Apr 23, 2008

10 ways to know you're in Cambodia

1. Everyone is smiling. The children, the old men, the drivers, the business-people all walk around with beautiful smiles. It is a great morale-booster that brings us a wonderfully warm feeling towards Cambodia.

2. Crossing the street requires the deftest of skills. Any leftover Frogger aficionados will truly bask in the pandemonium and complexity involved in this once simple pedestrian maneuver: One step forward, three to the left, five forward, three back, right left, whoa…hurry, hurry hurry, tuk-tuk, Lexus, truck, car, moto, cyclo, run!!

3. Hot!! Humid!! Hot!

4. If walking is not your cup of tea, Cambodia has you covered. Whether riding on the back of a scooter, sitting in a trailer behind a scooter (tuk-tuk) , taking a taxi or being pedaled around, there are always dozens of options awaiting as you step outside. Last night I woke up and took a tuk-tuk to my bathroom. It cost only 25 cents for a 10 ft journey.

5. Angkor Wat, the oldest temple in the world will absolutely blow you away. It and the many surrounding temples may possibly be the most incredible ancient architecture still standing in the world.

6. Beautiful children. Possibly the most beautiful of any country we’ve seen.

7. Favorite game in Cambodia: How many people can you fit on a motorized vehicle? 5 on a moto - no problem; 40 in the back of a truck -next challenge; 8 In a taxi - you want 4 - everyone pays for 2 spots.

8. Naked babies everywhere

9. People surviving despite their past. With Pol Pot’s reign of terror only 28 years in the past, every Cambodian was directly affected by the over 1.8 million victims of the mass genocide that occurred between 1975 and 1979. His goal was to create a world of un-educated farmers and he killed anyone who was not. It is one of the saddest histories you will find in a country yet the Khmer people live on with smiles, humor, and a persistence to push forward.

10. If the weather does not raise your internal temperature, the food will. Mild is hot, hot is face-numbing. Fish, ginger, peppers – the Khmer food is a wonderful delicacy.

It was a brief but wonderful visit to this country of impossible contrasts. The people are genuine, their government is not. The capital of Phnom Penh is lively, it’s history is anything but. Cambodia has raised the bar in Southeast Asia. Our next stop is Vietnam.

The Temples of Cambodia's Angkor Wat

Apr 19, 2008

Don't Cry For Us Argentina

Yes, it is true; Argentina is in the rear view mirror for us. It was a land of beautiful people and incredible beef. Only in Argentina can you swear on your life that “this is the best steak I’ve ever had” every time you order it, no matter how many successive nights in the past the exact same words were uttered from the same lips. Only in Argentina can you find the highways littered with elaborate shrines to national heroes routinely visited by passers by and pilgrims alike. Only in Argentina can you find Leighton and Amanda making such a fuss with the police that they talk them down from jail to a $300 fine, to a $30 fine, to “have a nice day”. It seems the insurance card expired the day after we rented the car and fortunately it only cost us an hour on the side of the highway speaking broken Spanish to the police until they left us alone.

Leaving Argentina meant more than simply saying goodbye to another country. This was our last South American Country and the mid-way point on our journey. While it had its ups (did I mention the beef) and its downs (run-ins with the law), Navigating its highways and roads uncovered some truly wonderful experiences for us. Perhaps better than any other country we have visited; we were able to see it as more than just tourists. We camped, we drove, we stopped, and we talked. It was a country that begged to be explored as it keeps so many gems hidden from plain view. Such was our favorite stop – La Cumbre, a small town barely mentioned in the guide books.

Farewell Argentina. Hello Los Angeles?

We flew to the entertainment capital of the world for a two day layover on our way to Asia. Though we visited with my family and spent a day lounging at the pool, we were able to squeeze in some sightseeing. Amanda and I had always thought L.A. was big, dirty and crowded. After visiting South America it has never looked so good.

After our two day vacation from our vacation it was back to work as we boarded our Bangkok-bound flight. Twenty-four hours later we were getting buckets of water poured down our pants as we hauled our tired, hot, sweaty bodies with large bags attached through the streets of Bangkok searching for a hotel with A/C. It was the last day of the Songkran or Lunar New Year celebration and much to our horror – lots of water is involved. However, water is not so bad when it is 95 degrees out with 90% humidity.

We are now in Cambodia to see the famous Angkor Wat jungle temples (anyone seen Tomb Raider?) We are excited to be in such a new and different parcel of the world. We have 6 weeks in Asia and no itinerary – it should be quite a ride.

Apr 14, 2008

Argentina slide show

click here to view slideshow in a larger window

Apr 1, 2008

Iguazu Falls

It was a long drive coming to Iguazu Falls; nineteen hours to be exact. Located at the extreme north of Argentina, these famous waterfalls split the borders between Brazil and Argentina; Paraguay only a few miles to the west.

The junction of these three countries hosts one of the world’s most spectacular displays of falling water. Surrounded by thick jungle, the Iguazu River widens and splits into dozens of separate and distinct falls – over 2 km across in total. The main event is the Garganta del Diablo or Devil’s Throat. A massive horseshoe shaped waterfall that drenches anyone within 50 yards with a thick mist.

There is much more to this natural reserve than its water. Wildlife roams all around the many visitors. In just one day, we saw snakes, Coatis, the 1-inch long Tiger Ant, and a beautiful Toucan.

It was another beautiful sight to check off our list.

Rally Argentina

It was cold and dark in La Cumbre, Argentina. Of course most places in this world do tend to exhibit these two qualities at 5:30 in the morning. The big issue with this particular morning was the rain. It was the sort of constant, drenching rain that has the distinct ability to slowly permeate through even the most expensive rain jacket.
After enduring the dark, cold, and rain, the wind that soon followed then completed the perfect square of fall weather just outside of Cordoba. We sat in the centersoaking it all in.

While most of the world chooses to sleep, read the paper, sip some coffee, or possibly stumble home from the bar at this early hour, Amanda and I packed up our tent and began the 4 mile trek to the starting line of the 2008 WRC Rally Argentina. For those of you unfamiliar with a WRC rally, I highly recommend you spend a few seconds, minutes, or hours browsing their website. You will most certainly find clips and highlights of this unique race the Amanda and I so eagerly wanted to witness.

Though we knew it would be highly attended and a bit mad, (we are in Argentina) we eagerly trudged past hundreds of people from around the world on our march to the start. We arrived to a massive crowd perched across the soaked countryside. The star attraction, a lone dirt road, wound its way through the grassy rolling hills and crowds of the Sierra Chicas Mountains. We perched ourselves next to a loud group still drinking in their tent from the night before. At 7:44, the hills rose to life as the distinct sound of a highly turbocharged 4 cylinder engine breathed more life into an already raucous crowd.

The mud flew everywhere as the first driver navigated the first hill on the first leg of Rally Argentina 2008. Narrowly missing a massive tree as he slid on the wet surface, the engine then roared as all four wheels struggled for grip, found it, and catapulted its two occupants around the corner where Amanda and I watched in awe and anticipation. The taillights shone through the thick rain as the race car disappeared into the mist beyond us.

For the next two hours we stuck to our corner as every two minutes another car would fly down the hill, find its way around the corner and explode into a thick fog and out of our sight.

The crowd was rowdy, the track was messy, and the morning was over before 10 AM.
While we where only able to witness the first leg of over 40, it was one we will never forget. As we began the trek back to our car, the clouds began to lift, the crowd began to disperse, and the drivers flew by us on their way to the next starting line. All we could do was smile.