I'm living in Kusatsu-shi, Shiga-ken for an undetermined amount of time and teaching English as a second language at a local high school. This journal is to document my experiences, thoughts, and to stay connected with others at home and abroad.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

12/24: Day 4, Cambodia (Phenom Penh)

The following I wrote the day after driving somewhere in the neighborhood of 300km on December 23rd. Due to the grueling pace we set that day on our bikes, we all passed out almost immediately upon returning to Phnom Penh around 8 in the evening. Given the low-visibility with our dusty helmets and the unending, lawless, rush-hour traffic of Cambodia's capital, the last hour leading us back into the city was particularly death-defying.

"Today was day 3 of the motorcycle tour. We woke up on the secluded Kaoh Tonsai (Rabbit Island) after a restless night. Geckos and quite possibly the bungalow owner's dogs took turns in the night shaking the walls of our bamboo hut. The mosquito net saved us from a vicious feasting.

"A soft, slowly rising sun on the backside of the island (our bungalow faced the west) roused the roosters, which also contributed to breaking our sleep. Despite the 'inconveniences' of no electricity (save 3 hours of generation power in the evening), no running water, and no air con, as a fellow Barcelona traveler said, "Nothing is better than waking up in this place."

"Our gluttons' meal from the night before--3 plates of crab, a 5kg white fish, soup, rice--kicked somewhere in my stomach along with the reminder, 'Just because I can afford this much food doesn't mean I should try to eat it all.' (I must clarify here that our 3 plates of crab, 1 plate=6 crabs, came as a result of a rather egregious communication error between us and the cooks.)

"Outside the dogs Eric fed at dinner the night before were loyally awaiting our appearance. Eric had conscripted them to our bidding by enticing them with fancy fish and rice. People in Africa don't eat half as well as the meal these dogs had last night.

"With our new trusty mercenaries, Katie and I walked the stretch of beach on our island. The dogs followed in a militant formation, one on each wing and a third up ahead to sniff out enemies, and they growled down any other canines from the island that came within 30 meters. One would constantly sniff at my thighs if she thought I was in danger, so I pet her head and urged her on ahead. The deputies were also curious little devils, as I learned when they disappeared into a thicket and chased out a squawking bullet of a chicken. That hen tore through the heavy, misty air nearly colliding face to beak with Katie and me.

"Later we all went swimming while the sun still hid in the dense morning clouds. Tiny minnows jumped out of the water in schools like flashes of silver sparks charged by the air.

"Bokor Mountain:
-30km of rocky, muddy trails with potholes and rivets deep enough to flip you if you weren't careful (on the bike).
-near the top misty patches where you can't see more than 20 meters of road ahead and the thick brush edging.
-riding through the jingle, literally, where ferns with leaves 15 feet wide and 40 feet long drape below the canopy.

-and at the top, an open plain with a sundry of derelict houses, a church, a hotel, and a casino. This is the sight of the French fort where Europeans again attempted to enslave a foreign race for money.
-the hotel and the church where Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese forces battled for months and the rusted frames of machine-gun turrets still stand ready for a new war.
-the rain forests which are being illegally desecrated and destroyed because the government is too corrupt and unwilling to pay for their protection."

Later I added this bit about the Tuol Sleng Prison SR-21 we visited on the 24th. This is the place where tens of thousands of Cambodians were inhumanely (which doesn't mean a thing in light of the brutality no living creature should endure that took place at Tuol Sleng) concentrated and tortured during the years of the Khmer Rouge. This place had so many stories and horrors in it that I didn't feel capable of writing them all down. For more information about the Tuol Sleng SR-21 Security Prison please check out the official site

"-a tile from the prison cells
-an etching from a cell wall
-a caged bed with a car battery on top and leg shackles as the headboard"


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