See ya in the funnies.
This platform has become too ponderous and problematic. As I threatened awhile back, I am pulling the trigger and moving to a different one. Further musings of a Slang variety can now be found at slang.substack.com.
See ya in the funnies.
This place is a grand disappointment so far. Multiple issues with the Airbnb, the fact Cebu City is dirty, industrial, loud and trash-filled, and I got a stomach bug on Day One. We bailed to a tourist hotel on Mactan after canceling out of the ABB, and it's in a 1-km string of hotels, residences and restaurants surrounded by shantytowns. I felt less safe outside this zone than I have anywhere in my travels to date. Even the coast is a disappointment: most of it is behind walls, fences and barbed wire. The private "beach" for the hotel is rough rock and coral.
We're leaving in a few days for Palawan. Hope things improve.
It's not like I haven't spent Thanksgiving holidays alone before, because I have. Mostly when I was younger and single and living places away from my parents. My first Solosgiving was way back in the early 80s, and I was scheduled to work that day. I didn't mind taking the shift, and as a result, didn't make it to my parents' place. I think I had junk food (my job was in a video/billiards arcade) for dinner, and I felt pretty okay with the whole thing. I started doing Solosgiving again when I destroyed my marriage and ended up solo. The time between those events, I spent almost every one with my family. Even so, phone calls and shooters with my parents and sibs was a thing for many years. Cheers, Dad!
I have had invitations to friends' family gatherings. The once or twice I have done it, I felt kind of out of place being the weirdo at another family's gathering. Of course, I did ameliorate the outcast feelings with alcohol, as one does. Sometimes with significant pours of nice single malt scotches. One year, I attended a Friendsgiving at a home with a bunch of singletons like myself and couples with no family around. That was pretty good. Everyone there was an accomplished endurance runner (myself excluded), so nobody was giving anyone a side-eye about going back for, say fourths.
Those years I decided to spend the holiday on my own, I would whip up a traditional Thanksgiving lasagne, and (after a run) watch football, read a book, and listen to music. It was okay, for the most part. I missed my kids mostly, but, choices and their resulting consequences, amirite?
Last year I was in the Canary Islands for Solosgiving. I don't remember much about it other than it happened. Nothing special, I probably went to my usual restaurant for dinner, watched something on NFLX, and did whatever it was I was doing at the time. Probably did a run along the Esplanade. Drank inexpensive wine.
This year, I heard about the Man-Cub crushing a 5K in a faster time than I could have ever done - even in my "prime." It was a race we had done as a family back when he was eight. That was nice to hear. I chatted with the She-Cub too, but she's not much of a chatterbox with her dad. I'm looking forward to seeing here in about six weeks, I hope to drag actual conversations out of her then. We're going to be tourists together.
This year, I felt the disconnect. Maybe because of the memories the race triggered? Maybe it's the distance? Maybe the significant cultural and language differences? For whatever reason, this Solosgiving ("celebrated" with a couple of beers, and a plate of fried rice with lemongrass and basil, with a couple small chunks of chicken for the season, natch) was more difficult than most.
I don't read a lot into it, though. Sometimes a sad is just a sad.
My time in Cambodia and visa both run out in the next week, so it’s time to move on. I’ve liked it here, and it’s been difficult to move my ass other than to the local bar for 0.50 beers and the excellent, nutritious and filling $1.00 food. Of course, I did occasionally did splurge up to $5.00 for some exceptional Indian food that I’d never had before. I even had a burger for $6.50, though it, comparatively, wasn’t worth the money. It was comparable to probably a $12 burger in the states, though.
Longish-term, I am going to be continuing my westward trek, and it appears I will eventually circumnavigate the globe before summer of ’23. However, I will be making a detour to the east a bit next to meet up with the Man-Cub in the (Magnum) PI. Cebu City, you’re up in a week.
The vid is of bats. That was cool.
Yesterday I took a super crowded bus from Siem Reap to Battambang. Why? Why not. I’d done a fair amount of exploring in Siem, and thought to see a bit more of Cambodia, without going to Phnom Penh. Long-ass bus ride or airplane required for that, though I am confident the bus would be less crowded and likely more comfortable. My seat was a fold-down jump seat in the aisle; the third one of four, with every other seat taken. Oh, and luggage. Notable to me was the fact I was the only one on the bus wearing a mask. Not a hardship for a 3-hour trip.
I arrived, checked into my place of residence for the next 5 nights and took off for a walk to check out the town. Let’s just say it’s more spread out, quieter and less touristy than Siem Reap. I was happy to find a coffee vendor in the morning after a brief walk. Less touristy is right: I saw very few signs in anything other than Khmer, and my language skills in that particular flavor are limited to “thank you.”
There were a few notable things that happened this morning though. While I was eating breakfast (after my coffee sojourn), I saw several people running past the gate. Our host, ran out, ran back in, grabbed a fire extinguisher and ran back out. I thought about it for about 20 seconds, then went up the stairs to see if there was another. There was. I grabbed it and legged it in the direction they all went.
Apparently, there was a small fire in a furniture building “factory” down the street. (The term “street” being very generous to a 2-meter wide partially-paved pathway. It’d barely be an alley in most parts of the USA.) By the time I got there, I was assured all was well, thanked for my assistance, and I went back to my coffee. Meanwhile, the couple that was sitting at the next table (and who also went looking for a fire extinguisher) had left. Why do I mention them? Because that’s the more interesting part of this tale.
I ordered another cup of coffee and was enjoying it and reading, and when I looked up and around – as one does – I noticed the couple were backpacked up and ready to leave. I gave the young man a nod, and he returned it, and walked over to ask about what happened. We started to talk, and I discovered that they are from Switzerland. Cool. He discovered that I had been in Malaysia. I mentioned that I met another couple from Switzerland when I was there, and he interjected, “Tatiana and Luc?”
I showed them the selfie I’d taken and sure enough, holy shit! Yes! Turns out these two are besties with those two. Small fucking world, eh? Too bad Alzheimer’s has caught up with me, since I can only remember his name and not hers: Mathias. Unfortunately, their ride to the bus station arrived after only a few minutes of conversation. I wish you well on your travels, and maybe we’ll meet again!
As for Battambang, I may not stay the entire time I had booked and eat the cost of the room for a couple of nights. It’s just a little too quiet, and too rural and out of synch for me right now.
I walked past this corner yesterday around noon. It was an empty storefront; no stock, no sign, and not even shelves. What a difference this morning.
I'm not sure if it's been forty one or forty two years (getting old is a bitch, eh?), but either way, it's been just a bit of a time gap since I set foot in that tattoo parlor in Loveland, CO. I remember it was a Friday night, and the artist was adamant that he would not tattoo a drunk person. Rich Adzgowski and I were both sober, so we got our tats. Nice deal that mine was on sale and was only $60 for a nicely colored dragon holding a pearl in a three-clawed hand. Why a dragon? Well, at the time I was pretty involved in studying Pai Te Lung Shi Yang Kung Fu, which means White Dragon Fist in English. Cut me some slack, I was not yet twenty and easily influenced, and that was the image the artist had on the wall. Little did I know at the time that a three-clawed dragon isn't Chinese anyway, it's supposed to represent Japanese dragons.
Of course, I couldn't allow my parents to see it, and since I was away at university at the time, that proved to be relatively easy to do. Even when I returned home for summer, it was no effort at all to hide all but just the tip. You see, I had thought about it and I knew I was going to be in the mainstream working world and at the time (early 1980s) tattoos were still frowned upon by "polite society" as were earrings and pretty much any other personal flash on a man. So I had decided to put the tattoo on my lower leg. It was easy to hide, because back in those days, three-stripe tube socks (to the knee, natch) were the thing.
Almost a year after I had it put on my body, my father saw it.
“What is that on your leg?”
“What? Where?” I had no idea what he was talking about. For all I knew it was an alien predator sucking me dry.
“Poking above your sock. It looks red. Orange?”
Uh oh. Here it comes. The Brow is going to blow.
“Uh, it's a tattoo, Dad. It's a dragon." I pulled down my sock. “See?”
He leaned in a bit closer and peered at it. “Huh. You know that's permanent, right?” I assured him I was aware. “Your choice.” he said. Then walked away. Damn, I miss him.
Fast forward several decades, and there I was, standing outside a tattoo studio in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I’d been noodling with the idea of getting a tattoo for about the last six to nine months. I’d finally found pretty much exactly what I wanted. All I needed was the courage to open the door. So I did. I talked to the artist to get an idea of how much, and how long it would take. After all, I can’t have sitting around getting tattooed cutting into my ever important afternoon $0.50 beer drinking time. Ninety minutes. Doable. How much? $60. Sealed the deal. How could I possibly turn around when it was the same price I paid oh-so-long ago?
As was alluded to in the comments of the previous post, Tineke and I went on a bike ride. Up before dawn (nothing new there, amirite?), I made my way across part of Siem Reap to where she was staying, and where the bikes were. We headed off in the gloaming of 5:45 am to beat the heat, and to hopefully get some good light for photos. I’d have to say we were successful on both fronts. It didn’t really heat up a lot while we were pedaling, and the light was interesting and varied.
All I had was my phone camera, while Tineke was toting along an Olympus OM10 digital. I can only imagine how much better her photos are. The highlight, for me, was the beautiful Chrysopelea ornata that we saw on the Phnom Krom temple. More commonly known as either a golden tree snake, or flying snake (yikes!) it was dripping down the wall of the hilltop temple, then disappeared into a crack between the stones. I thought it was really interesting how it was able to grip as it descended, not a part of it fell away to the side or out as it moved. Incredible, at least to me.
As we cruised around the top of the hill, just past the cleared areas were many signs and warnings for mines. So sad that 50 years after the war, there are still areas that are dangerous to even walk away from cleared areas. Tineke told me the small city of Battambang – just a few hours away from Siem Reap – has the highest incidence of amputations, most due to stepping on mines. Such a depressing statistic doesn’t warrant a fact check by me.
We cruised, stopping occasionally to take the odd photo, and made it back to the Big City™ in time for breakfast with a couple of very tasty Long Blacks and Americanos. Don’t ask me the difference! We ate at a nice little place called Brother Bong Cafe. No water pipes or associated THC-transfer mechanisms were available for purchase, despite the name. Just good coffee, good food, good atmosphere, and good company.
I’ve been in country now for <checks calendar> about ten days. I like the pace of Cambodia, and I like the activities and culture around Siem Reap. I’ve spoken to a few people who have been to other parts of the country (specifically Battambang and Phnom Penh) and, to be honest, I don’t really feel a pressing need to go. I’m completely content to spend another couple of weeks here in Siem Reap before jetting off to meet the man-cub. Maybe that’ll change, maybe it won’t. The best part of it is, I don’t need to justify my action – or inaction – to anyone except myself, and I’m easy. Just ask anyone I’ve dated.
Speaking of dating, I had an online match, and she and I met a couple of days ago for a drink. It went well enough that we decided to go see a comedian who was on stage at a local café. A lot of his act is improv with the audience, and he (and I, to be honest) had a fun time interacting when, riffing on online dating, had asked if anyone in the audience of maybe 45 people had been using the apps in Cambodia. The best part of that whole shtick for me was the play back and forth between us, and Tineke (my “date”) and Tineke’s daughter.
After the show Ahmed Ahmed hung out in the bar and we had a chance to chat further. Nice guy. Tough job! I may have provided some fodder for him regarding him wearing Under Armor. Time will tell.
After the show, we took a walk around the Water Festival activities at night. Combine residual heat, humidity, humanity, street food and music – all in exorbitant amounts – and you have the festival in a nutshell. We had to escape to a quieter place to have a beer and a chat. Nice.
Today is a moving day; I’m going to a new hotel in town. The current one is probably my least favorite stay pretty much anywhere. The décor can only be described as early Brutish, and if you actually like to have a place to put your luggage, clothes, bathroom accoutrements, other than on the floor, you’re sadly out of luck. Also, any aficionados of water pressure in a shower will be also greatly disappointed. How this place got a ⭐⭐⭐ rating is beyond me. My first stop in Siem Reap, a ⭐⭐, was definitely superior and less expensive. That last star must be due to the swimming pool. I did use it though, so there's that.
The sunrise over Angkor Wat was probably my least favorite part of the excursion. I’ve seen many, many better sunrises. Maybe I’m just not spiritual enough, but I was all “Meh” and then I was all “whatever, dude” and then “hey, let’s go inside!” and we did. That was pretty amazing. Angkor is simply on a scale I didn’t expect. Both Wat and Thom are just plain huge. For example, the wall around Angkor Thom is 12K, and there are a number of remaining temples inside. Our tour guide said the city held up to a million people back in the 12th century. I can’t imagine the smell to be honest.
The bas relief walls in Wat and Bayon were really interesting, depicting life and death carved in stone. And, again, they are huge. Dozens of meters long. I don’t know how much of them are in original and good condition vs. refurbished, but they looked amazeballs. The depiction of the stegosaur in Ta Prohm was a real head-scratcher, though. According to our guide, nobody really knows why that was carved in a line of other, recognizable animals. Maybe someone saw a fossil? Maybe we walked with dinosaurs. Oooooooo….
We walked through the central temple inside: the Bayon, and a couple of places outside that were a bit off the beaten track, since we were on bikes and not being motored in even a tuk-tuk. Even though Ta Prohm is kind of accessible (it’s almost a K walk to/from where the parking area is), there wasn’t a lot of people, despite it being relatively famous as a result of “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.” I guess people don’t want to walk a bit. Also, tourism hasn’t yet rebounded from Covid. For me that combines to be a good thing, because I get unimpeded views and access to famous places without crowds. For the locals, it’s not a particularly good thing, since they literally survive on tourism. In places I know the locals are getting the money (not the big stores, restaurants or the parks), I’m happy to pay what they want, no haggling whatsoever. I’m staying in small, local boutique hotels, too.
The photos can’t do justice, but hey, enjoy anyway.
Just a guy out exploring the world. Former world-class never-was endurance runner.