehow, sihanoukville is the mecca of free accomodation (the dollar is for electricity, or something) and the beach is lined with bars offering free rooms. i'm not sure how it works, or how stone the genius who came up with that idea was, but it's pretty incredible. and if the weather clears up, we'll be using our saved dollars for a snorkelling tour of three islands.

last night we had an awesome thunder storm, lightning light up the entire beach. today is still lots of gray sky and scary clouds, but at least it's not raining... the sea here is "piss warm"(i'm not kidding, i've never been in such hot water) and seems like it would be of an incredible colour... if only the sun came out.

well, i'm off for a swim in the pool, and then for a walk on the beach followed by lazy hours in an inner tube in the sea. followed by cocktails, pool... such a hard life!

ps. what ever you do, if you play pool against a local, even if he's 4, you will lose. and even if it's a female drug dealer with a huge joint hanging out of her mouth. you'll lose.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

last day in phnom penh

this morning we booked our bus ticket to sihanoukville, cambodia's beach town. we are thus saying goodbye to the capital in the hopes of finding a great beach and less children trying to sell us book, postcards, and the likes. on the other hand, our timing is not so great, ie, we will be at the beach during the weekend. sihanoukville beaches get crowded, very crowded apparently... i believe that the guidebook says "overrun by locals". i guess we'll see!

after breakfast we wanted to go see the imperial palace and silver pagoda but discovered that the sights are closed between 11 and 2... so we went to the national museum instead. what an incredible museum! i have never seen so many beautiful bronzes (move asside china, your wine goblets and mirrors don't even compare) and stone carvings. i was just amazed! i normally am not such a big fan of museums but this one was simply wonderful. there were so many pieces from angkor as well... a perfect introduction to what is yet to come.

afterwards we walked to boeng kak lake, well, the backpacker area besside the lake. on the way there though we walked past the raffles hotel/le royal (yes, the same hotel line as the world famous raffles in singapore) and decided to stop there for pastries. simply incredible, lovely colonial building... impecable. the café had some great cakes, which we ate besside the pool, contemplating staying here for a night... or at least using their pool for an afternoon (because the cost of the rooms is, well... rather exhorbitant).

a tuk tuk ride later we arrive at the backpacker district, to find it partially flooded. it was expected, but i thought that it would be slightly better... katy and i split ways and i explored the district, which was a little sketchy yet quite well directed at travelers. i'm glad though that we didn't decide to stay here as planned, but rather by the river. we are closer to things and feel less isolated. the area not having much asside from "pizza" places, i walked back to the river, disapointed. as much as i wanted to see the lake, there was no lake access or lovely park around it. just dodgy hotels and houses... the guidebooks should mention things like that.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

into the killing fields

it's weird to walk the streets of a city that was completely emptied out in less than 24 hours 30 years ago. it's hard to comprehend how a city could be completely evacuated.

it's harder to comprehend how i managed to keep the tears in when i realised today in the killing fields (choeung ek) that i was standing on human remains. i was standing on dead bodies, with bones and clothing sticking out of the earth. forget about mass graves that were digged out. the whole place is a grave. the walkways are on graves. you walk over dead people. occasionally they pull some bones out, and put them asside. i found a couple teeth on the ground. i jumped over a huge section of remains because i couldn't see what else i was to do. i found it to be too disturbing to walk on. too disrespectful to walk on.

in the killing fields there is a stupa made of human skulls. on some of them, you can see the hit that killed them. a huge gash.

in the killing fields there is a tree that the khmer rouges use to bash children's head in. they just grabbed a child and wacked them against the tree. crushed their skulls in. some say you can see the dent in the tree...

there is a grave that was filled with naked women and children. another one full of headless bodies.

people who went to s21 and didn't die were sent to the killing fields. they were made to get on their knees, where hit on the nape of the neck with an iron rod and their throat was slashes. then, their bodies were thrown in a grave... 40'000 people died there. only one person has survived the killing fields. he was found burried alive by the vietnamese forces when they invaded in 1979.

it really surprised me that s21 (toul sleng) was located right in the heart of phnom penh. i always thought that torture camps and concentration camps would be outside cities. but no. they took a local school and converted it. 14'000 people died here, from torture and starvation. only 7 people survived. you get to walk torture chambers, closet-size cells... pictures upon pictures of the people who went through these doors. the portraits are incredible. the people's faces say so much... and by looking at their faces it seems that most of them had no idea that they were in there waiting for death.

why were we such idiots and let these things go on? in the 3 years of the regime before the vietnamese invasion nearly 2 million people died. that's 1/5th of the population at the time. how can our governments stand there and let massacres like this go on?

and why isn't the country being de-mined properly? 2 people blow up a day here!

find out more @ wikipedia . click on any links within the article for more information on that subject.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

canadians to the rescue

katy and i decided to go out last night for halloween. we headed out to the bar district only to find expats and prostitutes filling the bars. some place only had prostitutes, but none of them had white women. disapointed, we walked back to the riverfront for food and thought that we might have a somewhat quiet night after all.

so we went for dinner at a "happy pizza" place, where we proceded to order non-happy, regular pizzas. i'm not just saying that to reassure people, i just really don't like the idea of happy food. but, as it turned out we both got the giggles like little school girls and had to ask the waitress if we had been slipped some happy, to which she said no, but we didn't believe any of it.

so here we are, eating pizza, drinking lao beer (the best!) and giggling about nothing and everything when these two guys wearing towels on their head turned into turbans and wearing aviator sunglesses sit down at the table besside ours (but which was really at the restaurant next door). i'm not sure what to make of it. they ask katy to take a picture, wich she does, and which sparks a conversation. it turns out that these two guys are from montreal and that they're celebrating halloween in style. bless them! many beers later and their dinner done, they suggest that we join them at a halloween party, to which they had been invited to by people from saskatchewan.

see, on this entire trip, i have hardly met any canadians. these two were already incredibly bringing up the numbers, and to know that more of them where to come, was just amazing.

so we get on a tuk tuk and head out to a bar called "talkin to strangers" which was really lost somewhere in the streets of this city. the place is decorated for halloween, and is playing annoying halloween sounds loudly. but who cares about that. we go in, and find the "people" from saskatchewan... bless their heart, canadians love halloween and treat it like a religion. these "people" turned out to be 4 girls, dressed in incredible nurse outfits with their cleavage all out and charlie angels hair. ha! damn canadians! always doing things in style.

now boys, i know what you're thinking: "i hope that you took a picture, and where can i get it!". yes, i did take a picture. but knowing my uploading skills, you might have to wait a month before you get to see these lovely girls... or the guys with turbans for that matter.

so, overall i am glad to say that i celebrated halloween as i would of had back home (minus the costume). beers, beers and more beers followed by some pool, i think that we might have gone to bed at 5am... but these canadians really made my day... they saved halloween for me!