hello everyone!
i can't remember where i left off... anyway got to the mountains which were i-can-see-my-breath-in-my-hotel-bedroom cold. we were exausted after the night train because for some reason neither of us slept. arriving in a beautiful hotel, sleepy and stinky the mountain view hotel seemed like heaven. all we wanted to do was sleep and eat for 5 days. of course, the next day we felt like getting some exercise so we talked to the guy and signed up for a trek. he made it sound easy. i loved it but i think it almost ended up killing my mom. well...not really killing her, just making her loose the will to live. but by about the time i thought she was going to loose it for good, we finished, had lunch and a beer and before i knew it she was "over it".
mountain after mountain in sapa has been cleared of most trees and irrigated for rice. although its sad for the trees, the result is a beautiful stepped-mountain look as high and as far as you can see. the path meanders straight up, straight down, across the paddies (where you have to balance on a thin path between poopy rice water and a big step down), through streams, muddy clay, bamboo forests, villages, past buffalo, chickens, puppies, kids, old ladies and small kids carrying 50 pounds and going a lot faster than us, pigs, piglets, and more mud. it was challenging for me, but not too hard because i have been walking so much for the past 3 months. now i feel like the hulk and i want to do many more treks!

i could say a lot more about the whole thing, but i am a little tired of typing.

we'll be going on another two day tour of the bay so no blogs for a few days.

happy turkey!


today is a completely different day. on a mountain top in the north. beautiful room with a fabulous view (we think but its very foggy so who knows).

here's mom: This is the first place where the picture was less wonderous than the reality ( as compared to the very hard "soft sleeper" we enjoyed last night on the train.) Beautiful, homey hotel and trekking center, run by the first woman trekking guide in Sapa - I think she is Hmong. All the guides are women, which is very cool with Sarah and me. Huge Market, Hmong in traditional dress - do they just wear it for the tourists, or do they just wear it? The best twelve year-old sales girls, tying friendship ribons to our wrists, laying claim to us, wanting us to buy from them of course, giving us a tour of the market, tyring to fix Sarah up with their brothers, and still innocent - wlaking here two hours every day to sell, and it's fun, and they skip away holding hands. And it's "oh my god" wonderous, and I am so happy and scared for them and their mountain place, and I don't want them to lose themselves, and at the same time I know that there is some security in tourism for them, and a future that looks better. And I am grateful - it is not often you get to see and meet and be with untarnished what - warmth, authenticity, joyin skipping down the street and meeting and possibiility.


yesterday we tried to change hotels... big mistake. we left a deposit at the hotel we wanted the night before but when we checked out and went there in the morning, they were full. they said they would bring us to another sister hotel... here we go again. long story short, after some arguing, aome waiting, some frustration, motorcycle rides around, walking around with our stuff, we found an ok place that ended up being just around the corner from our old hotel. but the people here are nice and they didn't scam us or even try to, so i am happy. the hotel scamming thing is definately annoying but once you are in a place you can just sit back and start to enjoy the city.

an interesting thing about hanoi is that the streets are, conveniently, organized according to what they sell. so far we have found: shoe street, gravestone street, sunglasses street, kid toy street (ours), sweater-vest street, wrapping paper street, incense street, silk street, rubber stamp street (why?), motorcycle-repair street, and we have yet to find dog meat restaurant street (iw?) and many others.

hanoi is beautiful, but we are getting out of town and up to the mountains. after 3 days in bangkok and 4 days in hanoi, i am really ready to get out of the city! we'll be taking a night train and waking up in beautiful SAPA (northern vietnam, near china)

a funny note: (from the vietnam arrival/departure card you get at the airport) ..."import prohibition: all kinds of weapons; inflammable and explosive materials; pornographic and subversive materials; ...children's toys having negative effects on personality developement; social order and security;...."

oh, zelda, i heard that you are a loyal blog reader? that's great! i had a dream that i was helping you train canaries.


quickie. found mom no problem (at least not many problems)... got to the real trang an hotel, walked around and saw water puppets. its 7pm and she's still awake! amazing.


hanoi. i got sucked into the vortex of this beautiful city. what happenned is very confusing. it all started when i decided to be cheap and opt to get my own ride from the airport to the hotel. i thought i was pretty smart when i hopped aboard the vietnam airlines minibus for $2 (instead of the $10 the hotel usually charges for a ride). they even dropped me off outside my hotel the "trang an". i didn't exactly see the name on the outside, but everyone said the name and so i thought i was there... actually i was either at the other trang an or i was being scammed. in retrospect this seems like a scam which i couldn't believe when i figured it out. anyway i get there and tell them i have a reservation and they tell me that they will have to move me to a different hotel because their water is being fixed. this seemed a little weird but i still thought i was in the right place. so i hopped on a motorbike and they brought me somewhere that says "classic street hotel" on the door. i checked lonely planet to see where i was, found "classic street hotel" and determined that it was a good spot. the rooms were OK but only OK and i want the best for mom, so i opted to look around the block and see what i could find. the woman at the front desk did everything short of grab me by the ankles to try and stop me from looking around. that made me want to look more, so i walked around, found that i could get a better room, but thought that i didn't want to confuse my mom when she arrived in the morning to the water problem and a new hotel and me gone. so i decided to stay. ok. now to go walk around the town. as i was leaving the woman made me pay in advance. that shoud have been a clue as well. so i paid for one night. she also took my departure card. now i am a little worried about that... but i will get the police if they make any problems. anyway, she gives me this business card with a map and the name "chau thanh hotel", not what it says on the door"classic street" i ask about that and she tells me that chau thanh owns the classic street hotel. ok. fine. it just gets weirder. i go up to the room to have another look at the map. i cross reference the back of the business card and find that i am not at the classic street hotel that is listed in the lonely planet. ok big surprise. i am not too far away, but definately somewhere off the radar (if you know what i mean). but its cool. the city is beautiful, i am just staying the night and i'll meet mom tomorrow and straighten this all out. so i go for that walk. get yummy sechwan tofu. walk. check out some more hotels. you can get a really nice room here for $10. then i pass guess what "classic street hotel", which also has another name. how could i be back!? i'm not. maybe its the one from the book? i keep walking. pass many many stalls of cheap kids toys. almost get hit by a motorcycle while playing hanoi frogger. but its cool. then i pass, can you guess "classic street hotel"... another one. what the hell is going on? i know i am not going in circles. but i can't verify anything here because wouldn't you know it this city changes its street names every 2 blocks. you just have to remember where you are and what direction you are facing. and its not a grid. but i am not lost and i have the business card with a map just in case i do get lost so its ok. i keep walking, check out some more hotels. nice. i tell the doorman that i can speak a little vietnamese. he laughs and shakes my hand when i say, "toi an chay!" = "i am vegetarian". i keep walking. then i see "trang an hotel" WHA??! this is not the place where the minibus dropped me off! this is the place i am supposed to be! this is the place i have a reservation! uh oh. i am replaying the whole thing and wondering how i fell for it! my new rule: anything remotely confusing=scam. so i tell the desk guy the whole thing and i don't think he understands me. he doesn't even say anything when i pause and ask "do you speak engish". oh well who cares. so i keep telling the story because it needs to be told and tell him that i have pre-paid somewhere else and that i have to cancel the reservation for tonite. he says no problem and if you get the pick-up from the airport nothing bad happens to you. mom has the pickup so she will be fine. i will try to go there tomorrow to meet her just to make sure this "new hotel" doesn't get to her first...
but really, this is a cool city.


1. grams is going to vietnam tomorrow! yeah! my mom will meet me the next day! i am very excited and its funny, but i feel a little like the mom (protective) because i have been here for a while. like i want to go pick her up at the airport so no one hassles her. she thinks its cute, but arranged her own ride.

my rant....
2. i've lost track of how many men come here to find thai girls. its gross for many many reasons. what's facinating is the justifications people have. regardless, my official stance is....
why do they come here? because they feel like they can't find a girl at home for whatever reason (usually bad social skills, big tummy, facination for young girls etc...). direct quote "why would i stay in amsterdam when i am just ugly and poor? here i feel like a king. i can afford two girls a week. i think every man has the right to have sex." quote "what's wrong with it if both people agree?" anyone who is coming here to buy a girl or just meet a girl can't possibly fool themselves into thinking it is exactly a consentual situation. girls are sold by their families into a brothel where they aquire a debt that they have to work off. even though this isn't always the situation, you can be pretty sure that most of the girls don't have a lot of other money making options in their life. quote "so its a way for them to make a living. i'm helping them eat." exactly. if they had other opportunities, and they still chose this life, fine. but that is not the situation here. if women had the opportunities of the white men that come here to meet them, things would be very different.


i forgot to mention the initiation was a bust. the tuk-tuk drivers were honest and didn't even try to take me anywhere "special". maybe i can manage to get scammed tomorrow, though, huh?
in the mall in bangkok everything is cell phones and kareoke. did you know you can get kareoke on your cell phone?

speaking of kareoke, when we were at the kareoke bar last week, my friend went into the bathroom. while peeing, he was surprised (as any of us might be) when someone started massaging his shoulders. he was confused and wanted to say no but he was peeing... so when he finished peeing and turned around, this guy demanded "20 baht". i guess it was easiest just to pay and run back to the table which is what he did.

when you watch a movie in thailand, the opening trailers include beer commercials, cell phone commercials, coke commercials and a special video of "his majesty the king". this cheesy music comes on and there is a message to, "stand to honor his majesty the king". everyone stands and you watch this scene of fake-rain over a thai landscape. the landscape fades from trees to rivers to rice fields, superimposed by floating bubbles containg pictures of his majesty the king. the pictures show HMTK walking around with a camera, talking to the police, reading a book, writing something, walking with the camera again (the exact reverse image of the previous camera bubble), sort of smiling but more smirking, none of which are very flattering. this goes on for about 5 minutes then it ends, everyone sits and its movie time.

now this makes me remember something that i have been wondering about this whole time... there are pictures of HMTK everywhere (billboards, in everyones houses, on calandars, posters, at the mall, post office, etc.) and i have yet to see a flattering one. he always has this really bored expression or it seems like he was just plain busy doing something when someone took the photo. what's the deal? maybe just different asthetics? if you can explain, you should e-mail me.


ok, i am in bangkok. its only 3 days so its ok. going to run an errand for a friend. my mission: pick up his suit and send it to Kuala Lumpur. I think that since i have no better thing to do i will try making it a day by getting a free tuk-tuk in exchange for him taking me to tourist stores for comission. its a bangkok initiation.


saw elephants. they have big feet.

might leave surin on a night train... but i just don't want to go to bangkok. i need a plan.


elephants poop, eat, and make very cute noises. with a little encouragement, they do handstands, play harmonica and dance at the same time.

tomorrow they might even play basketball.

i am happy because i just discovered a vegetarian restaurant with food as good as "suriya thai" for 50 cents. i am going there now! fighting a tummy ache since surin night #1 though so i had to skip a little tour this afternoon.

also the guesthouse did indeed get very full for the elephants, so the place is hoppin and its pretty fun here. i made my public karoke debut last night with the song "ghostbusters". tonite celine dion.
one thing i forgot to mention... i loved cambodia.

that said, another thing i forgot to mention is that when you first get there, all the drivers ask you what you want to do. if you say you don't know yet, they suggest, "why do you go shoot something?" there are a lot of firearms left over in cambodia and to make a little extra money, someone has set up a place where you can go shoot something. what that means is that you can rent a grenade launcher, rocket launcher, AK-47, etc. and shoot at cows, chickens, pieces of paper or some other "target". i told my driver "no thanks" and he said "oh! many women go! you can go!". i briefly invisioned myself launching a rocket at a caw and said, "i don't like guns." "oh ok!"


another travel day story:
bought a 7am, $3.50 bus ticket to the western boarder with thailand. planned to get off early and go north to a small town then on to the northern boarder (closer to my destination of Surin in thailand). get to the bus stop at 6:45am. wait until 7:30, get on bus. go to pick up more people at other guesthouses. get on the road at 8:15. the road is very potholey for 3 hours. but this is a confortable bus, nothing compared to the pick-up we used to arrive via this road. but, also less interesting. we drive drive drive. finally get to the town where i had planned to turn north. they tell me that there is no pick-up until 7am and i will have to stay overnight. i hate this town, so i make a split second decision that i will continue to the western boarder (1 1/2 hours further) which i know is the ugliest town in cambodia, but this seems like a good plan. i will just figure out how to get to surin on the thai side where things are easy. so, around 2pm i get to thailand. no problem. i ask the police about surin and even though they don't speak english, we determine that i should get a taxi to the market and catch a bus to "buriram" then from buriram to surin. this looks pretty direct and starightforard so i go! motorcycle takes me to the market where i realize i only have dollars not bhat. but this is thailand and there is a bank right there (so easy!). so i go exchange money, pay the driver (a woman!) and see that the bus is jsut pulling away. i rush over (no english on the side of this bus) but i just keep saying "buriram" to people and they push me toward this bus. i hop on. driving driving driving. monks, birds in bags, cages, boxes get on. still driving and i start to determine that we are going there but in a very circuitous way. via khorat, which is way off to the side. now its getting dark and i start to hope there are guesthouses in buriram, because it doesn't look like i will make it to surin. just as i am pulling out my book to see if there is anything on buriram, i notice we are stopped next to a bus that says "bangkok-surin"! i hop off, ask the driver "surin?". he nods and i hop on the other bus feeling like the most successful traveller ever. but i am very hungry. i sleep and by 10pm i wake up in surin! and the best part!!!.... there are elephants everywhere and they have little red blinky lights attached to their tails for night-walking. very cute.

now i am feeling good, i get a tuktuk to my guesthouse and check in. i ask about food and she tells me to go to the night market 150 meters that way. ok. i go and sit down, no other falong in sight. people smile and i smile because everyone knows i don't really know what's gong on. but i order "pad thai no meat", the guy frowns, walks away and i wait for the food.

suddenly there is a huge burst of flames (i mean 20 feet to the ceiling and 10 feet wide) from one of the woks about 30 feet in front of me. everyone goes "ooohhh!", looks at me and laughs then checks that their shirts haven't burned off. a few minutes later my food comes. it is something containing tomatoes, spinach, rice, nuts and chicken. so much for pad thai, but i am trying to be a trooper and everyone is watching to see how the falong can handle market food so i start eating ferociously. everyone smiles and then WOOOOSH! another huge fireball. "oooohs" all around and more smiles. i notice that the ceiling is black and really oily so i guess this is an intentional fireball.

after the market, i walk back and sleep well! for some reason i dream of cookie dough.

so anyway, i have made it to surin, which is very developed compared to cambodia, feeling a little like a cross between roseville, minnesota and asia with blinkie-light elephants.

i have e-mail again for a while!


i have a growing distrust of men here. its sad because i just like to talk to local people and be friendly and hang out. almost any invitation or conversation eventually leads to the "do you want a cambödian boyfriend?" or "do you like cambodian boys?". then if i say no, there's always that hint of being racist and they say sadly that no falong like cambodian boys (its the same comment in laos). but flaong men sure do like the asian women! sometimes i say i have a boyfriend already. sometimes i say i don't want any boyfriend, cambodian or otherwise, because i want to be free to do what i want! this is widely understood, as women who are married rarely go out after dark, or people talk badly about them. the men can usually do what they want. in the last small town i was in (krakor), i tried to order a beer with dinner and they all looked at me like they didn't understand... then after i changed my order to tea, they were relieved. women there do not drink there. or if you do, you are probably a prostitute.

yesterday i rode my bike into the temple. a very sweet cambodian woman rode along side the whole way teaching me cambodian and many other things... she was hard to understand but had a lot of interesting things to say. this is always the problem.

i talked to a monk in one of the biggest and most extraordinary temples, who asked me to be his godfather. i said, "what does this mean?". but just then he started talking japanese to a passing tourist. i think he was asking me to be his financial sponser, but i dropped the subject. then he asked if i want to go to his pagoda. of course i want to go to his pagoda, but i know he is getting around to asking for money, so i tell him that "i want, but i have no money to give because when i go home i will have no job". (he is smoking a cigarette) he says ok and that he wants to be my "actual" friend. hmm... ok!


you know the cambodian police are corrupt if:
1. they try to sell you their badge
2. you don't want it? they pull out 4 more badges from their pocket. maybe you want one of these?
3. you ask to buy their gun. they won't sell the gun, but you can shoot it for $20.
4. they try to sell you their hat, then their belt, then their pants then their shirt. the whole thing (not including the gun) = $100.


the temples are cool and old and a bit of a scam. everyone pays $20 per day to visit any or all of the temples, with the money going to a french petroleum company! this company maintains the grounds, guards the temples and pays the prime minister a fortune for the privilege of over-charging the tourists.

most of the temples were comissioned by the kings between 800 AD and 1200 AD to honor themselves or their families, so this place is huge. angkor wat, itself, took 400 years to build, much to the dismay of the workers. they were largely poorly paid or slaves who were killed for making mistakes or by overwork. but the result is spectacular. in one day we could only make it to 5 out of >20 temples. more tomorrow!

a nun pointed at my tummy and said "good" then "baby". hmmmm.... she liked my teeth and my nose ring too. pointed at them and said "good!"


spent the day yesterday visiting a floating village resting on stilts and huge bamboo rafts. there are floating gas stations, floating temples, floating pig farms, floating battery re-charger station, floating lumber mills, floating banana shops, floating houses containing dogs (where do the dogs go to the bathroom?), etc. this place has no electricity, but every house has satalite/cable TV and karoke. they use car batteries and generators. they get mtv.
ate dinner at a local place where i told them (in khmer!) that i am a vegetarian and got fried cucumbers and rice. kind of yum. then a guy came and sat with us and started talking. everyone is really excited to talk to practice their english. some people got drunk and started to fight. our friend ignored the man pulling the long pole out of the ground and swinging it at the crowd behind him... with a glance he waved his hand and said "no matter" and kept talking about his favorite football player who, if he came to cambodia, this guy would really like to play football with because he is soooo handsome! and his friend who lives in america and says that there are many pretty girls! and how he doesn't prefer cambodian girls because they are too short. fighting doesn't happen, just yelling. we ask what the problem is. he explains that they are in the same family. oh. ok. and they are drunk. then one comes over to yell something at our friend. he says something, waves his hand says "no matter". the guy goes to lay down on the babmoo thing nearby. we talk for a while about cambodian girls, this guys job (he's a mechanic and a student in phnom penh) and what he studies (japanese and english) and we much our cucumber. across the street they fire up the karoke and the other drunk guy goes to demonstrate his tonal talents. the music is good but the guy is bad. he is followed by an equally bad woman. it makes me laugh. there are about 10 people watching us eat. everywhere we go in this town we draw a crowd. the older woman keeps gesturing to her eyes and pointing at me. do i have funny eyes? hmmm.. our friend says she has a problem with her eyes and wants medicine. i say "i no have"... but i let her try on my glasses. then all the women try on my glasses. i think some of them really need glasses because they don't yell about how strong they are. as we leave the old woman is poking the sleeping guy on the bamboo. yelling in khmer. karoke blasts. stares. cool night. we go to look for the party which is a joke because everything closes at sundown. but we find it next door to our guest house. 10 huge speakers blasting cambodian music and a few people sitting around. my friend asks them to play his james brown cd. "no problem!!" james brown blasts the countryside.
next day:
after many hours on a kung-fu playing bus through rural cambodia, i have made it to siam reap (the town containing angkor wat). i'll probably stay here for the next few days and i have e-mail here!


oh yeah, sorry there hasn't been any photos. i can't get my pictures on cd here but i probably can scan them if i want. its a little pricy but maybe i will do that soon.
back in phnom penh!

i switched beaches after my weird day and found a place that was more beautiful and more lively. the night i got there, there was a free sunset boat trip to benefit street kids. the idea was that the travelers are incouraged to drink beers for $1 and all the money goes to the kids. (most of whom i knew already because they were on the beach all day trying to sell me fruit. we did a little photo shoot and i promised to send them photos and pens and stickers). the kids (20) came on the boat as well as 30-40 backpackers which was a little more than the boat was supposed to hold. as we got out to sea things got a little tippy, with some slightly drunken travelers sliding across the top of the boat. there were a few near man-overboards and i heard later we had 3 feet to spare before the boat would have tipped. (not much!) then everyone went back to the place i was staying ("uncle bob's" on the beach) and there was a big party with more fundraising games and kids.

spent the next day doing nothing except sitting eating, sleeping, talking, eating, sitting, reading, eating. and a few swims.

one of the "spooky day" friends is still here and going my way so i am excited about the trip north. i have 3-4 days before i have to get there, so will probably try to get off the main road a little bit. there is a floating village on the way. and another that specializes in fried taranchulas. i think i will try one, but only the legs. i hear the middle part is full of brown spider goo. but someone told me the legs are good. (like chicken, of course.)

i am abandoning vegetarianism at the weirdest times. i never thought i would consider insects. or arachnids. some people eat large grubs. they buy a whole hive of them and when you are on the bus they pull out all these huge white worms and "gulp"! it seems that people eat anything that moves (rats, dogs, snakes, turtles, frogs, bugs, etc.) and i have heard that some of it (the taranchulas) may have started durring the war when there was no food. i probably don't know what i am missing.

maybe internet, maybe not for the next few days....


weird day today. drank tea with a nun on a mountian-top, saw a man throw a bottle a a woman because she gave me the wrong drink.