Journal

…Wait ‘til it Blows

Seam Reap, Cambodia One the things I may have failed to mention thus far in my Cambodia reportage is that this was/is one of the most heavily mined areas in the world. You might think that removing landmines involves sophisticated technology of the sort you see in BBC documentaries on Bosnia, but here in Cambodia landmine removal is most often handled by the technological marvel of southeast Asia — the bamboo stick.

Beginning to See the Light

Floating Village, Cambodia Surprisingly, a floating village is not that different than a village on the land. There are the same stores, the computer repair shop, the grocers, the petrol station, the temple, the dance hall and all the other things that makeup a town. I could even say with some authority that the town is laid out in streets, watery pathways that form nearly perfect lines.

Blood on the Tracks

Phenom Phen, Cambodia As I mentioned in the last entry I came down with a bit of a fever for a few days. This was accompanied by what we in the group have come to term, for lack of a nicer, but equally descriptive phrase — pissing out the ass. It's not a pretty picture. Nor is it a pleasant experience, and consequently I don't have a real clear recollection of the journey from Ban Lung to Kratie or from Kratie out to Sen Monoron.

Ticket To Ride

Ban Lung, Cambodia I can't see. My eyebrows are orange with dust. I cannot see them, but I know they must be; they were yesterday. Every now and then when her legs clench down on my hips or her fingernails dig into my shoulders, I remember Debi is behind me and I am more or less responsible for not killing both of us.

Little Corner of the World

Four Thousand Islands, Lao (PDR) It's difficult to explain but the further south you go in Laos the more relaxed life becomes. Since life in the north is not exactly high stress, by the time we arrived in the four thousand Islands we had to check our pulse periodically to ensure that time was in fact still moving forward.

Can’t Get There From Here

Attapeu, Lao (PDR) The most magical light in Laos lives on the Bolevan Plateau. For some reason not many tourists seem to make it out to the Bolevan Plateau, in spite of the fact that the roads are quite good, transport runs regularly, the villages peaceful, even sleepy, little hamlets. In short, the Bolevan Plateau is wonderful, and not the least in part because no one else is there.

Safe as Milk

Attapeu, Lao (PDR) You would think, if you were the United States and you were illegally and unofficially bombing a foreign country you might not want to stamp "US Bomb" on the side of your bombs, and yet there it was all over Laos: "US Bomb." Clearly somebody didn't think things all the way through, especially given that roughly one third of said bombs failed to explode.

Everyday the Fourteenth

Savannakhet, Lao (PDR) We piled four large bags, four daypacks and five people in a six meter dugout canoe. The boat was powered by the ever-present-in-southeast-Asia long tail motor which is essential a lawnmower engine with a three meter pole extending out of it to which a small propeller is attached — perfect for navigating shallow water. And by shallow I mean sometimes a mere inch between the hull and the riverbed.

Water Slides and Spirit Guides

Konglor Cave, Lao (PDR) The dramatic black karst limestone mountains ringing Ban Na Hin grew darker as the light faded. I was sitting alone on the back porch of our guesthouse watching the light slowly disappear from the bottoms of the clouds and wondering absently how many pages it would take to explain how I came to be in the tiny town of Ban Na Hin, or if such an explanation even really existed.

The Lovely Universe

Vang Vieng, Lao (PDR) I would like to say that I have something memorable to write about Vang Vieng, but the truth is we mostly sat around doing very little, making new friends, drinking a beer around the fire and waiting out the Chinese new year celebrations, which meant none of us could get Cambodian visas until the following Monday. We were forced to relax beside the river for several more days than we intended. Yes friends, traveling is hard, but I do it for you.

I Used to Fly Like Peter Pan

Luang Nam Tha, Lao (PDR) The next time someone asks you, “would you like to live in a tree house and travel five hundred feet above the ground attached to a zip wire?” I highly suggest you say, “yes, where do a I sign up?” If you happen to be in Laos, try the Gibbon Experience.

Hymn of the Big Wheel

Luang Prabang, Lao (PDR) Jose Saramago writes in The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis that the gods "journey like us in the river of things, differing from us only because we call them gods and sometimes believe in them."

Down the River

Luang Prabang, Lao (PDR) Morning in Chiang Khong Thailand revealed itself as a foggy, and not a little mysterious, affair with the far shore of the Mekong, the Laos shore, almost completely hidden in a veil of mist. The first ferry crossed at eight and I was on it, looking to meet up with the slow boat to Luang Prabang.

The King of Carrot Flowers

Doi Inthanan National Park, Thailand The light outside the windows was still a pre-dawn inky blue when the freezing cold water hit my back. A cold shower at six thirty in the morning is infinitely more powerful, albeit not at long lasting, as a cup of coffee. After dropping my body temperature a few degrees and having no towel to dry off with, just a dirty shirt and ceaseless ceiling fan, a cup of tea seemed like a good idea so I stopped in at the restaurant downstairs and, after a cup of hot water with some Jasmine leaves swirling at the bottom of it, I climbed on my rental motorbike and set out for Doi Inthanan National Park.

You and I Are Disappearing

Chang Mai, Thailand The all night bus reached Chiang Mai well past dawn, the city already beginning to stir. I considered trying to nap, but in the end decided to explore the town. What better way to see Buddhist temples than in the dreamy fog of sleeplessness? Chiang Mai has over three hundred wats within the somewhat sprawling city limits, most of them reasonably modern and, in my opinion, not worth visiting. I narrowed the field to three, which I figured was a nice round one percent.

Buddha on the Bounty

Bangkok, Thailand The house Jim Thompson left behind in Bangkok is gorgeous, but the real charm is the garden and its orchids. I wandered around the gardens which really aren't that large for some time and then found a bench near a collection of orchids, where I sat for the better part of an hour, occasionally taking a photograph or two, but mostly thinking about how human orchids are.

Brink of the Clouds

Bangkok, Thailand "The city is a cathedral" writes James Salter, "its scent is dreams." Nowhere in Bangkok is it more so than in the view from the top of the Baiyoke Sky Hotel.

Are You Amplified to Rock?

Bangkok, Thailand It's a new year, are you amplified to rock? Ready, set, go.

Merry Christmas 2005

Bangkok, Thailand Seasons Greeting from luxagraf. I'm in Bangkok, Thailand at the moment. I am taking a short break from traveling to do a little working so I don't have much to report. I've seen the two big temples down in the Khaosan Rd area, but otherwise I've been trying to live an ordinary life in Bangkok, if such a thing is possible.

Sunset Over the Himalayas

Pokhara, Nepal After about forty-five minutes of paddling I reached a point where the views of the Annapurna range were, in the words of an Englishman I met in Katmandu, "gob smacking gorgeous." I put down the paddle and moved to the center of the boat where the benches were wider and, using my bag a cushion, lay back against the gunwale and hung my feet over the opposite side so that they just skimmed the surface of the chilly water.

Pashupatinath

Pashupatinath, Nepal On a hillside beside the Bagmati River, Pashupatinath is one of the holiest sites in the world for Hindus, second only to Varanasi in India. Pashupatinath consists of a large temple which is open only to Hindus, surrounded by a number of smaller shrines and then down on the banks of the Bagmati are the burning ghats where bodies are cremated.

Durbar Square Kathmandu

Kathmandu, Nepal After saturating myself with the streets of Thamel I went on a longer excursion down to Durbar Square to see the various pagodas, temples and the old palace. The palace itself no longer houses the King, but is still used for coronations and ceremonies and Durbar Square is still very much the hub of Katmandu.

Goodbye India

Delhi, India I have taken almost 750 photos and traveled nearly 4000 km (2500 miles) in India, the vast majority of it by train. I have seen everything from depressing squalor to majestic palaces and yet I still feel as if I have hardly scratched the surface. I can't think of another and certainly have never been to a country with the kind of geographic and ethnic diversity of India.

The Taj Express

Agra, India The Taj Mahal is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and, given the level of hype I was fully prepared to be underwhelmed, but I was wrong. I have never in my life seen anything so extravagant, elegant and colossal. The Taj Mahal seems mythically, spiritually, as well as architecturally, to have risen from nowhere, without equal or context.