But I must not get too comfy and I always should work on stepping out of that comfort zone. Why? Because it INCREASES the size of one's comfort zone !!!!
But my take-off time is still 12 hours away ....
I slept in today. I race to the beach (after 1 cup of coffee and no personal hygiene) at 6 am.
The 5 graces of the Welcome The Sun Club have already dug themselves in (literally: they sit down, wiggle their toes, and eventually cover their legs with sand)
I wonder what the impresario has in store for us this morning ;-)
Hang on, where did the SIXTH one come from???
Rain is in the forecast so today's show is not that spectacular. I go back to my hotel room before the end of the show (I assume the show is officially over when the 6 graces get up and wash in the ocean).
A shower is going down over the Bay and provides me with yet another never seen before light show.
I take the scooter for the last time to buy cigarettes, get sprinkled by refreshing warm rain in the process and then go for a last beach walk.
These may look a little like those tiny fish cookies for kids but do not be fooled, these are fish heads smaller than a 25 cents coin.
NOT what it looks like. He's dragging a horizontal metal bar through the sand at about a depth of an inch to dislodge edibles
|The Khmer alphabet|
One hour until check out, I go back to my room after a smoke and the cleaning ladies are ripping the room apart even though I had told them earlier that I would not leave until noon.
When I return I see the Aussie in the lobby again. His "Lady Friend" took him around on a scooter yesterday and showed him a 1 story house on a lot with ocean view (until they build something in front of it) that can be purchased for A$ 25,000. And this is not at a beach in the country side but in the touristy part of Da Nang !!! OMG ! I also learn that the hotel I'm staying in only was completed about two months ago. No wonder it's so fabulous ;-)
At 12:30 I waste some time in the lobby (plane doesn't leave for another 4.5 hours) when I hear this strange noise coming from the direction of the ocean. At first I can't figure out what it is, I just noticed that the horizon seems to have disparu, only then do I notice the torrential rain that is making the noise.
Good thing I've lived in Vancouver for a while, so I'm used to these kinds of downpours. But it's the first one I've witnessed in Vietnam.
If I still had a room to change in, I'd run into the 26 degree warm rain, but I don't want to sit in the plane soaked to the bone.
Two grumpy-looking English-speaking women are delivered by the hotel's free airport pick-up service and he carries their luggage upstairs. I say to one woman " If you're lucky you get my room; this place is fabulous" She just replies "I don't like that stupid rain"
Well hon, I'm sure it doesn't like you either ;-)
I realize how much more easy-going I have become in the last 2 weeks. Rain? Whining about it won't make it stop so better learn how to enjoy it.
|Ever walked on sand that was just rained on? Different!|
I hang out for 2 hours in the hotel lobby and when I leave the Mute Old Bus Boy makes a plane hand motion and gives me a questioning look. I put my arms behind me to imitate a plane and say Cambodia. Then he does it. He speaks an intelligible word. He says "Campuchea?" This is the first real word he has spoken to me in 5 days. Everything was hand motions and facial expressions and grunts. He doesn't speak English and he realizes that there is no point talking Viet to me. So he doesn't.
My cab arrives and I leave Mr PseudoMute a tip under a flower pot I lift on the chair he always sits on.
|Entrance to Da Nang International Airport. Marble or Tiles|
|So when it rains, the water sweeper women spring into action|
|VANG must mean Wine !!!! (Could that come from the French Vin?)|
2.5 hours until my plane takes off. Munching on my fried rice, the shivers arrive. They always do at some point.
"See things you thought you'd never ever see" is my favourite line in one of my favourite songs. You see, I'm not simply flying to Cambodia, as if that wasn't exciting enough already. I'm flying to friggin' Siem Reap. That's the town where you rent a bicycle and in 32 degree weather cycle to Angkor Wat, the largest temple complex on this planet.
|Monks at Bayon (NOT my pic)|
Getting the boarding pass for my plane is quick and painless. A miracle, given that I am on a FlightHub-booked Heli Air Monaco ticket for an Air Khalifa flight operated by Vietnam Airlines. And I was lucky to get this ticket. Almost all flights from Vietnam to the rest of Indochina have a lay-over of anywhere between 3 hours to 19 hours in Ho Chi Minh City, but I'm flying to Cambodia (or Kampuchea) directly
Time to board the plane. OMG, it's a propeller plane. No wonder it takes 2 hours for the short distance.
|It looks like the sun but it's an airport light|
|A bientot, Da Nang. See you for TET ;-)|
|That temple looks familiar ;-)|
|Even gorgeous through the almost opaque plastic windows: Sunset reflected underside of wings|
And then it happens. The plane breaks HARD. NOT a long runway here in the jungle
|I like airports where they don't have those elevated walk-way hoses. I step onto Cambodian soil for the first time.|
My first impression is fear.
I have NEVER EVER seen so many flying things swirling around the airport lights. Being from a Nanny-State, the words Malaria and Dengue Fever invade my brain faster than a mosquito can sink its sucker into human skin
I survive the walk into the terminal building without succumbing to Malaria and my second impression is a GRUMPY immigration officer who takes scans of all my 10 fingers. The only words I hear from him are "fingers' accompanied by a nod towards the scanner and then "thumb". I'm expected to know the routine for the other hand. Then he swears in Khmer, at first I'm afraid that my dilapidated passport finally lost a page.
When using booking.com I had asked for a free airport pickup, but upon closer inspection realized that this offer had expired. So I'm actually surprised that someone holding a sign with my name on it is standing there. At first he doesn't seem to believe that I am the person that matches the name on his sign, but after I nod a few times, he says "I get my Tuk Tuk". When he returns with the device, he says "Welcome to Siem Reap".
Time to ride my FIRST TUKTUK ;-)
|This is the picture best symbolizing this ride. Siem Reap roads are BAD|
Khmer dressed just in pants hanging out at local shops/gathering places alternate with giant expensive-looking resort hotels with outrageous Christmas decorations illuminating their entrance ways. The contrast is appalling.
|Yes, that's right, impressions of snow-covered Christmas trees in a 28 degree Celsius night ;-)|
The Tuk Tuk driver has been paid by the hotel, but he is such a pleasant person that I tip him anyway. 1 US$ is his tip and that is the normal fare for a Tuk Tuk from the airport, or maybe it has gone up to 2 bucks now. When I ask him whether he could be my driver and guide tomorrow, I realize that I have way exceeded the boundaries of his English skills. Welcome to Siem Reap apparently is as far as it goes. Too bad, he would have been a good guide. Little do I know at this time that he will be my driver tomorrow ;-)
|Now THAT is DIFFERENT ;-)|
Yeah, but there are few tourists in Vancouver in the winter.
It rains a lot.
Oh, so is Rainy Season!
I've never heard anyone describe a Vancouver winter better ;-)
I walk out of the hotel, very wary of flying and walking monsters, to try to eat in one of the local red-plastic-chair eateries that I've seen along the way. Alas, they all seem to be packing it in for the day.
I felt out of place in Vinh, but Vinh was brightly illuminated compared to this place ;-)
So I end up eating in the hotel's restaurant.
But I'm ordering fresh seafood in Khmer yellow curry.
The culture shock starts with the restaurant's waiter bringing me the beer. He asks the usual questions. "Where are you from?" How long you stay?"
Then I hear one I never heard before: "Stay only with one person?" "So you lonely tonight?".
Hotel Food disappoints again. Not only does the food cost US$ 9, but the 'seafood' is limited minuscule quantities prawns and carved squid. NOT cheap seafood, but cheap on seafood. And the curry is probably toned down to almost nothing for the Western palate. Tomorrow I will figure out where to eat so I won't have to eat here again.
What I can't get over it are the temperature and the humidity. Whenever I come out of my air-conditioned room to have a smoke, I feel like walking into deepest jungle. This is only confirmed by stuff falling from above to the tiles surrounding the mini-pool. It sounds like leafs but it is tiny geckos. I have to look twice at the thing sitting right on the pool edge. It's a living frog.
I'm exhausted by the long day but also strangely awake due to the strange place and the expectation of seeing one of those places tomorrow. You know, that song again: See things you thought you'd never ever see. I will be in Angkor Wat tomorrow morning !