A Brief Update

I’m going to do my best to update you on my life the past 6 months in as brief a post as possible. Since I moved to Perth, Western Australia, I’ve had to get used to and reintroduced to a few things:

flushing toilets, public toilets, toilets with toilet paper, water you can drink straight from the tap, public water fountains, overly priced bottled water, ridiculously expensive Thai food (that doesn’t taste very good), ridiculously expensive food in general, keeping your shoes on when you enter into someone’s house, understanding everyone (mostly, I’m still getting used to the accent), public transportation that is set to a timetable (and sticks to it!), driving a manual car on the left side of the road, massages that cost $50 (which I cannot bring myself to pay for), haircuts that cost $50 (which I might have to force myself to pay for), Domino’s pizza, cheese, fresh milk and not UHT milk, expensive coffees (I’ve since gone back to instant, Thai style), expensive drinks in general, etc. 

You get the picture. It’s taken a bit of an adjustment to get back to the “first world.” Not as much as I would have thought, but I’m still getting used to being paid $38/hr washing dishes on a Sunday or paying $12 for a pint.

I’ll admit… part of the reason why I’ve found it so hard to update this blog is because I was constantly doing something new and it didn’t cost a whole lot to do it. All I’ve really been doing here is working and trying to save money (except for my 3-week trip to Thailand… I’m really All Thai’d Up! NOTE: See what I did there?). I don’t really feel like there’s a whole lot to update about. Perth is beautiful, but everything is so expensive. Mostly it’s because it’s just coming out of winter/raining a lot and you can only really do things that are indoors and you pay to do. That said, summer is just around the corner. So to the beach I’ll go! I’ll be sure to put some pictures up of the beaches here when I do. 

That’s all for now!

From Australia back to Thailand

Well, I have to apologize first for not posting since I left Thailand. I’ve honestly been trying to just get used to western, first world life again. I’ve only just got a heater/air conditioning unit and cable TV for the first time in nearly two years! It’s taking a lot of adjustments, and I am missing Thailand incredibly.

THAT SAID

I am going back to Thailand.

Tomorrow.

It’s only for three weeks, but that’s long enough to get my Thai fix…. I hope.

When I get back, I will give a full report on my time in Australia thus far, as well as my trip to Thailand. I’ll also have to rename my blog, so I’m currently brainstorming witty puns.

Sorry for the short post, but I’ve got bags to pack!!

Khap Khun Na Kha, Thailand!

I’ve put off writing a new blog post because I’ve not really been able to think of anything to say. However, with a visa granted and a flight to Perth leaving in a few hours, I’m overwhelmed with memories of the past year and a half. I apologize for being a bit soppy or sentimental with this posting, but after so many adventures in Southeast Asia and South America, it’s hard to leave the place that started such an amazing journey. The people I have met, the places I have seen, the things I have learned and the person I have become have all made the past 18 months spent here in Thailand an unforgettable experience.

While my mischief in Thailand has come to an end, I have so much to look forward to in Australia and beyond. To commemorate the time I’ve spent in Thailand, I’ve tried my best to recreate the mental montage I have playing in my mind. I look forward to writing to you from down under!

Enjoy!

A South American First!

Hola!

It’s been about two weeks since I got back from Peru, and I have been busy! So, I apologize for taking so long to write a post about it. Let’s start at the beginning shall we?

For someone who doesn’t like to fly, I picked a pretty indirect route to get to Peru. From Chiang Mai, I went to Seoul, South Korea. This has to be the nicest airport I’ve ever been to! They provide free showers, sleeping lounges, internet and massage chairs. For having an eight-hour layover here, I was extremely comfortable. Then, I had another flight through Los Angeles, a not so pleasant place. I haven’t been in a western country of any sort for over a year, and I can’t imagine how I would have felt had I left the airport. They talk about “reverse culture shock” and I think I’m in for a brutal reality when I get back into westernized life. Anyway, from Los Angeles I went to Lima, Peru… waited a few hours and caught the first plane to Cuzco, Peru.

Cuzco, Peru

After an epic journey of nearly two days’ worth time, I finally landed in the Cuzco airport. A happy airport greeting and taxi ride later, I arrived at our hostel for the next (approximate) week. Chief and Si had arrived a day or so before me and sorted out the hostel and my arrival, and the legendary Si had planned our trip to Machu Picchu later that week (more to come!). We had a couple days to blow through before their friend Jack was to meet up with us, so we spent it catching up, wandering around the city, visiting the chocolate museum and being very forgiving about Lindsey’s 12-hour jet lag. Since Cuzco has an elevation of just over 11,000 feet, they recommend giving yourself a few days to adjust. This was definitely needed. Even after a few days of it, we were still having headaches and getting short of breath quite quickly. Finally, Jack arrived and the adventures really began. We all got a boleto touristico (tourist ticket) that allowed us to visit all the main attractions in Cuzco (and a couple of the ruins outside of town) for a flat fee. This turned out to be doubly convenient because the (not so informative) tourist company we booked our Machu Picchu trip through failed to inform us that we needed this to go on the tour we signed up for and it wasn’t included in the price. Nevertheless, we went on a couple days’ worth of sightseeing around town. During this time, I fell ill and had to ditch the crew a late afternoon/evening. Fortunately, I was better enough to go on the next day to the ruins just outside the city and the following day we were leaving for Machu Picchu.

This is the main plaza the night I arrived in Cuzco.

It was cold there, so we were always blowing our noses.

I got to hold a baby alpaca!

…I also ate alpaca… turns out it’s delicious!

Hanging out at Saqsaywaman. Big, old rocks.

Machu Picchu

The trip to get to Aguas Calientes (the city where Machu Picchu is) was a bit of a palaver. We had signed up for a trip that would take us on a tour of a couple sites along the way, give us a free buffet lunch and then drop us off in Ollantaytambo to catch the train to Aguas Calientes. We booked for four, but they booked a van that only had enough room left for three of us. So, after about 45 minutes of a wait for a van that would never come, the woman we were with shoved us into a small taxi and squeezed into the back seat with us. Yes, we were riding with four in the back seat for about an hour along a winding mountain road. It was uncomfortable, to say the least. Finally, we caught up with a big tour group and were on our way to Pisaq, Ollantaytambo and finally Aguas Calientes.

This is us crammed in the backseat trying to catch up with a tour group…

Once we arrived in Aguas Calientes, we were on the search for someone with a sign holding Chief’s name on it. Thinking ahead, the boys decided to shorten his name to “James Gott,” but nobody was there waiting for a James, rather someone was waiting for a “Hames Gott.” I suppose it makes sense if you are pronouncing the ‘J’ in Spanish, as it makes the sound of “H,” but we found it funny anyway. The lady led us to her hostel in Aguas Calientes, and after a brief meeting with our tour guide for the next day, we were off in search of cheap dinner and turned in early since we had an early rise.

paging Hames Gott!

The next day, we were downstairs for breakfast at 5am so we could walk up to Machu Picchu in time for our tour. We were given one bus ticket for the entire trip and decided to use it to come back from Machu Picchu to maximize our time on the mountain. Thus began an hour and a half hike up the mountain to get to Machu Picchu… well, an hour and a half for me, anyway. The boys are much quicker than I am. Nonetheless, we made it in time for our tour. Because mountains surround Machu Picchu, there’re a lot of clouds that get caught there in the mornings. We got some pretty cool photos as they were disappearing. The guys had booked us to hike up a nearby mountain, Waynapicchu. I’m not a fan of heights, so to say I was scared is an understatement. Luckily, with some moral support from Chief and Si too far ahead to scare me, I made it to the top and we were greeted with some fantastic views of the ancient Inca city.

This is just after the clouds made way…. The mountain in the distance is Waynapicchu….

Here I am at the top of Waynapicchu with Machu Picchu in the background. I would not get closer to the edge because it was a straight drop to death.

A panoramic of Machu Picchu for you..

Here is an alpaca (or is it a llama?) at Machu Picchu.

Finally, we headed back to Aguas Calientes to make sure we made the train to Ollantaytambo in time. After the train, we had to catch a van to Cuzco and were, once again, greeted to a sign that was not “James Gott,” but “Yanet Jott.” That was a little more difficult to figure out, but we made it back to Cuzco just in time to miss the window for a bus to Lima. Another night, a sick day (again..) and a trip to the bus station infirmary for Lindsey later and we were on the (nearly 24 hour) bus to Lima.

Lima, Peru

We arrived in Lima sometime mid-afternoon and headed to our hostel, Royal Backpackers. The owner is named Jesus, and he’s definitely a saint in our book. He was the nicest hostel owner and made sure we felt at home and had a good time. This was the last leg of my trip with the guys, so we decided we wanted to go all out. We had a days worth of sightseeing in Lima, some shopping, a nice steak/rib and wine dinner and Peruvian nightlife. This post is already a novella, so I think I’ll just post photos from Lima, now!

This is the Plaza de Armas.

We had ourselves a picnic on the steps of a church just across from the Plaza de Armas.

A delicious Peruvian meal and a table set for lefties!

Alas, the fun had to come to an end. We were told that it only took 15 minutes to get to the airport. FALSE. It took nearly an hour and I almost missed my flight! That would have been a pricey mistake. I had such a great time with the guys, it was hard to leave! I would have continued traveling with them if I could. But, it’s not the last time. As always, there’s another country in our future!

If you want to see more photos, I’ve posted them on my facebook! If you made it through this post, congrats! I’ll give you a high five next time I see you.

Until next time…. xx

Happy Anniversary, Thailand!

Well, I suppose I’ll post in honor of my one year anniversary (15th of September!) with Thailand. It’s been fun. It’s been real. It’s been real fun. Still chugging for another six or seven months, but I will savor every bit of it.

In honor of this relationship milestone with Thailand, I’d like to point out a few of the luxuries I have here that I don’t have at home (number 7 is something I will be glad to have again when I leave!). First, though, I think it’s only fitting to point out a major disadvantage of life abroad. I don’t have my family here. Fortunately, we Skype regularly! I’m so fortunate to have their support and encouragement throughout all of this!!

  1. I have a tendency to think massages here are expensive, but in reality, I can get an hour massage for $5. I’ll be making a conscious effort to indulge in this for the remainder of my time here.
  2. I can typically get all my washing done for about $5. That’s all my clothes washed, dried, folded and smelling fantastic. Worth it? Yes. Will definitely miss this as folding is not my cup of tea.
  3. I don’t need a license to drive. Why is this a luxury? Well, considering by the time I get back stateside my driver license will be expired, this is a short but sweet time of motorway freedom. Plus, when I go to Australia next year, I’m not sure they’ll let me drive a motorbike. And I’m not too keen on driving a car sitting on the opposite side.
  4. Food here is cheap. Especially Thai food. People back home buy a plate of pad thai for…. $8?? I can get it for $1. Sometimes less.
  5. I’m always tan. Not always summertime tan, but I’ve got a permanent tint here.
  6. There’s rarely a time when I feel the need to put on makeup. Not that I ever wore a lot of it anyway.
  7. I’ll be happy to drink tap water again. Not that I’ve not done it in moments of midnight desperation, but it’s not a regular thing.
  8. Finally, there’s always an adventure to be had! Motorbike trips into the mountains, sleeping in houseboats… endless options.

Things I won’t miss include but are not limited to the following: rain, mosquitos, old men with young Asian women.

At the airport Thailand bound! My hair was so short!

Right, I am due another post in the next week or so as my friends and I went to the lake the other weekend… Keep your eyes peeled but don’t hold me to it!

18 days until I leave for Peru.

xx

Pai, Thailand

Well, as usual, it’s been a bit since my last update. Since I’m no longer a “newbie” to Thailand, there’s less and less new stuff to tell you. So, this is just turning into an update when something cool and/or interesting is happening in my life.

Last weekend, there was a Buddhist holiday, so we had a 4-day weekend. My friends Don, Becca, Cody, Leya and I decided we would make a visit to Pai. Pai is a mountain town north of Chiang Mai. We had two options for the trip: 1. Take a van, which promises carsickness and vomiting, or 2. Ride motorbikes. We decided to go with the latter choice. So off we went, driving… and driving… for four hours through the mountains. It was such a fun bike ride, but I can’t imagine riding a bus or van on those curvy roads!!

The weekend was quite relaxing. Pai does get it’s share of tourists, but it’s still a bit off the trail for most backpackers. We stayed at a nice place called Villa de Pai. Like most accommodation in Pai, it is a group of bungalows just off the river. We went on a couple mototreks while we were there, trying our hardest to get lost and off the beaten track. I’ve found that this is when you see the most beautiful scenery and get a true taste of culture. Here are some photos:

Just one of the many pups I made friends with on this trip!

 

My roadmates: Leya, Cody, Don and Becca

 

This captures Pai quite well.

 

We found puppies on the road!! It took forever to try to herd them into someone’s yard!

 

This man was very proud of his rice field… As he should be!

 

I’ve now got my own motorbike, however it’s a bit of a complicated arrangement… Nelson (my current motorbike) has had to go into the shop a few too many times for my liking. I’m trying to negotiate with the people I bought it from to get a better bike. We will see how that goes, considering we converse through written Thai. As in… I’ll have people at work write what I want to say in Thai, then I’ll take the paper to the shop, they’ll read it and respond in Thai, and then I get to go find someone who can translate for me…. I think you can see how I mean it’s a little complicated!

This weekend is a 3-day weekend in honor of the Queen’s birthday. No plans for travel as I’m saving up for my next big adventure: PERU! Yes, you read that correctly. In October, I’m going to Peru for two weeks to meet up with my friends Chief and Si. If you remember from my previous post, they’re globetrotting. I’m quite excited for this and today marks 8 weeks until I leave, aka 8 weeks until the end of the semester! It’s crazy how time drags and flies all at once.

Not sure when my next update will be… Until next time!!! xx

Life in Chiang Mai

Slacking a bit on my promise to maintain this. Apologies!

I’ve updated on my travels to Singapore, Bali, Vietnam and Cambodia, but I’ve neglected to update about my newest adventure: Chiang Mai, Thailand!

After getting back from traveling, I made my way to Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is in the northern part of Thailand, and it’s very different from the rest of the country. This city reminds me of a small, asian Austin. It’s so eclectic, and I’m absolutely in love. When I arrived I made my way to JJ’s Guesthouse (after being rejected by Julie’s Guesthouse just next door. Hotel review coming soon!) where I stayed for nearly a month. Maybe a little over. My quest: to find a job. I had heard that it was pretty competitive trying to find work in Chiang Mai, but fortunately with my TESOL Certificate and experience teaching in Thailand, I found a job. I’m currently working at Prince Royal’s College as a Matthayom 1 (grade 7) teacher in the Focused English Program. It’s fun, it’s challenging… I can honestly say I know more about the English language than I’ve ever known before. The kids are great, aside from their understandable apathy when it comes to sitting in a classroom and the abundance of more important things they’ve got to talk about. They’re young, I remember being that age, but I don’t like acting as “disciplinarian.” By this, I don’t mean I pull out the cane stick and punish them, I just constantly feel like I’m telling them to stop talking, pay attention or threatening to move them away from their friends. I think (hope!) that after a couple weeks I’ll be able to have more fun with them and won’t have to get onto them as often.

Lucy, Me, Simon, Michelle, Don, James, Lars. 118 km moto excursion through the mountains.A couple weeks ago, my friends James (aka Chief) and Simon came for a visit. If you remember from my Vietnam post, I met them in Hue. They spent about two weeks here, and even though I had to work, we had such a good time. Simon’s friend from home, Don, acted as our tour guide and took us up into the mountains on motorbikes. It was really my first trip to see Chiang Mai outside the Old City, and a great one it was! We took nearly the entire day to go up into the mountains to a restaurant at the very top. Then, after a quick bite, we made our way back down the mountain. Since I had never driven a motorbike before, I was riding on the back of James’ bike… We decided that the route down would be a good time to learn! Fortunately, there were no accidents, despite driving with a grizzly as my passenger. I can’t say I’ve been on many motorbike trips (ok, I’ve been on TWO.. this was my first, more on the second later), but this one will be a hard one to top in the future.

A big event: the Chelsea football match. Since I’ve been in Thailand, I’ve grown to like watching football matches (soccer), but never had I been so into one! Chelsea played Bayern-München, and Simon is the biggest Chelsea fan. Since the game wasn’t until 2am our time, we prepared to pull an all-nighter to support him. When evening rolled around, Chief and I dressed in all blue, the three of us painted our nails and we got ready with Thai Redbull. We made our way over to Fabrique, a Thai club that said they were playing the match, where we met up with friends Don, Michelle, Becca and Cody. Come to find out, they were going to play the match, but they weren’t going to have sound! This was unacceptable. At about 1am, we headed over to John’s Place, a sport’s bar, and found ourselves front row seats. If you didn’t see it, the game. was. intense. That’s the understatement of the year. Chelsea won, Simon was ecstatic, and we didn’t end up getting back to the guesthouse until 6am. Fortunately, it was the weekend. The next time I’m asked who my favorite football team is, I will say Chelsea without hesitation. Chelsea: Champions of Europe.

that’s a lot of calories.

While the boys were here, we ate a lot of western food, and Thai food as well. But, since they’re from the UK, and I’ve never had a proper English breakfast, the morning after the Chelsea match we went to find one. The thing was massive. Fortunately for them, I couldn’t eat the whole thing. I did enjoy it very much, though! I could eat it once a week. I shouldn’t, but I definitely could. Icing on the cake: there was a full color comics section in the Bangkok Post. Simply put, amazing.

After two weeks of fun, Chief and Simon had to be on their way… They’re traveling the world! It’s not forever, though… Another time, another country.

Simon, me and Chief crammed into a tuk tuk.

Last weekend, my friends Becca and Cody, who are living in Chiang Mai (I did my TESOL course with Becca), took a motorbike ride up into the same mountain I had gone on with the guys. This time, though, I had my own motorbike! It was so much fun to whiz about, and with the difficulties in finding rides in the mornings/afternoons to/from my school, I’m on the hunt for one of my own.

Becca, Cody and me… pit stop up the mountain.

So I’m mostly caught up on my life! Aside from the fact that I took quite the spill down the stairs at my apartment yesterday. I’m feeling pretty good, though. I got some awesome painkillers from the pharmacy that make me feel top of the world! No broken bones, a few scrapes and bruises, a tweak in my back, and an embarrassed self (there were two kids who were walking down the stairs behind me). Nothing time and meds won’t heal.

me and my trusty steed, Malibu.

Vietnam Wrap-up

Well, I suppose it’s time to sit down and jot the rest of bits about my adventures in Vietnam!

Backing up a bit to give some info for a future post about Chiang Mai, I met some pretty cool kids while I was traveling in Hue. They were from England and we spent a couple days hanging out, riding bikes and they taught me the art and geometry behind pool. I was reunited with my love of potatoes through massive quantities of chips (french fries). Remember these fellas when I get to a post about Chiang Mai…..

Left to right: Joe, James (“Chief”) and Simon

Setting off to slide down the white sand dunes.

After leaving Hue, my friend Tim and I headed back south to Mui Ne. We roughed about 24 hours or so on a series of buses doped up on Valium before arriving. We met some pretty awesome people whilst staying there, and ended up staying a day longer than planned. That’s generally how things go when you’re traveling, though. Mui Ne was pretty cool, particularly the jeep tour five of us took around the city. In Mui Ne, there are white and red sand dunes which are absolutely magnificent. I found out pretty quickly that I wouldn’t want to be stuck in the desert… Specifically because sand is incredibly difficult to walk long distances through. When you arrive at the dunes, there are kids who try to rent out sheets of plastic to you so that you can slide down. Great concept, good business strategy, but I reckon they’d get some more business if they had a tow to the top of the dunes. That is probably the most aggravating, futile task. Your feet just sink in as you’re trying to hike up, you’re sweaty and all the sand is just sticking to your skin. I basically had pants made of sand, or really long sand socks.. however you would like to put it. Regardless, we finally made it to the top of this sand dune and slid down. It was great for a one time gig, but the initial marathon up put me off another go.

Now, I’m tired of writing… I’ll just post some photos with captions for you:

Tim, myself and Marie at the Cuchi Tunnels in Saigon. The Vietnamese dug these during the war to get around. There are 200km of them, and after crawling through 100m worth, I can vouch they were definitely built for Vietnamese sized persons.

 

Scuba Diving in Nha Trang. This marked the beginning of the end of my camera… Well, sort of. It decided it wants to turn on/off when it is in the mood. I look happy in this photo, but I’m not too happy the underwater bit broke my camera. Side note: Thailand bests Vietnam in the diving category.

 

This is what 85% of the buildings in Hoi An looked like. I believe they’re somewhat French influenced, but I loved the yellow everywhere. This guy had an interesting hobby… He sculpted roots and made them look like faces. Looking at photos, they seem quite creepy. Skills, though.

 

Vietnam wasn’t too kind to my rucksack. When you ride the buses, they throw your pack underneath… Along the way to your destination they’ll sometimes pick up people with strange styrofoam boxes. Sometimes these boxes have fish in them and leak out and drench your bag and it’s contents with fish juice. Hey it’s bound to happen at least once in your life. I had this happen twice, though! Seven bus journeys and two of them had to be followed with a good washing. Thanks, Nam.

 

In Hue, we rented bicycles and rode to the Citadel. We were exhausted from the heat, so we sat around and played interesting games.

 

There was a wedding photo shoot at the white sand dunes. It’s baffling to say that the colors in this photo were not edited in the slightest.

 

Also on the jeep tour in Mui Ne, we visited the “Fairy Streams.” Again, the colors in this photo weren’t edited at all. Absolutely vibrant.

 

I wasn’t intending to stay in Saigon another night before leaving Vietnam, but good thing I did! Ended up running into my good friend Colin, was extremely random. As you can see, the “bar stools” in Vietnam are quite small.

 

Overall, I liked Vietnam. Mostly for the people I traveled with and met. Alright, that’s all for now… I promise I’ll get a new post up sooner!! xx

S-21 and The Killing Fields– Phnom Penh, Cambodia

I’d like to start off by warning you that this is going to be very different from my normal posts. It will not be happy by any means, and the images posted are quite disturbing. I am going to attempt to describe the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979. This was a horrific case of genocide that I did not learn in my history classes growing up. It was never brought to my attention until I arrived in Southeast Asia. Visiting the Killing Fields (admission $5) and S-21 (admission $2) is definitely something I would recommend to anyone and everyone, though I know I will not be able to visit them again due to the effect it has had on me. I will, however, tell you more about the genocide that was committed.

The Khmer Rouge, let by Pol Pot, ruled in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. The goal of Pol Pot’s party was to eliminate all external influences within Cambodia and start at “year zero”. This created a movement of killing and enslaving intellectuals (lawyers, teachers… educated persons of all likes) or anyone else who was against his movement to begin a new society where everyone works for the greater good. His idea of a “degree” was to learn plowing, digging canals and other manual labor.

S-21, Tuol Sleng Prison

To the left is an image of Tuol Sleng Prison in Phnom Penh. Looking at it, it looks similar to images I’ve posted of the school I taught this past semester at. That’s because it was a high school turned prison. I’ve told you the nickname Thai’s in my city gave me, coincidentally, the white flowers on the tree are, in fact, Leelawadee. During the four years of it’s operation, about 17,000 people were imprisoned, tortured and killed here. Looking at the same photo, you’ll see a wooden structure with three large clay pots beneath. I immediately thought this was the remains of gallows, however, it’s use was far more cruel and drawn out than a hanging. Prisoners being interrogated were bound and hung upside down until they passed out, then lowered into a mix of smelly water (often manure) until they regained consciousness. This process was repeated until the prisoner either died, or answered the questions the guards were asking. The reasons for interrogating the prisoners varied. Some were questioned to determine if they were working for the CIA, while others could have stolen a cup of rice and just drawn attention to themselves. When you walk into the compound, you see a translated list of rules that must be followed by all prisoners:

Victims of S-21 were all documented when they arrived at the prison. They were not only Cambodians, but among the 17,000 who were imprisoned were eleven westerners (4 from USA, 2 from Australia, 1 from New Zealand, 1 from England, and 3 from France).

1. You must answer accordingly to my questions–Don’t turn them away.
2. Don’t try to hide the facts by making pretexts this and that. You are strictly prohibited to protest me.
3. Don’t be a fool for you are a chap who dare thwart the revolution.
4. You must immediately answer my questions without wasting time to reflect.
5. Don’t tell me either about your morals or the essence of the revolution.
6. While getting lashed or electrification you must not cry at all
7. Do nothing, sit still and wait for my orders. If there is no order, keep quiet. When I ask you to do something, you must do it right away without protesting.
8. Don’t make pretext about Kampuchea Krom in order to hide your secret or traitor.
9. If you don’t follow all the above rules, you shall get many lashes of electric wire.
10. If you disobey any point of my regulations you shall get either ten lashes or five shocks of electric discharge.

Clearly, the guards within S-21 were harsh. In 1979, when the Khmer Rouge fell, there were only seven survivors in S-21’s cells.

For those prisoners who survived torture at S-21, they were blinded and tied, told they were being transferred to another site. These prisoners were taken to Choeung Ek, formally a Chinese cemetery, but now known as The Killing Fields. When you arrive, you are given an audio headset that explains what you are seeing. The buildings have since been torn down, but signs tell you where they once stood. It was also mentioned that loud music would be played to cover the sounds of prisoner’s screams as to not alert waiting prisoners of their upcoming demise. The photo to the right features sunken holes. These are where mass graves once were. The bodies of the victims have since been exhumed in many of the locations, however there are still a large amount of mass graves that have not been touched. Though the bodies are no longer there, when it rains and as the soil settles, the remaining ties, blindfolds, teeth, clothes and bones in these areas will surface. I saw many articles of clothing and some ties (that bound prisoner’s hands) as well. There is an area where recently surfaced items are placed and kept as a memorial. Some people had found teeth and a shoe, which they graciously placed on top of the memorial.

Probably the most disturbing site in this tour is called “The Killing Tree”. When you approach it, you notice the abundance of bracelets, flowers and trinkets that have been placed at the base of the tree’s trunk. There are also teeth and small bone matter that have been placed there as well. The specific use of this tree was to kill infants and children. The audio tape graphically described the method of execution. Guards would grab the child by the legs, and hit it against the tree. The majority of the time, the child was taken straight from it’s mother’s arms and the mother would watch this happen shortly before she was executed. According to the Khmer Rouge, it was better to “kill an innocent by mistake than spare an enemy by mistake,” and “to dig up the grass, one must also dig up the roots.” The thought process behind this was that if they let the children survive, they may become revengeful in the future.

At the end of the tour through The Killing Fields stands a Memorial Stupa. Within this memorial, there are 17 stories of bones that have been exhumed from the site. These bones belong to over 9,000 of the victims killed at Choeung Ek. It was quite chilling to look closely at the skulls of those who had died, because many of them had scars which told you of their horrific deaths.

I took many more photos, which I will post to Facebook once I get back to my own computer. Many more posts about Vietnam and Angkor Wat to come. I apologize this was not in chronological order, however you can imagine that this is something that would be quite disturbing.

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Cambodia is still struggling to bounce back after the horrific loss of it’s people. The country is poverty stricken, I can only imagine what Cambodians are going through in outlying cities. While at The Killing Fields, I bought four big bottles of water. None of which I had any of. It was for the children who were just outside the fence, standing barefoot and half naked. The first time, I poured a bit of my water into one of their bottles. Tears came to my eyes as I watched the six of them share that small bit among themselves. They were not greedy with it, even though you could tell they were all dehydrated and thirsty. In the states, we take for granted the fact that we can drink water straight from the faucet. I know I’ve bought bottles of it plenty of times. It’s environmentally unfriendly and financially insane. Yet, here, they don’t have clean water to drink. I’ve filled so many small and empty hands with water, food and money in the last 48 hours, and yet I still can’t fill enough.

Although I am speaking about Cambodia in this post, and this began as a recollection of my tours in Phnom Penh, this is a problem that is occurring in more places than it should be. Children should never be in want of water. We should never see bulging bellies or sunken eyes. I think back on all the useless things I’ve bought that I never really needed. The money I spent on petty things that could have gone to give a child somewhere food, water or shoes. I can only do so much now, but in the future, I really want to do something to help these kids. If you’re interested, there are many organizations you can give to. Feed the Children is one of them. You can sponsor kids from all over the world. I am doing what I can to help them over here, but one day, when I am not helping them directly, I will be giving to them somehow.

I apologize that this post has turned into a solicitation. That is not how it was meant to be at all. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. Visiting S-21 and The Killing Fields was haunting, and I’ll never forget what I’ve learned here.

Good Morning, Vietnam!

I’d firstly like to apologize for not updating in, what I’m now realizing, about two weeks. I’m currently writing this post on my iPhone, so I’m not sure how long it will actually be!

When I last blogged, I was in Bali having an awesome time on Kuta Beach. After Bali, my friend Matthew and I went back to Singapore. He had to go back to work, and I had a few extra days to spend before heading off to my current destination, Vietnam.

For now, I’ll be brief about Vietnam, but rest assured, I’ll give you the full story once I’m back in Thailand and have a computer to sit at.

I flew into Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City) and met my friend Tim in the city. We spent a day sorting out our plans for where we want to go with the time we have, and have successfully taken the most awesome and least efficient path. We booked an open bus ticket to Hue, which is right (maybe just south of) where the Demilitarized Zone was during the Vietnam War. The open bus ticket allowed us to go from Saigon to Nha Trang to Hoi An and then Hue. We were able to spend as long as we wanted to in each city because of the open ticket. I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite things about traveling is meeting people. The people I’ve met on this trip have dictated the amount of time we have spent in each city. The plan is to head back down south tomorrow. This is where the inefficient route comes about. My friend is also a teacher in Thailand, so we have both got to get back for work. Except, as you know, I’ve still got to find work. Best to apply in person in Thailand. Right, so, going to head back down south, living on buses to make the quickest route, and then make our way into Cambodia.

I really like Vietnam. Aside from a woman at the market force feeding us food we didn’t ask for and slapping us with a ridiculous bill, everything here has been quite nice. I’ll have to give you more details (and photos!) once I get back.

Speaking of photos… My camera decided to stop turning on. That’s not too convenient when you’re traveling. I’ll have to sort out something when I get back to Thailand I think. It’s funny… The necessities when you live abroad, especially in a third world country, are much different than when you are back home.

Ok, writing on my phone is a bit bothersome now. I’ll try to post again soon!! xx

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