Sunday, April 25, 2010


Growing up in Florida, I took the beach for granted. I didn't appreciate how lucky I was to have unrestricted access to one of natures greatest wonders. When I went to school in Boston, I soon realized how fortunate I had been and just how much I loved and needed the beach.

Since moving to Vietnam, I haven't had the opportunity to hit up the beach so my trip to Sihanoukville was much needed and much overdue. it was, in fact, the longest I'd ever been without being in the ocean or strolling on the sand.

Sihanoukville is a weird place, a bit grubby and filled with repulsive old western men with young Cambodian women. Disgusting. Camilla and I didn't stray from Serendipity Beach despite the other options around. The beach is lined with shack restaurants complete with lounge chairs in front. Camilla and I had a great routine. wake up around 10:30, go to the internet cafe, head to the beach around 11:30, have breakfast on the lounge chair and then just read and relax until about three. We also became friends with some of the local children selling bracelets and fruits and got duped into buying much too much. We'd then go home, rest up a bit and then have a nice quiet dinner, go back to the internet cafe, and then go home and watch Animal planet. I was so relieved that I found someone who wanted as low key of a time as i did. No crazy partying, no drinking, just relaxing and having a good time.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Phnom Round 2 and beyond

I take another Capitol Bus tour bus to Phnom Penh, again the only westerner, so of course everyone spends the first hour or so staring at me. I am clearly fascinating. The man next to me made conversation asking me about myself, my plans in Cambodia, where i was staying in PP so the crazy in my mind (which I blame ENTIRELY on my paranoid mother who has warned me about "freaks" for as long as I can remember) got awkward and told him lies in the event that he was planning on attacking me.

We get to phnom penh and the SAME TUK TUK DRIVER that I "promised" could give me a ride 3 days ago REMEMBERED me and started shouting "Alec!Alec!" at me. I kid you not. He convinced me to not stay at the dump guesthouse Capitol and to go to "Okay" guesthouse which was one of the better decisions I'd made in PP. It's by the river, way cuter, and filled with backpackers. the IDEAL spot to meet people.

I wandered around the city, saw the palace and the silver pagoda. also went to the National Museum. I was only planning on staying a night but this girl asked me and another guy if we wanted to go an animal sanctuary and then Camilla texted me that she was coming to PP the next afternoon and then on to S-ville so I figured I'd wait a day, go to the sanctuary and then take the bus with C.

The sanctuary was pretty cool. Monkeys running wild everywhere which my companions were excited about but I screamed a lot when they came near me because I was convinced that they could be carrying AIDS. We also stayed there for like four hours. Taking forever at each animal and I got very bored. I couldn't wait to get back to the hostel. I did and then met up with camilla. very excited! we went to the most amazing dinner place ever called Friends Cafe. It's not only delicious but is for the greater good. it takes street kids and gives them training and employment opportunities. We all know what a sucker I am for that kind of thing.

Camilla and I had a 7:45 bus to Sihanoukville so that e could get there at noon and have a half day at the beach. If only this was the case.

Getting out of town took longer than was expected, and extra 45 minutes but whatever, we'd still have good beach time. An hour later, around 9:30, the bus jams on its brakes and we feel a thud. Uh, that can't be good. I crane my neck to look and I see a cow lying on the road. yes, we hit a cow.

At this point, the westerners on our bus are like OHMYGOSH WE HIT A COW and the Cambodians haven't bat an eyelid. We're all whispering and then miraculously, the cow GETS up and runs away. Yay!

I thought that would be it, but oh no.

We then see the driver and others running towards the cow with a rope. The cow IS NOT HAVING IT and runs away. Apparently it's Cambodian law that they have to prove what the damage to the vehicle is from and he needed the cow. the windshield was pretty shattered. and if they couldn't catch the cow the driver would have to pay for the damages out of his own pocket which would be like $1000.(Camilla and I then tried to get everyone to donate a dollar or five so that we could just get on with it but people didn't seem to be into it) so we then proceeded to sit in the bus on the side of the highway for nearly three hours as the bus driver had to try and catch the cow. he ended up not being able to catch the cow but if he HAD it would've been on the bus with us. CRAZY.

We finally made it to Sihanoukville at 4pm. I was VERY ANGRY that we didn't get a good beach....

Friday, April 16, 2010

Siem Reap

I assumed that when I took buses everywhere in Cambodia that it would be a good way to meet other backpackers. That I could make friends. If this is your intention I recommend AGAINST Capitol Tours. I was the only "westerner" on the bus for every trip I took with them.

When you get off the bus in Siem reap (like everywhere else in Cambodia) you are immediately attacked by tuk tuk drivers looking to drive you to your hotel. I, someone who gets flustered when a group of men are shouting at me in a foreign language, sought out the one driver who was sitting back calmly with a pleasant smile on his face. I asked him to take me to my hotel and he then asked me if I had a driver for the temples the next day. We agreed that he'd meet me at 5am (crazy) and then I was left to my own devices.

I walked around the town, got a massage from the blind (I love supporting causes but this was kind of weird because all of my clothes were left on and there was no oil. But still, it was for a good cause. I then went to catch the sunset at the temples. I was overwhelmed at all of the people there and tried to take artsy sunset pictures like i watched Chip do so many times when we were in Laos. I was also sad that i didn't have someone with me because I wanted myself in the picture. I was convinced that I wouldn't make any friends. I accepted it.

I went back to my hotel, got dressed and then made my way to Khmer Kitchen based off of a recommendation. I decided that it was ok to be sitting alone and that I didn't mind. I ordered my food made contact with the guy at the table next to me and he then invited me to join them. I was excited and had a great conversation. The girl and I even decided to go to to watch the Ankgor wat sunrise together the next day and then explore the temples.

day 2;
of course i overslept. missing my rendez-vous with the girl but still managing to make the temple. as i sat alone on the grass i wondered how i was going to make friends. how do you just go up to strangers and be like, "hey want to be friends?" As if by fate, a pretty blond girl sat in front of me (alone) and I heard her ask the guys a little ways down how many dollars to the pound. They didn't know, but I did so I told her. This sparked a kind of friendship that lasted for 7 more days of traveling Cambodia. Camilla and I wandered around the temples on the first day, both delighted to have a friend and more importantly, someone to take all of the pictures of us that we wanted. It gets a bit old asking strangers "Do you mind...?" (Although I have become the master of the self timer. You should've seen me. I'd position the camera, set the timer, run like a maniac, pose, then run back.)We explored so many temples, were exhausted but managed to make it for a delicious dinner. C was leaving the next day but we made tentative plans to meet up again in Sihanoukville which I thought would never happen...

day 3
More temples! Alone thi time so all of my pictures were a result of the self timed run. Also my tour guide took me to a waterfall. I hiked 1 mile up a mountain in the blistering heat but figured ti would be worth it...only to find that the "waterfall" was basically dry. There was more water in my water bottle. Disappointed, i trudged back down the mountain, falling several times because i was wearing flip flops because my guide hadn't informed me in advance that I'd be hiking.
The good news is that I ran into Philip, a boy that I had met at the genocide museum in Phnom Penh and we agreed to meet up for dinner that night. We had AMAZING street food and (even more amazing) ice cream. Went our separate ways and then I set my alarm for an early departure back to Phnom Penh the next day.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

First Impressions

It's day two of my preparation/orientation at my new (very conservative) Japanese School. I have adhered to the culture to the best of my ability. Dressing formally and conservatively. it's humid and hot in Hanoi, yet I am wearing tights with my new dress (and a cardigan)

Imagine my dismay when the English coordinator ran up to me, all shy and embarrassed to inform me that THE BACK OF MY DRESS WAS TUCKED INTO MY TIGHTS. The only explanation for this is what it happened when I used the restroom two hours ago. So for TWO HOURS I had been wandering around the school inadvertently violating the modesty and unofficial dress code of this school.

And of course the teachers are too reserved to say anything.

They, have no issue looking at me and openly laughing now.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Bunny Hop

I know that I have a lot of blogging about Cambodia to do, but I will wait until I return to Hanoi.

In the meantime, I must pay homage to my FAVORITE holiday of the year...Easter.

When most people hear that Easter is my favorite holiday they look at me as if I am crazy. "How" they ask, "can that be?"

It is no secret that I am obsessed with chocolate and that Easter has the best holiday chocolates. Mini eggs are my kryptonite and my college roommates would laugh at the fact that they'd hear me reaching into my bag of mini eggs (see picture above) at all hours of the day and night....the familiar crinkle crinkle of the paper and then the crunch crunch crunch...I sleep with my bag of mini eggs (This is the first year that I haven't had my beloved mini eggs coming up to Easter.)...but this isn't why Easter is my favorite holiday

I am aware that it deviates from the norm...Easter doesn't really offer the same excitement that you feel on Christmas morning, nor does it usually promote the "family togetherness and tradition" that we experience each Thanksgiving and unlike 4th of July there are no fireworks and barbecues.

Perhaps my love of Easter stems from my personal connection to the holiday, and the traditions that my own family created.

I have always been rather spoiled, but Easter showcased that more than most other days. Every Easter morning (this is to date) I wake up and open my bedroom door, there is a trail of mini eggs leading down the hallway, down the stairs, through the house and then to my massive Easter basket overflowing with chocolate delights. We all know that chocolate is my first love and that I can't function properly without a daily dose. I've often thought that life without chocolate may not be worth it, and in hypothetical questions "would you rather give up .... or chocolate" the former always gets booted. Nothing, NOTHING comes between me and my devotion to chocolate.

I digress. So I come upon my Easter basket, which obviously has mini eggs but then of course has the traditional BRITISH Easter eggs (see picture above), not these ridiculously stupid plastic American ones. British Easter eggs are massive, huge hollow chocolate egg shaped with packets of sweets (Maltesers, smarties, flakes, crunchies etc) inside of them. It's like crack to me. My body goes into spastic ecstatic overdrive and I usually gobble down the entire basket within half an hour.

After that's taken place it's time to get ready for church and Easter brunch. I won't pretend to like church (sorry) but I do like what everyone wears. Pastels, sundresses, hats, sandals. it's pretty, bright, cheerful and lovely.

After church it's time for brunch. When I was younger we'd all pile in the car and drive for an hour to Indian Creek in Miami, which is to date the most beautiful club I've ever been too and the buffet there is better than any I've ever had anywhere. I've longed dreamed of having my wedding there but that's a completely different story. At Indian Creek we'd rush across the massive sprawling lawn for the Easter egg hunt and once that was completed we'd sit down at the beautifully decorated tables awaiting the go ahead to ravage the buffet bar...seafood, meat, sides and amazing massive plate for each. Once we finished eating we had free reign on the club and I'd rush around to the petting zoo, the face painting station, and when I got old enough, zipping around the property on a golf cart looking for cute boys and feeling OH SO COOL.

I don't know where the idea of not spending Easter with family came from because my family was always grandparents, cousins, parents, aunts uncles, brother and any family friends. I often found myself engaged in conversation with my idol and sometime mentor, Gov. Edward King of MA, and to this day, I cherish those conversations and memories. When I got a little bit older, I was allowed to bring a friend (always Alison) with me to these brunches which made it all the more fun.

We stopped going to Easter at Indian Creek when I was about 21, but it was replaced by Easter at Pine Tree which was lovely as well. I wanted to hate it, because it wasn't the venue I adored, but the food was delicious and it was still filled with my boisterous, loving family.

I believe that the reason I feel so strongly about Easter is because it is a holiday that promotes nothing other than togetherness and love. That families are brought together in joy and celebration (with cute clothes and chocolate as well) but that there are no expectations of gifts. No fireworks or gimmicks. Just spending a lovely Sunday afternoon eating delicious food and enjoying each others company. It's so simple yet special.

This is the first year that I've been away from my family for Easter, making it the first pang of sadness and "feeling like I'm missing out" I've felt since journeying over to Asia.

Happy Easter to all, I truly wish I could be there with you.

PS-Don't feel too bad for me. I'm in Sihanoukville, Cambodia and have spent the last three days lounging on the beach with my friend Camilla so it's not like I'm crying alone in the cold