Mahalo, SE Asia

Nearly a month and a half later, I’m set for another journey (working for the next 2 months on the Sunshine Coast as a camp counsellor) and come across a Word document that has been tucked away in the clutter of my computer. So, I bid you farewell, and leave you with the essence of SE Asia, of which I’m still relishing and day-dreaming about in the midst of this dreery West Coast weather. Happy reading!

Hello from the Starbucks of Cambodia, Blue Pumpkin, friends.

I write not only on just any day, but the final day of my travels (other than airport hopping over the span of 2 days). I’ll create another post regarding my final thoughts while I’m chillin’ in Incheon airport, deep in the bowels of South Korea, where I will be spending a splendirous 10 hours awaiting my flight home (yes, I could go out, but no, I’m broke).

So in between Vang Vieng, Laos, and here in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, quite a bit of exciting events have been brewing. Oh! And would you look at that: I’m not in Thailand as originally planned. I think I can get drunk on a beach back in Canada. Seeing Angkor Wat at sunrise? Only in Cambodia.

Final moments in Laos:

  • Took a bus from Vang Vieng to Vientiane. PS: tubing in Vang Vieng? Not my forte, but I did indeed survive it. For those who haven’t read a review online, or cracked open a travel guide about Vang Vieng, let me fill you in: it’s pretty much the Cancun of Laos. Heaps of drunk Western antics stir up in their tubing scene, which essentially calls for tubers to stop at every bar along the way. You’ll see some travellers with their arms covered in string (each bar gives you a bracelet), and others with a wimpy set of two (that’d be me!). Unfortunately, drowning is a frequency, and many tourists cut their trip short because of this.
  • Upon arrival in Vientiane, my initial impression was that it was too quaint and tranquil to be a capital city. The night market by the Mekong River is incredibly chill, and everyone engages in exercise or good game of hacky-sack while the sun sleeps.
  • Went to Buddha Park the next morning, which is home to the most bizarre array of statues I have ever seen in my life – I loved it. There I met some ballers from France and Singapore. Got my hopes high for meeting up with them in Singapore, until I realized that plan does not agree with my itinerary.
  • Got a train from Vientiane to Bangkok.
  • From Bangkok I got a train to Aranya Prathet border where my Cambodian adventure begins…

But wait! You may (or may not) be wondering: “why the hell did you go through Bangkok, and not just head further south of Laos, crossing into Cambodia from there?”. Well, time and money were simply of the essence, and a night in Bangkok managed to dodge those two faults, allowing me to extend my time hither in Cambodia.

Getting to Cambodia:

  • Wanna know my route to arrive here? Caught a train from Hualompong train station in Bangkok at 6:00 AM, which only took 6 hours to arrive in Aranya Prathet. Took a tuk-tuk to the nototrious Aranya Prather-Poipet border and did all the visa shenanigans. After that process, got a bus to Siem Reap with a German girl I chased after in Thailand to split a tuk-tuk ride.
  • Wanna know something cool? The German girl ended up being one of my travel companions in Siem Reap.

Beautiful Cambodia:

  • Spent 5 nights in Siem Reap – this is monumental, folks: the longest time I’ve spent in one area since Makassar.
  • Went to Angkor Wat at sunrise, which is not at all an intimate experience. You really go in with that mind set – regardless of what others tell you – that it’ll just be you and Angkor Wat. Nope! There’s a whole bunch of other tourists and travelers alike, wanting to see the 3 tear drops in front of a creamy pink and purple sky (dude, I’m melting).
  • Enjoyed a bike ride in the country side out side of Siem Reap. So much, infact, that we went on a second one.
  • One of the guys who guided us on one of our bike expeditions, was actually a refugee in Indonesia because of Pol Pot’s regime. It’s spooky how Khmer Rogue activtity was still alive and kicking well into the 90’s.
  • Had happy pizza…
  • Ended up exploring Siem Reap’s nightlife with the girl from Germany, and two other ladies, one from Japan, and the other for Montreal. And to top off the night: made a Pringles run. Yee haw!
  • For bike ride #2, me and my new Japanese pal hit up a local restaurant, where the man recognized us from the night before. Why is this so important? Only so I could mention he had the most stellar smile ever. Do I have pictures to portray this? Nope.
  • Made my way solo to Phnom Penh, where I explored the horrors of the Killing Fields and S-21. Absolutely disgusting, tragic and above all: an event that should never have happened in history, or be repeated in the future. It’s impossible for me to grasp my mind around how such a mind-set could be attainable.
  • Dodged a few accidents here and there on my way to “The Russian Market” as they call it. Hey! I survived riding a bike in a capital city in SE Asia! I deserve a few gold stars.
  • Went to the weekend night market with a gal I met from Poland. Here, we got dirt cheap delicious grub and met a girl from Australia who was hosting a benefit concert to raise awareness about sex-trafficking amongst children in Cambodia.
  • How could you resist an invitation like that? We went the following evening and had a blast. All proceeds went to the organization, and everyone was having a solid time – got home at 4:00 AM just in time to get some clothes clean for free! Woo hoo.
  • The following night, we tried to catch a film at one of the malls, since it was the very last night of my travels, but to no surprise (especially at a late hour), there were no good movies screening, so we called it a night. However, the elevators were shut down, so we walked down 6 flights of stairs. Again, to our surprise, the door at the bottom was locked – and so was the one we entered in. “Shit,” I thought, “I have a flight to Singapore the next morning”… but I’ll just cut the suspense, and just give you the boring ending: 3 flights of stairs up, and we found an unlocked door. Phew.
  • We then came across a Cambodian wedding ceremony being held outside on the streets. Other than eyeballing the delicious food, I believe I speak for all of us when I say: those Cambodians know how to groove.

So… I love you SE Asia. Mahalo.

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One night lay-over in Bangkok before heading to Cambodia.

ImageBlurry photo of Angkor Wat at sunrise.

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Angkor Thom.

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The Killing Fields.

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Victims of S-21.

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Night market.

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Some Call Him a Philosopher – I Call Him My Dad(i)

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Actually, I’m probs just gonna write a brief note here, being as it’s 11:50 PM, and my brain is, as usual, fried — not due to the ingesting of any mind-benders, just…well…that’s the way those neurons are. But then you’d already know that, studying neuro at Harvard ‘n all.
That is so, like, t-o-t-a-l-l-y wild that you’re in Laos. I’m afraid that now you’ve stretched out of my realm of experience, and are creating newly-hallowed grounds for da family. And hence for once, I don’t know how you feel — must be totally awesome (you know, like, t-o-t-a-l-l-y awesome).
I gotta address yr ‘epiphany’ question (if u remember yr postcard wordz) — but honey, you know what I’m gonna say, right?

That you can’t seek said epiphany, just as you can’t seek happiness or love or even a $100 bill lying forgotten on the street. (Well, I guess you CAN seek it, but IMHO — and the opinion of countless others — you’ll be burning up valuable time and emotions instead of living yr life).
(You KNEW I was gonna say that, right?)
For moi, I’ve never had anything remotely close to an epiphany; stuff just comes to you second by second, mo’ by mo’, and it just becomes absorbed into the person that is ‘you,’ and you grow from it, and change ever-so-slightly from whatever it is that happens, be it a Laotian horking on the street, or a heart-warming interaction with the horker or other individual, or causing a dude riding his rickety ol’ bike to swerve to avoid you. And then…there they are, embedded somewhere deep in yr (Harvardian) neuronic web, only to be overlaid with yet other apparently mundane experiences.
You catch my drift?
These build upon each other, not resulting in some blinding light (aka epiphany), but rather in your (and my) evolution as a person. At “best,” I could say that things will start to congeal once you return to the relative mundane-ness of Ocean Park.

i.e., as always, ‘mir…just let it come to you — for sure, put yourself in a position where things will happen, however mundane, and realize that the rest of the world is moving about its business, mostly uncaring of you (and you of them), and you have NO control over what happens after. But things will happen, and it’s up to you to experience them. Without effort.

Realize: you’ll be home in a few short weeks (I’m sad that that is true — you know why, hum?), and… do you REALLY wanna come home and think, ‘Oh, I wish this and wish that.’ What happens happens (he said, Zen-like, absorbed in the flow of the moment, sometimes paying attention to the click-click of keyboard keys, mostly not).
Of course, you will have regrets — but please, dahhhling, don’t let one of them be, ‘Oh, I wish I had been more open, and just lived life moment-by-moment.’
(Even after reading these words, you might feel like rushing out the door — or whatever passes as a barrier between you n the rest of the world in that unknown-to-me turf. Don’t. Just keep living your day, your night, and allow yourself to BE.)

omg…. here I am, that self-professed ‘never give advice’ person, doing precisely the opposite. Well…as always, pick ‘n’ choose from these pearls whatever feels right for you.

And… enjoy. No, that’s not right. I mean, just be present in yourself and flow with the go. Trite, I know — but if there’s a better way, I ain’t not got no idea what it is (or isn’t).

Whew! So much for my “few” words. And to think…I ain’t said nuffin’ new.

I guess: Eat, Pray, Love. Yup, that should do it.

‘Mirdani… I’m incredibly proud of you (if that’s the right word) for your moving through these perilous waters.
I remember (do you?) saying that if things turned out too sketchy in SE Asia, you’d return to Indonesia. I don’t pick up the slightest trace of you feeling that way — you just moving forward, babe.

Be.
Peace.
Chill.
Dude.

Just some words I want to share with the world from my papacito. Helps me get through each day when I’m on the road alone and appreciate the beauties of travelling.

Sabai-Dee Laos!

This is Mir Mir checkin’ in from Mekong, y’all! After a whirlwind of adventures here in the slow-paced, all around chillaxed to the max country of Laos, I give you and update on my journey thus far…

  • Made a pit stop in Huay Xai after trekking from Chiang Mai. Biggest regret slapped me right across the face the morning after I arrived: whilst having lunch in a local noodle shop, a French guy living in Laos for the past 8 years asked to dine with me. So we talked over our soup and shared our stories. Turns out he’s the founder of the Gibbon Experience (which you can read more about here: http://www.gibbonexperience.org/), a trek that I really, really, really wanted to endulge in, but time and money were not on my side. After expressing my initial desire to take part in this amazing eco-tourism adventure, he said he’d give it to me for free. SHIT! I would have left Thailand sooner (love you, Thailand, but something’s just gotta be done) if I knew this would happen.
  • Boarded my 12-hour bus ride to Luang Prabang – which in Laos time is actually 15 hours. Did I mention that in the VIP bus, stools, hiking bags, extra passengers, and sacks of rice in the aisle are standard? Still a minty ride, even though a few close-calls were on the agenda (eg: head-on collisions).
  • Arrived in Luang Prabang, and ended up teaming up with 2 girls from Sweden in my Laotion nightlife and other activities that were sitting in front of me on the bus.
  • Funny thing… turns out the one of the Swedes actually travelled with a girl I met from Holland who I chilled with in Phuket. Odd!
  • Rented a bike and cruised the post-colonial streets of Luang Prabang and some villages off the Lonely Planet map. It seemed like this city was the epicentre of the snail-speed lifestyle of Laos.
  • Played Jenga over some drinks and shisha with my new Swedish pals and a guy from Manitoba. Then, went bowling after cramming 10 folks into a tuk-tuk. The bowling allies here are essentially a mass congregation of drunk foriegners (don’t worry, a majority being respectful, and no, I wasn’t one of them – drunk that is) since nothing is open past 11:00 PM – curfew time.
  • After two nights there, got a bus to Vang Vieng, which prior to purchase, consisted of myself dodging back and forth between the laundry mat and travel agent. Long story short: the lady who did my laundry is simply one of the kindest souls I’ve met along the way. Although she could probably sense the frustration in me (trying to get to places but nothing’s in your favour isn’t the greatest recipe for happiness), she remained calm, cool and collected despite the immense language barrier and a white girl sweating her pants off in the Mekong heat. On top of that, she had my laundry done a good 6 hours before scheduled! So lady, if you ever read this, all I have to say is: thank you/you rock.
  • On what was initally a super spacious mini bus, I met a girl from Dusseldorf who I ended up sharing a room with in Vang Vieng (40,000 kip each for a super nice hotel. Bazinga!). I say “initially super spacious” because after picking up a local family of 5 and two hitch hikers whose ride broke down, “super spacious” isn’t exactly what it was. Still a joyful ride nonetheless (plastic bags and napkins made quite the journey in and out of the van for the motion sick kiddos). But seriously, it was actually really nice: orange sunset in the purple skies and sillohettes of Laotion cliffs. Ah. Carpe diem.
  • Went rock climbing with the Swedes who I met up with the next day. Krabi stole my heart though.
  • Oh, and I’ll just say that this Argentinian couple were simply the bomb-diggity: since my new German friend was Bangkok-bound the next day, I could not afford an 80,000 kip room. So, for the time-being that I was homeless and about to venture up some cliffs, this couple generously afford to keep my bag in their room, rather than under the public staircase. Gracias, mis amigos nuevos.
  • Now, I’m at Pan’s Place, which is pretty much a cozy bungalow shack with a not-so-great lock. For now, I got a make-shift barrier that I made with the extra mattress. Burgarlers beware: if this bad boy falls on me midst slumber, I’m about to go ape shit on you thieving swines!

So there’s my update for you as of the eve of April 24th, 2012. Khawp jai for reading.

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Crossing the Mekong from Chiang Khong to Huay Xai.

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Biking in Luang Prabang.

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Jenga, shisha and Beer Lao.

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Climbing in Vang Vieng.

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Make-shift lock.