Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Back to the grind or What have I learned? Written with the help of a Lama

I'll try to put the last few weeks into terms of the Dalai Lama's 20 tips for a good life:

#16 As often as possible, go someplace you’ve never been before
My favourite rule !!!!
#5  Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly
That's why I came back 4 times with an already expired PR card last year ;-) There should be a subclause to this point of Lama advice:  Know when they CHANGE the rules. LOL

#14 Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality

I'm writing a blog that maybe 20 people around the globe actually read. On the other hand, there are probably millions who watch CNN around the clock just to catch the latest Trump Twit Morosity.    'nough said, LOL

I'm back in Vancouver.  Regina at Denny's again comes across the restaurant to give me a hug because she is happy to see me again.  Grandma lets me know what I did wrong.  Regina is from Asia. Grandma is from Europe.  See #20 below. No wonder I want to, nay MUST, go back.

Denny's seems to have a new menu on their senior's menu: Grilled Tilapia (It's that frozen white tastless fish that they breed in the millions of tons in fish farms somewhere in Asia).  I'm eating it today for the first time and I LIKE it. 
Add to that picture a large Cesar Salad + Garlic bread to complete the menu item and it's so much food that I don't want to finish it all.

The only other place that I have discovered (besides Indochina) where people still act normally (# 18 below is a hint to what I mean by that) is Turkey. Maybe that's why I get along so fabulously with Eda.

#18 Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it

This is an example of the price people pay for success.
Who has the time or luck of location to watch sunrises like this?
Unfortunately that's not the total bill.  Yesterday I had lunch with a friend whom I've known for 20 years.  He's making the BIG BUCKS in Vancouver.  I don't know the exact figure but knowing him I'm guessing around 300 k before taxes.  He always had that smile in the corner of his eyes and felt sorry for the world's innumerable fools. Kind of like me 6 years younger.  I'm tempted to say that yesterday he looked older than me.   The smile was gone from his eyes. All he said was "I HAVE TO quit my job". He felt damage to his soul and health were imminent.  At least he can see it coming.  It's not the physical damage that is the problem; it's your head and your outlook on life and other people where most damage takes place.  OMG, this leads us right to NUMBER 20, LOL.

#20 Seek the company of positive people

The average person in Indochina is dirt-poor by Canadian standards.  But the smiles of these people warm my heart every single time I'm there.  And then my heart is subjected to freeze-drying again in Canada. Yes, that is a price to be paid too.  Too high for my taste.
What are these things doing in front of my room?

With regard to the last two points:  I have watched dear friends fall by the wayside in Vancouver.  This city does take its toll on people.  And at some point everyone must face the choice of choosing between the friends that have become bitter and those that have become better.  Yes, that sounds harsh and it is.  But I'm not talking timescales of weeks but rather years.

#4 Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
 I only come to realize when finishing the Dragon's Back post.  Same as I have to be thankful to my crazy landwitch of years past, because without her malevolence I wouldn't have started travelling, I realize that those anal regulations set by those anal Canadian bureaucrats actually led to something positive.  I had wanted to do Dragon's back for years, but had already written it off as one of those things to do in a next life, because I had written Hong Kong off too. But the old Hong Kong, the Hong Kong when IFC mall didn't exist is still there, and I've rediscovered it, and I wouldn't mind getting stuck in Hong Kong for 2 weeks again ;-)  On the other hand, this whole episode also taught me something about Canadian mentality.  Careful: This is highly opinionated but that is why you read this blog, isn't it, eh?
Hollywood North. All Illusion, Nothing Real

One of the major things thing that lets Canadians look at themselves in the mirror in the morning is the universally and firmly held belief that they are indeed BETTER than their American neighbours.  Now take my recent experience of trying to enter Canada and entering the USA.    NOW, extrapolate from that, LOL.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Travelling on the Occident Express (Seattle to Vancouver by train)

6 am.  Finally !
This means that I can head to Top Pot next door to get caffeinated ;-)  I like the place.  They have books.  Yes, Silly, I know, no one reads them, but they do give me a feeling of calm ;-)
Please note: You are looking at a picture of a picture of a picture (of Moi, naturally)

Add to the above that their coffee is GREAT. None of that bitter horrible Starbucks taste.  LIKE!  The sausage-egg breakfast pie ain't bad either. 

I have to check out of my hotel quite soonish to make it to the train station with some spare time but then I've packed already. 
Hey, my luggage is sitting at Grandma's already so I didn't really have much to pack, LOL. And I'm NOT sad to leave my hotel room, which even with a space heater running all night at Max only reached 68 F this morning.  

Browsing YVR deals I see a deal to Mumbai for under CAD $ 1000 including tx & fees.

Why Mumbai?   An hour ago I read in an Indian newspaper that February is the IDEAL time to visit these two choice destinations in the vicinity of Mumbai:

 Watch out world, once I have my PR card & passport ;-)

This is futile daydreaming for now, obviously, since I can't even fly to CANADA.

I'm taking the LINK ......

... to King Street Station
The check-in staff is FRIENDLY and when they seem my passport do NOT chose to put on that SEVERE face and to inquire how I dare to treat an important government document in this despicable way.  Instead they start laughing and just ask "What happened to it?"

 Well, it went swimming in the South China Sea 3 years ago and at the time I didn't consider what being soaked in saltwater might do to the paper and cloth covering, LOL

At 7:40 am I'm sitting in my unbelievable lounge chair on the top floor of the view car of the Amtrak Cascades.  If you haven't taken this train yet, DO SO !

The leg room and the adjustable chairs are pure LUXURY.

7:45 am.
The train is leaving on time and daylight is breaking through the uniformly gray snow/rain clouds

8 am
The train crosses a bridge over a river into Ballard and soon after there is nothing but water on the left. Puget Sound !   The view is stunning; I can only imagine what it would be like on a sunny day.  The train tracks follow the coast line with less than 3 meters between the West-facing wheel and the water.  The view from the second level is AMAZING. I can't believe I have NEVER taken this train before.  Maybe I should fly out of Seattle more often?  This is SO COOL. 

Seeing a rusted train truck (set of 4 wheels) laying half sunken into the beach gives me a strange feeling for a second but then I remember that this is MUCH safer than taking a car from Seattle to Vancouver.  Not to mention much more SCENIC.

When we pass Edmonds, WA, I follow a gut feeling to check the costs of a flight from Seattle to Frankfurt.  I did this a few weeks ago for Vancouver to Frankfurt and was appalled at the prices, which hovered above CAD$ 1500 for a direct flight.   Now I suspect that I will take this train much more often: A direct-flight return trip Seattle - Frankfurt, including all taxes and fees, with United / Lufthansa only costs CAD $761. That's HALF !    OK, so factor in the train ticket costs of 2xUS$42 and two hotel nights at $100, and you get $761 + (2x42+200)*1.3 = CAD 1131.   So I'd still save $400 and get two days in Seattle and two fabulous train trips out of it.  Remember: It's NOT the destination that counts; it's the journey, LOL.

WHAT is that layer of DIRT in the distance ????  (You guessed it: Vancouver)

If I am willing to take in a 1.5 hour layover in Kevlavik (Iceland), I can get a flight as low as CAD $568 !  

But back to the train.  9:15 am.  We're passing Stanwood WA. 2.5 hours left to Vancouver, in the event that the border-crossing gods smile upon me today l-(

10:45 am. We've just crossed the border.  I was hoping that my encounter with CBSA would be in the past now, but NO, they just locked all the train doors and customs & immigration is awaiting us at Terminal Avenue in Vancouver.

I get to see Vancouver from a different direction. Lo and Behold, the Dirt Dome is very visible if seen from an area of relatively clean air.

12:30 pm.   I'm in Canada and I'm puzzled and just a touch cranky.  What is wrong with these people?  After all the security drama of the last week, I should have at least be subjected to a nude cavity search upon my arrival.
Yes, MY train is enclosed in a fence, so NO ONE can make a run for it, LOL
 (Hint: Bring wire cutters to enter Canada illegally)

I get the cute Immigration Officer. He places my EXPIRED permanent resident card on a scanner.

Here is the ENTIRE conversation:
It starts with my Guilty Plea: 

It's expired
That's OK, It still has all the same information on it as before
I wish they had said that in Hong Kong last Friday

Those $100 on your customs form, what does that include?
A carton of cigarettes and a few shirts from Hong Kong

Do you have a second residence outside Canada?
Welcome back!

THAT WAS IT !!!!  And this is the way it is SUPPOSED to be EVERY time !

This was the EASIEST crossing into Canada I have EVER experienced in 30 years.   I'll have to take that train more often, LOL.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

HKG to SEA. (or Sleepy in Seattle but getting CLOSER )

Do I want to return to snow-covered and paranoid North America, where everybody seems to be afraid of their own shadow now?  Certainly NOT.  The whole idea is repulsive to my most inner core. 

I could hang out in Hong Kong forever.   But Grandma is waiting for me and she needs me, even though she told me this morning to use the 4 week waiting period for a visa to travel around here (I kid you not).  So I'm trying to fly to Seattle today.  Maybe they will let me board the plane this time?. 

We'll see, LOL.

When I walk to 7/11 (they seem to have one every 50 meters here !) at 8 am, I notice that it's cold in Hong Kong. Something like 16 degrees and windy.  People are wearing down jackets !

The public transit ride to the airport is a breeze as usual (no squeaking wheels as in the Vancouver Canada Line trains, LOL)

The Asian man at the Delta check-in counter repeatedly mentions 'but the condition' of your passport in a tone that suggests I had put a scratch on the face of the Mona Lisa.  He even goes to check with his supervisor whether he should let me on the plane with such an over-used passport, but in the end he gives me a boarding pass for the flight to Seattle.

YIPPPEEEE (Well, not REALLY, but you know what I mean)

Boarding is at 11:40 am. No lineups !   But there is a secondary security check in the tunnel leading from the gate to the plane.  Take off you shoes. Let me swipe your palms and your belt with that swiping pad. Aha. I had already thought that standard Hong Kong security had been surprisingly lax for a US flight.

I have an aisle seat and am asleep before the plane even takes off and wake up just briefly for take-off.  I'm flying to the US but I can't fly to Canada.  Go Figure !

I'm surprised again when I realize that I really LIKE Delta Airlines.  I've already had that feeling on the flight to Los Angeles, but now it is confirmed.  I don't feel like CATTLE when flying with them.  Must make mental note !

The plane leaves Hong Kong at 12 noon on Tuesday, February 7, and lands in Seattle at 8 am on Tuesday, February 7.  Gotta LOVE that date line ;-)

Go left, lose a day. Go right, gain a day

8:15 am, Seattle.

Time for the HUGE surprise.

I'm expecting a young, testosterone-inflated immigration officer to give me a grumpy look and complain about the state of my passport and then ask me all those questions I always get in Canada: Which countries have you visited? Where you travelling alone? Why? Do you have a girlfriend in Cambodia? So why do you keep going back there?

Given the circumstances, I had planned NOT to give the answer "Because they don't ask stupid questions" this time ;-)


Together with US and Canadian citizens I am directed to the AUTOMATIC MACHINE passport check, just because I have entered the US with an ESTA before.  WTF?  That reminds me of England, where the Canadian citizen Zulema was questioned by a human immigration officer, but this German citizen was allowed in by a computer-operated gate after only placing my passport on a scanning surface.  

Rest assured: Some high-ranking bureaucrats earn LOTS of your tax money to come up with those moronic rules and guidelines ;-)

After the machine scan, there is a human immigration officer after all.  But quelle surprise

Where are you going?
I'm taking the train to Canada tomorrow.
Do you have any food with you?
Think ... NO
Well, you better get food for that train ride tomorrow.

THAT'S IT !!!!  NO BS whatsoever ! No secret codes on some stupid Do-not-fold-card for the customs people.   I'm IN.  I can't believe it !

Compared to Canada, the USA really does appear like the land of the FREE !

Time to remember where this all started:   Canada would have let this Landed Immigrant, who has been a Permanent Resident of Canada for 30 fucking years now, wait FOUR WEEKS in Hong Kong for them to GLACIALLY process some bullshit application to re-enter the country where I have property and relatives.

Already during my first post-flight cigarette, I realize how cold it is. I'm still wearing shorts and there is white stuff on the ground !

Mount Something (Baker or Rainier?) in the background
The view from SODO (South Of DOwntown?)
I take the LINK light rail to downtown Seattle.  After a quick coffee shop pee and admiring the similarity to Vancouver's DTES skid row visible around Pioneer Square, I take the bus to my hotel, aptly named Kings Inn, LOL.

I had petitioned for early check-in when booking and the grumpy manager gives me my room at 10 am.  It's freezing in the room.  I turn the A/C to heat mode and hop into bed to stay warm.  

The room ain't any warmer at 4 pm when I wake up.  Oh, how I miss Cambodia !  In addition to no functional heating, my room (US$ 93/night) doesn't have a coffee maker, and there is no freshly brewed pot waiting in the reception area either, so I head to Top Pot Donut shop next door, which supplies me with the much needed caffeine for my afternoon wake-up.  Friendly and comparatively inexpensive place !

Buying an Amtrak train ticket to Vancouver's Central Station for US$ 42 is probably a waste, because I'm 75% certain that I will be hauled off the train at the border for questioning.   Now what period in history does that remind me of again?

The donuts from Top Pot aren't overwhelming good or long-lasting, so after a shower in the STILL FRIGID bathroom, I decide that it's time for some REAL food (TM) at Tanaka San around the corner.  The place has a $-rating of $$ out of $$$$ on TripAdvisor. 

And the hostess warned me before that there would be a 20% service charge included in the tip but I still have to use my cell phone flashlight to make sure that the price for my small size dish of salmon with rice and two glasses of rose is REALLY US$ 53.  It is.  That's CAD$ 70 !  I think this might have been the most expensive solo dinner or lunch I've ever had.  Too bad it was far from the BEST ;-)

OMG, Seattle seems to show where Vancouver is heading. NO SMOKING in my hotel, on the balconies, in the parking lot, or even on the sidewalk all along the motel property !  Wow.   

NO idea what these Sri Lankans (?) are saying. But they are
talking about SALT
My dinner could REALLY handle a dose of SALT, but there is not even a salt shaker on the table, and I'm actually afraid to ask for one, out of fear someone might think I'm a SUICIDE SALTER !  After all, there is only a TINY step between not caring for your health and becoming a suicide bomber, eh? 

Actually, I shall refrain from making fun of Americans, because America has been GOOD to me on this trip, something I had NOT expected in my wildest dreams.   But then, DUMP was apparently elected by people in the so-called fly-over states, NOT by people on the coasts, and that is noticeable.  Mental Note: KEEP flying OVER those states in question.

So I've made it to Seattle.  Tomorrow morning I will take the train from Seattle to Vancouver, being prepared to be forced to leave the train for questioning.  But maybe CBSA will surprise me?

Oh, right, guess where the train leaves from:   King Street Station, LOL.

NO, I'm NOT whining. I'm just thinking out loud. (or The Dark Ages 2.0: The long way home)

February 4, 2017, North Point, Hong Kong.  I'm not supposed to be here. 
I'm supposed to be sleeping soundly in a North Vancouver motel right now.   

What happened?


I had thought about this eventuality back in June of last year.   When returning with Rocinante (the electric bike) from Paris to Vancouver.  

My Permanent Resident Card (affectionately known by German permanent residents of Canada as the Negerpass) had expired.   I had considered renewing it before this trip but quickly found out that there simply never was enough time.  CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) advertised on its website that processing times for renewal of a PR Card were more than 60 BUSINESS days, read LONGER than 2 MONTHS.  

I had studied their website further and learned that to return to Canada with a VALID German passport and an EXPIRED PR Card, I would have to apply for a VISA at the Canadian Embassy in PARIS to be able to return to Vancouver.   Well. They let me on the plane without a visa.  And I returned from Paris again in September 2016. Without a valid PR card. And again from the US in October 2016. And from Indochina in November 2016.   So that visa thing didn't seem to be enforced THAT stringently.

But I applied for a new PR card anyway.  In December 2016.   Of course, CIC is still sluggish, but I was not going to let the fact that they didn't manage to issue me a new PR Card in 30 days prevent me from flying to Cambodia.  When I check online on Feb. 3, the application is still being 'processed'.  For Fuck's sake, people, stop sitting there with your fat arse on your hands and do some work instead, eh?

So much for the background, now here is what happened in the last 2 days, starting at Phnom Penh International Airport:

The guy at the check-in desk actually goes to the length of telephoning the Canadian Embassy in Phnom Penh. They DO that these days, LOL. Just for an expired PR Card! He gives me a boarding pass for Hong Kong and tells me that I'll have to get the boarding pass for the 2nd flight there.  

This is when I know that I'm in trouble.  Because he didn't resolve anything.  Canadian rigor couldn't have prevented me from flying to Hong Kong in the first place.  So the phone call to the embassy didn't actually resolve ANYTHING, except get the problem out of the in-box of the Canadian embassy in Phnom Penh. Let the guys in Hong Kong deal with it.

Unfortunately that thought does not dawn on me until AFTER checking in my large backpack right through to Vancouver    But hey, at this time I don't really think they're being serious THIS time. 

When we arrive in Hong Kong, I already have made contingency plans.  Have Zu bring some food to Grandma.  Plan to where to stay in Hong Kong.  Plan to cancel my appointment at the GERMAN Consulate on Monday.  

And it turns out that my gut was right again.  They're NOT giving me a boarding pass, simply because my Permanent Resident Card is expired.

The funniest thing is the woman behind the counter.  She says with a tongue-in-cheek look "Oh, come on! You KNOW what Canada is like !"  to which I just sigh and reply with a big grin "I know exactly what Canada is like. That's why I'm happy to stay in Hong Kong".

Zu is still trying to come to terms with  what is happening but it's time to say good bye, because she is flying to Vancouver and I am NOT.  She is going through transit security and I'm going through immigration to enter Hong Kong.  At least Hong Kong will let me in even if Canada will not, LOL. 

So I'm marooned in Hong Kong.  No, actually, I am NOT.  There are OOODLES of countries I can travel to.  Vietnam, Cambodia, all of Europe, God knows where else. I can even travel to the US without any problems.  Just NOT to the country where I actually live.  
Countries I can travel to (OK, so CANADA just fell off the map)
It still does NOT really COMPUTE !  

Could be worse:  While public transit in Vancouver grinds to a halt because of snow, I finally get to hike the Dragon's Back on Hong Kong Island ;-)

Feb. 5: Now here is the funniest thing.  Remember Trump's travel ban for travelers from 7 Muslim countries?  A Seattle judge just overturned it and airlines are allowing those passengers to board planes again.   NO, I'm still NOT allowed though ;-)

Finding myself smoking OUTSIDE Hong Kong Airport instead of INSIDE the transit zone leaves me amused

Citizenship and Immigration of Canada  truly makes the Trump gang of idiots look like a brotherhood of logical Vulcans !

NOW, don't get me wrong, I assume that someone actually put a lot of thought into this. (personally, however, I think, their time would have been better spent by picking their nose or licking their superior's posterior)   

But if I was even just hopeful that all this bullshit would make a single mosque in Canada just a tiny bit safer from the attack of a deranged Canadian bigots and xenophobics, I wouldn't even have written this post.

But let's be realistic. That's not very likely is it, eh?

Because those 'DECENT' WHITE MIDDLE-CLASS TERRORISTS already live INSIDE Canada.

And yes, it is kind of sad to lose a second homeland.

A personal update:  I just came from the Visa Application Centre (after a sign at the Canadian Consulate finally informed me that the Consulate does NOT issue visas).

Processing time for an application for a Travel Document for stranded Landed Immigrants is FOUR WEEKS.   

They even want me to submit phone bills and the like to substantiated that I have been present long enough in Canada to not lose my PR status.

Does ANYONE have a brain pulse at CIC?  They only have to look at the stamps in my passport to see that I was present long enough.  And HOW THE FUCK am I supposed to get a hold of my phone bills (yes, they're still on paper)?

I just got approval for my ESTA application for the US of A.   

Took all of TWO HOURS.  
See what I mean, eh?

Flying to Seattle tomorrow to face the Canadian Border Fence on the land route


The check-in clerk for Delta doesn't trust me German passport (but the CONDITION !), so he checks with his supervisor whether he should allow me on the plane.  The supervisor apparently has not been infected with world-wide paranoia, because I am promptly handed a boarding pass !

The flight is actually one of the nicest flights I've been on.  I like Delta.  No nonsense. No announcements to NOT mingle in groups in front of the washrooms. None of that waking you just to check that your seat belt is on.  They even have very edible food !

Another HUGE surprise when I go through US immigration in Seattle.  I get to place my passport into the scanning receptacle of a MACHINE !   No one asks me where exactly I have been or whether I have a girl friend in Cambodia. What a relief !  

The human being checking my machine print-out only asks me whether I'm bringing food into the US, not why I have been to Cambodia 4 times in the last year.  

The machine & human take all of 4 minutes and I'm in the US of A.  Hard to believe after all the stuff the country I actually live in has subjected me.

Now what is that WHITE STUFF on the ground?

February 16

I've been back in Vancouver for a whole week.  I just checked the processing status of my PR card application, which was received by CIC on December 12.  In their own words, they started 'processing' the application on January 5.  So they have been 'processing' a 3 page application for over a month now.  WHAT exactly are they doing over there?
The only highlight and tiny sign of progress in my epic struggle with bureaucracy is the arrival of a declaration that I am not a Canadian citizen.  And this only took them TWO months, coincidentally the same amount of time it took in the days before all the records were computerized, LOL. The computer really is a blessing to humankind.  It lets them sit on their hands more often.

February 22.

I checked my PR card application status again today. Still processing. But apparently they sent me mail yesterday.  Not sure what they want, but I will find out soon.  Maybe they found out that the sidewalk in front of Grandma's house was not shoveled during my absence ?

February 24

The mail supposedly mailed by CIC still hasn't arrived.  To some it might be delightful to see with which efficiency life in Canada unfolds.  Personally, I find life is too short to waste it waiting for the glacial execution of various tasks by various government institutions.  Canada Post is always whining that very few people send letters anymore.  Well, given that by their own admission, the delivery standard time for a letter from Vancouver to Sidney mailed on a Monday is the next Monday, it is a surprise that there is anyone left.  Hello There!  Don't you think it's time to get your head out of your arse?

February 27.

I received the letter from the processing centre.  It only took one week ! Go Canada Go !  Seems I had accidentally mis-dated my application (the date above my signature was wrong).  I am to re-submit the corrected application.  It only took them 75 days to notice this and to inform me.  I am delighted at the level of service I am receiving from the well-paid public servants of this country.

March 10.
The required information went back to Nova Scotia by courier on February 28.
PR card application is still processing. Sigh.

to be continued .....

Monday, 6 February 2017

The other side of the Dragon ( Expat tales 2.0)

Today is the day.   I arrive at the Canadian Consulate in Hong Kong 5 minutes before opening time
People are lined up in the elevator hall.  Great.

I notice a sign

Yes, the Visa Centre is located somewhere completely different. Not just around the block but in a different part of town.   Brilliant.

There is NO line-up at the Visa Centre but the nice guy behind the glass window tells me that processing of my application would take at least 4 WEEKs.
'nough said?
I head back to my hotel to contemplate my situation.  

My application for an ESTA to travel to the US is approved after a processing time of less than 2 hours. 

2 hours vs 4 weeks !  That says it all.

Booking a flight to Seattle for tomorrow takes another 10 minutes.

The view from my window
So I'm flying to Seattle tomorrow !

See, once one has traveled a lot and has noticed how easy it is to travel around the world, it becomes REALLY HARD to put up with Bullshit.

On the other hand, if I was Tanya, the fabulous receptionist of my hotel from Macedonia, who is not allowed to fly to the US, I would have been stuck in Hong Kong for at least 4 weeks.  A quick survey: Whose credit card has enough room to pay upward of $100 per night for a hotel AND a new flight AND food for a month?   

It's Monday around noon and my plane leaves in 24 hours.  There must be something I could do ;-)

The bus stop that at the beginning of the Dragon's Back trail yesterday was not at sea level but about halfway between the latter and the top of the hill.  And I had noticed stairs going downhill from the road. And there were people climbing up those stairs  Could there be a beach at the bottom of those stairs?  

Within 40 minutes I am at exactly that spot and start walking down steep stairs (!). It's stairs all the way down and I try NOT to think about the way back up.

But it's easy not to think about that when I see the scenery down here.
Being used to tropical climate now, I quickly take off my shoes to dip my toes into the water.  BAD idea !  The water is FREEZING!  Hard to imagine that I sensed the temperature as luke warm the last two times I went into Hong Kong waters.  But that was in May !

I'm not the only one huffing and puffing up those stairs again, so seeing someone 50 meters above me stop and pee in the bushes is a welcome excuse to stop my climbing efforts.  Eventually I make it up there again and back to my hotel.
I've noticed these gangs of Lion Dancers being carted around town already in Siem Reap. To see them here again in front of a building makes me think that people pay them to bring good luck to the building for the next year ;-)  
No wonder so many young guys participate in this otherwise exhausting activity.