I got myself some major DONG!

This post is originally from February 5, 2012

In the last few days there have been quite a few miles driven. From Sihanoukville we had to drive across the border into Vietnam. It was a brutally hot day (I should not complain) but with a 50lb pack on my back, walking in the smoking heat with no shade and then waiting for the border men to stamp my passport was slightly on the brutal side. We drove further into Vietnam and stopped in a tiny town of Chau Doc. Surprise, surprise…I felt incredibly sick yet again so I spent that night in the hotel getting my beauty sleep among other things. It definitely was not much of beauty as the sickness followed me. Cambodia graced me with health…but it all turned to shit at the border. Literally!! On the way to Ho Chi Minh I literally had to clamp my but cheeks for 6 full hours. It was man’s greatest feat and one that I hope that I shall never have to relive.421592_10151367415210434_2004071896_n
Today we spent a full day in Ho Chi Minh, or as it used to be called Saigon. A few of us did our own thing and wandered around the city. We went to the war museum which was just as frightful as Cambodia’s Killing Fields. It is unbelievable what the ‘agent orange’ has done to people here. Literally we have seen disfigured people walking around, with limbs in all directions, or growths the size of a soccer ball…this is all due to the American’s pouring poison off the planes during the Vietnam War. It is heart breaking.

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The War Museum had conjoined twins that did not make it to birth set in formaldehyde. A result of Agent Orange.

Tonight we will catch the over night train to Na Trang..ahhhhh the beach. I hope that the sleeper train is a step up from India’s over night train experience.
Oh and about getting some dong. That is the local currency…20 000 dong for one dollar. I got myself some major DONG!

Good Bye Cambodia!

This post is originally from February 2, 2012

Hello and Greetings from the sea,

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Just some like insects to snack on!!!

The last few days have been freaking splendid! We arrived at the beach town of Sihanoukville a few days ago and since I have been staying near the ocean trying to take it all in. The beach front is lined with shack like restaurants that serve the most AMAZING coconut shakes in the universe. On the beach are rows upon rows of comfy papasan chairs where you can chill and just watch the tide come in. It is so relaxing to just sit and listen to the waves crash. It truly is heaven. The only downfall are the mounds of children watching their prey. They literally chose a person and pounce on them trying to sell you their ‘same, same but different’ friendship bracelets. Of course I couldn’t help but fall victim and now I have an arm full of these very things that I made as a child. The other incredibly sad thing that I have seen all over Cambodia are the masses of men who clearly have had a limb blown off from land mines. The government has no money to help them and they basically succumb to begging in order to survive. It is another heart-wrenching scene.429876_10151367396210434_1314397919_n
On a positive note, yesterday we took a boat over to a private island where first we were dropped off in the ocean to snorkel. There were many kinds of fish, as well as heaps and heaps sea urchin. These are the spiky, porcupine like things that if you touch them could basically impale you with its spike. NICE! I tried my hardest to stay horizontal so I wouldn’t wind up a victim. We then went to this island where they bbq’d for us and then spent the day lounging in the sun and jumping in the sea. Freaking amazing!!!430021_10151367373885434_1253418066_n
Now I sit here waiting to leave this beautiful place and drive to the border into Vietnam.
Cambodia has been an amazing country and I would definitely love to spend more time in. The people always have a smile even though their past has been nothing but happy. It is a poor country but when you look into the eyes of each individual you see their spark and it makes you just melt. I definitely recommend Cambodia to anyone who wants to travel!!!

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Until next time,
Cheers!

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Phnom Penh

 

This post is originally from January 31, 2012

Well hello there!

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Yesterday we ventured on a 7 hour bus ride to Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh. We had a great night full of many laughs and a good night’s rest among the seedy district of hotels, bars and prostitutes. For some reason I still feel completely safe though. I don’t think you can get away from it here in this city.

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Too many skulls to count. Unfathomable!

Today was a very difficult day. I think it probably will be the hardest of the trip. We spent most of the day visiting the Khmer Rouge’s Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum. At the Killing Fields we walked around with an audio guide and it took us through some brutal times. Literally thousands of skulls are lined up in a building that reaches ten stories high. Clothes and bones continue to seep through the soil even to this day; especially after it rains. Hearing the personal stories from survivors was incredibly emotional. Seeing the tree where the Khmer Rouge would literally smack children against…there are no words. You can’t help but cry at what is right here before your very eyes. It was incredibly intense. As I was leaving, the man taking my audio thanked me for coming. He then went on to tell me that this is where his mother, father and uncle were killed. Just like that – he works here day in day out at the very location where his family was brutally murdered.Unbelievable!

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A commemorative Stupa filled with the skulls of the victims at the Killing Field of Choeng Ek

 

 

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We then headed to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Here is where Pol Pot’s regime would imprison and torture thousands. Before the genocide this building was a school. It was so incredibly difficult to be here because we could see the blood stained floor and walls. It is virtually untouched and not roped off. You would have to watch your step so you don’t step in dried blood. Room after room were photos of the victims. Mug shots, photos of the nearly dead, and remnants of that time. It is documented so well because the Khmer Rouge wanted proof of the deaths of each person. It is estimated that  one in four Cambodians were killed during this time…a time  that was really not that long ago.  At the museum I was able to meet a survivor of that prison. He survived because he had a special talent. He was an incredible artist. He would be able to draw the leader Pol Pot and when they held his drawing next to a photo they were unable to distinguish which was the drawing. For this talent he was kept alive because he was of use to the regime.  Here he sat, beside his mug shot from being imprisoned.  He was this tiny old man with no teeth (from them being smashed out of his head). Again, like most Cambodians he was smiling and gracious. Absolutely heart-wrenching. It is hard to believe that here in this bustling city, all these people deal with such a haunting past.

 

Tomorrow is another day that we head on the road south. This time to the beach town of Sihanoukvillle. Looking very forward to chilling on the beach and jumping in the ocean.
Loving this place greatly!design

Siem Reap

This post is originally from January 29, 2012

Hello from the beautiful town of Siem Reap!422743_10151367201630434_1656983872_n

Wow, where to start?? Unlike being at home, so much happens in such little time. I guess that is the beauty of traveling.418483_10151367166540434_500507594_n
On Saturday when I last wrote I mentioned that we were going to a place where orphans were feeding us…hahahah, I had it all wrong. We jumped on our tuk tuks and rode through the streets of the villages. The scenery was amazing. The rice fields are so green and there are rivers and lakes throughout the area. It is simply gorgeous and I tried to take as many mental pictures as possible. We arrived almost being decapitated because the bumpy dirt roads made most of us hit our heads on the top of the tuk tuks. You could hear us coming a mile away because we were laughing and screaming like crazy idiots. The locals surrounded us with greetings and smiles. Children in Cambodia are everywhere. Did you know that over 50% of Cambodia is under the age of 16!!!!! It is very apparent. The house that we arrived at is not for orphans but for children of the entire village. One family owns and lives at the house but has opened their doors to the children of the area to teach them English, crafts etc. We were warmly welcomed and had a local meal that was so delish. It is very much like Thai food, but less spicy.  After the amazing food, children from the village came and played with us. It was so much fun and we can clearly see how much this one woman is doing in her community. One person truly can make a difference!

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Yesterday morning we woke at 4 am. We were taken to the famous temples of Angor Wat. It was pitch dark when we arrived and we were taken through the gates on very uneven sidewalks. We shuffled down the path very cautiously as you could sort of see that if we strayed to the left or right, we could easily fall into some sort of body of water. Following our senses with fits of laughter we arrived in darkness and sat on something that you could tell was probably ancient. We sat for over an hour in total darkness to wait for the sunrise, and when it rose … right before our very eyes was the beautiful structure of Angkor Wat. Absolutely Stunning!!!!!!64308_10151367206745434_2058148833_n

Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. Stretching over 400km squared, Angkor contains the  remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. They include the famous Temple of Angkor Wat , and at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple.

430209_10151367230345434_609902405_nWe spent the day touring the four main temples.  Because we climbed stair after stair, my ass and legs are nice and sore this morn. High above the jungle the scene from the top of the temples were a beaut! The most memorable temple for me was called Ta Prohm. The jungle has literally taken over and trees are growing around the temple walls. This was the location where the movie Tomb Raider was filmed. The only complaint I can make which definitely took the beauty away from this incredible place was the abundance of tourists. I think because it was a weekend it was worse than usual…but man there were a lot of people!!!

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Later in the day after freshening up we went to the biggest lake in Asia. I have never seen anything like what I saw here. There is an entire village that live on this lake. They never leave the lake. The school is floating. Their homes are floating. The police station is floating. Everything is floating!!!  In a small floating home you would see chickens, dogs and cats. Babies were waddling around teetering on the edge of the water. It was like a shanty town on water. It truly amazes me that people live like this. 423177_10151367254530434_573085332_nApparently a lot of them are Vietnamese. They left during the war as refugees and were considered very poor. We were told that if they live on water they can survive because they don’t have to have proper papers or money to pay for them. What was heart breaking was the begging. Children the size of a pea would float up to us in a wash basin chanting ‘one dolla, one dolla’. 431697_10151367260295434_917327506_nOther children would come up to us in boats with a snake around their neck again…one dolla. one dolla. It is a vicious cycle because you give the dollar, but keep them trapped. It has been like this for ages. This is all they know and how they live. They drink and wash from the water and use the water to dispose their waste. It was brown. Wow. Eye opening. You think you’ve seen it all and then something like this pops up. It was sad, but also so thankful I got to see this.

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Later we went to town and had dinner. The town was bustling with markets and fish doctors (where the fish eat your dead skin off your feet). I am tempted, but when I think of putting my feet into the same water as thousands of others just had…it makes me realize I kind of would rather shop. I was so dead tired that if you can believe I didn’t buy a single thing. Just walked around in a daze and later took a tuk tuk home to our hotel.
Siem Reap is amazing. Definitely worth staying here longer. But today we are on the road again. Off to the capital of Pnom Penn.

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Arriving to the ‘Kok’ in almost one piece…

This post is originally from January 28, 2012

Greetings from Cambodia!

Two days before my departure I came down with the major case of the flu.  I am pretty sure it was the Norwalk Virus because I don’t remember being this sick in a very long time.  I even contemplated canceling this trip. On Tuesday I decided I was fit enough to travel and Wednesday boarded that plane…the journey from hell started when I flew to Seattle. As soon as I arrived in Seattle I started to feel ill again. I tried my hardest to will it out of me, but literally the moment we took off for destination Tokyo I was gagging. I had to break the cardinal rule of staying in your seat while the seat belt sign is on and make a mad dash to the toilets. During the course of that flight I spent more time in that toilet than I did in my seat. It was the longest, most brutal flight of my life. 10 hours of hell and puke.  Alas, I arrived in Tokyo worn out and wanting to head right back home.  I staggered to a spot on the floor and fell asleep among the hubbub of travelers.  When I woke I felt heaps better which made the 7 hours to Bangkok much more manageable!

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My roomie from the UK, Helen

The Kok (aka Bangkok) is a city I didn’t see much of upon my arrival. I finish the tour back in the this city so I will get a chance to take in the sights (such as a  good ol fashioned sex show) before I go home.Yesterday I met my roomie Helen as well as the rest of the group and they are all very friendly which I totally expected.  The group consists of all girls…not getting laid ladies…hahaha, but apparently there will be 6 Aussie men joining us in Vietnam. I called dibs on the oldest one because I am the granny of the group once again!

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This morning we got up early and headed for the Thai/Cambodia border. At once ‘the sickness’ hit me again. I started to feel like death as we were standing in line waiting in the intense heat. Getting out of the country I felt completely green…but the Cambodian Gods were with me because as we walked through no man’s land I started to feel human again.When we got to our hotel in the town of Siem Reip there was a moment of jubilation. They have Diet coke! I am sitting here sipping my dc writing on FREE internet awaiting to go to a very cool dinner. We are going to a place where orphaned children are raised and taught school, cooking and trades. I have no idea what I am in for…but I’m totally excited.

Do you want to join me on another adventure?

418452_10151367185795434_1867833814_nThis post was originally from January 24, 2012

Hi there Everyone,
It is that time again… I decided to get my ass out of here Canada during our winter rather than waiting til things turned to bloom. I might not have the full holidays banked or the money saved…but lets worry about that later. Life is too short!
This time I am headed to Southeast Asia. I fly into Thailand, travel throughout Cambodia, then into Vietnam up through Laos and back through Thailand.  I actually had this trip planned at the end of my Australia trip (over ten years ago),  but due to lack of funds (or no funds at all) I had to skip Asia and come straight home. I will be traveling by almost every mode of transportation…trains, planes, automobiles, boats, tuk tuks, elephants perhaps…but I will DEFINITELY not be sporting the camel this time. I think I have had my fare share of camel for this life time! I am incredibly excited for this adventure. I am traveling alone, but will meet up with the same Adventure Group (G Adventures) that I did in Morocco and India. I am sure I will meet a ton of amazing people.
Anyway, just wanted to give a shout out before I left and until next time I will see you on the other side of the world!

Taleeho!

The G Adventures Tour that I took –Indochina Discovery