Tag Archives: Chaos

Cambodia: Beauty & Brutality

These were my thoughts as I left the charming Cambodia. I'll be writing a separate post for the sightseeing, food tripping, and travel tipping!

During my final hours in Cambodia, I found myself in awe of both its beauty and brutality.

My first impressions, along with a bit of my ignorance, were buried a wee bit deeper with each day in the country, particularly in the tourist driven city of Siem Reap.

I don’t think you can blame me for the rough start.. Stepping out of the airport to a herd of tuktuk drivers was taxing, even for a Filipina used to the chaos of Metro Manila. I am thankful for the airport taxi booth – the beacon of order amid the chaos!

2_Fotor
Chilling inside Angkor Wat
Beyond the buzzing of the tuktuk drivers and the grumpy “customs” officers, everyone else seemed warm and genuinely friendly. And their country’s history… now, that is some story to tell!

As our taxi driver in Phnom Penh told us, quite insightfully, “It’s hard to explain our history because, in some ways, our civilization is very old. But because of the Khmer Rouge, we are also very young.”

The Beauty of the Khmer Empire’s Ancient Cities3_Fotor

Siem Reap is the jumping point to exploring the great number of ancient temples built by the Khmer Empire from the 800s to the 1200s CE.

I wish I had more time prior to the trip to read up on their ancient history, but even with the limited information on the Triposo app, I was easily moved by just being there.

Exploring the ancient cities of the Khmer Empire is, without a doubt, one of the most awesome things I’ve done in my life!

4_FotorSeeing the sun rise then set from atop archaic stone constructs were magical moments! I would highly recommend this magnificent Cambodian adventure to anyone. (Add it to your bucket list!)

For some reason, my favorite temple was Bayon. I can’t quite explain why. But as I stared up at it from the outside, I was deeply moved, I may have teared.

6_Fotor_FotorWas it the craggy look? The fallen stones? The pillars? The non-existent ceilings and unveiled halls?

I’m not sure; but I loved it. It was the temple that ultimately made me feel like I was staring into the past.

The Brutal Khmer Rouge

8_Fotor_FotorThere’s the lovely Siem Reap then there’s the grit, the poverty, the lakes filled with plastic garbage, markets with umbrellas coated with pale orange dust, rough roads for expressways, the beggars, the homeless, the hopeless…

All this I saw as I made my way, by bus, to the capital of Cambodia – Phnom Penh – to visit the killing fields.

Going on this journey and learning about the dark period in Cambodia’s history isn’t for everyone. Indeed, many tourists opt not to visit the more depressing sites, just as many would rather not read stories about the holocaust or the more recent cruelties under ISIS.

9_FotorBut if I was going to explore Cambodia, immerse myself in the culture, and attempt to realize its identity, I knew I had to learn the horrific story of the Khmer Rouge and its brutal murders.

The Cheong Ek Killing Field in Phnom Penh is only one of several killing fields across the country and is believed to be the largest.

The audio guide paints the gruesome picture… I let my imagination do the rest.

I imagined dark nights lit by fluorescent lamps with a number of areas, each with a crowd. Each crowd was split into two – young soldiers and shackled prisoners awaiting their gruesome execution.

12_Fotor
ditches where mutilated bodies were dumped
Deafening revolutionary music masked most of the screams and howls as soldiers used whatever cheap tool they could find to hack at their victims. Bullets were too expensive; a wooden stick, bamboo chute, hammer, sickle, or hoe would have to do.

11_FotorChildren, babies were not spared. They were swung from their feet til their skull met the killing tree as mothers screamed helplessly and waited, even welcomed the end of their suffering.

Mauled bodies were tossed into ditches then poisoned with DDT to finish the half-assed executions and drown out the stench.

13_Fotor
careful not to step on human bones and tattered clothes
Around 17,000 people were murdered in Cheong Ek alone. And 3 million people died as a result of Pol Pot’s extremism and paranoia. Anyone with an education, anyone who would speak out, anyone who might defy the heinous rule of the Khmer Rouge – gone.

And there I was, walking atop their execution sites, trying not to step on pieces of human bone.

The Struggling Young Nation

10_FotorIt’s as if Cambodia’s evolution happened in reverse – from sophisticated water systems and magnificent buildings in Angkor to the inhumane genocide from 1975 to 79.

What’s left is a nation struggling to educate itself without intellectuals, struggling to rebuild without resources, and struggling to remember a culture lost to a repulsive regime.

Currently under a bogus democracy, only time will tell how Cambodia will get back on its feet.

But with such a rich history and incorruptible reminders of their ancient glory, I am hopeful to find a more prosperous and developed nation, should I ever have the chance to return.

My experience in Cheong Ek took my breath away. It took words away, too. I suppose it was a similar experience to the Bayon temple, except at the opposite end of the spectrum.

3 million people lost their lives for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge’s ideology of “agricultural socialism”. The entire nation suffered and continues to grieve because of an idea that cast aside humanity and basic rights.

How can people so easily resort to violence? How can people so easily forsake life?

Is it so easy to detach from other people’s suffering for as long as you’re ok, as Pol Pot and his generals were?

1_Fotor_FotorWe have to stop and wonder, though, what did someone else have to lose for me to be in this position? What did someone give up so that I could enjoy a bar of chocolate? Did a child have to forego an education to harvest the cacao plant for my candy bar? What did someone have to go through to produce the jeans I wear? Did a woman have to work in a dusty, hot, stinky, cramped, disaster-waiting-to-happen factory?

While enjoying freedom – to speak, to be educated, to go on the internet, to choose what to clothes to wear, to decide who to marry and when… perhaps we should stop to think of the many people in the world do not have these basic joys.

There is so much injustice in this world, it’s overwhelming. But, I suppose, the first step to a better world is to acknowledge that these injustices exist.

The next step, though, is a whole lot tougher.

Getting the gears rolling…

I haven’t written here in lightyears! Initially, I thought I’d keep a blog while I go off to different worlds. But I’ve been to the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Italy, Japan… and I haven’t posted a thing on “FindingMyJaninay”!!!

But, oh, what adventures I’ve been having! Nothing glamorous. But luxury doesn’t really appeal to me, anyway.

It’s immersion. It’s the constant observation. Reflection. Frustration. Enlightenment. Losing. Finding. Building. Breaking. Such is life and work and travel!!!

A few things… http://www.FindingMyJaninay.com has expired because, well, I let it! Haha! And since I’m not reliable enough to maintain the blog, I’ll just stick to the plain wordpress site: http://www.FindingMyJaninay.wordpress.com

Second, I need to freaking write my articles for work but it’s just soooo harddd to get started which is why I’m doing this instead. HAY. Procrastination is the best motivation for anything but the things you’re supposed to be doing. HAHAHA.

Lastly, I should write here more often. Any time I have a thought… I actually have loads! I have ideas for what to write and they’re all in my head or outlined in a notebook or sumn sumn. So I should get at it. 🙂 I SHALL. I have time later this week once I wrap up my report for work. YEAY!

Third, I’m leaving Japan in 5 days. And it’s bittersweet. I quite like it here (said with British accent and pinky up). I guess I should write about that, too.

*bow*

“This is madness.”

One of the most wonderful people I know, Misha, suggested I watch this documentary by BBC. It’s about a bus driver from London who goes to Manila with a challenge to become a jeepney driver by the end of the trip – DRIVE A JEEP ALONE IN MANILA (Siya pa nanunukli)! He lives with Rogelio (a jeepney driver) and his family and learns, firsthand, how tough it is to live in our country.

I cried. And cried again. The world is anything but fair. I urge you, if you have a little less than an hour, to watch the docu below – The Toughest Place To Be A Bus Driver. You can watch it now or later. But I assure you, it is not a waste of time. My thoughts and frustrations are below.

I will write about 2 things. You may read one and not the other. Or not read at all. But I’m hoping you read both! :p

Road Rage

I, too, drive through the streets of Metro Manila. I confess that I do scream, curse, and lash-out (in the confines of my car) at pedestrians and other drivers on the road, most specially jeepney and bus drivers. In these moments, I feel I live in a place that is the epitome of inconsideration. And, against all my better judgment, I get sucked into the bandwagon.

Inconsideration, in my opinion, is an extremely huge problem in our society. I’ve always believed that if people were more considerate of each other, lines would move faster, traffic would ease up, mall-wide sales wouldn’t give me a migraine, and stress levels of most everyone when outside the confines of their home would decrease.

But where does this come from? Why can’t most people think of anyone but themselves?

I guess the true questions is, “How can one be considerate when one’s mind is on survival mode? Can I feed my family today?”

Inconsideration stems from this dog-eat-dog world, the reality of day-to-day survival.

What happens to my road rage now? It’s so much easier to be angry, curse at faceless strangers and not care. But how can you be angry knowing what these people come home to? … Knowing they’re stuck in a vicious cycle of suffering they can never get out of?

Rage turns to sorrow.

Life. To live. It is more than just physical survival.

To understand this rant, you’ll have to watch the documentary… Or just keep in mind that millions of Filipinos live in the slums, in their makeshift homes. Many are young married couples with 12-13 children.

How can one truly value life but accept the condition in which so many Filipinos are living?

How can one value life and accept that people eat recooked rotting food from the trash if they eat anything at all?

How can one that values life be OK with bringing a new life into this world only to starve, suffer, and have nothing but survival in mind?

How can one value truth but withhold readily available information, that is common knowledge to most educated people, from the less fortunate with less access?

How can one be against the RH Bill? I really CANNOT understand. What are you afraid of?

More abortion cases? Please explain to me how this happens with less cases of unwanted pregnancy.

Are you afraid that our country will have a problem of underpopulation like other developed countries? Oh my goodness. Do you really think that it’s as easy as the simplest cause-effect equation? There are so many factors that will contribute to that future possibility. Besides, if you have people that value having a family, this will not happen. I am aware of most all methods of contraception but I still want to have my own children one day… When I can actually sustain them financially and emotionally. Values formation and valuing the family as the basic unit of society can be taught and developed.

Please help me understand… Because my brain can’t seem to wrap itself around this.

What kind of person would think that a young married woman living in a makeshift box with 13 (THIRTEEN!) children and barely anything to eat is wrong for taking measures to prevent any more pregnancies?

Would you condemn her to hell? Isn’t she already living there?

A Letter From On High

The Philippine Flag
(From MyJaninay ‘s Instagram)
 

Dear Metro Manila,

I fly over you now amid the pitch black. Looking down, I see your city lights. I wish I could keep you that way – neat, pretty, and far away.

But descending into your chaos, I leave my naive wishes in the darkness to join in the wondrous complexities of your crude existence.

Bah. Humbug.

So much easier being a jaded adult rather than an idealistic and rational individual.

With wavering love,

MyJaninay

Hanoi, Vietnam, Travel Basics

Hanoi is the Capital of Vietnam found in the North (vs. Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon, the largest city in Vietnam, in South Vietnam). It is the second largest city in the country and  serves as a political center.

Vietnamese currency is the Dong with the smallest bill at 1,000! I was a millionaire in Vietnam… Which doesn’t say much, really. Exchange rates can be found here.

Language will be a barrier so it’s important to know a few basic phrases. Though they still won’t understand you unless you can pull off the accent as well.

(By the way, this post is more about the information and not much about the experience. The “cute” post with all the photos (at least those salvaged from my stolen phone) are  HERE. Hehe!)

How To Get There

Flying to Hanoi isn’t very convenient when coming from Manila. Most flights head to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC – commonly known as Saigon) but Cebu Pacific recently started flying directly to and from Hanoi twice a week. Unfortunately, the flight schedules are less than ideal in a city with a 12 Midnight curfew.

From Singapore, I believe Jetstar has affordable flights. And coming from HCMC, I’m pretty sure you can find cheap domestic flights! 🙂

From the Noi Bai airport, a taxi is the only way to the main city so make sure your Hotel provides you with a serviced car/cab!

Where To Stay

Most travelers stay in the Old Quarters or French Quarters. This area maintained the original street layout of old Hanoi with streets being named after the goods sold along it. And so, we have Silk Street and Leather Street and Silver Street and so on. There are numerous hotels to stay in here and you will be surrounded by great shops, cafes, and eateries!

If you don’t expect the sun and moon of the hotels, then you’ll be alright in Hanoi. I stayed in Hanoi Deluxe Hotel which was quaint but clean and comfortable with a friendly staff.

Hanoi Deluxe Hotel. US$18-35/room/night http://hanoideluxehotel.com/

Hanoi Old Centre Hotel. US$25-$60/room/night http://www.hanoioldcentrehotel.com/

Hanoi Elite Hotel. US$40-$90 http://hanoielitehotel.com/

May De Ville Old Quarter Hotel. US$50-$100/room/night http://maydevilleoldquarterhotel.com/

And here’s a big, luxurious one!

Hotel Sofitel Metropole Hanoi.  http://www.sofitel.com/gb/hotel-1555-sofitel-legend-metropole-hanoi/index.shtml

How To Get Around

Walk. All you need is Google Maps and you’re good to go! If you like walking as I do, most everything is walkable.

Taxi. They’re metered so you know exactly how much to pay. But most cab drivers can barely speak English and they may not understand your pronunciation so best to show them where you’d like to go on a map (Google Maps, you rock.)

Motorbike. There are guys in street corners that offer you a ride on their motorbikes. They overcharge, though, so best to ask your hotel how much it should cost. These guys are NOT legit. Hehe.

Bike. If you’re brave enough, why not ask your hotel where it’s best to rent a bicycle for you to use? 😀 If I stayed longer, I may have tried this out for an afternoon. 😉

Pedicab. I didn’t ride a pedicab just ‘coz I didn’t see any local on one. Loads of foreigners take pedicab rides around the old quarters, though! I’m guessing these guys have tourist rates, though. So, again, ask your hotel how much they should cost you.

Where To Go

Sightseeing

Hoan Kiem Lake. Ngoc Son Temple. Turtle Tower. The Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Restored Sword) is the largest lake in the city of lakes – Hanoi. It’s HUGE. In the north area of the lake is the Ngoc Son Temple (Temple of the Jade Mountain) which you can get to through the Huc Bridge (Morning Sunlight Bridge). The south area of the lake has the Turtle Tower. The legend that surrounds this lake is pretty interesting so read up!

National Museum of Vietnam. This is in the right side of Hoan Kiem Lake, separate from all the other sites below.

Temple of Literature. The most popular of all the Temple of Literatures (there are several), this temple served as the first university in Vietnam. Today, it is still one of the most important historical sites in Hanoi and even appears on the Vietnamese Dong – 100,000 bill.

Vietnam Military History Museum. Vietnam’s military history is very interesting as their wars against their (French, Japanese, American?) conquerors helped shaped the identity of the country. Naturally, there are 2 sides to every story. In the museum, you will see weapons, pictures of war, tanks and aircrafts, etc. The museum tells the story of a united Vietnam, never acknowledging South Vietnam’s government or their defiance of the socialist rule. Hmm. Pretty intriguing. Time to read up!

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. It is huge and the garden that surrounds the building is pretty,  but off-limits. I didn’t get to enter as it was closed (only open in the mornings) but in its central hall is the embalmed body of Chairman Ho Chi Minh. Every hour, the guards change. But, rest-assured, they all strictly enforce the rules – no shorts/skirts (don’t show your legs), no crossing of arms, no hands in pockets, no photography or video recording, no smoking, and no noise!

Ho Chi Minh Museum. This museum is dedicated to their late leader Ho Chi Minh and also tells the story of Vietnam’s struggle against foreign power. Once again, two side to every story. And… The winners often write (subjective) history. Which makes me question world history in general… Good thing I don’t know much about it. HAHAHA.

Shopping.

EVERYWHERE. I particularly enjoyed shopping at the boutique shops in Hang Non street!!! If you’re a lady looking to buy clothes and shoes… FIND THIS STREET. 😀 A whole bunch of local girls shop here so I’m pretty sure it’s the place to be!

Oh. And when shopping… Bargain!

Night Market. WATCH YOUR VALUABLES. This is where my bag got slashed and my phone got stolen. AYAYAY. ANYWAY. This happens Friday – Sunday night along Hang Ngang street and Dong Xuan street.

Outside the City

Halong Bay. One of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites, Halong Bay is definitely worth visiting if you have the time. Tours range from day trips to weekend stays either in hotels or junk boats. You can ask your hotel about it, search online, or even walk around the Old Quarter to find agencies that provide tours! http://www.halongbay-vietnam.com/


There are loads of other interesting places to see like Sapa and the Cuc Phong National Park. You can bike around, trek, or lounge, it’s really up to you! Check this site to find out more. http://www.hanoitraveltours.com/

What/Where To Eat

Hanoi is one amazing food trip. 🙂

Cha Ca La Vong (Resto/Dish). 14 Cha Ca Street. Beware of copycats right across the original! Cha Ca La Vong, the only thing on their menu, is grilled fish cooked right in front of you with turmeric and dill leaves, served with rice noodles and peanuts. Put as much chili as you’d like. SO GOOD. I want to eat this again but the dish isn’t found anywhere else!!!

Bun Bo Nam Bo (Resto/Dish). 7 Hàng Điếu, Cửa Đông. A bowl of beef noodles and veggies. This isn’t as soupy as Bun Thang or Pho. It’s pretty good. But I honestly didn’t enjoy it that much. I guess it just isn’t my taste. But still, it’s worth trying for yourself!

Little Hanoi (Resto). Ta Hien Street. These guys have other branches but this one is the original. Order their fresh rolls, oh so good!

Bun Thang (Dish). Cau Go Street. Bun Thang is a soup dish (add chicken!) served in various eateries. Just pick a place on Cau Go street. This dish is de-lish!

Quan An Ngon (Resto). 18 Phan Bội Châu, Cửa Nam. This restaurant is a must-see. They serve Vietnamese dishes galore under a huge tent in a courtyard of an old villa. Waiters are very helpful. And it’s always full of both foreigners and locals!

Pho. I don’t think I need to tell you any more about Pho. Hehe. :p

Also try The Highway on Bat Su Street which is where I tried eating crickets! They have a whole slew of delicious familiar and unfamiliar dishes there you can try. And Gecko is another safe bet with various branches around Hanoi (Old Quarters, mostly).

Okie dokes! That’s about it for the basics. To find out more about my experience, check out my Hanoi video on my YouTube Channel or read the next post!

The Hanoi-ing Impression Sandwich

The French occupied Hanoi in 1873 and became the capital of French Indochina after 1887.

My weeklong stay in Hanoi was, unfortunately, sandwiched by frustrating impressions, which I will release here in order to write a bitter-free blog post on Vietnam’s capital.

Upon leaving the arrival gates of the Noi Bai airport, I was greeted by a swarm of taxi drivers looking for unsuspecting passengers. Taxis in Hanoi have meters (those rate calculators) and these cabbies try and get you to agree on a fixed rate.

AYAYAY.

So should you go Hanoi-ing, don’t forget to ask your hotel to have someone pick you up. And keep the number of the hotel with you in case no one’s around to sweep you and your luggage off your feet or wheels or whatever… Lest you wind up like me – waiting for someone who never arrives.

Due to the odd time Cebu Pacific flights arrive in Hanoi (1am or so), there was a mix up with my “pick up”. So I waited over an hour for a cab that never came while overeager Vietnamese mosquitos feasted on my extremely sleepy boddeh!

Good thing a cab just so happened to pass by the dark and empty airport or else I may have spent the night there. (HEEYIPES.)

Oh, just so you know, there’s a curfew in Hanoi and almost everything shuts down at midnight so I cannot stress enough the importance of arranging someone to pick you up from the airport specially if you arrive late.

The Impression Sandwich title should give the correct impression that both the first AND last impressions will be written about. So let’s get the extremely irritating and intensely frustrating last impression out.

Saturday night, whilst trying to spend all my Dong (the Vietnamese currency) on pasalubong for friends & family…

(pasalubong is what we Filipinos call presents bought for others, usually when on a trip.  Para means “for” and salubong means “to greet” or “to meet” and these gifts are meant to be given when you “meet/greet” your loved ones again.)

My bag was slashed open from behind and some AWESOME person took my iPhone. I was extremely careful with the iPhone I named BUD WHITE throughout my stay and, admittedly, that night was the most careless I had been ’cause I was in a rush to finish my shopping and get back to my hotel before having to leave for the airport. I WAS STILL PRETTY CAREFUL THOUGH. I’d make sure the zipper of my bag was close to me and I’d hold my phone extremely tight most of the time. But the night market really is the perfect setting for thieves. You’ll eventually get stuck in a tight crowd. You’ll eventually look at items in stalls and not have all your attention on your bag.

*sigh*

You have no idea how pissed I was.

*sigh*

Farewell, Bud. And bye bye to all the photos and videos I took on the trip to provide a more entertaining and informative blog entry… So you guys should say bye bye to a more interesting Hanoi post from moi, too.

*sigh again*

ANYWHOOOO. Though my post on Hanoi will definitely be way LESS entertaining, I’ll still try to provide you with all the information you need to enjoy a trip to Hanoi as I did, for the most part.

Don’t worry, it’s still a very interesting place to visit. The buns that hold the sandwich may taste like crap, but what’s important is what’s in the sandwich itself rightttt? Right.

(Yep. That’s what I keep telling myself.)