Archive for the ‘The other side of Southeast Asia’ Category

The transition from Bali has been pretty rough. I arrived in Bangkok after 10pm, and got a bit lost before finding the guesthouse the guide book described as charming. Traveller hint, charming is code word for decrepit! Shared bathroom, the floor was wet from the shower (no separate tub, the shower is like an RV and gets everything wet), and no toilet paper. The 8 x 10 room was hot, dark, and there wasn’t even a top sheet! The next morning, I set off to find a new hotel and after going to 8 places that were full, I found a room with a private shower but it wasn’t available until later that morning. So I took a ferry, then the skytrain to a posh mall and watched a movie (New Moon, I needed something familiar). Hours later, I returned to the new hotel to check in and they told me it wouldn’t be ready for two more hours. They let me lie down on the couch because I was so exhausted and I turned my head and cried. What was I doing at this $10 night hotel and did the next six weeks include other horrid experiences like this (sorry, the question marks and punctuation are challenging to make work on a Khmer keyboard). Homesickness was hitting me hard!

The next day, I arrived in Pnomh Penh, Cambodia and decided not to be cheap and went to a hotel that was $27. When they showed me the room, I think I cried a little, but this time with happiness from a flat screen TV and separate shower. I was disturbed when I read the rules posted inside the room, since the first one was no sex with children allowed in rooms. At night, I coud see evidence of the sex industry on the streets. The next day, I went on a 25 kilometer bike tour that was billed as easy. Yes, it was flat the whole way, but very little paved roads so quite a bumpy experience! We took a ferry, and then cycled past Muslim slums. And then passed the Vietnamese shantytown with the streets lined with small homes along the river on stilts with corrugated tin roofs. We went to the zoo that had fallen into disrepair and they only have one lonely snake. As we walked along, the tour guide pointed out the palm trees, and then proceeded to tell me the Khmer Rouge used the jagged edges of the fronds to kill people during the war. There is so much sadness, poverty and despair in Southeast Asia. My heart breaks a little bit every day. But then there is also so much hope for the future. The tour guide told me his younger sister is the first person in his family to graduate from University, and he hopes to attend next year as well.

Yesterday, I arrived in Siem Riep, home of Angkor Wat and the renown temples. It is a lovely city, and feels quite safe and comfortable. I went to Angkor Wat last night during sunset, and it just takes your breath away. In a few days, I fly to Vientiene, Laos. Decided to splurge and spend the money since it’s a 30 hour bus ride from Siem Riep.

I know this isn’t the usual upbeat e-mail full of wonder and awe, but it is the real other side of life in this part of the globe. And it motivates me to want to continue to change the world. Attached are a few photos fromĀ paintings on the wall and ceiling in a temple in Pnomh Penh; and the South Gate to Angkor Wat.

Glorious painted ceiling and walls in a Buddhist Temple outside Pnomh Penh, Cambodia.
South gate entrance to Angkor Wat in Siem Riep, Cambodia.

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