Thursday, September 04, 2003

No Sleep ‘Til Yogya 

September 2-3
Cambodian Comics? Check.
Drawing tools? Check.
Copies of Pure Evil and Silent Army? Check.
Up ‘til 4am sorting and packing stuff.

September3: 7am bus Siem Reap to Poipet.

I sleep most of the way to our first rest in Sisophon. It’s an interesting town with a cool Wat (temple) on a hillside, I’ll have to check it out someday. For most people though it’s just a place they pass through. I have some fun chatting with the kids who sell stuff to travelers; they ask if I’m ‘koun kat’ - foreign Khmer. With my red hair? Yeah right.

In Poipet I walk my luggage through ‘no man’s land’ at the border crossing. Stupid, it weighs more than me. It’s a long stretch too because it has several casinos including (eat your hearts out Melbournites) ‘Crown Casino’ .

Poipet/Aranyapratet to Bangkok

Stuffed into a van and on the road to Bangkok. Addled from lack of sleep so I’m not taking the public bus this time, I’m in with the busload of tourists. All told that and the detour add at least an hour to my journey. (If you want the real scoop on Cambo/Thai border travel try

As always am impressed by the huge difference in development on the other side. Certainly there are poor in Thailand but there’s much more of a middle class.

Musing, staring out the window… I see someone working at a very simple job like street cleaning or street vending in Cambodia and it’s pretty normal. But doing the same job in the shadow of skyscrapers and corporate logos seems even more menial, like it’s the bottom of the global factory floor. I’m sure that the Thais wouldn’t see it this way though, certainly they aren’t lining up to move to the country next door. And they have much better access to education and health care.

Saved from boredom by my MP3 player/flash drive. What would I do without it?

I space out and watch the landscape. Just for a moment, deep in the heart of urban Bangkok, we spot a small oasis of green and some elephants, then it disappears.

Spat out near top tourist spot Khao San Road. It’s like a factory for hipsters. Get your hair braided, get your temporary tattoo, get your travel gear and clothes. I hop a taxi to a hotel near Siam Square. Would like to take a picture of the street carnival atmosphere but again, am weighed down by luggage. (I can see a number of digital pictures and sketches will need to be added later in the game for this weblog).

Another contrast between Cambodia and Thailand is the people gathered around noodle stalls and just strolling at night. If New York or Bangkok is ‘ the City that Never Sleeps’ then Phnom Penh is ‘The City That Sleeps’ . Not that that’s a bad thing. It’s simply a smaller town, with a more human pace.

Scarf down some food. On the teevee, Thai rap group ‘Thaitanium' is doing the soundtrack for a new film, ‘Province 77’ about Thais in Los Angeles.

Sleep restlessly. Up early for flight to

September 4: Bangkok – Singapore – Jakarta

At the airport a hassle: was planning to cleverly put most of the heavy items in my hand luggage. But I’m forced to check my backpack in, which means they ding me for $60.

Flight moves by quickly. I try to take the shuttle bus to Gambir train station, but can’t get on fast enough with my luggage. I take a taxi instead.

On the way in I see a cigarette line with the Braddock Coalition slogan 'Not Mild'. That's not a bad portent of things to come.

At Gambir, all the trains are sold out. So much for the night train to Yogya. Will take the train tomorrow and arrive in the afternoon. I go to tourist area Jalan Jaksa and get a cheap hotel room. Well, not so cheap, over $10. But I’m still chained to these 3 pieces of luggage, so I’m not comparison shopping.

Email from Michael Pee Fikaris, about to send off Melbourne care package. And Dylan Horrocks says it’s cool to photocopy NGA PAKIWAITUHI O AOEAROA: New Zealand Comics. Now food.

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