"Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalks again; we had longer ways to go.
But no matter, the road is life." -
Jack Kerouac


Southern Thailand

After some airport running, we flew from Hanoi to Phuket, Thailand. We stayed in Phuket town the first night and took a bus to spend a few hours on the beach where we relaxed and did absolutely nothing. The water was warm and clear with few waves, perfect for swimming. One day was all it took and we moved to a new guesthouse ten minutes from the water after purchasing more sunscreen, hats and sarongs. We spent the next day at the beach people-watching from our umbrella, and oh what a lot there was to see! Women going topless and men in speedos all over the place and more than a few of them showing off goods that weren't exactly attractive. Everything was a bit more expensive at the beach, but I guess that is the way it goes. The next day we started looking into scuba diving. There were many options but we finally went with a Scandinavian company that seemed legit. Again, we spent the rest of the day at the beach watching the sun set and the parasailers take off and land on the beach. One of the locals would run with the person parasailing and "hop on" into the ropes above their heads, and they were then able to steer the parasail to a safe landing back on the beach. Pretty impressive. The next morning started off with a drive to meet the dive boat. I took a refresher course and Mike was able to do a "discovery dive" (he's never been diving before). I had to go through and set up all my own gear and remember everything from my certification from a few years back. It was quite a lot to remember on top of being sea sick. After two hours of rolling waves, we made it to the first dive site. We geared up and jumped in the water with our instructor, Patrick. The waves were still high and we had a ways to swim to get to shallow water where we could work on skills. We both felt like we were drowning with all the gear on and swallowing way too much sea water - yuck. It took a good 20 minutes to get rid of the fear, trust our breathing equipment, and go under. I was really wondering what the hell we had been thinking. After about 20 minutes at 9 feet, we were ready to do a little exploring in deeper water (max of 12 meters for Mike) and it was fantastic. The water was so clear and the fish so colorful. Really amazing to be that close to all the underwater life. Mike actually got to see a 3 foot long sea turtle go lazily swimming past him. We ate lunch back on the boat and travelled to another island for the second dive. Also equally amazing and so much fun to explore. Mike had a little bit of trouble clearing his ears but I was just excited and enjoying it all. It really was a great day of diving with beautiful islands to see on the boatride back and smoother waters.

Photos from Phuket

We were off to the island of Ko Phi Phi the next day, a gorgeous island that was hit by the tsunami in 2004. We finally found accomodation and checked out the beach. Plenty of chairs and shade umbrellas complete with little stands serving mango and banana shakes. The water was also clear and warm, although in the afternoons the tide went out and only left little pools. It seemed that one could walk two miles into the bay and the water was only up to your knees. Some cheaper food (as the one side of the island is more backpacker friendly than the other resort side) and a couple beers at the beach bar. Mike woke me up the next morning saying that he had excruciating ear pain and diminished hearing and that we either had to find a Dr. or take the three hour boat ride back to Phuket, a bigger town with a hospital. We did find a small hospital and otitis media (basically, a middle or inner ear injury due to diving) was the diagnosis. We were given some drugs and sent on our way. I settled Mike into the guesthouse with drugs to try and sleep it off but to no avail. He came to the beach saying the pain was worse and back to the hospital we went. They gave him pain meds, antibiotics, and anti inflammatories. He felt a little better and was able to sleep more comfortably. I treated myself to a pedicure and some BBQ kebabs (don't worry, I went back often to check on Mike and bring him food, although the whole side of your face hurts with an ear infection and you don't want to eat because of the pain). He was able to eat a little for breakfast the next morning and I was back at the beach and that afternoon, he was able to join me. We decided to climb one of the hills for a view of the twin bays of the island and we were just in time for sunset. It was so beautiful. We were also able to compare a picture of the aftermath of the tsunami with the view we were seeing before us. We tried to imagine the force of the waves to have caused such damage. We had dinner and a beer on the patio of our guesthouse and called it a night, deciding that we would get up and catch the sunrise which can also be seen from the viewpoint. Next morning, we were up at 6 am and I realized that my ear was hurting. We climbed up and caught the sunrise, although it was not as spectacular as the sunset had been, but there were far fewer people.

Photos from Ko Phi Phi

We stopped by a pharmacy where I bought some of the same drugs they put Mike on, just in case, and we took a boat to Krabi and then a bus and then a long tail boat to get to a little beach spot called Ton Sai. We found a bungalow and rented a kayak to check out the islands and limestone formations, which this part of Thailand is famous for. By the time we brought the kayak back, the tide had gone out and we had to haul the kayak through deep, sucking mud-not much fun. But Ton Sai was definitly a spot we thought we could spend some time in. That night, however, my ear had different plans and it was a very painful, tear-filled, sleepless night for me. Poor Mike got little sleep with all my sobbing. As soon as we thought we could catch a longtail boat back to town, we got up and got on one (Ton Sai is only accessible by boat and only has electricity from 6 pm to 7 am). After a boat ride and a couple of tuk-tuk rides, we finally found ourselves in Krabi Hospital, where we waited for another 2 hours to see the Dr. Antibiotics for me and we decided to stay in Krabi for the night just in case. Poor Mike had to travel all the way back to Ton Sai and gather all of our stuff, 2 big backpacks and 2 small backpacks and bring them all the way back (4 hours roundtrip of buses and boats). He is my hero (Mike's note: I prefer "wind beneath her wings"). Shortly after he got back, my pain came back and we walked back to the ER where I begged them to give me something for the pain. Morphine was given and somewhat effective, it took the edge off and then made me sick. All in all, we spent another 2 nights in Krabi, me sick and Mike bored and we both had fun stuff draining from our ears and had lost all hearing in our right ears. Never get an ear infection! The pain is terrible!

We finally felt healthy enough to leave Krabi and headed back to Ton Sai, which is well known for its amazing rock climbing. We spent the afternoon looking at climbing courses and finally settled on taking a three day lead climbing course. Our instructor, Nueng, was a pretty laid back Thai guy who smoked like a chimney and never wore anything more in the 4 days we saw him than 2 particular pairs of basketball shorts and some flip flops. The course was gruelling but fun and turned out to be more of a three and a half day course. We got in a lot of climbing and we learned more than we can probably remember. We've both decided that we'll have to get serious about climbing back in Seattle so we don't lose it all.

Photos from Hat Ton Sai

Today, we took a longtail boat and a couple of mini-buses to end up in Pak Bara, further south. Tomorrow, we will head to the little island of Ko Lipe.



Up early to catch the bus taking us from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Vietnam (aka Saigon). The bus ride was pretty standard for SE Asia. The driver would turn the A/C on to full blast until you start shivering (75+ degrees F outside) and then turn it off until you were sweating. Meanwhile, he would honk at every change occurring (cars coming, cars turning, animals, clouds, etc.) and sometimes just to test the horn. Some of the honks were followed by a sharp swerving of this Greyhound-ish size bus to rapidly pass some poor vehicle who was slower, and ended up dangerously close to being in the ditch. Usually, mid-pass, he received a cell phone call which he had to take, and, fortunately for the passengers, this forced him to slow down his honking hand a little bit. At some point, he invariably popped in a DVD of popular Thai music karaoke, and turned the sound up till it hurt. Shortly after, the bus broke down, so the driver pulled over, removed his white button down, and (judging by the smell as he walked past later) bathed in diesel oil to somehow repair the engine. We got back to Phnom Penh, waited for 1.5 hours for the next bus taking us to HCMC. At the Cambodia-Vietnam border, the driver motioned for us to get out, dropped all of the bags on the ground and took off somewhere with our passports. Apparently, this is standard procedure but he never said a word to us. We grabbed our bags, wandered around lost for a while and then went back outside in search of our driver. We finally found him after 30 minutes and got across the border. Some more bussing, and changing to another mini-bus in HCMC at the bus company office, and we were finally dropped into the heart of backpackerland (cheap guesthouses, hotels) at 10 pm. After checking at about 15 guesthouses that were all full (with the help of a local who spoke not a word of English, just motioned for us to keep following her to the next place where she'd ask for us), a scooter (moto) driver told us he knew of one, and would charge us $2 to drive us there. We got on, he drove 50 feet, and dropped us at an overpriced hotel. Pretty sweet deal.

The next day, we took a cyclo (a 3-wheeled bicycle with a chair on the front, pictures in album) to see a Hindu temple, probably the only type of religious building we haven't seen yet. We walked to the Reunification Palace (the site of South Vietnam's Royal Palace) and the gardens surrounding it. After lunch was the War Remnants Museum. Some of the articles and exhibits were understandably a bit one-sided, but overall, the museum was well done and incredibly interesting/saddening. There were several captured U.S. tanks, howitzers, planes, and flame-throwers on the grounds outside, photos from journalists who were killed in the war, a MAG exhibit detailing the UXO (Unexploded Ordinances) problems in Vietnam, examples of the prison cells (Tiger Cages) used during the war, and an exhibit documenting the atrocities during and stemming from the war. The last was very powerful, with some of the photos of the inhumanity demonstrated during the war (burned victims of phosphorous bombs, DDT-induced birth defects, decapitated enemy soldiers) being hard to look at and comprehend. Dinner that evening was at a place that employs disadvantaged kids as cooks and wait-staff. A bit expensive (relatively speaking), but delicious and for a good cause.

Photos from HCMC (beware, some of the photos of the war museum are a bit graphic)

After having breakfast at the same sidewalk-vendor cart we'd gotten it from the day before, we were off on an 11-hour bus ride north to the beach town of Nha Trang. We saw the South China Sea for some of it, and rolled into a nice hotel for $8 that evening.

With the sun shining, Em was itching to go hit the beach the next morning. As we walking along the beach we noticed a Vietnamese guy running around, tossing his long hair back or laying in the surf posing for a camera, which another guy was taking pictures of the first guy with. It was very strange, like watching an 80's music video. It got even weirder when the guy being photographed came over and grabbed both of us and tossed his arms around our shoulders and the camera man continued shooting. We laughed because it was so weird but every time we tried to walk away, the guy would grab us and force us into a new pose, speaking only Vietnamese. We finally broke free after he threw himself on his stomach and started patting either side of him. We shook our heads no and damn near broke into a run to get away. So, if anyone finds naked pictures of us on the internet or in some travel pamphlet somewhere, know that it is not really us and we did not agree to whatever situation we may have been photoshopped into. We then grabbed a chunk of sand and sat soaking in the warmth. The bad news is that since Emily and I have never been outside in sunny weather before, we were a bit slow at getting the sunscreen on. After playing in the ocean, and losing Emily's sunglasses in said ocean (poor, poor sunglasses. I will miss you!), we noticed that we were a little pink. Back at the hotel, we saw that we were more of a reddish-purple, rather than pink! Stupid white people. We bought lotion and water, and have been dutifully using both ever since, trying to chase the skin cancer away with moisture. Dinner that evening was at a Mexican restaurant that, although not quite like the US, was far better than our Mexican food attempt in Rome

The next day was a touristy island-hopping tour by boat, a staple of visiting Nha Trang. At the first island, you could jump in the water and snorkel or swim. But our sunburns and the chilly wind had Em and I sitting in the covered boat drinking a beer and watching others. Lunch was served on the boat near the next island, a communal affair that was delicious with 11 different Vietnamese dishes. After lunch (and a game created by Joe, the tour guide, which entailed singing, dancing, and joke telling), it was back into the water for a free drink at Joe's "floating bar" (a 1-person inner tube with a board laid across it). We couldn't pass it up, so after slathering on the sunscreen, we swam out for 4 oz. of something that tasted like cheap Mexican vodka and a little kool-aid. The third island had a white sandy beach that Em and I sat on (underneath the shade of palm tree) and napped. The final island had an aquarium, with some interesting sharks, coral reef, sea anemones, and the like. That evening, we got on our first "sleeper bus" (think Greyhound with 3 wide, 2 high bunk beds instead of seats). Besides the pain of lying on the sunburn, the noise from the road, the bumps and lurches from the turns, and the annoying Australian girl yelling the whole length of the bus at the driver about how she was going to wet herself unless we stopped at a bathroom with real toilets instead of just the ditch at the roadside (prissy thing isn't going to enjoy the rest of SE Asia very much), it was a good night on the bus.

Photos from Nha Trang

At 7 am, we pulled into Hoi An. We tried to nap at the hotel, but since we couldn't sleep, we got breakfast. It was raining, so under an umbrella we walked the UNESCO certified old town. It was nice with a lot of little yellow shops selling all kinds of souvenirs and such. After some cafe time, watching the rain come down outside, we attended a Vietnamese cooking class at a local restaurant. It was a lot of fun, and the food we made was quite delicious (we plan on cooking it up at home in Seattle, so maybe you can join us... ). They didn't give us any kind of recipe book and they kind of hurried us through the steps, so we scribbled down recipes when we could and then revised them after the class at a bar over a beer. After a few more beers to help with our pool-playing, we got on the internet, where I discovered that my father had had a small heart attack and was, right then, already in surgery for a quadruple bypass. We searched all over town (much to the dismay of the huge, jumping rats searching through garbage) for an internet cafe or call center that would be open late enough for me to get alerted when he came out of surgery, but couldn't find a thing.

After a long night, I checked the internet as early as I could in the AM and discovered that everything had gone well, obviously a huge relief. We spent the rainy day talking to family on the phone, emailing back and forth about what had happened and such, and looking around the town a bit more.

Photos from Hoi An

In the morning, we took a bus for about 4 hours further north, past Danang, to Hue. We signed up for a bus that stopped at the Marble Mountains for some pictures but apparently the bus drivers didn't feel the need to stop. Once we got to Hue, we found a hotel run by an adorable older couple who didn't speak a word of English. It was still raining but we decided to brave it and checked out the Citadel, where the emperor lived and government was headquartered for hundreds of years (up until the 1940's).

Next day, we went on a moto bike tour of the city and country side. Of course, it was still raining out so we had on our most water proof clothes and wore plastic rain slickers from the tour company. Our tour guides were a married couple and were very nice and informative. They took us to see another old Japanese covered bridge, passing a few weddings parties along the way. We then went to a Pagoda where we got to watch the monks chant and pray for more than 30 minutes. We stopped at a roadside place and watched how the locals made incense. Em was forced to give it a whirl and had ridiculously short-looking arms in her rain slicker. After this, we drove up to an old bunker built by the U.S. and then onto one of the many tombs of emperors in the area. Last, they took us to another Pagoda in a beautiful spot near the river. The car which carried Quang Duc, the monk who, in 1963, burned himself to death to protest the persecution of Buddhists by South Vietnam's Ngo Dinh Diem's administration, is located here. That night, we tried to book a bus out of Hue for the next morning and found that the bus companies only run night buses. So, stuck we were for another day in rainy Hue. The next morning, we tried to take showers in the hotel room and found that we had no hot water. We went to the owners and explained to them with hand gestures that the water was cold. After several trips to our room in attempt to fix it, the owner changed out the entire outlet and we got two minutes hot water each. The owner's wife must have thought I (Em writing now) was cold because every time she came in and out of the room, she would rub my shoulders and my back in a motherly sort of way. The day was spent hanging out in coffee shops and reading. We were back to the hotel by 5:30 pm to be picked up by the night bus. The owners were there and were so nice and helpful, calling the bus company because it was late and the lady helping me zip up my pack and still practically hugging me the whole time. They also had a friend sitting with them and we saw the lady explain to her friend our dilemma of the morning, using the same hand gestures that I had used earlier and laughing at our crude sign language. As we were setting off for the bus, the lady tossed my small backpack onto her front (like all the backpackers wear them when carrying two packs) and took off towards the bus. It was so funny and a great way to remember these wonderful people. These two were some of the nicest people we met in Vietnam, even though we spoke not one word of each other's language. As we were getting on the bus, the driver asked us where we were from and we said the U.S. His friend then made an X sign toward us and said he didn't like Americans. One of the worst people we've met in Vietnam. We continued on, keeping our eyes peeled for the American hater and ended up getting no sleep on the night bus.

Photos from Hue

At 7 am, the bus stopped and we were told that the bus was broke down and all tourists were to get off here and they would provide taxis to our hotels. Lying, cheating shits, may all the scammers burn in hell. We retrieved our bags from under the bus only to find that mine was soaking wet with stinky water. We found a taxi, which was not free, and it was then I realized that my camera and cell phone were soaked too. After some time, we found a hotel and grabbed some breakfast. Back at the hotel an hour later, I emptied my bag and scrubbed it in the bathtub to get rid of the stench. Mike hung up the clothes line and we turned on both the fan and AC in hopes that my bag would be dry before I had to pack it up again. My shoes were wet from the moto ride in the rain a few days prior and I had had them on the outside of my pack under the bus, so they were also soaked. I pulled out the insole of the first shoe and went to pull out the second when I saw something was in my shoe. I jumped back, screaming and scared Mike. He immediately thought it was a spider and went towards my shoe to take care of it; aww...how sweet. I yelled at him to stop because whatever was in my shoe was large and had a shell or something on its back. This thought freaked both of us out for a minute and we stood back wondering what to do. We finally bucked up and took the shoe into the bathroom where Mike tried to dump whatever "it" was into the toilet. However, "it" held on for an extra few seconds and landed outside of the toilet. After much shrieking by both of us, we realized it was a crab. What to do with a crab, when the toilets and plumbing can't even handle toilet paper? Mike finally decided to toss it of the balcony; sorry crab, but it was already missing 3-4 legs. This crab travelled in my shoe swinging outside my pack from the bus, on a taxi, a 25 minutes walk through town and then into the hotel room! Thus ends the mysterious shoe monster story. We deducted that the stupid bus people must have stored freshly caught sea creatures along with all of the tourist's backpacks, hence how I ended up with a crab in my shoe and the stench of my bag.

(Mike typing again). After the crab fiasco and an attempt at a nap after the long, no sleep night bus, we went out. We walked to a nearby lake, upon which there was an island with a museum. The lake is named after a turtle that supposedly took a powerful sword from a victorious Vietnamese warrior and took it to the bottom of the lake, where it supposedly still lies. Not that exciting, surprisingly. Next up, a walk through the Old Quarter (near where we were staying and in the backpacker district). Street after street, block after block of shops, bustling scooters and people everywhere and always the incessant honking! The shops were interesting in that you had one block dedicated to shoes, then the next would be jewelry, then belts, etc. We ate that evening at a sidewalk beer/food cafe with a bunch of locals sitting on 1 foot high plastic stools at short plastic tables. Back at the hotel, we took advantage of a TV and cable and watched "Flatliners" on Cinemax. Not a good show, but nice to watch a movie.

On our walk to the Temple of Literature, we stopped at a locals pho (noodle) shop. It was good, but since we never saw a menu and never asked the price, we were a little disheartened when the 12 year old boy there ripped us off and charged us at least 50% more than he should have for it. What do you do, beat him up? The Temple of Literature was a Confucius university in Vietnam for hundreds of years. Behind the walls lie some beautiful old Vietnamese architecture, landscaping, fountains, statues, and stone stella engraved with the names of all PhD recipients since the 1400's. On the walk back, we grabbed orange juice (I was starting to feel a cold come on) and then walked to the water puppetry theater we planned to attend that night, just to find that it was sold out for the next 2 days. We were bummed, as this "unique-to-Vietnam" theater was something we'd both been looking forward to, but hadn't thought to book tickets ahead for. After a bite of food, we went back to the hotel. Feeling miserable by this point (4pm), I crawled into bed with all of my clothes on and a case of the chills, and slept intermittently until the next morning. I think that Em puttered around the room, watching TV and such, but you'd have to ask her. The next morning, we got up early to catch our taxi to the Hanoi International Airport to fly to Phuket, in southern Thailand.

Photos from Hanoi



We flew into the capital city of Phnom Penh via Vietnam airlines. Again the flight was great, short but with a meal, and the service was fantastic. We went through the slow process of customs and visas and finally made it out of the airport. We took two motos into the city center. The "moto" is basically a scooter, the driver put one of our backpacks between his legs and we carried the other on our backs. Scooters are the way to go here in SE Asia. They were prevalent in the large cities in Europe but here they are full family mini vans. We have seen up to 5 people on one scooter, 2 kids and 3 adults, or four adults on one scooter. It is also crazy the amount of stuff we have seen some of them hauling, like 2 queen size mattresses, for example. Back to our moto experience. The drivers were nice and spoke English well. They tried to talk us into being our guides for the rest of the afternoon and told us that the major sites were closed the next day and then tried to talk us into going to expensive hotels, saying that they were a great value and less of a threat of having our stuff stolen. Well, we have been through this, they all tout for their own profit and that of others but we weren't having any of it. My driver kept telling me he was going to take us to this certain hotel and then he would tell Mike's driver which hotel in Cambodian. Finally, I told the guy to pull over and show me where we were on the map, where he was taking us, and that even if he took us to his "great-deal $15 hotel" we were going to turn around and walk out. He did seem slightly fazed by this outburst and pretty much shut up after this and showed me what I asked for on the map. They did take us to a specific, expensive hotel but we paid them and walked away. They followed us, with their scooters up onto the sidewalk telling us they would take us somewhere else. We said no and kept walking. We had to walk another 25 minutes but we did find a great hotel for $5 a night. Welcome to the life of a backpacker in SE Asia. Great times, but most things can be this difficult with touts to buy everything and anything and constant questions of, "tuk-tuk, moto"? We took a bit of a siesta and then we were off to see the Royal palace with its silver pagoda floor, life-size solid gold 90kg Buddha, and smaller emerald Buddha. Afterwards, we crossed the street to a bunch of street vendors selling everything from fried silk worms to fried tarantulas to grasshoppers and the fermented birds. Mike grew adventurous and decided he wanted to try some of these fried delicacies. We pondered over which disgusting fried pestulance to buy and finally settled on grasshoppers and a tarantula. I agreed only to photograph and I did a fabulous job but Mike deserves all the credit because he ate these things and didn't even vomit. After this, we tried and enjoyed some traditional Khmer food for dinner. On the walk back to the hotel, we received about a thousand offers for a moto ride; aren't these people so nice? They don't even think that tourists should have to walk more than 2 feet!

The next morning, we rented bikes (much to the dismay of the moto drivers who still persisted even as they watched us rent them) and rode to Tuol Sleng. This used to be a high school until 1975 when Pol Pot turned it into a security prison that turned out to be a place of torture and extermination for his genocide. There are horrific images of prisoners chained to the walls or beds, dead and lying in their own blood. There are pictures of everyone who was sent here, photos taken as they entered, some of the women with children and babies. All but about a dozen of the 17,000 people sent here were executed. After this, we rode out to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, which is where they would bring the prisoners for execution after blindfolding and handcuffing them and then loading them into trucks. They would be unloaded and led into the fields where they were forced to kneel and then had shovels smashed into the back of their heads and were then shoved into a mass grave. There is a tree where they killed the babies and small children, presumbly by grabbing them by the legs and smashing their heads into the tree. The murderers then sprinkled chemicals into the graves to reduce the smell, speed up decay of the bodies, and kill the ones who would be buried alive. Now there is a monument set up to honor these people. It is a tall building with windows on all four sides and shelves every three feet up to the ceiling. These shelves are piled 3-4 high with the skulls of these victems killed by their own people. It is shocking to think that something like this could have happened so recently in history, shocking that it is currently going on in Africa, and piercing that there are there are so many bones of these people. Undeniable, living, in-your-face proof. For me, the thousands of skulls, some with notable bullet holes or blunt force trauma, are what set this apart from Auschwitz.

We then rode back to the city. The traffic is amazing, people constantly riding down the wrong side of the street, on the sidewalks, and the incessant honking. Ironically, as we are riding through this, I remind myself that I didn't want to rent bicycles in Amsterdam because of the traffic but that traffic is nothing compared to that of SE Asia. To top it off, Mike's front brake gave out as well and flopped around uselessly the last 15 minutes of the ride. By the time we got back to the hotel, we were exhausted from the sheer effort it took to ride through this mess and the overwhelming heat and humidity. Tonight, hooray for cold showers in cheap hotels.
For dinner, we found a great BBQ place. This was not your traditional BBQ, however. First off, they brought us our own personal BBQ with a rounded, domed top with holes in it and a groove all the way round the bottom with hot oil in it. There were coals in the bottom keeping it hot. They then brought us a plate of fresh veggies and a plate of raw beef and raw seafood. With no instructions, we jumped in attempting to cook up a feast. We put some butter all over the cooking surface of the grill, which then slid down through one of the holes into the fire. We tried to cook the food without the butter and everything stuck so that it had to be scraped off. Our last resort was to dip things in the oil and then slide them up onto the flatter surface of the grill to cook. We did this all with chopsticks and everything kept sliding off the domed surface to try and deep fry itself in the grease at the bottom. Grease then splashed everywhere, getting all over both of us as we scrambled to get the food out and back onto the grill part. It was still very hot and humid and we were sweating to death trying to deal with this damn grill. And last but not least, they gave us a raw egg which we supposed we were to cook on the grill as well. How? We had no idea but we gave a go anyway and got some small bits of scrambled egg that didn't fall through. All in all, it was a good experience but even more work than cracking and peeling crab legs.

Photos from Phnom Penh

The next morning we took a 6 hour bus ride up to Siem Reap to see the ruins of Ankgor. Angkor was the seat of the Khmer emire from around the 12th century, an empire extending from present-day Myanmar to Vietnam. It was a city of 1 million people at a time when London was about 40,000. When we stepped off the bus, we were literally attacked by all the touts trying to get us to go to their hotel. They kept grabbing our arms and shouting at both of us. I finally started screaming at them and we grabbed each other just to push through to get our bags. And, of course, they all followed us still grabbing and yelling. We just kept pushing them out of the way with our bags and finally went with the guy with the sign who just stood back and didn't hassle us at all. He took us to a hotel but we decided to stay because it was $4 a night. We then had him take us out to Ankgor Wat for our first glimpse. It really is amazing and quite large. We walked around it a bit and then went to another temple on a hill to watch the sun set. There were so many people, it was equally entertaining to stand back and watch them all clamor up this temple to get a good view. Our guide was very disappointed when he found out that we planned to rent bikes and ride the 15km back out to Ankgor Wat the next day. He actually tried to dissuade us by telling us that we would be too tired and we should just go with him.

The next morning we did rent bikes but they were the oldest, crappiest bikes ever! The tuk-tuk driver must have put a curse on us. Of course, as we are riding out, it starts to rain. Not rain like you see in the U.S. but rain like you see in movies. Heavy, drenched-in-2-minutes type of rain. Thank goodness we decided to bring the kayaking dry bag (one of our wiser purchases). Some people got off their bikes to wait out the rain but we just kept on going and just like that the basket on the front of my bike fell off and we had to go back to pick it up off the side of the road. Oh, the adventures of Mike and Em... We did finally make it back out to Angkor Wat and the sun shined for a while, our wet clothes keeping us cool. And of course, as luck would have it, the rain poured down and soaked us yet again as we rode to Ankgor Thom. It was worth it to see the many faces of Baphon and the Temple of the Leper King. Such grandeur, these temples are truly amazing! We rode back to town, seeing elephants and monkeys along the way. There were monkeys everywhere! And little Cambodian ladies ready to sell bananas to all the tourists to feed them. They were pretty cute and very bold, taking food right from people's hands. And there were quite a few babies from ones that were too little to leave their moms to the ones who were just venturing out. They were right off the sides of the road and sometimes they would cross the road if there was food on the other side. This was interesting to watch because it really did seem like they looked both ways on this busy road before they crossed. Back in town, we celebrated with buy one get one free happy hour and then had some delicious Khmer food for dinner. Back at our super cheap hotel room, we found that there were two Cambodian kids who slept outside of our room. This wasn't a problem until the one had a broken alarm that rang for 5 minutes at a time periodically throughout the night. Grrrr........!!!!!!!!

We rented bikes again the next day and rode out to see some of the smaller and less touristy temples. These temples were neat because the jungle had taken over parts of them with tree roots lifting and moving the stones and walls that were knocked over or appeared to be ready to fall at any moment. Of course, outside and sometimes inside, too, there were touts to buy water, mangoes, pineapple! The women would literally be yelling and running at us while we were still 40 feet away from them. And then there were the kids who would try and sell us post cards, bracelets, or just ask for money. Sometimes, they would gather and sing as a group but most of the time, they would come up to us and just start walking or jump on the backs of the bikes. Their English was very good from having grown up with tourists all around. Always the same questions, do you want to buy something and where are you from? Once they knew where we were from, they would recite facts about the country such as the capital and number of people, etc. Oftentimes, we said we were from Canada and they told us more about Canada than we knew put together. Annoying, but the kids are cute and we are eating lots of fresh fruit.
We decided that the next day, we were going to relax and read and hang around with no specific plans. We unofficially named the day "dick-off day". We slept in, had a fantastic breakfast, and then went to another cafe for a couple of beers in the sun. I then decided I would take in a 2 hour massage and Mike decided to hang out. The massage was great and only $10.00. We napped the rest of the afternoon away and then had Amok for dinner, the national Cambodian dish. It was so good. One of the best dishes we've had in SE Asia, a curry with coconut milk and lemongrass in the sauce. Next morning, we were up at 5:30 for an 11 hour bus ride into Vietnam.

Photos from Siem Reap

My father underwent heart bypass surgery yesterday in Bismarck, North Dakota. We did not know a thing about it until we got on the internet yesterday for the first time in a few days, and saw all the emails from my family trying to get a hold of us. It has been a long 24 hours here, trying to keep in touch with my family from internet cafes and call centers that do not stay open 24 hours a day.

The surgery went well, but he has a long and arduous recovery ahead of him. If you could keep him and my family in your thoughts and prayers, I'd appreciate it.


Vientiane, Laos

We were writing the last post while still in Vientiane, so here is the rest of the city. We arrived and spent a while walking around the city with our full backpacker garb (big backpack on back, small backpack on front, guide book in hand) because all of the hotels and guesthouses were full or super expensive. We finally found a hole in the wall place that looked like it might fall down at any moment but we took what we could get. We then wandered around the city checking things out, the usual get to a new city routine. Mike desperately needed a haircut and we found a place that would do it for pretty cheap. I got a pedicure while he got his hair cut and it was a great deal until we got out of the shop, which is when we realized that his hair was shorter in places and longer in others; in some places there was a difference of over an inch right next to one another! It could be that the person cutting his hair was a boy dressed like a girl with a long side ponytail and short cutoff jeans on or it could be that "she" spent about 35 minutes cutting with the clippers before ever touching the scissors or it could even be that later we saw her standing on a corner for over an hour wearing even less than before and a lot more makeup... I am not sure what happened but it may well be one of the worst hair cuts I have ever seen. Not that I'm saying that skimpy-clad, cross-dressing, clipper-obsessed prostitutes can't cut hair. She even cut Mike some bangs across his forehead that were angled, about 1/4 inch long on one side and as long as an inch on the other. We should have taken a picture of his new bangs but didn't think about it. We promptly went back to the hotel room and used the only "scissors" we had available which are about 3 inches long, very dull after 4 months of use, and probably only supposed to be used for eyebrows and nose hairs. I spent the next 15-20 minutes laughing and trying to get his hair to not look quite so much like a 4 year old had cut it. Poor Mike. My pedicure, however, was great for $5 and took just as long as Mike's haircut from hell.

The next day we saw the Laos version of the Arc d'Triomph and then took a long, dusty bus ride to Buddha park. The park was beautiful with a conglomeration of Buddhist and Hindu statues surrounded by green vegetation and lovely flowers. That night we had burgers and fries for dinner! It was so good after so much noodle soup!

Next morning, we rented bicycles and rode out to the national monument of Laos which is a stupa (Buddhist spire) covered in gold paint and surround by wats (temples). We ate noodle soup for lunch and then rode to another wat with over 2300 statues of the Buddha in it and after, to the Laos National History Museum. After the museum we went to the Food Festival, which happened to be going on while we were in town. It was quite small but we decided to get dinner here after seeing some live crawdads being grilled. They pulled them out of the tank and threw them directly in a cooler of ice for a few minutes. This must stun them just enough so they don't fight or jump off the grill. They are then tossed onto the grill and then onto a plate. Neither of us has much experience with eating crawdads but we have peeled and eaten shrimp and thought it can't be that different. So, off we went with our plate piled high with fresh seafood. We dug right in and they were pretty good, a little bland but not bad, even though they were a lot of work to peel. I tried to peel another one and somehow squeezed out all of its intestines onto my hands. That was it, I was done, my stomach was still a bit queasy from a few weeks back and this was all it took. Mike kept at it, though, like the champ that he is, even after coming across female crawdads that had all of their red-orange eggs attached to their legs. Ewwwww!!!!! After this, we had ice cream cones and then a couple of beer Laos to top off our time in Laos.

Click HERE for Vientiane photos.