CONNORBODIA --Issue 15-- Siem Reaping What I Siem Sew I'm at Siem Reap International Airport where everything costs 4 times what it does in Siem Reap- unless you're a tourist and then it's only about twice as much as what you're used to. Cambodia and the Angkor temples were really incredible. Essentially my days were filled with running up and down the steps of ruins, sweating through my clothes, and saying "no thank you" a whole lot to people. But despite the aggresive salesmanship here, I have felt much more warmth from the people than I did in Vietnam. Maybe it's just taken me three weeks to open myself up to the world, or maybe it's less perception and more reality. I don't know. Can't really say. But everyone here seemed to be very friendly, even when they didn't want anything from you. Kids waving, monks throwing peace signs as you pass by out in the less-tourist populated country side. Really friendly people. I took one day trip out to Beng Mealea where the temple has been completely overgrown and in many parts not re-exposed. Unfortunately the sense of discovery is a bit stilted when you are forced to be led around by a park guide. I went back in afterwards and was really looking forward to just going through the halls and wandering, but it wasn't long before I noticed I was being trailed by a small boy who knew only one word of English. Well maybe he knew more, but he only spoke one word of English. He distracted me, got me completely lost, and when I was at my wits end I recognized an arch or something and made my way back. He asked for "dollar." I'm not heartless, but I'm only paying 2 dollars a night at my guesthouse, I feel like that might be overpaying him. He was still eager for a few thousand riel. The most oftenly used currency of Cambodia seems not to be the riel but the US dollar. Reciepts are printed in dollars, bills made up in dollars, menus, pricetags. They keep a calculator in case you want to use riel, but it seems like only tourists use riel the way in some places they are the only ones to use chopsticks. Locals do use riel but they use it as cents. it's 4000 riel to the dollar, so they'll hand you back a thousand if something costs 75 cents. I wonder what would happen if I tried to give someone a quarter or like 80 cents in change. Probably, they wouldn't take it. So of course when I got here I changed 800 Hong Kong Dollars into riel and was completly confused, having been dealing with Vietnamese Dong for three weeks, and it turns out I could have just as easily gotten dollars. No worries though, the ATM at the gas station gave out American green. Anyway, that's my informative update. I'm sorry I didn't write more about the temples, I actually haven't written anything since I got here even in my journal. I met a German guy and travelled around with him, and basically just having someone to hang out with is enough to occupy your time so as to not write apparently. But it was great to have someone else to go around with, see the sights, have a few beers, bitch about how everything's SUPPOSED to be cheap but isn't. Anyway, it was good times. Right now I'm at the airport as I mentioned. I saw the temples three days in a row and my driver bled me quite dry so I decided I had seen what I had wanted to see and was ready to move on. With a few days left before I'm due back in Hong Kong I thought I'd see what country I could get the cheapest flight to that had a direct flight to Hong Kong two days later. Thailand! So I'm going to spend two nights in Bangkok and then head back to HK. I was hoping for Phuket because really I'm kind of sick of museums and hawkers and motorbike drivers yelling at me and I kind of just want to relax on the beach or by a pool, but we'll see what it has to offer me. Maybe I'll get a place with a pool God willing it'll be reasonably cheap. But then what is? Sorry if this is just me spouting random information. It's just an update. Thanks for reading.
VIET CONNOR-- Issue 13-- Saicon
It is my last night in Vietnam. I am not that tired. All day I basically just waited for my flight. it was at 2:30, so yeah. that was a long wait. I was originally just going to fly through Ho Chi Minh City, but decided that I didn't need to rush it, could take a day here and then head up to Siem Reap. I really want to see the Angkor temples before I head back to Hong Kong. They only have Buddhist temples there and not nearly as nice, so really I figure while I'm in the area.
Vietnam has definitely been interesting. I don't know if that's a cop out or bullshit or whatever you want to call it. Love it or hate it though, you wend your way up or down the country and the end result seems to be the same either way. There is no real beginning or end. That's not to say everything here is the same. But you could tell the same story backwards forwards or all disjointed and in pieces, and frequently do, and the end result will be the same. I feel like i'm not expressing myself properly Like Slaughterhouse 5. Love that book. There's no real linear sequence to the narrative. Just pick it up, open to whereever and read. Like life on Tralfamadore.
Anyway, you learn a lot, just like in 12th grade English. People to trust, people not to trust. You are a dollar sign and a target to some people. I was poor in Brooklyn, but here I lcan ive like Midas. It's not my fault. I guess it's not theirs either, but it still sucks to be singled out, hassled constantly and charged more just because my passport's blue.
It started raining as soon as I got to my hotel tonight. It started pouring as soon as I found out that it doesn't have Internet and the closest place is 2 blocks away. It stopped once I got there and started again when I wanted to leave- get some food. Let up once I was there, started again on my way back, and stopped once I was inside. Once I was inside I realized it was only 7:45 PM and I'd already had dinner. Gets dark early here. Rain, dark, crowds.
The crowds here are even bigger than in Hanoi. Not like the mall crowded, like ancient Roman collosium crowded. Everyone's there. Everyone. But it's not the stadium, it's the street, and they're all on motorbikes, wearing cloth masks with flowers so they don't die at 30 from all that exhaust and detachable sleeves so their arms don't look like they're 60 when they get to be 30.
It's like a flood of people. Hundreds. Thousands, all on wheels, winding and stopping and starting and bumping and pumping and putting their feet down in front of the tires behind them and getting all kinds of pissed off at the blinkers on the cars that dare to creep in front of them. Zoom on behind them. Zoom zoom zoom! Like the arteries and veins of a body with no heart, just frantically flowing through the miles of asphalt trying to get oxygen, not stopping for directions, just go with traffic, go with the flow, go go go. Follow the plasma stream all the way to the end. What end? There is no end it's just one big silly circle. The roads don't lead to Rome, they just lead back to themselves. giant mobius strips across the city and back.
Sorry. My brain starts to act like a mobius strip sometimes. I have 50,000 voices and languages that my brain can use but my mouth only tends to use one or two. My hands make good use of a solid 35.
Tomorrow, on to Cambodge Campuchia Cambodia, Camry Cambot Camblodge, however you want to say, just say it's name and I'll be there. Just a few days. Maybe 4. Mostly want to see Angkor- if there's time I'll skip to Phnom Penh, or maybe just head cross the border to Laos. We shall see, we shall see. We shall. See? I'll let you know
Issue 12-- VIET CONNOR-- In the Shit
Rain. Flood. Float. Swim. Drown. Boat. I'm looking out the door of the internet place I just slogged to. Of course the internet isn't working at my hotel across the street. The rain began the instant I said, "Could I just get the check this time actually," refusing the 4th glass of wine offered to me at the French Restaurant I was dining at. Sounded like sand filling up a wheelbarrow or a tin roof above me. Looked out, shit. Went out, shit. Sat down in front of the place, shit. Got up, still lotta shit out there. Didn't know how right I was. Not too far from the hotel. Maybe a 60 second run, 90 in the rain, flip flops, slip slop, you know you know. Started to run, aww shit. Got to an awning, stop that shit. Check my email, nothing new. Get back to hotel 5 doors down. What's that smell? Smells like shit. Oh. Yeah.
People are biking by or trying to. Cabs are turning around when they get to the end of the road. Motorbikes brave it, flying in at top speed, feet up on the bar, cranking the handlebar to full gas, getting about 40 feet into it, exhaust system flooded and bilged. not moving. feet down, feet wet, feet moving, get to the curb or end of the road. shit shit shit.
I'm curious, get my camera, get my shorts on, get my ass back downstairs, on the sidewalk, waves hitting the shore as the Kia boats and cars drive by, leaving a wake, actually leaving a wake that sends the water about ankle deep nearly knee high. Camera rolling I get wet. I watch people get wet and I get wet. Walk out into the road, that's 5 inches, that's 7 inches, wait that's shit. shit. that's okay because it's starting to rain again and maybe it'll wash away all the shit.
gonna get deeper before it gets better. hopefully won't hold the plane to the ground. right now my ankles are itching and jonesing for a shower though. I get back to the hotel and the staff is at the door with a bucket of clean ready to pour it nice and fresh on my feet and shoes. "That water dirty. This water clean. Okay come in now." If the smell's not enough, this confirms my suspicions beyond a reasonable doubt. guilty! guilty! guilty! shit! shit! shit!
i need to clean up. get this shit off of me. have a good night folks. or morning for y'all.
nha trang, vietnam
October 6, 2007
yes it's been a while. apologies to anyone who reads this and feels affronted by my absence. I've been busy. Tomorrow I will give a full update featuring key excerpts from my journal from the last few weeks- whenever it was that I last wrote. Not made up ones, though that is always funny "dear mom and dad, camp is great. my counselors bought some fun lotion." that sort of thing. but funny or not, it should give you a pretty good idea of the crazy fucking shit that goes on in this country while our back is turned. or not turned, they don't care. anyway, he's my bus ride- while i talk about the buses horn, it was actually really incredible to see the roads between Danang and Hoi An because practically every third house was just a blown out shell, like 2 and a half walls and bricks everywhere all over grown that no-one has bothered to, or been alive to, rebuild since they were bombed to hell pre-1975. pretty amazing. anyway, on a lighter note, here's this story about buses and their horns.
Got off the bus downtown this evening and motoed up to my hotel. The driver asked where I was from. "America," I said. An old man standing on the curb muttered something in Vietnamese under his breath- all I could understand was "American". I think it means to be from America. And he started grabbing at my bag just as we started to pull away. Normally I would take it with a grain of salt, but I was already a little on edge from the 5 hour drive.
In my time since arriving here, I have learned that the Vietnamese people have far surpassed any and all technology and usage of car horns that we in America may think we have. Yesterday I was on a tour bus that had not one but two different horns. One was the friendly, "Hey look out on your left" horn, he would use when passing motorbikes. That failing to send the message, he would employ his "Get your motherfucking ass out of my motherfucking way before I shove this motherfucking bus up your motherfucking ass" horn. Motherfuck.
Today's bus to Hoi An could peel paint off a house with it's NASA developed air horn. Designed for spaceships, by spaceships. You know what I'm talking about. And it's not an occassional thing. It's always in use. If you rotate your tires every 10,000 miles, they should be changing their horn every 3,000.
In Vietnam, you do not usually have a slow lane and a fast lane. You have a two-way street tthat is used as a slow lane and a fast lane in both directions. And when you pass, you warn traffic and obstacles by using your horn. Motorbikes, bicycles, grocery carts, and pedestrians are not considerations when passing. They are the obstacles that must get out of the way. And they will move to the side and roll on the curb before they are smattered across your bumper, so no worries. Blow that motherfucking horn.
The only time you don't pass is if another bus or truck or car is coming on the other side. But the only way you can see from behind these behemouth trucks on Vietnam's always curving roads is by getting in that lane and hoping luck is on that side, that the oncoming traffic is far enough away for you to either accelerate or swerve back into your lane. This can be quite amusing when you watch someone swerve in and out of the lane over and over again from behind, but it is simply harrowing when it is your own tour bus.
My teeth lack the enamel to protect them from the cold of this beer that I do now sip. Cause: Peeled clean off by The Air Horn of Motherfuck on my 5 hour bus ride to Hoi An.