22.10.2012 103 °F
Hello from the bustling city of Phnom Penh,
This past month has been pretty hectic. Hectic in finishing up the job, getting together travel plans/arrangements, and most importantly just having a good time. Just kind of a quick recap here before jumping into the current state of mind and future traveling.
Sold the car to a fellow Norwegian backpacker to the fine tune of $950. Before anyone passes judgment on unloading a vehicle of this quality to a fellow comrade, please note he was expecting to invest $1,500 in fixing up an old car before heading coast to coast in AUS. We took it to a mechanic and the mechanic did an overall inspection or appraisal for $100. Sure enough it cost the backpacker $1,300 to have this car running like a champ again. A perfect situation where everyone walks away a winner. The last thing I want to do is negatively sway my karma at this juncture in my journey. Muesli ended like I thought it would, pretty uneventful. Very happy to be out of there and for the duration of this blog there will be no more mention of the "M" word. Hands are feeling better and are not going numb anymore at night. Saved a good chunk of money to continue on my travels, so the 4 months in AUS was very successful and I had a great time.
Flew into Phnom Penh a little over a week ago. For the first time in 6 months I travelled with a friend I had met in Margaret River. We did the touristy type things in Phnom Penh that one must do, more specifically visited the Killing Fields, S-21, and threw a live grenade into a pond for the best $50 I have ever spent. I posted a bunch of pictures into this blog of these two places and really do not want to re-hash the horrible things that took place at these two locations. However, I will go into greater detail about the grenade because at one point I thought that was the end of Matt. A menu was pulled out at this "upstanding" firearms facility and you had a plethora of options to choose from. I passed on the M-16 and AK 47 as my taste buds were craving a full-on hand grenade thrown into a muddy pond to lessen the explosion. I was under the impression I could do this for $30 USD, but the man on the other side of the table insisted on $50 as the "government" mandated these prices. Figured it was in my best interest not to haggle with a Khmer dude that had enough fire power to put all of the West Side of Baltimore to shame. With the deal sealed I made my way over to a pond where I was instructed to hold the grenade, pull out the pin, and then throw it into the pond under handed. Kind of the same motion as throwing a horse shoe except if you mess up there is extreme consequences. I asked the man if I could pull the pin out with my teeth Rambo style and he answered with a firm "No" I asked one more time thinking maybe this was just a translation thing and sure enough it was still a "No" Without further thought I pulled the pin and in my backstroke a popping sound emitted. The sound of a small firework, which I wasn’t prepared for nor warned about. It startled me for sure as thoughts of a faulty Russian grenade went through my mind. Thank God I didn’t drop it out of surprise and then chucked that bad boy right into the water. 3 seconds later the water shot up in the 10-15 feet and the whole earth shook like a pretty serious earthquake. All the men who worked there seemed a little surprised and away we left. I still have the pin I pulled out as a souvenir and have since promised myself that I will never throw another grenade again, although you could shoot a rocket launcher for $350 so there's something to look forward to.
We then spent the next few days in a small beach town 6 hours west of here called Sihnoukville. Little beach restaurant shacks and bars lined the beach where we were. The tables and chairs were right on the water and with $.50 Angkor draft beers you couldn’t go wrong. There are heaps and heaps of street children trying to sell you bracelets, sunglasses, and other trinkets. Then there are woman offering manicures and pedicures on the beach for $3.00. Then there are woman that sell all kinds of delicious seafood that you are probably not supposed to eat, but I couldn’t resist and did anyway. As John Steinbeck stated "A sad soul can kill you faster, far faster than any germ." Rest assured this soul is far from sad and I’m still alive so Johnny boy thanks for the words of wisdom. Naturally was eating this delicious seafood, while drinking my Angkor, getting a mani/pedi, and haggling with the children all at the same time. It was pretty cool and I'll be damned if those children couldn’t sell ice to an Eskimo. Their favorite two lines were ""Open your heart, open your wallet" and my favorite when I replied I was out of money "You can lie to me, but you can't lie to yourself." The problem is that most of these kids are benefiting from making sales, but a crafty Oliver Twist Fagan like character is behind the whole operation.
Came back to Phnom Penh after a couple of days where I had to part ways with my good friend of 4 months as she was headed back to her life in AUS. That being said I am now travelling solo again and feeling a little bit homesick. I spent 4 months in the hostel with friends I had grown close to so it kind of feels like I am starting a whole new solo mission.
The original plan was to sort out some volunteer work in an orphanage hear in the city but the last few days have been very frustrating in that aspect. It seems there is a pretty big market for people wanting to volunteer. This demand has created many ""orphanages"" to pop up for illegitimate reasons. I really dont want to get into all the dynamics of it, but it has been a struggle finding a good place to volunteer my time. I might abandon the whole idea and head back to Sihnoukville where I will spend a few more lazy days on the beach and acquire my Vietnam Visa. Cross over the border there and then make my up to northern Vietnam and head into Laos. As plans change and evolve it's looking like China and the trans-Siberian are not going to happen. The visa process is expensive, complicated, and really just not worth it as I can travel to many other countries much easier and affordably. After Laos head down to Bangkok, kick it there for a week or so, and then fly over to India. Spend time in India and maybe even make it up into Nepal. From India fly over to Egypt and cross by land into Israel. Return back to Egypt and fly home to JFK. As mentioned previously this could change in a second so I’m just staying real open and real cruisy.
Cambodia is wild and around every corner you never really know what you’re going to encounter. There’s many things I do not understand and just as many things I have learned. This country has been through a lot and the Khmer people are very strong. It's really tough to describe this raw and gritty place in words so just check out the pictures in my gallery. This is Matt checking out from the 11 Happy Hostel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.