Entr’acte: Cambodia and Vietnam Update

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Long time, no blog! Needless to say, this month has flown by – between the halfway point of my grant, two weeks of travel and preparations for Hari Raya festivities (which I will cover in my next post), I haven’t had time to breathe since the end of May.

I have been struggling to find the time to recount my experiences in my two-week summer break journey through Cambodia and Vietnam. My initial intention was to make a video blog of the experience, but in sitting down to sift through my footage, I realized that I took far too many photos and videos (literally thousands) to make anything cohesive. While I would love to instead write about the adventure in a multi-part blog post, that is an undertaking for which I am also not adequately prepared. I know future me is probably disappointed reading this; I hope he remembers that time is linear and, as such, the longer I spend trying to write and document my experiences, the more I miss out on actually experiencing! (Especially given the timing of this break, returning during the Ramadhan season, there has been too much going on for me to waste time blogging.)

With the major Raya festivities coming to a close, I now have a little extra time to catch up with my blog. I will be writing a post about June in my kampung very soon, but regretfully this means I must skip over the amazing experiences I had during my late-May / early-June travels. Perhaps this is a good thing for my readers as it leaves some excellent stories untold here which I can recount from memory upon my return. I also have uploaded said photos and videos to Google Drive where they I can revisit them anytime I like.

To make my future recollections a tad easier, I have compiled a brief list of the major stories / experiences from this mini-trip here. I would be more than happy to share my thoughts from any or all of these adventures with anyone who is interested, so please don’t hesitate to ask!

  • Midyear:
    • snack with Rachel and Jay
    • awkward pool moment
    • Homecoming and Rock Bottom (Raub running story)
    • State presentations: Perak Top Model, Kelantan Feud / dikir barat, Kedah suicidal gecko
    • Ambassador Kamala and the unintended “gotcha” question
    • “Dread” with AlexTBH
    • gun control discussion with Tyler, Michael and Connor
    • talent show: Enya, Kanye parody, spoken word poem
  • Siem Reap
    • American currency!
    • Pottery class with deaf teacher (Pom Pin)
    • Pizza, fried ice cream and Pirates of the Caribbean
    • Angkor temples: getting lost in Preah Khan, the “center of the universe” moments
    • Cambodian Circus
    • Laundromat café
    • Angkor Museum
    • Food tour / crickets and bubur pisang
    • Watercolor purchase
  • Phnom Penh
    • Political climate during Cambodian election
    • Broken tuk-tuk
    • Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda
    • Polish dude Adam and the crashing plane
    • Killing Fields: killing tree, bones and cloth, central pagoda
    • S-21: school structure, interrogations, survivor
    • Sisowath Quay: Daughters of Cambodia, exercise equipment, new friends
  • Ho Chi Minh City
    • “Bong” and the Saigon Marvel Hostel
    • Trying egg coffee and conveyor belt sushi
    • Wonder Woman
    • Motorbike swarms
    • Nightcapping with Ola, Mirjam, Jake and Tom
    • Coconut Dude scam
    • War Remnants Museum – Agent Orange photos
    • Reunification Palace
    • Water Puppet show
    • Cu Chi tunnels: talkative tour guide, crazy traps, gun range, claustrophobia, fruit with peanuts and sugar
    • Agent Orange artwork factory
    • Hanging out with Emily/Patrick/Naja/Kaila/Maggie/Matt: night market, drinks on pub street, coconut dessert with Dave Fox
  • Hoi An
    • Taxi to the wrong airport
    • Lanterns, lanterns everywhere!
    • Custom suits and shoes J
    • Cooking class: trying silkworms, jellyfish, pig ears, pig brains, balut, snails
    • Possible bedbugs
    • Nighttime swim with loud Chinese children
    • Walking tour of temples and meeting halls
    • Funky pants and banana shirts
    • Eating the world’s best banh mi
    • Waterfront: candles on the water, street performances, romance in the air, fish shaped ice cream sandwich
  • Hanoi
    • Night train – Chinese spanking boy / Graham from Australia and Zimbabwe / ukulele and card games
    • Burger King and Hoan Kiem Lake
    • Obama bun cha with Sophia, Esme, Clay, Shaina and Katie
    • Karaoke – communication troubles, private suite, befriending Vietnamese family
    • Zombie escape room (spoiler: we failed.)
    • Halong Bay tour: Smitt from Sayre, “It’s all a simulation”, new BFF Rose from the Philippines (ISIL in Mindinao)
    • Nightlife with Joey and Martin
    • Hanoi Hilton: propaganda and Christmas decor
    • Post-it café
    • Bun cha dinner scam (still angry)
    • Street performers and English songs
    • Midnight snack with Emily and Patrick
    • Wearing my suit on the plane

Looking at the above list (still only a fraction of my adventures from those weeks) should give you an idea of why trying to write a full blog post to encompass everything is unthinkable. Hopefully time and brain cells will be kind to me and allow me to recount these stories in months and years to come. To drastically simplify my main takeaways: Cambodia and Vietnam are very beautiful, welcoming countries, though both have relatively recently faced immense tragedies which their communities are working tirelessly to overcome. Fiscally speaking, I spent a little more than I intended during those two weeks, but given the needs of the people I met there, I truly believe the money was well-spent. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to visit these wonderful places however briefly, and I look forward to watching their cultures change and grow over the course of my life.

On a side note, I have been reflecting on my failed video efforts and my mom’s advice from last year – “Do not live your life behind a lens.” I did not follow that advice on this trip, and while I had a fabulous experience, I regret how much time I spent taking photos and videos. With my next trip in August to Japan and South Korea, I pledge to spend less time trying to capture memories and more time just making them.

In the meantime, I have plenty of other adventures to share, so stay tuned for another blog post in the next week or so!

So, what’d I miss?

Nate

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