Deathcab for Lanny

Trip Start Jan 17, 2007
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Trip End May 2007


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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Cambodia! What an adventure! And the best part is that I MADE IT BACK ALIVE!!! Where to begin!?!? As usual, the journey began with me waiting in the lobby of the Siam Oriental..again, with just a piece of paper in hand that basically read "Bus to Siem Reap". But to my surprise..this time the bus guy was early! The piece of paper said 8am, but the guy came around coralling everybody from their various hotels at 7:45am! Sweet. Waiting around SUCKS! For the first time, I got to sit in one of the super big buses! It had 2 levels, curtains, air conditioning..pretty comfortable!...for the first 3 hours or so! Then the seats just got harder! My butt started hurting..and I couldn't really stretch out because there was a dude beside me. All in all..the bus ride from Khao San Road, to the border took 5 hours!! (including a 1 hour stop for people who waited last minute to get their visas done, and lunch). Once we reached the border..I could already feel a change. Before we even got off the bus..we were instructed that we would have to walk accross a bridge into Cambodia. The man on the bus also warned "Ok everybody, becareful of the little children! They will pickpocket you everything!" So we were all on guard. During the bus ride..I met 4 Canadians..from Saskatchewan..I forget their names..I asked them if they were from Dog River (for my non-Canadian friends..its a fictional town from a tv show)..they didn't laugh!..but they were still really nice..seeing that my Dog River joke didn't go over so well..I refrained from making any Tim Horton jokes. The story of the hour...at the border crossing was LINE UPS..there was one line up to get out of Thailand...and then another excruciatingly hot line up to get into Cambodia...this took about an hour! As I looked around while standing in queue, I realized..at this moment..I was in some sort of a NO-MAN's land..I'm not sure who lays claim to this strip of land in between the two countries...but I was surrounded by...CASINOS!!!! Tempted as I was to jump out of the line for a few moments, and make some extra spending money, I stayed in the line. So finally all stamped into Cambodia..we are guided to the bus area..where there are no longer super luxury busses. In fact..they only had 1 much smaller bus to accomodate most of us from the giant bus! We were all forced to cram into the bus..which would then shuttle us to another bus that they had just commissioned to atone for their miscalculation. Now..the first bus was very uncomfortable..the seats were all torn, and with most things in Cambodia..it was dirty. 5 minutes later..we arrived at the bus station..volunteers were asked to hop on the other bus...hmmmm...sure..why not I figured...the 4 Canadians decided to come along with me, and a handful of other..WHAT A MISTAKE!!! We were all crammed into an even smaller bus..they jammed us in like sardines..full to capacity! There was just one thing...as we started driving off..the guide Tai (who would actually later be my guide for my trip) informed us..that due to it being Chinese New Year..a lot of the busses that would normally be available were not, because everybody was taking the next 4 days off...but to further my horror, he added that the air conditioning on this bus was broken! And we would have to keep the windows open for air circulation!...Did I mention how DIRTY Cambodia is!!!! The roads are mostly dirt! So every time a car drives by in the opposite direction, big clouds of dust cover the roads! Sometimes to the point where I'm pretty sure the driver can't even see!!! But they just keep trucking on!!!

Siem Reap is 153km from the border...the roads were SO bad..it took us over 6 hours to get there!!! It was the bumpiest (due to the dirt roads, ditches, and rocks everywhere!) and dirtiest ride I have every been on! Not until 30 minutes away from the hotel..did I finally see a paved road. Just in time for the Tourist haven of Siem Reap. It was quite the contrast..once into Siem Reap..gone were the make shift shacks..covered with dirt and naked children running around pushing wooden carts, instead they were replaced by super resorts, manned by immaculately dressed bellboys and greeters! Some of the hotels were beautiful..definately 5 stars all the way. Another obeservation..before I continue on..I don't know if anybody else has been to Cambodia before..but what I noticed is, is that....85% of the CARS (there are a handfull of SUV's, and pickup trucks..as is common with this part of the world..but this area of Cambodia..is predominantly cars) were Toyota Camrys!! Camrys everywhere! The most common model being the one from the early to mid 90's when they changed from the BOXY camry..to more of the BUBBLY Camry. Most of the Camrys are cabs...but they are EVERYWHERE!! I don't know if Toyota offered the whole country a really good deal or what, but they are everywhere! I asked a local about this..but I don't think they understood what I was asking about..instead I was told "Camry! Toyota! Good!" so I left it at that. Now back to Siem Reap. Our bus drove by the area that housed all of these super hotels and into an area that housed more Guesthouses..which are more affordable. We were dropped off at a place called DMS guesthouse. Most people didn't like it because it was a bit out of the way..but me..being lazy...I took a room after it was shown to me..It was much better than anywhere I had stayed while in Bangkok..it had AC, hot shower (even though all I wanted was a cold shower..and I couldn't figure out how to turn off the hot water here! lol) and even TV with english channels and lots of movies!

Now..I'm gonna go off again on another tangent..but this is important because it will play into another story that I will divulge soon enough. Most of you who know me..have heard..that I was brought up Catholic, and I even use to be an altar boy! But I probably haven't been to church in over 13 to 14 years. I don't consider myself a religious person by any means...but I do have a belief in certain spirituality..I am a strong believer in the PHILOSOPHY of TAOISM. Not a religion..just a way of viewing things...I believe in good people, and positive energy, and an energy that surrounds us all. Sometimes...the certain signs are being passed onto you from the universe..and its just a matter of you being able to see these signs. Not in a scary way or anything like that..but simple things. You may have a problem that you are pondering..and then a newspaper blows by your path..and your answer happens to be the headline..or something like that. I don't believe in anything such as a coincidence..but rather I believe everything happens for a reason! This whole trip so far has been a totally positive experience! Lots of positive energy..and I believe in this adventure to Cambodia, an extra present would be presented to me!!!! (don't mean to get all spacey or freaky on everybody...but I have had many experiences which lead me to this belief..you can ask me about them some other time)..but again..that will wait.

Back to the DMS guesthouse. The price ended up being $12 USD a night..a total bargain for me..and the plus side is..that guy Tai, worked for the guesthouse, and we arranged for him to guide me around the Angkor temples for the following 2 days. I had to change my plans...I was originally gonna leave on Wednesday and meet Brigham at 6:30pm..but seeing how long my journey took getting to Siem Reap, I though it best not to take my chances and head back a day early...so that Brigham wouldn't be scared if he arrived and I wasn't there! (It would have been close..I got back into Bangkok at around 7pm today..but why risk it). So my next few days were set...or so I thought. Sunday was suppose to start at 5:30am..we were suppose to get to Angkor Wat to see the famed SUNRISE..but I didn't wake up in time..and neither did my guide! But we made it there by 6:15..still in time to see the sun actually rise over the temple..but not the beautiful orangey skies that I've seen pictures of...but thats ok..it was still and AMAZING DAY!!! All the temples are housed within a HUGE national park..entry is $20 USD/day, or $40USD for 3 days..I ended up paying $40..because..well thats how it would have worked out anyways! A third day would have been nice..but whatever..time constraints. I have on many occasions heard the Angkor Temples mentioned in the same breathe as the Mayan temples...eh..I've been to both now..I've been to the Temples of TIKAL in Guatemala..and now Angkor..I guess as the locals in Thailand say..and also so many of their TSHIRT....."SAME SAME...but DIFFERENT" I find them equally beautiful..but something about TIKAL just seemed....grander...but again..taking nothing away from the Angkor temples! I can't remember how many temples I saw on this first day..but I'll tell you one thing! I definately started getting some color!!! My face and arms are definately darker! But my torsoe is still pretty pale..I wasn't about to start walking around shirtless! Our moped also blew out a tire because a giant bus forced us off the road at high speed and we drove into a ditch!!! Luckily we didn't fall off!! One of the cool things I saw was one of the stone faces from TOMB RAIDER. I don't actually remember that from the movie, but I'm told by this little kid who forced himself to be my guide for that temple (and suckered me into giving him $1) that this was the head from tomb raider, but at the time of the movie..there was a big tree growing around the head...that the rangers recently had to cut away because it was destroying the statue...

Ok..lets go off topic a little again...a couple of things I would like to mention....While walking around the temples..I was accompanied by my SONY MP3 player! I don't know if I've mentioned this before..but in the recent years, I've become very loyal to my SONY products! They make good merchandise..and I don't think I've EVER had a problem with them. I have had the playstaions, I have the PSP, a Sony Camera, my mp3! and NEVER had any problems!! I guess the only knock against Sony is that they are very territorial! They always have to have their own memory cards, or their own adaptors and formats!! They like to be unique! But other than that..I'm a big SONY fan! (Apple and iPod suck!)....ok..anyways..So I have my MP3 player! Music is such an important part of this journey for me! Too bad during the Por Pramuk days..I didn't have a charger..I think it would have made things a lot easier....but walking around the Temples..I had my MP3 player on my Jack Johnson playlist for the mostpart..what perfect music to enjoy such an environment! I usually just have my MP3 player set on a random shuffle, and sometimes, at just the right time..the perfect song comes on to compliment the moment. When I was in Kanachaburi..on the death train travelling over the scenic River Kwai..the song BREAKDOWN by Jack Johnson came on! Or the first few moments I stepped onto Khao San Road..Sweet Dreams (THE MARILYN MANSON VERSION) was a perfect match! Countless others! Whenever Bob Marley makes an appearance..just perfect. Ok..anyways..back to Cambodia...walking around the temples was super exhausting..and I couldn't wait to take a shower, and rid myself of the film of dirt that covered my body...after a lukewarm shower (i couldn't turn the water heater off!), I went downstairs to have some dinner. Everybody at this guesthouse I had noticed spoke very good english! I attributed that to Siem Reap being a tourist town..and I'm sure that has a big part to do with it..but I would soon find out that there was a further reason. While I was eating..I was joined by one of the guys from the guesthouse..JOON..he was a very pleasant young man..very polite, and very friendly..we started off with some small talk.."where, you from? how long are you in Cambodia for? when do you go back to Canada? etc, etc." Then I got the skinny on the owner of DMS guesthouse...Svay Savong..or as everybody (including myself) referred to him..Mr. Savong (which was king of weird because he's a lot younger than me). Mr. Savong came from humble beginnings, raised in the country side, relatively poor, he was taught english by monks. Working hard..Mr. Savong worked his way into owning his own guesthouse, and is considered to be a Cambodian success story! But it doesn't end there...Young Mr. Savong, never forgetting where he came from..with the profits from his guesthouse..in 2005 opened a free language school for poor children who could not otherwise afford it! I'm told that the local Cambodian schools are adequate, but they lack in their language courses, which is vital for many to make a living in Siem Reap. At the present moment...Savong School teaches over 300 children, offering free English, Japanese and Thai courses. So I was told, the lodgings that I paid for, all the food and anything else went directly back into the school!! Then Joon gave me the best present of all!! He asked me if I could volunteer the next day and teach a couple of classes and talk to the children! Are you kidding me!! It would be my pleasure! This is what I was talking about earlier..how certain things just fall into place! The chain of circumstances that brought me to this place..at this moment..if, I didn't switch busses, or if I didn't just go with the flow and decide to stay at DMS guesthouse..I would never have had this opportunity! The whole day was perfect! Seeing the Angkor temples, meeting great people, now this!

So..the next day started off with me waking up early to watch the NBA Allstar game..it was just so good to watch basketball!! I miss my beloved Raptors..and I hear that they're tearing it up!! Then it was off to the temples..It was super hot as usual, and I have tons of fun messing with the Chinese tourists! There were lots of people from Hong Kong (i deduced this because they spoke Cantonese) and lots from the Mainland as well (from the Mandarin)..All of them would look at my tattoos..then look at me..bewildered...why does that Thai/Cambodian guy have chinese letters on his arm??? Some of them would read my tattoo out loud..to maybe get a reaction out of me..sometimes..I would smile, or nod..then they would see my Canadian flag on my backpack..further confusing them..enjoying this..I would go up to some of them, and ask in english.."excuse me, can you take a picture for me"..some of the looks were precious!! They had no idea what I was..Then I would checkmate the Hong Kong people by speaking to them in perfect Cantonese! Then they would piece the puzzle together..oh..this guy is chinese..and he lives in Canada!..so he's not Cambodian, or Thai, or Filipino! After the temples, back to the guesthouse for another warm shower..then..it was off to SCHOOL! I can't really describe the feeling of when we first pulled into the school! The sight of the children sitting in their desks, very polite and disciplined! These children are here of their own volition. They start Savong school at 6am..then they go to regular school..then afterwards, back to Savong school! Just the thought of their eagerness to learn, and seeing them there warmed my heart. I was introduced to the first class and greeted with a barrage of questions which I happily answered! The current teacher asked if I would like to teach..but I was not exactly confident in my teaching abilities..so for the first hour..I just had conversations with the students, going back and for with questions and answers to give them some practice and help them with their pronunciation. Then the kids went on a break. A second class would then start..most of the same children, but a few had come over from the Japanese course and sat in. This time I was not given the option..the teacher just gave me one of their texts and asked me to teach away!! LOL! I was SO nervous!! 2 hours later, after lots of stuttering (from me!), nervous giggles and sweat..I made it through the class! I think I did OK. I got flusttered at one point though when I had to explain the word HARD. It was quite....hard! The text was using it in the context of being DIFFICULT, but then I opened my mouth and said.."yeah, hard also is the opposite of soft"..then I though..what about when somebody says "he studied HARD"..crap! Why did I open that can of worms..I don't know if I actually helped the kids or confused them further!!! lol. But all in all I think the kids enjoyed the class..and so did I! I stuck around for a few more hours..talked to some more kids, watched them play volleyball..and that was it! I must say..THIS has been the highlight of my trip so far! I know speaking english to some kids for a few hours is nothing huge..but for me to be able to take part in such a great project (little part as it may be) means a lot! Its hard to relay the feeling of seeing the smiling children, and just engaging them in conversation and experiencing their eagerness to better themselves! If only my time in Cambodia was for a longer period! On that note..if anybody intends on going to Cambodia..let me know..I have all the information for DMS Guesthouse and for Mr. Savong..It will be a great experience! Trust me! So that was it..my time in Cambodia..an unexpected gift to me!! The next day I would be going back to Bangkok...

There is ONE more part of the story you may find interesting though...and that is the actual trip back to Bangkok! The story of me, my 3 Japanese friends..and THE DEATHCAB!!!!!!! I thought it would be another 6 hours bus ride to the border..but to my surprise..due to the lack of people who booked through the agency..we were given a private, air conditioned cab! A camry of course. Sweet!! So, I'm sitting in the back with these nice Japanese girls, another Japanese man in front, then my door opens and a guide squishes in! It was super uncomfortable! Why did this guy have to get in!! But that would soon be the least of my worries! Why? Because this particular cab ride was the scariest ride of my life!!!! I'm being honest here!! I gave us a 50/50 chance of making it to the border alive!!!! At first I noticed my cab driver was very aggressive! His hand was pretty much glued to his horn. (In this part of the world..I've found that when people drive..they honk as more of a courtesy..to let you know "hey..I'm coming through") he was just whizzing by everybody. But I thought.."ok..he'll get us to the border a little quicker"..then the paved road ended..but instead of the speed decreasing..it INCREASED! Did i mention the dirt roads! with rocks and ditches!! and the people on bikes! and stray cows wandering around!! A few times..I felt as if I was Kevin Bacon from footloose playing chicken with someone on a tractor! OMG! I'm going to die..is a serious thought that crossed my mind a few times..Everytime I would turn to my left and look at the Japanese girls..they would be nervously holding each others hands..then look to me..and giggle nervously!! The nervous giggle that says "HOLY CRAP!" The Japanese man in the front on a few occasions..very sternly said in his best english, and hand gestures "OK OK!! SLOW DOWN"..the driver would slow for a few moments..then right back to his speed demon ways!! At times I would look out the windshield and see NOTHING but clouds of dust! And yet this guy was still blazing down the road..I looked at the guide..but he had a look of indifferance on his face...just another day at the office..in a deathcab..with a bunch of scardy cat tourists...3 hours later..we made it to the border!! When we got out...we gave each other a group hug!..we were now survivors of a super-traumatic experience! Bonded for life! lol...but seriously..I've never been so scared for my life. So thats it! My super long blog about Cambodia..The bus ride back to Bangkok was SUPER long..stuck in traffic for a good 2 hours when back in the Big city! But I did check out of the Siam Oriental..and have found lodgings and at the Four Sons..Not the Four Seasons...THE FOUR SONS..but its much better than the Siam. Brigham arrives tomorrow..woo hoo! So thats it for now..if I haven't bored you to death, and you're still reading..THANKS FOR READING...don't forget to look at the pictures! I will include the link..below! hahaha


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Comments

tdubois-hammond
tdubois-hammond on

Sounds Awesome
Glad to hear it's going well. That's some serious celestine prophesy stuff. Well Brig just called home saying you guys were having a beer. Enjoy the beaches and stay safe.

tracykins
tracykins on

Wowee!
Hey you..awesome adventure in Cambodia..Angkor is a pretty special place, eh?! For the record, I think your blogs are even longer then mine were! But I love reading them..enjoy the rest of your trip!!

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