Saturday, December 22, 2007

Phnom Penh - S21 Tuol Sleng detention center and the killing fields

Want to keep this on the shorter side, but after seeing what remains of the khmer rouge machinery, a few thoughts.

I have serious doubts that until we have, as a species, demonstrated univeral compassion, we will not have significantly transcended a most basic animal nature. We will simply remain as upright, more mechanized beasts, again and again acting out the dance of the sheep and the wolf. More appropriately perhaps, like dogs tearing each other apart.

One more - if we fail to support ONLY governments of legitimacy and tolerance, I can think of no reason why this same scenario should not continue to play out. But where next?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bangkok to Siem Reap to Phnom Penh

Starting to lose track of particular dates at this point, and so I've begun to exclude them from the headers. This could possibly be due to the fact that times and dates really dont mean much when you're going day to day on the road, but also perhaps because I'd like not to know how close to Christmas the calendar is approaching.

So from Khao San road in Bangkok, Justin and I set off for Poipet, a border hugging, rag-tag village between Thailand and Cambodia. Didnt spend much time here except to arrange further transportation to Siem Reap - launch pad to the Temples of Angkor Wat. The border is where we met our new companion, Won-il, a seriously expressive traveler from South Korea. The three of us spent 4 nights in Siem Reap and this morning left for Cambodia's capital city, Phnom Penh. The road from Poipet to Siem Reap (which means "victory over Siam"...awesome) was possibly the worst I've ever been on. For a 5 hour drive. Lakes were beginning to full the pot holes and I believe the lumps were actually more a result of mountain-forming geological uplift. K2s in the making. I've read that air line companies have bribed the government to slow any repairs/any actual high way construction to help convince more people to simply fly in. If buses (or myself) werent so cheap, I might consider it for next time.

Angkor Wat is magnificent. Its actually only one temple complex among many in the area, though it in particular is the largest temple ever built. The Khmer Kings built many structures as homes to their Gods, between roughly 900AD and 1200. After that point, wars and jungle have sought to conspire against the architecture. Rediscovered by the French in the 1800's, repairs and restorations ahve been underway since. Watched the sun drop and the sun rise over the stonework and spent 2 afternoons wandering the ruins. Can't help but to get the feeling of some great cosmic finger pointing at me and asking, "what will you build with your time?" The term "legacy building" seems often left to departing politicians but I do wonder about its meaning for the rest of us from time to time.

Its hour 4 in the capital now, and even with my limited exposure, I'd risk to say I expect a pretty cool time in the city. Perhaps "cool" should not be the word to use in describing the enormity and grotesqueness of the killing fields or detention/torture centers emplyed by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge in the late 70's, but I might just have something to say about those places tomorrow evening.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Kho Phi Phi to Khao San Road Bangkok

Having left still Tsunami-recovering phi phi island, I feel I've left the SE asian beach scene for the rest of this particular asian sojourn. While I feel that the back packer travelling curcuit is, to varying degrees, inevitably hedonistic, phi phi island was a little too much for me. After 5 days on the island I find myself now in Bangkok, along the packer's nexus, khao san road. During a 5 minute's saunter one will hear at least 6 different languages, buy on average 2.3 t-shirts for less than 6 dollars each (dependant on the purchaser's bargaining prowess) hear about 3 minutes worth of Jack Johnson discography and likely stop for a 60 baht chang beer. Only slightly unexpectedly, friends met 2 months ago were re-met and stories were swapped over subway sandwiches and street-squeezed mandarine juice.

Yesterday Justin, Alicia and I visited Wat Po, an inner city temple complex and were diminished by the emmensity of the reclining Buddha, something like 46 metres of golden enlightenment-in-waiting. The evening found us ring-side at a muay thai tournament: thai kickboxing. Certainly one of the most kick ass (literally) experiences I've afforded myself during this trip. Woke up feeling like I' taken a few elbows to the skull myself.

Tomorrow should prove to be yet another fairly epic on-the-road day. We're packing up and heading across the thai border to Cambodia, towards Siem Reap and the remains of perhaps the greatest temple complexes on earth. I expect flash backs of Bhaloo the Bear and Moghli dancing to "i wanna be like you, shoo boo doo di bap doo wap" but I should really reference that scene's locale for accuracy of this statement.

Sometimes friends meet and pass so quickly, like a cloud's shadow over the plains, but this does not diminish the sweetness of the shade that is offered.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Thailand - Krabi Province - Tonsai Beach
Nov 30 - Dec 5

I really find it hard to believe that the calendar page has flipped into the wintry scenes of December. Christmas seems years away, I'm even oblivious to the fact that its 4:39pm Wednesday (apparently). Beach time, on which I've been for a few weeks now, stretches off into the sunset horizon with nothing on agenda except tomorrow's sunshine and the night life until then.

The computer I now face in Ao Nang seems not to want to allow picture uploads, so I'll do my best to describe these magical places literally. It was another long travel day out of Palau Penang, Malaysia, to Krabi, Thailand, including a 2 hour immigration line up at the border. Finally, I was in Thailand! While the weather inside was frightful (they dont mess around with air conditioning in the mini buses here), the weather outside was delightful. I headed straight from Krabi to Tonsai beach, one in a row of beaches on a peninsula stretching into the Andaman Sea. This beach in particular is separated from the popular Raileh beach by soaring limestone cliffs screaming out of the blue green sea and deep green jungle. The past coral cliffs found all over the place here are what grace the peninsula with perhaps the best sport climbing anywhere in the world. And this is what I had in mind all along. Towing 15 pounds of climbing gear along with everything I couldn't leave behind in Korea has paid off big time.

The climbing offers steep juggy limestone similar to that in Yangshuo China, only with more stalagtites dripping down, more caves, and with the gently waving sea below, in trade for rice paddies. Some of the cliffs here look like the're positively melting, a sight to see. Very much like an old, thick candle burned to a stub, one that you've never bothered to pick the over-flowed-and-dried wax from the sides. Yes, very much like that.

Having finally sorted out a cash flow/ATM problem in Ao Nang, I'll probably stay here the night, somewhere, and head to Ko Phi Phi in the morning, a smallish but popular island off Thailand's west coast. Phi Phi offers more great climbing and probably a bit less of a Ton Sai chill out vibe, more of a depraved spring-break-style nightlife. Should be interesting.

Deep water soloing. Climbing without the nuisance of ropes with the added benefit of a much softer landing than otherwise. If you land appropriately that is.

How the game is played.

Ray Leh Beach, Krabi, and the Andaman Sea.