Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Temple of Doom

     Chaos struck on the bus on our way to the famous Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon as it was called 30 years ago.  Waiting for the bus to start, Nima came down with the sickness I had just gotten over, and she came down with it fast.  I'll spare you the gruesome details, but lets just say it was not one of the best bus experiences of our lives.  For a couple of days we let Nima recover and kicked it in the famous city.  One day I went to the War history museum, which was both shocking and mind opening.  Growing up in the US, I of course had no knowledge of the Vietnam war, other than what I have seen in movies and attempted to pry out of the brains of my teachers, but it seems to me that the whole conflict has been conveniently swept under the rug.  Since I have been in Vietnam I have read much about it and this war museum really seemed to put it all into perspective, with a play by play, date to date  description of the quarter century the US was in Vietnam.  This was their fight for freedom, and though the museum felt a bit like propaganda, there were plenty of pictures of the protests of the americans; burning their draft cards, the Ken State shootings, the marches on Washington, the museum was not anti american, just anti american government. 
  When Nima felt better we made our way to the Cu Chi tunnels, another reminder of what a people pushed to the brink will do for freedom.  There are over 200 km of under ground tunnels the Viet Com built to survive in, a few hours down the road from Saigon.  During the war the US dumped agent orange and burned the forrest and farm lands above these tunnels, driving the people under ground and many of them lived there the length of the war.  Their survival methods were amazing, floating food down the river to be brought under ground, hiding the smoke from the underground kitchens.  Their gorilla fighting techniques were horrendous, booby traps that sent chills down your spine, there is no doubt in my mind why boys came back from that war in the state they did.  It was explained to us by our tour guide, Jackie Survivor, as he was called by the american GIs, how they were able to fight and kill without being seen.  We crawled through these tunnels, and made it despite the overwhelming claustrophobic feeling pulsing through your nerves, and how these people lived like this for years I may never know.  Nima and I were some of the only people on Jackies tour that have ever made it through all the way, but I'm not surprised seeing as how my shoulders barely made it through in a couple of places.  We didn't come traveling to dwell on the sufferings of others, but being that this is one conflict we as americans and the Vietnam people share, I think we owe it to future generations to at least remember what happened.
  After our days in Saigon it was time to to enter the Land of 10,000 elephants, but most people know it by its smaller title, Cambodia.  My passport is now full, after this last border crossing, which brings a feeling of accomplishment as well as uncertainty.  It is my hope that future border guard gods will look upon me with sympathy and convince the guards to simply squeeze the stamp in there 'somewhere.'  Anyways, to the capital, Phnom Penh, then away as soon as possible, which was the next morning.  We should have given the place more of a chance, but after Nam, we didn't want to go to the Killing Fields, which is as depressing as the name implies, and though I wanted to shoot an AK 47, I didn't want to do it at a place you could pay to shoot a cow with a rocket launcher; yea you can do that, plus we are running from the heat, which at 80% humidity and 100 degrees is pretty sweltering.  The money here is also interesting.  They use the US dollar, but instead of change, they use their own currency, 1,000 riel is 25 cents.  We ran all the way to Siam Reap, the home of the Temples of Angkor.  Built for the god kings that united what is modern day Cambodia about 800 AD, these looming tower like stone temples are a most excellent place to spend the day exploring.  The place is expensive for backpacking travelers, at $20 per day, but I must say it's worth it.  We awoke at five am and headed to the most famous Angkor Wat to watch the sunrise, but unlike the hordes of other tourists there, we explored the temple by ourselves, in the dark which added to its creepiness.  The sun wasn't up till 7 so we still got to see it above the temple, the best of both worlds.  All the temples were awe inspiring, but our next favorite was featured in the movie Tomb Raider.  It had ancient trees, who's roots were dripping through the stones that held the place together.  There were signs with warnings like 'climb stairs at own risk' or my favorite, 'unsafe area,'  which is usually proceeded by a 'do not enter,' sign, but not here in Cambodia, your warned and I guess thats enough.  I had my hat, but I really could have used a whip, but there's always next time.
  That afternoon in Siam Reap we treated ourselves to two different much needed delicacy's.  First we had chocolate shakes for the first time in over a year, then we found Mexican food in Cambodia!  And I had a burrito and saw that it was good, and on the second day I had another burrito, and saw that that was good too, and Nima had a Chicken Chimichunga, and on the third day we came again.  God we needed that.  We left that town reluctantly and made our way to Battambang, not to be confused with Katmandu, where there isn't much to see, but it's a nice town none the less.  Yesterday we took a tuk tuk around to see a few of the sites in the neighboring area, the first of which is the bamboo train, which Nima pointed out would be a great alternative to walking in the post apocalyptic world.  What they do is take rail rode axels and wheels, throw them on a track, then top it with a bamboo platform and an engine.  They connect the engine to the back axel with a fan belt, and you are off down the tracks.  When you meet another oncoming trolly, you judge which is liter, and deconstruct the chosen cart, a very unique travel experience.  We also witnessed another famed temple, and a place called the killing caves, which we didn't know were on the agenda, but went along with it anyways.  Now I am sitting here in my Family Guy underwear sweeting, and hiding from the heat that's waiting for me just outside.  Well I hope the tsunami didn't affect Cali to much, we are quite far enough away from all the catastrophe.  Hope all is well back home and I'll leave you with some great advise I got from a drunk Ausi one time; Don't stand on Jellyfish.  I guess its better with a drunk Australian accent.

1 comment:

  1. Hi U 2. Congrats on filling up your passport Bub, that alone is quite a souviner, and the experiences you guys are having, Wow! Can't wait to hear the stories in person, and it wont be long. I'll see you in Bali in a couple weeks and we will all share stories, Be safe U 2! Love ya, Old Dad:)