i checked the weather for today. for cambodia it says that it is 95 degrees and feels like 109. blech.
before i left vientiane, i went to the national museum. unfortunately, the exhibits that were in english consisted of the stuff i wasn't much interested in. namely, fossils and ceramic pots. when i got to the more recent history it was all in french and lao. but, they did have some interesting pictures around the time of the vietnam war. each one included the label (the only thing in english) "the american imperialists and their puppets." it was one of the first hints i got that laos is actually still communist.
anyway. moving on. so i hopped a bus down to the four thousand islands in the south of laos, on the mekong river. the glorious thing about traveling alone is that you have absolutely no say as to who sits next to you. so it will probably be the tallest, broadest human being on earth who has no sense of personal space and thinks that your seat belongs to him. also, he will fall asleep on you, crushing you against the window. just a warning. it's a proven fact. careful on those buses people.
so, after a wonderful night of no sleep i hopped in a little wooden boat and was off to my island bungalow!
yes. my bungalow.
this particular island has no electricity yet. so basically what you do there is hang around in a hammock all day fanning yourself and reading. oh, and waiting to watch the sunset from said hammock.
my evening view.
just before sunset you can go out biking or walking and catch some of the local scenery, which consists mostly of buffalo and rice paddies.
buffalo in a rice paddy. 2 for 1.
again, a paddy.
but it really really is too hot. and there are no fans or a/c to escape to. so most people glue themselves to their hammocks and wait for the bakery man to bike by and deliver you cinnamon buns and donuts. and sometimes nature drops itself into the mix just to say hi.
it was in my room. the body was at least the size of my thumb.
i totally wimped out and had the man who ran the place take care of it for me. but i still had dreams about spiders on me all night. turns out it was just ants and mosquitos.
so after a few days of sweating and fretting over the spider and it's inevitable revenge i decided that i needed to get out of laos. though, i have to say i was sad to leave it. i mean, the people there are wonderful. they say hi. just to say hello. they don't even necessarily want anything from you. same is true in cambodia too. especially the kids. they all run around naked (just the little ones) and waving and giggling and running away when you wave back. in thailand you dont even see the kids...
anyway. so i changed my money to dollars for cambodia. it seems ridiculous, but having a wallet full of dollars overwhelmed me. well, i suppose $50 isnt exactly full. but it was strange to have my own money again. and it has changed since i left. i mean, where did all these colors come from on all our bills. it was pretty exciting to think that i would be dealing in a currency that i understood and wouldn't have to do any conversion math with every time i wanted to buy a coke. but at the same time it made me sad because it reminded me of just how close i am to going back to america.
moving on. so, yeah. they use dollars and local money here in cambodia. the atms will only give you dollars. even the locals use them. but there is no change, so far that you get local bills.
the bus to cambodia was undoubtedly the worst i have had since africa. it was a minivan with five more people than seats. i mean, there aren't exactly aisles or anything to accomodate the extras. so three people rode on the roof. for 15 hours.
the next day was the beginning of the cambodian new year. in the villages here and in the surrounding countries the new year lasts for three days and is just a big water fight. people throw water and talcum powder on each other in the streets. but apparently in phnom penh everyone leaves the city and those who stay don't want to get mussed. there, everything just shuts down and nothing happens. big disappointment. i mean, i ziplocked all my stuff for nothing! so while everyone was sleeping through the heat i rented a scooter and had the roads to myself for a day. i took myself to the khmer rouge sites. turned out to be a really intense day. first there was tuol sleng (also known as s-21), the prison in phnom penh. of everyone who went there, only 7 lived. it was an old high school. but now you walk through and see the cells and shackles. and there is still blood on the floor and splattered on the ceilings. and pictures. mug shots of their prisoners. including babies... so after that i went to the next logical place, the killing fields. it is where the khmer rouge brutally killed people and threw them in mass graves. the first thing you see there is a tower of over 8000 skulls. and as you walk through the place there is still clothing all over the place from the victims. i teared up a bit. i couldnt help it. a really intense day.
so the next day i needed a bit of levity. it came in the form of visiting the royal palace. there is a pagoda with an emerald buddha and a silver floor (though i found the floor unimpressive and disappointing). and there are beautiful buildings all over the grounds.
example of what one might consider a beautiful building
and there was a gift from napoleon as well.
i mean come on napoleon! it looks like a terrible rusted shack that you might see at universal studios. no wonder they didnt like the french. it's a pretty lame gift.
having seen the sights of the capital i moved on to siem reap. it means "siamese defeated" and it is fairly close to thailand (siam). classy. but what they have here are the temples of angkor. they are almost 1000 years old and many of them have been taken back over by the jungle. i dont have much to say about them, but here are some pictures.
yes, those are trees growing through the temples. pretty cool, but one day was enough for me and my limited enthusiasm for antiquities.
and that brings us up to now! so, after somewhat too short of a time in cambodia i am off again for thailand. and you know what that means? it means i am booking a flight home this week. i'll be sure to let you know the details when i do.