Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Six days in Saigon

Saigon's narrow buildings come in all shades of colors--pink, blue, green, peach, turquoise, yellow. It felt more like Miami beach looking out at the palm trees and brightly colored houses with verandas, patios and terracotta roofs. I spent the first few days walking the streets and visiting some of the museums dedicated to the war, separation and reunification. It was a somber experience taking in photo after photo of destruction the war caused. The chemical weapons used by the American government still persist in the environment and cause birth defects in hardest hit areas. The photo on the right is the palace that is now the Reunification Museum. It remains just about the same as it was the day South Viet Nam's government surrendered to the north and Americans fled the city on helicopters.

A word about Viet Nam traffic. Motorbikes are everywhere and traffic can be a bit chaotic. People don't pay much attention to lanes. As long as there is space for a bike it's a gaurantee that it will soon be filled by one. With that said it may be safer on a bike than as a pedestrian. Crossing the street requires direct eye contact with drivers, slow paces and no sudden moves.

On the night that my friend arrived in town, I hopped on a motor bike to meet him and a Saigon contact at a local bar. As soon as my driver took off, he turned his head towards me (taking his eyes off the road) and said, "Madame, you like mary wana? I sell you mary wana."
Intrigued by such access to drugs on a motorbike I replied, "Oh, really?"
madame, I have all kinds, from all over and cocaine." The rest of the drive he kept turning around trying to convince me to buy from him. I clutched the back of the bike and tried to convince him we could discuss it more when we arrived at our destination. I cringed as he turned his head while dodging pedestrians and weaving back and forth between other motorbikes. I arrived safely and enjoyed an evening of beers, food and a final tequila shot with some Saigon expats. I still had to get on another motor bike back to my guesthouse. As soon as we took off the driver turned to me and asked, "Madame, you want to buy mary wana?" I didn't think, after a night of spirits, I could handle another ride with the driver not looking at the road so I quickly replied, "Oh, no. It makes me sick."

One of the other ways to see Saigon is with a cyclo driver. Many of them fought with America during the war. Before the war some were doctors, teachers, lawyers or businessmen. They joined the Americans and after reunification they lost much of their status and freedoms when the Northern government took control. Many turned to driving cyclos to support themselves and their families. Each year the city restricts more streets they are allowed on. Here's me and my driver on our way to pick up my passport at the Chinese Consulate.

Small food stands and carts are all around the city. Vendors have small chairs or stools and little tables for patrons to sit and enjoy a snack or Vietnamese coffee. I particularly fell in love with the iced coffees that are sold by women all over town.
At night vendors ride bicycles with a wooden frame attached to the back. You can smell the vendors before you see them because of the dried squid they sell. I sampled some one night with a Viet Nam native I met. It wasn't something I had again.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Good Afternoon Viet Nam

My trip started out in Phnom Phen where I had a ticket on the 7:30am bus to Ho Chi Minh city in Viet Nam. About a 6 hour trip, I was going to arrive in day-light hours with plenty of time to find a great guesthouse for the next five days.

The mini-bus picked me up at about 7:15am and arrived at the bus terminal thirty minutes later. I stood as people were pushed onto different buses, bound for various cities in Cambodia. A woman looked at my ticket and, sounding a little shocked, said, "Oh, Viet Nam. One moment." I stood, never to hear from her again. Two young Swedish guys were also standing by me with Viet Nam bus tickets. A taxi driver told one of the guys that our bus already left. We stared at each other,
not quite sure of our next step when the taxi driver, rallying his friends, began grabbing our bags and throwing them in the nearest car. "You give the driver $2 US!" He shouted as he pushed us into seats. Another guy standing on the curb jumped in the back, pushing me into the middle seat. We raced through the crowded streets, filled with people on their way to work, school and market.

The taxi eventually caught up to the bus and began honking frantically, not an unfamiliar sound in the city. Our driver and his back seat side-kick waved out the window to the bus driver who eventually got the message and pulled over, nearly taking out a family on a motorbike. The three foreigners were quickly transferred onto the bus, our luggage safely stowed, and the bus resumed its trip to HCM.

We arrived without much else excitement to the motorbike clogged streets of Ho Chi Minh, or Saigon which the locales still say. My new Swedish friends and I caught a taxi to the backpacker area and said our good-byes as we headed off in different directions to find a guesthouse. For those of you who've walked into a popular backpacker area with a child-size growth attached to your back, you understand the target you become for money hungry tauts. I started following my Lonely Planet map in search of a few appealing guesthouses listed in my book. The first on my list is now a bank. So, I headed down the busiest street and right into a short, sinewy woman weighing not much more than my upper thigh. "Lady, you need a room, lady. I have cheap room. Where you go lady?" I tried to brush her off with my expert side-waisted wave, a shake of the head and "No. Thank you." retort. She was a persistent one and followed me for a few more yards continuing her lines. I stared straight ahead, kept walking and repeated, "No." She responded with, "Have a nice day." Ah! I thought to myself, what a fresh approach! Just as I was getting out my, "Thank you, you too." she quickly followed with a powerful "GO TO HELL!" Somewhat taken off guard, I gave her a quick, surprised look but moved on. I laughed after it set in a bit more. Unfortunately, my zig-zag approach to the Lonely Planet guesthouse hunt put me in her path again. She spotted me perched from a motor bike and again screamed, "Have a nice day! Go to hell!" I cringed the third time I had to pass her. This time she left off the "Have a nice day." Nothing like a warm welcome.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Cambodia's Kids

Perhaps what made my short time in Cambodia most memorable were the conversations I had with different kids and teenagers. Someone I met after Cambodia asked me if I noticed that there were seldom old people. The population appears to be very young. This may be one of the many signs of a country still healing from the mass genocide caused by the Khmer Rouge during the mid 1970s.

At a small family-run restaurant in Siem Reap I sat down to a traditional Cambodian dish. Before I knew it I had four young women pulling up chairs around my table. Only one could speak much English and she proceeded to teach me Cambodian for different foods. She was twenty years old, with long, shiny black hair and too many teeth for her petite mouth. Her pronunciation took a strong ear but I admired her fearlessness to engage the only foreigner in the restaurant. The other girls were shy and stared at me as I stumbled over Cambodian pronunciation, giggling when I made mistakes.

At a bus stop on the way to the country's capital I met a group of girls, a 14 year old, two 16-year olds and a spunky six-year old. At first they tried to sell me pineapples and fruit that are commonly peddled along the roadside. One pretended she held a spider taken from the overflowing bowl being carted by the older women. Yes, Cambodian's eat fried spiders. Quickly, the girls forgot about selling me something and tried to guess my age. They, kindly, pegged me for about 10-years younger, winning me over instantly. I asked them their ages and about school. In turn they asked me about boyfriends and my travels. I teased them about dating, especially the six-year old who insisted over and over that "I too young! I go to school!" At the end I gave them a dark chocolate bar I had leftover from a Chicago care package. They were overjoyed and almost immediately asked me how much it costs in the US. They all dramatically feigned fainting when I told them. The six-year old reached in her pocket and insisted I take her sucker before I got onto the bus. They all waved good-bye calling me sister as the bus pulled away. Later it occurred to me that, like many kids, they may not find dark chocolate all that exciting.

At all the tourist spots, including the Killing Fields outside Phnom Phen, kids will sell you trinkets and ask for money. These boys were calling to visitors walking the grounds of the Killing Fields. I asked them about school and why they weren't there. Kids go to school from 7:30-11:30am then return from 1:30-5:30pm. The boys chatted with me for a little while but lost patience when I didn't give them a dollar. The boy on the right, frustrated, lost interest and ran after other visitors. I gave the other two that told me more about their classes two pens I had brought with me with Chicago scenes.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Angkor Wat--Temples of the Khmer Kingdom

Driving through Angkor on the back of the motorbike, I imagined monks, leaders and villagers living among the majestic temples in the seat of the Khmer empire. Centuries old ruins span an area of over 400 square kilometers outside the city of Siem Reap. One hundred temples in all represent where the Khmer leaders ruled from the 9th to the 15th centuries.

Angkor Wat is the largest temple surrounded by a large moat. It was originally built to honor the Hindu god, Vishnu. As I walked up the long bridge over the moat I noticed a couple taking wedding photos outside. The wedding party waited along the moat's edge in the shade as the photographer positioned the couple perfectly for each shot.
Inside the temples, inscriptions from the 12th century record important events in the kingdom.

The stone faces of the Bayon Temple look down at you from the temple's third level. This was built for a Buddhist King and stands at what was the center of his capital.

By far my favorite temple was Ta Prohm. This temple was long left in nature's hands allowing the roots of neighboring trees to embrace the crumbling walls. Measures have been taken to prevent further deterioration.

My moto driver and I sped along the narrow road that loops through the area. I spent the full day climbing the ruins as I baked in the sun. As we left the area we drove through areas inhabited by Cambodians. There are small villages where people still live farming the land and selling goods to tourists. Children peddling small handicrafts, fruit and water are plenty. At each temple I'd have little kids running after me shouting, "Lady, you buy, you buy!" One group of kids asked me to play tic-tac-toe. The little boy then started chanting "You lose, you buy!" This little boy showed me a lizard he caught and helped me to find the small stand where I was supposed to meet my driver.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Floating Village

My first morning in Siem Reap I awoke to the sound of thunder and rain outside my window. I spent the better part of the morning swinging in a hammock under the guest house's awning as I drank coffee and read. The morning rains turned the main roads into mud, filling large potholes with brown rain water. Walking through the town in the afternoon I watched as the traffic weaved there way through the rained soaked streets, including this pizza delivery man.

In the afternoon I hopped on the back of Lucky's motorbike, a driver who recommended my guest house the night before. Lucky, in his early twenties, is a Siem Reap native. He suggested a trip to the floating village, about 20 minutes outside of town. This became my first experience with the growing tourism industry in Cambodia. The floating village can only be accessed by boat which is run by a private company who charge a ridiculous amount for tickets to independent (and group) travelers. They make people take boats independently. Having just read that a petroleum company manages the tourism of the Angkor temples, taking a large cut of profits from the pricey entrance fees, this experience left me even more soured about the industry. It begs the question, are the poorest people benefiting? As I witnessed people's standard of living it doesn't appear that everyone's living standards are improving equally.

The roadside out to the lake and floating village was a glimpse at how most people live in Cambodia. The road was lined with small huts either made of plank boards or bamboo thatched walls. Houses were raised on stilts creating a safe harbor during the rainy season and a cooler place to live under the house in the dry season. Being the dry season most daily tasks took place under the house. As we rolled along I could see people sleeping off the mid-day's heat in a hammock, preparing food for dinner, washing clothes, cutting their children's hair, and repairing motorbikes.

6,000 Muslims, Cambodians and Vietnamese live on a lake that provides a home, source of water and fish to it's residents. Floating schools, stores houses and even an environmental center are scattered around the lake. The picture to the left is the basketball court connected to the floating school. Fish breed in fish farms that were constructed. Large sticks helped to anchor houses in place.

Woman paddled along in long, narrow boats selling food to fisherman and village residents.

Below is a shot of a family's home. Women prepared food in the small kitchen areas and used water from the lake to clean vegetables and fish.

Even though it was a Friday afternoon, many children were in their homes or riding on boats. They watched as I floated by, some smiling and waving eagerly. The adorable girl below was at a floating cafe and souvenir shop, a trap for tourists. She was almost 2 years old and ran up to me with arms stretched high, pleading me to pick her up. I felt a little Angelina Jolie syndrome coming on.

Access to the lake was along a small river which seemed to have been man made and began at the docking station for the tour boats. Life on the banks looked to be very difficult; facilities were lacking, the shore was polluted with garbage. The boys on the left took time to cool off from the heat by splashing and jumping in the water at the river's edge. Behind them you can see some of the houses that line the shore.

Below to the left, a woman prepares a meal or washes dishes from her home. Girls are being taken to or from school pulled behind a motorized boat.

Bangkok to Siem Reap

My next destination after Thailand was Cambodia. One of two boarder crossings at Poipet. I took a six hour bus from Bangkok to the boarder. I met two Iranian guys, currently living in East Timor, who were heading to Cambodia for their third time. Together, we got a Tuk Tuk to the visa office for our Cambodia visas.

In Cambodia, people greet each other as brother and sister, which I first learned talking with the visa office attendant. Another employee asked me where I was from and when I told him the U.S. he rattled off different greetings he's learned from tourists: "What's up?" and "How you doin'?" were a couple. I chose to give him "How's it hangin'?" and stressed that this was something to use with male visitors.

I was heading to Siem Reap and my Iranian friends to a different town so I bought a seat in a share taxi. From the visa office I was whisked away by the attendant on motorbike. My bags followed in the Tuk Tuk. I proceeded to go through various check points at the boarder office. After the first checkpoint I was handed off to a different guy. After check point two, he led me to a bus. I was a little confused since I was taking a taxi, but he and his tag-a-long companion assured me we were taking the bus to the taxi stand. I was the only one on the bus. I figured I was either about to be robbed or I'd in fact be led to the taxi stand.

The taxi stand was a small room with rows of chairs. I sat for a few minutes before my guide returned and led me out the back into an alley. There I saw a car with four Westerners crammed inside. Three Cambodian taxi drivers were standing at the front with the hood raised, hitting the engine with a wrench. I was happy when we passed that car. I shared a taxi with a guy from Sweden also making his third trip to Cambodia. He was on his way to Siem Reap to look for a guest house that he could rent for 6 months to a year as a small business. His daughter, 18, is in an international program and must live abroad for a period of time to fulfill the requirements. So their plan was to run a small guest house in Siem Reap.

The road between the boarder and Siem Reap is rather legendary. The poor road conditions are in every travel book and any travelers that I've met that have made the drive talk about the spine jarring, bumpy ride. Indeed there are parts that are very hectic. Part of the road is paved while others are in the process and other parts remain dirt packed and dusty in the dry season. Small roadside stands sell food, water, gasoline in re-used soda bottles, and household wares. The flora is green with fruit trees, palms and grass fields. Every few miles plots of lotus will fill the landscape. Cows walk the roads and graze in the fields.

Our driver was a Siem Reap native who drives the 6 hours round-trip a day shuttling tourists back and forth to the boarder. As we bumped along the road, rap music blared from the front seat. In Cambodia they drive on the right side of the road, however our driver had a right driver seated car. So every time he'd pass a truck along the small two-lane road he'd have to pull halfway across the middle just to be able to see if there was on-coming traffic. We arrived safely and I took yet another tuk tuk to the No. 9 Guesthouse which became my home for the next three nights.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Life on Sang Thian beach

It only took roughly 8 minutes on Sang Thian beach before Craig and I started calculating how much money one would need to live for a year. The relaxed lifestyle and crystal blue water had us under its spell. Now and again one of us would come up with a "get-rich-quick" idea or some investment strategy to move our residence to the Koh Samet zip code.

Our first night was spent in a bungalow on a hill overlooking the water. We made a rookie mistake of taking the first place we saw, mainly because it was late in the afternoon and I was a little nervous we'd miss out on a place. It wasn't anything to write home about really. Most of the bungalows are on a hill and ours was the furthest up the hill. We were entertained by the old woman who runs the convenient shop though. She's a tiny, sun-wrinkled woman in her late seventies. She was probably the only Thai person who never smiled at us but she would ramble away in Thai at us whenever we stopped to buy something. She did help to mend Craig's barnacle-torn hand with some iodine and, through mime, demanded that he hold his hand flat.

For the last two days we moved to Candlelight resort and a great one-room bungalow just a few feet from the beach with a big porch looking out on the beach. We could hear the waves crashing on the shore at night. The room had a bathroom, shower, fan and even a TV for $20US a night. The manager is a man of very few words that we nick-named the Phantom. He seldom smiled and I don't recall him actually speaking a word to us. I got to thinking there could be a love connectionn between him and the convenience shop lady down the beach! The Candlelight had a comfortable lounge area with beach chairs and covered tables to chill out or sunbathe.

Life is made extra sweet with a Roti Pancake from the beach's pancake vendor. A roti pancake (which I must give my dear friend Amber kudos to for recommending!) is a thin friend pancake with your choice of filling and toppings. On Amber's suggestion, I ordered a banana with chocolate drizzle. Roti pancake man then finishes it off with some drizzle of sweetened condensed milk. YUM! HOWEVER, our roti pancake man must have taken a vacation because he never re-appeared after our first day. We would monitor his abandoned cart from the water during daily swims. We were hooked after the one and had to resort to other beaches for our fix.

In the mornings you could buy fruit from the very friendly fruit vendor. We walked the length of the beach carrying jackfruit, pineapple, coconuts and other edibles on a cane carrying pole. That's me enjoying a morning coconut on our porch. Also, a few yards down was a massage place that offered Thai and body massage in a hut that sits just over the beach.

Sa wa di Koh Samet!

One can't go to Thailand without spending a little time on it's miles of beaches. With only eight days in Thailand, we opted for a destination near Bangkok and after some deliberation settled on Koh Samet.

Koh Samet is a small island about four hours from Bangkok and has seen a fair amount of development in recent years. We boarded a bus bound for Ban Phe, where we caught a ferry to the island. I was very impressed with the bus system in Thailand and especially liked the bus attendants who hand out cold water and snacks.

Ban Phe's shorelines are litter-filled and dirty but very active with the steady stream of provisions that are loaded on boats destined for the island. We walked through two or three boats to get to the one that actually delivered us to Koh Samet. There isn't much in the form of direction, assistance or safety announcements on the ferries.

We traveled on a Friday without a reservation for the night on the island. Our plan was to walk the beaches and find a great bungalow. Once we arrived we discovered that this wasn't the best strategy for a Friday in the late afternoon. Koh Samet is a popular weekend destination for mainland locales and one such traveler we sat next to on the first taxi we boarded suggested we check with the tourist office before getting to our beach of choice. Inside the cramped office we waited with about six other tourists, all holding our breath as the agent made call after call. Finally, the exasperated woman looked up at us shaking her head. She told us that bungalows were all booked and the only option left was a four-star resort where rooms ran over 5,000 baht (almost $200US).

As we mulled over our options, I remembered seeing a backpacker carrying a tent on our ferry. I turned to the woman and asked, "Can we get a tent?" She seemed a little shocked by this but quickly put in a call and confirmed a tent for us. So again we piled into the back of the green island taxi that takes tourists to and from the beaches. There are two benches on either side of a pick-up truck's bed. We bumped along the road to our resort, occasionally being tossed from side to side as we hit larger pot-holes. Our tent was on a resort on the northern end of the island just steps away from the ocean; nestled under a tree. It worked well for our first night and the staff were very friendly and helpful. I don't think they get many requests for tents and it was comical watching them put it up. When we asked about check-out time for our tent the woman in charge, a younger woman with a sarcastic sense of humor, chuckled a bit and replied, "You're in a tent! Whenever you want!" She then relayed the conversation in Thai to her mother, laughing the entire time.

The next day we rented a scooter from the bungalow for the next three days. We set out to explore other areas of the island. The northern end doesn't have the best beaches and we headed south. For some travelers, Koh Samet may be over developed. I can understand that if people stay in the popular Tub Tim area on the northeastern section. This is a well-developed area with resorts crammed together along with restaurants, pubs and night clubs. It's a nice area for nightlife but we decided to head further south. A scooter does give you a lot of freedom to explore.

We ended up about half way down the eastern coast on Sang Thian beach. From the road there is a sign that marks the turn. It doesn't look like much as the beaches are all hidden from the road and you go down some pot-hole strewn dirt roads to just get to where you can park your scooter. We actually came across it first when we found the Apache Bungalow Resort where we stopped for lunch. We fell in love with the area as we lounged throughout lunch on a platform table over the beach. There's a mismatched pier that juts out into the ocean at Apache where you can also sit.

On our last day we headed to the tip of the island where there's a national park with great viewing points of the east and west. We spent over an hour snorkeling in a small cove and discovering all sorts of critters in the beautiful coral reef. We were the only ones in the cove the entire time. The southern part is not frequented by most people who congregate farther north.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bangkok in the daylight

While well-known for it's nightly entertainment, Bangkok offered a lot in the daylight too. Leaving our poolside paradise on the second day, Craig and I took to the city's bustling streets. Our first stop was the city's Grand Palace and dazzling Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha). Be advised that men and women must be wearing long pants and covered shoulders. If you aren't prepared, they do provide clothing inside the gates for a refundable 100 Baht deposit so no need to purchase something from the hawkers outside. Craig got to wear some scrub-like pants for the visit. For more on the palace visit The temple's glass mosaic walls reflect the sun at every step and the gold painted spires were remarkable against the clear blue sky. Inside the temple's sanctuary sits the emerald Buddha, dressed to suit the current season. We enjoyed the calm and serenity of the sanctuary, as well as, the respite it provided from the day's sun.

The palace itself was official looking but didn't impress us nearly as much as the temple. You'll find the national symbol of luck and happiness, the elephant, guarding the building instead of lions in Thailand.

Outside the palace we wandered through some of the city's older streets, taking in the smells, sounds and sights. Street-side food stalls are nestled all around the city; some offering curb-side seating. Day markets are not hard to find either. We stopped for some of the best Tom Yum soup at a local eatery. Tuk Tuks are a popular form of transportation in the city and can be heard from blocks away as they sputter through traffic. They remind me of a decked-out dune buggy. From the Tuk Tuks to the brightly-colored taxis I have to say that Bangkok has some of the most colorful traffic.

An easy, fun and cheap way to see the city and more local life is to ride along the river taxis. Several routes take commuters up and down the river and from bank to bank. For a fraction of a dollar we road the water taxis with the locals and took in the views of several other temples along the river's edge. The routes can be a little confusing as signs are written mostly in Thai. At one stop we didn't realize we had to disembark until a guard kicked us off because the route only shuttles people between the river banks. We just did a quick transfer to a faster boat that sped down the river. Cruising down the river also gives you a look at some of the life that exists at the water's edge. Wooden houses and house boats line parts of the shore.

After a day of sight-seeing we enjoyed a traditional Thai massage. Thai massage involves a lot of stretching and therapists use their entire body to aid relaxation. At times you may have to tolerate a little of discomfort but the benefits are well worth it!

We originally planned to leave Bangkok on the next day but, my travel companion and I swapped on the illness. Note that it is important to stay well hydrated in the Thai heat! You pay dearly if you don't; Craig can attest to that. As Craig convalesced at the hotel, I headed to Lumpini Park. Melting away a few pounds on the walk, I arrived at the city's largest park. What most intrigued me were the hundreds of joggers making their way along the paths. Having lived in China for a year I hadn't seen much running as a form of exercise in Asia. Locals and tourists were out exercising, playing and lounging. I watched some men playing a game using a rattan ball like a hackey sack that is kicked back and forth over a net like volley ball. The park proved to be a nice break from the Bangkok's noise and pollution.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Three nights in Bangkok

Who could forget the 80s one-hit-wonder, One Night in Bangkok? So my question was, how humble could three nights in the vibrant, bustling city make me? Answer: quite a bit when you start with a stomach bug.

My traveling companion, Craig, and I arrived in the early morning and the city was still steaming and alive. On the drive to our hotel, there were people dining on late-night snacks at street side eateries that line many of the city's streets. People greeted us with wide smiles and the melodic sounds of their customary "Sa wa di" greeting.

We pampered ourselves by splurging on a couple nights at the Swissotel, mainly because I fell in love with the pool. Wouldn't you?

After a day recovering from jet lag at the pool, we headed to the Suan Lum Night Bazaar. The market, a calm environment compared to the city's other night market (see below), has everything a tourist can imagine. Knock-offs, Thai clothing, silks, wood carvings, bootleg DVDs are just some of the wares up for haggling. Given my illness, I couldn't stomach much weaving in and out of the heated aisles. Instead, we opted to relax in the open-air food court and beer garden. Food stalls line the perimeter and serve a variety of Thai and Asian food. The beer is several times more expensive than the food, which is pricey by Thai standards. We do give the local Chang beer an endorsement.

There was free entertainment on the huge stage that seemed more suited for a much larger venue. We listened to Thai singers perform various pop, hip-hop and rock songs complete with back-up dancers. There was even a rendition of one of my favorite 80s classics, "Hey Mickey".

On our third night we ventured to the lively and colorful Pat Pong night market. Shopping is just one of the many past-times one can enjoy along the small streets in this part of Bangkok. The area is well-known for it's live entertainment which includes bikini clad go-go dancers and the renowned "ping-pong" shows. You can't walk more than a few feet before being approached by someone wanting to lure you into a show. Having traveled all that way, one really must take part in the obligatory tradition. You can negotiate your ticket which we did quite expertly. We went back to look for a particular hawker, Duck, because he was wearing an Obama t-shirt. Duck considers himself the President's brother. He's never seen him in Pat Pong though, I asked.

The show let me amazed, shocked and, at times, a little disturbed. I really think some improvements can be made in terms of stage presence and audience engagement. Most performers displayed little energy as they performed their feats. I guess we can all get a little bored with our routines and anatomically launching foreign objects could be mind-numbing as any job night after night. There was one artist that stood out from the rest with both her achievements and personality. Let's just say I will never look at a banana or a bottle of Coke in the same way. Bangkok---humbling indeed.