Thursday, March 31, 2011

MBA Madness

Who's getting an MBA? None other than yours truly.

On Sunday, Dad and I decided to make the trek over to South Horizons to pick up some much-needed tortilla chips. You see, we had a very lonely jar of PACE PICANTE SAUCE in the fridge, crying out to be eaten. I haven't had Pace since I left the States, and I LOVE Pace. Sure, it's not very spicy. Sure, it's not authentic. But it is delicious. So we ventured out to remedy the problem.

After selecting a Family-size bag of "Garden of Eve" chips, we decided to check out the fifth-floor thrift store. They have a pretty good selection of used books (not any easy thing to find in Hong Kong), and the turnover is pretty good.

I first perused the young adult books, since I love that genre. Unfortunately, the only interesting item there was a Babysitter's Club Pony Party book (or something like that), and I'm afraid that was interesting for entirely the wrong reason. I found some great children's books for my school. I even found an awesome book about the pirate of Cheung Chau (an outlying island I like to go to).

All of these books are good, but then I ran across my most important find: The Ten Day MBA. Did you hear that? I can get an MBA in only ten days! Instead of paying a bajillion dollars to some stuffy university program, I can learn in the comfort of my home (or the neighborhood Starbucks, sipping a chai latte). It covers topics like Marketing, Finance, Strategy, Operations, Accounting, etc. After reading this book, I'll be an expert. Do you think they'll mail the diploma to me or will I have to go receive it somewhere?

Ok, so I lied. I'm not really getting an MBA. But all joking aside, this book does look like a good resource. The book is a bit old, but I still think there's a lot of relevant information. Examples may change (cassette tapes are kind of gone), but the basic concepts remain. The author, Steven Silbiger, used his notes from his own class days to write this book and help us poor, penniless schmucks.

I've always been pretty interested in business. I enjoy talking with Dad or other people about their own business ideas. I enjoyed the SIFE coffeeshops I attended. I even liked the business plans we had to edit at the Writing Center (what was that class called again? I can't believe I've forgotten). Well, I may not have liked the editing so much, but I enjoyed hearing about their ideas and how they were going to make it happen. I've also had a recent influx of students who want to learn about Business English, so knowing some of these MBA terms and concepts will probably be helpful.

Are any of you interested in business? Or do you have any interests that stretch beyond your major or profession?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Music Monday: Alt Worship Music

Some of you might know that I'm not usually a huge fan of worship music. It's not the worship part that I don't like, but usually the music part. Now if I'm in church or just singing with people than it's not a big deal; I can focus on the words and it's fine. But if I'm by myself I definitely don't want to listen to most worship artists. Even if I like the song itself, the syrupy voices and choirs and the tamborines are not exactly my thing.

So here I'll give you a snapshot of the kind of worship I do like. Maybe you'll like all of or none of it or some of it. That's ok, either way. I suppose the important thing is the worship itself, not the kind of music you're listening to.

There are some songs by regular worship artists that I enjoy. I really like Todd Agnew's Grace Like Rain. The first time I heard it the guy played it in a minor key, which was nice. I like Todd's few-frills approach and his take on an old classic. I also like his voice which can be both quiet and intense.

I also really like All the Heavens by Third Day. It's a nice, quiet song with great lyrics and a powerful chorus.
Waterdeep is also a worship band, but their sound is way different from a lot of the other, older worship bands. I find a couple of their songs splendid, like Since I Am So Sick. This is just some random guy singing it, but he does a good job.

Another kind of music that I really like is hymns. Not all hymns, mind you. Some of the hymns I look at in the hymnbook I find boring and I wonder about their lyrics. BUT, there are many awesome, awesome hymns that have great lyrics and music. I usually have to search awhile before I find an artist that sings it the way I like, and I've discovered that I usually end up with Fernando Ortega. Not only is his music simple and beautiful, but he seems to always pick the hymns that I like!
Come Ye Sinners (I Will Arise and Go to Jesus). I couldn't find Fernando's version on Youtube, so you could maybe find it on grooveshark or another site. This, done by another lady, is a decent version and lets you know what the tune is like, since there are two different versions out there.
What Wondrous Love is This. I also couldn't find the Fernando version for this one either, but here's a really pretty one by Michelle Tumes.
If I Flee on Morning Wings. This is a Fernando original that I couldn't find at all on Youtube, so you'll just have to turn to grooveshark for that one. This is short and simple, a version of Psalm 139. Check it out.
I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say. This is another song that I couldn't find an acceptable version on youtube, but it's worth checking out. I usually listen to the Michael Card version, which is a bit fast but still nice.
In Christ Alone. This is an old favorite, but I thought you might enjoy the Owl City version, if you haven't heard it before. He puts a fun twist on it.

But let's move away from hymns to some ska worship. As you probably know already, I LOVE the long deceased Five Iron Frenzy. I still think they wrote the most awesome, convicting lyrics of any band out there.
Everywhere I Go. I shared this song with you guys this summer, for those of you who were reading back then. It's a great reminder that God will always be with you and to look to him for your fulfillment.
Burn. This is a simple, passionate prayer.
On Distant Shores. This is one of their last songs that talks about struggle, mercy, and our hope of heaven. This one actually has lyrics with the video!

Finally, metalcore worship! This is the section that some of you might want to opt out on. Still, I love the passion and intensity that comes with screaming. You could always try it.
How Great Thou Art by Becoming the Archetype. Maybe I should have put this in the hymns section, but then some of you might have accidentally listened to something you wouldn't have enjoyed! Safer putting it here. :) I posted this during my Becoming the Archetype post, but I'll post it again. This one even has some (funny) lyrics for those of you who want to become fluent in screamo. A wonderful version of an old hymn.
Then there's Heart of a Warrior by War of Ages. In this song, the singer begs God to help him battle his pride and bring him back to God.
Some of you might have heard of this, Brian Welch's Save Me From Myself. This one isn't necessarily a worship song (and it isn't really metalcore either), but it's a raw, desperate prayer. It's about a man who's sunk to the bottom and is crying out for God to pull him up. I find the chorus really touching.
Redemption by August Burns Red. This one is an honest and passionate prayer for God's help.

Well, that's all I've got for today. What about you guys? Do you have any alternative worship songs that you enjoy?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Waiting for Superman: American Education

I took the first sick day of my working life today. I actually went to work and did one lesson, but I was feeling really crappy so I went home again. I slept, read, and finished watching The King's Speech (really good). Then I slept some more until it was time for dinner. Will I even be able to sleep tonight? We'll see.

After dinner I finished watching Waiting for Superman with my parents. We started watching it last night but it wasn't loading quickly enough so we turned to the Great Escape. For those of you who haven't heard of it, it's a documentary about America's education system.

It's really sad! It follows a bunch of different families whose children are in unpromising school situations. A lot of the regular public schools in inner-city areas are pretty hopeless. Watching this makes me a little angry about the tenure system in schools. If a teacher somehow manages to make it through two years of teaching (they just have to be breathing, one educator put it) then it's impossible to fire them. If a teacher is incompetent or even abusive they still can't be fired! Every day they go to a "rubber room" where they can sleep, play cards, read the paper, whatever, and they COLLECT THEIR FULL SALARY for that. Ridiculous.

Whenever people try to reform the system, they get caught up in the unions. Michelle Rhee, the former Washington D.C. Superintendent, tried to change things but kept getting stopped by the unions. Even though it spends more money per pupil than almost every other state, the DC school district is the worst in the country. Rhee tried to take away tenure by giving the teachers a pay-raise if they would let it go. Also, they would be able to get performance-based raises if they gave up tenure. But, of course, the unions said that that wasn't in the teachers interest. Well of course not. But it is in the student's interest! It is not cool that those teachers have no accountability.

I don't necessarily think that you should fire a teacher right away just because they aren't doing too well. Teaching is hard. There's definitely a learning curve, and that should be taken into consideration. But if a teacher is incompetent, maybe there should be a system to work with them and help them get better. And if they refuse, then yes, they should no longer teach. In one part of the documentary, a student brought a hidden video camera with him to many of his classes. He video-taped teachers reading magazines, surfing the internet, and sleeping. The students around him were goofing off and gambling. No learning was going on. When the superintendent of that school wanted to fire those teachers, he found out that he couldn't because of tenure.

Now not all schools are that bad, but there is another problem that students face. Even middle-class students face the problem of tracking in schools. In most schools, students are divided into higher-achieving and lower-achieving tracks. The higher tracked students usually get better teachers, better resources, and are pushed harder than their lower-tracked peers. Sometimes tracks are set while the students are still in middle school, so there's no catching up if they have a change of heart or want to do better a few years later.

So what options do those families have? They can leave their kids in those schools and hope that they get lucky or they can send them to a private school or a charter school. Private schools can be good, but they cost money. One single mother in the doc worked really hard to keep her daughter in a private school, but she was laid-off and unable to come up with the payments. Charter schools, schools that are publicly funded but privately run, are the next option. While they can be a good option, they are very hard to get into.

The charter schools really seem to be working. One charter school, KIPP Academy, takes the same low-income students that are in any other school and sends 90 percent of them to college.
Of course, competition to get into that school is stiff. The documentary followed several families all applying to different charter schools. According to law, the schools have to hold a random lottery to ensure fairness. In one school, there were only 42 spots but 767 people applying!!!!!! Whew.

I'd encourage all of you to watch the documentary. It is really informative and well put together. They also have some awesome cartoons and use many examples to make the information clear.

So what would you do if that were you? What if that was really your only option? It's sad, so sad.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Great Escape

I often watch movies with my parents on Sunday night. My parents wanted to watch Waiting for Superman (which looks very good), but it was loading like a snail, so we turned to the tube. I had to choose between The Great Escape and Where The Wild Things Are. I liked Where The Wild Things Are, but I didn't really feel like a repeat, so I chose The Great Escape.

I love old movies. I used to watch channel 41 (our classics channel) all the time. John Wayne was a favorite, as well as Bonanza and random war movies. I did watch The Great Escape but it had been a long time. I didn't really remember the end, and I kind of mixed it up with another prison camp movie where they had to ferret out a German spy. Anyway, The Great Escape was very good.

I kind of wondered about the original Great Escape. I know there have been several books written on the subject, but I've never read any. The Great Escape is now on my to-read book list! Since I haven't read the book, I, of course, turned to Wiki to glean pearls of wisdom.

The movie is fairly accurate in its rendition, but there were some changes. One of the biggest one was that no Americans actually used the tunnel to escape. Well, there might have been one, but they're not sure. In the beginning the camp was all British. Then they had a huge influx of Americans. Lots of Americans worked on the tunnel, but the Germans moved all of them to a new American-only prison camp before they could actually use it. Sad. In the movie, there are several prominent Americans. I'm guessing that since it was an American production company, they wanted to appeal to their audience by having a few daring and dashing Yanks involved.

And it's true; they did make some good characters. Hilts, the "King of the Cooler," was an awesome character. His face graces most of the DVD covers, yet he wasn't even in the real escape. One of my favorite quotes came from him when the Americans made their own moonshine to celebrate the Fourth of July. After filling a cup, he said, "American moonshine. Don't smoke after drinking it." He was known for being tossed in the cooler for months on end for his many failed escape attempts. He'd just take in a baseball glove and baseball and play catch with himself to pass the time. [Spoiler Warning] I was so sad when he was captured at the end! After running and riding and working so hard, you just want him to make it. But he doesn't.

I have more things to add, but I don't want to ruin things for you. [Massive Spoiler Warning] A lot of the details that the movie added were right on. The air pump, dirt dumping, wood scavenging, fake papers, uniforms, etc. was all real. A lot of the events at the end were real too. It was true that the tunnel ended right before the woods and they had trouble getting away. Something that differs from the movie is the fact that it was winter at the time. That definitely makes escaping more difficult. Finally, there were only three who actually escaped, but they weren't the same guys in the movie. Instead of a Brit, a Pole and a Aussie, they were two Norwegians and one Dutch guy. Interesting.

I do really enjoy movies based on history. It adds a whole new depth to the movie, and it's interesting to see what liberties directors take. What historical movies do you enjoy?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Stay Awake

Tomorrow I'm going with my parents to our monthly Christian Businesspeople's Breakfast. It's my monthly bacon (although it's rarely crispy, it's still bacon)! Here's just a quick thought before I head to bed (contrary to my title).

My church, along with many other international churches in Hong Kong, has been listening to twenty-eight minutes of the Bible a day. By the end of Lent, we'll have listened to the whole New Testament!

They handed out free CDs for us, but I've mainly been listening online at

They have the Bible in 522 LANGUAGES!!!! Isn't that awesome? Sometimes I just listen to other languages to hear how they sound. I was pretty excited when I listened to Matthew 7 in Cantonese and I understood three words/phrases! Sometimes the voices sound a little funny, but overall I like it a lot. It's definitely a different experience, taking the time to listen instead of read.

Right now I'm in the middle of Luke, and there have been a couple of things that stuck out at me. The main one is the theme of watchfulness and wakefulness. Yesterday I listened to the part that talks about the watchful managers.

And from

Luke 12:

35 “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.

It seems to me that it's easy to stop watching. I sometimes get caught in my routine that I forget to listen and I forget to watch. I forget my exuberant joy in Christ. I plod about my days, worried about petty things. I also recently listened to the part about the disciples sleeping when Jesus asked them to keep watch right before he died. He was grieved that they couldn't stay awake during such an important time. Will I fall asleep as well? I need to stay awake every day!

There's so much talk about the end of the world with all the craziness that's been happening and the Mayan calendar and all that. I kind of doubt it. Since Jesus said he will come "as a thief in the night" at a time when no one expects him, I doubt it will be in 2012. But no matter. Whether the world is ending in one year or in several thousand, I hope that I will be a faithful servant as long as I am alive.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Music Monday: Symphonic Metal

I've recently come across symphonic metal, which is a pretty awesome genre. I don't know too much about it but I still thought I'd share the bit that I do know.

According to my good friend Wiki, symphonic metal is regular metal that incorporates aspects of more traditional music like classical. While they do use electric guitars and can be heavy, they also rely on keyboards. They might even use string instruments or a full orchestra. Also, they often use a strong female vocalist and sometimes choirs.

Also, a lot of the bands seem to come from the Baltic region, although there are other ones. It seems that they often draw from fantasy tales or myths when creating their lyrics. I love the melancholy quality combined with the guitars.

Night Wish was the first band that I came across in this genre. I don't remember how I stumbled across them, but I've been enjoying their stuff ever since. That's led me to look for other bands, and now there's no turning back!

Here's some examples for you to check out.

Bless the Child by Nightwish. It also has a very interesting music video.

Last of the Wilds by Nightwish. If you didn't like the last one, you might like this one. It's a nice instrumental one with an awesome violin part. And just for your amusement, I got a video that has lots of clips of Jack Sparrow!

The Dream by Leaves Eyes. This one even has Spanish subtitles. :)

The Howling by Within Temptation. FYI, this might be a bit sad/creepy for some of you. She also has a very strange spiky collar thing. Still, I like the music.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hannah's HK Visit

Now I'm finally getting to a post about Hannah's visit! This is WAY overdue, but I just finished with my Cambodia stuff. Sigh.

A couple weeks back, Hannah, one of my best friends, came to visit me in Hong Kong! Yep, she came all that way just to visit me! I certainly felt special. She stayed a little over a week, and we had many fun times while she was here. Not only did I get to show her around Hong Kong, but we had some awesome catch-up/hang out time.

The first Sunday she was here, my off day, I we were planning to go to Cheung Chau (Island). Unfortunately, it was raining! So instead we ate at a Thai place and wandered the city, riding the MTR and tram.

Monday was Valentine's Day! I had a break in the afternoon, so I could go with Hannah to the Zambra Cafe, a coffee shop in Wan Chai. We had a great time talking about the future and our many dreams.

So happy! See my t-shirt? I got it in Thailand from the t-shirt lady!

My mocha even had a heart in it for V-day.

That night we met up with Lillian and Josh for some hotpot. It's a very popular winter-time dinner in Hong Kong. You basically order lots and lots of raw food and then boil it in a pot that sits in the middle of the table. It was my first hotpot ever! I've decided that I'm a fan.

I'm sure you can guess how I mis-pronounced this.

Lillian and Josh. He doesn't look so excited. But aren't the plates of food BEAUTIFUL?

Lillian, adding vegetables to the pot.

You can see all the steam from the table over. Also, notice the plate with corn and clams.

One night (Friday?) we decided to ride the Escalators. It's the longest system of escalators in the world, and there are restaurants and clubs and bars all along it. It's a very exciting place. We got some dessert at Ivan the Kozack, a Russian-Ukrainian restaurant. The ambiance there is lovely.

Us with Ivan.

Another night we went to the Hong Kong light show. To get there, you take a ferry across the harbor to the viewing area. I didn't get any pictures of the actual light show which spans most of the skyline. Near the viewing area they had a display of lanterns that were really cute!

The entrance.

The pictures kept turning out blurry because I wasn't using a flash.

View of the skyline from the ferry-ride back.

On Sunday we went to church and then went to dim sum. My friend Alvin was able to join us, which was really fun. Besides that, he speaks Canto so he could order! The food was really good, as usual.

Hannah and the steamed pork buns.

After filling up on dim sum, we took a ferry to Cheung Chau, an outlying island. We're so glad we waited and didn't go in the rain! It was a little overcast and chilly, but still beautiful. We had fun wandering around, checking out the shops, and enjoying a seafood dinner before heading back home.

The beach.

Hannah went back to the States the next day. We had so much fun, and I'm so glad she could come. Love you, Hannah!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Music Monday: Anberlin in HK

This Saturday night was pretty exciting because I got to go to another concert! I don't listen to Anberlin much (they're a bit soft for me) but I still had a great time at their concert. Anyway, I figured that I should support them for coming all the way across the puddle. I hope more bands will follow their example. :)

I was worried because the crowd was dead during the opening bands, but they picked up when Anberlin came on. Overall, it was a great night. I got sufficiently sweaty, tired, and bruised. In fact, I have a five-inch welt/bruise on my arm from someone's watch. You'd think they'd take their watch off before jumping in, but oh well.

Maybe you guys would enjoy Anberlin. Check it out!

Godspeed. It's an old song, but one of their most popular ones.

The Resistance. This one was really nice live!

Fin. This one's softer than the others.

BONUS: Blindside just put out an explanation video talking about their new album as well as answering questions like why they dropped off of the face of the planet. Take a look, if you feel so inclined.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cambodimania 4: The End!

Finally! I've made it to the LAST post about my Cambodia/Bangkok trip! This post, like the others, is very picture heavy and long.

We got up early (very early) to catch a bus back to Phnom Penh. A shuttle was supposed to pick us up at anywhere from 7:40 to 8:10 to take us to our bus which was supposed to leave at 8:30. We were ready by 7:40, waiting in the front of our guesthouse. And then we waited. And waited. Finally, around 9:10, our shuttle arrived which took us to our bus, which, in turn, left about 9:40. Well, that's Cambodia-time. The ride back was pretty uneventful except that someone put a motorbike in the bathroom. They couldn't fit it anywhere else, so they put its front tire in the bathroom and the back tire in the aisle. I promptly stopped drinking liquids, since we still had three hours until we got to PP.

We went swing dancing that night, which was fun. It's always nice to dance and meet new people. The next morning we went to a Christian cafe for breakfast. It was SO good!
I had French toast and with bacon! I love bacon.

After breakfast we headed over to Tuol Sleng. We didn't have time to visit the Killing Fields, but Tuol Sleng gave us a pretty good idea about what went on. In the 70s, Pol Pot and his Communists took over Cambodia. They ended up killing off anyone who had any kind of education or knowledge. They killed and tortured teachers, professors, writers, engineers, mechanics, scientists, etc. Terrible stuff. I'm not going to go into a ton of detail, but I would encourage you to look into it further.

Hard to read, but you can try if you want.

One of the school buildings that was converted into a prison/torture center. The people who survived here were sent to the Killing Fields where they were slaughtered and put into mass graves.

One of the classrooms turned cell with torture devices.

Clothes of victims.

In several rooms, all they had were rows and rows of pictures. They had mugshots of Communists as well as their victims. Their faces showed such a range of emotions: fear, defiance, anger, sadness, resignation. Words can't describe how sad it was to look at all of those faces.

A young Communist.

A prisoner.

After that heavy morning, we went to find the Daughters of Cambodia cafe. The girls we stayed with all work for the anti human-trafficking organization. This cafe gives rescued women a chance to work and support themselves.

I think it was a banana mocha smoothie. I know it was good.

After wandering around the area, we headed back to the house. We needed to grab our bags and head to the airport. Unfortunately, when we got home, we were locked out! The girls inadvertently went out, leaving us stuck! We panicked for about forty-five minutes, trying to brainstorm alternate ways to get to Bangkok and home. Finally, some of them showed up and let us in. We raced to the airport and were relieved to make our flight.

We became very well acquainted with their front gate.

Since their security was such a breeze, we even had time to enjoy some Dairy Queen. I was pretty excited.

We arrived in Bangkok around six or so and went back to our hostel. We dumped our stuff and had a long conversation with a German girl who had studied in Georgia (the state). She had such an interesting accent! By that time we were getting hungry so we headed downtown to get some food. We met up with Peter again and just wandered around, talking and looking at things. We even got more smoothies! Peter grew up in the North of England, so he was amusing us with his thick (put-on) accent. We'd give him Spanish phrases and then he'd repeat them in his accent. So awesome! He kind of sounded like the barman from Lord of the Rings. He even taught Lillian and I a traditional greeting: "Ello, moi luvverrrrr."

Delicious food at a nice little street stand. They're my favorite.

This was at our hostel--too funny! I have heard several Westerners swear that they'll never go back to toilet paper after using the butt-sprayer.

And there it is.

The next morning, Lillian and I went to a cute little cafe for mocha frappes and a chance to use their internet.

Pretty cute.

We then wandered down to Lumphini Park to try to spot some giant lizards! Unfortunately, they were all sleeping or something. I didn't see a single one. :( We did buy some brunch off of some stands near the park entrance.

The fried chicken was very good.

They mix the salads in these big bowls and then bag them in plastic for take-away. The salads are deceptively spicy.

I didn't see any lizards, but I did spot some birds. I wasn't consoled.

By that time we were running a little late so we sped off to the airport. The train took longer than we had thought, so we were definitely late. The ticket counter had already closed, but the guy was nice and let us on anyway. Whew! Then all we had to do was relax, eat some food, and be carried back home. It was a good trip.

Kenyan Airways food. It was really good!

The tired travelers, homeward bound.

Well, if you've read all that, I congratulate you. It was quite the trip!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Head's Up

Hey everyone. I just thought I'd let you know that I finally decided to monetize my blog (try to make money off of it by letting them put up ads on it). I was paying loans today, which made me realize how much I have left to pay, once again motivating me to try alternate methods of making money.

I probably won't make much doing it, but if I do a lot of little things, they'll add up to something. I'm still new at this thing, but I may try to get some cool ads that go with the things I'm actually writing about. Maybe I'll even get a Hostelworld ad! We'll see.

Have any of you guys ever tried odd ways to make money before? How did it go?

P.S. Happy Mardis Gras! I just realized that I've almost let Fat Tuesday pass me by without indulging in anything. I'd better go eat a Snickers.

Music Monday: Laura

I thought I'd try something a little different for today's Music Monday. I went on grooveshark and looked up a ton of different songs that have "Laura" in the title. What would I find?

Well, the results weren't that awesome. There were a lot of songs about Laura, but they weren't terribly cheering. Most of the songs seemed to be about break-ups or Laura spurning their love. A couple were about slutty girls named Laura. Hooray.

This one by Combustible Edison is especially cheerful. "Laura, never will she marry. Born to wander 'til she dies. Life for her is just a misty blur. She has no home; her shelter is the sky."

Music-wise, they were ok, although there weren't any that I fell in love with. No luck in the theme-song department. There is a Flogging Molly song called Laura, and that one is pretty good.

There were several instrumental ones and a couple in Spanish, so I can hope that those were positive, but they sounded sad too! Oh well. Maybe I'll just write my own song about how awesome Lauras are. Yeah!

Now I challenge you, dear readers, to go look up your own names and tell me what you find. Is your name mainly positive or negative? Do you like the music? Do you even have any songs named after you? If your name is Hepsibah, I think it's safe to say that you should start writing your own.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cambodimania 3: Siem Reap

I feel like I should warn you that this is a very long post. Feel free to breeze through it or read it in chunks.

Anyway, back to the story. The next morning, Lillian and I took a six-hour bus to Siem Reap. That was definitely an interesting experience. They played Khmer pop music the whole way. All six hours. And they didn't just play the music; they cranked it up! There was no way they were going to let us sleep and miss out on the beautiful music that all sounded the same. They also had tv screens showing some of the most cheesy, romantic music videos showcasing beautiful but sad starlets. It was quite the trip. We did manage to relax a little bit and take pictures out the window.

A busy street in Phnom Penh.

Views from the road.
Such a cute stilt house.

We made a pit-stop for lunch in some small town. Lillian and I went into a restaurant and ordered our food, but it didn't come as soon as we had anticipated. We asked them to make it a to-go order, so they loaded our food into plastic bags for us to take. Although it sounds strange, it worked out pretty well. Good thing we didn't order soup, though.

I had some delicious frog legs and garlic. :)

We arrived in Siem Reap in mid-afternoon and were immediately swarmed by a crowd of tuk-tuk drivers offering their services. Since our guesthouse provided a free pick-up, we clawed our way through the mass and rested on some nearby plastic chairs to wait. And wait. And wait some more. After thirty minutes, we started developing a plan B. We were discussing whether we should hire another tuk-tuk or try to walk when a man ran up to us carrying a sign with my name on it. Hooray! We got in his (GREEN!) tuk-tuk and were off. For a short time, until he ran out of gas. We were amazed to see him trot off and then return with an old wine bottle of gas. After filling up, he went back to the station to return the bottle, and we were amused. Cambodian gas stations look like lemonade stands! They're amazing!

Only the most awesome gas station in the whole world.

After checking in at the guesthouse, we went out wandering. One of the girls in Phnom Penh had told us we should visit a cafe called Art Deli in Alley West, which turned out to be a really cute area with lots of great little shops. We met a nice Australian girl at Art Deli, and the three of us all went to dinner together. After dinner, Lillian and I wandered around the night market, buying some gifts and souvenirs and getting an infamous fish massage. Do you remember my post about getting a fish massage last summer? Well here are finally pictures to show you what it's all about! Lillian was very reluctant, but I weasled her into it by pointing out that we would have great seats for watching a nearby Khmer dance performance. That did it, although she only put the very tips of her heels in the water. :)

I have to include a bathroom picture because 1). the tiles are so cute and 2). it's a great example of both the wall-less shower and the butt-sprayer.

View from our guesthouse balcony.

Lillian, sampling a turnip cake bought from a street vendor.

We found Art Deli!

The inside was fun.

They're eating my feet!

The traditional dance was very fun to watch.

The next morning we hired a tuk-tuk for the day and headed off to the famous Angkor Wat! Angkor Wat is an enormous collection of amazing temples. Apparently you can spend weeks there, if you want to, but we only had one day. The temples were something else. We enjoyed our day even though we were dragging by the end of it.

We were chipper, ready for our temple adventure. We also were wearing matching duck shirts that we bought in Bangkok. We figured that if we got lost from each other we could just ask people if they saw a girl who had on the same shirt.

Our first temple.

The view from the top.

This temple had lots of faces all over it.

Me, ascending yet another level in this temple. Notice the monk coming down?

This was my favorite temple. The trees were taking over everything!

That night we went out to eat, wandered the city, and got the worst massage ever! Seriously, I've never had a worse massage. The night before Lillian had had an amazing one, so we were hoping to go to the same place. Unfortunately, they were closed by the time we got there so we went somewhere else. The lady who was working on me didn't seem like she knew what she was doing at all. She kept poking and prodding and pressing my back in ways that were not so great. I asked her a couple times not to press but she kept doing it. Besides being a terrible massage, she kept up a continual stream of talk with the others around her (we were all in a row). She was even playing matchmaker for other masseuses and their clients. "Hey, mister," she'd yell across the room. "She's very beautiful, isn't she? No boyfriend. No husband. You like her?"

I didn't get a picture of the massage place, but here's one of me and my dinner! Rice, Khmer curry, and a coconut smoothie!

After my interesting but painful massage, I decided it was time to call it a night. After all, our bus was coming at 7:40 the next morning to take us back to Phnom Penh.

Disclaimer: my camera died halfway through the temples, so some of these pictures are Lillian's. Probably the better ones.