The Best Laid Plans...

Trip Start Dec 31, 2004
Trip End Apr 22, 2005

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Saturday, January 22, 2005

Today seemed like a good day to secure my travel plans back to Bangkok and then explore more of Siem Reap before departing tomorrow morning. I went to two different travel agencies in town here and then debated my options. There's an air pass with Bangkok Air that gets great nods from travelers but that includes connections with Lao Airlines. One of the guidebooks referred to Laos' planes as "tuk-tuks with wings" and after my experience with President Airlines I begged off of that offer. The next was only on Bangkok Air and it was double the price and when you factor in the $25 Cambodian airport departure tax the cost of a 10 hour bus for only $11 suddenly seems very appealing. At least for now. I emailed my hotel in Bangkok and booked a room and wrote my travel agent and booked my train ticket to Chiang Mai the following day.

I was exhausted today and my legs were achy from temple and hill climbing and my back and neck hurt from the weight of my messenger bag. I was even dizzy at times and had a lack of appetite and when you factor in the heat, humidity and ubiquitous red dust clouds that come rolling toward you constantly it was easy to see why I felt I had to relax. In 21 days I have been out every night either having dinner, checking my email, writing this travelogue or enjoying the company of fellow travellers in pools of spirits. I had to slow down and this was my body's way of telling me to relax.

I still couldn't sit still completely so I took a tuk-tuk to the Land Mine Museum after breakfast. To say that the museum was a bit primitive and underdeveloped would be generous. The exhibits were nailed to the walls of a few dirt floor shacks and there were heaps of deactivated mines in piles in the yard. With that said it was still informative and with sponsorship it could be fleshed out into a more legitimate museum and it deserves to be so. Living within the grouping of shanties there are a few children who are themselves victims of the land mines making this very much a living museum. In Cambodia alone between 1979 and 2003 land mines have claimed over 60,000 victims of which over half are civilians. In 2003 there were 772 victims and of that total 284 were children most of whom were simply working in the fields or playing. There are tank mines everywhere and they can go undetected and be walked upon for years and then a car or truck can tread over it and be blown to bits. There are many types of mines I learned and the three major manufacturers of the mines were China, Russia and the United States. Land mines will more than likely claim many more tens of thousands of lives here before they are found and deactivated. Cambodia teams with land mine victims and their presence is felt everywhere. They are the very young and the very old and they are selling books on the street, playing instruments, selling postcards and of course begging. They are the unfortunates of Cambodia and yet by simply being alive they've already beaten many odds.

I later went to a butterfly conservatory that was rather lackluster and unimpressive. I enjoyed a bowl of coconut ice cream and had a bottle of water and walked around the tiny garden. I thought it would be a nice uplifting thing to do after the Land Mine Museum but it was actually a rather feckless experience. They were trying to do something pleasant and God love them but I'd have rather gone to the FCC, which was nearby. At one point while I was dazing off into space I heard the sound of monks chanting nearby and then just as quickly my tuk-tuk driver outside cranked up his radio and blared a cover of "Saving All My Love for You". Frankly that overlapping of the spiritual beauty of the East and the cranked-out crap of the West was much more amusing.

When it started to hit me that I'd have to leave first thing tomorrow morning on a bus I seriously began to dread it. I was still so worn out and was feeling a bit under the weather and sitting on a bus for over 10 hours suddenly sounded less like an adventure and more like sheer misery. After a quick nap bundled up in my icy cold air conditioned room I headed downstairs to change my plans. Without a hitch I moved everything forward by one day and immediately I started feeling better. I just really wasn't ready to leave quite yet and the best part is that I really didn't have to. Being here another day is maybe what I really needed.

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