Adventures Abroad: Cambodia, Cities & Sickness

Adventures Abroad: Cambodia, Cities & Sickness

Saturday I went to the mall for the first time with a couple other people. The girl who took us had only been there once before but she got us there no problem. The traffic here is crazy. There may be lines on the road, but they can’t even be called guidelines, they’re just decorations. One way street? Only if you don’t have to go that way. I swear there are only about six road signs in this whole town. I don’t even know if there’s a speed limit.

And there are no sidewalks.

So, you just kind of step into traffic and hope the scooters, motorcycles, cars, and trucks are nimble enough to miss you. It’s kind of exhilarating. Although, I am concerned about how this will affect my judgement once I return to the states. It’s been three days and already I just give a cursory glance to see if someone’s coming before stepping out.

Anyway, the mall is four stories, well, three and a half. The top floor has two restaurants and a play area for kids so it doesn’t really count. But the other three floors are packed with things. Really cheap things. Super cheap things. You guys, I can get a full knife set for about ten bucks. I could take five dollars to the store and get enough food to last five days.

But my fridge doesn’t work and a couple people have reported finding ants so since I am bug free I’ve decided I’ll just eat out while I’m in Cambodia and start actually cooking when I get to China.

We didn’t do much while we were at the mall, mostly because we were still fighting jetlag. We just walked around, got ice cream—$1.40—and by then we were tired enough to head back to the hotel. We did get lost two or three times on the way back. But we made it in time to meet all the people that chose Saturday as their arrival date.

Pretty much all of us went to the hotel pool that evening to chill and wait for the $1 tequila shots and, for me, free popcorn. I met a couple of Brits, one of the girls and I really hit it off. We swam around for a couple hours talking about London and bats and cats.

oOo

 

Sunday morning sucked. I woke up with a headache, cough, congested chest, and off and on nausea. So I stayed in bed until about noon trying to sleep and drinking water before dragging myself downstairs to meet the rest of the group for the city tour.

I thought it was a walking tour but to my surprise and relief we got to do it via Tuk Tuk. A Tuk Tuk is a motorcycle with a small carriage attached to it and is the Yellow Cab service of Phnom Penh. It’s also like being in a real life version of Mario Cart except someone else is driving and you have no control.

So glad I made myself get up. We got to see an old Buddhist temple, absolutely beautiful architecture, with murals and monks. And we got to wander around the grounds for an hour. It’s right next to a busy street but it was so quiet and peaceful, surrounded by massive trees and flowers in full bloom. I loved it.

Then we went to the Royal Palace. I’ve seen castles, but this palace trumps them all in sprawl grandeur. It was huge, the inner gardens alone were probably two or three acres. And it was painted in bright gold and white and silver with ornamentation everywhere. A lot of places they prohibited photos, which I don’t understand, but whatever, it’s their palace. The murals on the temple ceiling depicting the Generous Prince, Garuda, and Buddha were beautiful. Eavesdropping on a guided tour, I found out the original palace was built in 1806 but was destroyed by flooding. So in 1917 the Royal Palace that’s there now was built.

Within the grounds of the royal palace, in an adjoining courtyard, were stupas. A stupa is…it’s an intricately carved stone mound with a turret on top. It was built for the king and princes. They’re really neat, I stared at each one for at least five minutes trying to figure out how anyone had the patience to carve the details in them.

The Silver Pagoda is the center of this courtyard. And I wish, I wish, I could have taken pictures. I even thought about sneaking one, but the place had security at every corner. The emerald Buddha was just gorgeous. It sits atop this pyramid of gold and smaller Buddha depictions in wood and stone. It glowed. He’s about a foot two feet tall sitting lotus style. It was the most beautiful thing. It’s polished to a pretty spring green with darker veins of forest and emerald green throughout.

Standing in front of the emerald Buddha’s pyramid in a glass case is the gold Buddha. Six feet of solid gold and adorned in literally thousands of jewels and precious stones. And they weren’t big gaudy chunks either, they were tiny little pieces meticulously placed in his skin to catch the light and around his neck and wrists like jewelry and in his robes as adornment. He was magnificent.

And about that time, after wandering in the heat and sun for four hours, I started to feel terrible again. Luckily, that was the end of the tour and we headed back to the hotel. I slept until about six-thirty and got up again to go to the formal introduction dinner. It was pretty nice, I would have liked to try the soup but my stomach was still threatening hostilities.

Anyway, we got just a little rundown on Dos and Don’ts that for everyone who had been there for a couple days was old news. That finally ended about eight and I dragged myself to my room and drank some nighttime cold medicine and passed right the fuck out.

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Adventures Abroad: Cambodia Arrival

Adventures Abroad: Cambodia Arrival

Do y’all know what twenty-four hours of uninterrupted travel feels like?

It hurts.

But, I’m at my hotel and home for the next thirty some days and struggling to stay awake. Local time is 5:30pm, back home it’s 5:30am. I told myself I’d stay awake until at least seven tonight, eight if I can. You would think with a sixteen hour flight I wouldn’t be tired. But no. I don’t know how many hours of light dozing equals one solid hour of actual sleep but apparently sixteen is not enough.

I also found out at the nine hour mark that I am prone to airsickness. Not vomit bag levels, but dizzy nausea that will make any trip miserable. Add in sleeplessness and a quick two hour layover followed by another turbulent four hour plane ride and I. Am. Done.

There weren’t any complications though. My major stress point was getting from the Newark, NJ airport to JFK in NYC. I got a shuttle, ETS Airport, and the guy was awesome. You guys, I’m an aggressive driver but this man was a damn Master. He was pulling stunts in a passenger van I wouldn’t have tried in my Grand Prix. It was amazing. Seriously, I think the brakes might have been out because we never went below 40mph. I also learned that the “tail end” of the NYC rush hour is about the same amount of traffic as Indianapolis’ peak rush hour.

I will never live in that city.

And I’m pretty sure unless I have a driver I will not visit that city because, Damn. The skyline was so pretty though. I tried to get a couple pictures of it but it was full night and, like I said, we were bookin’. So they’re pretty blurry, but really, it looks just like the movies. Pick any movie that shows the NYC skyline at night and that’s what it looks like in person. It’s almost unfathomable how that many people can exist in such a small space.

So I made it to JFK with plenty of time to spare. I was going to get dinner there since I had about four hours to kill. Now, Indianapolis International has a couple of little restaurants you can go in and sit down and just relax for a couple seconds before shooting off again. My original plan was to change to my pajamas and find a small restaurant and get a solid meal in me before this grueling flight.

JFK does not have these things. The only sit down place I saw had deli style sandwiches and every chair and table was full. So I wandered down to the end of the terminal to a little panini stand. You know how much a turkey and cheese panini will cost you at JFK? Take a guess.

$12

Yeah. I got a small bowl of fruit and a bottle of water, $7.85. And I think the water was more expensive than the fruit.

Now, I’m sure when most people think of Worst Case Scenario While Flying it involves a lot of screaming. Mine is more being surrounded and unable to move. So for my 16 hour flight the gods saw fit to put me in the middle row in the middle seat between a lady with a chronic cough and a guy with no sense of personal space.

Never. Again.

If I can’t choose my seat I’m not taking the damn flight. I want an aisle seat. You heard that right, aisle. Not window. I can live without a view, I just need some space so I feel like I can breathe.

And there was only one screaming child on the flight, but she didn’t start screaming until about two hours before we landed and at that point I couldn’t blame her because I was ready to scream too.

Taipei has a really cool airport. Easy to navigate, pretty architecture, and SO MUCH STUFF TO LOOK AT. Man, I wish I had the six hour layover in Taipei instead of JFK. A.) Food was cheaper and B.) They have a garden, a museum, and a LIBRARY and a shit ton of smaller shops. Since my layover was only three hours and it took me an hour to get through security and find my gate—Chiang Kai Shek is a Massive airport—I saved my money and watched TLC for a couple hours at the gate.

This was the only delay I had, in the whole freaking trip. The flight from Taipei to Cambodia was delayed about thirty minutes. That’s it. That was the only hiccup in the day. Then when we came in to land at Phnom Penh we hit the tarmac too fast so the pilot pulled up and circled around for a second, successful, landing.

The best, absolute best, part of my day was the Tuk Tuk ride to the hotel. A Tuk Tuk is a scooter with a cart strapped to the back. The other guy who was picked up with me had four bags, I have two, and we stuffed all those bags onto this little cart and then squeezed ourselves in. That ride in Boston was nothing. We probably didn’t go faster than fifteen, but there was no distribution of load. All those bags were heaped up however they fit and the two of us just had to hold on while the driver whipped in and out of traffic.

So. Much. Fun.

And I really can’t wait to get out and walk around this city. We passed some amazing art, incredible carved furniture, and fruit stands with fruits I haven’t seen before.

But that will be for another day. Probably Sunday. Because I am exhausted mentally and physically. Being around people like that, crammed in with no space to myself, drains me dry. So tonight, I’m going to see what weird TV shows Cambodia has and maybe start a book before I finally get some sleep.

Adventures Abroad: This Damn Visa

Adventures Abroad: This Damn Visa

So last week, was it really just last week? That’s a farce. Anyway, last Wednesday I had to go to Chicago to get my work visa for China. I was already Not looking forward to this trip because as all Midwesterners know, Chicago in January is a roulette wheel of misery. But, my Side Thug and all around bad ass, Maye, said she’d come with me so things were looking up.

So at 6am I picked Maye up and we started the three hour drive to Chicago. And as we usually do, we filled the time with spirited conversation about sexism, racism, dismantling the hyper-masculine patriarchy, and Star Wars.

thor-hammer

After about fifteen tolls—seriously, Chicago, WTF—we finally made it to downtown Chicago and after twenty minutes of dodging jaywalkers, cyclists, construction, other cars, and one way streets we decided we’d park at Walgreens. I needed to get a passport photo taken to add to my visa application and since GPS was telling us we were right on top of the consulate we’d ask for directions, too.

Turns out, the consulate was one block away and contrary to what Hollywood told us, it does not have a bunch of flags and armed guards. It’s on the fifth floor of a business building between a bank and a nail salon. So, with photos and directions in hand we left the car at Walgreens and headed down the block to turn in my application.

 

ff1
Can you believe Hollywood didn’t get real life right?

Now, according to the consulate’s website, they have same-day visa service and in regards to the application they just say to make sure it’s completely filled out.

I get up there and pass my application through and the man shakes his head and pushes it back. “Must be typed.” He points to a sign hanging next to the window.

Effective July 2013, all applications must be typed.

So Maye and I leave and while I’m trying to figure out how the fuck I’m going to type my application and print it out when I don’t have my computer with me, we stopped by a little bistro to eat and strategize. And that’s when I remembered the Kinkos we passed. Yes.

After eating, I jogged down to Kinkos and had to wait a few minutes while the three people at the computers also typed up documents for the Chinese consulate. And after I finished typing and printing everything, two other people came in also trying to beat the clock and get their documents typed and turned in before the consulate closed at noon.

I slid in at 11:50 and made it up to the window to turn in my application. Nailed it. Everything looked fine. “Is it too late for me to do the same-day express service?” I asked.

“We don’t do that.” She points to a sign hanging next to the window. “You can pick up Friday.”

Effective January 2014, we no longer offer same-day service.

 

optimus
How about you fix your website instead of making signs.

So I grab Maye and we head back to Walgreens after a very long morning that, for me, started at 4:30am.

Annnnnd. My car’s not there.

So we go inside to ask where the fuck my car is. The lady, who gave us directions to the consulate, points to a sign.

If you are not inside Walgreens you cannot park in Walgreens parking lot. You will be towed.

Seriously, lady? We asked about the consulate, pretty sure I said right fucking in front of you, “It’s not far, let’s just walk.” You couldn’t pay it even a little forward and point this out. I hope you never have a straight weave for the rest of your life and your fucking nails crack. Fuck you.

meggif

So I’m pissed and have to call a cab because of course the tow company is on the other side of the goddamn city. But our cabbie was nice and we spent the twenty minute ride bitching about Chicago parking. Apparently, he dropped someone off at the airport just before Christmas and was nice enough to help them with their bags. When he came out, there was a boot on his car.

Seriously, Chicago. Fuck you.

It was actually a very pleasant cab experience. I’ve never ridden in a cab and the guy being super nice helped calm me from Megatron Rage to Vader Displeasure. And that he waited to make sure the tow guy was there before driving off was also really nice of him.

 

vader
You might not think this is an improvement, but it is.

Almost two hours after dropping my application off at the consulate, I finally got my fucking car back and we could leave Chicago.

The best part of that rage inducing day was that we made it back to Indiana in time to meet Maye’s husband at a theater and we saw Star Wars before I headed home.

Stormtrooper_Corps
There are few things in this universe a division of Stormtroopers can’t fix

 

 

 

Adventures Abroad: Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride

Adventures Abroad: Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride

15 Days.

Fifteen days.

I’m leaving for Cambodia in FIFTEEN DAYS.

My dad keeps asking me if I’m still excited. Which always strikes me as a weird question, you know, what other options are there?

yeah

But the tone of the excitement has shifted. It’s no longer flat out excitement, it’s panicky excitement. Like a roller coaster.

See, the beginning of last year was like waiting in line. You’re excited and a little impatient and all “FRONT CAR, HANDS UP!” And before the holidays it was like finally getting in the car and getting the safety belts all figured out and people coming by checking everything to make sure you’re good to go. December it was going up the hill, the ch-chink, ch-chink, ch-chink rattle of the chain lurching you up this really, really high hill and you’re still excited, watching the tree tops pass you and you’re getting higher and seeing more of the park.

And you get a little higher and then you can see the parking lot.

And a little higher.

Suddenly you’re eye level with the people in the drop tower on the other side of the park.

And then you look around and realize you are way up there, you are really fucking high and if you squint you can see another state’s skyline. And that’s when the fluttery panic-excitement kicks in. Because you’re still stoked as hell but now you’re looking down thinking, THIS IS REALLY HIGH. And I don’t know about you, but my feet tap on the floor when that happens, like I’m going to jump up and run away.

coaster
Wait, I have to pee

 

And the ride gives you that second and a half where the chain isn’t pulling you up anymore, you’re just sitting, waiting for gravity to finish pulling you forward and really start the ride. And it’s hardly enough time to blink but you can look down the track and see Holy shit this is really high and Idon’tknowaboutthisbutHEREWEGO!

beast3
Screams of joy or terror? I’ll decide on the way down.

That’s where I’m at right now. That second to two seconds perched at the top of the hill staring down the track and realizing Holy Shit, I’m Going To CHINA.

Aircraft20QT
HANDS UP, M’FERS!