Saturday, October 30, 2010

So Paul showed up

Paul dropped into Saigon for some running around Vietnam and Cambodia while Choi was back in New York for Hwanger's wedding. It was kind of a brutal travel schedule. We fit in 2 days of templing at and around Angkor Wat, the S-21 prison and Killing Fields, a tour of the Mekong Delta, the Cao Dai's Holy See, the infamous Cu Chi tunnels and maybe the best ice cream creation known to man.

To begin, after traveling for something like 24hrs straight from St.Louis, I let him rest for 5hrs before taking a 12hr bus ride from Saigon (Vietnam) to Siem Reap (Cambodia). I was shocked Paul managed to form coherent responses to my rants about all the crazy shit that happened in India. After some solid Khmer curry we turned in because the next day would be a long one. Ha.

The temples of Angkor were indeed cool. The first day we explored the smaller temples. I have to say I preferred the smaller ones to the big mama Angkor Wat. The smaller ones were less crowded and seem to have more interesting architecture. Angkor Wat was huge and I particularly liked the depiction of the Ramayana, but all the cool stuff had been looted or was sitting in the National Museum in Phnom Penh. The second day we caught Angkor Wat with a lame sunrise and hordes of Asian tour buses. Paul had to wait a bit to get a clear shot of the famous faces of Bayon. One of them I conveniently jumped in front of just to see how much patience he had.

(Paul was not amused.)

After templing we jumped on a bus to Phnom Penh to visit the Killing Fields and the prison where “subverts” were interrogated and tortured during Pol Pot's reign. Yay! Superfun and cheery!

After seeing some of the worst of humanity, we jetted back to Vietnam via boat. We ended up meeting a fun group of people on a soggy bus transfer back to Saigon. Not wanting to deal with monsoon rains and feeling a good vibe, Paul and I decided to crash for a night in the Mekong Delta. We ended up taking an all day boat tour wandering through the sleepy tributaries that during the Vietnam War were not so sleepy. I knew at that point I’d seen Platoon and Full Metal Jacket too many times, because it was pretty hard to relax at first. I kept imagining getting sniped from the heavy jungle foliage while the engine slowly puttered down the river way. Then I reassured myself that I’m an idiot and these people are way too busy rebuilding their country to pay attention to some farang floating by their front yard.

After a night, we return to Saigon only to get on an all day bus tour to the Cao Dai Holy See and Cu Chi Tunnels. The tunnels are a monument to Vietnamese resolve. You may have seen tunnels like these depicted in Vietnam-era movies. VC would take refuge in these things during the regular runs made by US Air Force bombers. They were incredibly small (I had trouble fitting my shoulders through the width of one) so as to minimize the shock caused by explosions. These aren’t the tunnels the VC lived in, those are up north toward the old DMZ. Apparently those tunnels were a bit bigger and something like 4 people were actually born underground.

Post-tunnels we stop by the Cao Dai Holy See. Why stop by and see these guys? Because they are colorful, open and among those they revere are Buddha, Jesus and Victor Hugo.

(Paul really liked Victor’s hat.)

I really like the Cao Dai because they embrace a lot of different teachings that really aren’t so different when you get the core of the matter. They basically believe that if you’re good in this life and follow some prescribed devotions, you can reach heaven without all the bothersome reincarnation. I wouldn’t mind skipping a thousand rebirths and go straight to the good stuff.

They also share my enthusiasm for dragon pillars. I feel a room could always use a few dragon pillars.

So that’s that. A whirlwind tour of some of the big stuff of Southeast Asia. Now Paul gets to go back to poopy diapers.

Need real pictures? Try Paul's flickr set.

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