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Friday, November 26, 2010

Party in the Front, Business in the Back

We're moved in, partied out, and ready to grind.

We moved into a palace in comparison to our last place of residence (see dead gecko minutes before the rat attack below).  We have the second floor of a house with 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and a living room too big to furnish (were thinking mini soccer goals could be in order..) We live above a family of 6 - Mr Ni, Hoa and their two boys and two girls.  We are still working on their names except for their daughter at the bottom of the pictures below - "Honeymoon". There are also enough real and fake cousins around to fill a small stadium.  We have a few more purchases to make before our house turns fully into our home but it is something we will not come to take for granted and are certainly all thankful for this holiday.

We of course are due for quite an update on the past few weeks but they are best summed up by two stories in particular.  Last week Jed took us to his friend Rya's farm just outside of the city for what we thought would be a light lunch - just hours after we packed in our standard big breakfast.  His house was beautiful, built on stilts creating an indoor/outdoor living room below with several hammocks and a large stone table and chairs.  There were babies and animals everywhere the eye could see.  I counted 7 dogs, 3 cats, 5 cows, 12 ducks, 120 (yes) quails, and a partridge in a papaya tree.  Setup for us on the stone table was a gas grill with a metal top to cook on - shaped like the northern hemisphere of an aluminum globe.  "Beef Climbing Mountain" is the exact translation of this Cambodian feast.  After starting the grill the first step is to put spoonfuls of butter on top of the grill, letting it bubble and waterfall down each side.  Mmmmmmmmmm.  Next plates after plates of beef, each with an egg cracked on top, were brought to the table and grilled in front of our eyes.  Halfway through the meal we were told there were 12 pounds of beef being cooked for us - 2lbs each that is.  If that wasnt going to fill us we could pick at the array of vegetables also being cooked in the butter on the grill or at the plates of grilled quail covered in thai basil.  To wash everything down fresh coconuts were brought down from the trees above and machete'ed tableside.

As explained previously last weekend was the water festival - celebrated around the country saturday to monday.  Our family, as we have already come to call them, invited us out to join them riverside for the fireworks and festivities.  It took nearly an hour just to find them in the crowds of thousands, but when they did we snapped this photo and had some fun...

We walked and danced and watched people sending off floating candles into the river.  We took turns carrying "Honeymoon" and tried our hand at the carnival dart game - I won a bottle of Wrestler, Rice Wine Whiskey (both pictured below) and a box of cookies.  We watched people setting off fireworks towards each other on either side of the river, keeping an eye out for stray shots in our direction.  Finally the youngsters and Mom and Dad headed home and we were left with our fake cousins and a language barrier.  They wanted to dance so we went to the best place for it "HIP-HOP" (pronounced 'heep-hop' of course).  Hip-Hop is just outside the city center, towards our neighborhood, and 99.99 percent locals only spot.  They don't discriminate at the door of course, only show some surprise upon our entrance.  You then walk through 6 sound proof sets of double doors and into a nearly pitch black club - the only lights are black lights and red and green neon signs on the walls in fake graffitti saying english phrases like "BOOM BOOM!, HIP-HOP!, and I LOVE YOU!"  We shared a few beers poured into glasses of ice at our table alongside the dance floor and then jumped on nervously.  We soon found there was not a damn thing to be nervous about when you have the best rhythm in the entire place.  Literally not one person could dance to the beat, so we felt like we were killin it!!!  I was bringing out every move I could think of and then some more.  I even taught a couple of girls my favorite move - finger pistols on each side of your waist and then just bounce your hips back and forth to the beat - I call it the Sheriff Woody. Dropped em dead of course.  Our cousins wanted to stay until the place closed at 3am but we finally convinced them we were falling asleep standing up some time after 2.

It is friday night our time and we are sorry we are just now giving you this update but we are about to really get things going.  We have our newest webisode already shot and our going to finish editing and add a sountrack by this weekend  - hope you enjoy.  Again, please get on top of the comments folks - we want to know what were doing wrong, right and what you want to see next.  Much love and a Happy Thanksgiving to all!


Monday, November 22, 2010

Festival Update

Hello all.  Sorry for the delay but it has been the busiest week yet and we are just gettin cookin.

Unfortunately there is some pretty heavy news to share (which many of you may already know about) before a real update on what we've been doing.  This past weekend Cambodia celebrated a three day water festival which is held every November to honor a victory by Cambodian naval forces during the 12th century.  During the festival, which includes boat races, participants pray for a good rice harvest, substantial rain, and to celebrate the full moon.  Last night, amidst the celebrations in the capital city of Phnom Penh, a suspension bridge begin to sway and people began to panic - running in all directions and some leaping from the bridge into the water.  In a somewhat strange effort to coax people to continue across the bridge, police fired a water cannon in the direction of the bridge.  This caused a chaotic stampede resulting in the deaths of over 300 people either by drowning, suffocation, or electrocution (from lights hanging on the bridge).  The prime minister declared thursday to be a day of mourning and already the city of Siem Reap where we are living (a 5 hour drive from the capital) seems quiet in the wake of this national tragedy.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Feelin' Like Future Ringleaders of a Circus in the Jungle: WELCOME TO SIEM REAP

Heresadeal everybody.  I'm sitting on the balcony of The Warehouse restaurant and bar watching the closest and most beautiful lightning storm I've ever seen.  Assuming it doesn't get any closer it may rival any I'll ever see.  The double rainbow just faded (pictures to follow) and somewhere a soft voice is whispering welcome to Siem Reap.

It was nothing short of an ordeal getting here mind you - a Cambodian bus marathon.  The uncomfortable chairs were little to worry about, and the several hours longer trip than expected was..well, expected.  What really got us was the puking.  Apparently Cambodians easily get car-sick because if you did not have headphones on you might as well have been listening to a puke symphony.  At one point I passed Scott a note that said "hold up one finger if the kid is puking and two if the father is":  with little hesitation, Scott, stone-faced, raised three fingers from below his headrest.  A family affair indeed.  I watched the mother spend the next several minutes wiping her face with the bus window curtain at her side.

But we are here.  And little known fact to everyone we've met thus far, be they expat or khmer - here to stay.

I promise there will be picture and videos soon that will do this place justice but for now a brief description of our first day in Siem Reap will have to do.  Slept in (til 8am) and went to check on the dead gecko we found in the bathroom last night - it was gone/being devoured by a rat.  We sprayed him with water until he took off.  Next we had steak salad lunches and played pool til noon.  Obviously we had important things to do as well - $1 straight-razor shaves and Gabe got his earwax extracted with dentist tools.  Then we met up with Trixie, who works for the NGO Globalteer who helps to run the soccer league we will soon be volunteering for.

We have projects already in the works to come soon but if there is something specific you want to learn wassadeal about Cambodia be sure to suggest it in the comments below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cambodia's Best Kep Secret

Kep was to be the beach experience we needed after the miserable sandy spit we found outside of Saigon last week – it did not disappoint.  As soon as we arrived, we watched the beginning of a near perfect sunset and dipped our feet in the water.  Rejuvenated, a van took us up into the mountains 2-3 kilometers where we were staying in an eco-resort called Jasmine Valley.  We were welcomed with fresh lime juices and then showed to our tree house bungalows, up a dirt path from the main-house of the resort.  From there we watched the end of the sunset and relaxed until dinner.  We munched on fish and chips and sipped star-fruit cider until we called it a night.  Jasmine Valley resort is truly one of the most spectacular places you could ever find yourself.  Everyone awoke the next morning to a stunning sunrise over the water, which was coupled with an orchestra of early morning sounds.  A chorus of animal calls started as early as 5:30 AM.  The gibbons, geckos, cicadas, and various other creatures took turns serenading us as the sun rose higher in the sky.

Unfortunately for us the price wasn’t right and we were only going to be able to stay there for one night.  The Jasmine Valley Eco-Resort was founded 18 months ago by one of Jed’s friends - so we had to check it out.  The next 2 nights were spent at more modest accommodations in a guesthouse a literal stone’s throw from the water’s edge.  After packing up and heading down from the mountains towards the beach the four of us (Gabe, Miles, Scott, Jordan) decided to trek to the beach with nothing but a frisbee.  While the town of Kep is largely undiscovered by backpackers and tourists it is well known by the Khmer.  They descend upon the beautiful beaches by the masses for the weekend.  The second we got to the beach we were instantly swarmed by about forty 10-13 year old Cambodian boys.  All of them fascinated by the disc we were tossing about wanted to practice the only lines of English they knew: How are you and what is your name?  It was not long before we were all playing with the frisbee and the rascals were literally crawling all over us – and screaming our names at the top of their little lungs.  The kids could not get enough of us as we engaged in an epic splash fight which ended in the muppets mauling us as we tossed them several feet in the air to a watery demise.  It was a truly unbelievable experience.  Apparently there is something humanly universal about water fights.  Playing with the kids made everyone’s day and we are sure they felt similar.  We are extremely sorry we could not capture any video of the interaction but our cameras were not readily available.  That night we met up with Jed’s inlaws, his wife Theary and their 3 month old baby girl Priya.  She is adorable.  We drove to the nearby town of Kampot via tuk tuk (a motorcycle with a 4 person carriage attached) and had wonderful steaks doused in a pepper sauce – made of the legendary green peppercorns of southern Cambodia.

The next day we took a boat to Rabbit Island.  Not much to say here other than it is a picturesque little island with a small beach lined with hammocks, massage huts, and crab shacks.  We lounged on the beach with Jed, his wife and her family, his father, and obviously Scott and Jordan.  Everyone was in super relaxation mode.  For lunch, we devoured heaping portions of fried noodles and rice accompanied by some of the best shrimp and crab around.  We took a boat back in the early afternoon and then booked a bus ticket to Siem Reap for 7:30 AM the next morning. 

This was written in Kep and being posted now from our new home for the next few months - Siem Reap  - which will be better introduced shortly.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Border Jumpers

Welcome to retroactive blogging.  We have had some great experiences since the last post but haven't had any great internet.  Thus, we had to make ya'll wait, but no worries.  After the next few posts you will be completely up to date on our whereabouts and wassadeals.  As we sit here sipping 'passion fruit fruit sharks' (about the fifteenth item we have found mis-spelled on our guesthouse's menu - though nothing beats 'noodles with fried fork') we realize we need to explain how we got here.  We left you in Saigon as we headed to Chau Doc - a small vietnamese border town.   Choosing to skip the boat ride previously planned, we rented a van all the way down to the beaches of Kep, Cambodia.  Kep is incredible.  More on that later...

Crossing the boarder from Vietnam to Cambodia was striking.  Nearly everything changed immediately.  Although we greatly enjoyed our time spent in Saigon, it was a constant battle with the Vietnamese people.  Every member of our traveling circus had to be on guard at all times, as it seemed that everyone was trying to snake away as much money from us as possible.  Our friend Jed described Vietnam to us as so: Vietnam is like the store that desperately wants you to buy something but doesn't care if you come back.  If you have ever been to Vietnam you should know exactly what we are talking about.  It is not to say that we did not enjoy our time there but we were more than happy to move on.

The boarder crossing from Vietnam to Cambodia was an experience in itself worth sharing.  All of us were nearly giddy with excitement as we were about to enter Cambodia.  We went through the Vietnamese immigration side of things seemingly with no problem.  When we got our passports back the three of us who had applied for a looseleaf Vietnamese Visa realized that the boarder patrol had ripped it out of our passports.  Jed assured us that it most likely would not be a problem and we embarked on the 200 meter walk to the Cambodian immigration hut - which, was literally a hut on the side of a red clay road.  The immigrations officer instantly looked upon us with suspicion as the 6 of us approached the window.  He had a curt and somewhat stand-off-ish demeanor which had us all secretly thinking the same thing: this guy is gonna hassle us and look for a bribe!  Having Jed there (who speaks Khmer, lives in Siem Reap, and has a Khmer wife) we figured we were not in for too much trouble.  We all began to fill out paperwork and answer questions and then a serious issue arose - why didn't three of us have paperwork from Vietnam?  The officer was not about to grant us entrance to Cambodia without the proper documentation that the Vietnamese had taken from us.  'EFFF!' was the first thought that came to our collective mind.  With Scott and Jed's father through immigration, Jed took the arduous walk back to the Vietnamese side leaving just three of us with the officer and the crowd of Cambodians who had gathered around us.  As it turned out Jed was fortunately able to retrieve our visas and we were on our way - following a quick temperature check by the health official (next clay hut on the left).  Apparently had we so much as coughed or had a slight temperature we would have had another potential bribe necessary for access to Cambodia.  We literally jogged the rest of the way - nothing was stopping us at that point.

We then scarfed down a bowl of noodles and beef, rented a van, and bumped and bounced all the way to Kep...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Webisode #1 - Wassadeal Saigon BMX?

Wassadeal Saigon BMX? from Wassadeal Productions on Vimeo.

Going, going, Saigon...

Our first order of business is to attempt to describe the unbelievable meal we just ate.  The 5-star Saigon Riverside Hotel cooks an unbelievable Peking duck in their Chinese style restaurant.  We know this because six of us devoured two whole ducks in one sitting.  The majority of the party were Peking duck virgins and had never experienced the delicacy.  For those of you who don't know - it is amazing.  The restaurant prepares the ducks all day, slowly roasting and basting the ducks in a dark glaze.  At some point in the process, the chefs blow air into the duck which causes the skin to separate from the body.  The skin then cooks independently into a sweet, crispy shell.  This is cut off of the body into pieces and wrapped in a pancake with scallions and Hoisin sauce.  Delicious.  Try it.  While we enjoyed the pancakes the duck is chopped up and stir fried.  We chose a garlic and ginger for one and bitter melon with black bean sauce for the other.  At the moment, we are seriously considering taking a trip to China for the Peking duck.  It would be worth it.  Did I mention the two delicious types of dim sum we started with?  You can never go wrong with shrimp and pork steamed in a dumpling with exquisite dipping sauces to match.

If you got through that without having to take a trip to the fridge you are privileged enough to hear about our upcoming travel plans.  Tomorrow at 8 in the morning we are piling into a rented car to the Vietnam city of Cao Duc.  We really have no knowledge of this small town other than it is on the Mekong and we will be taking a boat into Cambodia and up the river to Phnom Penh.  In Phnom Penh, we will be having a home cooked meal at Jed's wife Theary's house (Jed is our friend and the owner of the Warehouse Bar/restaurant in Siem Reap).  We're sure it won't be like our mother's home cooking but we know it will be good.  After a one night stay in the Cambodian capital we will be heading to the beach town of Kep which according to Google Images is unbelievably beautiful.  We are excited as our first attempt at a beach was a relative failure (See 'Saigon's Revere Beach' post below).  Don't go to Saigon Bay even if an apparently nice man by the name Nghii wants to take you there on the back of his motobike.  A couple of days to soak up the sun and salt water should do us good before we take the last leg of the journey to Siem Reap where we intend to stay for the majority of the remainder of the trip.  Once we get to Siem Reap the fun really begins.  Siem Reap literally is not prepared for us...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dinner for Schmucks

Yesterday marks a day that will drastically change the remainder of this trip..for the better. The Point System was established.  As Gabe and I stopped to shoot the insanity that is Saigon traffic we lost our accompanying travelers Jordan and Scott.  They actually seemed to have evaporated into thin air but we spent little to no time looking for them knowing finding them would be near impossible. Realizing it was the first time we had been away from them at this point in the trip, we thought ahead to reuniting and trading stories with them and knew we had to come home 'with more points' than they would. We kicked things off early with a point for chocolate mocha and choco-banana milkshakes (respectively) accompanied by spring rolls and onion rings.  After lunch we met some local kids that put us back on the scoreboard again and we will have a video ASAP to explain.  We returned to the hotel in the late afternoon to find Jordan and Scott and made dinner plans.  I recommended the one place that I remembered eating my first time in Saigon for some vietnamese barbecue and we took off in a 75 cent cab ride in the rain.  Bo Tung Xeo restaurant quickly became our favorite place in all of Saigon.  We started with a round of local beer called 333 or "Bah-Bah-Bah" and an order of fried scorpion.  The claws, legs, tail and stinger (edible - subject to manhood) are crisped to perfection but the belly is soft to keep ya guessing.  Next they set a coal barbecue on our table and we chose from an array of meets from kangaroo to rat - we decided upon beef, crocodile, and ostrich.  And then more ostrich - possibly the greatest tasting meat on the face of the earth - especially when cooked inches from your plate by a chopstick wielding waiter named 'Li'. We ended the night with a few more bah-bah-bahs and few games of pool and called it a night.  Points abound and all around.

Again there will be more to come soon - food porn that will have you licking the screen and our very first video webisode.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Saigon's Revere Beach

Today I straddled a sixty year old Vietnamese man for hours. It was amasian. Alright I was on the back of a motorbike.  We paid four bikers to take us to the beach early this morning.  We bumped and bounced probably an hour and then rode a fifteen minute ferry and continued biking to our first stop – Monkey Island.  Imagine what you will, but there was no actual island just a mangrove full of monkeys.  Conveniently next to the monkey area was a crocodile farm where I paid fifty cents to buy a snake that was then attached to a fishing line and bamboo pole – CROCODILE FISHING!  It was everything you can imagine and more – dangling a snake in front of a 16 plus foot croc just snapping away at it.  Good wholesome family fun and the closest I will ever get to a dinosaur.  From then on our day was certainly less eventful though nice –we enjoyed barbecued shrimp with rice and vegetables and walked along a rather polluted beach.  Our reuturn trip involved several downpours and some rather sketchy biking through a foot and a half or two feet of water.  Now we are back at our hotel and finally dry watching Batman Forever and a lightning storm out our window.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Breakfast of Champions

Chicken Pho and Sweet Iced Tea

Reunited at Last

BOOM.  I was a little later than the Cathay Pacific kids but United Airlines did right by me and I've arrived in Vietnam.  Overall the trip from Boston to San Fran to Hong Kong to Saigon was uneventful - until the first second we touched down on southeast asian soil.  The elderly vietnamese woman sitting next to me (with an empty seat between us) seemed very nice from the get go, smiling being our only universal language.  She woke me up when our meal arrived mid flight and even separated my chopsticks and rested them next to my cup-o-soup.  Again I fell asleep after the meal until the pilot came over the loudspeaker and announced our descent.  The women seemed fidgety and I thought nothing of it at first but what happened next will explain and yet only experiencing it would have done it justice.  The landing gear is prepared and we touchdown relatively smoothly and BOOM the lady jumps from her seat as were still zooming along the runway.  The flight attendants shouted at her to sit back down and as they do I catch a whiff of the most vile smell imaginable - yep, human feces.  The lady with her drawers full of cup-o-soup is literally climbing seat rest to seat rest towards the bathroom as the G forces of the plane resist her journey.  Finally a flight attendant gets up from her seat and drags the lady back to hers - two feet from me. I am pretty sure I held my breath all the way off the plane, across the terminal, and through customs.  If I was in any way doubting how wild and weird a few months in southeast asia would be, this was certainly a shit-smeared slap in the face wake up call. WE HERE!!!!! fallin asleep in front of a tupac movie now but more to come soon enough.

Hittin' the Ground Bloggin'

Okay, so after this post the blog will officially be a travel blog as we have touched down in Vietnam.  Jordan, Scott, and I are currently waiting for Miles at the airport.  He should be here in less than an hour.  If you don't know who Jordan and Scott are, you will soon - provided you keep following what we write.  Which you should obviously do.  The plan is to spend the next week in Ho Chi Minh City until we take a boat up the Mekong to Siem Reap with our friend Jed and his father.  The trip here was pretty easy with no real hiccups along the way.  We flew Cathay Pacific, which you may or may not care about.  For those of you who do care this airline is unbelievable.  The airplanes were new and the seats incredibly comfortable with little personal TVs on the backs.  We spent 50 extra bucks to fly Cathay Pacific which, according to Jed, have mostly new planes.  It was totally worth it.

I promise in the days, weeks, and months to come we will have way more interesting shit to blog about.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Yo, Check Me Out

"If you didn't get to see us then this was your last chance.  Peace, we out like a boner in sweatpants."

- Sangamob

Monday, November 1, 2010

Down to the Wire

Last night while I was lying in bed waiting to sleep, it was the first time that this trip actually felt real.  The first time anxiety overwhelmed excitement.  It had mostly passed by the time I rose up out of bed this morning.  In less than 48 hours we will be on a plane bound for Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and shortly thereafter Cambodia.  Stay tuned... this is gonna get good!