Donate Button



Donate a dollar. Seriously. You lose more in people's couches and don't care.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

PACSAFE

PACSAFE

Today, I bought a 'pacsafe'. It is a mesh of wire that goes over the backpack and has a place you can lock it. While only a solid metal ball would be pretty secure, it still steps up the security for the backpack. Before I went on the trip, I didn't know about them. During the trip, I held off of buying one partially due to the investment (about $100) and partially due to reading other travelers thoughts on it. They said things like 'it makes your bag more conspicuous. After already getting robbed twice, I'm thinking 'fuck them, they don't know what they're talking about'. So, I will let everyone know if I get to play the game 'who stole Logan's stuff' again. I hope not but it is one of the downsides of travel.

The upsides do make it worth while, IMO.



POOR PEOPLE

Today I saw an overweight, middle aged lady naked taking a bath on the street. I didn't get a picture because:

a) Thais can go from smiling to ax-murder the interloper quick if they get riled.
b) Nobody wants to see fat, naked, middle aged women.
c) I didn't want a fat, naked, middle aged woman chasing my fat, crippled and slow ass down the street.



VIDEOS

Odd Street



BANGKOK RIVER TAXI INFO

No flag - stops everywhere
Orange flag - some stops
Yellow flag - only main stops
Green flag - only runs in the morning and evening, goes to different provinces.

The thing to know about river taxis is that they are 20 TBH or less (less than a dollar) and you have to ask people which dock is the river taxi. There are a lot of over priced tourist boat docks mixed in with the river taxi docks. Also, the river taxi docks are numbered. This makes it pretty easy to figure out where you are and when you should disembark.



OLD NERO STORY

set back in Kzoo's chapter where they had the individual rooms in the inn. Someone was looking for me and searching the rooms. I had hired three young girls to give me a backrub. (My back hurt, Lumsie was one of the richer players in NERO - it all worked out). A guy looking for me opened the door and gazed down on what appeared to me on the floor with three young, pretty and fit women. He had a look of bafflement in his eyes. I said "What?" He just slowly closed the door, looking stunned. [Disclaimer: Nothing at all naughty happened - I just wanted a back rub and got it.]



PRICES

Pacsafe, 3200 TBH

Thursday, January 26, 2012

FIVE DAYS LEFT IN BANGKOK

RAIN IN BANGKOK FALLS MAINLY ON THE LOGAN

Today I was out doing my normal 'bit of a wander' as Pete would put it. For me, this means a two to six hour stomp around. Unfortunately, it was called by rain. I got lucky and found a bus that was headed back to Ko San Road. It was bucketing down rain so I was grateful to be on it. After I got dropped off and managed to find the street I was staying on, I wandered back to my guesthouse. Although it had only been raining pretty good for an hour or so, the water was nearly knee deep to me. [Julie Jones - you are short. I'd suggest flotation devices. Just kidding.] This goes to show just how poor the drainage is within Bangkok. Despite the massive flooding experienced just a few months ago nothing has changed nor do I see any signs that it will be changing. Next rainy season should be fun for them but fortunately I will be somewhere the hell else. I'd suggest in Thailand try not to get ground floor accommodations.



COMPARE CONTRAST

Cambodia vs Thailand. For living in, I think the key is to get out of the capitals. In Thailand, I'd get up to one of the Chang's (I think Chaing Rei but I'd have to review my notes to be sure) and in Cambodia I'd get to Siam Reap. Comparing those places:

In Thailand, you'd have better tasting food and a cooler climate. The big downside - entertainment costs more and it's more difficult to stay here long term than Cambodia.

In Cambodia, the beer is half price and I liked the town a bit better. The big downside, I got sick on the food more often until about a month passed and I could build up some resistance to it.

Pluses and minuses everywhere. Between the two, I'd rather go back to Siam Reap. Laos and Vietnam at this point aren't even in the competition. Laos is pretty dead and Vietnam was on the other end of the scale.



SMOKING IN THAILAND

For smokers, bring cigarettes with you when you come into Thailand. Cambodia is a good place to buy them. In Thailand, cigarettes are more expensive than in the rest of SE Asia ($1 to $3 per pack) and the selection is very limited everywhere you go.

This is probably why people smuggle smokes in from Cambodia...



INDIA PONDERINGS

Someone on Facebook suggested I hit Rishikesh. Reading up on it, Rishikesh is a holy city. Only vegitarian meals are allowed - alcohol is not other than in expensive hotels I wouldn't be staying at. So...I guess beer and a steak is out?

It does look interesting but I don't know if I'd want to be there for long.

The huge irony is that it fits so many of the research-able criteria I am looking for. It is only approximately three hours from Delhi. It is in the correct direction, toward Nepal. The population is about the right size with 75,000 people plus ass loads of tourists. The problems are that so many things I like seem to be banned there. Hell, they've even outlawed plastic bags from shops. WTF. I love me some plastic bags.

Now mind you, I am planing on visiting all of the other places that I've been told about. I have plenty of time to spend in India. I am currently just looking for a 'run the fuck away' place just in case I get overwhelmed in Delhi. It's a backup plan. I like me some backup plans. And plastic bags. And steak. And alcohol.



TRAVELER'S LORE

I was talking to a nice couple (Rabchel and Chet-cho - sorry I can't spell your names correctly) from Spain about Myanmar today and they gave me a lot of interesting information. In no particular order, here it is:

It's expensive for lodging. For two people it was $50 though there may be some $20 guesthouses. Also, the government prohibits home stays.

There are no ATM's, no banks tourists may use nor traveler's checks allowed there.

Simple meals are $4-$5 each.

There are no signs in English.

No land crossings (as I described in earlier blogs from my research).

They limit which internet sites you can use and the internet there is horrible.

There aren't any uniformed police around. They rely heavily on 'secret police'. If you are talking to someone about something they don't like (being critical of the government, etc) you get deported and the local goes off to prison. Hence, be careful what you say.

In April they are having their local elections. There is no doubt that these are being held in time to commemorate the start of my trip. Very kind of them. Things may (or not) change when the elections are completed.

They have a temple place like Cambodia's Angkor Wat called 'Bagan'. It is a big area and has 2500 temples. You can get around in there via bike, taxi or horse cart. People apparently argue which is better - Bagan or Angkor Wat. From the wiki, Bagan looks pretty nifty.

It's looking like Burma (such a better name than Myanmar) is still pretty rough. The tourists are only allowed in the tourist areas. Fighting and rebellion may be going on in other parts of the country.

The thing the couple stressed the most is that the natives were super friendly. Because they haven't seen a lot of tourists, they are still in the 'excited to meet you' phase. It sounds like an interesting place and Bagan is looking pretty nifty. I don't know if it's yet time to visit it but for extreme vacationers - yes, get in there.

A big thanks to that kind couple for taking the time to share their experiences with me. I'm guessing they may put the correct spelling of their names in the comment section below.


On a slightly different topic, I met a delightful couple from Chile who depressed me by letting me know that South America is nearly as expensive as the USA. It will be a 'save my ass off before going' continent.



TRAVELER'S TIPS

Avoid travel agents, period.

Once you spend money in SE Asia, it's gone. Trying to get any sort of refund, customer service, etc is not in the local mentality. It simply won't happen.



VIDEOS

River Taxi 1

River Taxi 2

Huge Fucking Birds

Alley to Royal Barge Museum

Playground of Doom

Royal Barge Museum

Thai Market

Giant Swing

Denial

Bangkok Tour

Fuck Jim Thompson

Ladies Help Your Dog

Don't Kill Yourself



COSTS

Shitty spaghetti, 140 TBH
Pepsi Max from restaurant with shitty spaghetti, 35 TBH (the drink was fine)

Don't forget if you eat at a decent restaurant, they'll tack on 10% just because hey - they want your money.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

TEN NIGHTS IN BANGKOK

WORLDS LARGEST MALL

Today I went to what is arguably one of the largest malls in the world. However I didn't hang out there that long because:

1. I don't like malls.
2. The stuff there is pricey.
3. They didn't have anything I needed. If I can't carry it, I don't need it.
4. They didn't have the gauloise cigarettes the internet said they would. I get lied to a lot.

But I did check it out. It was a shiny monument to extreme capitalism in downtown Bangkok. For people who have houses to send their purchases back to, it would probably have been more interesting.



KOREANS ABROAD

There are tons of Korean tourists wandering about SE Asia. This tells me that Korea has become a lot more affluent than when I was there in the 1980's. Affluent equals expensive hence it could be awhile before I get back there to visit.



THAI ROYAL PALACE

I was passing by and noticed some colorful pointy topped buildings so I decided to check it out. The security guards were inside telling the hoards of tourists they would have to dress appropriately to visit. You have to have things like long pants and shoulders covered on a shirt. For females, you can't dress like a whore. [Logan - are you saying that many female tourists dress like prostitutes? Why, yes I am. I have no idea why they do but I've seen it in very conservative countries as well. Weird.] This makes it more difficult for many of the tourists. Fortunately, they have a system all in place to help correct this. You get clothing there. They charge you a deposit of 200 TBH per piece and you get it back when you return the clothing. Pretty cool. I decided I didn't want to go in because I discovered that tickets were 400 TBH. I'd rather spend that money on going to the 600 TBH amusement park. I am a simple creature.

I think that the clothing restriction shows the true nature of the Thais. Although this country in many people's minds is synonymous with women firing darts from their genitalia at balloons and prostitution, the average Thai is actually pretty conservative. This comes out in odd ways. For example, buying cigarettes is tricky here because they aren't allowed to openly display them. Much like the marijuana in Amsterdam, you have to ask to see the cigarettes. Weird.



THE PUBLIC BUS SYSTEM

One person told me it was 60 TBH to ride the public bus. I made the 'six-zero' fingers and got confirmation. I figured he was absolutely lying - Thais couldn't afford to regularly take the bus at that rate. A different guy said 8 TBH. Both were wrong.

They have red buses and yellow buses. Most of the red ones are free. The yellow buses cost 16 TBH or so. Under a half a dollar.

You do get some odd looks on a bus. Not angry looks but more 'hey that's weird - a white guy'.



TOURIST VILLE

I've discovered the actual temple name is not 'the booty'. Had it been, that would have been much cooler. The actual name is 'Wat Chana Songkhram' which means 'victory in battle'. They got some monks to go do the fighting against the Burmese awhile back. The first version was cooler but I wanted to put in the correction I got from going and looking at the temple placards. I have no idea why the Thai sport of 'Lying to Logan' is so popular but I hope there are good prizes involved.



MEDICAL STUFF

Since my left eye is still blurry in spots from my latest bout of iritis, I went to an eye, ears, throat, etc hospital. It costs 500 TBH to play a complicated hospital wide game of musical chairs that eventually culminates in seeing the doctor. After he saw me, he was pleased to announce that the blurred vision was nothing that a large cash injection might not be able to at least diagnose if not treat. I was contemplating forking over the $50 or more. After all, it is my vision - it's important. But, lo he said I must schedule well in advance. It is looking like I will get this done in India when I get there if it hasn't cleared up by then.



BANGKOK TRAFFIC

Bangkok has a huge traffic problem. Unlike most drivers in the world, the Thais don't have the idiotic belief that blowing on a horn will cause the other drivers to suddenly get out of their way. This results in a fairly quiet roadway given the amount of traffic they have here. I suspect it is partially the Buddhist influence at work here. Mello.

If you ever need to get through Bangkok traffic fairly fast, you just need a scooter and balls of steel. Swirling in and around the larger slower vehicles while hoping not to get killed is a game that many people here play.



WILL JANA GET LUCKY?

I might be able to actually mail off some of my completed journals to Jana from here. According to the post office, for two of them it will be about 332 TBH. I'm going to try lugging a couple of them over to the post office and see if the price still holds or suddenly rockets up.



WHAT IS LOGAN DOING IN BANGKOK?

I'm working on playing with the public transportation system, riding around on the buses and exploring the city by foot as much as possible. Today's game got called due to heavy rain. Tomorrow's game will be to find a nearby post office. Every day I am trying to set some useful goal for myself. Get to some place, find something, etc. Otherwise, I'll go stir crazy in my bad smelling but cheap and tacky guesthouse.

Sorry I don't have anything huge and dramatic going on right now but I have made some videos to help keep you entertained.



VIDEOS

Dead food - Cambodia

Royal Palace 1

Royal Palace 2

Lost in Bangkok

Logans Room

Shark Roulette

Smoking View



COSTS

Pedicure, including removal of excess dead skin, 150 TBH
Beer, 70 TBH (over double the price you'd find in Cambodia)

Monday, January 23, 2012

KHAO SAN ROAD

NARRATIVE

THB = Thailand Baht. At the time of writing, about 30 THB = 1 USD, aka $1.

Google maps said six hours. With the frequent stops and the Thai-Cambodian border, it was twelve hours from Siem Reap to Bangkok. We switched buses (well, transport) three times that I recall. Fortunately, I shared a lot of the journey with some fun folk from a lot of different countries. It's always a pity when you know you won't be running into those people again.

Upon arrival in Bangkok, I discovered it was Chinese New Years. I have no clue what that has to do with Thailand, but it means that places have filled up and the prices have probably been jacked up a bit as well. Since that was working against me, I checked into a moderately despicable room for 450 TBH a night. It did have AC and turned out to be slightly more comfortable than it looked. After a quiet and rather sucky meal, I wandered around the same backpacker area as I was in last time I was here. I didn't highly regard it the first time I was here but had the option to escape quickly and took it.

My mission for this time was to get to the Indian Embassy and secure my wonderful ten year multi entry visa. No, I never get tired of being completely wrong all the time.

The next morning, I woke up before the alarm went off and set out to get to the Indian Embassy. The tuk tuk driver assured me it would be 400 TBH to get there. Since I was assuming he was lying, I nodded and smiled. He did tell me there was a place closer than the Thai Embassy where I could get the visa. Again, I assumed he was lying but was curious as to how it would play out. He wanted 100 TBH for a round trip to this place. I told him that I didn't believe they would be able to help me get the special visa I needed. He assured me they could. I stared at him. He told me that if they couldn't, he'd only charge me 20 TBH and just leave me there so I could catch a cab to the embassy since it was too far to go by tuk tuk.

After he had dropped me off, I had checked and paid my 20 TBH I caught a cab to the Indian Embassy. 100 TBH later, I had been dropped at the wrong address but it was within a half a kilometer so I just walked there. The place you want to get the visas is called the 'Glass House'. It is a high rise away from the embassy. There I was told that the biggest visa I could possibly get was a six month two entry visa for 3230 TBH. He had actually quoted it 1000 TBH less than I ended up getting charged but there wasn't anything I could do.

Maybe I will be able to wrangle a ten year visa when I get there. Maybe I will hate India and not need a ten year visa. I simply don't know. It is frustrating.

The misquoting man then gave me an option. I could either pay them 200 TBH to give me the forms to get my visa (which they then type into the computer) or he would be happy to give me soft, inaccurate and misleading directions to a nearby internet cafe where I could save myself 200 TBH. I looked at the huge line quickly forming up behind me. I pondered the non-functioning Indian web page I had just checked out three days ago. I felt a rising feeling of dread within me. I told him I would be delighted to pay the 200 TBH.

I was allowed into the hallowed halls of the visa processing area. But first, I was commanded to turn off my cell phone. "I have no cell phone." This brought looks of confusion and skepticism. Eventually, I asked if they had a cell phone I could borrow to turn off. I was allowed into the hallowed halls of the visa processing area.

Here, it was demanded that I give up two pictures of myself. But not just any two pictures of myself - they had to be passport photos with either a white or a blue background. I had no idea what the background was so I fumbled them out. White! Joy. First thing that went right today.

They processed my paperwork as well as ignored several angry people who had tried to use their webpage from an internet cafe only to discover it didn't work and they were now forced to pay 200 TBH. I ignored them to.

The nice lady at the embassy suggested I get my plane ticket for the second.

The Indian Embassy is located in a district called 'Sukhumvit'. It's where all the pricey and expensive shit is. Like embassies. They also have access to a rather slick system called the 'sky train'. This is the cheap way to get around Bangkok fast. Note that this sky train has absolutely no connection to the backpacker area. You can't get there from here. I suspect that was deliberate. It would be nice to get my passport while hauling my pack then get right on the sky train from the embassy and get straight to the airport. That sort of 'cracker jack' timing is hard to do in the states. Here, I don't think it would be possible. So, I'll just make multiple trips and like it.

After getting a receipt for my passport as well as a copy to show to any interested government officials, I left the Embassy and headed back (110 TBH). I had a driver who claimed he didn't have change for 120, I told him to wait there and I went and got change. Yes, it's a nominal amount but it is irritating.

After getting back, I checked around for a better room and found one for 400 TBH. It looks pretty grim but it does have working wifi and en suite bathroom. Air conditioning also - of a sort. I can't adjust it but it seems OK for now.

Despite the room costing a few dollars (well, $3) more than I want to pay and it being fairly dingy, I might just end up staying here for the next ten nights. It has wifi and an external lock on the door. In other words, I can use a padlock for additional security. That makes me feel better about security.

I've done some research on Bangkok and there isn't really a whole lot I'm wanting to see here. It's got a lot of chrome, glass and sky scrapers. Meh. It does give me a lot of area to wander about through though so I might do that. Maybe see if I can get more familiar with the various transportation systems within the city. Pretty low budget stuff as opposed to the normal reasons people come here - whores and booze. Women shooting darts out of their clitoris into balloons, donkey shows. That sort of thing. I don't have either the money or interest for that sort of thing.

I am very happy that this place has wifi, however. Delhi will be a huge challenge to tackle especially on my budget.

AirAsia again appeared to be the cheapest option to fly there. If you ever need airline tickets, always check with their prices. Be advised that they add huge charges to the initial quote. My initial quote was $76. After all of the other mandatory charges, the price had doubled. But, that will still get me into India. Once I am in New Delhi, I can also see about options for extending the visa or just finding a way of getting the ten year visa aside from being in my 'home country' and asking for it. Yeah, I put 'home country' in quotes. Home is where you chain your backpack.

All that I really need to do right now is to find an internet cafe where I can print off my e-ticket confirmation. That way, if my visa is not ready on the promised date of the first, I will have something to wave while I whine to attempt to speed up bureaucracy. Don't know if it will work, but props help.



KHAO SAN ROAD

From what I've read, it's suppose to be pronounced 'cow' but all of the tourists are now mispronouncing it as 'chao' which apparently means 'island'. It is an island of tourism. The area I am in surrounds a temple I've been told is named "La Bootai". I believe his may be showing the French influence and translated mean "The Booty". Coincidence? I think not.



HOW MUCH DOES IT REALLY COST?

On wikitravel, they often have ranges for places to stay. "100-550". Ignore the lower number, it is usually imaginary. Or they have one room like that which has been permanently rented out. Or that was the price years ago. Just realize it is imaginary and if someone changes it, they may change it back.



TRAVELER'S TIPS

In Thailand, older cab drivers tend to try to rip you off less than young ones. I'm not sure why, but that seems to be the way of it.

Beware of traveling in January. Even though the nation you are in might not be the one technically celebrating the new year, their hotels might be full of people who don't know any better.



COSTS

Pineapple shake, 20 TBH (Note: Shakes are blended fruit and ice. No ice cream.)
Chicken pad Thai, 50 TBH
Little can of cold coffee from 7-11, 13 TBH

Monday, January 16, 2012

ANGKOR WAT

REINCARNATION

If people got reincarnated into machines, becoming a scooter in the states wouldn't be so bad. Your biggest worry would be someone riding you recklessly or getting creamed by a car driver who wasn't paying attention. A quick crunch and it's all over.

Then, you have another shot at reincarnation. Maybe come back as a human, maybe the dildo you've speculated on in the past.

But being reincarnated as a scooter in SE Asia would suck ass. Sure - you'd have a limited form of immortality. You will always be in fairly bad condition but continuously patched and repaired.

But the American scenario above would be a rare thing. More likely you'd be carrying four or five adults. Worse yet, hooked up with a heavy trailer hauling as many as twenty people and cargo. It would be a hard life for you.

So, when you die - pray you don't come back as a scooter in SE Asia. Go for the dildo instead.



POSSIBLE ADVERTISEMENTS FOR THE "LOGAN'S VOYAGE" BLOG

Not as much fun as jacking off to internet porn, though you may still feel dirty and stained after reading it.



ONLINE INDIA VISA SHENANIGANS

As I suspected, the process is not working. First, you have to put a lot of time in answering all sorts of questions like who you are married to. It doesn't ask if you are single - it assumes you are married. You can't not fill out that part of the form, it is mandatory. Apparently, everyone in India is married and you are expected to be so as well.

At the beginning of the form, it also wants to know the office you will be turning the form into. Phnom Penh is an option but Bangkok is not. I am praying that Bangkok hasn't yet gotten into this digital madness.

At the end of the form, you need to select a time for your interview before you can go to the page that will give you a print out of all of the information you carefully put in. That part is broken preventing you from ever getting to print out your documents.

Unlike the rest of the digital world that allows you to make a user name and password, this page gives you a temporary application ID. The claim is that if you need to go back to your form, you can enter that fifteen digit alpha numeric string and edit your data. When I entered mine, it claimed there was no such number and offered me a new temporary application ID.

I didn't want to spend another fifteen minutes trying to make their form work.

My current plan is to hang out in Siem Reap for the weekend then head out to Bangkok on Monday. There, I will try to secure a place to stay in the cheaper part of town (Khao San Road where the backpackers hang out) and hit up the Indian Embassy. I'd like to try to get this done on Tuesday or Wednesday because I've noticed that on Thursday they have a holiday. I'm thinking that they may stretch it into a four day holiday. I would. Hell, maybe I should leave on Sunday so I can get set up there and be ready for Monday. That would give me one extra day.

I don't want to go after that because my visa will be running out and I don't want to extend it or pay a fine if I don't have to.

According to the internet, it is a six hour journey from here to Bangkok. I'm expecting eight to ten hours with the border and usual lack of punctuality.



ANGKOR WAT

I decided to head out to Angkor Wat. I was having trouble finding someone I could bribe to make a phone call for me until I went to a restaurant. The guy working there was happy to call for me and wouldn't accept any money for it. Good deal. Unfortunately, I later got sick from the food I ate there so it kind of balanced out I suppose.

I had him call Lee, who I had met upon first arriving in Siem Reap. Lee's offer of $12 for the short tour (big tour $14) seemed great to me. Lee also was delighted to have me put his phone number in the blog. If anyone needs a tuk tuk driver, this guy speaks pretty good English. He also did a lot of little nice things for me like provide free water during the trip and such. His cell phone number is 012995378. Note that this number works within country - if you are trying to call him from overseas, you'll need to look up the country code for Cambodia and all of that. If you're wanting to see Angkor Wat, it's a good cheap way to do it. You can see Lee in some of the videos telling me a bit about the history of the place and such.

Angkor Wat is very much the central showpiece of Cambodia. Some people come in just to see that then split. I think the rest of the country is interesting and inexpensive to see as well.

My tour consisted of seeing four different temples. Aside from Angkor Wat, I have no clue at all what their names were. Other people in the videos pronounce them. My favorite was the second place I went. A very cool temple that you can clamber around in that hasn't been totally infested with tourists. Angkor Wat is not crowded but that is just because of its massive size. The other two temples gave me the feeling of claustrophobia caused by too many people walking like they were stoned looking at their guide books or talking to each other.

I'm glad I spent the money going to these places. Lee was a good guide. I had the feeling he knew more information than he told me but he may have correctly read that I didn't want the information. If I did, I could look it up on the internet.

Now, a couple of tidbits that might be useful for other people wanting to go to the Angkor Wat park:

A daily ticket is $20. They take your picture and it is built into the ticket. You can buy tickets for longer. I knew going in that one day there would be enough. If you are the kind of person that wants to explore longer, you can either buy a series of $20 tickets or get more days at a cheaper price.

You can't walk there. You will need a vehicle to get there. I haven't seen any scooter rental places in Siem Reap. If you are wanting to take a scooter there on your own you will need to rent it from elsewhere and bring it here. I did see quite a few healthy people on bikes. If you are fit, that is probably a good way to do it but you will probably need more than just a one day ticket.

My tour was $12. I could have probably negotiated a couple dollars off of it but I didn't since I had Lee called to come to the restaurant I was at. You don't get someone to drop what they're doing so they can show up get bartered. I'm guessing that if you waved a $20 in someone's face, you'd have a committed driver for the entire day who is wanting to show up for any future days.

The police sometimes check the ID's of the drivers. The drivers are suppose to have a tanned vest with four numbers on the back. If the drivers don't have this, the cops fine them one dollar per cop. Guess where the money goes? If you don't have an 'official driver' that cost may be passed on to you. Yes, it turned out that Lee was an official driver. We just got waved through the impromptu police fund raiser.



CAMBODIAN WAGES

I was talking to one of the guys who works the desk. I think they get free lodging here. They may also get free food but on that I'm not sure - I am doubtful. Their wages are $50 per month according to the man I spoke with. It's a bit depressing. I've heard that others (without lodging) are making $150. Very, very depressing.



THE ANGKOR WAT VIDEO COLLECTION

There are many temples in the region. For lazy tourists (like Logan) these can all be loosely classified as Angkor Wat. I'd like to apologize to everyone that I don't have anti roll on the camera nor a film crew. Both would help but I just don't have the money or connections for either.

It has been pointed out to me that the Blair Witch movie made money. Sadly, I couldn't afford even the lame witch at the end to try to scare me. If I ever got a working mail address, I'm sure people would want to send me lame witches. We'll see.

In these videos, Logan bravely battles through hordes of people trying to sell him stuff, the crush of other tourists, his bowels and the occasional loss of his own driver to experience the beauty and majesty of the old Khmer ruins and crassly exploit them for his own amusement.

Angor Wat 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21.



PRICES

Black and white print outs - 300 KHR to 500 KHR
Oreo cookie roll - $1.20
Colgate travelers sized toothpaste - $.35
Box of pineapple juice - $1.90
Floss, big box - $5.20 (floss isn't common in a lot of countries so I stocked up a little bit)
Bus to Bangkok - marked at $16, cost me $12. Gave the guy who works here a $1 tip and he almost hugged me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

LIVE FROM SIAM REAP

INTER CAMBODIA TRAVELING

I should have probably waited until Monday to travel back to Phnom Penh, but honestly, I was just feeling restless. That, and the internet was so bad at 'Sky Blue' that it was interfering with my travel research. My main purpose in Phnom Penh is to get my India visa and find out more about how that ten year visa works. Given the relatively low cost and huge duration, I figure going for that one is a 'no brainer'. Hell, it can cost $150 to get in some countries for a month. Hello, China!

So, without bothering to haggle with the tuk tuk driver, I paid his $2 fare because he was up at 6AM when I wanted to leave. Early bird got the extra buck.



PHNOM PENH INDIAN EMBASSY

After getting checked in to a pretty crappy guesthouse (The "Okay Guesthouse" isn't!) I immediately hopped onto a motorbike (much to the dismay of the guy who was already on it) and sped off to the Indian Embassy.

What happened there brought to mind a quote from the philosopher 'Jay' of 'Jay and Silent Bob' when he said the immortal words of "The whole world's against us dude. I swear to fucking God."

Despite it being Friday, a gate guard was trying to convince me to 'come back tomorrow'. I think that was his standard line. I've dealt with a lot of embassies and I haven't found any to be open for business on Saturday or Sunday. [Note, after talking with other people at the Indian Consulate this is also the case here.] So, I did not believe him, despite him trying to convince me.

While I was discussing the days of the week with him, I met either the Indian Consul himself or a guy who just worked there. From the way he was dressed and acted, I'm guessing it was the consul (like the ambassador but of a smaller place - a consulate). So, I talked to him.

Disclaimer - no I had not pissed off the gate guards so much they wanted to kill me, climbed the fence and made my way onto the soil of the nation of India and caused the consul to get summoned. For those who don't know me that well, yeah, this is the kind of disclaimer I need to make. I just ambushed the poor guy when he was on his way home from work.

So, I talk to the guy from India a bit. [We'll just call him the consul - it's cooler and shorter than 'he could have been or was just some guy working there'.] It turns out that I wouldn't be able to register until a week from now because they are switching to a new online method that will be just launching then. Instead of filling out forms in person, you get to fill out the forms on the internet, print them off and bring in the forms. It's closer but still missing the mark. Hopefully, they will some day get the system down so you can just show up with a confirmation number as with airline tickets and bickity bam, you get your visa slapped into your passport. Now, I don't know about you but I have seen plenty of software launches and the launch itself rarely goes smoothly. Especially if it is bureaucratic stuff from what some people would call a third world nation.

I don't know if it will work on the twentieth. Or of what month. I do know that my visa is going to be expiring on the 29th of this month for Cambodia and I'd like to be out of the country before that.

In addition to that, the consul does not do the 10 year visa. It was explained to me that it was just a small office. Apparently, that means that only small visas can be issued from there. It makes absolutely no sense to me but he did assure me that Bangkok was where I needed to be. So, within Bangkok we will be playing the 'race the two week visa they give me for crossing the border by land' game. Not cool.

So, I gave it some thought and looked at a map. Siem Reap seemed to be on the route toward a popular border crossing into Thailand. They have five different border crossings from Cambodia into Thailand. Two of them don't seem to get a lot of use. It may be better to take a common one and just blend in with the never ending shuffle of tourists heading to Thailand instead of hacking my way through a jungle.

I was staying in a different part of Phnom Penh than I'd stayed before. It was kind of sad that I knew more about the layout of the place than the first tuk tuk driver who ended up virtually giving me a tour of it before I said "Where the hell are we going? The street address I gave you is near the royal palace dude." Yes, his English was fine - I like to check first. Okay Guesthouse which I'd read about on the internet turned out to be rather sad. Since my business was done (well, unable to be completed), the neighborhood I was staying in rather unappealing and the guesthouse grim, I decided it was time to get an early bus to Siem Reap. I was headed west toward Thailand anyway - why not.

For an extra $2 ($7 total) you can get the fancy 'disgusting don't sit on this' toilet in the bus. Since I still have some problems with Cambodian food from time to time, I'm glad I paid the extra money.

Lets just say the bus ride felt a lot longer than it really was.

Upon arrival, there was the usual cloud of tuk tuk drivers who tried to convince me that $3 was the normal fare. I ignored them and went on foot to the gate where those tuk tuk drivers who were not cool enough to get inside waited. One was happy to get me there for $1. I'm guessing it was the 'soft sell' to get me into his good graces so he could hit me for more money to get me to Angkor Wat. Given he speaks very good English, it might just work.

Siem Reap is the home of Angkor Wat, I discovered that it wouldn't be nearly as expensive to go see it as I'd thought. About a third the cost. $12 by tuk tuk and $20 to get in the park. Not bad - I think I'm going to try to get it done. Check it off the ole bucket list and all that. Naturally, this brings up the question of 'does Logan have a bucket list and if so what is on it?' No, not really but if I did, I'm sure Angkor Wat would be on it. Possibly so would an item off of Austin Powers bucket list.

The only thing I'm not thrilled about is tons of other tourists and people trying to sell me shit that will be there. I've often thought that having people who try to sell me stuff I don't want mysteriously get a rather large jolt of electricity would be such a great super power.

After checking into a pretty dumpy place, I managed to find and negotiate the rate down of a very nice place a few doors down. The new place I am in might be called "Five Star VIP Hotel" but it is rough to tell from the business card. You might call me a pussy but having air conditioning to go back to after sweating my ass off wandering around the city for hours every day instead of getting to sweat more when I get back to my room improves my mood quite a bit. The room also has a list of other things I really like such as a mini-fridge, writing desk with chair, hot water, a big bed, decent (for Cambodia) internet and it gets cleaned every day as well as (negotiated down to half) laundry for $1 per kilo. This is less than I was paying renting out the bug infested basement in Blacksburg, Virginia. It's true that I don't have a BBQ grill out back to play with but I can get a decent meal for $2 or a nice one for $5 to $6. I'm pretty happy. It doesn't have a hip common room but that saves me money from buying beer so I can stay and talk to the interesting people. Plus, it helps me to focus on writing more.

I also did some shopping for yet more medicine as well as a pouch to replace the one I keep my passport in under my clothing. Although I will hold on to it (doesn't take much space, doesn't weigh much) it has about had it. I think wearing it for 8 months or so has really kicked the crap out of it.

The night market has a lot of very aggressive "You buy something?" people in it all trying to sell the usual tourist junk. Some of it would be nifty if I had a house and a house keeper to keep it clean. Little statues, bags, $4 t-shirts, bolts of cloth, weird paintings, etc.



CAMBODIA ALCOHOL

They have a beer called 'Cambodia Beer'. It's so-so in taste. The great thing about it is that if you get so drunk that you forget what country you are in...

One of the lessons Adam taught me was 'When in Rome, drink what the Romans drink'. I could drink my favorite drink which is the 'White Russian' here, but that is fairly expensive. $10 for a big bottle of Kahlua, $8 for a bottle of indifferent or bad vodka and $2 per box of milk - you need a total of three boxes to get through the other ingredients. Hence, $24 for 3 nights of drinking - $8 per night. Oh, and you have to buy the plastic cups - which are about .02 each if you can buy them separately. Although the wiki says that White Russians are served in an 'old fashioned glass', I can't remember ever drinking one from such. Perhaps it was because I'd drunk too many. Hell, the last time I was in Phnom Penh, I do remember drinking them from a bucket. My favorite thing to drink them from are the red solo plastic cups because you never worry about what might happen to the cup itself. And, they're big.

So, I could be drinking for $8 a night, but for half that or less I can drink beer. Hell, I think I'll have one right now. And furthermore, fafdsdagre5v ads adff ahg df... Just kidding.



INDIA NOTES

I picked up some information on India from a girl named Linda who was the first quantum physicist I'd ever met. When I asked her why she studied that, it turns out that unlike most college students I've met she thought ahead to what kind of job she would get. I thought that was pretty amazing. She is certainly smarter than I was at that age and (sadly) probably now as well. She's spent quite some time in India and gave me some information on it which follows:

Poor people have bad karma. This comes from doing bad things in a past life. If you are not poor, you were good in a previous life. If you punish bad people, you get more good karma. Hence, if you beat poor people, it gives you good karma. Therefore, you will get to see some people beat poor people and poor kids. Not everywhere but it does happen.

The head wobble. If you wobble your head from side to side, it can indicate things like confusion, embarrassment, etc. Doing it back to someone who is wobbling their head shows 'it's OK'. With my back and neck condition I will have difficulty wobbling my head a lot. This may be somewhat fortunate as I might be tempted to make clucking noises while doing it.



TV SHOW REVIEWS

Hustle. Thus far, it is like a less slick (and more British) Leverage. Despite the dumbing down of Leverage (like changing 'mastermind' to 'brains' - yes, people are just that simple) a bit, I think it still has more appeal for a couple reasons. One is that the dumbing down has made it more accessible to a wider audience. As opposed to the 'roper' (guy who gets the mark in), the 'inside man' and so on, they just have one con artist, one hacker, one guy who is good at beating other people, a thief and the 'brains'. In Hustle, it's pretty much all a team of con artists. Aside from roper and inside man, I honestly can't remember the other titles. Holy crap - maybe I need the dumbing down too! I do think it is a lot less high tech in Hustle (they seem to ignore a lot about computers) and there isn't the wild 'ass-beatery' that only Americans can bring to the most pedestrian of acts. We are so violent. Good stuff. I think that one of the main things that Leverage has over Hustle is the 'Robin Hood' aspect. In Leverage, people who have gotten screwed by the 'rich and powerful' are aided by philanthropic thieves. In Hustle, they don't have this agenda. It's a way for them to make a living. In this day when people are making the 99% movement and such, it is nice to think that there are people out there sticking it to the bad rich ones.



HOWS THE BOOK COMING LOGAN?

I'm rather pleased with myself. Thus far, I've completed the first seven chapters for now. I know that more editing will be needed but they've been through what I'm calling the 'Amy Wash' where I read them aloud and try to write them to make more sense. (See the third draft below). Generating ideas and even the writing isn't really the problem - the editing and re editing is hell. I think that's where the hard work really is. Discounting the editing, I think that GM'ing is harder work than writing a book is. With GM'ing, you have to figure out a lot of stuff that the players might go after and write for that - as well as be able to wing it if they go completely off course. You don't have any of that with a book. Your characters won't think or act anything you haven't allowed or envisioned. Unless they come to life and come after me. This is always a possibility.

The huge disadvantage to GM'ing is that you get immediate feedback. Even if the players don't tell you what they thought, you can tell by facial expressions, how much they talk about the game, etc. With a book, you sit your happy ass in a vacuum and hope that some of the people you've sent it off to choose to get back to you some day to tell you if it is good or if it sucked. Unfortunately, many people you send stuff to get a chronic case of lazy when they receive it. I figure it's like a virus.

In an effort to stop bugging people I know, I asked Keven Herne who wrote some books I liked what he'd suggest for me to get feedback. He suggested the Absolute Write Water Cooler website. Unfortunately, you have to have 50 posts before you can put up some of your own work for review. Hence, I've been posting like mad. Hopefully, I'll get more feedback there. If not, I'll find and post on other writers boards. Thanks to Kevin for pointing this out, I didn't even think as to whether they existed or not.



LESSONS LEARNED IN WRITING THUS FAR

1. Nobody wants to see your outline or first draft. Wait till you get done with your third draft before sharing.

2. Draft 1 - write whatever you can. Draft 2 - go through it again, clean it up and modify. Draft 3 - read it out loud in a monotone or get someone else to read it to you. Clean it up and modify it some more.

3. Writers block is either being too self critical or being lazy. There is no such thing as writers block. Just write crap until you've gotten all of the crap out onto the paper and just keep writing. Someone more famous and smarter than I am said that and I've found it to be very true. Unfortunately, it means I write about a lot of random crap when I'm just putting out ideas (including some I have to stop and type out for this blog) but I'm confident I have come up with some decent ideas along the way.

It's not much but it is what I have so far.

PS: These are not hard and fast rules, or even necessarily rules for everyone. These are things which seem to apply to Logan and might apply to others as well but I don't know on that part.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

THE FAMOUS ZOO VIDEOS

KAMPOT CLOSING NOTES

I went to a carnival at Kampot. It was the kind of thing locals did. I know Cambodia is a dirt poor country but I really did think that it would be better than it was. I figured there would be some troop which went around to provide entertainment to the local villages like in the old days of the USA.

This was amazingly bad by any standards. There were two rides. A merry go round and a Ferris wheel. The Ferris wheel was powered by diesel. People got crammed into the cars, spun about at double or triple the speed of a normal Ferris wheel then off loaded. I was baffled as I heard shrieks from it. The day to day traffic is more dangerous - even considering the poor state of repair of the Ferris wheel. I was also baffled that as many people stood around watching it as were crammed into it. The merry go round was the standard fare, nothing to write home about. There were only two games you could play. They exactly the same - throw the darts at the balloons to win prizes. The prizes even looked the same. There were no 'throw the rings over the bottle' games or anything like that. A carnival like I'd seen in the Czech Republic would have blown people's minds and perhaps given them something to talk about for generations.

This went on at the same time as the celebration of the end of the Khmer Rouge. They shot off some fireworks. I was impressed with some of them. Though the show was pretty brief, they did have some very big explosions with a lot of nifty lights I got to watch from the balcony of where I was staying.

Since I was starting to get bored of Kampot - it is a very small town - I figured I'd spend $5 and two and a half hours to go to Sihanoukville.



SIHANOUKVILLE

Pronounced a bit like a badly said 'scenic ville'. Maybe that's how it was named. The rooms are so so on the price. Despite a lot of signs that promise $5 per night rooms, the rooms are actually $10 on up. I've managed to find one for eight on the second try. I didn't like the first one because the walls were thin enough that I got to listen to some asshole's TV all night. If I'm paying for a private room, I'd like a bit more privacy. The people at the first place didn't even want me to leave till they'd checked the room. I figured it was shakedown time and they'd try to charge me for the blood on the bed sheets caused by the mosquito bites I'd gotten on my legs while I slept. Fortunately, that didn't happen so I escaped.

S-ville is very much on the 'hippy backpacker trail' - the whole area is infested with dirty hippies.

There are quite a few older sun worshipers who have tanned themselves to a dark mahogany - but have guts like mine. I'm not sure what the point is. Years ago I tried to figure out why a group of grossly overweight women spent so much time and money on shoes when losing a large amount of kilos would have been the logical place to start. I was told "It's easier - duh!" Duh indeed.

S-ville is divided into three parts. You can get to all of them by energetic walking or pay a dollar to go to the next closest one with some serious haggling. I've dubbed the three parts of town 'Victory hill', 'downtown' and 'dirty hippy beach'. The official guide books probably show a different name. Honestly, unless you are here to try to get a good case of skin cancer, there isn't a lot here other than the tourist ghettos.

Note that I am using 'ghetto' in the pre-1930's usage. It refers to an area where all people of a certain type (in this case, tourists) conjugate.

Personally, I like having some tourist ghettos around. They provide everything I need for living. A slew of cheap places to stay as well as restaurants serving my choice of Khmer (Cambodian) or non- food.

I am frequently walking in to explore other parts of the towns where Cambodians live but they are much the same. There are a few nice houses protected by walls and barbed wire in which the wealthy live and there are a lot of ramshackle buildings made from corrugated steel or whatever fell to hand where the rest of the population lives. There are occasional statues and temples. Once you've seen it enough, it all starts to look the same.

Victory Hill is the place to stay. It would have been the first place I'd have gone but I didn't have a map and even with English translators the people I'd hired to drive me just didn't seem to get it. I'd initially ended up on 'dirty hippy beach' and had to migrate over to Victory Hill after I'd purchased a map so I could point at what I wanted.

There's a lot of dirt roads, roads without streetlights (did you pack your flashlight?), wandering cows and dogs which may or may not belong to anyone, restaurants, whores, massage parlors, drug dealers (mostly the tuk tuk and moto drivers), tattoo parlors and guesthouses. There are also a lot of tuk tuk and moto drivers desperate for money. They have an odd belief that if they are annoying enough, you will suddenly realize you need to pay them money to drive you around. I guess it's the only thing they can do to try to fight their poverty. And it beats other jobs apparently. I can't think of any reason why there are so many of them lounging around in the shade unless it is that this work pays better.

There are also strange yet disappointing things you can get here. I went to 'King Fried Chicken' (a weird looking chicken chain) and saw they had a 'coke float'. It was eighty cents so I figured I'd try one. I'm not sure what the 'float' part was. That usually means ice cream. There didn't seem to be any - just ice. Ice, for those who haven't been reading, is bad and may result on you sitting on the toilet for a day or two remembering that fact. I tried it and left most of it. There are a lot of things which are promising (like oven baked lasagna with authentic taste made by a foreigner) but when you have it, you are often disappointed. Stick to the simple and cheap foods when you can. That way, even if you are disappointed, you only paid $2 for your meal and can move on with your life.

I did find a place that is $10 with air conditioner, fridge and hot water but the room is a lot smaller than where I am currently. I figured I'm happy enough where I am. I'm not going to be here all that long so I may as well stay put.



CAMBODIA

I had looked for an interesting place to go within Cambodia which had a higher elevation. I am sweating my balls off in the lowlands. I didn't find one. I've read and heard that Cambodia has only two months of 'high season' - when all of the tourists come. I am smack dab in the middle of it. Tourists don't come the other months because the climate is worse. I'm having difficulty imagining it hotter than it is. The noon till five PM siestas cut down on my wander around time as it is. I understand why Tonto says he spends his daylight hours indoors.

I'm planning on staying within Cambodia until my visa gets near to running out, close to the end of the month. For the last couple weeks here, I'm going to go to Phnom Penh to stalk the Indian embassy to see if they can give me some help. I dislike having to go further away by five hours from the Thai border to hit the Indian Embassy but it's the only option I have unless I want to go straight to Bangkok to try that one. Fortunately, it is only $5 each way to and from PP by bus.



FUTURE PLANS

Well, even though Americans can get a 10 year visa from India, there is no 'visa on arrival' set up for them. Hence, I'm going to need to see if I can wrangle a visa from either their embassy at Phnom Penh (Cambodia) or Bangkok (Thailand). I'm wanting to try to get it done while I'm here in Cambodia. If I enter Thailand overland, I'd be limited to the two week visa and I don't know how long Embassy games will take. Just to make it a bit more complicated, India has outsourced their visa stuff and you're suppose to go through some company to get it done probably with lots of extra fees and hassles. According to Travelwiki, you can get it done in Bangkok for an extra $12 'referral fee' (bribe). If I have to go there, that's fine. I'm going to end up flying out of there anyway. It's looking like for $110 or so, I can get an AirAsia flight to India out of there. I wanted to purchase my ticket ahead of time but I'm going to sit tight until I get my visa.

Once in India, my plan is to try to get out of some of the bigger towns which will have lots of noise, pollution, touts, beggars, people grabbing me and all of the other shit I hate. I know that's part of India but India is a big country and I've heard it said by many people that if you don't like one area, go to another. They're all very different.



WRITING

Amy L gave me an excellent piece of advice on writing and I thought I'd pass it along. Have someone read it to you in a monotone or (if you're in my position and don't have people around to help) read it to yourself in a monotone. This is an amazing help.

God I hate editing but I knew that was my style of writing. Write then go back over it twenty times.

Note that I do NOT do that with this blog. I pretty much just slap it down and ship it off. But, I am not intending to sell the blog.



MOVIE REVIEW

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) - So much duller than the 1979 version and that one was no modern American shoot em up movie. The original actors had a lot more stage presence. As an example, Patrick Stewart had a role in the original. Senior Stewart is well known for his big dramatic voice. In this role, he didn't even speak and I thought it was an amazing, subtle performance - possibly one of the better ones I'd ever seen given with a huge handicap. I just couldn't finish this one. I got so bored. 3/10.



VIDEOS

Saigon living quarters

Cambodia Paris Guesthouse

Second Place I stayed view

Zoo 1

Zoo 2 [Turn it off after 8 minutes as I forgot to turn off my camera and have no equipment for proper editing.]

Zoo 3

Cambodia (mute your sound for this video)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

NOTES OF KAMPOT

ACCOMODATIONS

According to an expat I spoke with, using air conditioning to cool a three bedroom house when you sleep is about $50. It seems to me that charging an extra $7 per night to cool a single room is a bit much.

In addition, it seems that a lot of people have flocked to Kampot for the new year week. I'm really not sure why. There is absolutely nothing going on in Kampot. I've heard a lot of people have gone to Bokor but that is 40 KM away. That seems a bit far to come to Kampot for overflow housing.

After doing a bit of research in the area, it seems that the $5 per night places listed on wikitravels must be from some very old information. Getting my $7 per night with refrigerator and hot water is looking like about the best deal I'm going to get so I'm staying put despite the lack of wifi. Heck, if I didn't mind giving up my beloved refrigerator to get wifi, I might have even gone back to the Paris Hotel had they not tried to rob me twice in one day. That's off the list for now. I am going to try to find a backup place just in case my current place "San Rise Guesthouse" decides they want to get in on that too.

I have gotten extremely lucky at San Rise Guesthouse. I was stalking around the place and discovered an open door of an unused room. It had the same things as my room (refrigerator and hot water) but with the addition of a window and a writing desk. I immediately went to the front desk to ask if it would be permitted for me to move into that room. They were extremely cool about it and even helped me move my crap into there. Kind treatment by the staff increases the length of my stay. I may be here for the entire month. Note that there are three big benefits to a window. 1) like I discovered on the ship I took to get to Georgia, if you don't have a window in your room day and night cycles get a bit messed up. 2) cool air can get in. 3) Logan smell can go OUT. This is a good thing.

Most of the other places I investigated have cold water and fan for $10 with places not much better - or worse - as high as $20. When I feel like paying $20 per night for accomodation, I'll go back to Europe. The main things I'm enjoying in SE Asia can be summed up as 'price'. There are other things I like, but that is the overwhelming factor as to why I am still here. When I get back to Europe, it will give Adam what he considers a much needed break from me bitching about SE Asia. I will find new and wonderful things in Europe to bitch about. Probably starting with the price.

In order to try to maintain the same room, I've contemplated paying ahead. The problem is that I don't think they'll give me any price break - you can't really expect them to go lower when you're at $7 - and I'm worried that I will somehow get screwed for a bigger amount of money than I can paying one day at a time. It's a tricky decision.

Aside from the lack of internet which continually makes me sad, I'm digging this place. I think I'll have to start occassionally hitting the cyber cafes. It's either half a dollar or a dollar per hour. The cost isn't the concern but having the internet at your finger tips is a great thing.

I went over and checked out another place called "NY NY GUESTHOUSE". For $7 you can get a room that does include wifi and hot water but is without a fridge and a balcony to smoke on. If you spend double you can get AC and a fridge but no window. I'm not really into that.



ANOTHER REASON TO BE SCARED OF COMMITTMENT

The dreaded 'wedding' tent seems to have relocated to a more picturesque part of the city. I'm not sure why it was where it was but I'm happy it's gone. For me, when the loudest thing you've got around is the fan in your room, that's nice when you are wanting somewhere 'restful'. Yes, I can sleep in rooms full of backpackers but right now, I'm just working on having some Logan Quiet Time.



QUEST FOR THE EYE DOCTOR

It was Tuesday. I decided that I should do some advanced scouting. I was suppose to see an eye doctor on Thursday. If I couldn't find one on Tuesday or Wednesday, I would know I had to go to Phnom Phen and back on Thursday. I don't want to gamble with my vision. I use that almost everyday. Although people who have traveled with me before might dispute that. So, I was on the quest for an eye doctor that knew what Iritis is in this provence. I was heading toward the hospital figuring that would be either the start or end of my quest when I came across what appeared to be an optomitrist's shop set up in some guys garage. It also had the green cross (plus sign) label that often indicates medical. I'm guessing the red cross would have other meanings in this country like "light this business on fire" or some such so they use a green cross. I checked with the people in the garage. It seemed to be the family from the house built above it. Eventually, a guy got pushed forward. I had significant difficulties understanding his English. He had a full set of teeth but I think half were hidden in a box off site. He was shabbily dressed. He claimed to be the doctor. I think. I eventually made out that I should come back and see him sometime between 5PM and 6PM and that he was going 'away'. I told him I might be back later in the day. Because I had 'significant doubts', I decided I should check out the hospital and other options first. So, I headed over to the provential hospital.

I honestly expected a bit more crude facilities in the provential hospital. Maybe I'd been running the news reel of central African medical facilites in my mind but this was a bit nicer than I expected. They even have the same sort of eye testing equipment ever other eye doctor I've ever been to has. There were only two main problems I had with the place. First was actually getting in. All of the gates I came across were chained closed. I eventually found one that was open. The second was that, despite having a good translator (an unpaid volunteer) nobody seemed able to tell me what the doctor's actual schedule was. I was told to please wait for ten minutes as the doctor would be back then. Nobody seemed able to tell me how much the actual checkup would cost. I'm guessing that for locals it was free. So, I 'cooled my heels' for ten minutes and the eye doctor showed up. Damned if it wasn't the same slightly crazy guy I'd seen before. My only comment was 'figures'. He hadn't even changed clothing. He looked confused and unhappy to see me. I'm guessing he thought he'd get less money out of it since I was at a probably free hospital.

So what started out as just an early recon became the check up. I don't think I'll ever get the check up on the actual date doctors say to duue to my wanting to do recons ahead of time to see if the facilities are actually around. So the doctor talked to me - badly - then squirted goo into my eye and told me it would be less bad in two weeks.

Again, the doctor got a bit slippery when I asked how much I should pay for the check up. "For locals?" he said. I decided I didn't want to play the 'guess the figure in his head game' all day so I offered $5. The doctors' eyes got a gleam in them like I'd just paid off his college and he said I should pay him directly. The money went into his front pocket, I wasn't going to ask for a receipt for this and slipped away. The doctor was happy and nobody stopped me on the way out so that's great. It would have been twice that in Phnom Phen so I figure we both did OK.

Naturally, I'm suppose to go back in a week. I will have a $5 bill seperate in a pocket, believe me. Since I know where the doctor lives and works, I'm feeling confident I will be able to find him so I won't need a recon.



DEAF COUPLE

I think there is a large deaf community in Kampot, possibly centered out of a place called "Epic Art". Actually, on their sign it is "EPICART". So it could be 'epi cart' - I'm just not sure. It has been years since I've used ASL (American Sign Language) but I know a knock down drag out argument when I see one. Had it been a hearing couple, they'd have been shouting at each other. As I surreptitously observed the argument, I had a couple thoughts on why deaf people have it better when arguing:
a) they don't annoy or irritate people around them. I know most people don't care if they irritate people around them but I still think it's an advantage.
b) due to the nature of sign language, you have to pay close attention to what the other person is signing as opposed to hearing people who really don't have to pay that close of attention. I've always wondered what the divorce rate is for deaf couples as opposed to hearing. I wouldn't be surprised if it was lower due to the need to pay close attention to all incoming communications. If Homer Simpson is right though, it may be higher. I think he said "That's the problem (in relationships) - communication. Too much communication."

[Side note: For those who want to call them 'hearing impared', I've had a lot of deaf friends in the past. They call themselves deaf and don't seem to care. I don't call myself 'thin impared' or 'gravety challenged'. I think that PC stuff is just silly. I do think they're people and I enjoy talking to them if they have interesting stuff to say. Or if they like listening to me and laugh at my bad jokes.]



THE INTERNET

What I'm doing about the internet:
Since the best place I can find to stay doesn't have the internet -
Since the computers in internet cafes look like rejects from the late '80s and work at dialup speed -
Since Cambodian internet goes down more than a Thai sex worker -

I've pretty much given up on the internet during my time here. Fortunately, I knew it was absolute rubbish before returning to Cambodia. While sucking up the decent bandwidth in Vietnam, I downloaded enough stuff that it should keep me happy for awhile. After I watch or listen to something, I am deleting it so that I can get my disc space freed up for when I get to a country with decent internet.

The only problem I've got is when it comes time to research stuff. When it comes time for that, I'll probably have to switch places.



LOGAN THE NAVIGATOR

Due to my apparent complete inability to read a map, I ended up with a four hour walking tour of the area north of Kampot. There is nothing really nifty to see there. It goes paved road, dirt road, back to paved road. It's extremely basic accomodations for most of the people which would explain why they want to check out the palatial $7 per night dwellings of the fancy city folk.

One of the places I came about in the boonies (when I was on the complete wrong side of the river) is a guest house named "Les Manguiers". It's a French-Cambodian affair. I inquired how much a room was. The first thing out of the ladies mouth was that they were 'eco friendly'. This immediately told me that it was very basic facilities at a very premium price. I was not disappointed. I'm not sure why all of the 'green' places cost so much more and either give the same or less than the not green places. Perhaps people just wish to pay extra for the aura of smugness that permiates such areas. I obviously can't afford to be kind to Mother Earth. I don't think it is the non-green guest houses which are messing up the planet. I suspect it is the factories employing lots of people and pumping tons of trash into the earth and sky which are making the difference. Some people suspect that the oil finally running out will be a signal to stop trashing the planet but I am confident that by the time it does, we'll find some new way to trash it.

After traveling on foot for the four hours, I noticed a small notation on my 'not to scale' hand drawn map that indicated the zoo was only a mere 7 KM further. My feet told me that while I might make it there, I would not want to move around once I got there.

So, I found a sturdy young lad with a motorbike. A bit of negotiation later and we agreed on 5000 KIP ($1.25) to get me back to Kampot. He seemed very pleased with the 1000 KIP ($.25) tip I ladled on top but I was greatful to be back in the city. My new new plan for getting to the zoo is to not fuck around with trying to walk 10-20 KM to reach it but to just get some transport out there straight away and do my walking there.



MORE ZOO, ZOO, ZOO

Won - one of the guys who works at the guest house I'm staying at asked me if I was still planning on going to the zoo. I told him I'd talked to the scooter drivers and they told me I could get taken out there for $5. This was because I had pointed out to them that I could rent my own scooter for $5 any time they quoted me a price higher than that and they immediately volunteered to match it. Won also said he would match it. I said why not and went out there. It was quite a long ride - I'm not sure I'd have made it on foot. It was $4 for 'foreigners' to get in. On the one hand I do understand about locals paying a different price but on the other hand it does feel a bit like being 'milked'. That aside, I would say that I got my $9 worth.

In European and American zoos, you almost need to bring binoculars with you to see the animals. Here, they are in cages literally close enough to reach through the bars and touch. There are signs not to touch the animals though I confess I did touch the camel and elephant. I did not touch the lion who looked like it would enjoy a good scratch. I felt more able to deal with the domesticated animals than a wild one who was bored and irritated at being locked into a cage for fat yanks to come and take pictures of. But, had I wanted to touch the lion, I was certainly close enough to do so and nobody was around to say no. Of course, if the lion wanted all or part of my arm there was also that possibility.

I made a few videos as well. On the way back, I also made a video of part of the ride so that the curious can see 'extremely rural Cambodia'. I would say that the natural stuff is the heart of Cambodia. Get out of the messed up litered cities and go into nature if you're into that sort of thing.



NEW FOODS

They have rice which is cooked over an open flame wrapped in leaves that might be (not sure here) wrapped in corn. I didn't quite spit it out when I tried it but it was a close call. I never knew rice could taste like that and wish I still didn't. Fortunately, it was only 1000 KIP ($.25) for a taste of something new. It was new, alright.

"Lok Lak". It's made of marinated beef, rice, egg, onions and tomatoes. It is surprising, but the egg actually works in it. Better to avoid it though because the beef quality is very low here. I think it's water buffallo. You can get good imported beef but you will pay quite a bit for it - $10 or higher. If you've never heard of water buffallo, just imagine beef flavored 'beef jerky'. Lots of chewing - long after you would have liked to get done chewing it and on to something else, you're still working on that same piece.

Several backpackers suggested a place called the "Rusty Keyhole". I'm not sure what the innuendo in the name is about there. Everyone suggested their ribs and said you'd get plenty of food. It was more expensive but not prohibitively so. For $6 I got a half slab of ribs with a shocking amount of meat on them as well as mashed potatoes and a dollop of coleslaw. It was a good feed. Not the best ribs I'd ever tasted but not bad. The portions were huge - I'm glad I didn't go for the full slab. They also have a 'dinosaur slab' - if you can eat all of that you get a free beer. One of the expats claimed you could drink free all night but I assumed he was drunk and full of crap - the menu seems to back that theory. The downside is that the size of the kitchen or the size of the staff hadn't kept up with their popularity so you'll be waiting for a long time to get any food and not just ribs. Overall, yeah, I'd eat there again sometime.



SIESTA

My new schedule I've been on for awhile goes something like this. I wake up somewhere between 8-11 AM. This depends on how much insomnia and stuff I've had the night before. Sometimes I just don't want to go to sleep but don't feel conscious enough to lie awake. The solution often is a dull audio book. Weird dreams though. Anyway, after waking up, I then go for what Pete would call 'a bit of a wander'. I stomp around the area I'm at for between 1-5 hours depending on how I feel and such. After that, I am covered in sweat (SE Asia sweat!) and it's time for a shower. Due to the smell. After the shower, I then need to do a siesta until about 4-6 PM. I've been spending this time writing (book and blog) or listening to books. After that, the temperature has cooled enough to go stomp around some more and find new things which irritate me so that I can write about them to irritate Adam. Then Adam can write about how he is irritated to irritate me. Then, I will go take out my irritation by finding things which irritate me to write about. It's a vicious circle. If I didn't have Adam in that loop, I'd still have to find irritating things and write about them but it would feel not quite as satisifying. Bringing joy to others is what I like to do. It's a kind of magic.



DON'T CRY JANA

I went to the post office to check out how much it would cost to mail my notebooks of handwritten rantings that eventually have the most bitching cut out to become the blog. Yes, Adam, I actually edit out most of my whining. Scary, no? Anyway, these things which will eventually become strange 'Warehouse 13' artifacts are then mailed to Jana. She will hold on to them until one of three things happens. a) She gets careless or bored and loses them. b) I become a famous writer in which case she will ebay them for bit money. c) I die in which case she will either ebay them or hold some sort of Satanic ritual involving them.

Unfortunately, Cambodia doesn't look like the place to mail them from. Bidding for just two of the couple dollar notebooks started at $30 and slowly went down in little steps but I could tell it wasn't getting anywhere close to reasonable to mail off these small books. I don't think that anyone else in the country mails shit. I know they can't afford that sort of charge.

I was also nervious about trying to send them with this lady because she wanted to send them to the Czech Republic by sea. Also, she kept calling it Germany despite my having written down "Czech Republic". No, it wasn't that she wanted to mail them through Germany. She believed they are the same country. I tried to convince her that just because they both make good beer it didn't mean they were the same country but my words of wisom splattered without effect on the language barrier.

So I don't think I'll be able to mail them from this continent. I hope Jana that won't cause you too many nights of lying awake, clutching your pillow and crying bitter bitter tears into it.



SO BROWN IS BAD?

The Cambodian people get extremely brown in the sun. In the USA, sun worshipers or the people who cheat spending money on tanning booths would pay big money to get that brown. Because people usually want what ever doesn't come naturally, in Cambodia lighter skin is seen as more attractive. It is seen as more desirable and more beautiful. The Cambodians go through amazing lengths to achieve it. Many people - including monks - use umbrellas and other things to try to shield themselves from the sun. Even in the amazing heat, people veil their faces and bodies to try to keep the sun off of it. This includes people who work all day in the fields. I can't even begin to fathom being wrapped up like that and working your ass off in a field all day. Actually, I can't get my head around working my ass off in a field all day. They also sell 'whitening soap'. I actually use this lightening soap because I know the 'lightening' properties are a lie. In the USA, we would call it 'marketing'. Note that after a few weeks of using it, there has been no change to my skin. The brown stays brown. I only use it because I don't mind the smell.

Another fashion thing that some people do is to grow their fingernails to 'press on nails' length. I asked why and was told that it is easier to clean. This seems not to fit the facts to well so I just take it as another affectation.



POLICE

There is plenty of private security around - almost all of it unarmed but the actual number of police seem rare. In all of my time in Cambodia, I've only seen one police car. This is quite different from say Prague in the Czech Republic where the police are everywhere.



ALCOHOL

The expats in this town seem unevenly split between backpackers and the retired crowd. The retired crowd seems split evenly into either the married or maintaining a perpetual state of inhebriation.

Speaking of drinking, I've been doing a lot less of that here. If I wanted Kaluah, I'd have to return to Phnom Phen to get it but I'm not really wanting mixed drinks where I'm at. Any sort of sugar attracts the annoying small black ants in droves. I've been sticking to Black Panther beer because they don't seem to like that. For $5 I can keep fairly stocked up and I don't mind the taste.



BOOK REVIEW - (AUTHOR) ANDY MCNAB

I'm reading his "Nick Stone" series - nine or ten books. Thus far, I've gone through three of them. I wish I had the technical expertise of this guy but I simply don't. A lot of the stuff he covers that I do know about (spy tradecraft) is dead on - he also covers things I don't know about - bomb making, for example. Although I've been trained in some of the basics like how to shape a charge he goes into more detail. It is a welcome change from other novels in which the technical screw ups scream that the author not only has never experienced it but not bothered to research it. The kind of people who have silencers screwed on to revolvers really get my panties in a bunch. [Disclaimer - there was one special made revolver made to use a silencer but I don't remember the name of it, and it wasn't all that effective as a weapon anyway.] I also like that the hero suffers from some of the same mental failings that people in that line of work get - emotional distance and some PTSD.

Overall, I'd give his books a solid 7/10. Due to the amount of detail it can sometimes bog down a bit like a Tom Clancy novel.



PRICES

Cup of coffee, .75. Or, you can get a pot for $1.50. I asked how many cups of coffee a pot held and was told two. I don't see the point to ordering a pot. In general, the coffee cost ranges from .50 USD to 3 USD depending on where you go - but it tastes pretty much the same. I stick with the dollar or less places. If I felt like spending $3 per cup, I could just hold out and go to a Starbucks - I like their coffee better and know I'll get price gouged before going in.

Going anywhere in this town by moped, $5 maximum if you're at all clever.

Getting into the zoo, $4 for you filthy foreigners.

PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia - Michigan - Illinois - Colorado | England: Slough - Lancaster

For videos with a Loganesque slant, be sure to visit here. You can also Facebook Logan.

If you enjoy this blog, please donate! Help Logan keep on traveling.