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Friends of a Long Year is a private mailing list bringing stories to your inbox like it's still 1995. It's written in the spirit of Mary Austin. It was originally called Place Without a Postcard, which does a better job of summarizing what I like to write about. Friends is delivered roughly twice a month.

Archive

Ghost

Ljubljana, Slovenia Like Dubrovnik, Trogir is a walled city of roughly Venetian vintage, but Trogir's wall has largely crumbled away or been removed. Still, it has the gorgeous narrow cobblestone streets, arched doorways and towering forts that give all Dalmatian towns their Rapunzel-like fairly tale quality.

Feel Good Lost

Dubrovnik, Croatia Dubrovnik, Croatia was heavily shelled during the Bosnian conflict and roughly 65 percent of its buildings were hit, built for the most part you'd never know it. Most of the buildings date from about 1468, though some were destroyed in the great earthquake of 1667, still, by and large, the city looks as it did in the fifteenth century.

Blue Milk

Dubrovnik, Croatia It's hard to understand, standing on the banks of such crystalline, cerulean lakes, whose dazzling colors come from the mineral rich silt runoff of glaciers, that the largest European conflict since world war two began here, at Like Plitvice Croatia. But indeed this is where the first shots were fired on Easter Sunday in 1991 and the first casualty was a park policeman.

Refracted Light and Grace

Budapest, Hungary Evening, after dinner, outside on the balcony, smoking cigarettes and contemplating the nightscape of Buda's Castle Hill rising up out of its own golden reflection in the shimmering Danube waters. The drone of car horns in the distance and the electric tram squealing as it pulls out of the station below on the river a boat slowly churns upstream...

London Calling

London, United Kingdom London: The British don't want me -- no money, no proof I'm leaving and no real reason for coming, good lord, I must be a vagabond, up to no good, surely. Eventually the customs agent relents and lets me in, a favor I repay by nearly burning down one of London's bigger parks. Seriously.

Closing Time

Koh Kradan, Thailand Headed back to Europe: I started to write a bit of reminiscence, trying to remember the highlights of my time in Asia before I return to the west, but about halfway through I kept thinking of a popular Buddhist saying — be here now. Most of these dispatches are written in past tense, but this time I want to simply be here now. This moment, on this train. This is the last time I'll post something from Southeast Asia.

Bird of Paradise

Koh Kradan, Thailand I wasn't expecting much from Ko Kradan, but in the end I discovered a slice of Thailand the way it's often describe by wistful hippies who first came here twenty years ago.

Beginning of the End

Koh Hai, Thailand I will confess to being a bit melancholy on the ferry from Ko Phi Phi to Ko Lanta. It was slowly beginning to sink in that my trip was nearly over, the money nearly gone and coming home no longer felt so far in the future. Still, it;s hard to be too melancholy in the Thai Islands, even the one's that are covered in trash.

Going Down South

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand The Phi Phi Island Resort, where some friends were staying, is on the leeward shore of Koh Phi Phi Island and posts a private beach, beautiful reef, fancy swimming pools and rooms with real sheets. Unheard of. I sauntered in a day early, acted like I owned the place, rented snorkel gear, charged it to a random room number and spent the afternoon on the reef. If only I could have put it on the Underhill's credit card.

The Book of Right On

Sinoukville, Cambodia The next day we continued on to Sinoukville which is Cambodia's attempt at a seaside resort. Combining the essential elements of Goa and Thailand, Sinoukville is a pleasant, if somewhat hippy-oriented, travelers haven. We rented Honda Dreams and cruised down the coast to deserted white sand beaches, thatched huts serving noodles and rice, where we watched sunsets and dodged rain storms.

Midnight in a Perfect World

Death Island, Cambodia A lost island off the Cambodian coast where the crab is fresh and the bungalows cheap. A perfect world near the end.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat, Cambodia Roughly half a million people a year visit Angkor Wat. The first evening we decided to see just how tourist-filled Angkor was by heading to the most popular sunset temple, Phnom Bakheng, to watch the sunset. And there were a lot of tourists. Thousands of them. And that was just at one temple. Thus was hatched the plan: see Angkor in the heat of the day. Yes it will be hot. Hot hot hot. Fucking hot. But hopefully empty.

…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."