Thursday, September 29, 2011

Protest Thoughts

By Kathleen

By far one of the strangest things about traveling is that you are so removed from things at home. Even in this day and age of instant communication and trans-Pacific flights you can still feel a world away from important events. Twice in six weeks I have felt like I’m missing something. The first was the hurricane, worst to hit the Northeast in decades and now the protests.

From here it is hard to tell the scope of these protests, from my own experience protesting the war in Iraq in 2003 I know that the media is often silent about these things and when they do report the numbers are often skewed, heavily, towards the smaller side.

While I cannot gauge the scale of these protests I can say that I am glad they are taking place. There are too many serious issues hanging over my generation to be borne in silence anymore.

The NYTimes says that the protests are “an expression of anger over a financial system that they [the protestors] say favors the rich and powerful at the expense of ordinary citizens. (September 17, 2011, 4:26 pm)” 

The protests are an expression of not just anger but frustration and disappointment in a country and system that has failed to address some of the most serious problems facing not only our economy and our generation but of our planet.

The protesters have been accused of lacking any central talking points, of rallying without cohesive demands.  What are their concerns, what do they want?

Traveling I have heard many grievances too many to name I have been told, by friends, by strangers by people I have met at home an abroad. If you don’t know what we are angry about then you haven’t been paying attention to the state of our times.

This is not a post about what we don’t want, but about what we do. The list is long to be sure. There are things I have left out, but we need to be focusing on the positive. If not we will end up being a reaction not an action and a reaction cannot create, only destroy. Our country is becoming more volatile every year. The cracks between rich and poor, between young and old and blue and red have widened into gaps that no one seems willing to cross.

War has torn us apart. The economy has ruined many. If we hope to change anything, to really change we need to overcome the hate, the mistrust and the anger that the media wants us to hold onto and instead come together over common goals.

The United Sates of America, in spite of our foreign policy, our corporate greed, our destruction of the environment  is still to me the best country on Earth. Everywhere I go I have met wonderful Americans, from every walk of life, from every political side, from many religions.

They are by far some of the most optimistic, outgoing and polite people in the world. We get a bad rap it’s true but we try to fix it, one by one with our smiles and our curiosity. We Americans, we the people are what makes our country so great.

We as Americans try, we really do, we try to believe, we try to get along and we try to make the best out of bad and awkward situations. It’s not until you leave the country and travel to other places that you being to see the genius vision that our founding fathers had, a vision of equality and freedom that is yet to be matched anywhere.

That being said, it is often yet to be matched at home.

All we as a generation want is for our futures to be as bright as our parents and grandparents and for our children and grandchildren to be able to stand on good clean earth, eat good clean food, drink good clean water and be proud to be citizens of such a diverse and wonderful country.

We want jobs that fully utilize our talents and our minds, that don’t condemn us to a life of minimum wage and juggling part time shifts. We want freedom from the fear of poverty, we want the opportunity to use our degrees in productive and creative ways.

We want our environment to be respected, to be looked after and to be healthy. We want the long term sustainability of the Earth to be more important that the bottom line. We want our water to be clean of contaminates, our soil clean from chemicals that makes us sick.

We want there to be fish in the sea in 10, 30, 400 years. We want there to be trees and clean air. We want to find innovative ways of living with the environment. We want to change our lifestyles and balance our desires for comfort and our need for sustainability. We want to do it now.

We want our families to be healthy, and to be able to receive quality affordable healthcare regardless of where and if we work. We want the U.S to join other industrialized nations in offering comprehensive national healthcare and parental leave time.

We want schools to be centers of learning not a political fighting ground. We want teachers to be able to teach without fear of losing their jobs because of ever changing testing benchmarks that limit, not measure, children’s ability to learn. A free country stands on the education of its public and we are committed to free quality public education at all levels of learning.

We want people to be people and business to be businesses. Corporations should not have legal personhood, period. We want to close the gap between rich and poor. We want to be relived fully or partially of the incredible burden of student loan debt which shackles so many young Americans and cripples their ability to create a life for themselves and contribute to the economy.

We want people, legislators and politicians to be held accountable for their actions. Wealth should not be a barrier to justice and greed should not be an acceptable reason to look the other way.

We want people of all religions and all colors to be respected. We want all citizens to be free to worship or not worship what and who they want without fear of persecution, suspicion of general mistrust. We want citizens of every ethnic background to be respected as Americans, equally and wholly without division into greater and lesser sub categories of such.

Caring about the environment is not political, we all live here. Caring about our jobs is not political, we all need and want to earn a living. Caring about equality and tolerance is not political, it is what makes us American.

What we want as a generation is simple, it is not hard to accomplish and it is not expensive. The only thing required to make it happen is that we as Americans try. Try to rise above our differences in politics, in religion, in race and come together to create something for the greater good.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Back Alley Opera

By Fiz
Photos: Kathleen Ahamed-Broadhurst

Sept 26 marked the first day of the Kin Jay Festival, the Chinese vegetarian festival.  The streets of Chinatown are overflowing with food carts vending everything from vegetarian pork buns (that tasted identical to the original), to tofu shrimp stir fry to whole potatoes, spiral cut, fried on a stick.

And I am sitting in my hostel with a bowl of cream of mushroom soup and a basket of French fries.  Though to be fair I did buy a taro root ‘pancake’ and a bowl of deep-fried orchids for lunch.  They were delicious!

On Monday, the first day of the festival we spent a good deal of the evening wandering around, getting handed free samples of God only knows what and loving all of it.  Each vendor jovially attempted to convey what they were handing us consisted of.

We walked for about an hour before our feet started to protest and our bellies were satiated.  We decided to walk through a couple of packed alleys before calling it a night. The first was filled with wholesale dried mushrooms of all sorts, curries, and buckets of tofu shrimp and salmon.  The second was all desserts. Then towards the middle the sounds of gongs and cymbals touched our ears.

Following our ears we wandered around a corner and the narrow alley got steadily more crowded, then we beheld a glorious sight.  A small stage tucked into the courtyard of a small temple. On the stage were the actors with the glamorous makeup and extravagant costumes of a Chinese Opera.

We were definitely the only farangs at the performance, and this did not go unnoticed in the crowd.  First we stood at the back of the audience, then we got ushered forward onto stools, then an older man who looked uncannily like my idea of the laughing Buddha with hair started talking to us. Asking where we were from, what we were doing in Thailand, if we knew what the festival was about.  He then described it for us in good detail with a thick accent.  Telling us it was a time when all the devotees gave up meat and ate like monks for nine days. One day for each of the Gods that come down from heaven to absolve the sins of the faithful.

The first act drew to a close, and all the actors, in costume walked through the audience and into the sanctuary of the temple, getting blessed with holy water on the way.  As each group of actors walked by we were told who they were, some were the Gods, others soldiers, concubines, and one was the Yellow Emperor.

Before they made their way back to the stage for act two he gestured for us to join him in the two empty seats next to him.  And while we waited he translated peoples questions, and our answers in return.  Contrary to the rest of Thailand, we found out, the Chinese hold Indians very close to their heart because India is where Buddha came from.  Which made me feel a bit better, the discrete racism here is becoming a bit grating.

When the curtain rose he began narrating to us the best he could what was happening.  Before he gave up learned that the scene was the Yellow Emperor being blessed by a small group of Gods with a son. We were then asked repeatedly if we had a son, and when we said no, were told to pray to the Gods of the Sky and Sun.  We were also assured he would do the same for us, so we could really be happy.

Thanks Sky God, we’ll take a rain check.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Back in the BKK

By Kathleen

Success! We now both have one more piece of paper to our names and are officially qualified to teach English. Ha! That makes me laugh a little when I think about how we talk to each other and our friends. Just goes to show you…

We have returned to Bangkok TESOL Certificates in hand, not really sure what we are doing here aside form killing time and spending money we can’t afford to spend. We are not looking for jobs in BKK, we are instead planning to head north of Chaing Mai to an Eco-Village by the name of Panya Project where we are taking a 16-day permaculture course. I’m really excited. I’ve been dreaming of visiting eco-village worldwide for a couple of years and now I’m getting the chance. There will probably be more on that dream later.

It’s strange being back in Bangkok. The city hasn’t changed hardly at all to my eyes, the tourist haunts are still open and bright, the shops still hawk the same wares, other than a change of soundtrack (from Lady Gaga to Justine Beiber) you would never know that time has passed.

And yet things are different, almost imperceptibly but nevertheless certainly changed. It’s me of course. I’m in such a different place than last time I was here. It hasn’t even been two years but much of my life is different in ways I wasn’t aware of until coming back.
Travel can be strange like that, a place can hold a piece of you suspend din time, waiting for you to return and remember or reclaim or discard it. Like a favorite sweatshirt forgotten for months at a good friends house, once returned feels strange in your hands.

We are traveling with friends from our course, keeping them company while they settle in or leave or o whatever is next in their lives. It’s interesting watching their reactions to the city, every much like my own two years ago. They are the same age that I was then, fresh out of college, trying to find their footing in the world.

It is only looking at them that I realize that I have found some footing. Or perhaps that I have become more comfortable with having not ground beneath my feet.

Last time staying in hostels I was envious of the single girls traveling solo, I wished I could be like them. Now I don’t envy them at all. I have come to love the sharing of experiences and the connection of being married. I no longer feel like the idea of being married takes something away from me but rather gives much back.

I have much to say in the way of commentary on TESOL courses, or at least our course, but it will have to wait for anther day when my computer’s battery is longer lived. I hope to be posting more frequently now that my days are not overwhelmed with ESL information.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Quieff on Command

By Kathleen


 I am no prude. Really, I’m sometimes ( to some people) shockingly open mined and when it comes to sex, I believe as long as the people involved are consenting and of age I don’t much care what the hell they do.

I’ve been to strip clubs, see the shows in Vegas, Watched naked women eat sandwiches in Amsterdam and been awe struck by the lovely ladies at the Lido in Paris. I’m not squeamish. That being said there are some things that just gross me out.

Friday night, Pattaya City, Thailand.  We were walking down the infamous Walking Street, part Las Vegas, part Thailand, part sleaze factory with our ESL training companions following them as they hunted down some of the more exotic offerings.

Pattaya City is one of those places that you can skip unless you are middle aged, undersexed and overweight, for it seems the only thing to do here is spend money on overpriced piss water (beer) and make lady “friends”.

Though prostitution is technically illegal the Thai Police decidedly look the other way when it comes to sex tourism on their own turf. A bit hypocritical seeing as they don’t look the other way when it comes to other illicit things that are decidedly less harmful to individuals and society.

Prostitution for many in the tourist hubs of Thailand, and especially Pattaya, is a way of life. Young women and men, generally from middle class families, end up in the oldest profession on earth by a variety of avenues. For some an important wage earner has died in their family and in order to continue living posh lives they take up the lifestyle, for others it’s a way to earn cash quick for school or a business, for others it’s a way to spice up their lives, a Thai gap year of sorts. Those are the willing, those who come to the clubs and bars of their own volition. They are the ones you see walking arm and arm with the fat tourists and looking bored.

There are others of course. Where there is a semi-legal sex trade there’s a totally illegal sex trade, but as a tourist you probably won’t come across it. That’s for export, or for the locals.

Walking Street is the shopping mall of sex, Go-Go girls, boys and everything in between strut their stuff in teeny tiny short and shirts. You can stroll the neon lit streets glancing at “ Sexy Airlines” stewardess or Moon Club’s astronauts. It makes for an interesting walk if nothing else. That is if you don’t mind the terrible ‘80’s cover music blaring out of open air bars and being solicited for ping-pong shows.

But ping-pong shows are exactly what our friends wanted, they were out for the full Thai experience. Feeling like a terrible feminist I grudgingly agreed to accompany them, on the basis of a once in a lifetime experience. I was underwhelmed.

Our first stop, to warm up to the idea, was a Go Go bar where scrawny Thai girls stood on tables and pretend to dance. I have never seen such lackluster movement and I’m not big on the Thai aesthetic of super super skinny. Clearly some of the men thought otherwise as they got felt up at their tables. Not my idea of a great time, but sure.

Next we headed to a bar where the ladies could refuel on super strong Long Island Iced teas, in glasses shaped like naked women. I drank City Gin along with Fiz and our guy friend. Didn’t seem like the type of place you wanted to be off your guard in. Though I’m sure a drink would have gone a long way towards easing the pain of listening to the cover singer whine Bryan Adam’s “ Everything I Do” off beat and out of tune.

Finally the group leaders got enough liquid courage in them to head out and find one of the many, many, little dudes selling tickets to the ping-pong shows. For less then $10 each we got pulled upstairs into a seedy little room with low ceilings jam packed with tourists. It was more interesting to see who was watching then to watch the show.

Big blonde German women, American and European couples on dates, Middles Eastern men in groups looking shell shocked. We sat down in front of a platform that held a naked woman covered in bubbles. She rubbed them around with lackluster motions and checked her cell phone every two minuets until her shift was up.

Then the main act began, various Thai women doing all number of strange and bizarre things with their vaginas. Opening soda bottles, shooting darts, blowing out candles, you know the usual.

Then things got weird, one smoked two cigarettes out of her nether bits, which really must be terrible for you never mind the smell. Another “drank coke” with her pussy, a third pulled razor blades out by a string, yes… razor blades, she even cut things with them afterwards.  Another pulled needles out. Basically the least sexy things imaginable.

The girls loved it, Fiz and our guy friend and I sat staring in horror and checking our watches. An hour is a long time to watch that shit.

Adding to the gross factor was the knowledge of how unhygienic it all was. One woman who shot frozen bananas out of her va-jay-jay picked a fallen one OFF THE FLOOR and put it back in her. She also pulled audience members (including our friends) out to catch the flying bananas in cups. For the record I declined to catch a banana, yeah… no… total pass.

The famous “ping-pong” act was completely anti-climactic (no pun intended), she literally put three of them up their squatted over a cup and laid ping-pong eggs. Not impressed, I could do that. People have babies with those things a ping-pong doesn’t move me much.

Basically all the acts were performed using the same skill set. Vaginal muscles contracting and expelling trapped air… at home we call this a pussy fart, or a quieff. All they were doing was inserting objects and quieffing on command (instead of accidently after sex just when you think you look cool).

Throughout the performance the girl with the cell phone was replaced by a woman who coated herself in the same bubbles and touched another woman in most boring ways possible. Cleary lesbian sex hasn’t caught on here. It was mostly just awkward.

Now picture all of this with nice sexy young Thai’s and it seems a bit better than it was. The reality was many were as old as my mother. The whole show I kept staring at one lady thinking, she’s somebody’s mom, though when she asked to see our friends who-ha (and offer her cash) I stopped feeling like I was taking advantage of her.

Just another Thai paradox, Ping-Pong shows OK, facial hair deeply insulting. Not sure this is the place for us after all.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Good Day

By Kathleen

We have arrived in Thailand. After 8 hours on a bus, then a boat and then a mini-bus we are now on the island of Ko Chang, one of the largest islands in Thailand.  Its only a brief stop we are headed to Pattaya to finish our teacher training tomorrow, which means that by the time this is live, we will probably be there.

Cambodia was a generous and friendly host and I really enjoyed our time there. I would be down to return if the wind blew us in that direction at the end of this course, its rough, its poor but it’s got a sense of humor and that’s worth a lot.

The Wild Westy-ness of Cambodia is intriguing, and its not everyday that you stay at a place that has “ happy pizza” with free delivery on speed dial. The work in Cambodia seems more interesting too with NGOs and aid organizations vying for access and money and trying to outdo each other’s helpfulness. 

Cambodia often felt like a place without a history, a Lord of the Flies type experiment. “ What would happen if we just removed everyone from the ages of 40-60” because that’s basically what the Khmer Rouge did.  That act of cultural self mutilation has left a very young population who are trying to make the best of life without rules.

Thailand in comparison seems stuck up.  It’s funny returning to a country that you have visited before, old impressions clash with new ones, perspectives change.  But back to Ko Chang.

So here we are in one of the hot beach vacation destinations, smack dab in the middle of the rainy season. (Kind of like going to Southern Spain in January).
I’ll be honest, I’m not a big beach bum. I don’t like sand or seafood and I burn faster than you can say SPF 75, I also look like a dead fish in a bathing suit all glaring white and shiny, so I try not to spend too much time catching the rays.  Tropical places usually get the better of me and I find myself slinking into the water but I didn’t exactly mind when we awoke to a drenching day. Besides there’s other things to do… like ride elephants!

Ko Chang is structured like many of the Caribbean islands, a giant mountain erupting out of the ocean and so we ventured up, into the jungle and climbed on some pachyderms to go plodding through the torrent. I couldn’t tell if our mahout (the men who spend years training elephants) thought we were crazed or silly but he pointed out exciting things like a baby turtle struggling up a flooded hillside and a giant well concealed poisonous spider that looked a lot like the ones I saw in Louisiana.

Travel Tip of the Day: Never let the weather get you down. Rain or shine, you’re there when you’re there its up to you to make the best of it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Angkor What? Angkor Wat!

Ta Prom Temple Photo By Kathleen Broadhurst
By Kathleen

( Sorry it's been a minute, we've had technical difficulties)

 It’s not every day to get to see one of the wonders of the world, we were spun. The faces popping out of walls, the nine headed Naga snakes, the demons and gods at war. Shines and statues to the Buddha at every temple, it was a glorious jungle dream.

Together we wandered through some of the most glorious ruins on earth. Built in the 12th century when Europe was still in the mists of its middle age crisis the capital city Angkor was designed on sacred geometry, every temple is a reflection of heaven, every moat a symbolic sea.

To climb Angkor Wat, the most famous temple in Angkor, is to cross the seven seas and seven mountains and reach Mount Meru, home of the gods. There looking down over the jungle encrusted ruins it was impossible not to revel in the transitory nature of being.

Angkor Wat, though the biggest and most famous is not the only temple in Angkor, there are literally dozens and they dot the landscape like forgotten lego towers built by giant children. There’s the administrative seat of power with elephants and gods, there’s the bridge to Angkor Thom, with giant Lord of the Rings like sculptures and demons battling deities leading you deeper into Angkor’s mysteries.

There’s Ta Prom, the Temple of Bramha, where the jungle is slowly wining the battle against the stone, eating away at this ancient monastery’s sacred halls.  And then there’s the Temple of the Snake Maiden where, legend has it, the king would go every night to join in spiritual and sexual union with a snake Goddess. Given how many stairs there were to get to the top, I’m guessing the sex was really good.

The giant trees that encases the ruins are as much a part of the attraction as the moss covered stones, you can climb them or just get a group of five and see if you can circle them with your hands still touching. It would be easy to spend a week in Angkor and we only had one day. It was a temple marathon.

Thankfully, despite it being the rainy season, the day was dry and we were able to get to every major sight before the clouds rolled in, though we did miss out on Angkor’s famous sunset.

After dark, when we all had had a cool dip in the pool (an I had discovered that I missed getting sunscreen on part of my shoulder) we took to the streets of Siam Reap.  About the same size as Phnom Penh, Siam Reap is a much more affluent thanks to the hordes of tourists that descend like crazed monkeys onto the temples. There are many good restaurants to refuel at. We ended up at the Warehouse, though most of us were fairly unconcerned with food and looking forward to having a night off to hit the clubs.

Pub Street, is something of a letdown, its literally one street and there’s not much other than your typical Khmer happy pizza/ fried rice type restaurants and a few bars. On the far end on opposite sides of the street are the two big clubs. The Temple which plays the same music in a continuous loop but has air-conditioning and drinks in glasses and Angkor What? Which has a more alternative playlist and no flashing lights. We opted for Angkor What?.

With $1 shooters named things like Drunken Rabbit and Red Dragon, it wasn’t long before the crowd started bumping. Happy as clams in the heat and sweat we danced like the good little hippies we are, gaining the respect of fellow travelers and the giggles of a very tipsy Japanese girl who kept taking pictures of Fiz. By the end of the night there was no place to dance but the tables and we along with a dozen or more people dutifully climbed on top, where it must have been another 5 degrees hotter.

Finally falling out of the club, we wandered the streets looking for some fresh air. Tuk Tuk drivers came by to sell some sin. As a couple we avoid most of the sex trafficking touts but a friend got offered “ Girl, Boy, Two girls, pregnant girl?”. Mostly we just got offered an array of substances starting from the soft and getting progressively harder. It went something like this “ You want some smoke?”
 “ No.”
“ Marijuana”
“ No”
“ Cocaine”
“ No”
“ Molly”
“ Crystal Meth”
“ Opium”
“ No”
“ Heroin”
 “ No”, every ten feet or so, just another reminder that Cambodia is the Wild West of the East.

For those who are traveling to the area, Cambodia may see like a giant Las Vegas, but don’t be fooled, for every one of those dealers there was a cop standing at the wall and if we had decided to purchase anything you can bet we’d be paying a healthy bribe for the privilege.

Its is a well known fact that some shady dealers will actually sell you out to the cops before you even get your drugs. So if you’re going to party, party smart and don’t think just because it being offered that it’s ok to accept.

Furthermore, when it comes to chemicals, yeah, if you think they step on shit with nasty things back home, you can only imagine what they do it with here. In other words, cocaine really in Cambodia? That doesn’t even grow here. Stay safe, buy locally grown

Monday, September 5, 2011

Hella way to Start the Day

By Fiz

So it was bad enough that I had to wake up to an alarm clock after this past weekend, which you will read about in the next post.  Waking up was made worse because I knew I was getting up for school.  Little did I know that my morning was going to get much, much worse.

I got out of the packed Tuk Tuk in front of the university where our classes are held, with a huge bag of laundry to get done.  So off I went with Charles, a classmate who needed to get his clothes cleaned as well, to the Lazy Gecko Guesthouse.  A guesthouse with a reasonably priced lunch, and even cheaper laundry services.

We were talking about what a great time we had last weekend when all of a sudden we see a motor bike zoom past us then very loudly crash into something. We both spun around to see what had happened.  That something was a little boy who wasn’t even as tall as my hip.  All I saw was the child go flying through the air and the motor bike driver gun it and zoom off. 

There was a moment when everyone, us included, started yelling at the driver, cursing him, and screaming for him to stop.  Then the whole street’s attention turned to the boy cringing in the street.  His nose looked broken, he was bleeding from his teeth, and he was scraped from head to toe, his legs worst of all.  An older woman rushed up and scooped him up into her arms after making sure nothing was broken.  We saw the Tuk Tuk driver who gave us a ride to class, and asked someone to tell the woman she could take the Tuk Tuk to the hospital on our dime.  She said no, I couldn’t imagine why she didn’t want it.

We went to the guesthouse and gave them our laundry.  On our way back to the university one of the English speakers on the street thanked us for our concern and told us that an ambulance was called to take the child and his mother to the hospital.

All I could really focus on the rest of the morning was this little child getting thrown, and the biker not even stopping.  I felt so helpless, all I could think to do was give his family some money for medicine.

On our lunch break I asked somebody to show me his family so I could give them $5.  I was not prepared for what came next.  First I was taken to a building that was still under construction, right across the street from where the child got hit.  Everyone stopped and looked at me, suspicious is the wrong word to describe their expressions, but it was more than curiosity.  Then from the second floor this young woman climbed down a ladder with a baby in one arm, and walked very shyly up to me. 

I was speechless.  Not only was she beautiful, she couldn’t have been much older than Kathleen.  All I could say was, “For your boy.”  As I held out the 5 dollars.  She took the money and bowed lightly and went back to work.

The Tuk Tuk driver I had been talking to told me that poor women, when they get left by their husbands, which happens with surprising frequency, have to go work construction jobs, and because they are poor, they have to bring their children with them because they can't afford child care.  He was very upset, he made a point to say that most Cambodian driver never hit and run, let alone hit a child and run.

“Its very sad.” He said, “I’m very poor, and these women are poorer than me.  It makes me very sad.”

Some days I just wish there was more that I could do.  So please send healing vibrations to the child, and prosperity wishes to his mother, and maybe collectively we can change a family's life.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Phnom Penh Post

Central Market
By Kathleen Broadhurst

For those who have been eagerly awaiting our next installment, I apologize for the delay. This week marks the beginning of our life as TESOL teachers, our incubation you could say. We have been spending 8 hours a day in a classroom cramming our minds full of grammar and syntax, lesson planning and teaching technique. In three more weeks we will be allowed to teach, amazing.

This, needless to say hasn’t given us a lot of time to go about Phnom Penh to explore. We dashed through the main sights on the first day and have been spending the rest of the time cart wheeling around the city on tuk tuks, going to class or going to eat.
Phnom Penh is not the gastronomic dream that Vietnam was, though there are some solid offerings ( like the great Indian restaurant Phnom Penh India or Cantina, one of the only Mexican restaurants in this part of the world).

The Cambodian people continue to be friendly, especially the children, but also the adults and when they see us out in about, especially in traffic, will smile, wave, say hello or honk their horns to get our attention. We have been shown many babies.

We did get a chance to explore three sights of note, the Central market, the Grand Palace and Wat Phnom.

Stingrays it's whats for dinner.
The central market is bursting with color, it looks like a giant yellow custard pie from the outside and inside the architecture allows for natural breezes to circulate, making for a cool shady getaway. The vendors are so–so, mostly tacky jewelry and some cheap clothing inside. Outside the food market is exciting, with stingrays and giant blue armed prawns.  People were pretty cool with me taking photos too.

The Grand Palace, alas, is hardly worth a look if you’ve been to see the Grand Palace in Bangkok. About half the size the Phnom Penh Grand Palace is also mostly a recent reconstruction. It’s beautiful but feels mostly like a concrete EPCOT Cambodia. The museum was full of what appeared to be random old stuff without labels and the Silver Pagoda, so named because of the many silver tiles on the floor, which were covered almost completely by rugs… cheap rugs.

The beauty of the Wat Phnom Altar
Wat Phnom however, stands alone amongst the sights of Phnom Pehn, in that it was the only sight to not have been destroyed by the Khmer Rouge. It retains its historic and architectural integrity and is a peaceful place of worship amongst the crazed hustle and bustle of the city.

It was a great place to see some scenes of religious life, with parents bringing young children to the Wat and teaching them how to pray and bow and give alms. It was very moving and I wish I had had a chance to spend more time there.

The other major sights are of course the Killing fields and S-21 a school turned torture chamber. I’m not sure I care to see either, despite their important history. I may have had enough for graphic photos and dark energy for the moment, but we shall see. I may head out to the Killing fields, if only to pay respects.

Tomorrow we leave for Siem Reap, home of the famous Angkor Wat. Super excited.