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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Oh man, this past 24 hours has been totally insane!
I spent the last 4 days in Bangkok and met up with my friend Tammy to work on our Amazing race application. Bangkok is a crazy fast paced city, kind of like NYC but with wayyyyy more street food and vendors. The last time I was in Bangkok I was just arriving in Asia and I felt so overwhelmed, but after being here for a few months and really softening to the whole experience, Bangkok was not that big of a deal. We shot a bunch of footage for our 3 minute video and got this good clip of me talking a tuk tuk driver into letting me drive him around in his tuk tuk, hahahaha it was hilarious.

Ok so here is where the story gets insane. I got a ticket for a sleeper train to Surat Thani which is in southern Thailand and the train left on schedule and everything was good until about 5.5 hours into the ride the train suddenly stopped and some dude came and said in very broken english that we were heading back to Bangkok, now thank god the woman in the seat/bed next to mine could
speak english cause she explained to me that there was massive flooding and we had to turn around. So another 5.5 hours back to Bangkok and we arrive at 5am and get refunded our money, now I'm in a daze from not really sleeping and I have no idea what I'm going to do. I decide to catch a cab to the airport and just hop on the next flight to Krabi, even further in the south. So I get to the airport around 7am and the next flight isn't until 2:45 so I sit around the airport all day and try to sleep on some metal chairs unsuccessfully. Finally I'm in the air
and I can smell my B.O. through the knock off adidas shirt I bought at the market the night before. We land in Krabi and its pissing rain, I immediately thought of the movie Forest Gump when he's in Vietnam describing all the different kinds of rain, and this rain was the big ol fat rain. I got in a van taxi to head into town and the roads progressively got worse as we made our way closer. Everywhere I looked there were people in this brown dirty water up to their waists, I look another direction and I can only see the roof of a car underwater.
Theres a river flowing down every side street, people wearing life preservers, people in kayaks paddling down the street. The driver decides to head back to the airport and it takes us another hour and a half to get back, as landslides were flowing past the road and motorbikes floating down the street, it was absolute chaos. I have only seen natural disaster like this on the TV from my safe warm living room in the states. Being in the middle of it is a whole different story, I have a whole new respect and compassion for anyone that has to go through anything like this.

So I am camped out in the airport tonight and maybe for a day or 2 more, who knows when this rain will stop.

Wish me luck!!!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Acceptance is hard

So I finally bit the bullet and got medical help. It was Sunday and the doctor I wanted to see wasn't in, so I called his cell and he told me to get some Xrays and then bring them in to him tomorrow. So I began my journey to find an Xray machine. It took me about an hour, I have gotten good at pantomiming and finding the things I need in this country. It was little little dodgy clinic and no-one spoke a word of english. Then the guy who ran the place finally came out and understood me a bit. They took me into this room with this huge machine that took up most of the room, apparently this is what an Xray machine looked like in the 1095's hahahaha, it was rusty and had grease on all the moving metal parts. I had to lay on that plank looking thing and this guy dressed in a creepy X-files looking green thing took Xrays of me knees. They actually came out surprisingly well.

The next day I went to the doc and he took a look at the Xrays and the verdict is there's no major damage such as bone breakage but I might have sprained or slightly torn a ligament or possibly bruised a bone in both knees. So I am having a difficult time accepting I'm not going to be riding my bike for a few weeks at least. It sucks but it's part of life. I am grateful for not breaking anything and by not being on the bike I'll have plenty of time to spend at the gym getting JACKED hahahahaa, this guy I'm in the pic with is a Cambodian body builder I look tiny standing next to him hahahaha, him and his whole crew are all really cool and made me feel at home
in their gym that has no fan or air-con, HARDCORE!!

So my plan now is to head to Bangkok on the 24th and meet up with my friend Tammy who made me apply to be on the TV show the amazing race. I have never even seen the show but she gets all fired up about how good a team we will be hahahah. So we have to make a 3
minute clip to send in with out application so were meeting in Bangkok to make it. I will also go to the international hospital while there and get a second opinion about my knee situation.

This last picture I took the other night. I thought it was hilarious. These security guards are everywhere all over town, this picture depicts how useful they actually are.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

I think it's a mixture of reading The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama and taking a bunch of time off my bike that has allowed me the pleasure of actually slowing down and chilling. This whole trip I have been going 100mph and getting myself into all kinds of scenarios and having all kinds of experiences. Well that didn't stop, I just slowed down and the situations and scenarios slowed down as well, they still happened though.
After the bike accident I continued to ride a borrowed bike a couple days after and on the 3rd day after crashing, it all caught up to me and my knees swelled up like balloons. I thought "oh crap I probably should have taken time off right after this crash". So the past few days have been filled with ice, ibuprofen, tiger balm and lots of movies and reading.
Now for those of you who know me, slowing down and doing these things is not my nature, so it has been very healing for me to just find a nice spot to sit and read
orjust reflect on this whole trip and regroup a little bit.
The other day I had some good chats with local tuk tuk drivers and found out there is a local spot where Cambodian bodybuilders lift weights so I had him bring me there. Man it felt good to actually move my body again. Working out there made me realize how weak my upper body is, it's 2 days later and my chest and arms are still really sore, hahahaha. This gym was so cool, it looked like it came right out of the 70s, the machines were
so old and there were pictures around the whole gym of Schwarzenegger when he was like 20 hahahaha. (check out the pic above this, its the entrance to the gym hahahah) All the people I met there were so nice, not like the big jackass muscle heads in the gym back home who just kind of look at me like I don't belong there cause I'm a skinny little cyclist. After the gym I found a pool to chill out by for the afternoon and read my new book.
If you want to see what a Cambodian weightlifting blog looks like check it out!
I met a really chill family about a month ago when I was in Phnom Penh, we were having breakfast in the same cafe and I listened in as he read a story to his two little ones in a very animated way. I was thoroughly amused and so were his kids. We ended up striking up a conversation and it turns out Guy is a cyclist also, after some normal everyday banter we said our goodbyes and exchanged email addresses. Well it turns out Guy is a correspondent for BBC news. He gave me a call the other day and wanted me to come out to Phn
om Penh to do a story on my travels. I jumped at the opportunity and flew out to Phnom Penh f
or one day and then flew back to Siem Reap the same day. I am writing this blog from the airport terminal. I will keep everyone posted as to when it will air.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Samrong Village School

Being in the middle of the Angkor temples was the experience of a lifetime. To follow this amazing experience I have been presented with another opportunity to meet an amazing family. Laim, the kid I spent a week with in Phnom Penh invited me to visit his family and the school he helped build in Samrong village, about 40km from Siem Reap where Angkor Wat is.
Yesterday Laim's cousin Sa picked me up on her motor bike and whisked me away to the village. It was an hour long motoride down the main road. As we turned off the main road it turned to dirt, we rode another
15km on dirt roads to the single track trail to the village. We pulled up to Laims house which is a simple home on a small piece of land. No electricity, no running water. His mother, brothers and sisters greeted us with big smiles. I sat and talked with them for a while. Then she brought me across the road to see the school. It was also a very simple structure with a thatched roof and a divider made of palm fronds in the middle separating the two classrooms,
sand floors and simple desks. On a side note, I have noticed with each classroom I have gone in that all of the furniture is in good condition, in western schools there's carvings and writing and gum stuck all over everything. These kids really want this stuff to
last and do not take anything for granted. I spent that afternoon playing volleyball with the kids, at one point the game got very serious and there was money put on the game. I
was on one team with 3 other kids and they don't mess around with their volleyball. They are hardcore and spike that thing hard, I was very impressed.

Sa the girl who brought me to the village is also a teacher at the school so after volleyball she brought me to the classrooms where over a hundred kids had congregated. I was to teach my first English class ever. I had no idea what I was doing but the kids seemed to enjoy my teaching.

Sa is a very good teacher and seems so comfortable in the classroom. Sa and one other teacher volunteer their time at this school 5 days a week and sometimes more. It was very inspiring to see all the time and effort she put into teaching these children.

I have agreed to sponsor this school and pay the salary of a teacher for 2 years, and depending on my financial situation or if I can find a way to raise money I will continue to sponsor this school for years to come. It's really is amazing when you can spend time
with amazing people and know that you can help out in some small way.

After class we headed back to Laims parents house and had dinner. We had rice, dried fish, cucumber, and fruit for dessert. They were such nice and sweet people, I am glad to have met them. They taught me some new words in Khmer then I got my stuff and Laims father drove me back to Siem Reap on the motor bike.

I am heading into a week long meditation
and will not have internet or any communication, I am looking forward to taking this time and being in the present. I will see you all on the other side!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Crash and Burn

The magnitude of these amazing temples took me by surprise. I have been reading about the temples at Angkor. Reading about them and seeing pictures online does them absolutely no justice.
As I walked down what seemed like a mile long entrance to Angkor Wat I had Native American music playing in my headphones to get myself in the zone and not
hear the hundreds of other tourists around me. I was in absolute awe of this enormous temple. It took me over 3 hours just to see Angkor Wat. Now after you finish with this amazingly huge temple that is just the beginning of the adventure. the temples here are spread out over almost 40km and there are ancient temple sights everywhere.
I met a French and Dutch guy and an Israeli woman on the grounds of Angkor, they were sitting on the ground stretching and I approached them and we started doing
yoga right there on the temple ground.
You can totally see my bike shorts while I'm doing my headstand, hahahaha. So we all hung out for the rest of the day. After some roadside fruit we all hopped on our bikes and headed towards the next temple. We stopped and fed wild monkeys along the way. Don't look them in the eyes! We got to the next temple called Bayon, this is the one with all the faces. this temple was stunning also. So much to explore in this temple. Secret passageways and wells going so deep into the ground you can't see to the bottom. Hundreds of Buddha faces with smiles on their faces like they know something you don't. We spent hours here and actually only made it around to view a few more temples before it got dark, we did not do any more exploring. Good thing I bought a 3 day pass good for one week.

Ok, here's the story you have all been waiting for. After leaving my friends from around the world I headed back towards Siem Reap and this guy on a black Cannondale road bike rides up to me and greets me, he has clearly been here for a long time. He has a Kroma wrapped around his head. So I started riding with him, he was a strong rider, spinning along at 20mph which is a good pace for me with a super heavy steel bike with a rack and big thick tires. He showed me all these cool back roads to bypass traffic. All of a sudden swarms of bugs came out of nowhere and they were relentless, slamming into my face, going in my eyes, mouth and beard. We were on this quiet backroad and I pulled my hat down to cover my eyes from the swarms of bugs and I asked Bruce if the road had any potholes or anything I needed to watch out for, he told me the road was fine and there were no potholes. We rode on for about 10 minutes or so and WHAM@!#@!$# I slammed into the back of a parked pickup truck. It was the hardest and scariest bicycle accident I have ever been in. I was thrown from bike into the bed of the truck and I slammed into the cab and bounced back onto the ground landing on my bike. Now the bed of the truck was filled with hand-woven baskets that the guys wife probably made. These things saved my life. It all happened so fast and quickly I had about 20 villagers all standing around me and Bruce came over and said are you ok? Hahahaha, I said I don't know and wiggled each hand and foot and thought to myself, holy shit! I didn't break anything. I rolled off my bike and was covered in liquid, luckily it was just water from my bottles busting open. I had so much adrenaline rushing through my veins I stood up and inspected my bike. My tire was bent back behind my toptube and there was a huge kink in my frame. A sweeping feeling of
fear came through my whole body. My bicycle is my life over here, it is my best friend and it allows me total freedom to travel when and where I want. I thought, oh shit I'm going to have to take busses and tuk tuk's and motor bike taxis everywhere I go, NOOOOOOOOO I'm going to have to be a backpaker!!! Bruce insisted we walk away from the gawking crowd so I picked my bike up and we headed down the road to wait for his wife to pick us up. As the adrenaline wore off my knees started killing me. I could tell something was wrong.

It's a couple days later now and I have learned an important lesson. Never let your guard down in SE Asia, cause everything happens so fast! My knees are still swollen and I am resting them. I will most likely have to go to
Thailand and buy a new frame and parts for my bike. I swear now before all of you. I will finish this trip and ride again. Even if I have to buy a motor bike and finish it on that :-)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

What next?

Saying goodbye to my new friend Laim was hard, but after spending a week with him I knew he would go on to do great things.
I realized the day before my visa expired and rushed it to a tour agency, they took it and had it renewed, I couldn't hit th
e road back to Kampot untill after they took care of my passport, so I had to ride hard because I had 80kms to cover and only 4 hours of daylight. I rolled into the small town Takeo just as it was getting dark. I took thenext day off and deci
ded to roam around Takeo. Takeo sits right on this huge lake and also the Mekong river. I grabbed a fiberglass boat and rode for an hour up the Mekong river, my driver didn't speak a word of english. The river villages were like nothing I had seen before, all the people had very serious looks on their faces and barely anyone waved and said hello. I got out at Phnom Da and explored the 6th century temples on top of a big hill. There were caves all over the hills as well. the Khmer Rouge used these caves as cells during their reign.

The ride from Takeo to Kampot was long and dusty. I had a 10km stretch where I rode through 4 inch dust and I could barely breathe any time a motorbike or a truck drove by. I have been pulling dust out of every orifice in my body for the last 2 days. The ride was stunning though, beautiful mountains were in sight the entire ride and the locals were so much fun and very friendly. I stopped many times for mangos because those suckers are in season.

Now I am back in Kampot and deciding
what to do next. I believe I will head to Siem Reap and visit a small village school that Laim got built and his family. Also while in Siem Reap I will spend some time exploring the ancient temples of Angkor Wat.

Today I rented a motor bike and went out on another adventure. I originally was going to Kep because there is some festival going on. I got there and it was just a bunch of ex-pats and back packers getting drunk on the beach, not my style so I headed up into the national forest and made my way down this long dirt trail, the smell of the deep jungle was unlike anything I have smelled before, the deep woods in the berkshires comes close though. After my ride to the top of the mountain I headed out on a single track trail into these villages near the coast. After riding for many kilometers on this bumpy little track that a motorbike should not be on I saw a bunch of people raking puddles and I wondered what they were doing. I pulled over and said sok-sah-bai (hello) and then Su-es-dai (how are you) and then the hook
line and sinker that gets them to smile every time, Barang gee kong (foreigner rides bike) and point to my tattoo, after a long ahhhhhhhh
and a fit of laughter this man comes off his guard. A bonus is that he speaks a little english! His name was Kim Soeuy and this was his salt plantation. I motioned I wanted to rake salt and he had one of his workers lead me into the big puddle field thing and I started raking salt. These are the sort of experiences I am looking for while I travel. The genuine ones, not sitting around with a bunch of westerners getting drunk. I have noticed much of that since being here in SE Asia. It was a great day and I will remember it forever.