Monday, April 30, 2007

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Tonight I visited with my work pal Bob Cordell, his wife Jill, his mother in law and their eight day old baby, Zoe. Eight days. The baby weighs something like 7 pounds 3 ounces. That's less than my cat. The other funny thing I learned is that Rod, a guy both Bob and I have worked for, just got a dog and decided to call it Zoe. I want to make some "great minds" comment but won't give Bob or Rod the satisfaction.
This is the perhaps the funniest thing I've read today. Heck, the funniest thing this week. Hmmm. Does such a woman exist? Will Todd find her?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Story of Jamie and Teri's Adventure is Below.

The trip was more special than it might seem from this blog. Reading it over, it all sounds a little pithy. I guess it's because the random things like playing Tic Tac Toe help us remember our trip. It also might sound like the trip was a bit of a disaster. Not at all. It's just that things that go wrong are so much funnier than the things that go right.

It's kind of a joint Teri and Jamie journal. Teri took the pics, Jamie did the writing. We both enjoy putting it together. Here's hoping you'll enjoy reading it.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Post Trip Analysis/Lists

Things I can't wait to do when I'm back in the USA:

Especially my feet. That might take a few tries. I have flip flop marks on my feet. The bottoms are black. And shave. My legs were too ripped up from the trek to bother. UPDATE: I just got a mani/pedi. My feet are restored to their former glory. Sort of.

-Have skim milk.
And Grape Nuts. If there was cereal for breakfast anywhere, it was stale Corn Flakes. I generally have the same thing for breakfast everyday. Grape Nuts and skim milk. Next time, I'm gonna bring Grape Nuts. See List: Next Time.

-Speak lots and lots of English. With people I've know for more than five minutes.

-Use my cell phone
Apparently my phone was taken off the network or something when I was gone so any messages that were left during that time and I haven't gotten and after about an hour on the phone with Sprint, it looks like I won't get them. Ever.
UPDATE: My cell phone works. But all the data was cleared from my Treo. How many more days with Sprint on this contract?

-Pet Paris.
UPDATE: There is a lot of Paris to pet. My cat got fat when I was on vacation. I'm gonna let a mouse free in my apartment to get the girl moving a bit more.

-Lift Weights. Weigh myself. Update: I lost weight on this trip :) And muscle :(
UPDATE: Just had my first session back at the gym. Ughghghgh. Heavy.

-Drink ice cold fresh water.
UPDATE: I love water!

-Drive my stick shift car. Wash my stick shift car. Two weeks sitting in NC it's probably green with pollen.
UPDATE: A cell phone chatting, BMW driving Duke undergrad backed into my car in the BP parking lot. My brand new 10 month old baby Jetta is banged up. Reconstructive surgery to take place in early May.

Next Time/Lessons Learned

-Currency. Have lots of it. And then some.

-At the very least, learn now to say "Hello" and "Thank You" in every language you will be encountering.

-Have a Visa and a Mastercard. And don't bother with American Express.

-Pack More. I'm probably the only person who can say this. I packed light, too light. Even the customs lady was like "Um, how long were you gone for?" Note in the pictures that EVERY DAY I am wearing the same shorts/pants.

-Aspirin. And something stronger than Benadryl for sleeping. Like Ambien.

-Bring at least one nice outfit.

-Bring a t-shirt with your college name, hometown, or something. Seriously, it's a great way to get someone to start a conversation with you. In Patong, I noticed someone wearing a TarHeels hat. I was like "Woohoo, NC."

-Drink more water.

-If possible, give more than two weeks to plan.

-Travel with Carleton profs and alumni.

-Easy on the Pringles.

Things I totally did right and will totally do again

-Quick dry clothes.

-Clothes with pockets that zipper. Even if the full pockets make you look funny in pictures.

-Buy books knowing that you'll leave them. Buy more and leave them for other travelers.

-Use a really good camera. In fact, after this trip I've decided to buy a DSLR.

-Do sit ups everyday.

-Bring things you're OK throwing away if they get too nasty wet and smelly.

-Plastic bags. Big ones. Small ones. Medium Sized.

-Keep a blog. A helluva lot easier than sending postcards and e-mails that all say the same thing.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Day Thirteen (Thursday April 19th)

Hope it's nothing like Friday the 13th.

I leave Cambodia and feel really happy about this portion of the trip. I saw amazing things and learned a lot about them. I know that my college does alumni adventures where you travel with profs and other grads and I think that might be a good way to travel next time.

I also spent the time alone and did just fine with it once I got into the groove. Cheesy though it may sound, being so far away, by myself, around the temples provided me with a good opportunity to reflect and I have some clarity on things that have been rolling around in my head. BUT, some things I thought I was clear on are suddenly less clear. That's just gonna happen I guess. I wasn't expecting any Eureka "This is the meaning of life" thoughts but there were things on my mind before I left that I wanted to resolve in my head. Some things are resolved, others are not. So there you have it.

I arrive back at BKK. I am getting intimately familiar with this airport. One thing I've learned is that the architects were also marketers. In order to get anywhere you have to pass through very nicely staged alluring shops. They have a Tods shop in the airport. Coach. D&G. High end anything, you name it, you can buy it here.

Today is my day in Bangkok. I was supposed to have already been to Bangkok twice with my sister but sleep won out both times and I'm gonna feel like an idiot if I don't see Bangkok when I'm here.

I find a $4.00 bus into the city. Teri took a cab in when she was here and it was expensive.

Ok, I'm sorry. But, to say that Bangkok airport is in Bangkok is like saying Westchester Airport is in New York City. In other words, it's a very long bus ride.

Bangkok feels a lot like New York. Busy, a little dirty, and kind of icky in the heat. New York has been on my mind lately and I remember living there and my love/hate relationship with that city. I wonder if Bangkok has a Brooklyn equivalent.

I imagine being a tourist in New York. What would I make of the city at a visitor? I probably would get lost and confused and overwhelmed in a minute. Good thing I lived there.

I have lunch at "Cabbages and Condoms." Instead of mints with the bill, I get condoms. I imagine putting them in my bag and forgetting that they're there and then being like "Errrr, they're souvenirs!" A likely story, right?

I wander around Bangkok a little longer. I know there is much to explore but somehow the crowds and the heat and the lateness in the day eats away at my motivation to explore it properly. The city hasn't exactly gotten rave reviews from folks I've asked about it so I don't feel too badly when I "call it a day" having left many of the "must sees" unchecked.

Will I be back to Bangkok again? I think so. I've always wanted to visit Vietnam and I would likely do that through Bangkok. I can also see myself returning to Laos just to shop when I have a house to furnish. It's funny the pressure a traveler can feel to do things when in a certain part of the country just because you're there - regardless of the interest or energy you might have to do those activities.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Day Twelve (Wednesday, April 18th)

Have you ever heard someone say "Oh, it was so hot, it was like 100 degrees." How often do you think it was actually 100 degrees when they said that? Rarely, I wager. Today, however, it was that hot. It was 100 degrees. It felt like a bazillion degrees. I have really never felt heat as oppressive as I felt today. I glistened all day long and every ounce of fluid in my body was sweat out into my clothes, which will require multiple launderings upon my return.

Getting through another NC summer is going to be a breeze. And suddenly, I'm remembering those Minnesota winters and trying to decide which type of temperature extremes I prefer.

I wake up at 4:30am. I'll be meeting my guide at 8:00am. When I made the reservation, that seeemed earlier. Now, it seems like light years away. Tired, but awake, I turn on for more coverage of the VT shootings.

I meet Dara my guide for the day. Reader, meet Dara:

Dara has so much history and information to share about the temples but I find one of his stories most interesting. His own.

He's been a guide since the mid-nineties. As have many of his sisters. They speak many languages between the five of them. During the tour, we actually meet his Russian speaking sister.

His sister, Ponheary Ly, is the lead sibling in touring. In fact, there's The Ponheary Ly Foundation

The Foundation donates money for children to go to school. Sadly, many of the children are not in school. Rather, they beg from tourists who visit the temples. For one child to go to school for one year - it's $12.00. And that's too much for most families.

I've always known that I'm lucky to have grown up in a family with resources, and in a town with good schools. Traveling reminds me how lucky I am to have been born in this country. For all of America's problems, it does take decent care of the people.

Dara tells me about learning English from a textbook with a friend. He sought out teachers, and put all of his money into learning. When he was in the military he paid as much as he could afford to prevent having to be on the frontline. That decision likely saved his life. He has three kids. During the busy season, he gives tours every single day. It's hard work. Heck, after a few hours I'm a little tired of the running around. I wish I could have written down everything he told me at the time. I took in a lot of information that day.

Dara takes me to the temples. His knowledge of the history is incredible. His English is excellent. I'm not going to recount all the history here, as that's widely available other places. One book I do recommend to learn more is Angkor By Dawn Rooney. I paged through that in preparation for my trip and have referred to it several times since the trip to remind me of something I saw or heard.

Dara, unlike Teri, insists that I'm in the pictures. No worries, Teri. Every shot with me in it I also have without me in it. I'm likely to include the pictures with me in them just to annoy Teri. You cannot photoshoot out that blue blob on the pics that is Jamie. It's not that the people who take the vacation need to be in every last shot. But, at the very least, someone looking through the pictures should have some idea whose vacation it was, anyway.

So, here are a few pics, with occasional commentary:

The grandaddy of all temples, Angkor Wat (view from the Eastern entrance).

This blue tank top is international. See this post, third pic down.

Ok, a quick break from the Jamie-o-rama.

Unfortunately, some of the ruins have been taken home by visitors. Heads seem to be a popular souvenir.

Very steep stairs. Try climbing those in 100 degrees. I did! Dara stayed on the second level. This is not something you would, or shoudl, do every day.

Another picture to illustrate what I mean by steep. These people are practically on all fours.

View from the top. Ah, a perfect moment for reflection.

Monk in the distance

Monkey. I think about the Monkey Hook.

Here's an interesting factoid. They ONLY have four leaf clovers in Cambodia.

Bayon Temple. Temple of Smiling Faces. When I asked Dara what Cambodians think of Angelina Jolie he said "We compare her smile to the smiles of the faces on the Bayon Temple.

Eskimo kisses with the temple.

Ta Prohm. Also known as the Jungle Temple. Proof that Mother Natures goes wherever she wants.

Ta Phrom is where Angelina shot Tomb Raider.

See Angelina. See Jamie.

Ok, so she's cooler than me.

And just as we were finishing up, it started to rain.

For more pics of Jamie. And oh yeah, those temples.
Click on the photo below to see the full album.
Day Twelve (4.18.07)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Day Eleven (Tuesday, April 17th)

Jamie and Teri head over to airport together. But this time, Princess is going back to Seattle and Jamie is going to Cambodia.

I walk Teri to the gate and I have to admit, I feel a bit choked up after we say goodbye. My sister and I are very close, we've spent almost every waking (and non-waking moment) together and had a great time and I'm going to miss her. I kinda cry.

I have to admit, part of me just wants to go back home today. It almost feels like the trip is over now that Teri is gone. But, I'm going to Cambodia. Teri so wanted to join me but she's gotta get back to work. I tell myself that I have to go enjoy it for Teri - so I can tell her good stories and enjoy it, since she can't. And for me. There's a part of me that's quite independent, introspective, and self sufficient. But there's another part of me (probably a bigger part) that's terrifically extroverted and the idea of just me and my thoughts for four days is a little daunting.

I have two hours to kill so I go to the Bangkok Airlines Lounge and go online. A few exchanges with, of all people, Rod Brown and I end up feeling better. He reminds me that I'm adjusting to being out of the bubble of being with Teri, that all the BS going on at home is still there and that taking this trip is one of the best things I have ever done.

I also learn that the tightness in my chest, the feeling like there's a cork in my esophagus is called "esophageal ulceration." Somehow, having a name for this, and knowing that it's a common side effect of the Malaria meds makes me feel better. I need to drink more water.

The flight is called and I take a bus out to the plane. The plane says "Bhutan Airlines" which confuses me. Did I get on the right bus? Am I going to Bhutan? I guess that Bangkok airlines has borrowed a plane from Bhutan. Oh boy. Adventure.

Land in Siem Reap and am meeted by my Tuk Tuk driver who takes me to my hotel. I quickly organize some stuff and head out to the temples. Tomorrow I have a tour with a highly recommended guide but I'm too close to this world wonder not to just run over and check it out.

It is pretty stunning. I wander and shoot. And think.

The Tuk Tuk driver also takes me to the Museum of Land Mines. There's a gift shop.

View from the Tuk Tuk

Land Mines Museum.

From the guidebooks
"If natures call and you have to "go" it's much better to just do it on the road and suffer a little embarassment rather than take your chances wandering into the bushes off the road."

Later, when the sun starts to set, I take some pictures in downtown Siem Reap. It's not quite as quaint as Luang Prabang. There's more poverty and dust.

Can't get away from it, now can I?

I find an internet cafe and realize I can make a phone call to USA for only 25 cents a minute. I call a few folks and marvel how cool it is that I'm making phone calls from Cambodia. It's nice to hear some familiar voices even if the reception is bad and there's a six second delay.

I return to my hotel, The Villa Siem Reap. It's run by an Australian Lady. Tonight is the "Big Aussie BBQ" and I think that maybe I'll meet some other tourists. I end up being the only person at the BBQ but the food is good and plentiful and I'm kinda tired anyway.

I go to my room and watch In the USA, it's the morning after the Virginia Tech shootings and I watch the coverage.

I fall asleep thinking "I am in Cambodia. How cool is that?"