And so, we're all together in Beijing. My last days in Cambodia were incredible and I love that country very much. Afterwards, I flew from Bangkok; the protestors around Dusit park were broken up, and Kao Sarn road was crowded with tourists. Southeast Asia was a great, albeit longer than planned, trip.
It's strange to be back, but instantly familar and nice. The trio of us went apartment hunting today and will continue more tomorrow. Silvia and Ariel are jetlagged, but managing to juggle work. I lingered in a teahouse cracking open sunflower seeds and reading, waiting for their afternoon classes to end.
Soon this blog will belong to China again, to that life I had nearly three months ago. More apartment hunting then exotic sights, more practicalities than paintings, more job hunting than musings. I can't believe I've been on this aimless, drifting, beautiful trip for so long. Travel like this is a gift and I encourage everyone who's able to do it.
Possibly a sign, Ariel's laptop crashed, meaning thousands of pictures from months ago in China and from Vietnam are lost. I've saved a few, but most are gone. Somehow this doesn't upset me as much as I'd expect. At least I have some nice, incredibly low res images on this bog and lots sloshing around in my brain.
As usual, more to come.
oil on canvas
I love it here, but I miss everyone, especially a certain tall someone with big ears and fuzzy hair. I'm writing a short story about waiting out my Chinese visa here in Siem Reap, which I'll post in the future.
In unrelated news, I'm excited about dinner. There is this small Thai place I just found where I can get a delicious fried snake head fish topped with green mango salad for $2.50. Simple pleasures.
The beautiful hills and rainforest area north of Siem Reap. Sandy and I hiked for a few thousands meters to get to a special Angkor "temple" carved into the riverbed.
Some of the before mentioned riverbed carvings. These stretched for a few hundred meters down the river, although much has been worn away or damaged.
In other news...
YESTERDAY, I sent my entire hideous Chinese visa application (all 6 pages with printouts of flights, hotels and travel plans plus my precious passport.) to a service center in Texas. The shipping was really expensive with DHL, but safe and trustworthy. Within two weeks I should receive everything back, along with a 60 or, hopefully, 90 day renewable visa.
TODAY, I met an American girl who lives and works in Siem Reap. She invited me to visit her modern apartment that she shares with her boyfriend in a nearby village, which has a pool and a nice view, so I may take up the offer.
TOMORROW, I have a Khmer language lessons with a monk at Wat Bo temple. He's going to teach me the alphabet and some basic phrases. I'm looking in the markets for a tape recorder, but the prices are high and I skeptical of their authenticity. Other adventures are planned, including going with Meth and spending the night in a disputed Khmer temple near the Thai border, an uphill impossible thing with no ticket counters. Hopefully it's possible.
ALSO, I've been wandering the city and it's surrounding villages, eating, drinking bad coffee, doing crosswords, writing (surprisingly), painting less and watching too much of the National Geographic Channel.
Sandy gives an English book as a gift
Me and my new Aussie friend, Sandy on Meth's tuk-tuk
Houses on stilts, Tonle Sap lake
and my Cambodian friend, Sa Meth
I can't sum up Cambodia without sounding cliche, so I'll stick to description that borders on cliche anyway: Cambodia has had a terribly dark century but is now experiencing some profits from the tourism around the breaktaking Khmer wats and exotic culture of this place. It's still entirely a nation of farmers with decaying French colonial architecture in the cities and wooden houses on stilts or shacks made from abandoned debris in the countryside. The air is musky with fermented fish sauce and hard water buffalo cheese stored in plastic tubs and wooden barrels in the villages that dot this landscape. Naked children play in streams, some filled with cellophane wrappers, wadded paper, foul things and soda cans. Men wear sarong while hauling firewood and women mash papaya and slice vegetables for dinner on open air porches. Older women have krama scarves tied around their sweaty foreheads while they lug baskets filled with fried crabs with chili wrapped in banana leaves. At the end of the day, workers dredging wells sing Cambodian covers of Thai and Chinese pop songs in outdoor, impromptu karaoke sessions. Gaggles of children wearing uniforms and sandals rush into non-for-profit schools in the morning to study English and math while sitting on wooden benches. It's crushingly poor, but so beautiful.
I'm privileged to be here.