Permanent Vacasian

The traveller sees what he sees; the tripper sees what he has come to see. – G. K. Chesterton

News Update: China

March 10, 2009
by Stuart
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While in China, I tried to go to Xihae, a largely Tibetan region that occasionally steams the government’s rice, if you know what I mean. If you remember, I had a heck of a time trying to get there and eventually gave up and went back to Beijing.

Well, it looks like the government has gotten upset again. A couple weeks ago they marched in a ton of troops and took the place over and are keeping tourists out. My buddy, Richard, with whom I hung out with in Jiayuguan, sent me a NYTimes article about the whole thing.

Sounds like I might have missed my chance to see Xihae for a while…

Siem Reap. The First Time.

March 10, 2009
by Stuart
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A street performer jumps through a hoop of knives on Bar Street.

Siem Reap, Cambodia – There are two highlights to being in Siem Reap: the Angkor temples and the food. And I’m not talking about Khmer food. Because this is such a touristy place, it’s filled with what they consider to be Western food: Indian, pasta, hamburgers, pizza and even Mexican. Because we had been eating Asian food for almost every meal for about four months, we decided to only eat Western food as much as we could.  Needless to say, Tina and I had tacos every day we where there. Literally.

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Roasted Chicken vendor.

Since we were meeting our friends, Hollie and Bridget, in a few days, we decided to save the main temples and see some of the sights farther out of town. We also wanted to see Prasat Preah Vihear – a mountain-top temple sitting on the Cambodian/Thai border.

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Chicken roaster guy.

From the Thai side, there is a paved road that goes right up to the temple. From the Cambodia side, it’s almost the opposite. And there was very little information about how to get there other than making your way down these horribly bad dirt roads via motorbike, pickups or any other form of transportation that happens to be going anywhere near the temple.

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Trees having their way with Prasat (“sacred”) Bram, Koh Ker.

We set out to find out more information about getting to the temple. A few tour operators in town said they would take us in a private taxi for several hundred dollars. Ridiculous. So we kept looking.

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It’s Not Always Okay With Mr. Okay

March 10, 2009
by Stuart
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Battambang, Cambodia – When we got off the bus in Battambang, we were surrounded by tuk-tuk drivers offering to take us to different hotels. One guy stood out from the rest and seemed to be a straight-talker so we went with him. His name was Mr. Okay, and whether or not we wanted it, he was going to be our guide the next day.

He dropped us off at the hotel and asked if we had a guide for the next day. We said no, but asked for his card and said we’d call him when we made up our minds what we wanted to do – our usual trick to get out of having to make a commitment on the spot. He looked away and said that most people ask him for cards but never called. And that he was tired of handing them out to people who weren’t serious, especially since it was a waste of his money.

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In the countryside, they use plastic bottles to sell petrol.

After talking a bit, Mr. Okay reluctantly gave us his card and we said we’d call him. He told us he hung out around the Chhaya Hotel and we could find him there if he wasn’t booked. He mentioned the sites he would take us to. We asked about two temples that were farther away. He said he didn’t go there because the roads were in bad shape and really dusty.

The next morning we were walking to a cafe for breakfast and to come up with a plan for the day. On the way there, Mr Okay came speeding down the street, flipped a u-turn, and pulled up next to us. Not wanting to make things awkward, I said we were just going to find him. He said he was on his way to our hotel to see if we had made up our minds. He gave us a good price and even threw in a free ride to the cafe. He was pretty funny and seemed like a good guide, so what the heck.

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