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Asia travelogue: deleted scenes

To those readers that enjoyed the recent Asia Travelogue: a bonus look behind the scenes.  To create this dense morsel of  literature, my editor Catherine  thought it necessary to cut some juicy tidbits.  These stories did not make the cut:

  1. The Dark Alley Where Bad Things Happen (Phnom Penh, Cambodia)
  2. Story in which B Fails to Seduce Pretty Girl (Bali, Indonesia)
  3. 400 McNuggets Delivered Pool-side for Revelers, Wedding Party (Bai, Indonesia)
  4. Lulz Tries a “New Fruit”; Discovers Coconut Painted Purple, Scam (Lijiang, China)
  5. Lulz Believes an Artist’s Cat Was In Fact One Responsible for Paintings (Lijiang, China)
  6. Police Officer Performs ID-Check, Double Take on My Driver’s License at Night Club (Hong Kong)
  7. Uncle Takes Me to Massage Parlor (Guangzhou, China)

Asia travelogue: Guangzhou

I travel 2.5 hours by car from HK to Guangzhou to visit family.   This plan was hatched before I realized the enormity of the communication challenges ahead.  I have only enough vocabulary for three days of conversation, mostly centering on food and family.  I am apprehensive.

I learn the Chinese do not hug.  This lesson comes after two of the most awkward greetings between relatives in the history of familial relations.   My aunt grabs my outstretched arms, and brings it back to center for a polite handshake.  A friend later advises: apparently only Americans hug.  My mind is blown.

By the end of the first day, I am already plotting how to cut short my stay here;  the communication barriers are just too high.  My relatives are speaking too fast, using too much local slang, and no one is understanding anyone.  One uncle has decided to try to bridge the gap using the little simple English words he knows, like “car”, or “food”, or “go there”,  except I actually know those words in Chinese.  The result is a struggle to understand his heavily-accented English and everyone else’s advanced Chinese.

On day two, my Chinese clicks, and I’m talking smoother, even making jokes.  I think I am way funnier in Chinese than I am in English.  The Chinese can be silly, and somewhere in me lies the capacity to be silly right along with them.  Word play is appreciated, as is deadpan use of Chinese proverbs.  It may seem like a fortune cookie cliche, but Chinese people actually do use proverbs in regular conversation.  Proverbs are typically 4 characters long, and are either shorthand for a fable (“croaking frog at bottom of well”) or an elegant turn of phrase (“people from the mountains to the ocean” == “fucking crowded”).

Few sights in the area.  Guangzhou is more a major trade city at the southern tip of China, than a tourist town.   Still,  I soak in the atmosphere and the food.  A cornucopia of the unsual: snake, fish air bladder, meal worms, and water cockroaches.  Perhaps I am trying to prove that I am  Chinese, though not by tongue, then at least by taste bud.

At meal time, my uncle delights in two games: Guess How Old My Nephew Is, and Do You Believe My Nephew Is An American Movie Star.  Waitresses are popular targets.   I am 18 years old and have starred in the latest Tom Cruise vehicle.

Shopping, I buy clothes from Chinese brands which oddly fit my frame extremely well.    In the fitting room, it is clear where my ancestry lies.   I try to buy a pair of kicks from domestic shoe company Li-Ning, but the quality is worrisome and they were not cheap.   But still, where else can I find  red sneakers with cloud designs on them?

Asia travelogue day 24: hong kong

Three days go by quickly. Airball is a great host and lets me crash in his sick pad in Pok Fu Lam.

Dinner at a joint in Causeway Bay that specializes in fried pork loins over rice. Dessert at a place lulz would not stop talking about on the entire flight to HK, some place roughly called Healthy Mountain. They specialize in desserts heaped with fresh mango. Instant fan.

Night out at a nightclub in Lon Kai Fong, which is a hilled street, covered in bars. Ex pats drink their heart out here, spilling into the strret, into the open air, some even pre-gaming openly. I can spot the Meatpacking District no matter what city I’m in, and it’s definitely here. Everything is vertical in hong kong, and that includes bars. Multi-level buildings house many bars and clubs, each occupying its own floor. Whiskey is fast becoming my EZ Pass to the expressway to ruin. I say mean-spirited things to Lulz and spend the entire next day both piecing together what was said, and immediately apologizing for it afterwards.

Dimsum at Victoria City restaurant in Admiralty. Should have taken a picture of 5 CU alums united and dining for the alumni newsletter.

Day trip to Macau. $1/$2 NL at the Wynn. Sitting at a table of salty cantonese poker heads means learning a boatload of colorful vocabulary. It also means getting wiped out in 2 straight hands of big slick. I remember why I quit this game. Too easy to read, flushed when involved, weak on the trigger finger. Worse time I ever had losing money. Generally the casino has two table games: baccharat and sic bo. Asians play nothing else here. Sic bo is like roullette but with dice and more prop bets.

On our way back to the ferry, we swing by the Grand Lisboa. Its infamous basement levels are walked by very unneccassary mini skirts in very unneccessary heels. The scene’s open and overt qualities shock me, and I shake off slinky propositions all the way to the exit.

Dinner in a back alley in Causeway Bay. Bowl of noodles which features my first introduction to mini cheese hot dogs. You heard me right. It is a sensation coming to a hot pot near you.

Night out at a smokey karaoke bar called Revel. Every bar table has cups of dice and playing cards. Hong Kong drinking culture seems game-based, and deep in my heart, it is love at first sight. I master liar’s dice and visit the bottom of my glass many many times. At 2 we stagger to a friends apartment and watch Eli Manning make his best “oh yeah I’m Eli manning” face.

Hong Kong is a bit too much fun for my own good.

Asia travelogue day 23: final days yunnan

Back in lijiang. We let another guesthouse tout take us to her place, and we discover our previous stay had been on the fringe of the old city. Old city is twice as big as we thought. Whoops.

Dinner at a roof top of a book cafe. Naxi style pork for me again; it’s bacon plus the crispy skin of roast pig. Other than that, it’s safe to say the food in Yunnan is mostly, well, awful.

We take a big gulp and hit up Bar Street. It is absurd. At one place, a women dressed in minority garb belts out classic karaoke hits. A slender man in a scarf takes over. An inebriated mainlander decides to crash the stage and grind against the singer. The song ends, Chinese trance emerges, and everyone rushes the center stage. Local club kids bop their heads at the dancefloor edge. Lulz says a Chinese version of ectasy has earned the nickname “<toss yer hair fun>” because the sensations compel just that action.

At around midnight the music ends. Club kids on opposite ends of the stage begin to taunt each other using… song? Sides alternate, singing in unison, mocking songs about butts, tails, noses, smells. Whatever happened to dispute resolution vís a vís
popping and locking? Somehow we manage to find our way home, over the bridges, and thru the dark backalleys.

We locally book a flight from lijiang to Kunming because fuck sleeper buses. In Kunming airport, we have our final yunnan meal, the famous over-the-bridge noodles, a set meal of noodles in a super hot chicken broth plus fix’uns. Lulz loses her shit when she sees a cockroach crawl across the table. I flip out too, but… I have not finished eating yet. I find it again, resting on a grape peel. Staring into its beady eyes, I drink my soup and realize just how far I am willing to take my compulsion to finish food on my plate. I really am a disgusting human being. Lulz deserves full merits for puttin up with me.

Back in hong kong, lulz and I both notice our skin is in ICU shape. Something about the cold dry air. Lulz looks like a 47 year old widow and I am peeling like the Last Supper. That was a joke for you art history majors.

Journey leg 3 ends.

Asia travelogue day 22: Shangri-la frozen over

Zhongdian is an old tbtan town, clumsily renamed Shangri-la to encourage tourism. In the summer, its plains are lush and picturesque. In the winter– now– it is a freezing, deserted ghost town, with patches of ice covering its cobblestones.

We arrive late in the day. The bus station walls are spawled with cell phone numbers. Apparently these numbers are for anyone that wants any documents (licenses, diplomas, certificates) “made”.

Porter, the pothead from the trail, recommended us a hotel. We’re picked up by Beijing Man, the owner. He is tall, cleanly cut, and his accent gives him his name. RRRR. Lulz and I marvel at what I hereby knight our best accommodations of the trip. Hot shower capsule, space heaters, huge window with natural light. $18/night.

Dinner in which the yak dish looks like bibimbop. Back at the hotel, we discover why Porter recommended the place and could not bring himself to leave for four days. Beijing man’s friends come over (often apparently, during the low season). They bullshit, drink beer, smoke the local Yunnan ganja (apparently good shit), and watch American movies on BM’s 42 inch Sony Bravia. Tonight, Beijing man shows off his new stereo system. Hard to believe we are in Yunnan declining bong hits to the gentle sway of Jack Johnson and Jimi Hendrix, but there it is.

“Bong Hit Decline” is a good band name.

Pvt msg if you want the name of the hotel.

In the morning we hit up the two monastaries in town. In front of buddha, Lulz does her thing, and I awkwardly mimic her to blend in. I do not blend in.

Bus back to Lijiang. Very scenic ride. Advice: sit on the right side if going from lijiang to zhongdian. Left side on the way back. Sheer cliff views and all that.

If you have not received an email from me yet, it is because the government has intercepted it.

Asia travelogue day 20: tiger leaping gorge

Two day hike of the Tiger Leaping Gorge.

We lock up most of our luggage at a guesthouse at the beginning of the trail, Jane’s Guesthouse. Jane looks like jack sparrow’s lesser cousin, and speaks in a mix of american and British accents. While Lulz uses the toilet, Jane chats me up, asks me if Lulz is my girlfriend. Nope. Then. she. makes. a. pass. at. me. I’m visibly revulsed; she smirks and pats my cheek, whispering “cute” as she walks past me. Lulz is no counsel when I tell her; she takes the piss out of me about it for the rest of trip.

Locals trail us the moment we get off the bus, offering car and horse services. One sees Lulz, thinks girls=feeble, and figures she’ll tire out by the first switchback. He follows us with a horse for the first 2 hours of the hike. His persistence– while symptomatic of the region’s poverty– pisses me off and I want to punch him in the face. We finally ditch him at the first checkpoint, the Naxi Family Guesthouse.

The high trail is not well marked at its head. It’s marked only by red and yellow arrows painted by guesthouses wanting your business down the trail. No national park blazes; there’s zero local interest in what is a breathtaking hike along one of the most dramatic gorges in the world.

“28 Bends” and another two hours to reach the high point. Most of them are mini-switchbacks. The final viewpoint features a gentlemen that charges you eight quay each to take pictures from the spot, under the questionable authority that his buddies and him were responsible for carving out the lookout point. Lulz bargains down.

The view from the top is jaw-dropping. Down below, the emerald rush of the Yangtze River. Across, the snow-capped Yulong Mountains that rise and drop dramatically to the river. The range fills your vision so totally that it reduces cameras to exercises in futility.

The day fades. We arrive at the Tea Horse Guesthouse. 2 more hours of hiking , but only 1 hour left of daylight. Lulz wants to keep going. Lulz is fucking crazy. Executive decision to crash here. We will sleep beside the mountain. I know what you are wondering: no, there is no wireless here. Sometimes, that is okay.

Hikers– all Westerners, Chinese don’t hike– trickle in.

Stefanie and Charlie met while in grad school in PA. Guess which one was born and raised in Macau, speaks Cantonese, Mandarin, and English, and smiles with faint wrinkles; and which one is white, from Philly, a bio physics major and does a mean Polish accent. Charle and I geek out over cameras. I’m jealous of his 16mm wide angle and he eyes my 30mm f/1.4.

Andrew is tall, hunched like a man who grew unexpectedly. He is a jazz guitarist from Brooklyn, roaming China on the laowai (foreigner) musician circuit. He sleeps in the dorms for $2.50.

Porter is American, lean and scruffy, and talks in an even-keeled manner that suggests either a deliberate indifference to his fellow man or one helluva marijuana habit. He travels with Ding Ding, a Shanghainese club girl that greets you with sunglasses and iPhone headphones. Trail gossip says they met on the Internet. She speaks little English, and he, scant Mandarin. Their method of communication is unprintable here.

Sunrise in the mountains. Finish the hike by noon. Hit the low road. Hitchhike our way back to the trail head. I fall asleep, missing the view seen by the tour groups. Fitting. Luggage in hand, we flag down a bus headed for Zhongdian/Shangri-la.

Asia travelogue: Lijiang china

Lijiang: a tourist shithole or a quaint Chinese throwback?

A guesthouse tout drives us to her place in the Old City area. $9/night. Free wireless. I am going to publish my own travelbook series entitled Travelling the World Wrapped in a Wifi Bubble. Just a list of names of places and the word ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

Old City has cobblestone charm. Wooden houses. A water wheel. A water canal runs through the town. A cycle of tourist shops: tea, yak products, wood burned carvings, and repeat. The town is hugged in all sides by mountains, the most picturesque of which is Yulong mountain (jade dragon mtn) which I quickly develop an unhealthy attachment to.

Horse riding in the Lasha Lake region. When we return, we find our driver playing mahjong with the ranchers.

Yak meat is a specialty here altho I haven’t actually seen any yaks walking around. We also try the dongba/ naxi- style roast pork, which, it turns out, is just bacon.

I try every local beer I can. My favorite is a sweet pilsner called Wind, Flower, Snow & Moon. While not the most macchisimo name for a beer, it is an allusion to a Chinese proverb about friends that stick together through everything: every wind gust, every flower bloom, every snowfall, every moon cycle. That’s as good a name as it comes for the liquid fuel for camaraderie. [Update: this is wrong. See comments]

Yulong mountain is climbable… by cable cars. How else would the tour groups reach 4600m elevation? Highest cable car is closed this morning due to high winds. Plan B at 3200m is still picturesque. Yak jerky for the road home.

Asia travelogue: china kunming

Morning. Lulz survives the night. Hurrah.

Breakfast at a local stall brings hot soy milk and bao zi (steamed buns). It costs less than a dollar.

The other major sight in Kunming is Shuilin (Stone Forest), a dramatic upcropping of one-time ocean floor rocks. Nat’l Rating: AAAAA.

The Shuilin stones are beautiful, but the artifice of its surroundings kills it for me. There are grass lawns, installed pagodas, huge paved pathways. It’s more a zoo than a safari.

The Chinese conception of ‘tourism’ is wholly fixed on the tour group, and has no tolerance for independent travel. The result is that tourist sites must be capable of handling the onslaught of tour groups, and these accommodations tend to destroy any naturalistic tint a site might have.

Back in town, I realize Yunnan is colder than I packed and shop for a warmer jacket. Given contemporary Chinese male fashion, I have only three rules: no feathered hoods, no glitter, no English words. New coat bought for $35 with 60% off thanks to slowing Chinese economy.

Sleeper bus to Lijiang. Generally, there are good times and there are bad times to learn that a city has four different bus station annexes. We run thru the streets of Kunming, yelling at street vendors to point the way to the correct station. It’s frantic. Lulz almost loses her cool but we make it.

A sleeper bus is great in theory but “never again” in practice. Moving around the bus makes you feel like a tetris piece. Kept like a meat locker, the only option for warmth is dirty blankets covered with pastel Chinese cartoon characters. We claim 2 spots in the back, where soon after a family complete with crying baby alights. The man next to us puffs a cigarette. It is his third. The en route entertainment begins: The Rock dubbed. Nicholas Cage’s overacting translates well into Mandarin. Plastic or GLASS. I am going to assume you don’t want to hear about the public rest stops.

Day 2 ends in a smoke-filled torpedo hurtling down a Chinese highway, jolted awake from a cold dirty slumber every few minutes, then lulled again by the crescendo of electric guitars in The Rock soundtrack.

Google: “lijiang Kunming flight”

Asia travelogue: china

Kunming, China. Southwesterly Yunnan province. Only my second time in the motherland.

Arrival is omenous. Customs officer gives my passport a hard look. Looks back at me. He waves over his supervisor. I am shitting bricks. Officer says I do not resemble my photo, now seven years old; the nose is apparently completely different. This dude hates the ‘hawk and wants to keep me out. I smooth it out, and travelmate Lulz jokes in mandarin of a nose job.

Our airport pickup en route to the hotel casually swings by a house to give his buddy a lift. That’s what friends are for. We find a two star business hotel (Qing Gong hotel?) for $35 USD/night using the local I-speak-the-language discount. No wireless though. I have a dream, people…

Neither of us brought a guidebook. We decide to play the entire trip by ear. She’s the only one that speaks the language. I realize the only way I learn anything is thru her, unless I can pick up mandarin. Isolation creeps in.

A cab driver recommends we check out a “must-see” city site. It’s the Kunming World Expo, a sort of Chinese Epcot Center. $20 fee.

The Chinese government rates every monument and tourist site on a scale from A to AAAAA (5A). Somehow this claptrap got 4A.

We arrive late in the day and the place is deserted. Sky overcast and exhibitions shut down or delapidated, the place borders on a trip to the surreal. 42 countries are on display (an example: Egypt is represented by an obelisk replica and a bush). Exhibits for the 34 Chinese provinces. We find the main circus stage and gawk backstage at the animals in their cages.

In proper fashion, it rains. A cold numbing rain. We hurry to the exits. We are frozen.

The hotel has no heat, and we have yet to discover the province’s preference for the electric blanket. Lulz starts to feel ill.

We eat. Luck unfolds twice: the restaurant next door specializes in local Yunnan cuisine, and one local specialty is essentially hot chickenuyu soup served in an earthen pot.

Lulz heads back to rest. I go to the local market to pick up water. When i return, no one answers my knocks. Pounding. She’s fallen asleep. 10 minutes go by and she finally creaks open the door. She crawls back in bed, stacks the blankets, and doesn’t wake up until the next morning. It’s 10pm and I don’t know what to do next.

Asia travelogue: new year same condition

There are times when the title of this blog is less a near-pun and more a spot-on summation of my personality. This trip, in moments, has been just such a time. Happy new year, readers.

Hong kong. I realize this is my 5th and 6th flight and I’m not even halfway thru the trip.

I flex my Cantonese at the currency exchange desk. The lady giggles in my face. Okay I am pretty sure I have never laughed at someone when they braved their way through English.

On the HK airport express into the city, two lovebirds are ecstatic to be reunited. He showers her with love in loud pecks, like a machine gun of affection. I would blame my later stomach ills on this encounter.

Fellow SEAS alums in HK provide me shelter.

Asia travelogue: a very bali wedding

Dear Diary,

Today I had an egg sandwich for breakfast. It tasted good. I also went for a swim, which was fun. Then I witnessed the most beautiful scene staged by human beings I will likely ever behold in my life.

Elegant to the point of obscenity. Grace distilled, materialized, and fashioned into a procession down the aisle. 90 bodies stand, 90 heads turn, 90 breaths held. Two persons marry in a small glass cliffside chapel overlooking the sea, with the sky ablaze by sunset.

Bride’s father chokes up during his verse reading. Don’t understand why he tries to finish. The emotional sobs of an elderly man in naked view of his friends and family say more about unconditional love and devotion than any quote from the Old Book.

The heat oppresses, especially those of us in full formal suits. Sweating through my woolen best grates me. Rar.

Revelry continues. Dinner is the best wedding meal I have ever had. Hard to argue with pan-seared beef topped with foie gras. We bribe the waiter to sneak us extras from the kitchen.

I decide I had enough and start a long parade of whiskey on the rocks. Bad day to forget the pepcid ac. Pink to red. Red to crimson. Comments. Thanks, no I didn’t realize I was pioneering new shades of human flesh. Bride’s mother visits our table. Openly admires the mohawk and nudges to point out there is a table full of Japanese girls over there. Crimson to fucking maroon. I have enough attention and take my drink to cool down in the only air conditioned room on the premises: the men’s bathroom. One day I will write that poem about that night I sat on a couch in a bathroom at a wedding staring into the mirror weighing my life in between gulps of Glenfinnitch.

Later: fireworks. Not metaphorical. Actual. Fireworks.

Retire to the pool. Because I need to cool off.

Congratulations, J&R. You deserve it all.

Asia travelogue: bali

Bali, Indonesia. This island is shaped like a kiwi bird and we are partying in the feet. Friends trickle in over the next few days. Some “talked” their way thru passport technicalities.

Bali has an allure to outsiders that I do not yet appreciate. Seems like yet another coastal beach area of legendary repute overwhelmed by tourism (see Goa 2007). Traffic crawls, the ocean chokes on trash, and the restaurants belch in congestion. [pic]

Here for a wedding of a lifetime. Five star hotel. The pool becomes my new love. Warm water and pool side bar. And lastly, guest services can drum up seemingly anything except free wireless access.

Also: hot as fuck. Drenched in sweat constantly. I love it when people shove a camera in your face to document your moments of perspiration. Wet season also true to its name– it storms half the time we are here.

Bride and groom are from New York, but their families are made up of Indians, Japanese, Sri lankans, and other. The result is an international wedding of an obscene degree.

Groom’s friends, Team USA, are children of Asian immigrants and hence we are mostly lawyers, doctors, and financial transactors. On the other hand, Bride’s friends, aka Team Japan [pic], are mostly childhood friends from an elite international grade school in Japan. Now scattered all over, they are radio DJs, actresses, producers, artists, and entrepreneurs. Let the games begin.

We party in the days leading up to the wedding. After eating and drinking with the same big group night after night, my jokes run dry, the antics grow tiresome. I try out some new schticks and continue to develop my ‘other’ storytelling voice.

Nonetheless, the usual suspects rock it hard, having transplanted our hearts and minds and chop licking ways from New York to Indonesia. The group so recently made asunder was– for but a heartbeat– together again and it felt damn good.

Asia travelogue day 8: in transit

Fuck am I really going to write an entry a day? I might skip a day just to be puckish.

B and K take a different flight. See you on the other side, boys. Cross ya fingers no luggage lost. Kuala Lumpur. I’m noticing a certain constituancy waiting at the gate with me, namely: really attractive people in tight clothing.

Indonesia here I come.

Asia travelogue day 7: xmas in cambodia

Merry Christmas from Cambodia.

A bus ride back to phnom penh. 5 days in Siem Reap is enough for a man to ask, ok now what else.

We’ve also had enough amok fish curry and settle on a Xmas dinner at Happy Herb Pizza, whose apparent specialty is “extra happy” pizza. Post-meal, our waiter– without missing a beat– asks if we want dessert or perhaps a nice joint. We decline politely and leave in search of that Last Drink in Cambodia.

We find it in a Lounge blasting hip-hop, entering another mix of rich kids and gangsters and their dolled-up girlfriends. To prove their status, they drink the exotic import Heineken, their bottles opened by the so-called beer girls (in-house beer reps in uniform).  We have only been admitted into this crowd because we are foreigners with endless dollars. I allow myself to imagine what NYC is like for our counterpart upper echelon.

Goodnight, Cambodia.

Asia travelogue day 5: cambogue

Breakfast sees my first banana pancake. Holy fucking shit. Cliched tourist grub ok, but still. Tasty.

We have another day on our temple pass so we opt to rent bicycles and roam the temples at will. Bicycle quest turns shitshow quickly. The White Bicycle Project rents out bicycles, the profits going to local development projects. Good idea but the bikes are a rickety death trap.

Bike tour of Angkor thom. [pic] We are serenaded by what appears to be cambodian cicadas. The sound is a cross between a jet turbine and a buzz saw tearing thru sheet metal. Charming to a degree.  [pic]

Lunch at a food stall near the terrace of elephants. We haggle down the price to $2/dish or $6. Giddyup.

The U.S. dollar bill is the expected currency in these parts to a startling degree. At restaurants, guesthouses, markets. I have only used the riel as spare change. It’s not just tourists. While at a gas station where my tuktuk driver was refilling,a woman in a scooter filled up, then paid by peeling off a few greenbacks from a wad out of her pocket.

Fewer GI Joes in Siem Reap than in Phnom Penh. I do however see WGWAGs everywhere. I don’t know why here in southeast Asia. Maybe it’s the dudes’ attempt to give a shit about Asian culture before he gets to fuck his banging Asian chick, dude. Or its her whirlwind tour of Indochina with strapping Adventure Johnny and his disarming baby blues.

Dinner at Cambodia BBQ. We order phnom phleurng: cook your own meat on a hot grill surrounded by a moat of chicken broth, steeping noodles. Snake, crocodile, kangaroo. Big fan of kangaroo’s deep maroon flesh and innate smokey flavor. I look forward to sampling more marsupials. Looking at you, koala bear.

Night cap on Pub Street whose name should indicate the degree tourism has fostered this town.

Asia travelogue day 6: cambodia

Lazy day in Siem Reap. Souvenir shopping where we haggle over quarters. Not a bad haul at the night market: 4 tshirts and 2 Cambodia scarfs (kramas) for $12. [pic]

Google: “eating tarantula hepititus A.” [pic]

Christmas eve dinner at an extravagent tapa joint called Aha. The bill is a staggering $60 for 3 courses and bottle of wine.

Evening descent into madness, at a nightclub for locals called Zone One. Children of cambodian elite dance with abandon to local grooves. Heady sight to see.

A man pulls me out of the crowd; foreigners are helping draw tickets for a christmas raffle. The MC is dressed as Santa and reads out the numbers in a hypnotic sing song manner. I unload the microwave oven. Just call me St. Nick.

The less said about the rest of this night the better.

Asia travelogue day 4: cambodia

Another day, another UNESCO World heritage site.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat. [pic] This country is steeped in Hindu and buddhist mythologies. Apparently they are so commonplace that Cambodian schoolchildren are taught about Shiva Vishnu and Krishna just as Americans learn about Zeus and Hercules. All the temples feature exquisite bas reliefs [pic] tellings such legends as the mahabarabtha, the churning of the milk of the sea [pic], some demon stealing some dude’s wife and the shitfest that ensued, and other classic stories.

Since it’s a UNESCO site, countries have called dibs on a different temple to restore. [pic] Our guide says the best country at restoration byfar has been Japan, followed closely by German and their special stone washing methods. He won’t flat out say it but the worst appears to be Italy. That’s a spicy meatball.

We are exhausted by the end of the second day. Templed out.

My luggage sits in the siem reap airport lost and found. K takes a power nap, B finds a cyber-cafe, and I negotiate a $10 round trip tuktuk. I sulk the entire way there, in disbelief that dragonair is unable to send it to my hotel. It greets me coldly at the lost n found and I drag it back into town. I find someone to saw off the mysterious padlock on it. I’m crabby and sleep thru dinner.

Hard to believe I could be such a sourpuss the same day as seeing the eighth wonder of the world. But there it is. Maybe next year I’ll pout my way through the pyramids.

Asia travelogue day 3: cambodia

Siem Reap is a sprawling town , a gasp of fresh air compared to phnom penh. More laid back for sure, but a wee bit touristy. The bloat of up market hotels could put off some people off.

Temples galore. 3 day temple pass costs $40 USD. Driver and guide is $60/day. It’s been worth it. We learn about the temples in chronological order. Kravan [pic], preu sau [pic], beatuey srey [pic], ta prohm [pic], and others in which i will not bear through iphone spell check. Ta prohm looks like the set of Indiana jones [pic]. are worth a thousand words so those will be posted later.

The entrance at each site is choked with postcard-, guidebook-, and fruit touts. [pic].  Here’s the script they use:

“hallo. Three fo a dollah. Hallo sir. ”

“no thank you”

“please sir. Hallo. Ten fo a dollah. Hallo sir. Hallo. Good deal for you”

“no really. Thank you.”

“okay maybe latah? Later you buy from me? Promise? I remember your face, you so handsome. Buy from me later when you come back.”

The best way, if you are wondering,to deal with them is with humor and a firm hand. “no thank you” works, sometimes I like to ask them how are you. Or just a few have a nice days. I once joked, as a guidebook suggested, “oh is it free?” and the girl wryly responded, “yes free. I free you ten cards and you free me three dollars.” Clever girl.

Back in town the boys get a shave at a local barber shop and I get a glass of water to drink. The salon ladies crack up in laughter at the sight of us. A guidebook advises here: “Cambodians are good humored quick witted people. If you pass a group of them and they start laughing hysterically, it may seem they are making fun of you. Rest assured, they are.”

My luggage is found detained by the hong kong customs office. I had to call in a private investigator aka my mother to track it down. It’s on its way to phnom penh where I am no longer at.