Thursday, May 29, 2008

Welcome to the Jungle

One of the best things that come out of much traveling is learning about other peoples, cultures, and histories. You get to read about these in school, but it's taken at a whole new level when you get to a place and see, hear, smell and feel for yourself (taste as well, if you're into food tripping). If you're into all that culture thing, I really recommend going to Siem Reap and visiting the Temples of Angkor.

From Singapore, you can get to Siem Reap via Silk Air or Jetstar. the International Airport is remarkably good. The name "Siem Reap", if you haven't Wikipedia-ed it already, means "in your face, Thailand", or more accurately "Siam (Thailand) Defeated". The guidebooks will point out that ironically, this place eventually got overrun by Thais themselves in recent times. You can easily imagine this as a small town IF you take away the hotels that line up the main roads, and the ones being constructed almost everywhere else. Hopefully, it won't get overdeveloped.

We got up early in the morning the day after we arrived to get a head start on The Temples of Angkor which is this big area with ancient temples spread around within the thick jungle/forest. The tour guide wisely recommended that we just go to the more notable ones:
  1. Ta Prohm - the "Tomb Raider" temple
  2. Banteay Srei - the red temple with carvings of great detail
  3. Angkor Wat - the grandest temple, proudly symmetrical in many ways
  4. Angkor Thom - the old capital
You could cover all those in a whole day, even with meal stops back in the city and that's just what we did. It's a very good idea to bring shoes you don't care to be ruined, especially during the rainy season as it can get muddy. It's also helpful to bring or buy a hat (especially if you're feeling a bit Indiana Jones) and put on some sunblock before making your rounds. Sunglasses would be good for the high sun. Lastly, bring extra shirts and/or a hand towel, as you will sweat like a pig. Bringing bottled water is a no-brainer. It doesn't hurt to be a little prepared. There are clean toilets spread around the area, free of charge given that you buy entry tickets to the temples ($20 for a day pass, but we got our along with the tour package)

The following day, we went to Tonle Sap Lake to check out the floating village full of Vietnamese boat people. On the way to the area, you can observe from looking around that except for a hill or two, and a couple of mountains off just near the horizon, that is may be the flattest country you will ever see. In this trip, we learned about a lot of frustrations by the Cambodia. Whether they're geographically surrounded by jerks to the left (Thailand) and to the right (Vietnam), or how their government and monarchy are basically unpopular, it's no wonder they're nostalgic of their great king Jayavarman VII even if his reign was around a thousand years ago. I'll get back to the brutal recent history a bit later.

Other notable places you can go to in and around Siem Reap is the Artisan d'Angkor silk farm, and workshops, which are in two different places. I really, really wanted to buy some silk products, wood carvings and statuettes because I saw how much hard work these people put in them. But nothing really struck me as "a compelling buy", given that it's a bit pricey, despite the excellent quality. There's the old market Psar Chaa in the middle of town which will give you the usual pashminas, artifact replicas, as well as counterfeit junk (like Lonely Planet guidebooks for rock-bottom prices).

Lastly, spread all over the country are memorials about the grim period of 1975-1979 when the Communist Khmer Rouge regime instituted slave-labor, genocide and other human atrocities known as infamous The Killing Fields. Our excellent tour guide, had first hand experiences of how they were forced to work the fields and narrated how in light of everything that's happened, he's one of the lucky ones. Really gives you pause, thinking about what kind of people would do these sorts of things.

So again, I definitely recommend going here at least once in your life. Don't wait until you're old and gray. You wouldn't appreciate the amount of walking that you'll be doing.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Havaianas vs. Spartan

I got this from an e-mail. It's funny 'cause it's true. I've got a pair of Havaianas myself, but I also have two pairs of Planet tsinelas so that evens out somehow. Uhm, somehow.

Pangalan: Havaianas
Lugar na pinanggalingan: São Paulo, Brazil
ah-vai-YAH-nas (Brazilian Portuguese)
hah-vee-ah-naz (American English)
OMG! hah-va-yaH-naZz! (Filipino)
Materyal na ginamit: Malupit na goma (high-quality rubber).
Presyo: Depende. Ganito na lang,
1 pares ng Havaianas = 100 pares ng Spartan.
Mga nagsusuot: Mga konyotik at mga mayayaman (na noong una ay nababaduyan sa
mga naka-de sipit na tsinelas at sasabihing, "Yuck! So baduy naman nila,
naka-slippers lang.")
Malulupit na katangian at kakayahan:
- Masarap isuot.
- Shock-absorbent
- Malambot ngunit matibay
- Makukuha sa sandamakmak na kulay, disenyo at burloloy
- Maaaring isuot sa loob ng Starbucks
- Mainam na pang-japorms
- Mainam i-terno sa I-Pod at Caramel Macchiato
- Mapipilitan kang maglinis ng mga kuko mo sa paa
- Maaari ka nang mag-dikwatro sa loob ng mga pampublikong lugar at sasakyan
- Magiging 'fashionable' ka kapag ikaw ay nagkukuyakoy
Olats na mga katangian:

Pangalan: Spartan
Lugar na Pinanggalingan: Metro Manila, Philippines
spar-tan (American English),
is-par-tan (Filipino).
Materyal na ginamit: Pipitsuging goma (Low-quality rubber).
Presyo: Wala pang 50 pesos.
Isang pares ng Spartan = 20 piraso ng pan de coco.
Mga nagsusuot: ang masa (gaya-gaya lang ang mga sosyal at pasyonista)
Malulupit na katangian at kakayahan:
- Maaring ipampatay sa ipis
- Maaring ipampalo sa mga batang suwail at damuho
- Pwedeng ipanglusong sa baha at putikan
- Pwedeng ipamalengke
- Mainam gamitin sa tumbang-preso
- Mainam gawing 'shield' kapag naglalaro ng espa-espadahan
- Mainam isuot sa siko bilang proteksyon habang naglalaro ng piko
- Mainam na pambato sa picha o shuttlecock na sumabit sa puno
- Mainam na pangkulob sa pumuputok na watusi
- Kapag ginupit-gupit nang pahugis 'cube,' e maaari mo nang
gawing pamato sa larong Bingo na
kadalasang makikita sa mga lamay ng patay.
Olats na mga katangian:
- Madaling magkawalaan kapag hinubad dahil halos pare-pareho lang
ang itsura
- Masakit isuot kapag may mga balahibo ang mga daliri mo sa paa
- Minsan kapag ipinambato mo ito sa picha o shuttlecock na
nakasabit sa puno, e nadadamay pati yung tsinelas

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


I am on the way to recovery from coughs and colds that hounded me last weekend. There's a good chance that I got it sometime from my recent trip to Manila. It could be from the hospital, the airport or in the plane itself. Wherever it came from, it made me feel terrible for those five or so days that I was stuck at home. As I stated a couple of times before, I hate getting sick. Hate, hate, hate.

Yeah, so lesson learned: drink Vitamin C before flying out.


One of the worst parts about getting sick and staying home here in Singapore is the lack of televised NBA Playoff games. I accept that basketball is not at all big around these parts, but this is the damn NBA Playoffs!


Anyway, the first round is done and there aren't really any surprises. Even if I had picked wrong teams to advance (in my playoff bracket, I picked Suns and Mavs), those series could have gone either way, especially in the jam-packed Western Conference. What's more important is that the teams I'm rooting for, Lakers and Cavs, are still in.

The thing about the Lakers I really like the most this year is that I'd be fine with them not winning it all, which is a weird way of supporting the team. The point is, that I feel confident about the Lakers in the next couple of years such that if they don't win it this year, they're sure to have a better chance next year. Right now, I'm afraid to jinx it, but they're making it look real easy. There are reports that young Andy Bynum won't make it back into the team this season (or even early next), so that just puts in a bit more load into the superstars. However, soon-to-be-MVP Kobe Bryant, everybody-forgot-how-good-I-really-am Pau Gasol, all-around-good-guy Lamar Odom and the rest of the gang will do just fine for the rest of the playoffs. I just hope they televise the games at convenient times, and often.

For more on what mid-season acquisition Pau does in his spare time, check this article out:,0,6581390.story

Nice to see superstars doing normal people things like going to the grocery.


With Iron Man setting the stage for the summer blockbusters, here's to hoping for a good 2008 movie season.

Indiana Jones, you're next!


This looks to be a good place to retire: Queenstown, New Zealand.

I've been seeing a lot of ads on the newspapers (or what my boss calls propaganda) about real estate development in this area. If only I had the money...

In any case, if I am incommunicado in thirty or so years, I'm probably fishing for trout around these parts. Give me a visit.