Siem Reap, Cambodia

I’ve just given up sleeping on the buses here. I get sick, fall over in an old man’s lap (or he falls asleep in mine), and smell vomit throughout every bus ride. I give in to it now. It’s fine.

I met a man from a kibbutz in Israel who farms dairy cows and is fine with that until the day he dies. Another man from a kibbutz in Israel seems to want nothing more than the perpetual high that Cambodia can offer, since every drug is available here. Both of these men are named Edo, and they never met each other.
I was witness to a Cambodian party, where teenagers did traditional dancing (barely moving with their hands in waves) to songs like “SHE HIT THE FLOOR–NEXT THING YOU KNOW”. The men copped out early.

Counter-Strike has officially swallowed Asian gaming. In PC rooms in Korea, Thailand and now Cambodia, I hear the sweet sounds of “HEADSHOT”

I met a group of three Germans, each one from a different part of Germany. None of them had ever heard of Hegel or Heideggar. I spelled it out for them. Still nothing. I think I was taught that these philosophers were of epic importance to Germans, but apparently they find it hard to give a shit. I ended by singing a verse from Beethoven’s 9th symphony to placate our cultural wars.

Most travelers I meet can be separated into three groups – sexpats, drugpats, ecopats, and the few people who just criticize all the others. I fall into the latter.

I arrive in Siem Reap with a man holding a sign that says “Kris,” Apparently the last hostel had given out my information. He took me to a very nice hotel with no running water that was $3 a night and had some hot black girls from the U.K. so I thought I’d stay.

People are extremely nice in Seim Reap. After walking some friend home, I was lost at around 1am last night in my usual “Ï dunno where I am–shit here comes a storm cloud!”-phase. Some Cambodian guy picked me up and drove me around for half an hour looking for my hotel, and never asked for money.

Cambodia has bedbugs. And nude children running around everywhere like in a diaper commercial. It’s hard getting to know Cambodian people when they keep asking you for money. The only ones open to harmless chat seem to be the ladyboys, who just like the attention.

The temples at Ankor Wat are gorgeous, amazing, and old as hell. You might remember some from the Mortal Kombat games:

My favorite was the “jungle temple”:

So that’s Seim Reip. Now to jump on a motorbike back to my hotel, and get offered to sleep with Cambodian girls for “Cheap cheap!” I always tell them I have a girlfriend and she would get mad, they always say: “Yes, I have girlfriend too, they no ask!”
Good times…
And so, prostitution makes its comeback! Let me get this straight: Every male in South East Asia is a pimp and a drug dealer.  That’s an extremely racist epithet! Yet once the sun goes down, it’s difficult to walk the street for more than five seconds without someone coming up to you, spouting: “You want a girl?” then “you want marijuana?” then “how about…” and the list of drugs goes on.
Not all of these people have drugs or women to sell, but they do know where and how to get it, and (I’ve heard) take “finders fees”. Even in the hostels I stay at, the male workers will always ask: “You want girl?” and when I say no, they lower the price. Apparently the bargain deal is $10 an hour, about as much as a ticket to see the new Batman movie.
I should clarify, since my mom reads this blog and I know she’s curious–I don’t sleep with prostitutes. I have nothing against it personally, but to me it would be like getting to the top of Mount Everest by paying for a helicopter.
Naturally there’s a movement even in Cambodia to legalize it (don’t criticize it). I fully agree with this, as well as legalizing marijuana, though I’ve never smoked a joint or paid for sex. These women need rights, not imprisonment:
At any rate, I think I’m supposed to be in Seattle soon, for…something?

Holiday in Cambodia!

Phnom Penh is a sprawling city, though its urban poor, copious and helpless. There are women sleeping in the streets with their arms around their infants, and herds of hungry children follow me everywhere, rubbing their stomachs and sobbing.

But on the plus side, I got to share an Angkor beer with a monkey! He was just chillin by himself, so I got to chill with him until some tourists came and took so many pictures that he ran off. They chased away my drinking buddy!

I’m currently in the only mall in all of Cambodia. There are “escalator helpers” to make sure people understand how to approach a moving staircase. I can get a pair of pants at the market just outside for about $4, a Versace’ shirt for about $6, and a normal shirt for $2. This is normally considered over-priced, and if I hunt enough I can get all that for about half as much.

The “New Market.”

The backpacker district in the capital is hard as hell to find, but it’s a paradise of extremely cheap food and beer, and hotels overlooking a gorgeous lake where children in rowboats offer rides around the lake for a dollar. The kids here are quite industrial, and unlike their parents, they know how to make a real deal. They follow me everywhere, helping me pick out the cheapest things, perhaps only pretending to be on my side to make more money. Either way the children are some of the best resources in Cambodia for good deals and underground fun (shooting ranges, extremely cheap alcohol).

On that note, child sexual abuse in Cambodia is well-known around the world, and to warn tourists there are gigantic posters and even highway signs that show foreigners going to jail for child sex crimes:

Today I was handed a brochure by a little girl with numbers to call and methods to take to ensure these sex criminals are found out. Then I think about my days in graduate school:

“Don’t brochures like these just reinforce the ideology of arbitrary anti-child sex values, values brought on by the Western hegemonical force of global capital? Shouldn’t we learn to respect–“

I quickly shook such evil from my thought-process, and gave the girl some money to fund her program.

Other terrible things that have happened to this city, beginning with the Khmer regime’s infamous “Year Zero.” One day, a man named Pol Pot decided to go to France, where he was indoctrinated with Marxist agrarian philosophy. Twenty years later, the most horrendous genocide in East Asian history takes place (est 1.7 million people) due to the poilitical actions of a Cambodian named Pol Pot. His main goal was to emulate Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” with the Cambodian “Extreme Leap Forward.” Needless to say it worked. He did exactly what Mao did, only moreso–resulting in hundreds of unmarked mass grave sites, turning the cities into ghost-towns, and displacing an entire population.

The skulls go very far back.

Perhaps because of their familiarity with violence, the Cambodian people don’t stray from a fight. Only after two days here, already I’m used to seeing street fights occur by drunk Cambodians. It’s considered a “rough spot” for travelers, because they get jacked. I met an Aussie who had his wallet and camera stolen. There are pamphlets around that suggest:

“If you are the victim of an armed robbery, do not panic, simply hand over your wallet. Many times the robbers will return your important items to your hotel, so do not resist.”

First of all, money IS an important thing in my wallet, if not the most important thing in there. Second, how the hell is the criminal going to know which hotel I’m staying at, unless it’s an INSIDE JOB? God-damn! I might as well buy a knife!

On an end note, I discovered the next greatest thing about this trip: SE Asian ice cream! For $1 a cone I think I might return to America in my teenage form–that of a FATASS.

Central Vietnam – the DMZ, Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang

About 85% of the Vietnam people are rural. If Hanoi is an impressive, busy metropolis, the rural areas of Vietnam might be said to be impressive, busy grasslands. A joke about SE Asia may illustrate what I mean:
The Vietnamese plant and grow rice.
The Cambodians watch the Vietnamese plant and grow rice.
The Laotians watch the rice grow after the Vietnamese have planted it.
The Thai sell tickets through the rice fields that the Vietnamese planted to unsuspecting tourists.
Rural Vietnam is filled with bustling farmers and incredible beauty. There is very little pollution, and the rivers actually reflect the sky. The large industrial complexes have a great measure of pride, and are accompanied by propaganda and such.
Central Vietnam and the DMZ is the site of the Tet Offensive and everything bloody and destructive from the Vietnam war. Some of these old bombed buildings have been preserved, others completely renovated, and it’s interesting to see the changes in the last thirty years.
Hue, the old Imperial Capital, is now a popular tourist destination, with its own “Forbidden City” (like Beijing’s) and large markets. Like all of Vietnam so far, it’s filled with incredibly annoying solicitors, as well as uber-friendly Vietnamese who “love America” and invite me, off the cuff, to eat dinner with their families–something no traveler can ever reject.
One of the reasons I came to Hue besides the other eco-tourist cities, was that this was the site of one of the largest atrocities of the war, performed by the Communist regime against thousands of intellectuals, monks and bourgeois. After the Tet Offensive, the Vietnamese took Hue for a month. When America won it back, they discovered mass graves full of the intellectual class that they had known and protected throughout the war, most of the bodies tortured and many buried alive.
The Vietnam War was so unpopular at the time, that few newspapers bothered to print the atrocity, and only later, after the war, did it get its deserved publicity, in which most Vietnam Vets confessed that they would have stuck to the war, had the newspapers published the mass grave cites.

It’s the same story in Vietnam, only moreso, since I am in a totalitarian country. There is no acknowledgement at all that the Hue Massacre even occurred, though the monks and intellectuals no longer exist. I would have appreciated a grave site, or something. As totalitarian as the government is, it still seems more liberal than China, since there seems no limit to Internet access.
At any rate, the beaches here are deserted, except for the fruit shakes and beer. I spent one afternoon completely alone on one of the most gorgeous beaches I’ve ever been to. Splash spalsh!
Hoi An is a UNESCO world heritage site, because of the age of its “old city”. Actually, it’s not all that old by European standards, but with the amount of bombing and such, having buildings only a century old or more means a great deal.
Remnants from the past colonial eras are everywhere, and I don’t mean from the French or English or American eras. The Japanese and Chinese also colonized Vietnam, and there are still Japanese and Chinese mansions throughout this city, as well as government offices and volatile infrastructure.

Nha Trang, where I only spent a couple hours, has architecture akin to a “poor man’s” Vancouver or Victoria. It’s surprisingly modern for being so small, and has classy green emerald designs in the architecture. It seems like a perfect beach town, more for the Vietnamese on vacation rather than for outsider tourists.

Before I forget, last memory of Hanoi:

Going through a “propaganda” museum and seeing thousands of depictions of “evil” Frenchmen using the Vietnamese as their slaves, being fanned, carried about and served hand and foot by their colonial “others”–then me, walking out of the museum only to be harassed endlessly by Vietnamese people trying to fan me, carry me about and serve me hand and foot.