28 April 2009

Good Morning Vietnam!

A few weeks ago we decided to celebrate Cambodian New Year (& its weeklong public holiday)
by taking a trip to explore Vietnam.

We hopped in a boat with our friends, Amie & Steve, & headed down the Mekong River to Vietnam, a land of dragons, contradictions, sadness & most surprisingly, a land of restoration & rebirth.

We fell in love.

We very surprised by how much more developed Vietnam is, compared to Cambodia. It was much cleaner & tidier (no piles of garbage in the streets!), the traffic was very busy but quite orderly, there were no giant Lexus SUVs taking up the roads, everybody wore helmets and not a single motor bike had more than two people on it!

In Ho Chi Mihn we drank delicious bubble tea.

We hired moto drivers & rode out to the Cu Chi Tunnels.

They were a network of tunnels & booby traps (made from bamboo, former hunting techniques, quite gruesome indeed!) made by the Viet Cong to evade & harm the American troops during the war. It was disturbing & fascinating to see the conflict from the Vietcong perspective. At the end of the tour, there was also a firing range where tacky tourists could pay $10 to fire an AK47 or various machine guns at a rifle range. An old Vietnamese war vet was telling us his stories about the horrors he lived through while wincing from the sound of these ridiculous tourists firing off weapons for fun...

Speaking of pacifism, we also went to the American War Museum (formerly called the american war crimes museum) it was gut wrenching & horrific & made us feel like weeping for all the needless blood shed, on both sides, in vain trying to protect the world from a communist Vietnam. The museum depicted such tragedy & loss that I really am at a loss to say anything more, just that we left with a profound sense of sorrow.

On to brighter things...

communist Ho Chi Minh is now a beacon of capitalism & we could not believe the swanky stores we saw. Louis Vuitton! Calvin Klein! Marc Jacobs! Oh my!

Feeling like we should indulge in this western deluge while we could, we enjoyed an evening of Pizza Hut (!!!) & a movie at a real theater. Unfortunately all that was showing was Race to Witch Mountain, a Disney movie starring the Rock. Oh well, we still enjoyed the pizza, popcorn, & air conditioning!

From Ho Chi Minh, we headed to Dalat, a mountain town about 5 hours northeast.

In Dalat, we met up with “An, the man who cAN”, a moto driver who spent several days with us, showing us all around the surrounding countryside, showering us with tales from his time fighting with the South Vietnamese army & his time in “re-education camp” after the South surrendered & drinking lots of rice wine.

It was great to travel around via moto & Dalat was cold, which we loved, because Phnom Penh has been so hot. We saw beautiful waterfalls,

a cool passion fruit grove,

a silk factory, (*picture by amie)

an old French train station,

& Vietnamese pagodas.

We also hiked a cool mountain & got to swimming in a big lake after.

It was exhilarating & refreshing to be away from the heat & chaos of Phnom Penh.

(* crazy house pictures by amie)

In Dalat, we also visited we also visited the Crazy House. A guest house designed by a former Vietnamese leader’s architect daughter who appears to be some sort of Yoko Ono. But it works great for architecture! This building was part Dr. Suess, part Dracula, and maybe part melting Smurf house!

In the end, it seemed entirely fitting that we were in Vietnam for Easter. The overwhelming feeling we came away with, was that Vietnam is a country that has been resurrected!

9 April 2009

a quick trip...

A few weeks ago we traveled to Kratie Province (348 km northeast of Phnom Penh) to attend the wedding of the sister of one of our colleagues.

Amanda got to wear a fun wedding dress again...

We spent the day after the wedding with the bride & groom & the rest of the family.
We visited Wat Sorsor Moey Roy (literally, the Pagada with 100 Pillars)

The inside was quite ornate...

A friendly monk waved goodbye as we left...

Afterwards, we went swimming in the Mekong River & enjoyed a picnic of (what else!) rice & left over wedding chicken.

We finished the day on a beautiful boat watching a few pods of the Mekong's endangered freshwater dolphins.

all told, it was quite a nice trip.

[not pictured: 1) Daniel being carsick out of the bus window & friendly Khmer passengers insisting that he rub tiger balm all over his face (it stings!) & eat mangoes 2) d&a sitting at a wedding table full of jolly policemen & being convinced to eat deep fried chicken feet 3) d&a being forced to dance & the male guests, after being emboldened with "special beer" (its real name) lining up to shake Daniel's hand enthusiastically, while saying things we did not understand 4) swimming in the Mekong river, Cambodian style i.e. in all our clothes 5) a very squished return mini-bus ride where the passengers insisted on listening to the english preaching on the Christian radio station, for our benefit I presume]

7 April 2009

no logo

i saw this sign from afar a few weeks ago & could not believe my eyes.
a real, live starbucks in phnom penh?!?

however, when walking by last weekend, i noticed the fine print around the edges:

"The Place does not possess Starbucks license,
is not a Starbucks representative
but merely sell genuine Starbucks coffee bean made coffee.

it appears that the phrase "copyright infringement" does not translate well into khmer...