Phnom Penh Intended. Southeast Asia Accomplished.

Seven weeks, three countries, fifteen towns, ten flights, two overnight trains, forty-seven buses, twenty-three motos, six trolleys, fourteen boats, and eight hundred tuk-tuks later, our trip has come to an end.

We won’t bore you  ourselves with sentimental last thoughts, inside jokes, newly-acquired habits we hope to leave behind (Chloe’s accent when speaking to Asian people), or an in-depth East vs. West analysis.

At least not in a condensed paragraph. But let us throw some words at you. 

So, we bid adieu:

  • Goodbye exposed man stomachs
  • Goodbye tuk-tuks
  • Goodbye motorcycles
  • Goodbye sleepless nights in airports
  • Goodbye sleepless nights on trains
  • Goodbye cold showers
  • Goodbye curry
  • Goodbye noodles
  • Goodbye banana shakes
  • Goodbye manladies                        
  • Goodbye ladyboys
  • Goodbye condensed milk
  • Goodbye guesthouses
  • Goodbye hostels
  • Goodbye Asian accents
  • Goodbye holding onto passports for dear life
  • Goodbye bargaining
  • Goodbye late nights lost in Bangkok alleys
  • Goodbye British tourists
  • Goodbye minivans
  • Goodbye Mai-Mai et al
  • Goodbye 40 page proposals
  • Goodbye internet cafes
  • Goodbye different bed every night
  • Goodbye living out of a backpack
  • Goodbye M150 (bottled speed)
  • Goodbye jutting limestone cliffs
  • Goodbye white beaches
  • Goodbye kayaks
  • Goodbye canoes
  • Goodbye sweaty days
  • Goodbye sweaty nights
  • Goodbye Pam
  • Goodbye stray dogs
  • Goodbye markets
  • Goodbye streetfood
  • Goodbye fainting
  • Goodbye squat toilets
  • Goodbye Korean pop music videos
  • Goodbye 90s pop music at bars
  • Goodbye Irish boys we never understood
  • Goodbye mangosteens
  • Goodbye pagodas
  • Goodbye monks
  • Goodbye same same but different
  • Goodbye three standard outfits
  • Goodbye wool-lite packets
  • Goodbye caves
  • Goodbye women in pajamas
  • Goodbye locals eating on the street
  • Goodbye locals picking lice on the street
  • Goodbye floating villages
  • Goodbye harem pants
  • Goodbye Lonely Planet
  • Goodbye 12 hour time difference
  • Goodbye standard backpacking conversations
  • Goodbye creepy ex-pats
  • Goodbye beach massages
  • Goodbye walking around with maps
  • Goodbye foreign to familiar
  • Goodbye day-long friendships
  • Goodbye seeing one anothers’ faces everyday for two months
  • Goodbye ups
  • Goodbye downs
  • Goodbye MJ
  • Goodbye Chloe



Goodbye Asia.

 

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‘Nam

Welcome to Vietnam.

After spending a day and a half in Hanoi, capital of Vietnam Proper, we took a two-day, 1-night boat ride through Ha Long Bay, home to towering cliffs, turquoise waters, and, luckily for Chloe, caves.

Our cruise-like junk boat took a total of 60 people, and we were to meet in front of our hostel at 8 am sharply. We packed our bags the night before and woke up extra early so as to be perfectly on time and start our voyage right.

The morning of, I grabbed my bag, checked out of the hostel, and popped a malarone (malaria medication).

Upon stepping out of the hostel, we saw our fellow shipmates waiting for the bus to take us to Halong Harbor, and then crossed over to the opposite street corner, where we met up with two of Chloe’s longlost childhood friends.

And that’s when I began to feel it: in a matter of seconds, a pounding headache, a wave of nausea, and an overwhelming sense of vertigo.

The malarone was kicking in.

I took deep breaths and tried to steady myself on the sidewalk, telling myself these minor side effects would be over in a second. But it was too late. I felt like I was going to faint. And I did. Right on the street corner.

I stumbled onto a motorcycle and then fell hard on the ground. I heard Chloe’s friend calling out “Are you serious? Are you serious?” I wanted to answer that yes, actually, I was, in fact, pretty serious, but I couldn’t. He seemed so far away. Everything was black. I was a gonner.

When I came to, I looked up from the street at Chloe, who was sitting calmly on the sidewalk.

“Chloe.” She stared at me, emotionless. “I just passed out.” She stared some more, then plainly stated, “Yeah.”

And, uh, that was it. Thanks for the support, ChloDan.

At 8:50 am, we started to get annoyed. We had been waiting to leave for almost an hour, and our shipmates were still gathered in front of the hostel. We decided to check what was the hold-up. Frankly, telling us to be ready at 8 am and making us wait in the heat was downright rude.

We approached a group of guys going on the trip. “What’s taking so long?” we enquired. 

“We’re waiting for a couple of girls who signed up for the trip, but haven’t shown up. Frankly, we think it’s downright rude,” one of them answered, obviously annoyed.

“We might be those girls,” Chloe told him, and his jaw dropped, “No! They’ve been calling your names for almost an hour!” He pointed at Chloe, “Don’t tell me–you’re…Chloe Daniels?” Chloe nodded ashamedly. Then he turned to me, “So you must be…” he hesitated and furrowed his brow in thought. Then, having clearly remembered, he excitedly exclaimed, “OJ Sanchez!”

Close enough.

PICTURES!

some random ship people

 

etc.

Bye!

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Goodnight Moon

Full Moon Party: an all-night beach party that goes on every month on the Thai island of Koh Pha Ngan.

A girl I had met at a guesthouse had taken a picture at the previous month’s party featuring a man vomiting into the ocean between a couple copulating on the beach on one side and somebody urinating on the other.

I had to be there.

There are parties leading up to the actual Full Moon Party every night. And they’re pretty wild—buckets of vodka, coke, and Thai Redbull (read: speed in a bottle), and music stations featuring techno, trance, a little bit of K’Naan, and a lot bit of tunes that take you back to Mitzvah season (both Bar and Bat).

At some point between YMCA and the ever-popular Macarena, Chloe befriended Harry, a gallant young gentleman from London. Which left me with Humphrey, Harry’s ungallant young friend from London.

Nah, Chloe. I’m not doing that. I don’t need to settle for Humphrey. You can find a Harry, I can find a Harry. Two can play that game. Watch me.

And that’s when I met him: Alexandre, a gallant young gentleman from Paris. He spoke no English, but that was fine by me. We carried on extensive conversations in French as we promenaded up and down the beach, covered in glow-in-the-dark neon face paint.

Mid-stroll, Alexandre stopped and looked down at me, the full moon looming overhead. “I want you to meet my friends,” he said softly in his flawless French, the language of love. He took my hand and led me to them. I couldn’t wait to meet my new family.

We approached a crowd of shirtless men and nearly shirtless ladies, jumping and dancing and percolating about in a sweaty daze. Alexandre pointed in front of us, “There, there they are. I’d like you to be very nice to them.”

I peered toward where he was pointing, wondering what my new gang would look like. Take that, Chloe, I mentally spat at her. But then I couldn’t really find who my new friends were.

“Where are they?” I asked Alexandre, and he jabbed the air with this finger. “There!”

I looked closely and spotted a fat Thai woman in a dirty tank top and a skinny Thai man who had undoubtedly had more than just a bucket. “There!” Alexandre said again, cheerfully, proud to introduce his buddies. “She gives massages on the street, and he sells things on the beach. They can give you great price.”

I smiled excitedly and walked slowly backwards. “I, uh….I’m just gonna…”

Then I ran away.

How was your night, Chlo?

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Thailand Rundown

We took a BlogBreak during the first leg of our trip in Thailand. This is what we’ve been up to:
·        Bangkok:
Made up a convoluted story so we would not have to share taxi with annoying Irish dudes from our flight.
Ran into annoying Irish dudes from our flight on Kao San Road.
Spent evening listening to annoying Irish stories.
Got scammed out of visiting Grand Palace (“It’s closed for Buddhist holiday, but here, take tuk-tuk driver to giant Buddha statue and tour all around Bangkok!”).
Scammed tuk-tuk driver right back and made it to the Grand Palace in no time.
Saw Inception after standing for Thai National Anthem in movie theater.
Overnight trained to Chiang Mai.

·        Chiang Mai:
Rode an elephant.
White-water-rafted. (MJ fell into the raft).
Bamboo-rafted. (Chloe fell into the water).
Fly to Phuket.

·        Phuket:
Car to what we thought was Krabi Beach.
Long–tailboat to Railei Beach.
Kayaked through limestone cliffs. (5 minutes in: Chloe started a singalong. MJ rolled her eyes. 10 minutes in: MJ is belting out showtunes).
Evenings at Skunk Bar. Met guys from Italy. “You’re from Florence? Oh my God, we lived there for a year!” ….silence).
Longtailboat to Ao Nang.

·        Ao Nang:
Bought tickets to mini bus and ferry to take us to Koh Phangan.
Spent night in Ao Nang.
Woke up and are: hoarded into a pick-up truck, herded into a regular bus, packed onto a smaller bus, pushed onto a trolley, piled onto a ferry, thrown into another pick-up, and 13 hours later:

Arrive on Koh Phangan,
Party Paradise.

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Off to Bangers

Written on July 17

So now on to Thailand.

Chloe had planned to travel upon finishing her volunteering, while I hadn’t planned anything. At all.

It had occurred to me before my trip that I was going to Asia. There were countries in Asia. Maybe I should stop at a couple of these countries.

That’s where the thought ended.

But while being in Cambodia for a month, I met people passing through the guesthouse who literally slapped me across the face for not booking a flight to a neighboring country.
Truth be told, it was Goff (Gregarious) who convinced me. He made me feel like an idiot for staying in Cambodia. –(G: Where are you traveling? M: Oh, you know, I usually just stay in Manhattan most of the time. Sometimes Yonkers if I’m feeling particularly unruly. G: I mean, in Asia. Silence.)

So, after Chloe shot me a couple of ideas, which I barely heard over the sound of The Parent Trap playing in my headphones while simultaneously reading my single, prized issue of US Weekly, I nodded obliviously, to which she responded—“Okay, I’ll look for flights.” And that’s how, in a team effort, we decided on Thailand.

Two weeks later, our volunteering ended, and I booked a flight to Bangkok, (which I had heard was the capital of Thailand or something) and watched Chloe meticulously fold and refold every article of clothing she brought into a newly-acquired backpackers’ backpack deluxe. And on the following day, I haphazardly threw my clothes (that didn’t have orphanage stains all over them, and then, why not, even the ones that did) into my suitcase an hour before the flight, and hopped on the tuk-tuk, headed toward the airport.

The line to check in was long, but I wasn’t worried. We still had 40 minutes to go before the plane was to take off. Listen, trust me, I’ve traveled enough in my lifetime to know that nothing can ever go wrong. Especially with such trustworthy airlines as Air Asia, budget airline extraordinaire.
Chloe was checked in immediately–her suitcase was one kilo under the limit, whereas I was three kilos above (story of my life, am I right?). Whatever, no worries. Chloe took care of it right away, and she placed the newly-lightened suitcase back on the scale.

I handed my Mexican passport to the attendant, sweetly smiling. “Miss, your visa?” She inquired. I shot her a look of death. “My WHAT?” I snarled, baring my teeth. “You need visa for Thailand with Mexican passport.” Chloe hadn’t needed a visa. Why was I being discriminated against for being Mexican? So I like to kick back a taco or two from time to time, so sue me.

But if you refer back to one of our first posts, readers, you’ll recall that I am the proud proprietor of two passports.

“What about French passport?” I said as I whipped it out. She immediately flashed me the Cambodian equivalent of a two-thumbs-up: a giggle and a “Yes, please,” combo.
I sighed a sigh of relief. And then: “Miss, your passport expire in 5 months. You need expire 6 months for Thailand.”

Oh, perfect.

She turned to her boss, a Cambodian Air Asia manager, and presumably explained to him the issue at hand. The color immediately drained from his face and he looked at me with a pained look of disbelief. “Oh, my God,” the Cambodian man said in a Cambodian accent, “I think you can’t go to Thailand.”

“But it expires in FIVE months! That’s ALMOST six months! And I’ll only be in Thailand for a couple of weeks!”

“Oh, my God. Oh, my God,” he repeated. I truly think there’s a chance that this was the worst thing that the man had ever heard of happening, “Oh. My God.” Then he closed my passport, handed it back to me, and called the next passenger in line. That was it. He was through with me.

“THE FLIGHT LEAVES IN THIRTY MINUTES!” I said exasperatedly. The man looked at me, “Oh, my God.”

Cut to the chase—I managed to get him to call Air Asia Thailand and ask if they’d let me in the country one month shy of expiration. They immediately conceded. I grabbed my carry-ons, threw Chloe over my shoulder, and ran through security, just in time for boarding.

But then in line to board, I realized I was unbelievably parched. I had to get something to drink. And if I missed my flight because of hydration reasons, at least they were worthy reasons. So I moseyed over to a nearby snack stand and purchased a refreshing beverage.

But then I saw Chloe standing patiently at the gate, and realized she had been such a good sport during my flight booking-suitcase packing-baggage checking-visa expiring fiasco. I at least owed her a bag of potato chips. So I purchased a bag of those as well, and then—finally—made it to the gate.

But then Chloe saw the flavor of potato chips I got for her (inadvertently). And she didn’t mean to be picky, but, like. They were “Alaska Crab Curry” flavored. Can you think of a less appealing chip flavor? Than Alaska Crab Curry? When you’re on an airplane in Cambodia?
So then I ran back to the snack stand, traded the chips for a bag of four cookies, and finally. Finally. Made it to the flight.

I wonder what language they speak in Thailand.

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What’s Happeninnnnn

Happenings in Phnom Penh

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Mother Hunters

Chloe and I were paid a visit this week by one of the most monumental women of all time:
Oprah. Almost.

With the superior treatment we’ve received from of her, the token messages of wisdom and strength and beauty with which she has bequeathed us, not to mention her positively gorgeous sable skin tone, to us, she is Oprah.

I watched Chloe and Oprah embrace, two identical women of equal coloring and stature. And that’s when it hit me—Chloe had her mother in Cambodia. And I needed to find mine.

We immediately packed our belongings and loaded a van headed toward Siem Reap, home of the great temples of Angkor, in search of my honorary Cambodian mom.

We went first to Ta Prohm, a sprawling temple constructed amid a thriving jungle.
The temple was built by King Jayavarman VII in honor of. His. Mother. But not in honor of mine. We searched under the fig and silk-cotton trees, through the bas-reliefs of Buddhist mythology, and nothing.

Ta Prohm

Angkor-Wat, the world’s largest religious monument, was next.  As the pride of Cambodia, the temple was surrounded by two thousand goddesses carved into stone, inspiring the unconditional love and compassion that I was looking for.

Angkor Wat

I weaved in and out the looming pillars and archways, carved with images of Lakshmi, the Hindu Mother. I climbed the wildly steep staircase to the temples’ top floor, looking down into the crowds of tour groups for Mom. I ran through the lush grass garden calling for her.

And then, from a distance, I saw her. I first spotted our coordinating outfits—her pink pants matched my trusty harems, our complementary black tees, and our hair pulled up into the most elegant of chignons. Really our whole get-up was just very classy. But it wasn’t until I got closer that I truly knew. We had the same face.

Me and Mom

I had found my mother.

Contributing writer: Chloe

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