Category Archives: Cambodia

Back to Viet-F’n Nam – The Package From Hell, Chapter 2

So there’s one of two theory’s here;

1.  I was naive enough to think, “Hey I should have brought my IPhone for the Wifi, and since Sovereign Bank has been bending me over every ATM and raping me with ridiculous fee’s;  I’ll simply mail my IPhone and a new bank card to Vietnam”.  Noble prize worthy like thinking, right!  Wrong.

Hue, Vietnam - US Helicopter on Display aside Tanks and Personnel Carriers

2.  Vietnam’s sending me a message;  “Hey Carl, the last month you spent being taught how your imperialist country pulled out the teeth and fingernails of every man woman and child for fun, while your American POW’s stayed at “Bed and Breakfast” like prison’s with; massage parlors, swimming pools and personal butler services… we don’t think you got the point.   So, you want your package, come back and get it… Punk!”.

Okay, I embellished on the “Punk” part.

Regardless of which theory you buy, I flew back to Vietnam yesterday.  The package that was going to take 6-10 days according to UPS, is on day 44 and counting.  Vietnam sent a letter saying they wont release the package without a copy of my passport and visa (which had long since expired).

You may be asking yourself, “is this package really worth it?”  Well, I have the dollar cost analysis, and pro’s and con’s sheet typed up; feel free to request a copy.

The good news:  Hanoi Backpackers is a great place to be stuck and I may be able to partner up with them for some filming.

Bad news:  $340 of flights, another $65 visa.  Sitting in a coffee shop in Hanoi when I should be on a beach in Sri Lanka, and Finally… I’m complaining to a bunch people who see my complaints as a good enough reason to slap me.

Na Trang, Vietnam

Editors Note:  On a serious note, these are mistakes that are easily avoidable, so I’ll write a quick post on how and why, coming up next…

A Swing and a Miss, Three Times… Kinda

One standard I’ve always tried to maintain with the Backpackers Union is a mutual expectation of transparency.  If I expect others to be honest about their stories, I had better do the same.  Here’s one of those stories I begrudgingly tell purely based off that principle…

When I was on Otres, the hippie-esque beach on the Cambodian coast, I met this hot girl.  We subtly flirted which lead to a late night ocean swim surrounded by glowing plankton and a first kiss in the corridor near the showers.  Our kiss was cut short by a door swinging open to one of the showers where she then embarrassedly scurried off.

The following day I was pissed to leave Otres knowing that would be the end of the story as my next destination was Vietnam over 400 miles away.

Na Trang, Vietnam - The Sailing Center

About half my way through Vietnam I was getting ready to catch a bus to Hue leaving the costal city of Na Trang.  I waited and chatted with group of other travelers excluding this cocky but very pretty english chick who clearly wanted to keep to herself.  She suddenly asked a question about the bus and we discovered we’d be on the same one sitting next to each other, although had different destinations.  We talked for a while and I was excited to find out that she might be heading towards Hue after Hoi An.  I even bragged to some traveling buddies, Brandon and Tyler, that all these hot chicks might be heading our way while we we’re still in Hue.

But they never came.

A few cities later and after the Tet Holiday in Hanoi (Northern Vietnam) and near the end of my Vietnam stay, we had a huge group of travelers that started to feel like a family after surviving Castaway and Sapa together.  On our last night we set out on the town determined to make it a legendary evening.  A few drinks in to the night I started flirting with this pretty blond girl sitting at a table.  Shortly into the conversation she gives me this snide look, and says, “You still don’t remember me do you”?…  “Cambodia, Na Trang…?”

Each girl I met was her…

When we were waiting for the bus she was annoyed and testing me to see if I remembered her.

Fail… fail… fail…

…I meet so many people… traveling wears you down… this project has me distracted… pick any excuse you want.  I’m still waking up in cold sweats over this…

Murphy’s Law Strikes Again…

For those of you who aren’t familiar with “Murphy’s Law”, it states “What can go wrong, will go wrong”, and I’m a firm believer in it.

I have always approached this project with; there are those who do, and those who try.  The difference is those who do have something to show for all their effort while those who try have a list of excuses (or in the eloquent words of my high school football coach “Excuses are like assholes.  Everyones got one and they all stink”).  So, as problems arise I try to address them and move on.

Where it all started, Jibe Films, Boston MA

That being said, I think “murphy’s law” has tried to make me his bitch from day one of this project when he crashed a $3000+ computer system the very first day of the pre-production work, which was needed to handle 95% of work load.  The very first day…  and he continues to strike on.  While I try not to whine about the myriad issues I face along the journey, I figure my misery may just serve as your entertainment:

Video Releases and Location Releases
Some of video and location releases drying on a table after a bottle of Carlsberg exploded in Poland and completely soaked their folder. Fortunately I was able to safely peel them apart, dry them and save the hours of footage they release.

To bang out the list of things I need to get done from my last post I needed one thing; a hotel with a good internet connection.  I chose Siem Reap Cambodia for a few reasons, I wanted to re-film something, I have friends here for when I’m depressed from staring at a computer and it’s relatively quiet.

Well, the internet here sucks!  Why does it suck?  Because the hotel has no power.  Why no power.  Because the entire city of Siem Reap Cambodia has no power.

So I just traveled 13 hours on a bus from a nice quiet beach, with nice internet, and nice people to… lksadjfl;akkjhdfjklsv.asdjfU<kasahhhhhhhhhh!!!

Working, Kinda… Cambodia

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Sorry I’ve been MIA.  I’m now back in Cambodia.  Being chased by trainees and gangs of child thieves wasn’t enough to keep me away from this Kingdom.

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But this time it’s less about capturing with a lens and more about playing catch up.  I’ve been traveling and filming for almost half a year and before I continue on I need to get organized and catch up on things I’ve neglected.  Here’s my list;

-Edit a trailer

-Back up 1.5 terabytes of files

-Edit two shorts

-Screen through music with Creative Common Licensees (If you’re an artist please send to music@jibefilms.com.  Jibe Films legal page.  Thanks!)

-Catch up on the site (Stories that I’ve been too busy to post)

-Find and replace broken gear

-Re-film a botched time-lapse sequence in Angkor Wat (Third try, now a $105 shot)

-Hunt down a mailed package that still hasn’t arrived to Vietnam

-Start planning travel and filming in Sri Lanke, India and Nepal (Hopefully joined by the beautiful talented Photographer/ Filmmaker Fairlight Hubbard, co-owner of Eye Model Management!  Here’s a sliver of her amazing work.)

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I’ve allotted two weeks to get this all done and fly out of Bangkok to Sri Lanke and start traveling north to Nepal.  However the missing package has jammed everything up.  So with hope as my only ally that South East Asia’s mail system may actually pull through, I will be charging forward.

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The Bad News.

This all means me sitting around in a hotel room with a computer for two weeks depressed.

The Good News.

I’ll be feeding the Backpackers Union website with more solid gold.

Stay tuned!

(To help keep you’re attention…)

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A Legend in Pink

When I was at the Full moon party in Koh Phangan we had a tight-knit family of fellow travelers staying at the hostel.  There was one person staying there that didn’t talk to anyone and only appeared a few times in five days.  I didn’t think much of him because we never spoke… but after a few additional sightings I now realize, I would be doing my life a disservice if I didn’t find him and beg him teach me his ways.  Here’s all I know:

Thailand

  • Island of Ko Phangan, 4:00am. Hostel – Sleeps with random girl in what was described by other traveler as “Most aggressive silent sex I’ve ever seen”.  First sighting after second day of check in.
  • Island of Koh Tao, 1:00am, 38 miles from original sighting. Bar – Walks by me in hot pursuit of group of girls.  Success unknown.
  • Bangkok, Ko San Road 8:00pm, 290 miles from original sighting – Walks by the bar I’m in, down the road in hot pursuit of blond girl (See photo).  Effort failed.
  • Thailand/ Cambodian Border 1:00pm, 429 miles from original sighting - Getting visa.

Cambodia

  • Siam Reap, Mad Monkey Hostel, 7:00pm, 519 miles from original sighting – On roof top bar wasted talking to group of girls.
  • Siam Reap, 11:00am, 519.1 miles from original sighting – See at the end of the road, driving by in a Tuk Tuk drinking a beer… 11:00am.

During all of the legendary sightings, he wears the same iconic pink tank top and radiates unlimited amounts of swag.  I hope he will accept me under his wing and teach me his ways!

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Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat is just one of the many temples spread across a huge area on the outskirts of the city of Siem Reep, Cambodia.  Although Angkor Wat temple seems to symbolize the area, it’s Ta Prohm temple which appears responsible for its fame through its starring roll in the movie Tomb Raider with Angelina Joli.

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All the temples are truly amazing and this site is one of my favorite historic sites that I’ve seen.  If you do follow the tourist trail through the temples, you will find yourself distracted by the swarm of tourists snapping photos down narrow passage ways.  Rounding one corner I was growled at by a Japanese man taking a photo, so I gave him some time before I walked through and was growled at again.  I finally turned to him and asked him if he wanted to see a repeat of WWII (Kidding!).  The good news;  If you want to avoid the crowds you can simply check out some of the temples off the trail which are just as fascinating and the absence of tourists can make them far more enjoyable.

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The history of the site is relatively unknown.  Some say battles between then Siem’s and the Burmese led to the cities downfall.  Others claim the land was stripped of all its resources making it uninhabitable.  As with most ancient abandoned cites, I’m sure it’s a combination of the two.  The city which had an estimated population of 1 million depended on a complex yet vulnerable water management system of canals and reservoirs and it was attacked many times throughout history.

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Whatever the reason, I’m glad it was abandoned.  If it wasn’t, it would look like every other modern city with a few crumbling ruins left behind.  See the remains of the Bulgarian medieval city wall in the food court of a mall and you’ll know what I mean.

To see the Temples:  Most hire a tuk tuk for $15 to drive them to the most popular sites for the day.  Many opt to see the sunrise which means an early 4:45am departure from your hostel/ guesthouse, but it is well worth it because it’s pretty, and you can get a jump on the lazier tourists and the afternoon heat.  Entry is $20 for one day or $40 for a three days pass.

I took a ton of photos here and had to learn how to make the albums below so I wouldn’t take up the whole site.

“The Beach II” The True Story

A clear plastic bottle was knocked around in the waves among the cans of Angkor and bottles of whiskey from the previous nights bonfire on the Island of Ko Ta Kiev.  The bottle stood out because the label had been cleanly ripped off and a faded note had been stuck inside.  The note was from a couple traveling between the islands of Koh Pha Ngan and Ko Tao, Thailand about 250 miles away.  All the note asked for was an email to let them know who found it and where, but I wondered if they were looking for much more.  Maybe hoping the bottle found a place where the lonely planet hadn’t built cities full of tourists, where the sounds of waves haven’t been replaced with blaring techno beats.  If so, the bottle had come to the the right place, but I wasn’t going to waste my time or theirs telling them where.  There’s a reason why.

Dear Finder,
We wrote this message on a ferry from Ko Pha-ngan to Ko Tao. If you read this please send us a email where you found the bottle. We would be very happy about this.
Best Regards, Ch?shan + Canna
Emails: (Excluded)

Originally I traveled from a Mini version Bangkok, Phenom Pen Cambodia, where people travel for hundreds of miles to see the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge regime and party in clubs where the only females are westerners or prostitutes.  Heading south I avoided the coastal city of Serendipity which ironically means “pleasant surprise” as most run away after one night of stepping over 20 something year olds throwing up in the surf.  About 15 minutes south there’s Otres, a quiet stretch of beach run primarily by a laid back community of expats where you can relax and buy a beer or a joint for a dollar.

Beach

Sitting at the hostel on Otres beach, which is more like a wooden structure with a roof and soft padded bowl chairs, a pretty blond Danish girl that resembles Sal from “The Beach” walked in (Birdy).  After a friendly chat we made rough plans to travel to one of the islands off the coast together.  These islands are several tiny islands that you won’t hear about until you get close to them.  All I knew is they are apparently what the Thai island used to be.

A few mornings later I wake up for the 8am boat with a pounding headache and “the fear” (the fear of what you did the night before) because of an argument with a canadian girl (Quebec).  I give myself 20 minutes to decide if I can stomach packing a bag and jumping on a boat.  I think, fuck it.

On the boat I realize the night of drinking grew our island crew from three people to eleven.  Four guys and seven girls total, not a bad ratio on a deserted island.

A boat ride to the island typically cost about $12 dollars per person each way, but we found a way to book a day boat trip with breakfast, lunch, drop off and pick up from the island the next day for $12 each.  On the island we grabbed the only two bungalows available and a decaying two story tree house chained to several trees 20 feet in the air for $5 a piece.

Once settled in on the island the hangover waned enough to get a bearing on the situation and to realize where I was.  Ko Ta Kiev, an empty island off the coast of Cambodia, with white sand beaches, clear turquoise water,and a few bungalows, the infamous absinthe distillery and our crew of backpackers.  The Beach 2 began.

The day was filled with laying around, swimming, making Angkor Watt sand castles, improv’d games of baseball and throwing fruits at bottles for points.  Among the crew there was a beautiful tan Canadian girl (Mel) that was the only appropriate character for my girlfriend in the The Beach 2, but unfortunately, like the first movie she had a good looking French speaking boyfriend who was also good at soccer (Tebo).

That night we started a bonfire, drank whiskey, beer, played games that had many people stripped of their clothes and swam in the ocean lit by swarms of glowing plankton into the early morning.  A night so serene and amazing, all we could do is fight time to keep it from slipping away.

Ko Ta Kiev, Cambodia

After finally surrendering to exhaustion I woke up on the second floor of the tree house looking over the ocean with the only trace of the previous night, a sand pit with a few smoldering  coals, a makeshift sign that read “The Bitch” (clearly a misspelling) and a few bottles one of which included “the note”.

So why wouldn’t I tell the couple who wrote the note about this paradise?  Because by the time they would get there, the island wouldn’t be.  In one month the bungalows on the island have been instructed to shut down to make way for a Chinese casino that has leased the island for 99 years.  But, I’m not mad.  What made our time together on the island so special wasn’t the people or the island.  It was our individual pursuit to find something more.  A pursuit that has brought us through hell and back.  Endless nights on sleeper trains, through hostels, venturing thousands of miles in aggressive pursuit of the unknown for the mere possibility that a night like ours would happen, and when it did it was magical.  That’s what made our night special.  The only way anyone will find that is by searching themselves.

Absinthe Sex Orgy

There’s a fine line in the media world between creating interesting content and hurting the very people who made it possible.  What started as a conversation with a bartender on the quiet beach of Otres in South Western Cambodia, quickly evolved in to a wild story about the Khmer New Year.  What should have stayed as a great story to share among travelers quickly evolved into a nightmare to all those involved… thanks to a journalist.

Here’s the story on VICE.com:  “OUR ABSINTHE ORGY ON A CAMBODIAN ISLAND MADE THE SPIRITS MAD”

On the island there is a small Absinthe distillery that is rumored to make the strongest Absinthe in the world (High alcohol and lots of wormwood).  The island is so small there isn’t much in the way accommodations, so many rely on a campground for a good nights sleep.

Take island camping, lots of alcohol, a reason to celebrate and top it off with people on vacation, what do you get… Obviously a quiet night with a good book (or, maybe drinking and sex).  Throw in a journalist with bad intentions and you get this article, with teachers and travelers fearing for their future (this journalist friended one of the people on Facebook and grabbed their names from a photo with everyone tagged.  Some were able to get their names removed).

Absinthe in Budapest

I’m not even going to get into the article because there is so much embellishment anyone reading it can see she had a motive.  What I will say is it is a shame that some lack the creativity to entertain and inform without sacrificing the very people who helped them.

Although, just in case I missed something, I think it is my journalistic responsibility to go and check out this island’s Absinthe sex orgy myself.   See you in a few days.

 

PS.  Read about how the full moon party got started… I wonder if in a few years people will flock to this island in a similar way for the “Absence ‘Org’anization Party” with full moons lining up and down the beach… just remember you read it here first.