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Saturday, June 19, 2004

I'm still in Saigon. And I've still got the runs.

So we made through the border yet again, and yet again, spent hours waiting in the hot Cambodian sun just to get a stamp saying we could leave.

As we were crossing no mans land (They make you walk it, which both annoying and scary) we saw a giant sign that read "Welcome to Vietnam" so we thought we'd get a picture. So we're all standing there when a lady picking up trash says "hey! No photograph" so we all said "ok ok" but that wasn't enough and she yells it at some guard with a giant gun who whips wound and yells "HEY NO PHOTOGRAPH" I have never apologized so much in my life.

But we made it through, and onto the nicest bus we've taken (and amazingly the only bus that hasn't broken down on us)where we were quickly whisked into Saigon with no problems or complications, another first.

Walking through Saigon today, we saw a giant TV above the road. At home, I wouldn't give a shit, but here...oh god...Like a moth to a flame. I stood for about half an hour watching surreal Vietnamese commercials for dry-wall (one of the Thai ones for dry-wall somehow managed to work in John Lennon, which we couldn't figure out either.) Anyway, I'm standing there and Nick comes up behind me and slowly says "Its like the Jetsons".

A little boy is coughing on me and I've had enough of it. I'll check in later, I'm starting to like this blog thing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

In the heart of darkness

So we left Bangkok early in the morning, heading for the border with high hopes and some nervous expectations. All of them were met.

When we hit the border, we gave some guys some money to go get our visas...We went through "customs" and entered no mans land, A dirt road filled with dogs, chickens, and dirty children trying to sell me anything. A man came and took my passport away, which was a little nerve wracking, and then we stood. And stood and stood, in the direct heat of the searing Cambodian sun. A group of about 20 of us waited for about half an hour, no one said much, all of us were nervous. "Mex Ha-zen" a man yelled out suddenly. "Come with me". I looked back at the group, and got some sympathetic looks, but no said a word. I went with the man, around back of the building, where some guards were playing cards...I nearly shat myself. I was shaking when one of them stood up and walked over to me. I feigned a smile, and said "Hello". No reply. The man looked me up and down, frowning until I almost cracked and ran. When finally he grunted and I was allowed to leave.

Back at the group, still standing, another guard came by with our passports. Relieved we took them, thinking we would soon be on our way, when someone said "Wait, they're not stamped..." They weren't. So we waited some more. Finally, one of the guards edged up to a Swedish girl, looked at her passport, and whispered something in her ear. She thought for a moment, opened her wallet and gave him 100 baht. Two seconds later, she was walking through the Cambodian border without hassle.

After that we understood, and one by one we payed off the guard to stamp our passports and let us move on. Happy, we walked about a kilometer down a dirt road, surrounded by smiling, dirty children constantly waving and yelling "Hello!". It was strange, because compared to Thailand Cambodia is very badly off, and yet these people seemed genuinely happy just to see us.

After a long walk, we see a bus on the horizon, "ah....Air-con" We all thought, until we got closer and realized that the bus seated about 12 and there were 20 of us...We crammed like we've never crammed before...And soon enough, the jam packed van, me on a pile of luggage, Looq sitting on the Swedish girl, were off.

It was too good to be true, as we crept along we soon realized that the bus wasn't taking the load very well, and eventually it came to a stop so that we could wait for another ride to take a few people. When it came, we shuddered, it was a pick-up truck. We all got out of the bus, standing in real Cambodia for the first time, and trying to decide who would take the truck when BAM! One of the wheels on the bus hilariously and tragically let out a loud hiss, at which point we bolted for the truck.

For the next 8 fucking hours we sat on the sides of a pick up truck while it bounced down the worst "road" I've ever seen in my life, crossing several "bridges" and often getting some air off some good bumps. My ass is still bruised. 8 hours...

But it was worth it. It was my first taste of a real "third world" country and I couldn't stop smiling as we drove past stick huts and had laughing children screaming and waving as we paraded past them. I'll never forget that night.

Later on we found out that the bus didn't get into Siem Reap, where I am now, until 4:30 in the morning and at one point, in traditional Asian chaotic fashion, the driver fell asleep and they crashed into a rice paddy field.

The last two days I've spent on the back of a motor cycle with my driver "Lucky" visiting Ankor, one of the world's wonders without a doubt. I can't possibly explain it with words, but luckily our friend Nick has a digital camera so I have tons of pics.

tomorrow or the next day, we head to Phnom Penh (sp) the capital, which is supposed to be pretty rough, but we're taking a boat across the country so I'm looking forward to that.

I could go on for hours, but I guess I should leave it at that.

Max

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