12 June 2007

storytime: cambodia, part 1

lately i have been lazy, or uninspired, when it comes to writing in my blog. it doesn't mean that i haven't been thinking of things to say, i just never get around to saying them.

i have alot of things i want to post about. for example: the sopranos season finale. my weekend. thoughts on things i've seen or read. see, even coming up with examples seems tiring.

so, inspired by my friend mark's new blog, i'm going to do some storytelling around here. i told that hitchhiking story a week ago, and it was fun. so today begins another travel story: my trip to cambodia. this one comes from the same 2000-2001 trip i took with ange, about 3 months after the hitchhiking adventures in australia.

we left bangkok at 5am. retrospectively, our six-month trip broke into three parts: the first was just the two of us, a few months on the road together. then the second part: visitors. boyfriends and friends and other travelers. the third part began that morning that we left bangkok. seth left the same morning to begin his trip back to the us and we got on a mini-bus headed for siem reap, the city where angkor wat is located. the rest of our trip would be shaped by our experiences that day.

like all buses in southeast asia, this one fell short of expectations. it was small, stuffy, rattly and crowded with other backpackers. the air conditioning was non-existent. it was late september - rainy season - which meant humidity. by this point in our journey we had befriended valium as an invaluable traveling partner, so we spent the morning sleeping as we headed toward the border. the trip to siem reap was advertised as nine hours, we expected to be there by early afternoon.

we pulled into the border town a few hours later. as border towns go, this one was particularly decrepit. the poverty was such that there were naked 3-year olds carrying 1-year olds. everyone was selling, or looking for something to sell, or just begging. everything was hanging on the edge of ruin.

so the border officials decided to hold us there for what ended up being four hours without explanation. our thai bus drivers just shrugged their shoulders as the time ticked slowly past. it was interminable, we were in the hot sun, surrounded by chaos, faintly worried that we might have to spend the night, or the year. looking back, it was part of an elaborate manipulation to get us to spend money but at the time it felt like a desperate situation, made worse by the desperation in the eyes of everybody we saw in that town.

i'll never forget this vehicle we saw trying to lumber down the street. at the bottom was a small wooden wagon on wooden wheels, something from the previous century. on this precarious base rested a pile of something two stories high, hanging over the edge in every direction and swaying. this beast was rolling unsteadily down the uneven dirt street pulled with ropes by a few small guys, trying to fit under a concrete arch that marked the border. it had about an inch of clearance. it was almost impossible that this thing would make it anywhere, disaster was imminent any way you looked at it. yet they slowly tugged this thing along, all of us standing there watching, grimacing, waiting for the inevitable crash that never happened. this vehicle seemed like an allegory for the entire situation.

eventually they stamped our passports and we got back on the bus as evening was falling. we were happy to be on our way, until the next stop, a mere hour later.

to be continued...

in other news:
  • seth has a new blog. bookmark it, put it on your google reader and get ready to laugh
  • paul takes better photos than me. check out his pictures of my bbq and our picnic for zoe's bday on saturday.
  • mark posted an incredible 1960s video of nina simone singing four women. all i can say is wow. and i stand by my claim that if i could see any concert of any artist alive or dead, it would be nina.
  • good stuff on crucial minutiae of late. often i have been fascinated by the miracle of the "guy friend" - how they are so adept at explaining the mindgame bullshit of other guys. here, a serial guy friend tries to explain it all.

1 comment:

Paul Gladis said...

Woohoo!! Shout out! Thanks!