-Phnom Penh, Cambodia-

I have been putting off this next entry for a while now, and having happened across a .40$ per hour internet cafe in the heat of the mid day sun, I have decided to write it and upload some new pictures. I started out in Siem Reap, Cambodia having taken an hour long flight from Pakse, Laos. I spent 4 days in Siem Reap exploring the temples at Angkor. They were quite amazing, but while looking up at the exquisite murals and stone carvings, I could not imagine the people who used these stone structures. I did not really understand or know anything about the Khmer people who made them, which lead to a rather ambivalent attitude towards the sight of all the temples I was seeing. I bought a three day pass, which allowed my moto driver to take me to lots of temples. By the time we got around to Angkor Wat on the third day I had seen enough and am afraid that maybe I didn't appreciate it as much as I should have. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my time exploring Angkor and Siem Reap.

I left and made a stop in Battambang, which was pretty much a worthless spot. One incident of note from Battambang though. After having searched high and low for a sandwich from a street vendor I finally found one, which served me up Spam I think. I bought two sandwiches, two fruit shakes and went back to my room to settle onto my bed in front of the TV which was showing non stop football (soccer). I was very content, when all of a sudden, from my fourth floor window I heard a screech and a women scream. I pulled back the sliding screen and looked out onto the street to see two men laying motionless on the pavement, one sprawled out face down, the other trapped under his moto. I could see one man was bleeding from his head while someone pulled him out. He was taken away on another moto, having been hastily pulled out from under his bike, unconscious or dead, while the other just lay in the street, probably dead, his moto 15 feet away. A semi-circle formed around the man, no one approaching until the police came. They looked at him for two seconds before picking him up by the arms and legs and literally throwing him into the back of the police van like a garbage man would throw a heavy bag of trash in to his truck before driving away. The sirens were off. It certainly dampened my mood for the rest of the night.

Next day I headed to Phnom Penh. What a city this place is. There is so much I could write about and analyze, but I will keep it to a minimum. There is a confluence of history, politics, poverty, corruption, violence, and culture that form this city (and the whole country too) and give it a certain je ne sais quoi. There is a darkness here that walks the street around you, and I am sure can be found with only a slight bit of exploration and conversation. Former Khmer Rouge soldiers, who helped commit mass murder no doubt smile at me everyday and ask if I want a tuk-tuk ride (a taxi). Last night I had a man approach me and offer much harder drugs than the typical marijuana and hash peddlers known to hang around the backpacker spots all over Asia. And the most disturbing thing for me is to see all the sex tourists that are here in Phnom Penh. All over this city, pathetic men, young and old, are here to take advantage of the sex industry in Cambodia. In Southeast Asia, the sex industry has existed and has been a part of the culture long before any white man set foot here, so condemn the industry or their local customs is not my aim; Cambodian men visit 'the disco' too. I am condemning the losers who come here to take advantage of it. Phnom Penh is filled with westerners who are scumbags in their own country and come to Cambodia because here they can be somebody and not have to deal with any consequences or responsibilities. The country of Cambodia is an escape for lots of people, whether Cambodian or Westerner, and for that reason I cannot quite make my mind up on my opinion of this place. The air is different here than any place I have been so far.

And I have not even touched the whole war part of the equation. I have been reading a lot about how the Vietnam War spilled over to Cambodia and how the Khmer Rouge came into power, and what atrocities they committed. I visited The Killing Fields and S-21, and read books about both of them. I have seen the lowest possible denominator that humanity could move to the last few days. It could be this heavy reading and extremely violent images and places that I have been immersing myself in has led to this pessimistic view of Phnom Penh and Cambodia. I am definitely ready to move back into Thailand, to hit the beaches and do sunbathing and scuba diving.

Some other updates, I did not get into grad school at U of Washington, so my plans for moving up to Seattle this fall have been changed drastically. I have formed multiple contingency plans in my head that now have a chance to be acted upon. There are still many more countries I have yet to visit. Also, I bought a plane ticket that will get me half-way home to The States. On June 3rd I will be flying from Kuala Lumpur to Paris. I am quite excited to be able to go to Paris and think it will be a good way to wrap up my trip. How I am going to get from Paris to Minnesota is another matter to save for another day.