Travel

Slow Motion for You

There will always be those unquestionable situations that make you utterly gleam with elation.

Moments that seem to pass in slow motion, like an old home movie shot on a super 8 camera.

You can replay it in your mind for the rest of your days.

Finding random friends on the road is not an unusual thing. Conversations start up, information is exchanged, and before you know it — these people you shared experiences with — they become strangers once again. 

After days on a remote island I was ecstatic to be back on the mainland of Cambodia in a decent hostel, with wifi and a hot shower. Settled in and finally clean, I found myself just lounging and plotting my next move through Southeast Asia. This is when I started chatting with some dorm mates. One thing led to another and we were out on the beach town of Sihanoukville to find food. 

The former part of the story may bore you or seem like what every person that travels tends to find themselves getting involved in. 

Now this next part, this is the slow motion part.

Waking up the next day with the beach in mind, we set out, but only to be caught up in the rain (damn you monsoon season). 

We trotted along the beach and stumbled upon a quiet small-scale bar to down a few pints. With the beers and cocktails finding a cozy home in our systems, the idea of swimming in the rain got tossed around. Shortly, we found ourselves bodysurfing the crashing waves in the Gulf of Thailand while the heavens soaked everything around us — the sight of the lush green islands that encompassed us seemed to be overtaken by the haze of the downpouring clouds. It was almost like a group of childhood friends, laughing and having a grand time; yet, we had only known each other for a few days. 

A memorable scene to say the least.

I could almost forget that there was seafood and alcohol involved in the mix; because the shear unadulterated joy that was had, that is the thing I will replay in my mind until my dying day.

And this vivid cognitive impression ended in the best possible manner, eating fresh crepes made from a street cart… Not even the steady drizzle could ruin ingesting Nutella crepes. 

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Koh Rong Sanloem

I imagine myself as an exile.

Thrown from my home country to hopelessly wander a strange land.

Water surrounds me on all sides, my only escape is an endless array of cocktails that work there way to my brain stem while my thoughts are saturated with a wide varitey of topics. Focus sets in on a small fishing boat with a sputtering engine — attention goes in and out such as a light flickering. 

Solitude: A remote tropical island off the coast of Cambodia; no cell service, no electricity, and water has to be carried through the jungle each day.

Nothing to do, not a care in the world.

The waves echo into the dense jungle creating a soothing meditative rhythm. Thatch roofed bungalows line the hill side. Inside a light, a table, and a bed with an insect net neatly draped over it. The outside harbors a few hammocks that are tied off at the joist made of a tree for holding up the ceiling. Rainwater is collected after it trickles down from the cliffs and is then used for all purposes that humans can engineer. Electricity is produced via solar panels or by generators at certain times of day. 

It is like a hippie commune, nestled safety on the coast of an island. 

Aside from trying to be scholarly and reading books, or finding someone to play cards with; there is really only one other thing to be done on this island.

Something that every person who is on a remote chunk of land finds themselves doing… 

Drinking mass quantities of intoxicating liquid.   

With only a few bars on the island it is easy to acquire alcohol. I happened upon a bar with a Canadian, a Brit, and a Frenchman who work there. 

It’s easy to have good conversation over some drinks — even with strangers. It’s one of the best things in life. Drinking and eating seems to bring even the most foreign of people together. There are not many things better than drinking cold beer, eating red meat with potatoes, and then walking about twenty feet out on to a golden sand beach. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do — and if I had to die, it would be right here, in the arms of people providing me with food and beer; because, at the end of the day, isn’t that what love really is?

It’s so surreal, taking a ferry from the shores of Cambodia to this place. 

Almost like a movie or even an episode of lost. 

If you would have told be five years ago that I would be here staring at the stars, I would have laughed at you. It’s a funny life we live, where we end up, and what becomes of us. This is only the start to my journey. I hope to drink and eat my way through many strange lands, talk to locals — and most of all — I hope to learn something along the way.  

The island life is special, you wake, you eat, you relax. When the sun creeps low in the sky then it may be time to drink, after that you can grab more food for dinner. It’s easy for the visitors; yet, the locals must trek through the jungle to bring the goods that tourists consume. They have no animosity though, they welcome everyone with cheer and cold beverages. And it seems as if every walk of life has hiked this trail and found themselves captivated by the lifestyle of the people who call Koh Rong Sanloem home. 

The cool breeze sweeps in from the gulf; if you cannot find inner peace here, then it just doesn’t exist for you. The slowed down, simplistic lifestyle could make the most uptight of person kick back to appreciate things. Doctors should prescribe island getaways for high blood pressure. 

No biases, no judgements, just joyful hearts. 

If I ever wake up one day and decide I am done with the “system” in the western world… Well, you might want to start searching for me on an island such as this; however, I won’t be coming back with you.

P.s. Please bring beer. 

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Travel

Coast to Coast 

Somehow I think everyone is friendlier around water.

It’s the basic element for life as we know it. People spend absurd amounts of money on real estate next to it. 

I for one find it very calming; there are not many things better than planting your ass in the sand and mindlessly staring off into a memorizing crystal blue body of water. 

You add some beers and seafood and I may just build a hut and stay there. 

Sihanoukville might be one of those places, the sandy beaches that you see on postcards in the supermarket — somewhere you ponder about running away to.

If it wasn’t for the endless amounts of trash build up then I think it could be a viable solution to that craving. It is picturesque, don’t get me wrong; but there is still much to be desired — maybe a little clean up. 

With all that in mind, you still can’t beat these beaches.

If you are lucky, you will be greeted by a small Cambodian lady balancing a stick on her shoulder with objects attached to it. One is a cooler with fresh squid and sauce for said squid. At the other end is a makeshift grill — for just 1 USD you can have five of these suckers grilled on sticks right in front of you. It’s like this lady knows my every waking desire. 

After a few rounds of squid grilled right on the beach, it might be time for a beer. 

With plenty of bars lining the coast, it just so happened I stumbled in one where there was some sort of party happening. 

A bowl of soup and some rice and I was swept back into my seat as I watched the partygoers take selfies, laugh, and chug beers. Before I knew it I was in a haze, or maybe just a food coma. 

Pretty soon darkness descended upon the beach and then, out of nowhere, fireworks appeared. It was like a dream, yet I was living it.

Contentment, I think the very definition should be this: Sitting in a chair on the beach, hot soup and rice in front of you, while drunk locals shoot fiery object into the sky. 

Party on my friends… Party on. 

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Siem Reap

The faint echoing of western pop songs string through the air. Neon signs twinkle like miniature northern lights, guiding the misguided. Mopeds and tuk-tuks speed past, racing tourists into the night.

Siem Reap slowly awakens to the pulse of foot traffic from travelers and locals.
Yet, just blocks away, there are lights turned off, sites left abandoned, it’s a different world. A somber and more real world. A few drunken backpackers may stagger about but this is what I see as the real Siem Reap. 

No burger joints or fancy hotels, just culture.

This province of Cambodia is home to the famous Angkor Wat — along with the surrounding villages, temples and jungles — which most likely make up the tourism aspect. Driving in through the main stretch of town, with its pristine landscaping and bustling streets, it is deceiving when the jungle finally encompasses the tuk-tuk. The scenery has changed drastically, and wait, is that Indiana Jones? 

The sheer allure of temples crumbling into the jungle can not be manifested in words alone.

So after surviving the blazing heat at the temples, a doctors appointment, and a few sleepless nights, time to move on. 
Piling luggage into a dilapidated mini van and heading off to the bus — there is the sense of homelessness once again.

Everything that I hold dear is compressed in a backpack. 

Board another big bus — heading 12-hours through rural Cambodia — the bumps null most passengers to sleep. 

I stay awake as a Cambodian TV show comes on. 

The buildings on the road way seem to get more scarce and turn to little huts as the hours drone on. I truly believe one could loose their mind on bus rides this long — I hope the future passenger that finds mine puts it to good use.

Well, here I am again. Staring out a blurry bus window, watching life pass me by until I arrive at my next stop. 


 

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I Bid Thee Adieu

It’s hot. Strange odors fill your nostrils. You realize you are not in Kansas anymore and little Toto is probably at a near by street food vendor. 

How do you bid farewell to a metropolis with a presence like Bangkok?

I’d like to think that simply drifting away silently into the night on a bus will suffice.

Imagine saying goodbye to a family member, most likely a little brother, someone that you love with a passion one second and want to smother with a pillow the next. Bangkok has similarities to the aforementioned, it is a brilliant place, full of passion and culture; but there are downsides to the strongly passionate — ask any of my ex girlfriends. We tend to come off overbearing at times. Times, when simply, you have had enough of us.
The cuisine in this city is arguably the best in the world. At anytime of day the morsels to indulge on are plenty. A hopeless wanderer could end up scarfing down a bowl of scrumptious spicy Thai noodles or gnawing on something out of the ordinary like scorpion, durian, even chicken feet. The supplies are fresh and in abundance at any local market, which is in abundance as well.

The people. 
Well, they are some of the nicest.

But there are the ones set to make their money on travelers and will try to scam a novice at every turn. Avoid them, and you will make it out with all smiles and full pockets. Fall in to a trap, and it is a scramble to an ATM — luckily goods and services are still fairly cheap if victimized.

A shoestring backpacker could get lost in this massive foodie paradise and with one blink of an eye they are an ex-pat.

As for me personally, the journey must always continue.

The sun sets over Bangkok for me one last time. I know someday our paths will cross again; but until that day comes — I’ll leave you, silently, as I veer off into that setting sun.  

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Unfiltered

There is something about laying in bed, in a hostel, a world away from everything you have ever known; while sick.

You start to question everything. You make rationalizations on why you are even in this position. No travel blog will tell you how the bad times feel– the times you are so overwhelmed with it all that you feel like quitting. 

They are not fun times. 

They are trying times — at least mentally.

I think it’s the really hard times that let us appreciate every single thing we take for granted; cold water, healthy foods, air conditioning, medical care, so on.

It’s these moments that bring us back to reality and make us remember why we travel, to experience. 

For better or worse, it’s what drives us.

I think we all go out searching for ourselves somewhere in the world, but we’ve always been in there. 

It just takes these certain times to show us what we are truly made of. 

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Bangkok Has Him Now

Bangkok, the word derives a certain visualization of the city.

Parties, tuk-tuks, unusual street food, large palaces and temples; this is the main picture most would perceive the city to be. Yet, I’ll never forget my initial reaction of this peculiar place. I was on a train full of people while staring mindlessly out the window. And as the sound of the tracks slowly muttered out all other distractions — I was swept away — It was like a trance.

I then began to see the underdeveloped parts near the city skate by. Large ponds full of debris, houses with tin roofs, and the abandonment of buildings that were left to be taken back over by nature. 

One can’t help but think that there is something strangely beautiful about Bangkok when setting eyes on it.

But let me take you back to the day before. 

It could have been one of the most stressful days of my travels. 

It started with a hangover from a long day and night of goodbyes I had to say in Japan. After a few train stops later, I gathered my oversized backpack and headed out in search of a visa to get into Vietnam, while I was still in Tokyo. 

That didn’t go very well, as I had to board a plane in mere hours. 

Needless to say, the visa didn’t happen and anxiety began to set in. 

Back on to another train, without obtaining a visa. 

Finally, the airport! I was met with a sort of pessimistic sky cap that told me and a travel partner that we would most likely get deported from Thailand (as we did not have reservations to leave the country). It’s all part of the journey I assume.
After an extremely rough plane ride, the rubber touched down and the plane came to a halt. Thailand had welcomed me with humid air and open arms. It was almost a moment where you wanted to kiss the ground and thank gravity for allowing you in the air that long.

So, once upon a little after midnight and some what dreary — actually it was more of a torrential downpour — I found myself tired and weary. I had finally made it through customs with no hang ups and was on the way to a bed. It was dark and rainy, so I had no idea what Thailand actually consisted of until the next day.

Those few days I’ll never forget. The rain, the train rides, the slight culture shock; coming in on the railway and seeing downtown — It was all part of the adventure. yet I didn’t take it all in… Or did I? The funny part about travel is the analysis after the fact. 

We tend to live in the moment even when not thinking about it. It is almost like we are missing the present as it passes by, but we can recount the details in our minds after they have fled.  

It’s a vast and beautiful world. Do what you can to soak it in. 

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