What's Next

I'm not one to lament something until it's gone -- I tend to gaze forward. There's plenty of value in recognizing the value of where you _are_, but I'm at a point in my life (hello twenty-something male with ambition!) where I'm much more focused on where I _could be_. I also seem better at it. In more direct words: I don't feel very sad about this chapter ending. I look forward to the coming adventure in California.

There are plenty of good things that happened on this vacation. I have seen some amazing natural beauty, visited some stunning ancient architecture, learned how much I need to stand up for my own needs, and met the buried grace of the Khmer. I'm sure after I peruse my photos again I'll be reminded of other bits I enjoyed.

I grew a lot as a person, but not all of the trip was altogether _fun_. I realized that a good deal of my enjoyment of China was the self-affirmation I received from social success with the other western students, which was markedly absent. And that I expected some of that experience on this trip but it was notably absent. Erin and I had some bitter moments finding new balances of control in our relationship. Finally, what was on my last trip to Asia a quaint fondness for a bartering/swindling economy was now a frustration that soured many an experience. The bad and the good made a strong concoction that wore me down, and I'm generally an extremely patient and enduring person.

On the bus ride home tonight Erin began lamenting to me about how much she will miss this slice of the world. I realized that I really don't share that sentiment. I liked my trip here and all the ways I learned and grew. But there were growing pains this time out. Overall I'm pleased to move on to what's next.

Late Afternoon Jaunt

Evening Sun and Sky
Originally uploaded by inqurious
As the sun started to leave the upper regions of the sky Erin and I headed out for a late afternoon ride up in to the mountains east of Pai. As with many forays into the wild on this trip our planned destination was not the highlight. An afternoon drive up in to some hills covered in farmlands breeds some breathtaking views.

The waterfall, which was merely a set of cascades now that it's the driest point in the year, was really quite pretty.

But the scenery on the drive up and back was far and away the best part.

Mom, Dad, I found where the Summer of Love went!

Pai Streets
Originally uploaded by inqurious
Pai, a relatively remote village in the far north of Thailand, makes me think that all the aging hippies-cum-yuppies left San Francisco and moved here. As the guidebook says, it's not really a Thai village so much as an international tourist destination full of organic restaurants serving up whole wheat toast alongside wheatgrass-infused drinks next to spas and bars playing Cream or Iron Butterfly (of Inagodadavida fame).

It's precisely the sort of place that a fifty-something boomer would come to "get away from it all and re-center" alongside the 19-year-old who wants to smoke pot in a beautiful mountain town. To be clear: I'm not complaining about it at all -- the town is absolutely beautiful. The only downside is that it's the low season so almost every single bar closes down at around 9pm.

I think my parents would love it here. They once asked me if they would prefer Vietnam, Cambodia, or Thailand. I'm pretty sure the answer to that is that they'd like _northern_ Thailand the most, Especially Pai. Mornings and evenings at adorable little restaurants that run from tacos to Thai food and back again with daytimes spent cycling (or motorbiking) in the hills to all the hillside temples, waterfalls, hot springs, and elephants. Or they could go on multi-day guided treks or overnight rafting trips.

The only downside is that you could get a little bored with the town after a week or so if you need activities outside the natural beauty and a bar or two. Especially during the low season.

Elephant Play

After our first toss off
Originally uploaded by ehurson
Erin and I played in the river with an elephant today. We only went for about an hour but that was plenty! Although from the ground these great animals seem a little goofy and cute, there's really nothing too amusing about them when you're nearly twelve feet off the ground and riding bareback on a swaying beast.

One of the things that I didn't expect was just how prickly Asian elephants are. Being mammals they are covered in hair, but it's a very thin covering and each hair is only about a centimeter long and mostly inflexible. It was like there was giant stubble all over the elephant and it dug in to your legs pretty substantially, magnified by how tight you had to hold your legs to the elephant's sides to stay balanced.

Our ride essentially took us from the elephant camp to the river, about 1km away, where we played around for a while. Once we got to the river and the elephant trainer/guide asked for all our valuable possessions we realized that we wouldn't exactly be fording the river with the elephant under us but rather swimming with her.

Getting tossed around by Jasmine, as Erin decided to call her, was a pretty big barrel of laughs. We'd get on, the trainer would give the command to shake us off, after which we'd get unceremoniously tossed to the bottom of the river. And then we'd repeat the whole ordeal. I picked up on what was going on pretty quickly, but played the fool and kept getting back on because it was just so darn fun! It was definitely worth doing, just not for too long.

Homeward Bound, But not Yet

Erin and I have precisely one week before we land back in California, and it's starting to affect our mindsets. Thoughts of setting up an apartment, finding a car, exploring the parks, grocery shopping, and cooking our own food are dangerously close to distracting us from our last week spent in the relatively remote mountainous region of Northen Thailand.

We've just arrived in Pai, which has become something of a artist/hippy traveler's mini-mecca. Everywhere you look you can find cozy bungalows, bars, or art/trinket shops. The surrounds are very pretty with steep mountain ranges within a few kiliometers in every direction and a quiet river running through town. One can easily see how artists like to come here and "re-center", or something -- the landscape alone can easily give you a sense of removal from the burdens and obligations of whatever life you came from. I just hope Erin and I won't be too distracted by where we're going to while we're here.

Erin and the Banana Waffle

Erin and a Banana Waffle
Originally uploaded by inqurious
Near the summit of Doi Suthep was a temple up a long, steep flight of stairs. After hiking up the stairs, seeing the temple surrounds, and enjoying the great views of the surrounding countryside we headed back down to the road and village.

Along the way Erin had the presence of vision to notice a sign saying "banana in a waffle on a stick". This photo, dear reader, is the end result of that sighting.

Offroad Shopping

Slowed to a Tickle
Originally uploaded by inqurious
The plan for the day was to rent a motorbike and head off to Doi Suthep national park, centered on a mountain just outside of Chiang Mai. Once we had the motorbike it seemed like a good idea to go get breakfast at the Tea House Erin wanted to try out since it was a long walk but a negligble drive. Nothing wrong with a nice breakfast before hitting the mountains.

Along the drive, Erin spotted a gold jewelry shop. As she's been keenly trying to find a charm from this trip to put on her gold hoop necklace we decided to make a stop there after our breakfast.

Once we arrived at the tea house, Erin noticed something else: The tea house sold some really nice dishware. Ten minutes and about twelve plates and tiny bowls later saw us making a run back to the guesthouse to drop off her (Erin assures me using this direct pronoun is correct) newfound loot, after which we stopped by the gold shop we saw earlier.

It only took about one minute in the gold shop to realize that something charming wasn't going to be found there. It was very obviously a Chinese owned festival of gawdyness. Erin wouldn't leave the day without a charm, however, for we were unaware that the shopping hadn't ended yet.

After driving up to the top of the mountain we found a tiny little village near the summit temple with... wait for it... a jade factory, complete with a large shop. After watching the informative five-minute video about jade and a short tour to see them cutting the jade, Erin finally found a charm! A cute little jade elephant that will sit around her neck once we get back to the states.

After getting food at the temple, it was about 4pm and we then went to check out part of the national park. The late afternoon sun was gorgeous. I can only wonder what the early morning, late morning, noon, or early afternoon sun would have been like.

Erin's not a shopaholic, she's just making sure she picks up the stuff she wanted before we head back to the states. It was kinda funny how a day planned for a trip to the national park ended up being a day mostly spent shopping, tea-housing, and driving.

Afternoon Waterfalls and Cascades

Afternoon Pool
Originally uploaded by inqurious
After ziplining through the canopy for a few hours our group headed to a series of waterfalls that extended up for at least 2k. I'm not sure how far up they went, just that after an hour of going up the steep paths around them we had to turn around for time.

The waterfalls were extremely pretty, especially once the afternoon sun started playing through the banana leaves.


Erin Likes Ziplines
Originally uploaded by inqurious
We spent this morning going along ziplines in the high Thai rainforest. We had a good group of about 10 that made for some really good conversation while waiting on the platforms up the trees.

It was quite exhilirating the whole way through and our two guides were both really fun to be around. For any of you who care about our safety and wellbeing, worry not: We were always clipped in to something.

Little good it did for my stomach when descending down 100 feet facing down. Being unable to see your restraint makes it a good source of adrenaline.

The Zoo. Sweet.

Erin and I got up this morning and planned to go back to the national park around the nearby mountain for most of the day. There are supposed to be many waterfalls, temples, views, and hiking trails. We decided to also check out the zoo for a couple of hours since it was on the way and seemed promising when we saw it on the way to the waterfall the previous evening. We showed up to the zoo, started exploring, and never made it to the national park. It was just that good.

We saw the most adorable koalas. They were hanging out on branches (a baby koala too!) and munching on Eucaliptus. Absolutely take-them-home adorable. There was exhibit after exhibit, all built in to the side of the mountain the zoo was on. You could see they were rapidly expanding in almost every area. The zoo was especially fascinating for Erin and I since all the animals were from around Asia and Australia -- stuff we had only read about in books.

One of the major attractions was an aircraft-carrier-sized open aviary. A cage roughly 200' high, 500' wide, and half a mile long was packed full of birds, paths, streams, and jungle. Recall that this was an open aviary -- nothing between us and the birds but trees. We even saw a little cockatiel-like bird using the man-made stairs instead of flying. Species interchange all around.

Far and away the most interesting of all the exhibits were the big cats, and not because of my partiality to the feline genus. As far as raw collection goes it was pretty great: white lions, white bengal tigers, leopards, and jaguars (check my flickr for photos!). The show-stealer, however, were the leopards and jaguars. Firstly, for around $0.80 you could feed them with a piece of meat on a loooong metal pike. Just like my kittens in childhood these majestic beasts would leap up to great heights to grab pieces of food. It was amazing! But that's not the real kicker... meat is apparently an aphrodisiac for jaguars.

After getting food, the two jaguars went to one of the corners of their cage near the watchers and went at it. Lovers, not fighters. Watch the video.

Mountains and Waterfalls

I want to go Swimming
Originally uploaded by inqurious
The first thing Erin and I did after walking around our guest house in Chiang Mai was rent a motorbike. I decided to drive to the nearby mountain and see what happened. A national park happened. After 20 minutes or so on the bike the road turned from flat and straight in to steep and winding up the side of a mountain. There was lush foliage all around us the whole way up.

It was getting a little dark (6pm or so) so we turned off when we saw signs for a waterfall instead of continuing all the way to the summit. After a little trip down a side road we came upon a long series of cascades and waterfalls. I was in my element again -- the natural sights. There were paths going up the waterfalls that Erin and I hiked for a little bit, but it was getting dark and we headed home. It's really, really beautiful here.

Chiang Mai is Wonderful

Playing with Pidgeons
Originally uploaded by inqurious
We arrived in Chiang Mai, the center of the mountainous northern region of Thailand, and found it a much calmer and charming place than expected. The city is full of little lanes and pretty houses. There was a law passed that restricted the height of the buildings within a certain proximity to the old city center (surrounded by a moat), and it keeps the place feeling like a nice mountain town.

As with a lot of Thailand now, the low season is here for tourism so we mostly see empty bars and guesthouses wherever we go. It almost makes one feel a little sad. But I came from a seasonal resort town, and I can understand the boom-and-bust feel of this kind of economy.

We also met some genuinely friendly and chatty locals yesterday evening. We went out to the night market and tried some local wines (really interesting stuff -- I'm bringing back some ginseng wine). The woman running the shop sat down and chatted with us as we had our glasses. Pretty soon her sister came over and we were chatting about where in Chiang Mai we had made it to, showing photos we had taken, and getting recommendations. They were a wonderful couple of women, and not a scam in sight.

Chiang Mai is far more interesting than Bangkok so far, and it's not until tomorrow that the fun is supposed to start when we go zip-lining through the jungle and then whitewater rafting the day after.

Friendly, Smiling Scammers

If you read about the dangers and annoyances of Bangkok in guidebooks then you'll inevitably hear about the scammers. They see naive travelers looking at maps trying to figure out where to go. They will approach in a friendly manner and will inform you that your destination is closed today (but other options exist!). And then they propose a new trip that happens to take you to this other location: A gem shop, a high-stakes card game, an antique parlor, a tailor. The end game is to get the tourist to one of these locations where they will either be completely lied to or pressured incredibly to purchase something.

With that in mind and how precisely it matched my suit-buying experience back on May 2nd I wish we had our current guidebook back then. I probably paid $500 for a $300 suit. What amazes me now as I look back on the entire scam was how freakishly well executed it was. The first English-speaking Thai that approached us was very helpful and friendly without a hint of sleaze, saying that the tailor was the Thai national factory and that it was only open one week per year and today was the last day. We'd just stop in to get the taxi driver a gas coupon. Didn't have to buy anything.

Some warning bells went off, but at one of the temples during the day another random Thai (that we had never seen) came over to us and struck up a conversation. Said he knew about the National Tailor and bought suits there himself. So when I purchased the suit and thought about whether it was a scam I had outside affirmation, or so I thought. I have the money (still do) to afford the mistake once, and it is pretty damn funny now that I look back at it.

And now that we're back in Bangkok as world-wary travelers I see bald-faced greedy scams at least once an hour. We flagged down a taxi at one point and asked how much to go to a very common destination but he wouldn't take us unless we stopped by a tailor for 5 minutes. We tried to get taxis three times from outside major sights and were quoted prices about six times a reasonable amount.

As I was getting quite fed up with this sleazy greed (Erin too) we were approached by a well-dressed man telling us that our destination was closed. He insisted. I said in a rather forceful tone: "I bet your friend sells gems. No? A tailor then?". He quickly said "It's open today, it's open!", wanting to be rid of us. The feeling was mutual.

While you read quite a lot about how kind and polite the Thais are, you get a really sour impression when that politeness means they don't approach you (which is seen as impolite). Most of your interactions with locals outside of restaurants are with sleazy scammers. It doesn't help with impressions.

Stayin' Alive!

Stayin' Alive!
Originally uploaded by inqurious
The past few days have been very taxing. Pushing through arguments where armies of minute assumptions had amassed making fine details build up to a volcano. Really, really important stuff has been worked out, and will continue to be worked on. For awesome. Such effort is expended, however. It's worth it but hoowee are we tired. We had just the energy for a few hours of sightseeing today.

The grand palace and temples of Bangkok are what would have happened if Emeril Lagasse went back to the 1700s and 1800s with a football stadium of spice, yelled "BAM!" a few thousand times, and took the intensity of everything up a few thousand notches. There are no grand spaces. Every temple is gilded to the hilt, often literally and they can be found no more than 15 feet from each other. Walls ambush you with bright reds and shiny gold leaf. Statues await you around every corner and on every balustrade. It's really quite overwhelming in a wonderful way. It makes you focus on the statuary more than the overall composition of the temples (was there any?) because then the images are digestible.

Both Erin and I have dozens of new photos, be sure to check them out using the links to our flickr accounts on the right.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Originally uploaded by runnurdoc
Not very long ago on June 17th my mother was born. Thank god!

If not, she would never had decided to travel to the states and meet my father. She never would have had two kids that grew up to be wonderfully close friends and confidants. She never would have instilled in us the rigorous (British?) approach to life with a dash of motherly softness. I never would have learned to cook. I never would have developed a taste for tea and marmalade toast.

I love you mom. Happy Birthday!

-Your Son

Little Touches

Erin Loves Steamed Rice
Originally uploaded by inqurious
When a restaurant calls itself a "lovetaurant" one initially grimaces. Then you go inside and see the nice ambiance. You see the steamed rice served in the shape of a carebear. You see the total on the check written in pink and circled in a heart.

It was a very affectionate place. And the food was fantastic to boot.

Flight of the Gibbon

After turning this trip around 720 degrees (I want to stop it. I want to do it. I want to end it. Ok I want to do it kind of). We've decided to take a couple more weeks in the mountain rainforests of Thailand and then come home a little early and explore and adventure around CA.

Imagine ziplining in a rainforest canopy. Whitewater rafting. sweeeeeet

Western Food nom nom nom nom

Ben pounds a double Big Mac.
Originally uploaded by ehurson
Sometimes Double Big Macs really, really hit the spot.

Highrises, High Spirits

Sky Dome
Originally uploaded by inqurious
Where Erin and I have been spending the past two days, the sort-of Times Square of Bangkok, has given me a refreshing dose of hum. I love being plugged in to the connected world out there -- the shared culture of unpoor youth. The towers, skyways, malls, shops, and buzz of the developed world is my home. It's good to refresh and relax before going back out in to the countryside!

Primal Yawp

He's making a run for it!
Originally uploaded by ehurson
My mom read my previous post about not getting much adventure and said quite clearly that I should just go running on the beach. I'm not much one for running on its own but yesterday evening off I went. I'm not sure quite how far it was but I was out for 40 minutes at a pretty good pace. It wasn't all that fun (running is still kinda boring to me, even on a pretty beach) but it felt great to get out and go.

The basic idea that I need periodic wild excursions is empirically proven by my own experiences time and again. On this trip Erin and I have literally been doing everything together until here in Sihanoukville. My little excursion yesterday made me feel much more alive, and all I did was run off on some sand. Today was a little more to form.

We rented a motorbike and shot down some nearly abandoned roads (the low tourist season here is really, really low) to Cantina del Mar, which apparently serves up some good Mexican food. Well, they defintely serve up some fresh fish and shrimp tacos on warm, homemade corn tacos, but that wasn't the hilight of our jaunt down to the empty beaches.

For me the hilight was an exhilirating dip in to the turbulent storm waters of the ocean. 'Turbulent' here just means the waves got up to only about 4 feet at most but it was a rush to body surf on them anyway. And it was completely pouring the whole way through.

Erin read on the papazon chairs at the restaurant. I think we both chose the right activity for ourselves.

motobikes are fun!

We've rented a motobike to scoot around the town and visit the various beaches today as Sihanoukville is pretty spread out. So far we're pretty darn sure that we have one of the best locations on the best beach. Not so bad.

One of the other beaches had something unkind in store for Erin. After standing a couple of minutes on some grass near the sand some rather large, red ants dug their pincers in to both her sandals and her feet. After some shrieking and some violently quick removal of shoes and ants we decided to get the hell out of there and go to another beach. It was mostly walled off by a private resort, but one end wasn't and it was almost deserted save for three other people. It wasn't that pretty, though.

We left pretty quick to go back to the center of town (not near any beach, just sorta in the middle of them all) and get lunch at another NGO. Without fail the NGO's have served some of the best food throughout Cambodia.

Happily Out of Balance

Erin's younger sister and boyfriend are off traveling for the summer as well, but mostly rock climbing for the entire time. What Erin described yesterday as exercise for us was described as a rest day for them: Snorkeling.

Taken in relative context I don't think Erin's description of exercise is that far off. We've mostly stuck to restaurants, motorbikes, and internet cafes in between sightseeing. It's not been boring, certainly, but I have noticed a slight migration of body mass from my legs and arms to my midsection. I'm not talking about building a six-pack, either.

I'm not complaining, you see, just thinking. Anyone who's met me should have a very clear idea of how much I like adventuring; physical adventuring. The trip we've been on so far has been full of great stuff (really great stuff), but I can't get out of my head how much fun it would have been to make our 3 days of light walking in the Vietnamese mountains into 3 days of serious hiking and camping.

That's not our trip, though. When traveling with another person, you have to plan for aggregate happiness. Days of strenuous hiking would almost definitely make Erin miserable. If not the insane pace and trails that I like to pick, the food would turn her off for good. Freeze dried food saves on pack space and weight.

I'll continue to enjoy my trip as it appeals to specific things in my likes and dislikes, but when I get back to CA I will be out of balance. My desire for exotic food and pretty sights will be quite a bit saturated. I will most likely be wanting for computers, trekking, and the company of other geeks.


Of course the one day that I don't sunscreen fastidiously is the one that we go snorkeling for hours and hours. By the time I realize I'm being cooked in the sun it's a little late. I applied gobs of sunblock, but little good it does when you're a little damp from swimming and you're about to go diving in again.

I really dislike the feeling of really intense sun on your shoulders, when you can feel yourself getting burned. It's not as bad as the current sensation, which is a mixture of hot burning and maddening itch on my entire upper body. I've probably applied about an inch thick coating of after-sun balm already and I plan on finishing off the bottle with Erin in the near future.


I found that I'm having a hard time wanting to do anything but chill out on the beach. The sun is nice, the breeze is nice, the food is right on the water, and the water itself is criminally comforting. I haven't strayed more than a couple hundred meters from the beach yet, and that's only been two evening excursions. I'd guess that my average distance from the water for the past day and a half has been at most 60 feet.

See, there's a wonderful lethargy that overcomes you at a picturesque tropical beach with high humidity. I didn't really do anything today, and it felt wonderful. I woke up around 9:15am and ate a slow breakfast until about 10. After that Erin and I languidly wandered in the water until just before noon when she went in to town. All I did was check email and read news online (at the beach), read my book in a hammock until 1pm, eat lunch, and then nap in the afternoon until 4pm.

Erin had returned for the nap, and then we went for a sunset walk. The sunsets here are fan-freaking-tastic. The whole sky rips open with bright red, pinks, and oranges in the warm dusk. I'll be sure to capture some photos of it in the near future.

It's super-corny, and clearly the kind of stuff my industrial self back in wintry Cambridge would have scoffed at, but here on the beach Life is Good.

Serendipity and Bungalows

Erin and I got out of Kampot this morning and were swiftly rewarded with one of Cambodia's most lovely spots, Sihanoukville. We're staying at a lovely little bungalow that is 30m up a hillside overlooking a 2-mile stretch of white sand, beach chairs, and thatched roof restaurants. It's called Serendipity beach, and it's no misnomer.

The picture on the right is literally our little set of bungalows. Being a little higher up like that gives us a lovely ocean breeze. Erin and I just lay in the bed with the windows and porch door open for about 4 hours and dozed in and out of conciousness. Life's not so bad.

It's worth noting that as I type this from the internet cafe I can look up and see the early-evening calm surf slowly lap up on the beach sands. The water is no more than 40 feet away.

There are loads of good restaurants to try while we're here. I can't wait to dive in to the slow, relaxed week or so ahead of us.

Riding through the countryside

Riding through the countryside
Originally uploaded by ehurson
Despite the fury of the last post, the past two days on motorbikes has been fantastic. The Cambodian countryside is so beautiful! Cows, dogs, cats, roosters, and chickens meander along the rice fields and villages. Almost every house contained a few eager children that ran out, waved, and shouted "Hello!" from a beaming face. I even got a couple of high-fives from young kids as we drove past!

Along the way we asked our drivers questions about what we saw, they would point things out to us, and we'd just sit back and enjoy the countryside. We saw so many different things:

A crocodile farm where we saw some really big suckers. Erin's photo page has a good picture of me looking down on them.

Thin rice paste being made in to spring roll wrappers drying in the sun.

Mango paste being dried for fruit leather. We bought a kilo for $5, which was probably overpaying (they asked for $4). The stuff is so incredibly tasty and the extra $1 goes so far here... the happiness on their faces was easily worth far more. Check Erin's photos for a picture of the old lady picking out our mango leather for us.

We stopped at an old Angkorian temple that was next to a new Buddhist temple. We hung out here for the afternoon rains. And we saw a gaggle of kids sliding down some mud in to a river because of the rain.

That was in a few hours yesterday afternoon. Now for today!

Today we started off going to a mountain with a few temples on top and full of caves. These caves were used to dump bodies by the Khmer Rouge. The view from the top was wonderful, but the caves and the monuments to the dead full of skulls and bones in the dark was really, really grisly.

We then headed off to see another hill temple. It looked like a miniature Angkor Wat, and it came complete with two little girls that fanned us in the heat and then asked for money at the end. We gave them both some, and then they asked for more. Not so tactful, little girls.

After that we headed to a fruit farm to see how the local oranges, grapefruits, bananas, and pineapples are grown. And there was a wedding going on at the farm! It felt a little awkward but they assured us it was fine.

Following that we headed off to the Bamboo Train, where the locals have co-opted the train tracks using a contraption that's essentially a small, flat wooden cart powered by a lawnmower. Check Erin's photos for a shot of us on that.

The past two days around Battambang have been some of the most memorable by far. I'm really glad we decided to take this detour on the way back to Phnom Penh.

Cooking Class!

Amok... I made it myself!
Originally uploaded by ehurson
Arriving in Battambang... second biggest city in Cambodia, but very little to do in the city.

We took a solid cooking class where we learned to make some very tasty dishes and met a couple of travelers from England and Holland. Outside of checking out the market (where we bought more lovely cloth) that's about all there is to do for a tourist in the city.

The cooking class itself was really interesting. I ate a cockroach after expressing interest in what they tasted like to the chef teaching us. He promptly went and fetched one for me. They don't really taste like anything, to be honest, just the charcoal they were grilled over. As the chef said, if you starve an entire nation for 5 years like the Khmer Rouge did then you turn them all in to omnivores. After all, if you can either eat cockroaches or die you've got a pretty easy decision to make.

Good times, really tasty food, and now I know how to cook it!

Fuck You, Khmer Rouge.

Geeze, where to start? The past two days have been a whirlwind of experiences that have astounded me to no end. I'm sure that I've forgotten wonderful things that I should tell everyone about already. So, where to start? Bad news first.

Our guide book mentioned that the motobike drivers outside the hotel we stayed at often speak really good English and give great tours of the surrounding areas. Two of them gave us a free ride from the bus station to the hotel, so we signed up for an afternoon trip. Best. Idea. Ever.

I don't really know how to effectively portray their stories in flowery language. The grisly facts should speak for themselves.

Both guides spoke fantastic English. Sadly, both guides learned English in refugee camps in Thailand. Thanks, Khmer Rouge.

The first guide was about our age and he was born in the Refugee camps. His parents fled Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge were coming to power. His family came back in 1993. He'd like to go to school so he can teach English, but it costs too much right now for him to afford it.

The second guide must have been around 50, and he lived in Phnom Penh before the Khmer Rouge came to power there. His parents and his uncle were in the army the Khmer Rouge defeated and they were killed when his house was surrounded at night. His younger brother and sister were away that night and he had to tell them what happened when they came back the next day. Imagine being 16, scared shitless, and having to explain to your younger siblings that your parents and uncle were taken outside and shot.

This horror story doesn't end there as he was put to work in the fields outside Phnom Penh. His remaining family, like all the others, were split up all over Cambodia like slaves. He saw his friends die of malaria. His work unit lost 50% of it's people to starvation and random killings by the guards over three years. Fuck you, Khmer Rouge.

At one point, he said, his skin was so dry and he was so sick that he got up from his rice mat in the morning to see all the skin from his back and arm stick to the mat and peel off like a snake shedding its skin. The only reason he survived at all was that he got sick enough to be put in to a hospital (of sorts) and the doctor turned out to have grown up in the same town as his uncle and so he got slipped actual meals at night.

This story he tells us while we are walking around a monument full of hundreds of human skulls and bones. Fuck you, Khmer Rouge.

He also tells us that only half of the youth of Cambodia believe the old-timers that the Khmer Rouge existed or committed all these atrocities. History from 1975 to 1979 just isn't taught. You'd think this would be a very important lesson for all of Cambodia, of the horrors of the past and how to avoid it. But, like any severely corrupt country, all the leaders of the deposed regime still are in power.

Hun Sen, the current PM of Cambodia was a former commander in the Khmer Rouge. The former number 3 in the Khmer Rouge, who married Pol Pot's sister, is the minister of social programs. And the list goes on. Naturally these men are guilty of crimes against humanity a la Nuremburg. Naturally they remove any mention of the atrocities in all the history books and lessons. Fuck You, Khmer Rouge.

And today, on our second day out motobiking with these two guides we meet a primary school teacher of 22 years that has been studying English and wants to practice with us. We ask him what he teaches his students about what happened between 1975 and 1979. We ask many different ways to make sure he understands since his English isn't perfect. His only response "I don't know". He didn't even know what the Khmer Rouge was.

The older guide of ours was some of the most fun of any tour guides we've had. Talkative, informed (voice of america radio), and lighthearted. Like every single Khmer we've met he had a saintly calm about him considering what they've been through as a people.

Fuck You, Khmer Rouge.