Trip and Surf Journal: Fri 5.31 (no surf — Phnom Penh Day 2)

Luol Sleng (Genocide Museum / S-21), National Palace and Museum, Parks, Wats, Riverside, HO!

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We are in Phnom Penh (PP) for only one full day so we make it big.  Not everything I want to see is stoke for the family so I head out early on a solo morning mission that reveals a pretty awesome city, really.  Parks and river and boulevards and cafes and buildings and monument and wat and repeat in this area it’s pretty cool.  I jump on the back of a moto for a bone and boom am at Luol Sleng like that for a $1 and am reminded at how much “easier” travel is on the solo or adult couple tip.  I wouldn’t trade what I have and am doing overall for anything but in 4 hours I probably see more for half the price of 4 peeps including little kids (mine).  They can’t jump on the back of a moto/taxi! (or can they :).  I roll w/ the kids tomorrow morning and Megan gets a similar stoke. Cool.

S-21 is stark and gloomy and spooky.  It is moving.  I won’t put pics in the post from “inside” but there are some pretty graphic exhibits and sights in the flickr stream.  Think, killing fields. It is moving and real.  I make it back to the national museum which is cool as well (no photos allowed).  Fills in and connects some of the Angkor area experience and overall history of the zone.  It should be in Siem Reap, but that is more of a commentary on the series of exploitive goons that have wreaked havoc on this place than anything else.  That is what sucks about PP in general, smells like gangsta, it is. Also about 5% as cool as the actual temples/ruins we’ve seen, IMO.

So, I’m not at all surprised the biggest market is referred to as “Russian Market”.  The Russia/Cambo connection is insane.  Put Russian engineering and gangters and Cambo ingenuity together and a shared gangster/survival mentality together and things start making a lot of sense.  The market is rad for all of us, if not melting in the afternoon.  One of the coolest areas to me is the motorbike zone — there is no such thing as a “junkyard” here — everything is already stripped and organized in amazing fashion at the component level . . . you could build whatever from scratch your own frankemoto if you want — and they have!

Our evening program is rained on a little unfortunately but we plow through and the kids go bannanas on the riverfront public cardio equipment.  Aili has moved into a different realm physically in the last 3 months here which is pretty col.  She is not at the level of locals who run down a 2 inch bamboo railing for giggles at 3 years old but I can see the adaptation she is making, it is amazing.  For her to “survive” the streets or beaches or whatever she is on point and it is challenging and I can see the adaptation and development.  She is so much more kinetically aware . . . environment, always.

Trip and Surf Journal: Thu 5.30 (no surf — Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh)

Gansta’ / Extortion nation.  Running from cops.  Camry.  Cell Block D.  Frontin’. Let’s roll, w/ a smile. All in a Cambo day.

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Welcome to Cell Block D!

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We’ve lined up things to get to PP (Phnom Penh) via the “Fancy Guesthouse” we are staying at there, also lined up.  As always in Cambo, sort of.  Directional I like to call it.  Private taxi only $10 more than doing the whole shuttle/bus/thing-age and we decide we’ll do it again given the guy is hired by our hotel and etc., etc. . . . but in an insane way we are learning it is actually SAFER to travel here by bus, preferably big bus.  The calc is nuts.  Decide where you are going to spend your stress chips and risk chips.  Optimize for the following?: road safety, personal/family/kid safety, having your clothes bags stolen/lost/robbed (never the goods, which are strapped to me and will be stolen at the point I deem more risk to fam i.e. guns/knives/gangs/etc.), hassle of getting to hotel / from hotel to transport, straight $$$, etc.  The crazy thing is of course w/ the fam I would pay some crazy premium to know I was going to be picked up at where I am and dropped off at where I’m going and we will be safe and our stuff will be safe and what not — but that crazy secure option is really, really hard to find here.  It’s called an airplane I think.  Or a bus.  But more on that to come, we are in another camobodian taxi (i.e. camry w/ a dude).

Enough foreshadowing of the shadows to come.  The morning is rad.  The kids and I are up at 6 if not sooner — local families at 4:45 just doing there thing and making noise enough.  Amazing morning, calm.  We build sand castles and I hit a beach run/walk/etc.  Of course transcendental moments are not captured at all because I don’t roll w/ gear/camera/money here in most cases when I am open to attack/mugging . . . but the trip is rad and also of course a few packs of questionable dogs get spicy and suck but whatevs.

I ride the bike into town to finish the music transaction.  Crazy due diligence and things seem (and are) right wrt to the music and 500MB HD.  Awesome!  I run a few more town errands getting water and food for the crew for the trip to PP and putting petrol in the rented bike and what not.  Suddenly boom the cops are trying to flag me down a guy on foot.  I pull the “I don’t see you I am headchecking an changing lanes” move and blow by him there is no way w/ $$$ jobs gear on my back I am getting levered.  Let the games and race begin.  Nobody is chasing.  For now, cool.  But he has the license plate.  The rental cats have my passport.  Not good. Of course they know each other.

So I race to get the bike back/my passport back before the cops can make trouble.  I dont’ crash on the 10k course back through whack roads and mud/dirt and whatevs.  Not gonna lie, having fun :)  Adventure DNA is on full tilt.

I chill on the return zone hey it’s all good just dropping the bike right . . . many layers later, questions and calls and kooking around w/ help from my “embassy”/”godfather” (i.e. the locals I’ve deemed have the most juice and power and I’ve spent the most money with and personal connections esp leveraging kids where they flip from “I am going to hose this guy w/ kids” vs.  “I love this guy w/ kids/have extra sympathy”) . . . I get my passport and sigh.

Next, final killer coffee from my fav cafe (learn/watch the grounds/brewing process), ocean and de-sand and dry as much as possible and hey our taxi is here.  Smiles and goodbyes and away we go.

The first sucky part was when the guy pulls into get LPG and has no money.  Wants $20.  Like if we don’t drop $20 on fuel we don’t get to PP.  We are in the middle of nowhere and if this guy makes trouble and kicks our crew out we are hosed.  Must trust and smile and roll w/ it.  Record transactions (yeah! vs. a gun) and whatever away we go.  I put the $20 in the gas guys hands and watch the pump and whatever.  Good times, on point.  Correct your mindset my man, not that is has not been already corrected vs. some soft ass nations you have been in.

So we roll, into PP.  Let the games begin. Driver indicates he has no idea where we are going.  Of course, you want to take us to a place that will pay you commission   Or do you really not know?  You were hired by the guy who owns the place we are staying at!  Amazing.  Caught in a crossfire of incentives.

Chill.  That is the #1 rule.  We have time.  Always.  Give me publicity and time.  I will get what is fair and right.  Smiles, chilling.  Calling our hotel.  Insane — the owner of the hotel is telling me the taxi he hired to bring me to his hotel is “f***ing crazy”, good times. We are grinding through PP in crazy traffic, the taxi dude is trying to dump us at every hotel/guesthouse/etc. he sees (so he gets a commission?), our guy doesn’t pay commissions and we are in the middle of the double cross . . . I play dumb touron and contiually just bring up the maps I have an point and call and chat and shrug and go hawk zone on the street signs and tell the guy where to go and this is my biggest win just doing the math and logistic and figuring out where I am.  Very quickly you  are put into a camp of “I will take advantage of this guy/family/etc.” or “This guy knows what is up and is fair and it would be more sucky for me to grind him vs. just doing what is fair”.

Amazingly, I guess, we (I mean I) actually find the spot because PP has enough street signs and maybe its like blind squirrel finds nut I have no ideal but we find it, pay the rest of the fare (the cabbie is pissed I didn’t fall for his “pay me the full fare even though I made you pay for $20 of petrol that was supposed be included”)  So yeah, it really getting old to have a smile on my face while all are attempting to jam and lever me w/ my family.  I am not competing. Safety and services at fair price is awesome.  The brutal thing is that the former (safety) is consistently levered at the expense of the latter (Price).

Extortion.  Is what it is. Sorry, it sucks in any language and on any continent.  And if you are being extorted you can’t focus on what is good and awesome around you.  Sucks.

The peeps at Fancy are rad, but it sucks.  Not their fault, but it’s not the right time for all of us to check into the wrong rooms that are like hospital rooms but w/ no light and feel prison style and whatever.

Again we dig deep and I think do an amazing job of getting out and seeing PP  and river and food and markets (and not getting run over ourselves — at times going 3 blocks is like death frogger or something we literally have kids on our backs to go 50m stretches that are gridlocked in dangerous ways).

Rad dinner on the riverfront, some local market zone and the concepts of things like air con and ice cream blow all of our collective minds.  Delicacies.  Relativity.

Trip and Surf Journal: Wedn 5.29 (no surf — Day 3 Sihanoukville)

Settle in. ROUGUE. Threading. #1 Hackers.

Beach dance party fam style

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Cambo rider

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Brutal contrasts — maimed beggars and techno/media pirates

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Once you start getting the hang of Cambodia like everything else the stress is down and stoke is up.  We are at the intersection of ingenuity, determination, suffering, pride, shame — and we are in their culture and program, not in ours in an “imported touron zone”.  So . . . know that and adjust and see what’s up!

We sleep on the beach in straw huts and own the whole “community facilities” on the beach cuz the place is dead.  All wake up w/ a pretty good relative sleep.  The storm comes earlier and waking to pounding storm on straw roof and few random drips is ok. Beach tent.  More amazing and cheap food and coffee and views and lazy mornings reading and swimming and chilling.  This place preaches CHILL!  Like if Aili talks too loud at breakfast I don’t want here to bug the backpacker two tables over who is deep in his novel/facebook or whatever.

Migrate to beach, read and swim and chill and sunbake, and then noon – ish time for exploration of the zone.  No bicycles unf for hire, so scooter/moto for 24 hours. I know the questions to ask now . . . and best practices for money and bribes and am starting to figure out how to factor potential costs and bribes and issues into experiences in a non stressful or getting jammed way.  Expectations, like taxes right?  Split your money, offer in local currency and flash wads of it (the locals don’t know the jam you math in their own currency, only in USD$$!).  Oh, what we learn.  Just want fairness, no competition here, just a race to fair please and I have to level the playing field in a sea — a country — of sharks.

Love exploring the area, bike runs out of gas and barely make it to a roadside bottle of 1L of petrol and fake like I’m not out of gas and blah blah 20 kids are climbing on my bag and me and what not — I knew real gas was ~$1.25 so a smiling negotiation to that nut and it’s cool.

I am generally scoping the broader Snooky area and looking for Rogue MP3 purchase — think 10.5k mp3 songs Napster style on your own 500mb external drive.  Cambodia is IMO the tech/sophistication epicenter right now for grey market — enough tech capability but no oversight or reachability too remote — hey if I can get mugged in my bungalow can a place down the street be “controllable” by capital records or steve jobs  — nahh.  But digging in w/ these cats on the tech zone they know what is up.  They will fix/hack/whatever.  It hits me, these peeps are hackers writ large.  Any walk of life.  They will hack it.  This is what they’ve grown up in and learned to do to survive.  Had to.  Hack it: the land (and mines), govt, education, water/food, transport (for sure — I am living in Road Warrior land!), and tech for sure . . . so I drop a macbook pro and a ton of i devices and say ok let’s roll and let’s see it all work and these guy are awesome and sort of like wtf question my game whatever and we go through the process and I have a custom – ish library of music at 10.5k songs coming — we’ll see :) So far so good.  And yeah Megan and I skulled through the moral/artist/record company paid zone on all this but whatevs.  Net is we are stoked to put dollars in artists pockets for their art and cut out middle men w/ tech all good.  We are super awesome consumers of music on mad levels (physical disc, streaming, files, devices, etc.) and stoked to keep putting more $$$ into that ecosystem as much as possible straight to the artists and what not, all good.  We pay our taxes, yo.

Trigger is pulled.  Then, Megan and I mix up our beach program w/ such a bad-ass lady we give in for Threading — some ancient hair removal / epilation process.  Megan goes first for lower legs and this thing is legit and this lady is an artist and she goes to other zones for ladies :) . . . this lady is an artist/skilled laborer.  She is comped as such as she should be, and still it’s like pennies on the dollar vs. similar services in the U.S.  In this climate it is actually a real thing to not have hair.  Razors work and tropical climate for shaving is awesome humid and moist (yes, this cyclist is glad to shave legs for a ton of other reasons here).  But this is pretty cool and a few bones.  Okay I’m in!  I go for the legs.  Two hours of strangely torturous and transcendental spent on the beach.  Maybe this is what getting a crazy tattoo is like?  There is crazy pain and suffering in some zones and others aren’t so bad.  Closer to bone and lean muscle is more pain, more fattty zones less pain.  Overall this lady is amazing, she really is skilled labor / service.

The sunset dance party to the sample music I already have on one our laptops and ipods is insane.  It’s crazy, we get some final logistics dialed for a hopefully stress free and safe and fair price trip to Phnom Penh tomorrow, and suddenly we agree we could stay here a while — 48 hours after showing up and feeling like wtf have we done and when are we OUT!  But staying here longer is not on the agenda relative to bigger streams for real in the future, I say leave before you want to is a good thing, just barely before.

Cambo Pirates, I SALUTE YOU!

Making up with Cambodia

Man I was wound up tight. Funny (scary) how one (I) can be in that kind of place and not even realize it. But I was. I admit it. There you go. I had my fill of urban. Walking down the beach today I made up with Cambodia.

Day two, call it three? at Otres Beach and I can understand why people stay a month, more. I can breathe again. The girls were right. We do have everything we need right here. One of the greatest blessings of this Odyssey is the realization that the four of us, together, can call anywhere HOME. Its also given me an appreciation for the value of open space, fresh air, the healing powers of natural world. As we continue to modernize, digitize, industrialize we must take this to heart if we expect full hearts in our humanity. Thank God I live in Truckee.

Sitting at sunset next to Andy, both of us writing our own words, reflecting. Mini “boom box” playing acquired tunes whi) have become the Odyssey soundtrack. Girls are playing/dancingin the sand at our feet. Keira and I were talking just this morning about the power of music to transport you. We were sitting in Footprints cafe eating fried eggs and fruit and listening to David Gray and she says “mommy, are those tears in your eyes?” Of course the answer was yes. David Gray, people. He takes me home, to my kitchen with my dog asleep at my feet until the zucchini drops to the floor. Cooking dinner for the family. I miss that. I miss Strider. Sniff. But here’s a snapshot into the source of sanity we’ve found among the chaos that can be Cambodia.

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A love of hammocks

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En autre Otres sunset

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Evening at Shangri La

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To be back in the ocean…

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Our humble beach shack. The hanging flowers make it feel like home.

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View of footprints, our local hangout.

Trip and Surf Journal: Tue 5.28 (no surf — Day 2 Sihanoukville)

Where you come to disappear.

Hopefully because you want to, but maybe because you didn’t.

Sunsets for pennies on the dollar, if you can get here and survive.

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The adventure continues.  Today is supposed to be about beach chilling and R and R.  And it is sort of, once we check expectations and attitudes and whatever and digest the straight grit of this place.  We all wake up in a fog-ish sort of did we sleep I don’t know Keira fell out of bed and Megan was sick and we went no AC just fan and were all in a glaze of sand and sea and sweat salts mixed in w/ some sand and whatever and slept w/ a pad and a sarong (not needed) and a mozzie stuck to your face, hey! It’s just tropical beach camping.  I’m so proud of the crew — we didn’t plan it quite this rough but that we can adapt and overcome is rad when the situation presents.

Nice zone

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The storm — climate style — comes in right when we are headed to breakfast.  Nuking.  Per usual w/ the “tropical downpour” and oncoming monsoon season here.  There is also thunder and lightening, some of which gets up close and personal enough to shake the little shack we inhabit.  Walking 50m to breakfast drenches everyone.  But the crew and the vibe and the traveller spirit are amazing here amongst us and fellow travelers (100% backpacker/escape/adventure crew — we are the ONLY family here — some khmer fams of course around local and what not of course).

Straw hut, beach, bed.

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I have a cup of coffee that is mind blowing — I mean it probably isn’t THAT good but sometimes the tiniest thing makes it all work.  Good cafe chats w/ the fam and others — this is one of those spots that is so remote and end of world kind of thing that anyone in a “public place” is basically stoked to chat.  Even the introverts (who are otherwise spending the rest of their time on a deserted beach / in a shack / in ocean / etc.).

We are at the end of the road in this area as low season approaches.  Many places are shuttering up/down, adding to the shipwrecked and deserted vibe.  But then suddenly we are in a rad bar/cafe/guesthouse w/ the coolest tunes and peeps and food and share libraries — and btw suddenly paper books are making sense to me :)

Heading to Scott Beach Camp . . . gotta be mobile

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Why?  Security.  Talking to locals we are picking up on it — this place is not secure on many levels.  There are no safes or “real” security wrt your straw shack on the beach and straw walls and makeshift “locks” —  Break ins are common and recent.  Muggings too.  I’d read “hey don’t be out past 9pm” man or woman but was like whatever I won’t  . .. but it is more than that.  There are no real options beyond a shack/bungalow.  Reports of syringe sightings on the beach albeit “not the druggy type” don’t help.

There is no avoiding the garbage.  It is around.  Rooms are $3 – $20 per night btw.  Not dorms or a bed, an actual room.  The best model is really beach camping.  You are renting a nice “tent”.  The price is still less than renting a U.S. campsite usually, that is funny.

We enjoy not having to “see a sight” or “make a transaction” or whatever.  And I can see how despite the security and garbage issues we chat with many who “have been here for a month”.  It’s inexpensive (assuming you don’t get robbed or ganked!), the peeps are super cool (except for bandits!), it is amazing and exotic and gorgeous and opps abound for activities and exploration if wandering the miles and miles of perfect beach get a little old or something.

The kids are so adaptable and stoked, they feel none of the security stress, it is cool.  The beach and ocean are super chill, we have a great day.  1.5L bottles of water are $1 on our beach stretch.  This is a bit of a shock — we’ve typically had included water or some water or in a city these things are 20 cents, (or in thai 1.5 cents if you have your own container).

I walk for hours (for real) up and down this beach, I end up schlepping 9L (2.25 gallons) of water back to the crew, hey I just made $3!  I turn some of our empties into “cheap beach toys” using my $1 thai market knife — slice ’em in half, etc.  They are crafting castles.  Will they remember this and will if make a difference for them?  How raw they are rolling and how adaptable they are and how little they (we) all need and how simple we can roll?  I don’t know.  I want out of here (Cambodia), but it feels to easy to bail, and I hope this never washes off of me, forced introspection.  And the longer we stay the more we don’t want to leave hmmm . . .

The sunset is golden, the sea is metal and relatively angry, the kids are building sand temples of Angkor.

Kids don’t seem to mind any of less awesome pieces :)

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Trip and Surf Journal: Mon 5.27 (no surf — Siem Reap to Sihanoukville)

It’s a Holiday in Cambodia!

Whatever Dad, I found Nasi Goreng in Cambo no worries, YES!!!

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Bling wheels and LPG in the Trunk, let’s roll. Gangsta/freak adventures to come.

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How could the DK’s have been so right.  Check it out here for more on lyrics and discourse on meaning of the 1980 Dead Kennedy’s song “Holiday in Cambodia” which as been playing in my head since we came in country and never moreso than today.  Even better, put it on and turn it up and get one w/ your punk ass self and decide what it means to you.   So long ago (1980) and such a different context this song was written in — many of the horrors to come and 3+ decades on unclear . . .  but like all genius art timeless (at least until it is not).

So today packs all of what we love and don’t about our own Holiday in Cambodia . . . spirit of people, beauty of the land, simplicity of the living, quality of the food, quality of the adventure . . . oh and the sheer blinding fog and scumminess and garbage and scamaroma always lurking.  So it goes.

Huge accident, big truck t-bones van, multiple ambulances screaming to and fro and 500 people huddled around, terrible pic 

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We’ve decided we are punching in a big day of travel and getting to the ocean Sihanoukville.  We’ve booked a taxi which is kinda not standard but actually the right call for our family of four on a bunch of levels.  One of them to hopefully not get jammed — one of the brutal things about traveling in the developing world w/ a family is not only are you looked at like a cash machine like all western tourists to some extent, but you are leveraged up front when someone sees you have a couple little girls not to mention wife.  Brutal.  So lot of things I’ve learned on how to avoid getting jammed — as always negotiating in the language of smiles and saving face and seeking fairness and what not.  But also, don’t pay until you get what you want/need/what you bought, in a friendly way.  This is the most powerful.  I relaxed it today and it cost me $10 and some sucky stress.  So it goes.  Lied to, language barriers, I optimized to get my family to one place safe in one piece, so there is the $10 getting jammed tax, which I’ve started to factor into up front bits and pieces of howe we are rolling (it’s not always $10 of course, it is relative :)

ox.

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I love it, having negotiated deals on the order of hundreds of millions of dollars and what not and now it is about $10 and it is most important for me to have safe family and save my own face / not get jammed in that order.

The crew is amazing, it is a big day.  Random things — we organize via hotel for some level of protection/due diligence.  Congrats on that one.  I scope the car.  This is a legit camry.  All “taxis” are camry’s w/ some half gangster or idiot running the show.  You need Jeff Gordon  / want him btw — you want and need a real driver w/ a real car.  This is no rules of indo at speeds of Thailand.  The accidents happen and are real as we unfortunately witness.

This guy has mad bling wheels and real tires and takes some pride in his game and his car.  Ok, we are in.  Then I experience the LPG program — $500 conversion and they run on LPG — i.e. propane.  We are getting gas.  The trunk is open and the car is shaking and I have a look.  We are at an LPG pump.  Blue Rhino for cars.  Rolling BBQ.  The tank is behind the back seat, the family is sitting on a 25L propane tank thanks!  The fill is going on via a pipe down by the exhaust.  It’s all ingenuous and insane.  Love Cambodia!

We get a surprise transfer in Phnom Penh (sort of surprise I had anticipated it despite what my hotel promised).  Our new driver is half a gangster and the games begin.  He’s like “where are you going ” and I’m like you know that and this is the hotel and he’s like “oh that is way out I drop you in town or you pay me $10 more” and boy the Holiday in Cambodia is ON!

We arrive to our beachfront bungalow and find out — it is not on the beach and the beds are tiny it is the nuttiest thing we’ve tried, we will elbow out the ants thanks.  It is 5:30pm, we take the let it go and attitude advice and hit the ocean — practice what you preach right and model for your kids yeah?, we scope the area.  We find a rad backpacker / hostel resto for dinner however and that plus the sunset raise the spirits. Looking at the pictures it is hard to imagine how deep in a hole everyone was at certain points on this day. Adventure, always.  Team.  Lift your family UP!

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Trip and Surf Journal: Sun 5.26 (no surf — Fam Temples, Siem Reap Day 8)

Fam temple zone, sickness, the longest day

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This is our last full day in Siem Reap / Angkor zone — and we’ve decided we are going for early morning temple hit via Tuk Tuk / Remork (a carriage attached to a scooter).  We are not going all in for the 5am sunrise but plan is rolling in a tuk tuck by 6:45 to Angkor and doing the grand tour again (we already did by bike) but filling in some of the pieces that were not on the “greatest hits” bike tour) of a few days back.

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Time to talk about a macro thing on the trip — the crew is never 100% 100%.  By that I mean someone if not many are suffering something — just a little off.  Or a lot off!  But we’ve learned how to roll and determine when something is a “code red” like change plan vs.  “code yellow” like ok proceed w/ caution and awareness.  Yeah, usually it is GI related.

So, this morning our captain Megan Scott is brutalized but we head out anyway.  She is a mad trooper.  The kids are spanked.  We have an amazing 7am to 11am tour, mind blowing.  But by the end we are temple and tour weary and done.  It is the longest day.  We pass out for a couple hours.  Everyone is either hot or tired or hungry or restless or something :)  Good times!  But so it goes, and we endure as a team and crew which I’m proud of. And the temples never disappoint  just amazing.  More pics on the flickr stuff above of course :)

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I ride a bike to Tonle Sap lake and confirm we made the right call not doing the touron thing in this right now — wet season maybe, but for now what a skank/shank.  More importantly, I really see some more amazing contrasts to the country, awesome peeps to kooky extortion to verdant land to eco garbage . . . all mixed together.  The developing world writ large on a 40m bike ride.

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Finished off w/ a search for the “Siem Reap Apple Store” and got spanked but enjoyed scoping out this crew — Piracy platform!  Like Napster in a box a decade on — wild. Cambodia is proving to be the country of pirates on a levels!  Said w/ equal measures of respect and disdain :)

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So long beautiful and wild and dynamic and dusty and cosmo and Angkor infused and more Siem Reap.  To the ocean we had tomorrow.  Beauty v. skank v. scam report to come! Keira is growing up w/ the kindle holy cow!

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