First, happy Yule to everyone, and I hope you enjoyed Solstice! …if you celebrate it, that is. (Happy Christmas, Hannukah, and other winter solstitial holidays if you don’t.)
That said…you folks have absolutely NO idea how lucky you have it. I’m not just talking about your miraculous access to hot water 😉 , but T-1 Internet access…! The stuff dreams are made of. You have not lived until you’ve tried uploading 12 MB of Web photos from an Internet cafe where all the terminals share a single wireless modem line. And then the information has to squeeze through Cambodia’s lone 56K modem line to the outside world…
…okay, I’m exaggerating. A tiny bit. But not much. I think Cambodia might have one T-1 for the entire country. it’s certainly true that 2-3 times a day, Internet access slows to an unusable crawl across the entire city, and all the Internet cafes shut down. presumably this happens whenever a Liberate engineer checks in his/her code…is that like a kid saying “I don’t believe in fairies”?? (one more packet winks slowly out…)
However, I have braved all these slow-connection horrors, staggered through the Phnom Penh streets relentlessly pursued by amputee beggars and roving gangs of motorcycle taxi drivers, and more prosaically popped through four or five Internet cafes until I found one that is equipped to handle laptops *and* has a fast enough connection to upload my Angkor Wat photos. (I am tempted to ask them if they have Robitussin cold medication, DHL service, and a couple of cute geeks (available for short or long-term rental 😉 ) on tap as well, but I suppose that would be pushing my luck.) So, the photos are now up on my Website–go check them out. http://www.travelingtiger.com/index%20pages/travels.htm (note: I have reorganized the structure a bit, bookmarks may need to be redone)
Not much to report the last two days–I have been down with a very nasty cold which has not been helped by the awful air pollution in Phnom Penh. So I have spent the last two days pretty much dead to the world, only shuttling between the essentials of life–sleep, Web development, and email. oh yeah, and hot showers. (Actually I have worked out how to get a hot BATH…! Luxury! Okay, it takes forty-five minutes to get enough hot water to fill the tub, but the result is blessedly hot, not lukewarm. I would probably sell my soul for a real live hot water heater, if I could fit it into my pack. 😉 )
At any rate, I’m showing vague signs of life this morning, but if I’m incoherent in this email, forgive me–I’m on the uptick, but nowhere near normal yet. I’ll probably spend most of today holed up in the hotel, although I may take a field trip in search of more cold medication and a DHL shipper. (Cambodia has a small problem with medicine: the Khmer Rouge killed off all the doctors. So while they do have medicine, knowledge of how to apply it is somewhat scantier. Fortunately, this is not rocket science; I have two tabs of Robitussin to wave in front of pharmacists until I find one who has it, or something approximating it.)
Sights to be seen in Phnom Penh: the Silver Pagoda, whose floor consists of 1-kilogram plates of solid silver (a wonder the Khmer Rouge didn’t loot it!), the Royal Palace, and the Tuol Sleng Holocaust Museum. I’m also hoping to shoot off an AK47…I think that should be great fun, although undoubtedly less exciting than it sounds. (I saw someone else’s photos and they were, um, uninspired.) once I manage all of those, I’m flying out again, this time to Saigon. 2-3 days, most likely.
Btw, I did manage to get rid of the amputee beggars and taxidrivers–the key, once again, is hair: having taken my hair out of the Japanese-lady bun, and put it in a ponytail, i’m suddenly Cambodian. So all the taxis, beggars, etc. ignore me now, and the market women all speak Cambodian to me. Go figure. (When I get back, I’m going to write a book about traveling and title it “Hair and There”.)
I also figured out that I wasn’t being snubbed because I was female, but because I was a whore–yeah, I missed that career change, too. 😉 i keep forgetting how prevalent prostitution and “bag the wealthy Westerner” gold-digging is in Asia–to the point where an Asian woman accompanying a Caucasian man is automatically assumed to be a hired prostitute. It doesn’t matter that you’re speaking fluent American English or waving a U.S. passport–interracial relationships are only about one thing, and that’s money. So as long as I’m around just one Caucasian guy I’m presumed to be traveling with him as his golddigger girlfriend/prostitute–if I’m with a gaggle of other tourists, though, I become a human again. *sigh* People are idiots. (Well, actually, they’re not. They just learn from experience. That’s the problem.)
It’s quite interesting seeing how this assumption works, though. For example, I arrived at the Asia Hotel with Frank and the German couple. I checked in: no problem. Frank checked in: very confused hotel clerk turns to me and says, “Wait, you want your OWN room??” Umm, well, yes. The amazing part is that they knew him from five days previously, when he was traveling through Phnom Penh by himself, so they must have assumed he’d picked me up in the interim; just what kind of girl do they think I am?
Oh. Yeah. Thanks…I think. And all this *after* handing over a U.S. passport. *sigh*
At any rate, having pleasantly straightened that little bit out, I’ve recovered at least six-tenths of my temper. As far as I can tell, moto taxi drivers will pursue anything that moves, but are considerably more aggressive towards Westerners, and even more aggressive towards solo Asian female tourists–probably because Asian women just don’t travel on their own (unlike Western women who are–sometimes–honorary men). Thus, the chivalrous male desire to rescue/escort the poor helpless little lady mixes with the mercenary desire to make a fast buck and the annoying male urge to hassle pretty girls to produce the Moto Driver From Hell. So basically, if I’m identifiable as a solo tourist, I’m in for it. Fortunately, I can actually pass as Cambodian, at least close enough to fly under radar. This is all very complicated and I can’t help thinking life as a Pasty White Person would be much simpler–then this whole nationality/culture thing would coincide neatly in everyone’s eyes and we could all be straightforward about our respective roles. Nonetheless, it’s occasionally convenient, being able to blend into the scenery.
Anyway, that’s it for the moment…having finished uploading my website, downloading my email, etc., I’m going to stagger off in search of food, and then go back to sleep.
P.S. If you see broken links, etc. please tell me–I put most of the Angkor section together during my brief moments of lucidity, so I make no guarantees about the quality.