Monday, October 27, 2008

On the road again

Once again, we're up early to get on a six hour bus ride.

This time, we're off to Siem Reap, which is a town located next to the famous ancient temples of northern Cambodia. Angkor Wat is probably best known of these temples and was the center of the Khmer empire at the turn of the last millenium.

We'll be staying there for about a week to do some serious temple exploring. I finally get to fulfill my childhood dream of being Indiana Jones. Can't wait.

I'll fill in all the details later. I'm having a hard time typing on this keyboard and I still have some packing to do.

Goodbye Phnom Penh. I think you're great.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The cost of southeast Asia

While recovering from a hangover, I've decided to list some prices for the trip so far ...

5 star hotel in Manila (corporate rate) $150/night
flight from Manila to Saigon, Vietnam $250
pair of American sneakers $80
movie ticket to see horrible American movie (Tropic Thunder) $3

1 month multiple entry visa to Vietnam $130
2 star hotel in the tourist area of Saigon $25/ night
North Face backpacks $10
full course meal with alcoholic drinks for two people in upscale restaurant $25
full day sight seeing tour on a bus $8
shoe shine for shoes that didn't really need it $1 plus $1 tip
getting directions from street children that wouldn't leave us alone $3
getting ripped off by pedicab drivers for a 5 hour city tour $80
getting ripped off by angry women at Hindu temple $6
can of Heineken in a restaurant $1

six hour bumpy bus ride from Saigon to Phnom Penh, Cambodia $13


all day tuk-tuk driver (kinda like a motorcyle with a covered cart attached) $17
dinner for two at upscale restaurant $14 to $25
angkor beer in a can bought in a bar $1.50
pictures of begging, smiling self-described orphans at genocide site $0
bottle of water of suspicious origins 25 cents
massage by the side of a dusty road in the outskirts of Phnom Penh $1
Patek Philippe watch which may or may not work $20
tshirts 4 for $10
casual Diesel shirt $15
Calvin Klein or D and G underwear (one size fits all!) $2 each
all day Khmer cooking class $20
tour of school turned into genocide site $6
Khmer lessons by hustler in a bar $2.50

And the great thing about Cambodia for tourists is that they don't even use their own currency. Almost everything is in American dollars! no calculators needed. In Vietnam, they use the dong which have so many zeros attached that you are an instant millionaire.

It's Sunday today. Resting day. So far, I love Phnom Penh. Great city but still very chaotic and crazy.

more later ....

Friday, October 24, 2008

On the road again

On the bus ride to Cambodia, I was thinking about our trip to Vietnam.

Must be a strange place for Americans to visit. Generally people are quite friendly but all the main "tourist attractions" such as the Reunification Palace, the War Remnants Museum and the Cu Chi tunnels all love to give a different side of the Vietnam War.

For example, we call it the fall of Saigon whereas they look at it as the liberation of Saigon. Different sides of the same coin, perhaps.

Thankfully, we were on a bus to Cambodia where they didn't need Americans to wipe out 2 million people. They did it to themselves.

We arrived in Phnom Penh around 2 pm. It was a very pleasant surprise. I was afraid that it would be a complete toilet but instead, it seems much more modern than Saigon. They even have department stores where I bought hair gel (an obvious necessity). There are fewer motorcycles but more cars and the people seem generally more laid back; we weren't attacked with pleas to get on a motorcycle every six feet. I bought really good popcorn off the street and so far I haven't died.

This morning we are off to the infamous torture centre for the Khmer Rouge (which was formerly a school) and then to the Killing Fields. Such fun, such fun ...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Off to the wilds of Cambodia

Up early to leave on the bus for Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

It's POURING out. I'm sure there are many motorcycles floating away. Hopefully the bus will get us there.

Can't wait to see more tourist sights of death and destruction!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Good morning Vietnam!

There is so much to tell, SO much to tell ....

Right now I'm in Saigon, Vietnam. The older generation call it Saigon but the newer generation prefer Ho Chi Minh City. I prefer HCMC just like I prefer KFC and WaMu and those sorts of things.

My friend and I arrived here from the Philippines on the Cebu Pacific flight at 12:30 in the morning. Thankfully it was dark out and most people were asleep at that hour. A guy who didn't speak English was at the airport waiting for us with a sign that said Philip Caldwell on it. I took that as a good sign that someone would know where we were supposed to go.

Our hotel is right in the middle of the "backpacker" district, which I think is just another way of saying "tourist central". Bich Duyen is the name of the hotel and it's a bargain at $25 a night. It's spotlessly clean and run by an incredibly friendly (and helpful) guy named Chanh. The only drawback so far has been the lukewarm (no, make that cold) showers. I love my hot morning showers.

My first impression of Saigon is that it's INSANE. No, make that REALLY INSANE. Traffic in Saigon makes a New York rush hour look like a day in the park. There are no traffic rules. Everyone goes anywhere. Crossing a street as a pedestrian is a nail-biting experience since motorcyles are flying at you from every angle. So far, I have managed to avoid being mowed down by one but there have been some pretty close calls.

We went to the War Remnants Museum which is a museum dedicated to rubbing the Americans' faces in the Vietnam War. They call it the "War of American Aggression" and everywhere there are photos and quotes detailing the American atrocities against the Vietnam people. There was a large area dedicated to the horrific effects of Agent Orange (including pictures of the mutated people and children). I found it very strange that this museum was on the list of must-sees for American tourists and yet it was profoundly anti-American. I guess they have a right to do such things since after all, this is their country.

This afternoon, we went to Cholon which is the largest China town in the world. This place was even more insane than the area of Saigon where our hotel is. It was like a bee hive. So many people EVERWHERE. My pictures will not do it justice. We didn't do a lot of exploring because the traffic looked deadly and it was all a little too much but we did manage to get to the market and buy North Face backpacks for the wholesale price of $10.

Gotta run. It's raining out and hopefully the city has quieted down for the night. Tomorrow, we go to the Cu Chi tunnels. Don't know much about them. It's a day trip so it's gonna be nice to get out of the city.

See ya!

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Well, it's happening ....

I'm travelling to the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia over the next three weeks.

I survived the flight on Philippines Airlines (more on that later) and I'm staying in a beautiful hotel in Manila. Tonight I'm flying to Saigon.

More updates later. This internet connection is kinda expensive!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sunset over New Mexico

Who can resist a good sunset?

This photo was taken on the long road through New Mexico while travelling in the car.

If you don't have a digital camera that has a stabilizer then what in the hell are you waiting for?

Roadtrip back to Los Angeles

It was a long trip from Savannah, Georgia back to Los Angeles. It took about four days and I was very sick of (almost) endless highways, subway sandwiches and beat up gas station bathrooms.

Of course, I still found some time to be a tourist.

Tombstone is a tiny little town in the southeast corner of Arizona, just below Tucson. Billed as the town that is "too tough to die", it is the site of the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral. This shoot out between the "good guys" (including Wyatt Earp) and the "bad guys" happened on October 26, 1881. Only three men were killed and the fight lasted a mere thirty seconds but the long arm of the law won and law was restored to this wild frontier town.

I arrived very early in the morning and the busiest place was The Longhorn restaurant which served up a mean cowboy breakfast. The menu gave a complete history of the building and I thought it was interesting to find out that the Longhorn was once a saloon called the Bucket of Blood.

Hmmm, appetizing.

There were various old western buildings which, unfortunately, I didn't have the time to explore.

Apparently they also recreate the gunfight which may just justify a trip back. I'm going to cheer for the baddies though. Just to shake things up.

The world's largest rosebush is also in this town but I didn't see this either.

Dusty wasn't into the tourist stuff. He slept a lot during the trip and enjoyed the Motel 6s immensely.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Okefenokee Swamp: new slideshow!!

The Okefenokee swamp is an incredible swamp in the southeast corner of Georgia. It covers almost 402,000 acres and is filled with cypress, pine, insect eating plants, gators, deer, bobcats and lots and lots of birds. At this time of year, there were also a few tourists.

For a very reasonable fee ($18 which included the park admission), I was able to take a canoe ride which lasted about four hours. It lasted this long because I wanted to stop every few feet and take photos which annoyed the hell out of my friend.

The results were worth it. In my humble opinion, of course.

Clink on the link below. It's a new slideshow and is titled Okefenokee, for lack of anything better.

Turn up the volume and right click after the slideshow has started to get a full screen if you want the full effect.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Friday, October 3, 2008

Savannah Mortgage Company

This is a sight that is probably not in most Savannah tourist books.

A globe (not quite built to scale) advertises the Savannah Mortgage Company. I've passed it many times while driving on Abercorn street. I'm not sure if there is anything in it.

Could be just a big billboard.

And I'm not sure what a mortgage company has to do with a large globe anyway.

Another unsolved mystery of Savannah!

Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room

One of the best places to eat in Savannah has got to be Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room. There is usually a line waiting outside but as one person who left the restaurant said, "it's worth the wait".

Located in the basement of one of the beautiful old houses on Jones street, Mrs. Wilkes' is like having a big family lunch at your grandmother's. You are seated at one of the large tables which seats ten people (it's communal eating style) and then the food arrives. Lots of it. The menu does change from day to day but when I was there I had a choice of all the southern food I wanted; fried chicken, meatloaf, black eyed peas, mac 'n cheese, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, creamed corn, collard greens, baked beans, beef stew, corn bread, biscuits, okra and tomatoes, and turnip all washed down with as much sweet tea as I wanted!!

There was SO much food that the table was covered. Everyone passed the plates around and took their share. This was lunch. I can't imagine what would be served for dinner.

For dessert, everyone had a creamy banana pudding. Yum.

Like good little guests, we were asked to take all our plates over to the kitchen area when we were finished.

The cost was $16 not including tip.

Sadly, Mrs. Wilkes is no longer with us but her family continues to run the restaurant. This is Savannah so maybe she still watches to make sure everyone gets well fed.