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.

Friday, January 11, 2008

South Asia: Photos and Diaries

The following is a series of journal entries and corresponding photographs from my recent trip to Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos. I will try my best to present the images and diaries in chronological order, though it is difficult because I did not take all of the photographs myself, so I cannot always be certain to their exact date and location.
Here's a summary of the trip:
-Thursday, December 20th Katie and I flew with several friends from Osaka (Japan) to Phnom Penh (Cambodia) via Bangkok.
-Friday, 12/21, through Sunday, 12/23, Katie, Mark, Eric and I took a motorcycle tour of southern Cambodia. We road 250cc off-road beastly machines, which enabled us to go far and beyond any typical tourist trap. We climbed mountains, flew through jungles, mingled with the locals, in places that would have been much more difficult to access with these bikes. Mark and I took a small tumble on the 22nd, but we both survived with no injuries (basically). I will explain more along the way.
-Monday, 12/24, we all spent the day in Phnom Penh, got massages from "Seeing Hands" an organization that provides Cambodia's sightless with a means of livelihood (which is rare because the govt, especially in the means of citizen welfare, is more or less non-existent). After that we visited Toul Sleng, one of the main interrogation and security prison during the Cambodian Civil War between 1975-1978. That afternoon something in the water or food got to Mark, Eric, and me, and we spent the rest of the evening in our respective beds and toilets.
-Tuesday, 12/25, Merry Chirstmas! Here our fearsome foursome halved; Katie and I went north to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat; Mark and Eric stayed in Phnom Penh.
Sunday night Katie and I went to the main temple at Angkor Wat and had a wonderful Indian cuisine Christmas dinner.
-Wednesday, 12/26, We spent the entire day touring various temples of Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is the name of on of the central temple, however the panoply of 30+ surrounding temples are also referred to as "Angkor Wat". On Christmas we saw THE Angkor Wat. This day we visited Banteay Srei, Ta Phrom, and another place I cannot remember the name of.
-Thursday and Friday, 12/27-28, we spent the days in Siem Reap, doing a little bit of walking, wandering, and relaxing. I sorely needed this days to finish recovering from whatever had found its way into my digestive system a few days before. Siem Reap is unfortunately not a very nice city. It has a riverfront that reminds me of Savannah (without vines hanging from the trees that even resembles Spanish moss), but unfortunately Siem Reap has been sold to the highest bidder. The streets are full of Lexi (plural for Lexus), and the city alternates between local homes (dirty but real) and country club style resorts and $300/night hotels. I think my journal entries from this time spent in Siem Reap will best reflect my honest thoughts on the city.
-Saturday, 12/29, we took a bus back to Phnom Penh. There I found some of the Cambodian instruments I had been searching for, we relaxed a bit more, and generally had a reading day.
-Sunday, 12/30, flew from Phnom Penh to Bangkok, stored some bags at the airport, and took a train to Ayuttuhaya. We wandered a few temples in Ayuttuhaya, ate dinner (fresh, organic fried chicken, corn on the cob, and Tom Kha (coconut) soup--amazing! I also found a guitar and we got to play and sing for an hour or so. That night we continued on the train up to the Laos border.
-Monday to Friday, 12/31-1/4, stayed in Vang Vieng, about 3-4 hours north of the Laos capital, Vietiane. We explored caves, kayaked down the Nam Som river, rented and toured on small bikes, and enjoyed the wonderful weather (cool nights) and cheap meals. I think this was by far my favorite place during the trip. When we were in Cambodia, and sometimes in Thailand, I constantly felt hassled by pushy vendors, tuk tuk drivers, and the like, so it was a glorious change of pace to be in a country where I didn't constantly feel like a target. I could relax, enjoy myself and the countryside. I wish we had spent more time here, but it was worth it to see Cambodia as well.
-Saturday, 1/5 on our way back to Bangkok we stopped off again at Ayuttuhaya to buy some gifts (and because Bangkok is my idea of hell--cars, buildings, any regular city with a lot more chaos on the roads). Saturday night we took an overnight flight from Bangkok back to Osaka.


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