Mar 11, 2004
In Bangkok, small cockroaches were running around the corners of my room. I couldn't muster the effort to kill little ones. I left them alone with the assumption, that they'd leave me alone too. That proved incorrect.
One day, I find a cockroach on the bristles of my toothbrush. Just sitting there, staring at me. I hunt him down and kill him. Then find that a whole colony of cockroaches has moved into my toiletry bag. Disgusted, that toothbrush is thrown away. Now, I'm back to killing cockroaches no matter the size.
I thought that I'd learned my lesson. I began to put the plastic cover on my brand-new replacement toothbrush after every brushing thus making sure that cockroaches and all other creepy crawlies stay off it.
Two weeks later, I notice that the toothbrush smells real bad. It has mildewed! The cover was a mistake. Time for yet another toothbrush.
That's life in the tropics for you.
Weed in Cambodia
Cambodia is still very much like the Wild West. My guesthouse just gave out weed for free, but I was curious how much it cost them. I asked.
Locals buy weed in BIG bags - 10 kilos (22 pounds) for only $35. You might assume that carrying around a huge bag of weed would be a problem. But I'm told it's not. They just strap it to the passenger seat of their motorbikes. Should a cop stop them, they just hand over a bit of the weed, and continue on their way.
The tourist price for weed is quite a bit higher, but still cheap. In Thailand if you're caught with a bag of weed, you spend 10 years in the nastiest jail imaginable. Cambodia is quite a bit more relaxed. If you're caught, the police ask for $10, but that fine is always negotiable.
These months keep zipping by. I felt that my last month in Thailand was wasted, but I don't feel that way at all about my time in Cambodia. In the last month, I had some good adventures and did some worthwhile volunteer work. A few journal entries ago, I wrote that the smell of dust and burning trash made me feel like I was home. It is true. Cambodia has become one of my favorite countries.
The Cambodians laugh and smile all the time. Check the photos - you'll see that everyone is smiling. It is a mystery for me, that I have not yet begun to unravel, as to how the Cambodian people could have been through such horror, and yet smile so much. One might think that the laugh is just a shallow way of covering up deep pain, but I don't think that is it. It is true however that their constant smiling and laughing is contagious.
I don't really want to leave, but it's time for new adventures and yet another visa is about to expire.
I arrive again at a Cambodian / Thai border; not the same border as last time. The immigration officer stamps my passport and I thank him. Then I notice a big lunch in the back of the office: a plate of steamed vegetables, and something cooking on a butane stove. Thinking back to the free lunch at the last border crossing, I had to complement him on his lunch.
"Your lunch looks very good," I tell him with a big smile and thumbs up.
He responds with "Come - join me", and motions for me to enter the office.
Where else in the world would you be offered free lunches at the immigration office not once, but twice?
This time I refused lunch to join my traveler partners who were in a hurry to catch a train, but it was more than enough that he offered.
Across there border, there is a immediate change. When crossing into Cambodia from Thailand, the first thing that you notice is the filth. But, when you cross the other way, what you notice is the lack of smiles. It is quite a shock when you cross an arbitrary line, and everyone suddenly stops smiling and laughing. And, it feels incredibly backwards that it is wealthy Thailand, and not impoverished Cambodia, where everyone seems unhappy.
On the Thai side of the border, in the back of the immigration office, instead of lunch sits a dusty IBM server. Crossing the border takes an additional 5 minutes per traveler as the immigration officer squintingly checks and double-checks passport numbers. He's not smiling either. Welcome to Thailand - I'm not thrilled to be back.
Nice article, Adam! I like how you include more personal observations and attempt to convey visceral elements of the experience. Many of your stories are overloaded with factual accounts of events which transpired, but are lacking in emotional context or even colorful adjectives to convey a sense of place.
Yeah, you're absolutely right. I'm responding to this a year after it was posted. Hopefully, my writing has improved. :-)
EJ Lee - Mar 24, 2004
What I like about reading your article, is I learn new things about the country every often. I find it fascinating that I can sit in the desk and experience as if I am traveling with you. I am not a good writer myself, I am trying to learn art of writing but I'd agree with Bob who left a comment above. I couldn't point my fingers but I thought he phrased it nicely. I am sharing your webpage with my intellectual friends, if that is ok with you.
For anyone who wants to improve their writing, I cannot recommend highly enough "Elements of Style" usually referred to by it's authors names...
Strunk & White
Please share this webpage not only with your intellectual friends, but with any beer swilling jocks that you might know.
Misha - Mar 25, 2004
I see the picture you posted on the first intro page. Wow! Its looks like its right out of a commercial for some alcoholic beverage. Is that Thailand?
It's in Ko Chang Thailand at a place called the "Treehouse". As a great tragedy, the "Treehouse" has been torn down, to be replaced with a large, luxury hotel.
Steve - Apr 02, 2004
We met in Freash air, i Had a great in Cambodia and good to meet you Colin and the others in Siam Reap.
Now in Vientiane,the capital Laos. Its a small city with maybe 120,000 people, so easy to walk around... Unfortunatly im not able to do that at the moment as i hit by a moter cycle from behind whilst riding pillion on the back of a friends motor bike coming back to the hotel late a few nights ago. I was stuck on the left calve which is now brused and swollen but after having an X-Ray no broken bones just muscle damage, but im limping around like an old man.
So sight seeing in the city is a bit limited at the moment. I fully intended to spend 5 days here relaxing as iv been on the bike every day for the last 2 weeks in some wild and mountanous jungle areas in the south east and with 2500km on the clock I figured i deserved a rest. This is not quite what i had in mind but the food is good here with its multi cultural population, a nice change from the noddle soup and sticky rice - the basic diat of the small towns and villages iv been the last few weeks. I have to wait 5 days for my Vietnamees Visa anyway, so hopefully ill be recovered enough to cycle up north by that time, if not ill park the bike and get the bus for the week or so until i cross into Vietnam at the begining of April.
Laos has been a real adventure . Staying on the beautiful islands of the Mekong river and esspecially the limestone mountains where tea, coffie and cardomon is grown. One 4 day excusion took me through the countries most remote National Park, Pure jungle, where Tigers Bear and wild elephant roam. There was only a track through the forest for much of the way with no public transport able to get through. With the exception of a few village locals i met only 2 off road vehicles who turned out to be collegues of my Australian friend Paul who i had met earlier in Camdodia who lives here in Vientiane. They were out doing a Archological survey for their environmental consultancy company - its a small world -
It was Paul's moter bike i was siting on when i was whilst returning from a night out with some of his Ex-pat mates when i was hit - Small and somtimes cruel..
Apart from that the trip has been super so far.. Its good to read your site let me know how things are with you and always great to get your mail.
Steve On the bike
Kat - Apr 08, 2004
Hey Adam, I just noticed it had been almost a month since your last entry on your way into Thailand. So how is it? How are you? Has toothbrush mold killed you yet or made you immune to disease?
Stephanie - Apr 11, 2004
How horrifying to wake up to cockroaches in your toiletry bag. Eek! I expect to have some experiences like that in Latin America soon. My year+ journey begins in about a month.
Take care of yourself.