thanks for your colorful responses. i'll see if i can answer some of your
more pressing concerns along the road to --- cambodia.
just arrived in phnom penh, captital of the country. definitely third (or
fourth) world - but still reeking of french provincialism, at least along
the mekong river where el mario and i are staying for 20 bucks a night with
a 5th floor window view, air con, tv, and a phone. in other words - the
place is poor - where a dollar can buy you an hour "moto" ride - or half a
deliciously authentic cambodian meal of fried noodles, freshly-cooked
vegetables, and beef. where roads are paved in only the most developed
places, where land mines and khmer rouge rebels are still loose in the
countryside, and where people are barely a year out of a genocidal war that
has robbed them of children and family and sanity and stability - for the
last generations and decades in their memory.
we just got back from a place called siem reap, probably only 70 miles east
of the civilized thai border where we had taken an air conditoned mini bus
for 4 hours from bangok to poi pet. (notice i keep mentioneing air
conditioning? guess why?) the roads were well marked, the countryside green
and wet, the roadside full of fruit and vegetable stands selling exotic
looking things called MANGOSTEEN and DURION (strange, stinky, spikey, but
delicious), and lots of other things i couldn't identify.
but once at the border - wow! like a cecil b. de mille or d.w. griffith
movie called IMMIGRATION. utter choreographed chaos. thousands of people
swarming about, like ants in every different direction, carts piled 4
stories high with cambodian-made clothes to sell in thailand. hundreds of
vendors, hustlers, beggars, taxis, motos, border crossers.
lines for visas, passports, health documents, quarantines. which country
have you come from? what diseases do you have? how long will be staying? at
which point will you exit?
then a 10 hour ride through cambodian jungle and countryside in an open flat
bed pickup truck - on which i bribed (paid) myself a way into the once-again
air con cab, while heroic mario got crunched together with 8 other
thick-skinned backpackers - all sitting on top of their luggage -getting
tossed, spattered w/ mud, rained on, and insect bitten - as we catapulted,
turned, twisted, jerked, crawled and stalled our way over what could only be
called - quite generously - a semblance of a road. just eye-opening and
shockingly beuatiful -- straw huts on stilts, naked children, bridges barely
held together with chicken wire and precariously broken wooden planks, a
khmer rouge dude carried out with a bleeding head wound. very -- colorful --
to say the least. there was not one american "tourist" on the ride. just a
bunch of young alternative kids and 2 50 year old hippies trying to swim
their way to cambodia.
stayed there 2 full days - going out to angor wat, the hindu and buddhist
temples and city considered one of the wonders of the ancient world. built
by the cambidian "khmer" culture of the 10-14th century. like the pyramids
at giza. or teotihuacan in mexico city. architectural genius combined with
centuries of slave labor and the egomania of a royal dynasty and
civilization bent on immortality.
spent the nights in the cambodian discos and happy
herb's - having "happy" pizza. cambodian people - sweet, soft, poor, hungry,
feeding on the newly-arriving tourism for survival like flies. sad,
desperate, necessay. this place soon to be the next backpackers' and
alternative katmandu (if and when they fix that road).
today, we took the boat down the mekong river - like a scene out of
apocalypse now (sorry for all the movie references, what else does this
draft-free, american city boy know?)- before the violence and boredom,
looking for kurtz - on our way to phnom penh - again living/looking at a way
of life untouched by the centuries. el mario and i - cambodian boat people -
getting rained on by the warm morning monsoon for 2 hours straight - up on
the roof of the boat -- like the disney mekong delta ride for disney asia
2010, but without the safety, sterilization, or disney characters. not your
standard e-ticket folks, but highly recommended. and sorry you LA fisher-folk, no trout in
okay, my internet cafe's budget quota is up.
thinking of my mom on mother's day--
see you in vietnam--