Saturday, July 30, 2005

Thrift Store Day
Today was thrift store shopping day with Friend Chuy. It's a magical day filled with bargains and bizarre-ities. It was a good day.

We started the day with a Starbucks run. I tried the Green Tea Frappuccino, and after several sips, I gave it the seal of approval. It is good. The best part? It is green.

The rest of the day was a tour of various thrift stores in the area, on the hunt for nothing in particular, but wanting to pay next to nothing for it when we found it.

I did make one stipulation that by the end of the day we had each pieced together one outfit to wear to church tomorrow night.

After a day of thrift store shopping, I am now declaring Friend Chuy and I variable thrift store connoisseurs. I will rate the stores we visited, starting with the best:

1. Goodwill Dallas
This also happened to be our first stop. Recently rebuilt after a fire, this store is in tip-top shape. It doesn't even smell like a thrift store. Here I was able to find some good clothing bargains, and it was an overall pleasant shopping experience.

2. Buffalo Exchange
This is a pricier thrift store, but full of wonderful things, nonetheless. They have a great selection of fun, worn t-shirts, which we all know is an obsession of mine. Friend Chuy brought some clothes in to exchange, and we spent a whole lot of time in this store. I think I looked at every item of clothing in the store. But, I found a true treasure- a vintage and very worn, but very cool Coca-Cola t-shirt. It wasn't worth what it was marked, but Friend Chuy insisted that I try it on, which only made me fall in love with it. She then donated her store credit to the purchase of this must-have item, and we all lived happily ever after. Especially after I bought her lunch to show my gratitude immediately following the Exchange.

3. Ahab Bowen
This place was recommended by Friend Starbucks Guy This Morning while we waited for our Starbucks this morning. He drew us a map and everything. While the place did have some interesting finds, and was definitely more "vintage" than simply thrift or resale, we found things to be over-priced (especially the t-shirts), and we never even found t-shirts in sizes comparable to people who might not be large men. It was a fun shop, though. Cute house. Would be good for costuming, come Halloween. No purchases made here.

4. Salvation Army
This was a last ditch effort for Friend Chuy to be able to piece together an outfit to wear to church tomorrow night. This place was nuts, due to a furniture sale. They had some good furniture, which would draw me back to the store. But as for clothing, good t-shirts were nearly impossible to find, and we only came across a few. None worth purchasing. We left empty handed.

All-in-all, a good thrift store day. I'm up for this again anytime, so holla if your up for some thrift. There are more places to go, I just need to find them. And these are worth visiting again.

Turner Family Reunion, '92!

I'm exhausted.


Friday, July 29, 2005

I'm good smelling
I don't know about good looking, but I really smell good.

I tried new soap today.

After spending all day with myself, I must say I've quite enjoyed how good I smell.


Thursday, July 28, 2005

Friend L
What can I say about a guy like Friend L?

After a conversation at Two Rows last night, I just wanted to mention him on my world-famous blog.

It's that simple.


Valued Employee
So, I've been at my job for a year. Actually, while I was in Cambodia a few weeks ago, that was my year anniversary.

We celebrated by me having this conversation with Friends A and C:

CT: "Hey, today is my one year anniversary at my job. Yay, Tyrant!"
Friends A and C: " "

They didn't have to say anything. Words can't really express the sentiment of being proud of a friend who has kept a job for a whole year.

Anyway, today my boss scheduled my yearly review. He worked all morning preparing for my review. He never works all morning on anything, so this meant it had to be really good. I'm sure he was making a really long list of good things to say about me, and adding up a really long row of numbers that will be the raise in my salary.

And really, the only thing that stood in the way of all this rave reviewing of me and my job was that. . . . MY BOSS FORGOT TO INVITE ME TO MY OWN REVIEW!!!


He scheduled it with himself, put it on his own calendar. He spent the morning preparing for it. Then when lunch time came and he came looking for me to have the review, I was gone to lunch with my co-workers for ethnic lunch day.

Yeah, I had no idea he had scheduled it until after I got back and he told me, and then my co-workers told me, and then we all proceeded to give him a really hard time about it. It was awesome.

I hope he includes in my review that I do a good job of keeping him on task, because that's a large part of my job, and clearly when he leaves it up to himself to schedule things, um, things get forgotten.

Anyway, the review will happen tomorrow. It is on both my calendar and his.

I wonder if I can play this up for a better raise, or if I'm completely screwed because clearly I'm not memorable enough for him to remember to make sure I'm at the review that is all about me ....


don't you hate it when people send you an email and the entire content of the email is contained within the subject line and it goes all the way across the subject line and on and on and on but you can't read all of it because it gets cut off and then you ....

I have a client who does this. It annoys me to no end.

EVERY email he sends has the question or comment or whatever he is trying to say contained ENTIRELY within the subject line of the email. There is no email part to the email. And they ALL get cut off at the end of the subject field because he types more words than can fit in the subject line.

This means I then have to try and interpret what he's saying, and usually that means I have to send an email back to him with a bunch of questions clarifying whatever it is he is trying to say in the subject line. He would save us both a lot of time, trouble, and confusion if he would just take a few extra seconds and tell me all of what he tries to fit in the subject line by putting it in the body part of the email.... where it can actually be read and understood.

I have some friends who do this, too. Although not to the extent that it is so much text in the subject line that it runs out of room in the subject line and you are left with the ...

I can understand if it's just a quick email, and the entire point of the email can be contained in a few words in the subject line, such as:

Dinner tonight?
You're very pretty.
I'm pregnant!

I don't have a problem with any of those. They are short and to the point and are serving a purpose. These are good.

But, don't tell me your life story in the subject line. Or ask me a series of questions with multiple choice answers. Or try to explain any theories or holes in logic. If you can't be bothered to start with a basic subject idea in a word or few, then hit the Tab button once and proceed with a congenial message that shows you have more time for me than it would indicate by not bothering to get yourself out of the subject line, I don't want to hear from you.

People, it is a subject line for a reason. It is meant to only contain the subject of the email that it accompanies.

I like emails. I probably like you. I don't generally get emails from people I don't like, because the ones who don't like me don't bother emailing. So, do me the honor of writing to me if you are going to bother at all.

It brings me great joy to hear more than just a few words from you, because you are more than just a subject line to me.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Run, Tyrant, Run
Last week I bought new running shoes.

I don't run.

Needless to say, this was quite an ordeal for me. As always. I buy running shoes maybe once a year. In this case, it has been two years since I've bought running shoes. And, as per my routine, I usually wait until Tax Free Weekend, which is a glorious holiday here in Texas during August. For this weekend, all stores do away with sales tax on things that would apply to school, such as clothes. It's the greatest holiday of our time.

But this year, after having worn my current pair of running shoes all over Southeast Asia (not running, mind you. But walking a whole lot), I decided the new shoes could not wait until Tax Free Weekend. Why I'm in such a hurry, I don't know.

I don't run.

So, last week I went out everyday during lunch to try on shoes. I hit all of the stores that sell New Balance running shoes at good prices. I may be crazy enough to rock my routine by not waiting until Tax Free Weekend. But I am NOT crazy enough to step outside of the New Balance shoes I've grown to know and love. I always buy New Balance. I love them.

I don't run.

Finally, Friday I made the purchase. But here is the interesting thing. Throughout the week of trying on shoes, I noticed that the size 9.5 shoes just seemed too small. Too short. Not to fit well.

I've worn size 9.5 running shoes for many years. It's a science. I need new running shoes, I go to store that sells New Balance shoes at good prices, I pick a few 9.5 shoes that I think look good, and I pick the ones that fit my mood of the day. They are always 9.5.

I don't run. It doesn't really matter if they will work well for running. They just need to look good and fit.

But this year, ALL of the 9.5 shoes were just wrong. I had to.... go up to a size 10.

Oh my goodness... flashbacks to junior high...

I have not worn size 10 athletic shoes since 6th grade, during which time my basketball high-tops were a gigantic size 10. The team called them The Clodhoppers. My feet were way larger than I was. It was all out of proportion. My feet would tend to get wherever I was headed before I did. What followed would be much clumsiness, tripping over things, general balance mayhem. It was terribly awkward. It was great.

Now, at the ripe young age of 29, are my feet having a growth spurt? Will I also be getting taller? I'm already pretty tall. And my feet are already pretty big. I could do without a growth spurt.

Nevertheless, my new running shoes are a size 10. My first size 10 since 6th grade.



Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Folks, I can't stop the random.

I am certainly not a fashion monger. Most days I match and whatnot. But some days I get to my closet and can only piece together something I am only mildly embarrassed to wear out of the house.

What is wrong with me?

I shop. Sometimes. And when I'm in stores I put on clothes that seem to be in style, look good, fit, and don't cost a kidney to carry out of the store with me.

Then I get home, and two weeks later I hate all of my clothes again. Where do all of my cool clothes go?

I don't care enough about fashion to shop often. Nor to spend much on clothes. I like to look good, but comfort always comes first. I don't wear heels. I rarely wear skirts (not because I don't like them, I'm just out of the habit). I am business casual at work, with emphasis on the "casual" as far as I can get away with it. I like funny t-shirts and jeans.

What I do know is this: pleats are NEVER the answer.

Mariah Carey
Today my boss was raving about the new Mariah Carey song. Apparently it's her big comeback.

But my question is, did we really need her to come back?

I was quite ok with her being away.

Wait! Let me check.....

Yep, I didn't miss her.

Serving Size
Why is it that the recommended serving size on a package of anything is way less food than I want to eat? Are these serving sizes based on people half the size of normal people?

Last night I made pasta and broccoli. Before you say it outloud, yes I realize that tortellinis and broccoli do not go together. However, most of my meals consist of whatever I'm in the mood to eat. And if I look in the freezer and see frozen broccolis and tortellinis, chances are that's a meal.

Anyway, I carefully measured out 3 servings of tortellinis and 2 servings of broccoli. I intended to have broccoli and tortellinis for 2 dinners, and another serving of tortellini for lunch.

What I got was barely enough food for two meals. I cleaned out the meager ration of broccoli in just a few bites.

Now, I'm relatively small. But admittedly, I can eat a whole lot of food. I wasn't that hungry. But I tell you, someone needs to re-evaluate the serving sizes posted on most packages of food. It's very misleading.

Because, the servings I get at home compared to the servings I get in a restaurant = NOT THE SAME.

It doesn't add up.

Sprinkler Timer
Whoever invented the water sprinkler timer is my new best friend. My dad bought one for me a few weeks ago, and I have no idea how I've survived two summers in the house without it.

True, it's not as fancy as a sprinkler system, with which I could program my yard watering choreography to my heart's content.

But, for the less rich of the world like me, the timer is a blessing. I can attach it to the hose, fire up the sprinkler, set the timer for as long as I want... AND WALK AWAY. I can completely forget that I'm watering the yard, and it's okay!

The sprinkler will shut itself off!!

I bought another one for my front yard. Now I have two.

Best $10 I've ever spent.

So, I'll admit. I'm moody.

I've been in a funk for quite some time. When was the last time pleats were cool? That may be the last time I can say I've been funk free.

But maybe I'm in less of a funk these past few weeks.

Vacation helps. Otherwise, I've got no explanation.

And it could change at any moment.

I'm moody. It's what keeps the sarcasm biting, and the wit sharp.


Monday, July 25, 2005

MORE Tidbits
I don't know. I'm just feeling really random lately.

Bowl Be Gone
I finally broke the bowl cycle. And I don't mean I broke a bowl, although I did break one last week in a freak ice cream scooping incident that sent my bowl flying off of the counter and onto the floor into a bazillion little pieces. Now I have one set of bowls that is no longer 4 bowls. It's only 3.

It's sad, really.

But what I mean is that tonight I had dinner on a plate like a normal human being. No more bowls.

Although I think I'm about to go have ice cream.

I think I'll use a plastic bowl. Safer for everyone.

Yesterday I did all of my laundry. LOTS of laundry.

Usually I'll do laundry, then get lazy and leave it sitting around my house for long periods of time. In fact, sometimes I never get around to putting it up before I've worn all of it and it's time to do laundry again.

It becomes a laundry hunt of sorts. I have more than one bedroom, so that means more than one place where I can spread out my laundry. In the mornings after my shower, it's a scavenger hunt to find all of what I will wear for the day. Pieces of the outfit could be in any number of rooms anywhere in the house.

No wonder I am late to work so often.

Tonight I put up all of my laundry that I did yesterday. It's odd, actually. Not seeing laundry all over the house.

I bet I'm late for work again tomorrow. NOT because it takes me all morning to track down my outfit. But because I put everything where it belongs, and now I will never be able to find it.

The Reason I Put Up My Laundry Tonight
Because this morning I came out of the shower and found another big roach-like water bug crawling amongst a pile of still dirty towels.

Thankfully, he did not survive much more than the next 60 seconds. Although I did have to track down an appropriate bug killing shoe to put him out of my misery.

But, this put me into an immediate panic that my clean laundry, some of which was lying on the floor, or on chairs and whatnot, would be (or maybe already had been) contaminated by bug cooties. If I hadn't had to spend so much time tracking down a complete outfit all over the house, I would have put it all up this morning, simply because I cannot stand the thought of a big bug crawling all over my clothes.

Clearly, the clothes are much safer when hanging in the closet, or folded neatly in drawers where bugs can't get them.


Books a Plenty
I'm in a book phase, which means that any minute now, I may start reading again. For fun.

Watch out.

Over my vacation to Thailand/Cambodia/Vietnam, I finished two books. A Bill Bryson book that Friend C loaned me well over a year ago (I figured she's about to move, I should get the book back to her). And Stephen King's first book in the Gunslinger series, recommended to me by Friend California J. I loved it. It's weird, but good.

Now, I just don't know which book to start first. I have 5 new books. They are, in no particular order (please don't laugh, I have very good justification for all of them):

1. Pigs in Heaven, by Barbara Kingsolver (also recommended by Friend California J, and Friend C. I bought it for my trip, but did not get to it.)
2. Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse (recommended by Friend C as a good tool to understanding all the Buddhism we saw throughout Asia. And it was only $1)
3. It's Not About the Bike, Lance Armstrong (because I am obsessed with cycling, and with Lance, and it was only $5)
4. Siam, by Lily Tuck (because it's about both Thailand and Jim Thompson, and I'm obsessed with both, post vacation. I have no idea if it's any good. But it was only $4)
5. Angelina Jolie, Notes from My Travels (because I am obsessed with both Angelina and the genre of world poverty issues, and this book covers both. And it was only $6)

So, I'm torn. Don't know where to start. But I'd better pick one soon before I lose the will to read again.

Last night I had the pleasure of meeting our potential new pastor.

Then, I had the pleasure of driving her home after dinner. This gave us time to chat. We share a love of Anne Lamott, and graduated from the same college the same year. Not just because of these things, I like this Potential (not of the same "potential" as the "Potentials" of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I will hereby call our potential "Potential" until she is no longer potential).

I sat alone at church last night, and was struck by a slight case of teary eye. The Potential came to church last night for the first time, merely to be there and observe. Not to participate.

She hadn't even been introduced, yet, and already I felt a sense of relief and gratitude. A TREMENDOUS sense of relief and gratitude. The last many months for our church have been rough, carrying on without a pastor, and losing people from an already small community.

While I am so proud of my church, and so pleased with what we've accomplished over the past months. While I am continually impressed with the people who have risen to the occasion of serving in our church and keeping things going when there isn't enough help to make things work. While I am super impressed with how we continue to make ends meet month after month, even though people have left and taken their money along with them. While all of these things and more have proven to me the mark of a church that will make it, and be what it is supposed to be, having come through some tough times, I am SO ready for change.

I am tired.

I am tired of how things have been over the past months. I say that knowing we have done the best we can, and that is not to slight or criticize anything that has gone on, or anyone that has taken charge. The way we have pulled together has been really beautiful. I just really feel it is time for change. Not in who we are or what we do as this community. But, we are all tired. We all need to be fed. We need some stability.

So, last night I was teary. Because the Potential was finally here. Prayers have been answered. Hardwork has paid off. What we've been searching for and working towards for so long has finally materialized in an actual person. A person, I might add, that seems almost too good to be true, considering what all we've gone through to get to this point. She didn't even have to do anything last night, but meet us. And mingle. And I couldn't have been more thankful.

For potential. It's here.

I was so impatient to blog tonight that I cut short the virus scan that runs every week on my computer. It slows down the function of my really old, really slow computer.

I didn't really have anything to say.

But I wanted to say it RIGHT NOW.

I hope those last few files don't have a virus.


Sunday, July 24, 2005

Random things on my mind at the moment:

My parents bought me a dustbuster for Christmas.

It has since become my favorite household appliance. I dustbust everything. There is no end to the things you can dustbust. No need to drag out the entire vacuum cleaner for a quick cleanup. Just dusbust it.

I spilled some coffee grounds on the floor today. Dustbusted.
Flower pedals all over the table from the flowers Boy J left for me when I got home from Thailand/Cambodia/Vietnam. Dustbusted.
Unreasonable amounts of hair on the bathroom floor. Dustbusted.

All of these functions of the dusbuster make it worthwhile, in and of themselves. But the best use I've found for the dustbuster is.... sucking up bugs.

Kill a spider with a shoe? Dusbust it.
Even those big roach-like water bugs. Dustbust it.

I will never have to touch a dead bug again. Or a live one, for that matter. And for this reason, the Dustbuster is a must-have.

Last week I only ate stuff at home that went in bowls: Cereal. Soup. Ice cream. I don't know why. I didn't plan it. I just seemed to only be hungry for things in bowls.

Then I ran out of bowls. Turns out even though I have a lot of bowls, if I eat only things that go in bowls, I run out of bowls.

But, I did not run out of wanting to eat things in bowls. So, my dishwasher bowl area was full of bowls, but not completely full enough to run. I was hungry for bowl things, but had no bowls.

I didn't eat much after that. Except for things in restaurants. But today I ran the dishwasher. I'll be less hungry now.

I've been on the Lance Armstrong bandwagon for awhile. I might love him. I also love Sheryl Crow, so it's ok. We're all cool with the love I have for both of them. Today he won his 7th Tour de France.

I'm obsessed with watching cycling on t.v. I'm sure for most people that cycling is about as boring as NASCAR is to people who could care less about watching cars go around in a circle 108,000 times. But still, I could watch cycling all day.

It's a good thing I don't get the OLN channel, or no one would have seen me for the past three weeks. I would have been glued to the OLN channel watching the Tour all day.

Congrats, Lance.

I should get back on my bike.

Friends who are Rockstars
I saw CCE's band Far Star last night. I was super impressed. I'm just amazed by my friends who create, make, and play music. I love rockstars. I liken myself to being a rockstar yet undiscovered. A rockstar trapped in a non-hip white girl's body.

I'm just so impressed and blown away by my friends who are so dedicated to pursuing their rockstar dreams. I love it, and them for making my world more musical.

Go see Far Star. Buy a CD (they will try to give you one for free, but please offer them money for it). They rock.

Friends, in general
I'm proud of all my friends today. For a variety of reasons. They are amazing people and they often make me proud.

But, friends also perplex me. Some friends, I can tell them anything, any time, and it's cool. I can tell them I'm proud, and it is good. Other friends, I could write about here all day, and they will never read it. I could say anything I want. And they would never know.

Conversely, I could tell them, directly, to their face, what I would write, and they would still never hear it. I used to tell them anything and it was cool.

So, now is it a waste of time and energy to write or say it?

Or is there any truth to that whole "shower the people you love with love" that James Taylor goes on about.

Sometimes I think that whole sentiment is a bunch of hooey, and that James Taylor (and later Mylon LeFevre - the only one who will get this is Benanti) is straight up crazy.

Internet Connection
For the past couple of weeks, my internet connection at home just stops. At will. For no reason. I then unplug my cable modem and let it sit, and when I plug it back in it will work again for awhile.

I figure the modem is wearing out. I need to call Comcast and see what's up.

But, I haven't. The whole thing is annoying. But, I think I'm kinda lazy sometimes. It's just one more thing I need to deal with, and I really just want my internet to work without having to call anybody about it. They will make me unplug it and plug it in again, even though I will tell them I just did that. They will ask me a bunch of questions. They will have me restart my computer. They will want to send out a technician. I will have to wait for them between the hours of 8am and 12 noon, and they will arrive at 11:55am.

And in the end, they will give me a new modem, even though that is what I will tell them I need from the beginning.

But, actually, with my internet being unreliable, this week it has probably kept me out of trouble. From email. It's kept me from sitting online so much, and that's probably been good.

So maybe I won't call for awhile. I don't need to be online so much.

I'm hungry. I think I will go put something in a bowl and eat it now.


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

I have to admit right now, I'm angry. Why?

Because I'm blogging.

See, what I should be doing right at this moment, instead of blogging, is playing second base in a softball game. But what I am not doing right at this moment is playing second base in a softball game.

Here's why.

We had to forfeit the game because we couldn't get enough girls to play tonight. I am sorely disappointed in my fellow females. I LOVE my softball games. I look forward to it every week.

Sure, I understand it is hard to make the early games. Things come up. I myself have missed one game this season, due to being out of the country. I don't expect everyone to be at every game. But, to not have enough of us to even play the game? Unacceptable. We may suck, but we do have some standards to at least show up.

Now, I don't do this very often. If ever. But I'm calling out the girls on the team. Why? Because we have 108 girls on the team and/or signed up as subs to play. Coach J-Lay would not even allow us to sign up to play if we don't have enough girls and guys to more than cover a few people unable to show up.

So tell me, how do we only end up with 3 girls available and/or willing to play out of those 108 girls?

Where is your committment? Where is your dedication?


If you sign up to play, be there. We depend on you. If you sign up as a sub, be available to fill in.

I apologize for scolding. Well, only a little. At least we have another late game tonight where I can take out my frustration.

I paid to play all of the games in a season. Today I paid for a game that I did not get to play, because the rest of my ladies can't be there.

I want my money back for this game.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

More love for television
Even during summer when I feared the worst for television programming, today I have discovered three beacons of light amidst the darkness of summer television.

Beacon of Light #1
In speaking with some co-workers over the past week, I've been informed that the Game Show Network has started re-running The Amazing Race, starting with Season 1. Apparently it is on every night. While I was happy to hear this, and happy for my co-workers who can afford the cable to get The Game Show Network, a little piece of me died upon hearing this news, for I, too, would greatly enjoy re-watching every episode of The Amazing Race throughout the summer. But I am too poor to afford fancy cable.

It is the most amazing game show ever.

But, upon further conversation today with one co-worker, he mentioned that he only gets basic cable, paying around $12.00 a month for it. Yet, he gets the Game Show Network, and has been watching The Amazing Race reruns every night. Um, I, too, have basic $12 cable. Yet, I was unware that I get the Game Show Network.

I wrote it down on a post-it note (which means it is a top priority issue) as a reminder to check into this very serious situation. If I am paying $12 for cable that includes 57 home shopping channels, 13 spanish channels, 4 weather channels, 87 local cable access channeles containing way too many nuns than should be allowed on the airwaves, the NASA channel, and 1 Game Show Network, I will insist on getting this Game Show Network so that I am not deprived of my TAR reruns!

I can't handle anymore nuns on tv. Unless they are flying.

The first thing I did when I got home tonight was turn on my t.v. I punched in the numbers 5 and 2 on my remote (because my co-worker told me this was the channel for the Game Show Network), and there it was. In all it's glory. An episode from season 1 of The Amazing Race!


Two years I have lived in this house. Two years I have paid $12 a month for Telemundo. I have missed two years of valuable Game Show Network television programming.

I have a lot of catching up to do.

Beacon of Light #2
After TAR rerun went off, my next discovery came on the Game Show Network (GSN). It is genius. And I am considering lobbying my softball team to abandon our softball roots, and instead regroup as..... Extreme Dodgeball.

Yes, people. I was delighted to get to watch my very first episode of Extreme Dodgeball. If you haven't watched this before, you have to watch it. It seems to be for real, as in, an actual sport. And as if that wasn't good enough on it's own, who did I see playing on the L.A. team? None other than A.C. Slater of Saved By The Bell.

No kidding!

Even this article calls Extreme Dodgball the "new softball." My softball team is having a rough few seasons. We might be better off as a dodgeball team. At least we'd get to be on t.v.

Beacon of Light #3
The final thing I found on my television tonight (who knew Tuesday night in the middle of the summer could be such a great night for t.v.?) was..... Rockstar: INXS.

Oh. My. Goodness.

People, this show is actually good. I had my reservations about it. Because, seriously. INXS using a reality show to find a new lead singer? It's just lame.

But, these people can actually sing. I mean, I hate to say it. But American Idol has nothing on these rockstar people. (I hope the Idol can forgive me)

The best part is how often they use the word "rock" in sentences. Much like everyone on TAR calls everyone else "baby". Everything on Rockstar either rocks, or it doesn't rock.

"Hey, you really rocked that performance tonight."
"Really? I wasn't sure I quite rocked it. But my pants rock. They have sequins."
"Dude, this cereal rocks."
"Man, I was just rockin' over there in that chair, and then I dozed off, but totally rocked a nap. Turns out it was a rocking chair. Put me right to sleep."

It's like if these people don't rock everything, they lose the will to live, and the ability to function.

Also important on the show and in performance is to show a lot of upper torso skin. For the guys, it's generally to go shirtless, but to wear a vest, or necktie, or at least unbutton every button on your shirt except for one button.

For the girls, it's generally to wear nothing more than a bedazzled bra, or at least something sleeveless to show off your 108 arm tattoos.

At any rate, I am highly entertained by this show. And I am so far not annoyed at seeing Dave Navarro in a variety of feather boas.

It will be the epitome of entertainment to watch the old farts of INXS (who are the "judges" on the show) end up with some young, screamy, shirtless squirt as their new lead singer.

So, to review:
1. TAR reruns on the Game Show Network = genius
2. Extreme Dodgeball on the Game Show Network = genius
3. Rockstar: INXS on CBS = genius

It' s been a good night.


Monday, July 18, 2005

Genius Beverages
I've discovered my new favorite place to get a beverage during the day. Typically, I'm a diehard fan of the Sonic Vanilla Coke. Folks, it just doesn't get much better than that, as far as cola in a cup. But, Sonic isn't always convenient. And it's not the cheapest drink around.

I also dearly love a good 7-Eleven Coke Slurpee. But again, surprisingly 7-Elevens are not as convenient as one would think. And not nearly as convenient or numerous as they were in Bangkok. There, we found 7-Elevens across the street from other 7-Elevens. They certainly do love their 7-Elevens there.

But lately I've been drawn to the Quik Trip. And I have to say that this place is SO genius that it overrides my annoyance of places that are named by incorrectly spelling the name of the place on purpose (ie: "quik" or "kwik kar"). Folks, it's that good.

This particular Quik Trip is especially genius because it is located in Iowa.

My reasons of love for the Quik Trip are severalfold:

1. There is one located less than one minute from my office.
Therefore, convenience is the first genius characteristic of the Quik Trip. They are everywhere. It is usually on my way back to work from any errand I may run during lunch. And if it's not really on the way back, I can make it be on the way back. It's that close.

2. Drinks are super cheap.
For awhile they were running Cheap Drink Summer. A 32 oz. beverage was a mere 59 cents, 64 cents total with tax. Any time I found loose change in the Jeep, I could justify a trip to the Quik Trip. Because what else is loose change good for, but for a 32 oz. tasty beverage? Even not on sale, this drink runs a mere 79 cents, 87 cents with tax. Less than one dollar. It's beautiful.

3. They provide the largest fountain drink selection I have ever seen in my life.
If you want to keep it simple, you can. They have the standards: Coke, Dr. Pepper, Sprite, etc. BUT, they also have the fancies: Diet Coke WITH lime, Coke WITH lemon, etc. Right there in the fountain! They even have beverages I've never heard of. PLUS (and this is the super genius part), they have ADD-INS, for no extra cost.

Folks, you can stop in to a Quik Trip and make your own vanilla Coke, to taste. Yep. Fill your cup with Coke, then slide over to the Vanilla dispenser, and squirt in as much vanilla as your heart desires. It might be one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

In fact, you can mix up whatever beverage you want. Go down the row and put in a squirt of everything they have. It will likely make you throw up, but it will only cost you 87 cents!

Plus, the guys who work there are super nice. Not of the Kwiky Mart Apu variety. But I think they know I'm hooked. I'm in there all the time. I've spent a fortune on these cheap beverages. They greet me as though I matter to them, every time I stop in for a visit. I'm almost tempted to get a part-time job there, just because I feel so at home there every time I visit.

Here's to you, Quik Trip. Provider of delicious, and cheap beverages, conveniently, friendly.

Check it out.


Sunday, July 17, 2005

read part 1: Travel Writing - Bangkok
read: Travel Writing, part 2 - Cambodia
read: Travel Writing, part 3 - Vietnam
read: Travel Writing, part 4 - more Vietnam

Travel Writing, part 5 - Asia Aftermath
I've been home from Asia for almost a week. It's been a rough week.

I took 7 rolls of pictures, and after getting all of my pictures developed, I realized I didn't take enough pictures of the things I really wanted to remember. People, places, countryside, life. I got all the touristy stuff. But that was only part of the trip. I guess I'll have to go back and take more pics someday.

As is typical with me anytime I travel out of the country for a good length of time, I have a really hard time readjusting back to life at home. I think the biggest problem is that I just don't want to be home. I like the travel too much.

This past week has been hard getting my internal clock back on track. I've woken up every night except last night, in the middle of the night, completely unsure of where I am. And not for just a minute or so. I've had to sit up in bed and wake myself up completely, to reassure myself that I'm in my bed, in my home, back to reality. It's been a little freaky. I've also had trouble sleeping alone. I've slept with Friends A and C for two weeks. While it's been nice to be alone again, it's also been difficult.

I tend to keep to myself, for the most part. I value my alone time. I actually have difficulty mingling and being with people, if it involves something other than being entertaining for a group. But, when I travel with friends, I get used to having them around. I like it. And suddenly when they are gone again and I have to get back to my reality, I'm usually lost for awhile. We eat together, sleep in the same room, spend almost 24 hours a day for many days together. When I'm suddenly left to fend for myself for meals and a schedule, it's hard for me to readjust. Turns out I like people after all.

But I think the hardest part of returning from a trip is getting my head back to my world, my life, my routine, my reality. I usually come back and appreciate what I have more than before I left. But I also come back not wanting it. As "Rainman" as I am when I get bogged down in my life, I much prefer the non-routine of travel. And I usually dread getting back into my routine once I am home again.

It's not that I hate my life, or even dislike it. But when I travel, I come home wondering if I'm really happy here. Why is this my life? I'm way too busy, I'm usually stressed, I have to adhere to a schedule, I mix in a few fun things, and I never have enough time to just appreciate life. Is this the way it's supposed to be?

I usually suffer for awhile with my head and heart still wherever I just returned home from. And this recent trip to Asia is no different. I've been reading about it since I've been home. And truthfully, I've been pretty obsessed with the poverty of it. Not that I was shocked by any of it. I expected it. Not that it was a major theme of the trip, being emersed in poor conditions. We were quite comfortable and removed from the scene of poverty for most of the trip. Yet, I can't stop thinking about it.

I want to go back and spend time not as a tourist, but getting to know the poverty. The histroy. The countries. The situations. Why is it that depending on where you live in the world, you are dealt either the hand of affluence, or the hand of destitution. I have stuff because I live here. Yet, had I lived in Cambodia still being born the same year I was born here, I would have been smack in the middle of poverty, persecution, and tyranny brought on by the Khmer Rouge. My life would be very different, if I even survived to have a life, due only to geography.

I come home and I question my world. I question what I do. I question who I am. Sure, I have a nice job, a nice house, a nice car, a nice world. Did I do anything in particular to deserve it? No. Does it have meaning? Not sure. Good question.

It's not even that I get fired up to save the world. I just don't understand the world. And I think that's all I really want out of life. To understand the things I don't understand. Why can't it all make sense?

Last night I watched Beyond Borders. Partly to appease my Angelina obsession (which pales in comparison to Friend A's Angelina obsession), but partly because it's a story that visits several areas of the world in poverty and tells a story of people trying to do something about it. I have as much of an obsession with that as I do with Angelina. I just never know how to put it into practice. Nor, how to find and hang out with Angelina without that whole stalker thing....

Being home this week, I really have questioned if this is my home. I stay here, I've purchased property, I've laid down roots as though this is where I belong. But is it? Maybe it's just the last place I ended up, and I haven't found the reason to leave, yet. So I stay. And I go to work. And I have something called a life, because that's what we do.

I seem to feel better in general when I'm far away, experiencing new things, out of my element. Even as much as the sights and sounds of traveling and seeing what there is to see, I almost prefer the reality. The parts of my trip that stand out the most is the poverty. Even more so than Angkor. I work so hard in my life to make my element comfortable, to build a world around me that is safe and familiar. Yet, when I leave it, I feel free. Is this where I'm supposed to be? Is there something else I should be doing?

We have too much stuff. I see these people living in dilapidated houses, maybe one room. I'm sitting here typing this in my "office", which is one of three bedrooms of my house that I live in alone. I'm not angry that I have this. I don't feel bad about it. I work hard for it. But why do I have it? Why can't we all have it? Surely I can be of better use than I am on any given day. Going to work at my job that is ok, but not anything I love. Coming home and worrying about this job, my life, my friends, who I am, where I fit in, what I do, what really matters, and what is the meaning of these things I do that compile my life. Why is that a life worth keeping?

We make our worlds so complicated. Yet, I just left a world that is far less complicated. Sure, it's poor in many places. Sure, it's difficult. I'm not saying it's better. But, it's simple. I make my world too complicated. It doesn't have to be this way.

Needless to say, my heart isn't in my world right now. I think it hasn't been for awhile. And when I travel I am shown even more that it's not. I think the term is "going through the motions." But, do I have the courage to make a change? Leave what is comfortable for longer than just two weeks? Can I go to where there isn't comfort?

If I love to travel so much, if I love to be away so much, is this really where I belong?

Don't get me wrong, it's great to come home and be back in the familiar. I appreciate everything I have. I've missed people in my life and that I love, and it's great to be around them again. But when the homecoming wears off, I will find myself sucked into the headaches I had before I left two weeks ago. Why do we create worlds with so many headaches?

I love what I have and who I'm with. This world is good. But for someone who has made every effort to be settled, who longs for consistency and stability, even when I make that for myself, I don't feel stable or settled. I'm restless. And uncertain. I've created rock-solid structure, painstakingly so. Yet, I think it only makes me feel trapped. It feels so good to get on a plane and leave it.

Maybe I just haven't seen enough of the world, yet. I intend to see it all. Maybe once I've seen everything I think I need to see, this world will finally feel stable to me. I'll feel home.

Wanderlust? Maybe. That would be the simple answer. But I don't think that's the motivation for what I feel.

One thing I do like about my job is that I work with several nonprofits that are involved in saving the world in many of these places in turmoil that we hear about from the comfort of our homes. Sudan, for one. My job gives me worldwide exposure to places that I hope to travel to someday. Not because they are glamorous, or touristy, but because they are in need. Why is that intriguing to me?

At my job I read about the world everyday, persecution, opression, people dying. I see horrible photographs of things we don't get to see on the news, because it's not appropriate. It's censored. I read about places that are not safe. Yet, it feeds my desire to be in those places. I'm constantly looking at a map, trying to put a geographic reference to a country I am researching for a project. I don't know if that's a good thing, having access to so much information. It's like dangling a carrot in front of me everyday. Places I work with and can read about, but can't go to because I have a job. The reality of my job, even though I may read about Sudan all day, is that I'm just the girl stuck in the office job. When I'd rather be in the field making the research, rather than stuck in the air-conditioned cube reading about it.

It's not even that I think I can make a difference. I just want to know why, and maybe tell people who can make a difference. I want to see it for myself.

Explain this to me.

It helps to write about it. I love to write, and these past two days of writing about my trip have been tremendous therapy for me. If I could get paid for this, I would be in heaven.

You are a trooper if you've read all of the Travel Writing blogs and ramblings. I give you props.

Til my next adventure...


P.S. Thanks to Blogger for inventing Blogger Images while I was away. You made these posts MUCH easier to add photos and make them super cool.

read part 1: Travel Writing - Bangkok
read: Travel Writing, part 2 - Cambodia
read: Travel Writing, part 3 - Vietnam

Travel Writing, part 4 - more Vietnam
It was Sunday, and my last day of the trip. I had the entire day to spend in Ho Chi Minh, and then I would leave Friends A and C to come home, while they continued on for another few days, headed to a beach elsewhere in Vietnam.

The plan for the day was to not get up early (for once), then see a pagoda, the Reunification Palace, and the War Remnants Museum.

Our first mistake was putting me in charge of the map. I usually have an impeccable sense of direction, but I was completely turned around in Ho Chi Minh. I led us completely in the wrong direction for a good 15 minutes before I figured out that I had us heading opposite of where we wanted to be. I got frustrated, but turned us around and marched off in the right direction.

By the time we got to the Reunification Palace, it was time for it to close for lunch. But we found out we could buy tickets and tour the grounds for an hour before they cleared the place for lunch.

We wandered the grounds and read some signs to explain what we were looking at. The signs don't explain much, which I think is their way of "encouraging" you to pay for a tour guide to explain things to you. This was the place where tanks arrived to unify North and South Vietnam, and they say the building is left exactly as it was the day it was no longer occupied. You can wander through the various rooms, but most of it is roped off. It's mostly furniture from the 60s. But significant, palace-y furniture, I guess.

My favorite part was the cow I spotted on the palace grounds. True, we saw no shortage of cows on the roads and throughout the cities of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. But I thought it was funny to see this random cow on the manicured lawns of the palace. Seemed out of place.

After wandering through the museum separately, Friends C, A, and I “reunified” (seemed appropriate at the Reunification Palace), then regrouped and decided that our next stop would be the War Remnants Museum. It was just around the corner, although by Way of the Tyrant, that could mean another good hour walk in the wrong direction anyway.

The museum was closed for lunch when we got there, so we stopped in a café down the street to have lunch and wait for the museum to open again. This is where we met our new best friend- the owner of the café.

We were the only people in there to eat for lunch, and the owner became very excited when she learned we were Americans. This was strange to me, given history with Vietnamese and Americans. But in general, everyone in Vietnam had been really nice and helpful to us.

We ordered our food and watched Chinese television. But our new best friend wanted to hang out with us. She asked us if we wanted to play a game while we waited on our food. We said, sure. She brought out Jenga. And we proceeded to play a rousing game of Jenga with the café owner.

Our food came, so she let us eat. Then we still had time to kill before the museum opened. Our new best friend started to tell us her life story, which ran somewhat like a Vietnamese soap opera, and went on way too long. We ordered desserts.

Then, I fell in love with our new best friend. Because, she looked at the three of us and then remarked that I had to be the YOUNGEST of the three of us, because I looked very young. HA! That bee honey stuff from the day before must be working…. I am older than both A and C by at least a couple of years.

We paid our bill and got up to leave. At this point our new best friend hugged us on the way out, and sent us on our way to the museum. She had mentioned that it was good we had eaten before we went to the museum, because it is a lot to stomach.

She was right.

The War Remnants Museum used to be known as the Museum of American War Crimes. The Vietnamese changed the name to offer more sensitivity to Americans coming to view the museum. However, they did not changed anything else about the museum. It’s a series of photos and exhibits detailing how horrible American G.I.s were during the war in Vietnam. The photos are horrendous and graphic, and all the captions begin something like, “American G.I.s tortured….” or “American G.I.s did something else horrible to these innocent villagers….” And so forth.

The courtyard is strewn with leftover planes and helicopters and bombs used by U.S. troops during the war. At least that part is interesting. The rest of it is a completely biased representation of how America wronged Vietnam during the war. It’s worth seeing. But be prepared to want to tour the museum without speaking, so that no one knows that you are an American.

We left there to head to a pagoda, one that was touted in our guidebook as “the” pagoda to see. We got there and didn’t understand the big deal. We walked inside and felt like we were disturbing the people inside who were worshipping their Buddhas. We wandered around for a few minutes, but never saw where this was a tourist attraction or something we needed to see, so we left.

My next goal was to shop. We planned to shop on our way back to the hotel. But, we were quite far away, and my map skills were questionable. So we opted for a cab to take us back to the hotel. Friend A then went back to the room, and Friend C and I shopped until we dropped.

We headed back to the hotel. I needed to start packing, and then it would be time for my last supper before heading to the airport. We found Friend A suffering from a migraine. So, I packed in the dark, showered, got her set up with supplies to weather a migraine, then Friend C and I headed out for my last supper. It didn’t seem right to go through the ritual last supper of a trip without all three of us, but eh, what’re you going to do?

We ate, shopped some more, then went back to the hotel to get my stuff and make sure Friend A wasn’t dying. She wasn’t. But I hated to leave while she was sick. Really, we were quite a trio for this trip. I had been sick and unable to breathe for about half of the trip. Friend C hadn’t felt well, and was dealing with blistered and damaged feet. Then Friend A topped it off with migraine madness. It’s a wonder we survived at all.

I said my farewells with a very, very, very heavy heart. I hate the end of a trip, and after spending two weeks straight with one or both of my friends, I immediately felt empty without them as I rode in the taxi alone to the airport. I checked in, shopped more in the airport (for the LOVE, why can't I quit shopping???), made it on my plane, and left Asia behind.

continued in Travel Writing, part 5 – Asia Aftermath


read part 1: Travel Writing - Bangkok
read: Travel Writing, part 2 - Cambodia

Travel Writing, part 3 - Vietnam
Crossing into Vietnam was another exercise in heartache. Again, the poverty along the bus route was unbelievable. Here we were being carted through the countryside in a "limousine" bus (meaning it had a bathroom and a/c), while outside our windows people and children were doing whatever they could to survive.

Before making it into Vietnam, the bus had to cross a river on a ferry boat. We had to wait for our turn to drive onto the ferry. As we sat on the bus, children selling anything you could imagine, from food to sunglasses, pounded the windows of the bus, trying to get our attention. My first reaction was to be annoyed. At this point in the trip, I was getting tired of these kids and people wanting me to buy their stuff every time I stopped. But then you have to stop and think about what is really happening. I'm on a nice, air-conditioned bus. They are trying to make enough money to make it through another day. Loose change for me. A day of food for them.

The bus made it onto the ferry, and several kids followed. They started climbing all over the ferry to get to eye-level height with the bus windows. They continued pounding on the windows, pointing to our food and bottles of water. One guy sitting across from us opened the window and handed his water and cookies to a kid. Then all the kids went nuts. Once you give one of them something, then they know the bus is full of people with stuff to give. It's hard to ignore. They even wanted our empty water bottles. One girl, as we left the Vietnam border building, was collecting the empty bottles with a huge smile across her face. A man sitting behind us had opened his window and was throwing out all of our bottles to her. I guess she can sell them.

The kids were hard to watch. I saw several very small kids running alongside the bus, they were missing arms, had damaged legs. One kid was missing both arms. It's likely a result of landmines, which are very much still a problem. We heard warnings and saw signs throughout Cambodia especially, warning not to wander off of the paths due to the threat of undetonated landmines still very much a reality.

We finished our bus trip to Ho Chi Minh, and this time we were greeted with a much nicer city than our arrival into Phnom Penh. And, our bus deposited us just a few steps from our hotel. A fairly nice hotel, which turned out to be in the middle of a great area full of shopping, restaurants, and more bus tours. It was great. And very welcome after our last several days and nights in less-than-stellar conditions throughout Cambodia.

We checked into our hotel, this time landing a room with THREE beds. This was all very exciting for us. Finally, the first time since all three of us were together on the trip, we would each get our own bed. AND, the bathroom had a separate shower, with shower curtain. No more all-in-one bathroom extravaganza. Plus, we found free toothbrushes in the bathroom. It's like they knew at this point in our journey that our toothbrushes were of a serious funk. I was in love with this hotel.

We ate lunch downstairs and then headed out to wander the streets and shop. I was feeling super sick, congested, and not able to breathe, but with only another two days left to my trip, I didn't want to waste time laying in bed.

There was some confusion about the Vietnam money situation. Everything is payable in U.S. dollars, but the cash I was able to get out of the hotel ATM (finally an ATM - there are no ATMs in Cambodia. Be sure to arrive there with plenty of cash.) was in dong, the currency of Vietnam. Not as worthless as Cambodian riel, but the U.S. dollar is still generally preferred in Vietnam. However, the conversion of dong to dollar was something like 15,000 dong to a dollar, and before long all the zeroes in the prices became ridiculously confusing. We eventually worked it out. But I was reminded that math really isn't my thing. Vietnam should lose some of the zeroes and make life easier for everyone.

We wandered the streets. Friends A and C got their hair washed and dried at a hair salon. I opted out, due to my head being full of snot, and the beginnings of feeling some stomach issues. I just didn't want to be touched.

Dinner was had at a place where we thought we could watch some CNN, but they kept the T.V.s tuned to skateboarding or some other ridiculous sport. So much for catching up on world news. But I did enjoy my Vietnamese bowl of pho, which I ate entirely with chopsticks. A skill I was developing the hard way, but making do, nonetheless.

We fell asleep in our cozy room while watching HBO, the place where movies go to die. The next morning we were up early to catch our bus for a Mekong River Delta tour, one day trip. During the bus ride to where we would then catch a boat for the tour, my face decided to swell up. I don't know why. I'm not sure if it's something I ate, or if I was bitten by something. I never found a bite mark. But it was slightly alarming. The bus made a pit stop, and I bought a cold bottle of water to "ice" my face. I never felt weird or sick (sicker than I already felt), but by lunchtime the swelling had mostly gone away. I'm still trying to figure out what mysterious Vietnamese face-swelling disease I caught.

The bus deposited us at a speedboat that we would take to catch a larger boat. Later we would switch to a smaller boat again. The Mekong River was impressive in that it looks just like everything you see in movies about Vietnam. Boats of all sizes that look like they are several decades old. It's a wonder any of them still float. It's a busy river in some places, and in other places further away from the city, it's serene.

Our first stop on the tour was Unicorn Island. Our guide insisted that we would see thousands of unicorns on the island. We did not. This is where the tour got a bit "touristy", but I enjoyed it. Our group of about 15 or so was ushered over to some tables where we then sampled a variety of Asian fruits. Some of the fruits I'd already sampled in Bangkok with Friend C. But all of it was very tasty, especially the pineapple. We watched a group of kids and women sing and dance traditional song and dance. It was all quite lovely.

Our guide told us that whenever we needed to use the toilet we had to say that we "wanted to sing a song". At first I think we all thought that we would actually have to sing a song for the privilege of using the toilet. But eventually we understood that wanting to "sing a song" was just a "fun" way of saying you needed to use the toilet. I sang several songs throughout the day.

From the fruit sampling we moved deeper into the island for a short trip on row boats. These were your typical "vietnamese"-looking boats. They seated four of us at a time, and we were paddled through dense jungle down a narrow strip of winding waterway. We were told to wear the traditional Vietnamese hats as we road in the boats. The hats were provided on the boat. It was all very staged, but I loved it. Our guide loaded us into each boat and sent us on our way into the jungle with the sentiment, "See you next week!" Friend A did not find this funny.

Rowboat through the jungle of Vietnam.

Friend A and I, sporting our official Vietnamese boating hats. Lips still slightly swollen from freak face-swelling incident, but Friend C assured me that I was still beautiful with my "Angelina Jolie"-like lips.

The boats took us back to the larger boat, where we climbed from small boat to large boating, praying that we did not fall from small boat into muddy river. Large boat then took us to another small boat, which took us to our next island destination.

Touristy photo op at the front of the small boat. Worth every penny....

The next island stop involved more testing of things. Here we tasted coconut candy as we watched how it was made. Then our guide served a sample of banana whisky. This was a questionable move on my part to drink it. I watched as she scooped the whiskey out of a cloudy brown "vat" of liquid with some interesting, um, "goo" of sorts swimming around in the bottom of the vat. Friend A opted out. But Friend C and I chugged the whiskey shot. It wasn't bad. Burned a bit on the way down, and I probably wouldn't recommend it. But, it was okay.

Next, you could pose with a gigantic snake for a picture. This, I did not do. But two crazy Canadian girls in the group did.

We then had tea with special bee honey, which we were told would make us young forever. I will demand my money back from the tour if this, in fact, does not turn out to be true. Then our guide opened the other bottle on the table, which was bee wine. I did not catch if the wine was made from the honey, or from actual bees. But I tasted it, chugging the shot as I did the banana whiskey. It was good. Sweet, mixed with a bit of honey. The guide promised the wine would make us forget everything. Since I forget most things anyway, I will not be able to tell if the wine works or not.

Next we could pose for a picture while holding a honeycomb full of bees. I opted out of this one, as well, since I'm allergic to bee stings. And one face-swelling a day is enough for me, thank you very much.

The men were then encouraged to sample the snake whiskey, which does, in fact, come out of a bottle containing a very scary snake that has been crammed into the bottle. Snake whiskey, we were told, is only for men. I was quite fine with that.

We left this island and headed to yet another island for lunch. We had lunch of pork, rice, and soup, all included in the price of our day tour. But of course, we had to pay extra for our drinks, a Coca-Cola for me. We sat at a table with a man and woman from Sweden, and a young couple from Australia. They were great, and lunch was good. I love conversations with people who are not from my world. America, as it turns out, is not the center of the universe. It's great to talk to people who have never been there. Hard to believe that there are people who have not been to the U.S., but there are.

After lunch, the options were to enjoy a nap in a hammock. Or, to take a mountain bike ride through the coconut groves.

Friend A opted for the hammock.

Friend C, the female Swede, the two Aussies, and I opted for the bike ride through the coconut grove. How could we not?

We grabbed some bikes, sort of listened to directions on where to go to follow the path, and we were on our way. It was a beautiful ride through scenic coconut trees. We saw huts and creeks and locals going about their daily business. We were passed by motorikes and crossed narrow bridges, winding deeper into the jungle.

Many of the houses had cemetaries on the same property. We were told that the people bury their loved ones on the propery, rather than in a collective cemetary, because it is believed that the ancestors continue to watch over the property, even after death. It was interesting, and beautiful. But a little creepy.

We were told not to turn right or left, but to stay straight on the path. Eventually we had to turn right or left, and soon we decided we might be getting lost. So we turned around and headed back. But it was fun. It was a fun group. We made it back to gthe roup and our guide just as it was time to leave.

At this point, our little group of one-day tour people were split from the rest of the group that was heading on for a two or three day trip. The Swedes, the Aussies, and the three of us were back into a speed boat for a two hour trip back to Ho Chi Minh City. I watched the river scene and took pictures along the way. It was a really nice day for a boat ride.

We landed at the city harbor, attempted to walk back to our hotel with help from the Swedes, and eventually gave up and took a taxi. Dinner was had at another local restaurant. Even while sitting in a restaurant, street vendors still approach you to buy books, and even food.

We watched more bad movies on HBO to fall asleep.

Then, it was Sunday. My last day in Vietnam. Better make it a good one.

continued in Travel Writing, part 4 - more Vietnam


Saturday, July 16, 2005

read part 1: Travel Writing - Bangkok

Travel Writing, part 2 – Cambodia
Had I known what the next day of travel was to be like ahead of time, I would likely have been less excited about going to Cambodia. But, not knowing made it more adventure-like. And even though I may be afraid of everything at home, when I travel I like the adventure. I like to think I have dual personalities. Home Tyrant vs. Travel Tyrant.

We woke early and left to find the bus station. That took some time. We had to catch the Skytrain to where we thought buses might be. Then a nice lady informed us we had to take a city bus from there to get to the actual bus station. It was too far to walk. And, after a few minutes on the bus, we realized she was right.

We finally made it to the bus station, picked our way through the market to get to the actual station hidden behind the market (picture rows and rows of shops and people selling things). In the market, Friend A finally got her coffee in a bag, which she had been searching for ever since she landed in Bangkok the day before, but it actually was iced coffee in a cup, but seemed to appease her for the time being.

We found the station, purchased our tickets, then ran outside just in time to catch our bus, which happened to be pulling away from the station. We just happened to run into a lady who was the ticket person for our bus, and she grabbed us and basically threw us on our bus, luggage and all. The next 4-5 hours were spent on this bus, stopping occasionally to pick up people and drop off people. No bathroom. We did make a stop or two. Bathroom conditions at these stops were less than desirable. God bless little bottles of hand sanitizer.

Our bus finally deposited us at a town near the Thailand / Cambodia border. From there we had to take a tuk-tuk (motorcycle with a cart on the back) to the actual border. We crammed all three of us, plus luggage, into this tiny thing and rode for about 20 minutes. We were then dumped at the border crossing.

Here is where life became a whole lot different than easy travel in Thailand. We were immediately swarmed by children and people wanting us to buy things. You just have to hold tightly to your stuff and start walking towards the border crossing offices, saying "no" and eventually ignoring them. We made it to the first office, non-air-conditioned, and we waited in line to leave the country of Thailand. Once we made it through that line, we walked to the next office to arrive in Cambodia. We filled out paperwork, handed over 1000 Thai baht (about $20 U.S.) dollars, and waited for our visas.

We came to find out soon enough that Cambodian money (riel) is fairly worthless, even in Cambodia. They prefer the U.S. dollar, and also accept Thai baht. But it seemed like no matter what you pay with, you will get Cambodian riel back in change. It's like they know they're own money is worthless, and they prefer you take it with you rather than leave it with them in their own country. I tried on several occasions to get rid of my remaining riel by purchasing drinks or snacks, and somehow every time I ended up with more riel than I started with.

While at the visa waiting place, I decided to visit the bathroom. Many bathrooms require you to pay to either use the facility, or to have the privilege of toilet paper. For the most part, we carried our own toilet paper, but still often had to pay to pee. This bathroom, I wasn’t sure what to do. A guy was sitting there, like a bathroom monitor, but he pointed me straight in to the bathroom. Usually, you pay first. I “facilitied”, careful not to touch anything, then made my way out. He started hollering at me to give him money, pointing to a bowl of change. I threw in 2 baht (the going rate for bathrooms in Bangkok). He kept pointing and hollering. I gave him another baht and motioned that that was all I had on me, and then walked out.

A few minutes later I sent Friend A in with 3 baht, and she came right back out saying the guy wouldn’t let her in without more money. That’s why you pee first, I guess. Negotiate later.

We got our visas and proceeded to the next office. We filled out more paperwork, they looked at our passports, and finally decided we were worthy to enter Cambodia. This town was called Poipet, and is strictly a town built around border crossing life. It was horrendous. Ugly. Dirty. Poor. Dusty. Muddy. Busy. Loud. It had rained and the streets were all a muddy red.

Friend C had been this way before, and she was already negotiating with a local for taxi transportation to Siem Reap, our first stop in Cambodia. A guy agreed to 1000 baht for the ride, and 1200 baht if it rains during the ride, since we would then have to take a detour from the main road. Fortunately it had not rained too much the day before, or the roads might have been impassable, forcing us to spend an unwanted night in this border town. We hopped in a tuk-tuk to get to the taxi (he excitedly told us this was included in the price of 1000 baht), and we arrived at our taxi. Or Toyota Camry, as we saw all taxis were Camrys.

The driver weaved his way through town, making several stops. I have no idea what that was all about, but I’m suspicious he wanted to show his friends that he was driving three white girls to Siem Reap.

The next 4-5 hours were pretty close to what I imagine hell to be like. We set off on the main Highway 6, which is nothing more than a dirt road (some parts “paved”, but strangely the non-paved parts were less bumpy), filled with giant potholes. It was the bumpiest ride I have ever experienced, and I have no idea how a Camry makes this kind of trip more than once. I wouldn’t even take the Jeep down this road. Potholes were so large, the Camry could fall in and never get out.

We weaved back and forth across the road to avoid the largest of the potholes, dodging trucks and motorbikes and cows along the way. We would pass pick-up trucks filled with people, which I learned later you could purchase a seat on one of these trucks (paying more for sitting inside the cab), and you would then hold on for dear life until you reached your destination. Probably a dollar or so would be the going rate for hanging onto the back bumper.

The countryside started out abysmal. I watched out the window as we passed countless shacks and dilapidated dwellings, people in clothes that were barely hanging together. The poverty was just unbelievable. I can’t fathom how people survive like that. It was like going back in time. I saw a girl washing dishes in a brown pool of water that I would never go near, downstream from a man bathing in the same muddy water. I saw kids playing in mud. It is so far removed from anything I know here in the States. As I sat in the car listening to my nonpod mp3 player, I kept thinking, “These people have probably never seen a movie.” I watched 4 on my plane ride over.

But as we got further away from the border, the scene became more pleasant. Still poor and sad, but more green and picturesque, like the stuff you would see in a movie.

We stopped at a “gas station”, which was basically a roadside shack selling gasoline in 2-liter Coke and Fanta bottles. I watched as the girl at the “station” poured several bottles of gas into the car. Then we were on our way again.

We crossed bridges in the Camry that I would be afraid to walk across. Rickety, boards, some covered in mud. We slid across the roads in the mud, honking at people walking and biking. We made one stop for a bathroom break. Friend A took advantage, but Friend C and stayed in the car, watching a swarm of children overtake another group of people in a van who had made the same stop. I wasn’t ready to brave the mobs of kids, yet. But now looking back, I wish I’d gotten out of the car and talked to them, and taken some pictures.

We finally made it to Siem Reap just after dark. Even though it had only rained a few sprinkles and hadn’t affected our trip, the taxi driver demanded the full 1200 baht. Whatever, dude. We paid him too much, but he had gotten us there safely. Granted, it was the most frightening car ride I've ever experienced. But, at least I wasn't hanging off the back of a pick-up truck.

We checked in to our guesthouse (Earthwalkers - highly recommend) and were glad to see clean rooms, two beds (we had to get cozy for a few nights of our trip due to less beds than people), and a/c in the room. The bathroom, however, was not exactly 5-star. But it was clean. And our own. It just happened to be a combo toilet/shower/sink, all-in-one. Next to the toilet was the shower head, making for a very wet bathroom experience for the next two nights. But, at least we weren’t sharing it with other guests, and it was clean.

The guesthouse people were SO nice and helpful. A few other travelers were staying there. The girl in charge for the night was so sweet to us. We had dinner in the restaurant, but we actually ordered our food from outside the restaurant. We wanted pizza, and she brought us a menu from Happy Herb’s, and she made the order for us. In case you are wondering what is so “happy” about it, throughout the land you can order many things “happy”, meaning they will add some marijuana to the toppings of your pizza or whatever. We did not order anything “happy”, but nevertheless, the pizza made us very happy after our long journey. About 10-ish hours by bus, tuk-tuk, and bumpy car.

The next morning we got up not too early. The guesthouse had scheduled a tuk-tuk driver for us for the day, and he would take us first into town, and then to Angkor to tour the temples. I was SUPER excited about the temples.

Unfortunately, I had woken up with a serious sore throat, cough, runny nose, and inability to breathe. I had thrown my inhaler in my bags last minute, even though I never used it at home. But from Siem Reap to the end of the entire trip, I was useless without it. I think it was all the dust. Or perhaps I have caught some strange Asian disease (I would not be surprised, despite all of our precautions to be clean and steer clear of disease hazards). But, I spent some time in town buying throat lozenges while the girls checked email. We also booked our bus tickets out of town for the next morning. Unfortunately we could not get on the limousine bus (with bathroom), but the very nice bus ticket people put us on the next best express bus to Phnom Penh, for a mere $4 each. The best thing about this land? Everything is ridiculously cheap.

After email, our tuk-tuk driver (I never did catch his name), drove us to Angkor. On the way we passed some really fancy hotels. And we also passed a school or two. And, a children’s hospital. It was sad. A big sign outside announced a severe outbreak of dengue fever, and pleaded for people to donate blood. Kids were outside everywhere. I don’t know if they were all sick, but the scene was sad. This particular hospital was run by a man who does benefit concerts every Saturday night at the hospital. I read a brochure about it, and meant to take one with me. He founded the hospital and had dedicated his life to caring for the kids there. Great story. Sad situation.

We made it to the temples ($20 for one-day pass), and were immediately back in ancient times. It was unbelievable. Our first stop was Angkor Wat, the first temple and probably the most well-known. Although most people when I tell them that I visited Angkor Wat in Cambodia have no idea what I’m talking about. Look it up. It’s amazing.

We were bombarded again by children selling things, and this was the routine for every temple we stopped to see. Markets set up outside each temple, and people selling anything and everything. The kids were really aggressive. We eventually bought some bottled water, a book, and a few other things from kids and vendors throughout the day. We bargained some, but after awhile I just didn’t care. They don’t have anything, and $5 to them is a lot, while it is nothing to me. I felt bad for being so cheap earlier in the day with the swarm of kids who were competing with each other to sell us water.

We made our way through several temples in the morning. I was in heaven. I climbed all over everything I could. My favorite temple was Ta Prohm, the temple where Tomb Raider was filmed. I took 3 rolls of pictures of all the temples (yes, I still use film – nothing digital). The photos don’t begin to do the place justice, but I’m pleased with how they turned out. It made all the rough travel of the day before totally worth it.

You'll see this guy to the right (he's a temple sweep) on the cover of the Lonely Planet Cambodia travel guide. However, I took the picture here on the blog.

We had lunch in the restaurant near the first temple, and sat out a rainy spell. Then hit more temples until sunset. We climbed a hill where it is supposed to be “the place” to see the sunset, but it was too cloudy to see much. After some difficulty getting an elephant person to take her, Friend A rode an elephant down the hill.

Here, Friend A shows her frustration at being denied yet another elephant ride.

Here, Friend A is much happier finally allowed her journey via elephant.

But Friend C and I chose to walk back down the steep path. For free.

Tuk-tuk took us back in to town for dinner. He was great. He would drop us off at one place, and be back to get us exactly when we told him we would be ready. Our first stop in town was The Ankgor What?, just because we thought it was funny.

Then we had dinner at the Dead Fish Restaurant. It was cool. It had multi-levels, very Swiss Family Robinson. They brought our food up on a platform via pulley. There was traditional Khmer dancing. And, of course, a pit full of live alligators on your way to the bathroom.

Our tuk-tuk driver returned us to our guesthouse. He had been with us literally all day, and only wanted $15 for the day. We gave him $20. He absolutely deserved it. He made our day easy.

Friend C, in tuk-tuk, with our faithful driver.

I didn’t sleep well that night, due to being sick. But we were up early to depart for Phnom Penh anyway. A minibus picked us up from the guesthouse. The guy on duty that morning had prepared our breakfasts for us “take-away”, so we could have the food on the bus. The minibus took us to the big bus, and we were on our way.

This time the road was better. But unfortunately this bus came with karaoke, and loud movies in Thai. The whole time. Made for another less-than-appealing travel day.

The ride to Phnom Penh was about 6 hours. We stopped a few times. At one stop we noticed a girl playing with a tarantula. Like it was no big deal. I meant to take her picture, but never did. I couldn't stop watching her long enough to grab my camera. I also saw a woman walk by with a plate of dark crunchy looking things to sell. I later read that we were in a region where they eat tarantulas. For food. As a tasty treat. The plate was likely a plate of fried tarantulas. During the reign of the Khmer Rouge, people had no food, so they were forced to eat anything they could find. They discovered these giant tarantulas, and they still eat them today. So. Gross.

We eventually arrived in Phnom Penh. Upon entering the city, traffic didn’t move. The bus dropped us off at what I assume was the bus station area, but it seemed like they just gave up on trying to get anywhere and dumped everyone in the street. It was busy and ugly, and we were immediately swarmed by people offering us a ride to wherever we needed to go. We eventually let a tuk-tuk driver take us to our guesthouse, Walkabout. Then, we got mad.

Mr. Walkabout, an Aussie, told us he didn’t have a room for us, and there was no way we could have reserved a triple room because he doesn’t have any triple rooms. Then he just sat and stared at us. He was a jerk. We asked him where he suggested we go, then, if he couldn’t help us. He pointed us around the corner to a hotel called Flamingos. This turned out to be quite a blessing.

Flamingos was great. They were very nice and very helpful, and it was a much better place to stay than if we had been able to stay at Walkabout. If you ever go to Phnom Penh, I recommend this place. Don’t go to Walkabout.

Again, we only had two beds, but it was clean and there was a/c. And the bathroom was again, combo toilet/shower/sink all-in-one. But, it was clean and nice. Although in the drawer of the nightstand, we found some interesting, um, trinkets.

If you can't tell what this is, I will leave it to your imagination.

This area of the world is known for prostitution. I think no matter where we would have stayed, we would have seen this. Throughout our trip through all three countries, I was annoyed and grossed-out at the number of old white guys with young Thai or Asian wives tagging along with them. It’s not a good thing.

We ate lunch at the hotel, then headed off to a museum. It was once a school, then was turned into a prison camp by the Khmer Rouge, and is now a museum. It was pretty graphic. But I was glad we went.

Then we went to the National Museum, just before it closed. A complete waste of $3.

We went back to the hotel and checked email and whatnot. While Friend A and I were in the lobby on email, someone came in and turned on CNN. It was breaking news of the bombings in London. Friend A and I sat up for the next several hours glued to CNN. We had fries. And Tiger beer. It’s just unbelievable what goes on in the world, and it’s interesting to watch from another perspective than being in the U.S.

I got a bed all to myself that night. I could cough myself to sleep all alone . . . So nice . . .

I was glad to leave Phnom Penh the next day. I would go back, but I didn’t especially like the city. It’s seedy. I was surprised at the number of Aussies we kept running into all through Cambodia. Not that they are seedy. But it was interesting.

Also, traffic was again horrendous. But I doubt one would ever find a place in Asia where traffic was not a horrendous mess. There were very few traffic lights, even at "major" intersections. And even then, the traffic lights seems to be merely a suggestion. A red light seemed only to indicate that you should slow down a little before hurtling yourself into the oncoming traffic to keep going the way you want to go.

We did get the limousine bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City, complete with bathroom. And, no karaoke! It was a pleasant ride, although another 6 hrs on a bus. But it was good to go this way. They helped us through the border into Vietnam, mostly without incident. Through a series of getting on and off the bus, checking passports, waiting in a line, yada yada. It was quite a routine.

I was the last of the three of us to make it through the final stage, and when I got to the bus I found Friend A yelling at locals who were trying to take our bags and handle them to put them back on the bus, and then demand money for this “service”. She had wrangled our bags away from them and she was putting them on the bus herself. I’m glad we brought her. She’s handy.

Thus ended our time in Cambodia. I would go back again. In fact, I want very much to go back. I don't feel like I spent enough time there, or in any of these places, really. I would probably fly in, rather than travel by road. But I’m glad we went by road this time. It was hard, and I feel like I am now a qualified, seasoned, “roughin’ it” worthy traveler now having gone that way. No frou-frou travel for me, thank you very much. But it was good to see the country that way. I think it was a better experience, getting more out of it as a whole than had we bypassed all of that to travel in comfort by air.

My one disappointment with Cambodia was that we did not find Angelina Jolie anywhere. And believe me, we looked. Everywhere. I was certain she would be there to hang out with us. Maybe next time.

Next adventure - Vietnam.

continued in Travel Writing, part 3 - Vietnam


Travel Writing - Bangkok
Really, that's all I want to do. Travel, and write.

I've been back a few days from my trip to Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, and I'm still adjusting. I think my body clock is back on track, for the most part. But my heart and soul is still in Southeast Asia.

It was a GREAT trip, complete with a trip soundtrack on my nonpod mp3 player that ended up being perfect for the variety of adventures that ensued (a mix of Black Eyed Peas, old school Michael Jackson, U2, Coldplay, Joss Stone, Kelly Clarkson, Earth, Wind & Fire, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Usher, Sheryl Crow, and on and on). It's a mix that makes no sense, yet for every bus ride or bumpy car ride that required tunes, I had something on the nonpod that provided the perfect muscial interlude.

Even after a trip, I usually come home and continue researching and reading about the places I've just visited. I've read some travel blogs this week by people who have traveled to the places I've just been, and I'm absolutely in love with the whole world of travel, adventure, and writing about it. I don't care if anyone cares about what I have to say about it. It's just beautiful to me.

It's a completely different world over there, and I loved it. It's so simple. Us Westerners make life so complicated and difficult and stressed. It's nice to see that life doesn't have to be that way. Of course, there are difficulties over there that are completely different than any difficulties most Americans face on any given day. But, I think "stress" is a foreign concept to them. Meaning, I think Americans invented the word.

We started in Bangkok, Thailand. Friend C flew over early, so I met her there a few days later. She found me at the airport, and after a taxi ride to our hotel, we went in search of food. Sadly, all of the places she had in mind for me to eat my first Thailand meal were closed, since it was late at night. So we ended up at Water Bar, her favorite bar and hangout from her two years of living in Bangkok, where she swore me to secrecy that my first meal in Thailand was ... fried rice.

We spent the next four days or so seeing the entire city. She showed me all of her favorite restaurants and places. We visited the Grand Palace.

And we visited some other templey-type place.

There was a picnic in the park that was fabulous until the monsoon rains came. And there was shopping at some of the most unebelievable malls I've ever seen. America has nothing on malls in Bangkok. They are completely modern, are several stories tall, and are a complex maze of passageways and escalators, serving only to get one lost in a sea of shops and restaurants. I think I'm good on malls for the rest of the year.

The food was amazing. Except the night Friend C tried to kill me with some green curry that was quite possibly the spiciest thing I've ever put in my mouth. But otherwise, everything we ate was delicious. I tried to eat and drink something different for every meal throughout the trip. I may only eat a variety of about four things while at home. But when on vacation, I want to experience all of it. Fortunately, nothing made me really sick. I had a few stomach moments throughout the trip. But for the most part, food did me well.

Our July 4th celebration took place on Saturday, July 2. We found the shindig put on by the Americans for the city, and decided to stop in to see what there was to see. What there was, was American food, complete with burgers, hot dogs, ribs, and bad American beer. We didn't eat the food. I can eat burgers at home. There was also a very cranky Uncle Sam barking orders at people to move through the program for the evening. The Thai Army band was there, but before you pass judgement, they kinda rocked. The singing was terrible, but the band itself rocked it's way through lots of American covers, down to The Cranberries, who aren't actually American, but are known by all good Americans. It was funny to see the band rocking out in their Thai Army uniforms. If you didn't see them, but heard them without seeing them, you would not think they sounded like they looked.

Then, the fireworks happened. I'm not really sure what safety precautions were taken (if any), but when the fireworks started, Friend C and I suddenly found ourselves covered in flaming firework shrapnel. The fireworks were being shot from directly behind the school building we were all standing next to, firing directly overhead. So as we looked up, they exploded right above us, probably not as high in the air as they should have gone before exploding. And the result was a lot of confused people screaming and running for cover under the tents. It all lasted about 5 minutes. Most. Bizarre. And. Dangerous. Fireworks. Show. Ever.

Afterwards, Friend C and I went to a lovely restaurant called The Pickle Factory. No pickles. No factory. But great Thai pizza and beverages. I learned one very important thing in Bangkok. Singha = good, Beer Chiang = bad.

Friend A joined us Sunday night, and the following day (July 4) was a day of more shopping and eating, and some sightseeing. We also did the thai massage again. Soooo good!

I don't know what it is about bookstores, but I go through phases of not being able to stay out of bookstores. I don't read every book I buy, but I can get lost in a bookstore and be quite happy there for awhile. I think I went in every Asia Books and Bookazine store we passed in Bangkok (except for the Bookazine I couldn't find while Friends A and C got manicures and pedicures). They went in to the shop and could tell I wasn't down for the pampering. Friend C asked, "What do you want to do while we are here?" I said, "Ummm..... books." She pointed me in the direction of books, and I was in heaven for the next hour or so, wandering around on my own in search of books that I don't need. I even got another iced coffee, one of many during the trip.

I never bought a book in Bangkok (not even at the market when we found the used book tent! It was so beautiful! books in english everywhere! and cheaper than cheap!), but I've bought a couple of books since I've been home. A by-product of still wanting to get my hands on more Asia goodness.

I really liked Bangkok. It took me a day or so to get used to the city. And to the heat and humidity. I’m not usually bothered by heat (I do, after all, live in Texas), so I was generally fine. It just took awhile to understand that even though I will shower in the morning, as soon as I step outside I will be drenched with sweat for the rest of the day.

It’s a very busy city, dirty and poor in some places. There are smells, not always of the good variety. The motorbikes whizzing around scared the Bajeezus out of me more than once. They even come up on the sidewalks, so it pays to be alert at all times while walking. Funny, even though you will see signs everywhere that say "Safety First" (my favorite motto!) in both english and thai, the city is basically one big hazard waiting to happen in many places.

Traffic is ridiculous. They drive on the opposite side of the road, for one thing. But really, they just drive all over the road, close to other cars and bikes, and there really seems to be no rules. Getting in a taxi and paying any amount of attention to how the taxi driver is driving will only succeed in freaking you out. Just enjoy the sights outside the window. And if you are lucky, enjoy a crazy conversation with a taxi driver that thinks you are beautiful.

Otherwise, getting around the city is amazingly easy with the Skytrain and the new underground subway. It’s a very modern city, with very pretty people in very pretty and cute clothes walking busily around. Everyone smiles. Everyone is friendly. Everyone is shorter than me. I loved it.

We took a couple of rides on the river.
That was another fun way to see the city. We walked a lot, including one really long walk for dinner one night that proved a bit scary when we discovered the restaurant we were searching for was now a pile of rubble on a dark street. Sometimes I questioned my blind following of Friend C as she took me all over the city. But, she always came through, even when the plan changed (eventually we decided that the plan was that the plan would change) and usually she rewarded me with some good food for our efforts. Except that shredded crunchy catfish salad she tricked me into eating during our picnic. I may not forgive her for that one.

Here, Friend C prepares the catfish salad.


All in all, Bangkok was great. I am so glad to have had that time with Friend C for her to show me this world of hers where she lived for two years. I hear her speak about it so often, I'm glad I now understand more about that part of her life and exactly what is so beautiful about that land far away.

We did have one case of unfortunate luck during our last night there. But it was minor in the grand scheme of things, and worked out fine.

I almost hated to leave Bangkok, but I was very excited about the next part of our trip – Cambodia.

continued in Travel Writing, part 2 - Cambodia