We got back on October 9th, and rather than write up an after-action report, I thought I'd string together some of the emails I sent to folks while we were there.
I do have some more video clips that I'll upload to youtube once I get a chance, just street scenes and stuff.
Greetings from Cambodia, where it's hotter than hell and more humid than words can describe. It's sooooooo f*cking humid, you step outside and you're instantly drenched in a torrent of sweat. The heat I can take, but the humidity is just f*cking brutal.
We went to the Hot Market (there's a reason it's named that, FFS) and got some odds and ends.
We also went and got a brand-new moto to replace the one that died a few months ago. If you enjoy buying/shopping for a car, you can really up the pleasure by doing it in 110-degree heat and 100% humidity. Holy shit.
Evening....we went to LUCKY FOOT MASSAGE "For You Its Much GOOD For Body" and the 1-hour foot massage was good...intense, but good. For part of it they jab their fingers into the soles of your feet very fricking hard, and I was twitching around like an epileptic at a strobe-light convention. But it felt good after the pain stopped.
The full body massage
was another story that I'll cover later, but suffice it to say that these two tiny Chinese women beat me nearly to death. They beat me like a bad dog. They couldn't have weighed more than about 90lbs, but they just plain whomped the crap out of me until we tipped them enough to go away. I swear, I've been in car accidents that didn't hurt so much.
I hobbled out of there like a concentration camp survivor, no lie. It took me two days to recover.
The LUCKY FOOT MASSAGE is next to a hospital, and I don't think that's by accident. The hospital is named "HOSPITAL" so you don't confuse it with, like, a moto dealer or something.
September 27 - Dental Work For Cheap
I took Sakha, myself, SIL and BIL to the dentist. A teeth cleaning for all four of us *PLUS* a minor surgery on my sister in-law.
After we're all done, I ask how much was the total.
Receptionist (translated) "$40 total.
Me: "Holy f*cking shit.
Doc said that my sister in-law, Smey, needs a minor bit of surgery to remove an old bit of tooth left in from the wisdom teeth she had taken out a while ago. Doc said it should definitely come out to prevent problems later.
Me: "How long will this take?
Doc (translated) "Scheduling, gum preparation, surgery, stitching...4 minutes.
Me: "Holy f*cking shit. How much will it cost?
Doc (consults with assistant, turns to us): "Is 4 dollar. Maybe almost 5 dollar.
Me: "Holy f*cking shit.
I stepped to the reception desk and took a few minutes to pay for it (paperwork and whatnot). When it was done I turned around and told Sakha to tell the doc to go ahead.
Sakha said something, doc said something back, Sakha turns to me, says "All done, while you were paiding it.
Me: "Holy f*cking shit.
Such is the high cost of dental care in Cambodia.
Holy crap, there's a huge celebration or something going on in the whole city tonight, it's like a freakin' madhouse. All the kids are setting off massive loads of fireworks, everyone is selling these tasty little "mooncakes" on every square inch of the street, and these weird crooners are running around with megaphones chanting and singing and stuff.
All the streets are lit up like christmas eve on steroids, flashing lights are everywhere (even on baby carriages!!) and the whole damn country is going batshit insane. Kids are running up and down the streets yelling and hooting, every horn on every moto and car is beeping non-stop and there's smoke everywhere.
It's either a celebration or the revolution has started, lol.
October 1st (morning)
Turns out all the commotion last night was the run-up to the Mooncake Festival
, which is tonight. It's supposed to be "very exciting" this evening so I think we'll just stay inside, lol.
The Mooncake festival is held on the "15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar", which is in September or early October. October 1st (evening)
Oh my, the Mooncake Festival is starting and we're almost out the door but I thought I'd send you a few quick pics of the scene outside our door. Click on 'em to enlarge. Mooncakes!!The whole city is like this. Horns are honking, fireworks are going off everywhere, and there are 150,000 lovely, almond-eyed young ladies laughing and dancing in the street.
They're all just heart-breakingly beautiful, and they wink and smile at you as they glide by...their eyes grab you like industrial-strength magnets, and I predict a million hearts will be broken tonight. If I wasn't already married, I would be by morning, lol.
There are tons of good things to eat and drink, little kids are running around playing and shouting...life is good in Phnom Penh tonight! I wish you all could be here, feeling the thrill of a city running full-tilt on this crazy, happy, joyous energy. If you were here, I'd buy you a mooncake and a drink or three.
There was more than a bit of flirting going on last night for sure. I don't think the Mamma Brigade had a hope in hell of keeping a lid on things.
Yeesh, 0800 and it's already hot and humid. The very idea of anti-perspirant is a f*cking joke here. At 100 degrees and 95% humidity, nothing will stop you from sweating except maybe rigor mortis. Or spray glue. But noooooo amount of Arid or Right Guard or whatever is gonna do a goddamn thing. Ask me how I know....
Due to a flooding-and-moto mishap, I'm off to the Sorya Mall to buy the cheapest pair of tennis shoes I can find. If I spend more than $5 then I'll know I'm being taken for a ride like a rube from the sticks. Actually few people wear shoes here, it's 80% flip-flops or bare feet (ewwwww). I may also be one of the few people in the whole city who wears socks, too.
Honestly, I am so so so so so white, it's dreadfully apparent. For all the looks I get walking down the street I may as well be a 10-foot tall, green-skinned alien with bug eyes on stalks. Not unfriendly looks (quite the opposite) but still, it's like the whole damn city has me under close personal surveillance.
And another thing- if I have to eat another &^%$#@ bowl of noodles served with a "meatball" made up of 20 different kinds of animals that have been run through a wood chipper and squeezed into a ball, I'm gonna go on a f*cking rampage. Which means it's time to go to Lucky Burger and start pointing at the menu- "This, this, 2 of those, this, that, and the Deathstar-sized Coca-Cola."
Sakha was wiped out yesterday from an epic shopping assault on the Central Market, the Sorya Mall, and 16,547 street vendors. "Many good sale on Mooncake Day!!!"
October 3rd - Buying Another Phone
I had decided it was time to see about maybe getting a new phone...so, we went to one of the many "phone streets" where they have a row of tiny shops selling a bazillion kinds of phones, new and used. BTW, a new iPhone here costs almost $1000, about double what it costs in the US. I'm not sure why that is, but any other phone costs way less than in the US. I'm not sure why that is either.
I saw a bunch of good phones, many that were "pre-owned"and very affordable. My BIL, "Ravi" went with me to scope out the phones and haggle with the salesgirls. Just so you know, when I say "girl", I mean it- a lot of the salesgirls are between 12 and 15 years old. They sit in the little booth or stall and sell phones, all day long. The one in our "store" was wearing a "Hello Kitty" t-shirt, little pink sneakers and barely came up to the counter. I'd bet $100 she wasn't a day over 13.
But make no mistake- these kids aren't
stupid. They've spent most their lives getting the better of people like you and me (AKA "suckers"). THEY
are the predator, YOU
are the prey. Trust me- you won't take advantage of them, oh no no noooo. In fact, if they had Truth In Advertising* laws here, these little girls would all be wearing eye-patches and waving cutlasses.
I picked out a phone and asked how much it was. Now the salesgirls don't usually speak English (a few do) but they do understand the phrase "How much?" in English. What they do is grab a calculator and punch in the numbers and then turn it to face you so you can see the number.
The number on the calculator was 175 (dollars), and when Ravi saw it he started laughing and slapping the counter and looking at me as if he'd just heard the funniest joke in the world. Then he stopped abruptly and said something to the Hello Kitty girl; she pouted and punched a lower number into the calculator: 160 dollars. Ravi started speaking very seriously to the girl and the number went down again. And again. And again.
To make a long story short, we settled on $120 and Ravi told me not to worry- "they still make big big profit" at that price. He said Hello Kitty girl's parents (who own the booth) would be more than happy with the outcome of the sale.
So I examined the phone casually, looking like I knew all about it, desperately trying to figure out how to open the f*cker up so I could put in the battery. Could not f*cking do it, I had to ask how.NOTE: This might sound familiar, as this is almost exactly what happened last time.
There is NOTHING more embarrassing than having to ask a 12-year old girl wearing a Hello Kitty t-shirt shirt to show you how to open your own damn phone and put the battery in. Without even looking she popped the cover off with one hand and gave it back to me. And she rolled her eyes when she did it, too. FML One of the lovely phone-girls, waiting for
her prey customers.
* LOL, like THAT'S
ever going to f*cking happen here, lololololol!!!!!
Pardon me if I'm uhhh, over sharing...but some things must be said.
Cambodians and Southeast Asians are, in general, of somewhat slighter stature than Europeans/Caucasians (aka "white devils"). This means their plumbing and ummm associated fixtures* are also built to accommodate slightly smaller diameter ummm waste products. *cough*
See where this is going?
Sooooooooo....lets just say that if we ever invaded Cambodia, half our soldiers would be tasked 24/7 with unclogging certain pipes that are ummm essential to ummm handling said waste products. Ask me how I know.
Also, it's tough getting used to the "you-don't-need-toilet-paper" thing. (The vast majority of bathrooms here contain no toilet paper whatsoever.) The usual alternative** is a little hose with a spray nozzle. And the water pressure in these things is quite ummm robust, to say the least.
So, yeah, if you aren't careful, VERY VERY careful
, you may end up spray-painting the walls with ummm *stuff* and/or taking a refreshing*** drink through your butt.
This concludes our "Cross-Cultural Learning Moment For The Day". *
toilets, FFS **
The word "alternative
" implies that you have other choices. You do not.***
"Refreshing" isn't really the word that I'd use.
(A looooong discussion of the sprayer-versus-toilet-paper thing followed.) Someone asked about bringing toilet paper, and a also asked for a bit more detail on the use of a sprayer. These are some excerpts...
Toilet Paper: I'm not sure you could bring enough toilet paper to last 2 or 3 weeks, especially if you eat something that disagrees with your digestion (and you WILL, I guarantee it).
To be honest, I'm on the cusp of preferring the sprayer-thingy over toilet paper. One you get the hang of it, it's actually very good. It works better than TP, no doubt about it. Pretty soon I'll be like, "Wipe my butt with paper? Really??"
We just got back from the Hot Market. I got a boxed set of all 5 seasons of Breaking Bad for $15, and Sakha says I overpaid, "way way too much", but I figure it's not that big a deal. I don't want to screw these people to the wall over a couple of bucks. Trust me, $3 means a hell of a lot more to them than it does to us.
I got 20 t-shirts with various Cambodia motifs for $38 (1.90 a shirt) and that *was* overpaying, but what the hell. I got some with the Cambodian flag, some of the "Danger - Mines!" shirts, some "No Money, No Honey" shirts, some "Heart Of Darkness" shirts, "Hard Rock Cafe Phnom Penh*" shirts, etc etc etc. They make fun gifts and I wear them myself, too. At our wedding reception we gave all the guests shirts for coming.
I got my tactical vest tailored to fit, two hats brimmed, and 5 pairs of jeans that I brought tailored as well. Total cost, about 36,000 rials (~9 bucks). To tailor a single pair of jeans in Seattle is $20 dollars.
They did some of while I waited, and I danced in the little tailor booth with no pants on (and people walking by) singing "I'm Sexy And I Know It" by LMFAO. Poor Sakha, she was soooooooo embarrassed. Ha, wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle! (Watch the video, lol)
Anyway, I'm beat and going to go take my 3rd shower of the day. Cheers.... a little later ...
Question: I'm almost scared to ask but the spray thing has me puzzled. I tried not to think about it or figure it out but alas, I can't shake the confusion. So if you're spraying yourself with water to clean yourself . . . what do you use to dry yourself?
Well...a lot of times you don't use anything, but 1) the amount of water left behind (ha ha!) is very small, and 2) things dry pretty damn quickly in 100-degree heat. Sometimes there's a small towel that's available, but you really don't need it. And I wouldn't say that if it wasn't true.
Really, it's not as bad as it sounds. And frankly, I'm actually starting to prefer the sprayer. It does a better job than TP, hands down.
A few more pictures of the Mooncake Festival....
Holy cow, I've been here just over a week and I've lost over 4 lbs
, so I thought I'd share my Secret Cambodian Weight Loss Diet
with you all.STEP 1:
Go to Cambodia.
That's it, there is no Step 2. Between the heat, the food, and the dysentery, those pounds and inches just melt away. Usually through your ass, similar to venting rocket fuel.
Another store where I wasn't allowed to bring my hand grenades in.
(Note that this is *not* the same picture as seen in a previous post, but it's similar.)
From left to right:
No hand grenades (dang!)
No smoking (almost never saw this before, just started in the last year or two)
No taking pictures (rarely enforced because it's hard to do)
No street vendors (yeah they often carry stuff in baskets on shoulder poles)
No dogs (and no cats, birds, etc)
No roller skates or skateboards
WHAT COULD GO WRONG?
This is not an uncommon sight in Cambodia...you see this kind of thing all over the place.
I like to call this, "What could possibly go wrong?
Notice how the nozzle is already a little bent? Yep, if this guy tipped over, you'd see the explosion from Thailand. This was in heavy, stop-and-go traffic, BTW.
Special BONUS Section:
Your First Time In Cambodia - A Traveler's Primer
Day 1: Wow, what a beautiful country! Kinda hot, though.
Day 2: Man, it really is hot. Still a lovely place. Wish I could find something to eat.
Day 3: Hmmm, haven't gone to the bathroom since I got here. That's odd. Hard to sleep cuz it's so hot.
Day 4: Went to the market for more antiperspirant, ate noodles with some kind of meat in it.
Day 5: Stomach feels kinda funny. Ack. Antiperspirant doesn't seem to work here? Too damn hot to sleep.
Day 6: HOLYMOTHEROFGOD, I DON'T THINK THIS TOILET CAN TAKE ANY MORE (sobbing)
Day 7: Wow, I lost 5 lbs, but I look like I gained 5 years.
Day 8: I hate this place. Can't eat, can't sleep, and I sweat like a pig ALL THE TIME.
Day 9: All the food has eyeballs in it, ewwww. So damn hot. I didn't know poop could be that color.
Day 10: Bought a t-shirt that says, "I Survived Cambodia" for only $25, all the street vendors laughed.
Day 11: Found a place that serves beer. YAY!!! After 6 beers I ate something with an eyeball in it. Wasn't bad.
Day 12: Almost time to leave this hellhole, thank god!!!
Day 13: (as plane lifts off runway) What a beautiful country! Kinda hot, though.
Another thing...Khmer music (Cambodian music) is arguably the worst on the planet. Even my wife says, "Khmer people don't know music.
" And she's right.
Most of it sounds like underage Ukrainian hobos having a knife fight in a dumpster. It's really that dreadful. But they make up for the awful sound by playing it really REALLY LOUD
. It's so bad it makes the food seem good. Think about that for a moment.
1) Take 2 cats.
2) Set them on fire.
3) Throw them into a washing machine with some glass bottles.
4) Instant Cambodian pop-hit!!
1) Find a bunch of special education students.
2) Throw various musical instruments at them and lock them in a room.
3) Instant Cambodian boy-band!!
1) Record burn-ward victims being denied pain medication.
2) Add random musical score (make sure it's the wrong tempo and key
3) Instant Cambodian musical sensation!!
Miscellaneous Pictures....Is this not the cutest little sewing machine you've ever seen?
This was in one of the shops where I had some clothes tailored. It's just so damn cute. My wife wanted one but couldn't find a place where they were sold. I think the manufacturer must have gone out of business in the mid-1800's, but this one is still purring away....Man, you can't do ANYTHING in this store!!
Oh, wait....that's where all those signs come from. Never mind...
Road Repair in Phnom Penh
This is a pretty common sight...this is how a lot of road work and infrastructure placement is done (traffic lights, electrical mains wiring, etc). By hand, in 100-degree heat and 90% humidity.
I got tired just walking up the street to take this photo- I can't imagine doing heavy labor in this kind of weather. The Rain In Spain Falls Mainly....Oh, Wait, This Is Phnom Penh
When it rains, it pours, and the sewer system (such as it is) simply can't cope with the instant deluge of water.
Believe it or not, what's shown in the pictures below isn't really too bad- it only rained for about 10 minutes or so and then it stopped, but look at the water level. The first pic is near the Central Market, the second one is not far from my mother in-law's apartment.
Yeah, it gets kinda hairy to moto around when it rains.
Kids and Motos
Kids learn to hang on at an early age. Helmets are optional at best for them. Yuo'll often see kids who are 1 year old or so, standing up holding the handlebars or sitting in the driver's lap.
October 8th - Pre-return
Sakha bought some ginormous
bundles of dried fish, balut, and other horrible, horrible things to bring back.
Balut is a duck egg with the baby duck inside. Ewwww. You open it and there's the beak, eyes, etc. EWWWWW. It's supposed to be a delicacy, but I can't eat it. I can't even look at it. Ewww, ewww, ewww.
"Prohoc" is another Cambodian food that is so repulsive it may actually be regulated by the Department Of Shit You'd Never Eat. It smells like raw sewage mixed with diesel fuel and monkey piss. Fortunately Sakha doesn't buy or eat it. If anyone offers you prohoc, say "No thank you" and then leave before they open the container.
Because of the smell some hotels prohibit prohoc and Durian fruit from being brought in. Durian doesn't smell bad to me (it tastes delicious) but some people find the smell objectionable. A lot of hotels put up a picture in the lobby of the Durian fruit with the international "NO" slash across it.
So, a million billion t-shirts, a couple of phones, a metric buttload of dried fish, some keychains and fridge magnets (by request)...that's about it.
They closed the machine gun range so we can't go there like we were planning to.
Instead, I'm meeting my buddy at high noon at the Heart Of Darkness bar
on Pasteur street for a couple of drinks. It's supposed to be a badass gangster bar, a hangout for Khmer mafia, smugglers, forgers, pimps, dope dealers, republicans, etc etc. We'll see.
The Heart Of Darkness bar
The &%$# bar was closed. Well, not actually. It was "open", but they don't let people in until the nighttime. Seriously, that's what the security guard at the front door told us. We could only come in after 6 or 7 pm (it wasn't totally clear). EDIT: 9pm
So we sat outside at another bar across the street (20 feet away, lol) and drank beer and ate french fries (err, "chips"). The girl that served us drinks and chips at this other bar was maybe 9 or 10 and was obviously the owner's daughter. She ran the tabs, delivered food and drink, tallied receipts, etc etc. She couldn't understand why they don't let children work in bars in the US.
We sat and drank and watched the Heart Of Darkness and no one went in or out the whole time. So color me confused. They were open, but not for people, or they were closed, but with the doors fully manned. Hmmmmm.
The bar where we sat was frequented by roving pairs of some extraordinarily lovely
ladies looking for barung (foreigners) and happy to sit and chat. They were "open for business" if you know what I mean and I think you do. And truly, they were breathtakingly beautiful. If I was young and single, or even just single....
So we killed some time there, wiped away the tears, and went to have my sister in-law's first-ever birthday party at Tonle Bassac. She was radiant in a beautiful black dress and we all had a great time. I'll try to post some pics of her and the party. When we brought out the cake (purchased from a specialty shop) we were almost too full to have any. But we persevered and choked some down. Smey's birthday party....
My sister in-law turned 30 and we had her first birthday party ever. We all met up at Tonle Bassoc, a huge buffet that is one of the best places to eat in the entire country.
First pic: my step-mom, my nephew "Bun Quan", the birthday girl "Smey", my brother-in-law "Ravi"
And yes, I was the one who brought the Groucho glasses
to Cambodia. They were a huge hit (I brought 5 pairs, lol) We wore them all over the place and it was a hoot. I can imagine some of the people that only caught a glance of us; they probably got home and went, "Honey, ohmygod, you would NOT believe the size of the nose I saw on this foreigner today!! It was THIS BIG!!
Girl Shirts EVERYWHERE
There's a huge deal here with what are called "girl shirts
", which are, not surprisingly, shirts that young women wear. They all have slogans on them, which is what makes them "girl shirts" (guys almost never wear these shirts). I've been noting some of the slogans and list a few of them here for your edification. These are just a few, there are hundreds and hundreds that I've seen.Single On Fridays
Better Than Your Girl
Sleep With Me Before Morning
So Lovely, So Lonely
Pretty Pretty Pretty
Lick Below This Line (with a horizontal line at the midriff)
Low Hourly Rates
Yes I Do / Yes I Will
Hardware (lettered across the breastline)
Good Bad Girl
Bad Good Girl
Bounce Time Best Time
Excitement Make Me Faint
Front Back Top Bottom
This Side Down
Cannot Bear To Love
Waiting And Waiting
0 to 60 At Night
No Need Ring
No Money, No Honey (classic shirt)
*cough* So, I think you get the idea. I'm guessing that these girls' parents don't speak/read English or NO WAY could they leave the house wearing these.
Home Again, Home Again....The flight back was great.
The plane was only about half-full and it was easy to find full rows of seats 3 or 4-across that you could lay down and sleep in. And that's exactly what we did. I slept for about 7~8 hours of the 12-hour flight, Sakha slept for almost 10. She woke up and saw there were only about 2 hours left and she practically did a happy-dance right there in the aisle.
When the plane is only half-full the meal service goes much faster, the flight attendants are happier, and you don't have that packed-in-a-sardine-can feeling.
So...........there ya have it. All in all a fun trip.