When the World Isn't Enough:Traveling with Depression

 I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression almost two years ago. I was put on anti-depressants and started going to therapy.

 But this isn’t a coming-out story of my depression. Instead, I’d like to talk about what it’s like to travel with this illness.

 For those of you not familiar with depression (not the kind where you get sad when your dog dies), it’s really really tough. It’s different for everyone, but for me it includes extreme fatigue and I can go for days without eating or eating too much, and gain weight very easily. Sometimes, during a depressive episode, I feel rage, but most often I feel nothing.

 You can understand my anxiety before we left. I worried about whether or not I would be able to handle the stresses of traveling long term. I wondered what would happen on the days I just couldn’t get out of bed. I prepared as best as I could—making sure I had enough meds, discussing things with Ricky. But in all honesty, there’s not a lot you can do to prepare.

 I did ok for a while.  The momentum of beginning such a great adventure carried me through fairly well. Because of the medication, however, I still suffered from fatigue. Some days were hard to get through simply because my body was too tired. On those days, I napped. Ricky would usually occupy himself with the guitar, or video games, or chatting with fellow travelers. And things were fine.

 They didn’t stay that way, however. After a while, when the novelty and some of the excitement of traveling wore off a bit, and the stress set in, the depression came back.

 On my bad days, I am barely able to get out of bed. I don’t want to see sights or talk to people or eat. I just want to sleep and cry. Sometimes this presents a problem when we are on a tight schedule with sightseeing or traveling to a new city. The last thing I want to do when I feel this way is be surrounded by hundreds of people with body odor on a train, or walk for hours looking at temples that kind of just look the same. I know it can be frustrating for Ricky when I slip inside myself, unable to talk or care about what we may have to do that day. Somewhere deep inside my brain I know I have to get out of bed or keep walking or simply communicate a little, but it’s as if the rest of me won’t allow it, and it’s all I can do to keep breathing.

 The worst thing, however, is knowing that I shouldn’t feel this way. I am here in China, or Laos, or Cambodia, or wherever we are at the time, seeing beautiful things, eating amazing food, meeting wonderful people, and all I want to do is sleep through it all. I hate feeling like I just don’t care about anything, especially the amazing time I could be having if only I found the strength. I feel guilty for not appreciating the opportunity I have to travel. That guilt adds to the depression which makes it even worse. It’s a cycle that often threatens to destroy any possibility of enjoying what I came here to do, which is simply to enjoy being here.

 Back home, I had more freedom and ease in keeping my depression under control. I saw a therapist once a week, had regular checkups with my doctor, attended Zumba classes 3 times a week and went running another 3 times, I ate healthily, and made sure to have quality time with people I cared about. It all worked very well for me.

 But traveling, it’s very difficult. Eating healthy food is hard, especially if you’re on a budget. We can’t cook for ourselves so we resort to fried rice, noodle soup, and other less-nutritious local dishes. Exercising is hard without proper shoes (I love my Keens, but not for running), and I often don’t feel comfortable enough in an unfamiliar city to go running (which I hate to do anyway, and without the motivation of a large class, I don’t last very long.). All said, it’s pretty difficult to do those things I know work to keep the depression down.

 Coping with my depression isn’t easy, for me or for Ricky. But we do our best. We’re trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t and what to do when I get really down. It’s a struggle, and both of us are learning patience as we try to work through it.

 It’s hard but it’s not impossible.

A Day at the Market

As I mentioned before, Ricky and I recently visited one of the largest markets in the world.  Now, we love to visit markets. There’s always so much to see that sometimes it can get pretty overwhelming.  This was our first market to visit in Thailand and it was a great first indeed.

Shops featuring handmade soaps and herbal balms offered fresh fruity and floral scents, while the pet section (puppies, kittens, birds, turtles, sugar gliders, and other exotic creatures) offered a scent not quite as fresh.  Clothing shops, purse shops, shops for toys and towels and amazing art filled the place. I was dizzy with the sights and sounds and smells of the market, loving every minute of it.

When I got hungry I snacked on a banana roti, glazed with sweetened condensed milk, and had a honey/lemon drink when I got a little parched.

We saw artists, hippies, lady-boys, beggars, and everything in between as we wandered the aisles.

I could go on and on about the wonders of the market, but instead, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…

A monster iguana. Monsterguana?

Pipe fish.

An albino turtle, stretching out its neck.

Coconut phone charms

Predator, hanging out with the towels. And a scale.

This kid was having a blast playing that thing and dancing around, watching the coins clink into his basket.

A scorpion made from spare parts.

How did they get that tuk-tuk in there?

Handmade soaps, using lots of Thai scents like lemongrass, plumeria, and ginger.

Super Huge Announcement! We Have a Store!

Have we got news for you! Are you ready for it?

 2 Feet Out The Door now has a store!

 That’s right, now you can own a little piece of the places we have been traveling. We have some great items right now, but remember that the store is young still, and growing. Currently, we have pashmina and Thai silk scarves, wallets, keychains, and pouches that are perfect for holding iPods, cash, keys, chapstick, and other small items. We personally own a few of them and use them for iPods, daily medication/vitamins, and other small daily necessities. We hope to soon add some small antiques, figurines, and other things.

 Everything is handmade in Thailand, and your purchases help those that spend time to craft them. Go ahead and check out the store here. You can also find the store up at the tabs section of the blog.

Also, we are open to suggestions and requests. If you have something in mind, let us know and we will do our best to help you get what you want. There is beautiful and traditional jewelry, clothing, cool t-shirts, and my favorite—hippy pants! I call them that, but they are the most comfortable pants in the world, and I never want to take them off.

 If you are interested in anything I mentioned that is not in the store, let me know, and we can send you pictures and prices.

Leave a comment here or send us an email at 2feetoutthedoor@gmail.com with questions, comments or requests!

Bangkok, With a Pinch of Salt

When we travel, we like to talk to others that have been where we are headed and get their opinion on the place. Sometimes we find that our feel of the place differs greatly from theirs, and other times our opinions coincide. For example, a lot of people said they loved Siem Reap and hated Phnom Penh. Our feelings were just the opposite. We found Phnom Penh to be a cool and exciting city while Siem Reap was a tourist hole replete with beggars and hawkers.

We were told before we got to Bangkok that 2 days would definitely be enough in the city, and that it wasn’t a very nice place. Now, we take each warning or recommendation with a heaping helping of salt because we have come to realize that everyone’s tastes are different.

We got to Bangkok at about 10pm and headed straight for the tourist street with lots of shopping and guesthouses, because we figured we’d be able to find something cheap. Now, there we could see why some people might not like the place. It was crowded and loud and not very cheap at all. We ended up finding a room for $12, which is more than we have paid for a room since we left China.  We pretty much went straight to bed after arriving, having been on buses for about 14 hours that day.

Because recycling, that's why.
The next day we found out what tends to be true for most large cities we’ve visited—there is so much more to the city than the one tourist area that features numerous bars and McDonalds.  See, a family friend of mine has been living in Bangkok for 13 years and invited Ricky and me to spend a few days at his place. We took a taxi over, well outside the downtown area of the city, and were pleased to find a more mellow and welcoming area.

Ducks, just hanging out.

Like I say, we were pretty lucky in that we knew someone that could show us around. Thursday and Saturday we enjoyed Thanksgiving feasts with various ex-pats. I was able to get a taste of home, with a deep-fried turkey and pecan pie, and Ricky got to experience the most gluttonous holiday on the planet—twice.(He’ll write more on that later!)  On Sunday, my friend took us to the largest outdoor market in the world.  We walked around the place for a few hours, and still did not even see 1/20th of the place.

As an extra bonus, this friend of ours owns a Mexican restaurant, Que Pasa. Everything I ate there was the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth.  Travelers, if you find yourselves in Bangkok, you need to visit this place. It’s a ways out of the city, but well worth the trip, especially if you want to venture out of downtown and away from the tourist areas.

Ricky and his new BFF, killing zombies on the iPod at Que Pasa.

We ended up staying in Bangkok for about 4 days, and could easily have done more if we had more time on the visa. As it is, we are on the 2 week land border crossing visa, so we’re headed up to Chiang Mai for the sky lantern festival, where we’ll hopefully figure out what to do next!

I know this post is a bit of a rambling, but there are a couple of points I’d like to make. First, don’t take anyone’s word as gospel on where to go or what to see or do. Find out why they did or didn’t like a certain place; it could be that you like what they don’t, or vice versa. Second, get outside of the tourist areas! Eat local food with local people and enjoy the non-downtown areas of a city; there are lots of secret treasures to be found out there.

Like this place. 

Luxury Items You Can't Travel Without

We were all kids once, so we know what it’s like to not be able to live without that special something. Some kids have blankies or teddy bears or dolls. Others had action figures or other little toys. I (Talia) had my little orange Tonka truck.

Thing is, though, that doesn’t stop when you get older. It just…changes. There are things that you can’t go without. When you travel, these things are usually considered luxury items, because honestly, you really don’t need that Tonka truck when traveling through Southeast Asia. 

Ricky and I allowed ourselves one luxury item each, and no, our USB video game controllers for playing Mario Kart on the computer don’t count. For my item, I brought a pillow, which has saved me many a time on trains and buses when I really needed to sleep.  Ricky’s luxury item is a fly swatter because, as I have mentioned before, he hates the creepy-crawlies.   We both use our items frequently and are very glad that we brought them.

For flies, mosquitoes, and pesky children.
While we were in Otres Beach in Cambodia, we got to chatting to some other travelers and asked them what some of their luxury items. Their responses were quite interesting.

A couple of the girls we met said that they brought a bit of makeup, or a hair dryer, but one girl brought a “3-step facial care system.” Yes, three bottles of creams and lotions that she used every day. To her credit, she did have lovely skin.

Because when you're trekking through the jungle, this is all a girl needs.
Another girl brought a travel pillow—not one of the blow-up ones, but the real, stuffed, good quality kind. She didn’t have any room in her backpack for it, so wherever she goes, the pillow goes along, tied to the outside of her pack.

This thing.
Guys were a bit different. A lot of them said they didn’t have any luxury items. One of them brought his own coozie (or beer condom or whatever it is that you call that foam thing that goes around a can to keep your drink cold).  

Another friend of ours carried around his own insulated 64 oz Big-Gulp mug.
Because this is what you really need when hiking in the Himalayas.

The point is, we all carry around things that we don’t need but that bring us that little bit of comfort when we’re away from home. So, what are some things that you can’t travel without? Or if you haven’t traveled yet, what do you think you would absolutely need to take with you? 

It's Teddy, isn't it?

6 Reasons Why Traveling as a Couple Really Sucks

A while back, I wrote a post explaining why traveling as a couple is a great thing. However, it’s not all roses and rainbows all the time. Sometimes it’s hard. Really hard. I’ve never done this kind of thing alone, so I can’t really say if it’s harder with a partner, but here’s my list of why it really sucks sometimes.

1. Making decisions.
Sometimes making decisions as a couple can be really hard, especially since practically every decision includes the both of you.  Where are we going to eat? You’ll have this discussion 2-3 times a day, and believe me, it gets old. Where are we going to stay in this town? This one’s not so hard, because you’ll probably have a budget you have to stick to, but if one of you doesn’t like the place, you may have to keep searching.
Now, making decisions can be hard if you both have the same kind of personality. For example, Ricky and I are both pretty laidback in some things. We usually end up saying “I don’t really care, whatever you want.” Neither of us has a preference as to where or what we eat, or what exactly to do that day, so we usually end up trying to pass the decision making on to the other person.

2. Lack of Alone Time
I don’t care how in love a couple are, or how attached at the hip and perfect for each other they may seem, everyone needs alone time, especially couples. It’s simply not healthy to spend ALL of your time together. However, when traveling, it’s sometimes hard to find alone time. You’re often in a city you don’t know or where it’s not safe to go wandering out alone. Sometimes you have a strict timeline in a city. Say you’re in a city for 3 days with x amount of sights to see. There’s simply no time for separate time, especially if you both want to see everything.
And no matter how much you love your partner, sometimes you just to punch their adorable face if you have to stare at it again over dinner.

3. Different Activity Preferences
This one isn’t so bad, because taking turns is a wonderful thing.  Compromise is a bit harder sometimes, but also good to learn.  Perhaps one of you prefers sports-type activities, like rock-climbing, kayaking, or hang-gliding. The other hates those things, but digs going to museums and art galleries. It’s a tricky situation, and there’s no easy answer except to talk it out and come to a conclusion that hopefully suits both of you.
Ricky's archenemy.
We have found those sorts of differences in our preferences as well.  I love hiking. I’ve done some wonderful hiking in Hawaii and in the taller mountains of Utah. I love it. Ricky, however, despises it.  Hiking is his hell, mostly because he believes anything that can’t be reached by motorbike is not worth seeing and he has an overwhelming disgust for anything with more than four legs.
 So we don’t hike. And I miss it a lot. Sometimes I think of all the cool hiking opportunities I’m missing because Ricky doesn’t like bugs.
On the other hand,  Ricky would like to go kayaking, but I have a strange fear of quickly moving water that is based around the time I fell out of a raft in some white water, got stuck under a rock, and when I was finally pulled out I was missing a shoe and a lot of blood.  So we don’t do kayaking either. In a way, no one wins. And that’s just how it is.

4. Different Energy Levels
I am a very low energy person.  After running around all day seeing temples and museums, I need to re-charge by having a little downtime. Ricky, on the other hand is high energy. He likes to get up and go and just keep going, a la Energizer Bunny. 
Ricky always did look good in sunglasses.

But I have a cuter smile.

Some days I can keep up and we get everything done by early evening. Other days I have a hard time and have to take a nap in the early afternoon. This frustrates Ricky sometimes because he doesn’t like to just lie around during the day. Sometimes this becomes a war of time management, because what would traveling with a significant other be without a little violence? (I’m just kidding here…we never resort to physical abuse. The verbal kind does us just fine.)

5. Minor Frustrations
Eating this will fill me with a murderous rage. 
It is not easy to be in a foreign country, a place where you don’t understand the language or the culture, a place where you don’t like the food, where you can’t sleep, etc. All these little things add up to a growing mound of frustration which you often take out on the person closest to you.  When the food is unexpectedly and unbearably spicy and you’re starving you get angry and start snapping at your partner and they wonder what they did wrong.  Or tuk-tuk drivers keep shouting at you and you shout back until you’re shouting at everyone, including your travel companion.   
This happens often, more often than I would like, on the parts of both me and Ricky. We get so frustrated sometimes that we think we’re frustrated at everyone, which is hurtful to the other person, because really, they didn’t do anything.

6. Dealing with weird habits, routines, and failings brought on by traveling
Whatever about living together, traveling together is a unique situation in which you are forced to see and deal with your partner’s nuanced style of living, which gets even weirder when outside of the “real world.”   One of you may be too organized to the point of OCD, and the other not quite organized enough. You stop shaving (face, legs, whatever), and refuse to wash your clothes.  Your partner’s once pristine sense of hygiene has fallen into disrepair. You yourself are finding that you can’t leave the room until each pocket has been patted down 3 times each to make sure you have your keys, wallet, iPod, and tissues.
Traveling changes you, and not always for the better. I have gained weight and started losing things (phones, earrings, keys). Luckily Ricky puts up with it, despite his travel-induced anger management issues.

You see, traveling is a weird thing that brings out the best and worst of everybody. And for better or worse, you have someone to share it all with if you decide to travel as a couple.  If you think I see traveling as a couple as a negative thing because of this post, please go back and read the first post about the wonders of travelingtogether, because despite all the frustrations, problems, disagreements, and misunderstandings that occur, you have to fight to make it work, and when you do, it’s amazing.

November trip update

Hey readers, it’s time for another trip update to tell you guys exactly what’s up.

So in the last few weeks we’ve visited some amazing sights around Cambodia including the killing fields, S21 (the school turned prison) and Angkor Wat. We decided we wouldn’t bore you to death in a blog about the temples of Angkor . Despite Angkor being an amazing sight to see, we didn’t feel it wouldn’t make a very interesting read so we decided to leave it out.

Since we left Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor we have been on a small beach near Sihanoukville on the south coast of Cambodia and thank god we found it! We were so frustrated and angry with Cambodia that we were ready to leave after just two weeks and then we found this amazing place.

It is a small beach where life is slow and easy and most importantly cheap!

Also very importantly, we have decided to not go to India, and I, personally, am very relieved. Shoving India into our already busy travel plans is just too much right now!

As of right now, as we relax on this beach and unwind until our movement recommences, our plans for the future are as follows:

·         Thailand for the Yi Peng festival and the national day.
·         Malaysia for Christmas
·         Vietnam in the new year for a motorbike tour
·         Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore Motorbike tour
·         Myanmar for a month

Thereafter we have to recollect and see what else we want to do or what else we can do with our remaining cash, with an luck we will still have time and cash to travel to another country or so!

If ANY  of our readers have any suggestions on what to do in any of these places or requests for anything you would like us to do please contact us and let us know. We NEED suggestions and requests on what to do!

The 10 Weirdest Creatures We've Eaten (So Far)

Traveling opens the door to so many new experiences. Meeting new people, getting to know new cultures and seeing amazing new places are among the wonders of traveling. One of my favorites, however, is tasting new foods. I love trying strange foods and will hardly ever shy away from new dishes. Ricky, too, is beginning to be a more adventurous eater. Here is a list of 10 of the strangest things we’ve eaten so far. Now just to clarify, we list 10 different creatures, not parts of them. We’ve had cow stomach and duck intestines, but duck and cow aren’t that strange. The following list contains 10 animals that the majority of you probably haven’t tried.


Yes, they taste the way they look.
10. Silkworm

I’ll start with the creepy-crawlies, because, well, they're the worst.. First is silkworm, a popular dish in China. I tried them twice. The first time was disgusting and I couldn’t actually swallow it. The outside of the worm was a sort of chewy/crunchy texture, and when I bit down on it, the goo from the inside flooded my mouth. It was absolutely vile. The flavor was rancid, the texture even worse. I spit it up into a napkin.
The second time was much better. The inside was cooked  better, so it had the texture of a firm tofu. The outside was
chewable, so I could actually swallow it. The flavor was much better than the first time as well. Still, though, silkworm is not a great food, at least for my tastes.

9. Scorpion  
Who decided eating this thing was a good idea?
The scorpions I had were tiny little things, with not much to them. They were cooked on skewers that were almost as big around as they were.  And that’s pretty much it. There wasn’t much flavor, or actual edible stuff. Just a crunchy little tid-bit.

8. Wasp
All I remember thinking as I was about to pop this crunchy morsel into my mouth was this: “It’s looking at me. It can see into my soul.”
I will devour your first born child, with all your hopes and dreams on the side.

And then I ate it, and it popped a little.

7. Grasshopper

By far the worst insect I’ve eaten. First, they were huge. Second, they still had legs.  It took me about 5 minutes to eat one because everything kept getting stuck everywhere. There were legs in my teeth and exoskeleton bits stuck to the back of my throat. It was probably one of the most disgusting eating experiences ever.
10 months later and I'm still finding bits in my teeth.

***Just to sum up my bug-eating: never again. I thought before I started traveling that I would be an insect-eater. The thought didn’t really gross me out, so I figured I’d be ok with it. But it’s one of those things that is cool once for the novelty, but after that it’s just gross.  Bugs are definitely not something I could make a meal out of. But maybe I just haven’t met the right one…***

6. Ostrich
So tall and regal...and tasty.
This is one of my favorites on this list. We were given it raw, and then we cooked it ourselves on a barbecue. Raw, it was red and looked a lot like beef. Cooked, it still retained that beef-like appearance. 
The flavor and texture were delicious. It was tender, and the taste was rich. The Japanese must have eaten this when they discovered umami. 

5. Yak
So, this may not be way out there, because it’s pretty much just a cow dressed as Tina Turner, but we're still guessing that not many of you have had the pleasure—nay! The privilege!—of eating yak.  It is the most divine meat I have ever eaten.

Wear it, eat it. It's multipurpose!

 I had a yak steak and a yak burger in China and I could almost hear a choir of angels singing aloud as I chewed each bite. It was oh-so tender, full of flavor, and seemed to melt in my mouth. Each mouthful was a taste of heaven, and I was close to tears when it was all gone.

4. Dog 
Shame on me for using this picture. 
Not one of my favorite meats, but Ricky will eat it any time he gets a chance, mostly because it means that we’re in a North Korean restaurant, and he has a fascination with North Korea.
We’ve had dog twice, and the second time was my favorite. The first time, it was sliced up, and looked like roast beef. It came with a tasty brown sauce and was served cold. The meat was tender and flavorful, but for me there was a strange sort of after-taste…a very doggy sort of after-taste.
The second time we had dog it was in a sort of stew with onions and peppers, served over rice. I really liked it this time.  It was so tender and flavorful, with less of the wet-dog after taste.
Fresh puppy stew.

3. Snake
Ever since I saw Crocodile Dundee, I have wanted to try snake.  Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom changed my mind for a while, but I decided if the snake was dead, I’d have no qualms.
So when Ricky and I went to a barbecue joint, we decided  to get a little snake to throw on there. Honestly, it was quite good. I think it was pretty fatty, because it shrunk up a lot on the barbecue, and it was fairly chewy.  But with a dip in the right sauce it was quite enjoyable.

2. Frog Legs
Now, I’m from Texas, so I had tried frogs legs before, nice deep fried ones.  This was Ricky’s first time though, and enjoyed it well enough. The meat was a bit bland, but the texture was nice. It was sort of a mix between fish and chicken. I liked it very much and could definitely make a meal out of it.

1. Crocodile
Tasty tasty meat. Really. The flavor of the meat was delicious. It was a little chewy for my taste, but the flavor was just right. Ricky and I ate this right up.  As a bonus, the day before, we had visited the local crocodile farm, so we got to take a look at this succulent creature before it ended up on our plate.
The many inhabitants of the local croc farm.
To the right of the bowl, frog legs. At the 11 o'clock, crocodile.

Redemption in Cambodia: Finding Paradise

Our last couple of posts about Cambodia haven’t been the most positive of posts. I would apologize, but that’s exactly how we felt, so I won’t. But I will tell you about redemption.

See, we got so tired of being so close to the beach in Sihanoukville but unable to go because we didn’t want to face the hawkers and beggars.  Some friends that we had met before told us that they were staying at another beach that was much better. We didn’t have much to lose, so we took a tuk-tuk out there. Because really, all we wanted was a beach.

Well, we found it.

We checked into the guesthouse where our friends were, with more than just a little trepidation. The room was up a short flight of ladder-like stairs. Inside was a mattress on the floor, with a mosquito net over it. The floors and walls were thin wood and the thatched roof was right above us. 

Our lovely room. We've already started decorating: note the roll of toilet paper and empty water bottle.

  We changed straight into our swimwear and headed for the beach, which we still hadn’t really checked out yet.

We were greeted by perfection. The strand of beach was pristine with soft sand. The sky was blue and the water was a clear emerald green and amazingly warm.

We finally found what we were looking for.

The view from our window

So we swam a while, lounged a bit, ate some food (pricy, but good portions, so we can share a dish), swam again, chatted with some folks, had an oil massage on the beach, and lounged a bit more.  After dinner we watched the sun set over the water.  And all of this with a minimum of hawkers.

Beautiful sunset on the beach.

We have vowed never to leave this place. Well, at least for a few more days, until we have to leave the country. For now, we will spend our days lazing on the beach, jumping off boats into crystal clear water, and eating fresh fruit in the sun. 

I'm so happy!

A day at the beach

So you and your girlfriend decide you would like to go for a swim. You go to your hotel room and get everything you need –towels and water and such—and change into your swimming clothes. You had a waterproof pouch that you bought before to keep your passports and money in while you swim so you know they’ll be safe while you’re in the water.

You arrive at the beach and it is paradise. There are headlands in the distance either side of you covered in palm trees, and the sand is so soft you want to bury your face in it. The sky is clear and blue but the water is even bluer. You dip in a toe to find that the water is the same temperature as the air, beautiful and warm, with a hint of sun-derived toastiness.

You lay your things down on a nearby sunbed , with no other sunbeds occupied nearby so you have lots of privacy. You get undressed,  and run straight into the water. It’s filled with beautiful little jellyfish-like creatures that you’ve never seen before. You swim around and it is perfect for just a moment.

Just then, you realize that the pouch around your shoulder with the passports and money has burst and everything is getting soaked.

You run back to shore trying to get the water out of the pouch and sit down on your sunbed. As you sit there a barman comes over and tells you that the sunbeds are for customers only and you need to order something, but as you are preoccupied you decline and continue to try drying out all of your money and passports. The barman stands and watches as a beggar comes over and spots your wet cash lying in the open.

The beggar holds out his hat and despite your disregards he just stands and stares. A woman comes walking down the beach selling boiled lobsters and offers them to you, but, seeing as you have some rather pressing matters, you decline, so she stands and watches you dry your $315 and passports. You are really hoping the ink on the stamp doesn’t run or fade. If it does, you could be stranded in this country for a long time with lots of problems.

Another woman with a gold tooth strolls up the beach and asks you if you want to buy some brown bracelets. You are trying to guard your belongings (because you’re new here and don’t know if you can trust anyone or if there is much crime) while trying to dry out your passports with a towel. You tell the woman with the gold tooth that you don’t need a bracelet right now and ask her to go away as you are obviously busy.

She takes a small step back and laughs with the beggar and the lobster lady at your misfortune. Another man comes along and sits on the sun bed next to yours. He says he is a shoe salesman and wants to “try out” your girlfriend’s shoes. She declines to which the man replies “Why?” Upon deciding to not justify why a man shouldn’t need to try out a pair of women’s sandals size 8, you try your best to work quickly as water is still running from your passport.

The barman has returned and told you that if you don’t order some food or a drink right now he is calling the police, which in this country means being “fined” up to a few hundred dollars mostly to subsidize the policeman’s bad wages. We tell the barman we will be leaving soon to which his reply is “fine, I’ll call the police.”

You grab your belongings, shove them all together, wet and dry, into your bag and storm through the half a dozen beggars and hawkers away from there as quickly as possible before the police arrive.

We are not impressed with Cambodia so far.

4 Reasons Why Siem Reap is the Most Aggravating City on the Planet

We just spent two and a half days in Siem Reap, which in my opinion was far too long.  See, Siem Reap is a place that just gets to you. It has some inexplicable way of getting right to your nerves and giving them a little flick.

Cambodia: More annoying than this thing.

4. The Children
I know what you’re thinking. I’m some terrible person that hates children and is annoyed  by crying and whining. Well, all of that is true, but is not actually why the children are annoying.  Unlike the children in Phnom Penh, who were often smart and charming and actually selling things, the children of Siem Reap just hassle you.  They will come up to you, holding their “little brother” and a near empty bottle and say “Don’t want money, only milk!” Now, I don’t really get this scam, because obviously a baby needs to eat. But when one girl followed us down an entire street telling us to go into a shop and buy milk, we saw her blatantly pinching the baby so he would cry, because he was “hungry.”  And there were kids everywhere doing this.  Now, I’m not so evil that I would let a baby starve, but I also can’t give money to every begging child, especially when things don’t seem quite right. Still, it's hard to say no, despite how irritating the kids are.

3. The “Salespeople”
Just to be clear, everyone is selling something in Siem Reap. Ricky commented that he would like to meet one person that wasn’t a tourist that didn’t want his money. It’s impossible.  This town is a tourist town, and all the people want is the dollar. You cannot walk down the street without being shouted at by people whose soul job is to sit outside a business and shout at you. “Lady! You have massage! Mister, you eat here!”  And it’s not an offer, either. It’s a command. These people are telling you to buy their stuff of partake of their service. In their mind you don’t have a choice. But you do, and most often that choice is no.

2. The Tourists
As I said a minute ago, Siem Reap is a tourist town, and boy is it ever.  Pub Street is exactly what it sounds like and has the largest concentration of tourists that I’ve seen in a long time.  You can’t get away from them. Once again I’m sure you’re all thinking “Good heavens, that Talia is one anti-social nightmare.” Well sometimes. But mostly Ricky and I  like to enjoy a place for its local culture.  With so many tourists, there is no local culture, unless you count the locals who own the pubs, guesthouses, and restaurants that cater almost solely to tourists.

1. The Tuk-Tuk Drivers
We thought we had it bad in Phnom Penh. We had no idea.
In Phnom Penh, tuk-tuk drivers would shout at you as you pass, wanting to you to know that he was there and ready to take you wherever you needed to go. If you said no, he might ask one more time, just to be sure, but would otherwise leave you alone.
In Siem Reap, however, the drivers just won’t let you go. They rarely sit in their vehicle as they ask you where you want to go. Instead, they wander the street, especially Pub Street, walking by your side as you tell them yet again, that no, you don’t want a tuk-tuk. And they just don’t listen. Instead, they talk.
“Where you go, mister? You want massage? You want eat? I take you. Where you from, lady?  What time is it? Where you stay? I take you there.”
There really is no end to their chatter, until you either shout a very loud NO, or walk further away from the tourist crowd than they are comfortable with.

Now, for you non-travelers, some of this may sound kind of petty, and maybe it is.  Maybe I shouldn’t be bothered by people just trying to do their job, or other travelers having a good time.  Maybe I should learn to be a little more patient in my travels.

In any case, I’m glad to be out of Siem Reap.

Overcoming Tragedy: A Walk Through Phnom Penh

I didn’t know what to expect from Phnom Penh but from stories I’ve heard and what I’d read in guidebooks etc. that  it was going to be a city of corrupt cops trying to get money from me, lots of thieves, scams, beggars and swindlers.

Unfortunately a large portion of that is actually true, but I’ll get back to that later. Phnom Penh has so much to offer as a city and though it’s always easy to focus on the negative, in Phnom Penh it’s so much easier to turn the negatives into positives. Taking an experience at face value can be much better and a more fun experience than weighing out options and reading between the lines, and our experiences in the city of Phnom Penh truly helped us see that despite the tragedy these people have seen, they live and thrive. They are lighthearted and cheerful, with a good sense of humor.

On a walk through the city, we passed an open area where tons of kids and teenagers were playing soccer. I of course had to join in. Meanwhile, Talia met and chatted with a local man and his adorable son.
Just chatting with the locals.
Ricky having fun.

Then, while sitting at a bar on the riverfront we were hounded at least once every two minutes by a beggar or a young child trying to sell us twine bracelets or counterfeit books. It really was non-stop! But once we actually engaged some of the kids and watched how the community of beggars and hawkers interact it all became quite an interesting encounter.

 For example, when one 8 year old girl with incredible English asked Talia where she was from, and Talia replied America, the first words out of the girl’s mouth were “Ok, what’s up dog?” and then “Why aren’t you black?” Then, as she tried to sell scarves and t-shirts, we said we didn’t have any money. To that she had the philosophical reply of “No money, no honey, no baby!” 

Talia and the smartest, most charming girl in Cambodia.

Following this girl, whose name was Pov,  was another small girl and a pantsless boy, walking like a boss down the street with a straw in his mouth, junk swinging from east to west. Pov explained that they were her niece and nephew, the children of her older sister who was also selling trinkets. She and Talia formed a weird sort of bond and ended up chasing each other up and down the street throwing chunks of ice at each other as other tourists looked on in either amusement or confusion.

Talia, no-pants boy, Pov, and her niece.

Talia and her loot, because she doesn't know how to say no to children.

While walking down the streets in the afternoon you can also quite likely see rats the size of terriers dead on the roadside but in a strange twisted way it all added to a beautiful charm in an indescribable way!

Yes, that rat is bigger than that foot.

Another example of the city’s charm lies in the tuk-tuk drivers. A tuk-tuk can be a range of things from a trailer with seats towed by a motorbike to a van with no …”walls”. The tuk-tuk drivers will shout at random passers-by non-stop to try and get that important tourist dollar into their pockets, which can easily become very frustrating very quickly for the tourist.

To abate the annoyance, I made a sign that said “No! I do not want a tuk-tuk!”

It actually worked out really well! I didn’t have to say “no!” every ten seconds; all I had to do was hold up the sign and the tuk-tuk drivers would erupt in laughter! It was quite amazing to see their good humor at being refused.

In Phnom Penh a simple street encounter with a stranger can lead to anything from frustration to a huge laugh, from a hefty fine to a new friend. It really is a city of lightheartedness where we noticed laughing, playing children, and adult men indulging in a little horseplay  on the streets.

As we walked past the Palace of the late king of Cambodia we were approached by a group of kids on rollerblades and scooters selling postcards. As soon as I spotted the kids rolling down this four lane closed section of road I hi-jacked one of the scooters with the kid still on and rolled away at full speed!

Inside a temple near the palace we ran and played with a different group of kids who were just running around and playing in their Sunday suits, paying their respects to the death of the king.

You can never get too many high fives from children running back and forth past you.

Phnom Penh really is a city where the worst imaginable atrocities have happened and from the ashes sprouted laughing children and locals. It’s a city where an honest smile is the most valued currency among the lower class, where strangers can laugh together in jest until tears come from their eyes.

I really liked Phnom Penh and apart from the traffic and that police man who tried to ‘fine’ us (all he got was an earful of F-bombs and some tire smoke) I would definitely like to visit again so I can remember the seven days I smiled like a fool.

Recommended Posts