3/25/09

Developing Crosswalk

Witness the smooth flowing vehicular anarchy that the developing world motors by. (Downtown Saigon, Vietnam)

3/24/09

The Vendor

A wander through the market in Hanoi, Vietnam. Oh how I miss the constant melody of horns.

3/23/09

Top of Angkor

This was the last temple Pat and I visited during our tour of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The sun was hot and the stairs were insanely steep; making this last adventure in the complex of temples a memorable one.

3/19/09

Sideride

Crossing the Mekong River on my way back into Phenom Phen, it just made sense to ride the motorcycle on the sidewalk with one hand while shooting this video.

Experiencing Asia

It was a hot winters afternoon in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. My travel companion Pat had left that morning to return to the United States; leaving me alone in a beach town crawling with Cambodian women of questionable morals and drunken drugged Europeans intent on "Experiencing Asia" from the inside of cheap motels, bars, and the occasional air conditioned tour bus." Tired of this scene, I rented a motor scooter and quickly retreated to the county side.

About twenty minutes into the ride, I came across a temple on a hill. Though I wanted lunch, I decided to take a moment explore the temple. As I entered the temple, a monk seated on the floor invited me sit with him and share a durian. Happy at the prospect of a free meal, I quickly sat down to enjoy the "king of the fruits". When we finished eating, much to my surprise the monk wanted to take a picture of me with his camera phone. Grinning and told him that would be alright, only if I could take a picture of him too.

With a belly laden with durin, I waved goodbye to the monk and continued my ride into the countryside. Growing weary of paved roads, I haphazardly turned onto a small unmarked dirt road.
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While bouncing down the road, passing small houses, crossing rickety bridges, and dodging chickens I began to hear a familiar word, "Hello." Curious to see who was greeting me I stopped and there they were, two children standing on a porch waving at me chirping, "Hello."
Smiling I waved back, said hello, and knew 99% of the foreigners back in town would never "experience Asia" like this.

3/7/09

Hanoi Tussle

So my trip was to end in Vietnam, a country that I had heard few nice things about from fellow travelers. But after a eleven hour bus ride through winding moutains that left my entire body buzzing rather unpleasantly, that was hardly on my mind.

It all began seemingly well. A Vietnamese man, speaking excellent English, greeted me as I stepped off my bus offering to help me catch my next bus, feed me dinner, and exchange my Bat's into Dong's; all for a small fee of course. Yet knowing that conveience has its price, I gladly complied.

With my errands run at this one stop shop, I stepped onto a mini-bus bound for Hanoi. As I climbed into my seat in the rear of the bus, the couple sitting in front of me struck up a conversation. They told me about the 24 hour bus ride they had just been subjected to and how they were on a year long honeymoon around the world. From the conversation they seemed like a mundane couple, that was until the wife casually mentioned, "That she had been hit by a woman earlier that day," but gave no other details as to why or who this "woman" was.

As the bus began to fill, it soon became apparent that our Vietnamese driver was intent on packing a mini-bus that fits twenty people, with nearly forty. With Vietnamese people being wedged into every available crevice the couple began to protest loudly. Hoping to preserve what little space I had, I too joined in, using what little Chinese I still remembered. When this failed to work, without warning the wife jumped out of the mini-buses window, ran round the bus, and chased down the man who had sold us the tickets. And after a great deal of noise the couple and I were spared from the cramming.

With front of the mini-bus packed like an overladen cattle car we were off. Weaving through traffic and making liberal use of the buses horn and brakes, the driver raced through the evening traffic at pace that even alarmed me. To further things along, the ticket taker took to leaning out of the mini-buses door, screaming over the horn and pounding on the more obstinate vehicles to our left. In awe I watched as scooters, cars, semi trucks, and small animals fled from the mini-buses path of terror.

After two hair-raising hours of passing vehicles on the wrong side of the road, the still moving mini-bus, began to occasionally expelled some of its passengers along the side of the darkened road. With seating conditions improving, the couple in front of me now calmed down. That was until the mini-bus driver pulled off the road for a midnight snack.

As I sat drinking beer with a Vietnamese gentleman from the sugar company, the wife stormed into the restaurant and asked, "Does this guy speak English?" To which I replied, "Umm yes, why?" Without answering my question the wife turned to Vietnamese gentleman and took off on a verbal tear, which went something like this, "We were told the bus was going straight to Hanoi. We were told the drivers would not be stopping for dinner. I am so tired of being lied to. Do you understand me? Because I want you to tell the driver that this is not acceptable. We need to go right now! Do you understand me? (She went on, but I shall spare you dear reader.)

The end result of this tirade was the Vietnamese gentleman trying to kindly explain this to the drivers, who responded only with laughter. When the wife saw this, she stormed over to the drivers table, took the chopsticks out of the their hands. She then took to yelling at them while pounding on the table. When this too failed to elicit any real response from the drivers, the wife stormed out of the restaurant and into the parking lot. Rather dumbfounded by the whole incident the gentleman from the sugar company came back over to my table and quickly finished his beer.

With dinners eaten and tantrums thrown, we were back on road and soon at the Hanoi bus terminal. As the bus ground to a hault at the darkened station, I watched as the husband flew from his seat and up to the front of the bus while demanding to be dropped off in a different area of town. For he stated that the man who had sold he and his wife the bus tickets had assured them they would be dropped off in the Old Quarter, not the bus terminal. His tirade might have solved something, if only the driver had spoken English.

After failing to get a desirable response from the driver, the husband snatched the keys from the ignition. Surprised by this the driver lunged for the keys just as the wife bound up to the front of the mini-bus and began screaming and hitting the bus driver. With the driver temporary distracted the husband made for the mini-buses door, which was immediately assaulted by the cab drivers outside. Not wanting to throw himself into the savage mob, the husband barred the mini-buses door to prevent the cab drivers from getting in.

Sitting in the back of the bus with my head in my hands, wondering what was to happen next, I then heard the husband say, "Watch it, I think he's going for his gun." Surprised by this new development, I looked up in time to see the bus driver rummaging through a wooden box and the husband pushing the driver backwards.

With the driver off balance, the wife leapt at the driver once more, with claws bared. With no other choice the driver began to fend off the wife. This soon broke down into a protracted pushing match due the limited space offered by the, now empty, front of bus. Yet just as things were spiraling completely out of control, in a moment of sanity, the husband pulled his wife off the driver, gave back the keys and disembarked from the bus. Alas this moment of sanity was merely that, for seconds later the husband returned wielding an angry finger and empty threats.
Then without explanation, the couple was gone, swallowed up by some taxi; it was almost as if they had never existed. Rather dazed from traveling for 19 hours, stumbled off the bus and into the cold night air. The now calm mob of taxi drivers was soon upon me and moments later I found myself racing down the quite streets of Hanoi in search of a hotel.

But one question remains, where was this couple from? What country would produce such uninhibited savage humanbeings? The answer would be America, yes that's right and even worse they were from Colorado; but blessedly transplants not natives. And though the madness was fun to watch, while wandering through the streets of Hanoi today I had to wonder, why and what for?