To Cambodia I went, and from Cambodia I've returned.
Amazing, amazing place. Materially, poor as dirt. But as far as the people go, we're peasants by comparison. Coming back to Hong Kong last night I felt that feeling when you wake up from a great dream and you just feel sad and want to go back to sleep.
The kids hassle you to buy their bracelets and postcards, the men try to sell you tuktuk rides (and later at night, weedie & boomboom), and you have to love their language where words sound like the things they point to. But even better are their smiles. The hawkster kids, the dealing men, the coconut-chopping women, they all laugh and smile and are totally incredible. Right away I felt like I'd come upon this long lost treasure called humanity. And this is why, returning to the Hong Kong airport with its mind-warping advertisements for purses and cognac, made me just want to go back to sleep.
Another great boon was their delicious food. I spent the better part of my final day doing a cooking class in a wicked pavilion near this little village. The food is a bit like Thai, but with more of an Indian kick to it, and then something else altogether. After only a few meals in China I was feeling pretty sick of the grease and other miscellaneous & unknown ingredients, but in Cambodia I could go on eating their food for a damn long time. I definitely got my fill with the cooking class, where I spent the morning making lunch, ate it, then spent the next few hours making another lunch, and ate that.
As you may or may not know, Cambodia has had a wickedly troubled past, until pretty recently. Ranging from 'Nam spilling across their borders in battles that didn't happen according to any official American statements, to a psychopath who killed between a quarter to half the Cambodian population, depending who tells you the story. What's extremely cool is how they've set up tons of services to help each other. My 'tourism' there involved amongst other things (1) a mountain bike tour of Angkor Wat & surrounding temples, and (2) the above mentioned cooking class, and (3) buying a $15 Make Art Not War t-shirt. All are run by NGOs that give the money to support local programs ranging from clean water supply to schooling.
Screw you, Hilton.
Of course, there are little nuisances like geckos and mosquitos carrying malaria, and undetonated land mines, but hell. What's travel without that? Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Though I hear some of those mischievous retirees tend to plant land mines in the cafeterias of their condos after their neighbour takes the good seat that overlooks the garden but doesn't get too much of a breeze, and is cushioned just the right amount.
Update: Knockoff Electronics in Shenzhen
I'd told you all about that shark who sold me a disreputable 1 terabyte USB stick in China. I went back, without a hope in the world of (a) being able to communicate that he'd ripped me off, (b) hoping to ask for my money back, (c) even finding him & his pile of phony hard drives, and of course (d) getting my money back.
Well I have to make a small sacrifice to Google Translate (oh yeah, I'm already doing that every time I use Google. Okay, we're even) for middling the conversation. I was shocked how easily the guy handed my money back. I walked away deleriously. I'll try this at Pacific Mall when I'm back in Canada. For some reason I don't think I'll have the same sort of luck.
Last but not least, I just have to add this...
After getting my money back and doing a quadruple backflip off the balcony behind his booth and down 5 stories into a pile of computers, I found myself in LED heaven. They sell every form of light polluting contrivance imaginable to the human mind. And far more than that.
Well I happened upon a booth with laser pens. I just had to look. The lady working there asked me if I wanted a blue laser pen. I'd never seen one before, and she took this gadget out larger than a normal flashlight. I knew this was serious just by the way she handled the thing. I swear, the fact that you don't need a licence for this is absolutely insane. Forget about being zapped in the eye. You'd instantly either end up with x-ray vision, or have a hole burned right through to the centre of your brain. Just looking at this thing shining on a piece of paper in front of me was unbearable. No word of a lie (to add credibility, I'll admit that my quadruple backflip is a stretch of the truth. But the following is actually accurate) - I watched her shine this sun-machine on a cardboard box, and burn a fuckin hole right into it.