First stop in Vietnam. Hanoi was a maze of skinny, tall buildings.
Above: Our Tunnel guide Mr. Bin. Below: Military tanks and a bomb crater Saigon Electricity.
Archive for February, 2011
First stop in Vietnam. Hanoi was a maze of skinny, tall buildings.
Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being “in love” which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two. – Captain Corelli’s Mandolin6. “Love is the beauty of the soul.” St. Augustine
Two lives, two hearts joined together in friendship united forever in love. -Unknown
Love, whether newly born, or aroused from a deathlike slumber, must always create sunshine, filling the heart so full of radiance, this it overflows upon the outward world. -Nathaniel Hawthorn, ‘The Scarlet Letter’Happy Valentine’s Day!! I hope you all had a wonderful day full of love.
Watched sunrise from the grounds of Ankor Wat this morning. Arrived at 5:45am before any light was in the sky. It was very difficult to get through the entrance and down the promenade with all the uneven bricks but we made it. never dear. Sat down and waited for the sun. Not as crowded as I expected. yesterday we came for sunset as well, it was free after 5:30pm and we thought it’d be nice to spend as much time there as we could. Walked through the whole thing – and then somehow out the back gates wer ewe wandered in the woods a bit before thinking better of powering through and turned back. Both sunrise and sunset were a beautiful pink-y peach color. I think the bright ones happen in summer and autumn. Still it was really gorgeous. Reminded me of college. Getting up when others were coming home and racing up to Steptoe Butte. SO many mornings with hot chocolate and a blanket.
At Ankor Wat people were really funny – they were in such a rush to get good photos that everyone was practicing in the dark trying to get the image just right. I got some really pretty ones of Jenna and I in front of the temple.Photo success. We also ran into the couple from Chile that we met in Halong Bay. Their next stop is India.
Sinat, the man who has been our tuk-tuk driver for our entire stay had a plan for our day. Sunrise: Ankor Wat (check); Ankor Thom enclosed city & Bayon Temple; Terrace of Elephants; Finish – Ta Prohm, where Tomb Raider was filmed.
Bayon was pretty phenomenal. It’s the temple which has 54 gothic towers with the tiki-like faces called Avalokiteshvara facing the four cardinal directions. The details are still clearly visible and the stairs are a nearly vertical climb. The Terrace of Elephants – which I loved, of course – was much more difficult to distinguish the carved figures. It was used for public ceremonies, raising the King high on an imposing throne. The Leper Terrace is now believed to be the site of a royal crematorium. While the Elephants make a long promenade, the Leper is 7M high and Yama, the god of death, sits on top. After seeing the carvings we each found a piece of paper-mold art made from the actual stones of the temples. SOme of asparas (nymphs), some of vishnu (god-king), some of Brahma (king) etc. It’s pretty neat that we were able to recognize the images we’d already seen. Moving on to our last stop – and my favorite – Ta Prohm.
The bricks literally lay where they have fallen, Roof sections black some corridors. Whole walls have fallen over. There is bright copper-green moss covering much of it and the biggest and most unusual tree roots growing around/through the rocks. Since I’ve never seen Tomb Raider, it made me imagine I was on set for Indiana Jones: Temple of Doom! A long but wonderful day, I am exhausted. Back in Phnom Penh to finish our whirlwind tour of Cambodia.
Went out in the Cambodian Country-side for the day. Wanted to ride quads around and see something outside the cities.
We showed up, signed a safety waver, put our helmets on, and rode out into the villages. IT was great being in control of my own transportation. We toured around the back roads on the outskirts of Phnom Penh seeing how people live and what the live like. Dirt roads, stilted houses, jungle, lots of smiles as we passed. Kids got really excited and sprinted out to the road to either stare wide-eyed or jump, wave and yell hello.
The life here seems what I imagined a nice area of India to be like. Doesn’t give the impression that life is too difficult, but I don’t think I got a comprehensive view of everyday life. But most people were happy and smiling.
We were out riding for about 3 hours. Stopped to talk, snack, and look at a temple. At the end of our ride we went to the Killing Fields – at Choeung Ek where the prisoners of S.21 were taken to be executed. Almost 9,000 bodies have been exhumed – their skulls and clothes filling up a stupa at the center – while up to 17,000 are believed to have been killed. It leaves a horrible feeling in your body just seeing the remains that still scatter the ground.
It was a very different day from our other days of touring around cities and I enjoyed seeing the different sides of Cambodia.
April 17th: Phnom Penh falls to Khmer Rouge
Pol Pot declared leader of Democratic of Kampuchea. His political ideals were based on French Marxism and his mentor Mao Zedong. The country would be based on a pure society. Cities were ruralized, currency was done away with, and millions of people were removed from their homes. Entire families were executed to “remove the root” and “avoid later revenge”.
During the French occupation, islands once belonging to Cambodia were claimed for Vietnam. After 1975 when Saigon fell disputes over that territory became volatile. In addition, as Pol Pot’s dominance expanded many national Vietnamese on the borders became victims of the regime.
China supports the revolutionary plans and Mao held deep admiration for the Khmer Rouge. Support was based on common natural interest of the countries. Both believe in class struggle social structure and have a deep fear of the Soviets and Vietnamese.
USA displayed a show of power against the Cambodians (1975) to retrieve a war vessel. Their involvement in the conflicts after that point remained political and monetary. First being wooed towards aiding Vietnamese and Soviet agenda and subsequently pledging allegiance to China, Thailand, and Cambodia.
Already learned how to count to 5 in Khmer! I feel like the last few cities I have been more and more impressed with. They have all been my favorite in some small way, but this time I’m serious. Phnom Penh is wonderful. Bussed it across the border (another page completed in the passport) and with the help of many hopeful tuk-tuk drivers, oriented ourselves on our map. We ended up hiring a man named Tuck to be our tuk-tuk driver into the backpacker district. we made good friends with him and have plans to meet him again for a city tour on sunday. I hope he shows up, he was very chatty and happy.
The owner-operator of the Encounters Guesthouse is named Martin. He gave us all sorts of information upon check-in about what is in each area, how safe it is at night, how to buy bus tickets – you name it. He’s from England and I’ve no idea how he landed in Cambodia, but I don’t blame him at all. People gave us big smiles as I walked down the street. Kids on motorbikes and tuk-tuks waved when they saw us. There are children begging on the streets here which is new for me after China’s beggars all being old cripples and Vietnam having non at all.
Of course the first thing Jenna and I do is go looking for food. Lucky for us that there are tons of street vendors pushing their carts around town. The fried noodles caught our eye so we communicated with hand gestures and sat down to amazing noodles fried with onions, bean sprouts, spicy sauce and an egg on top. SO yummy. Later on, as we concluded our wanderings I got fresh pineapple ($0.25USD). SO cheap and the flavors are so fresh. We ate at the waterfront of the river – sounds charming but it’s cloudy-brown and stinks from the trash and waste flowing in it. Our wanderings lead us through the market. The best part was watching the ice cream man being swarmed by little tiny Cambodian children all wanting the tiny scoops topped with condensed milk. I will have to try it later but there was no way I was going to jockey for position against those kids.
Wandering also brought us to Wat Phnom (Hill Temple), the city’s highest point (27m) and important spiritual site. Locals come here to pray for luck. I watched a woman say her prayers, offer her incense gift, cleanse herself, and pay her final respects. I want to know the words they say. There is obviously an order to the prayer but I wonder if they use their own words or recite specific passages. The legend is that the first temple was built to hold 4 statues of Buddha rescued from the river in 1373. One thing that took me by surprise was the monkeys hanging around the grounds. Being fed cucumbers, eating toothpaste, running after each other. Jenna loved them. I am wary. Sounds like an easy way to get rabies. Also an elephant named Sambo was in the courtyard below the temple. He was so cute, I hope he is happy. Cambodia: good.
For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
~T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”
American-born English poet, wrote the best-known masterpieces of the modern movement including ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, ‘The Wasteland’, ‘Gerontion’, and ‘Ash Wednesday’. Renounced his American citizenship to become a British citizen saying that “My mind may be American but my heart it British.”