Mmmmm Macau!

Mmmmmmm….Macau. More about the country/Special Economic Region aka Casino later. First, on to the food!

DSCN7990
DSCN7988DSCN7989

As a former colony of Portugal , the European influences are obvious. Egg Tart meet Mouth.

DSCN8015

Going with the colonial theme we can sneak some Brazilian cuisine in there. Meat anyone?

DSCN8021
DSCN8081
This simple pork on bread with Siracha is simple but great. These things along with Egg Tarts are ubiquitous in Macau.

DSCN8068DSCN8066DSCN8064DSCN8067

There exists a Thai-town in Macau , this restaurant had inexpensive , amazing , eats , prepared by a crew of authentic Thais. Sa-wat-dee! We were exhausted from wandering around town by this point . It was amazing to simply sit in air-conditioning, eat spicy food , and drink Beer Chang with Thai condensed milk coffee.

DSCN8080DSCN8061

There are also ample opportunities for grabbing fresh veggies. Also , check out that behemoth winter squash!

Yummy!

Hong Kong Round Two

Wow! Sorry everyone. I’ve been back from my trip for 5 days now but uploading problems on wordpress/facebook have been plaguing me. Perhaps this has something to do with the Communist Party power change that was going on earlier this week. Coincidence? Most likely not.

Last month, I had the opportunity to meet Hong Kong via a dual overnight layover on the way to/from Vietnam. This month I had a chance to get to know her glorious self a little bit better while simultaneously getting caught up with my mountain trekking Uncle and Cousin. Score!
I just took the better part of last week off and spent some time in Hong Kong with a day side trip to Macau! This trip was also on the Uncle’s (significantly more impressive than mine) budget. Bye bye Chungking Mansions and 30HKD breakfasts. Hello gourmet food , taxis, and a nice hotel. YES!

This trip gave me more time to see the places I learned about in the fantastic novel , Noble House, by James Clavell. If you haven’t checked this author out before , proceed to do so. Noble House is a massive , more than 1000 page epic tome that takes place in 1960’s Hong Kong. It has multiple storylines intertwining , dozens of characters, and features some of the Taipans 大班 (bosses) of massive trading companies warring it out with each other all while dealing with spies , movie stars, and pirates. It’s some heavy sh*t.

As I was taking the windy road up to Hong Kong’s highest point (Victoria Peak) I could just imagine Ian Dunross (Main character from Noble House) gunning his high-powered sports car up the dangerously curving roads, I could envision the battle between developers to build the tallest buildings with the best views of Central consequently sparking up feuds with new apartments blocking the view from the older multimillionaire dollar apartments , I could see the fishing junks moored in Aberdeen waiting out the latest typhoon. I was transported to the real life settings of the book only 50 years later and 50 years more advanced. Hong Kong of now is a whole new beast. Even though Shanghai has three times the population , it feels small in comparison with Hong Kong. Hong Kong is packed into a small area resulting in a craze to build everything taller and closer together. I’ve never been in an environment that felt so urban.

This trip I revisited some of the biggies that I went to during my quick layovers . I had to show the Uncle and Cousin the classic Victoria Peak , Hong Kong skyline at night , and the Star Ferry trip across the harbor. I also got to use the extended time to check out new places in the city and make a trip over charming Macau.

Some of the highlights include :

a fortune-telling in the crowded Temple Street Night Market

betting on the horse races in Happy Valley

matching an insane Gangnam style dance competition in between betting on horses

learning Obama won the U.S presidency by reading the traditional characters on a newspaper in the morning

checking out the beautiful Wong Tai Sin temple and Hau Tin temple

seeing the touristy but slick night city skyline dance of the stars

and the food , oh my the God the food!
(but this is for a totally separate post)

and most importantly , catching up with my relatives!

I’m definitely not done with Hong Kong . I’ve fallen quite hard for the city and look forward to return visits in order to see more of it. I really want to head out to the out-of-the-way places : the little fishing villages on separate islands , the working class neighborhoods of Kowloon , and the functional monasteries all come to mind. The big Buddha on Lantau island has also been eluding me! I’ll be back Hong Kong!

Dear Shanghai

Babe,

I’m sorry to have to tell you this , but something’s wrong. Something’s changed. It’s not me. It’s you. Remember those days we used to lounge in Fuxing park , and those nights we passed sitting outside Shanghai Brewery? What happened to us? We’d always be down to meet up. These days we haven’t been seeing each other much. You’ve turned rather frigid towards me. All you want me to do is watch DVDs. Gone are the days of carefree strolling . All we have now is frightening lack of enthuastism for being seen in public together. I miss the nights of laying , sweating like a pig in the bed, drained from what you did to me all day! We’d do our thing , sweat , shower , and repeat like a washing machine on an endless cycle. I just wanna be with you , but you’re turning me away! Why , why , are you doing this to me?

Well, enough is enough. I’m leaving. I’ve found a new girl. She’s fun and hotter than you. 11 degrees Celsius hotter than you to be exact.
Her name is Hong Kong , and I’m out. Call me in the spring. Peace.

It’s time to head off to Hong Kong once again! This time longer than just a layover. Also a brutal re-tease of the weather I’m missing. October 22 was great in Shanghai. I had shorts , sandals , and the sun was nice on my skin. Perfect weather. I thought perhaps this was the year that the cold doesn’t come. Like always , I’m fooled. Since then it’s turned to blanket , hoodie, and pants weather. I fear the next months when it’s nearly impossible to feel truly warm. Shanghai’s is a humid cold. A dampness that chills down to the bone. Lack of good heating in homes and work is a killer. Try as hard as you like , but even after the 5th cup of scalding tea you can’t quite get rid of that lingering cold in the marrow of your bones. I’m only delaying the inevitable with my trip to Hong Kong , but oh well.

Tomorrow I’m off for the mini-family reunion with my mountain climbing (just got into HK from Nepal) Uncle and Cousin! Whoo hooo!

The Places You’ll Go , Mr.Book.

Cruising down the idyllic palm tree lined hallway with various motorbikes and heavy pick-up trucks screeching their horns at maximum decibel levels , playing deadly games of chicken , in between Halong Bay and Hanoi, I was somehow reading my book amidst the chaos. I guess after long enough in Asia , I’ve learned how to cope the the death races on the road. As long as it’s not driving , I’m alright with it. Anyways , as I was reading , I came across a receipt in the book.

Books-A-Million
2105 Levis Commons Blvd.
Perrysburg, OH

$3.00 Sub Total
+ .20 Tax
$3.20 Total

That’s funny enough seeing as how I bought it at

Movie Feast
288 Taikang Rd.
Shanghai , China

30CN¥

but upon further inspection of the book it is revealed that this book started out at

The Free Library of Philadelphia
Lovett Memorial No 43
6945 Germantown Avenue
Philadelphia , PA

Tucked on the final page is a hastily scrawled illegible signature , dated 5-30-2008. Who is this mystery person?

Who transported you book? Was it someone I know from my native state of Ohio?

(Oddly enough Google Maps told me how to get from the USA to Tianzifang , Shanghai , China with the vaguely nebulous “traverse the pacific ocean , but didn’t know how to get from Shanghai to Hanoi.)

This book is well-traveled and appropriately enough as it has a Vietnamese author and features short stories taking place in locations such as : Columbia , Vietnam , Tehran , New York City , and Australia.

And where will you go ?

I had a chance to trade it in at the amazing

Hanoi Bookworm
44 Chau Long St
Hanoi , Vietnam

but something kept me from doing it. I wanted to save it and read it again.
One day though , she’ll get set free , and she’ll be free to roam once more.

Welcome Back! Now F*** Off!

The end of a trip is always a sad time, but it feels nice to get home. As I was standing in the “Foreigner” line for immigrations to China ( I like the Hong Kong “Visitors” line better) , I was just imagining how nice it would be to scrub my grubby self off in my tiny shower back in my pad. Alas , this was not to be.

Waiting at the baggage carousel , and waiting , and waiting , I was at last discouraged when the final remaining passenger scooped up his bag and left.

Going over to the lost baggage claims desk , I was welcomed back to China with its amazing (lack of) customer service. Sometimes service in the land of 1.3 billion is lacking. The attitude becomes that of “there are 1,299,999,999 other people available , get lost”.

Upon handing the worker behind the counter my baggage claim slip , the first thing I was informed was “China Eastern is not responsible for your loss and we will not give you any compensation”. Wow. Right off the bat , I was hit with that little gem. No desire to help , only to cover their tracks.

Back in Hanoi , I had a Hong Kong Airlines flight to Hong Kong , an overnight in Hong Kong , and a following day Hong Kong Airlines flight operated by China Eastern to Shanghai. In Hanoi , at check-in, the worker asked me if I wanted my bag to go to Hong Kong , and then I would collect it and have to re-check it the next day or if I wanted the bag to go straight to Shanghai. The latter was optimal , saving me time , and freeing myself from lugging the bag around Hong Kong.

After explaining the situation to the China Eastern lost baggage claims, they told me that this was “impossible” , that the bag had to be picked up in Hong Kong by myself. Upon asking her to call Hong Kong Airlines and check if the bag was in their system , she told me they didn’t have the phone number. She was clearly not willing to look the number up or help in any manner.

Trekking back home from the airport , I was in a bad mood. You see, all my personal hygiene things were in the bag. Hot shower with shampoo and soap = no go. (And I spent almost all my cash on the trip , I needed food money)

Five years ago when I was headed to Germany from the U.S , I had a hectic shuffling about involving delayed flights , missed connections, and lost luggage. In Germany , Lufthansa , which was the airline I was switched to , gave me 50 Euros , a fresh change of clothes , all the essential toiletrries I would need, and delivery of my bag the next day with no hassle, and they weren’t even the ones who misplaced my luggage! Now that is customer service.

It took us the next day of calling China Eastern and harrassing them to get my bag. China Eastern was having no part of bearing the responsibilty , and no part in helping me to get my bag. I didn’t ask for compensation , only my things. ( Which included my pair of shoes). They kept saying to call Hong Kong Airlines , yelled at my girlfriend , refused to have any responsibility, and even hung up on her.

We called Hong Kong Airlines , they profusely apologized , said China Eastern is crazy for their behavior , said since China Eastern was handling the flight and since it was the last connecting flight China Eastern was indeed resonsible for getting me my bag. They promised to take care of things and help us out.

Fast forward a bit and China Eastern calls us and tells us to come all the way back to Pudong Airport to pick the bag up. My girlfriend says hell no , China Eastern says they won’t spend a penny on us , and fighting ensues. Eventually we get them to say they will deliver. The delivery guy calls us and asks us if it’s okay to bring the bag tomorrow since he has NO MONEY to get transport into the city. What kind of joke is this? We tell him he works for a delivery company and he should get some money. ( We believe he just didn’t want to come since it was nearly 8pm)

At least we got the bag back , and in 24 hours but come on! Customer service fail. Pity for China Eastern as their pilots and stewardess are great (we even got Haagan Daazs ice-cream!)

Alright enough moaning and complaining. Next updates will be all about the trip + photos!

Building Up a Superiority Complex

With China’s changing economic situation and the influx of wealth that has hit the country like a bomb in the last thirty years has come a steadily building superiority complex.

With Monday’s departure for Vietnam looming ahead , various people have asked me about my plans for the Communist party’s week-long bash. My answer like usual is to get out of China. The sheer brilliance of giving almost everyone in the nation’s most populous country time off equals an insane migration of people and massive crowds. However , when I tell them where I’m going , they seem to be less than impressed. Keep in mind that these people aren’t China’s wealthy. They make around a little less than $500 USD a month.

My Co-workers.
Me – I’m going to Vietnam!
C (Co-workers) Vietnam? It’s too dirty!
IMH ( In my head) And China isn’t dirty? The newly found wealth in the country is pretty much the direct result of the sacrifice of the environment.

My girlfriend’s brother.

GFB – You’re going to Vietnam? Vietnam doesn’t have any fun places!
Me- Hanoi’s eclectic old french quarter , Halong Bay , hiking in Sapa , beautiful remote beaches , the upcoming Phu Quoc island resort center.
GFB – China has beaches too! Go to Sanya ( on China’s tropical Hainan island)
Me- What ? With the 5,000,000 rich people who descend on the island every year? With the full hotels and the quadrupled prices? Anyways, I enjoy the experience of going to a different country with different languages , architecture , and culture.
GFB – CHINA!

(Chinese beach courtesy of Chinatoday.com)

My girlfriend’s co-workers.

While my co-workers are nice to me for the most part , my girlfriend works in an extremely competitive office and she is on the low ranking side of things. These people are mean to her.

GF- I’m going to Vietnam!
GFC – HAHAHAHA , POOR YOU! YOU CAN ONLY AFFORD TO STAY IN POOR ASIA. TALK TO ME WHEN YOU GO TO EUROPE.
GF (Angry but trying not to show it) – Well ,where are you going?
GFC – Staying in Shanghai .

Now China , it’s best to remember that you have more peasants than the entire population of Europe. Just because there is an (admittedly) strong elite with vast amounts of wealth , and you have a huge military doesn’t make you number 1.Living in a relatively expensive city like Shanghai with a relatively low wage doesn’t make you superior to the Vietnamese who have a low wage but live in relatively cheap Hanoi.

Let’s quit with the superiority and enjoy the holiday!

Travel Plan – Vietnam

With my tickets booked for Vietnam , I’m getting ready to go! Ideally I would spend a good year or two there but unfortunately it seems like things don’t work that way , and I’m left with a mere week. *Sigh*

Waiting too long to buy tickets and getting shell-shocked at ticket prices has left with me with pretty crap tickets. I would love to fly straight in and waste no time but am left with two overnight stays in Hong Kong. I haven’t been to HK so this is actually awesome. Otherwise I would be groaning about the waste of time. However, I also have tickets in November to HK to see my uncle and cousin. Ah well, this is how life works. It’s still good because my girlfriend gets to stop in Hong Kong as well. Chinese get a few days access to Hong Kong visa free if they have an onward ticket.

So here is the plan:

October 1st : Leave Shanghai at 7:00pm and fly to Hong Kong.
October 2nd : See as much of Hong Kong as we can. See the famous skyline and take a trip up to Victoria Peak , leave Hong Kong at 5:40pm and arrive in Hanoi 7:40pm.
October 3rd : Explore Hanoi.
October 4th : Leaving early morning to Halong Bay.
October 5th : Early morning leave for Hanoi and take the soonest bus possible for the non-touristy rural town of Ninh Binh.
October 6th : River rides and temple exploring in Ninh Binh.
October 7th : 2 hour bus ride back to Hanoi, do more things in the city , leave at 7pm on a flight to Hong Kong. Sleep in the ghetto ChungKing Mansions.
October 8th : Noon departure for Shanghai , get in around 2:45 pm and chill the rest of the requested off and pay-free day.
October 9th : 7:20 am wake up and back to reality.

Things we are really looking forward to :

Hanoi – FOOD FOOD FOOD , exploring The Old French Quarter , enjoying a coffee and baguette breakfast in one of Hanoi’s numerous cafes, Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum , walking around Haon Kiem Lake, seeing the beautiful Temple of Literature , drinking the local Bia Hoi microbrews, and catching a water puppet show.

Halong Bay – Breathtaking karst mountains rising out of the sea , kayaking trip , cave exploration , and spending the night on a boat in the middle of the bay.

Ninh Binh – Billed as a Halong bay set amongst the rice paddies. Taking a river cruise with the karst mountains towering over head , sampling the local specialty ; goat , exploring Bich Dong Pagoda , and seeing the local caves.

Next time around I’ll have to make a trip to the South and see the beautiful beaches , Ho Chi Minh city, and maybe try to work my up the coast. (Vietnam stretches quite the distance south to north , no?)

Getting Out of China for the National Holiday Hassle

With October 1st (China’s national week-long golden holiday) rapidly approaching , it was time to buy flight tickets two months ago.

I’ve been stuck in the country since February’s Cambodia trip ,and my poor blue backpack is moaning from the closet , various Lonely Planet guidebooks are constantly rattling the bookshelves, and I’ve got an intense itch in my soul (maybe I should get that checked out?) . I want  need to get out on the road. Sure there are lots of places within China that I need to see still but the genius of giving everyone in the most populous nation of Earth time off at the same time is pure chaos. Forget trying to travel in China. I can see lines and experience a crowd jostling for position almost anytime I like. The only problem with trying to get out of China is the airlines are wise , and prices skyrocket accordingly.

It’s also a bit harder for me to travel now since I can’t leave the Chinese girlfriend back in the mainland. For those of us with coveted American , fancy European Union, and ASEAN passports , we can easily forget how hard it is for nationals of less prosperous countries to get around.

Our original intentions were for a week-long trip to Taiwan , starting from Taipei and working our way south to visit my American friend doing the whole TEFL thing in Tainan. China considers Taiwan a part of it , right? Should be easy for Chinese to visit , right? Get ready for it …… WRONG!

First up we would have to visit the city of Nanjing where my girlfriend’s household registration permit is stored at her university. The university is closed on the weekends so this entails taking Friday off. The household registration permit must be taken to the Entry Exit Administration to receive a travel to Taiwan permit. This is no big deal , a bit of a hassle but easily done. However, then an Taiwan entry permit must be applied for with a tour group. If you go with a tour group this isn’t so hard but will still cost nearly $200 USD. Now I’m not a fan of tour groups and I despise Chinese tour groups. I do not want to crowd in a bus with a bunch of spitting , smoking , loud middle-aged people , herded off the bus , and given 2 minutes to snap some photos before being forced back onto the bus to go “see” another site. I want to travel at my own pace , do my own things , make my own itinerary , and see my friends.

Tour companies can, however, get a permit for a solo Chinese traveler to visit Taiwan. With fingers crossed we began the process of trying to find out some information. Some tour agencies in Shanghai turned us down saying since my girlfriend’s household registration is in Nanjing we would have to use a Nanjing based company. Hmm , ok. Calling Nanjing tour companies left us devastated as we would have to prove my girlfriend makes 120,000 rmb / year ( nowhere close) , showing proof of household ownership (hah!) , and/or having 50,000 rmb in a bank account that will be frozen until her return to the mainland (no way).

We put Taiwan plans out of our minds. Impossible. Now the mad scramble to find a destination began.

“Holy Sh**!” ” All the tickets are in the $600-900 range for each round trip ticket to most of Asian destinations. Even Manila , which I’ve paid $380 roundtrip was hitting $650. One diamond shining in the rough was a roundtrip to Seoul , South Korea at $350.

Guess what the problem is?

Uh-oh developed wealthy country makes it tough for her to get a visa. It seemed actually possible (unlike Taiwan) but we weren’t guaranteed the visa. We needed to buy a ticket somewhere now or else we weren’t going anywhere.

Whoa awesome deal (compared to other places during October 1st Holiday) popping up on Orbitz , $559 to Bangkok! Let’s do it!

*Click Book Flight*

Screen flashes back ” Sorry due increased demand at this time these seats are not currently available.” “This current flight is now $800”.

We tried place after place , combination after combination of different departure times , and finally settled on a $600 flight to Hanoi, Vietnam. I wait too long every single Chinese holiday and each time have chosen my destination based on the least expensive ticket. In order for this to be the least expensive ticket , it’s usually the most inconvenient , sometimes downright awful , combinations of flight times. For example , we arrive in Hong Kong at my 9:40 pm on the 1st and make the connecting flight to Vietnam at 4:00 pm on the 2nd. Giving us an 18 hour lay-over in Hong Kong. This isn’t so bad as it gives us a chance to see HK a little bit (both have never been) but staying the night in Hong Kong adds up. Hostel beds are like $20-30 a piece at the cheap , tiny , not so nice places in ChungKing Mansions. A place noted for having drug dealers , prostitutes , being the base of shady things for Hong Kong , and if that isn’t bad enough is also a deathtrap if case of fire. Score! On the way back from Vietnam we will make another stop over in HK from 1 am-ish the night of October 8th until 12 noon. Enough time to make it to ChungKing Mansions , sleep , and make it back to the airport to undergo security checks and board our flight.

But you know what? I don’t care. I’m going to Vietnam in a month and a half! Wooo hooo!

We don’t have our visas yet but they are easily obtainable from the Vietnamese Consulate in Shanghai , take 4 days to process , and hit the wallet a bit hard at 400rmb a pop.

Looks like it’s time for me to tighten the belt up a few notches , quit buying pricey imported beers , and eat vegetable soup for a while to afford this trip. ( Good thing DVDs are so cheap here)

Bring it on ‘Nam!

Shanghainese Point of Pride

Whenever I’m traveling in other places in Asia ( I wish I were doing that now but alas this is just a memory from before) it’s always Shanghai that is mentioned. Chinese restaurants are named after Shanghai , clubs looking to be cool and hip name themselves after Shanghai , even guesthouses adopt the Shanghai moniker. It  always seems to be that way. I’ve never seen a Beijing guesthouse , or Xi’An Terracotta Warrior restaurant , or even a Hong Kong club. Why Shanghai? I guess it’s Shanghai’s meteoric rise from a fishing village to the finance capital of mainland China. Beijing has thousands of years of history and was the seat of the Emperor for long periods in Chinese history but I guess a club is cool only if named after Shanghai. In the sense of a financial modern capital it makes more sense for people to use the Hong Kong name but Shanghai it is. Anyways, its another point of pride for Shanghai! Has anyone seen any places named after a Chinese non-Shanghai place ?

These pics are from the Philippines and Cambodia. Sagada and Phnom Penh respectively.

 

Sihanoukville and Monkey Island

In the quest for the beach , Sihanoukville was the next stop after Phnom Penh. Sihanoukville is a small place without the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh and without the history of Angkor. This town was carved out of the jungle in the 1950’s after Cambodia gained its independence from France. The ruling prince of the country was named Sihanouk hence the name Sihanoukville. The location was perfect for Cambodia’s first deep-sea port. Access to the Gulf of Thailand facilitated trade and helped to build up the economy. The beaches and business money attracted the rich and elite to Cambodia. That is until the Khmer Rouge decided that having money was a retarded idea and that everyone should collectively grow rice that the party leadership would then sell to buy more guns while everyone starved. Woo hooo! The 7 story Independence hotel was subsequently used for target practice and the beaches remained empty. Empty until the 90’s when the bandits along the road were eliminated and tourism started bringing back cash into the country. Now construction is booming in the city and new hotels are sprouting up everywhere. With the good aspects of tourism comes the bad as well. Tuk-tuk drivers have a big price collusion scheme going on ($15 to Otres Beach?!?) and you can see the common examples of Westerners behaving badly. C’mon dude!, that girl is half your age and 1/3 the weight!!!

I spent my entire time on Otres Beach and loved every moment. There are several different beaches that you can take a tuk-tuk in-between but Otres was just the place for me. The entire beach is lined with guesthouses , and some chill out restaurant/bars. There is also a dive shop and little stores with everything one needs (except an ATM). All accommodation was fully booked here during Chinese New Year so definitely book ahead during peak travel times. There are more expensive beach bungalows as well as dorm style lofts. I really recommend Mushroom Point. Cozy , intimate, little bungalows with an awesome hammock lined common/bar area orientated towards a TV. Wake up , get a nice breakfast , and then walk 30 seconds to the beach. Swim for a bit and then have a few $1 beers. When we went to check-in the guy working at the bar was smoking a joint. He gave us our key and led us to the bungalow all with joint in hand. I knew that this would be a chill place. One day on a stroll towards the end of the beach we encountered a big , lit-up sign proclaiming Joints $1.50 , Happy Pizza , and at the bottom of the sign , All You Can Eat Indian Food. I guess working your way down the menu leads to Indian Buffet! Haha.

While the beaches are nice they don’t match up to some of the nicer beaches in South East Asia. The Philippines had the palm tree white beach perfection that I’m talking about. Cambodia does have this though and it just takes a 2 hour boat ride from the port of Sihanoukville to the islands in the Gulf of Thailand. I picked out Koh Rong (Monkey Island) for the next spot. We took an afternoon boat over to experience the pure island tropical bliss.

Monkey Island is a small island with a few guesthouses and kilometers of amazing beach. My accommodations got a little messed up but instead of the $20 a night bungalow we scored a private room for $5 a night. It seems like the island is being capitalized on now. New guesthouses are being built on the beaches alongside the local fishermens houses. The fishermen and sea all around lead to awesome seafood. Fresh squid and fish for super cheap abound on the island and I took full advantage of this. This island is amazing and I didn’t even get to see what is claimed to be the best beach on the island. It was closed off for the filming of French Survivor while I was there!

The best part was yet to come though.

At 2am after a little bit of drinking and hanging out partially with the non-English speaking Russians (that’s always fun) the cool Germans I had been hanging with for a bit said to me , ” Have you jumped into the water yet? It’s life changing.” “Let’s go”. This was after hearing a very drunken Russian lady saying “Stars above and stars below!!”. Hmmm , what was in store?

We jumped off the main pier on the island , the one nearby to all of the guesthouses, and landed in A Starry Night by Van Gogh. Every single movement of my body triggered an explosion of comets in the water. Bio-luminescent algae floats in all these waters and when disturbed they light up fireflies. I looked up at the sky free of light pollution with hundreds of glimmering stars and out of my downward peripheral vision I caught dozens of glimmering stars in the water completely surrounding my body and bursting forth after every kick off leg and movement of arm. I was completely lost in this moment. Absolutely incredible.

I did not want to leave this beautiful place and the Germans I met there had just found jobs in guesthouses and were planning on staying 6 months. Arghhhh soo jealous!! For me it was time to take Aimee back to Phnom Penh to catch her flight back to China while I was heading to Siem Reap. Enjoy the photos!