September 4, 2010 (originally dated September 5, 2009)

One of the biggest regrets* of my trip (Seriously. What is there to regret, really?) is that when I was in Bali I saw but never got a photo of the Isuzu SUV I saw with a decal on the back window that said ‘ISUZU TOTAL ASSY.’

So when I saw these boxes on the shelf of the motorcycle repair shop at which I was getting my laundry done (no joke) in Rantepao, Sulawesi, I was SO happy. I went back to my hotel and got my camera, but ended up dilly-dallying too long and the shop was closed when i got back (Another regret! Why did I choose that particular moment to wash my hat?).

Motorcycle Damper Assy boxes, Motorcycle repair/laundry shop, Rantepao, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Motorcycle Damper Assy boxes, Motorcycle repair/laundry shop, Rantepao, Sulawesi, Indonesia

I texted my friend Rob, who made a joke about the danger of my getting a motorcycle damper assy in the rain. Rob had been with me on the road in Bali and known of my unfulfilled longing for a total assy photo, and now I remembered that he had coined an expression I now felt compelled to not only adopt but promote. You see, there was a guy at Tutmak Cafe in Ubud, where Rob and I often hung out because it had free wifi. This guy, however, was there more than often. He appeared to live there. Even when we stayed until closing and finally left as the staff was locking up, he was still there. He had a Mac Book Air and always sat in the same seat. We sometimes sat on the couch opposite him and my last night there there was a problem with the connection and I mentioned something to Rob about losing my Skype icon and Mac guy freaked out on me about how you’re not supposed to use Skype there because it uses too much bandwidth. He was a jerk, it was true, but I didn’t think much about it.

Shortly thereafter, when I was in Flores, Rob told me that he’d arrived at Tutmak early one morning and, very purposefully, taken Mac guy’s seat. Mac guy arrived a minute later and was apparently seething, refusing even to respond to Rob’s (pleasant, I’m sure) ‘good morning.’ When he told me this I actually thought this was a pretty rude and petty thing to do, but he’d said ‘No one is a total assy to my friend and gets away with it!’ which was sweet enough. It was only several days later that I suddenly came to appreciate the full comic and vengeful brilliance of his action.

In any case, the now-lost damper assy opportunity put me in mind of all this, resulting in my posting this Facebook status: Mia Lipsit wants you, too, to adopt her new expression ‘total assy.’ Not sure what it means but it has something to do with vehicles, as in ‘Isuzu Total Assy’ and ‘motorcycle damper assy.’ To be used as in, ‘That guy is a total assy.’

But back to Rantepao.

As luck would have it, though, my bus the next morning that I was told would leave at 8 am (“If all the passengers are here at 8, it will leave at 8.”) was, ha, actually a 9am bus (The guy who sold me my ticket refused to acknowledge he had said any such thing to me. My guide had served as my interpreter when I’d bought the ticket the day before, but still, his English was impeccable…). This left me with some unexpected extra time in town, which normally might have been an annoyance but in this case was a blessing.

My first order of business was to go back to the shop and take this photo. I was ready to be all ‘Hello I came to take a photo of your damper assy’ but no one at the shop said anything or even looked my way at all. Score. Next task was to go by another hotel to try to pick up the falling-apart copy of David Copperfield which had been offered to me by a young English woman with whom I’d failed to meet up the night before. I found her eating breakfast (and, as it turns out, she was taking the same bus as me, not only well aware that it was meant to leave at 9, but awaiting a pickup directly from the hotel. No fair!) Still…double score!

A fairly successful morning, I’d say. And not a bad start to a day of ten hours on an uncomfortable bus.

*The other biggest regret was not getting a photo, when I was in South Bali, of a sign that said ‘CAT OVEN.’ I actually saw another cat oven sign in Jakarta a few days ago on my way to the airport, but as I was again driving by, a photo was not possible, so this still remains but a dream. (Cat oven had long been a mystery but a few days ago I finally figured out that ‘cat’ means ‘paint,’ which I just now brilliantly verified by googling it. Oven…not so sure, but if it’s for painting cars perhaps they do call them ovens…)

October 11, 2009

Transport, Moni, Flores, Indonesia

Transport, Moni, Flores, Indonesia

Typical transport in Indonesia (though just as often there’ll be a goat on top instead of–or in addition to–people). Climb aboard!

October 9, 2009

Dokters Gigi, Makassar, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Dokters Gigi, Makassar, Sulawesi, Indonesia

The first time I saw a ‘Dokter Gigi’ sign in Bali, I assumed the doctor was named Gigi. The second time I saw it, probably in Flores, I thought, well, perhaps Gigi is a popular name. Many Indonesians (moreso Balinesians, though) have the same name. Then in Makassar, Sulawesi, I saw this and knew something was up. Finally asked someone and…dokter gigi means dentist.

About a month later I was brushing my teeth and actually bothered to read what was written on the tube of toothpaste I’d purchased in Malaysia about three months prior. Needless to say, had I done so before I would have known gigi meant ‘teeth’ or ‘dental’ or something similar, and this mystery (and this photo of the day) would never have been.

October 7, 2009

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School children, Moni, Flores, Indonesia

School children, Moni, Flores, Indonesia

Waiting by the side of the road to catch a bus in Moni, Flores, I had a lovley interchange (and exchange of gifts!)* with a woman running a restaurant/petrol stand. Her daughter and some of her school friends came over (the school was across the road and I could hear the kids singing when I first parked myself there with my backpack to wait), and of course they wanted their photos taken.

*for the story on the gift exchange, click here.

October 5, 2009

Ooops crackers, Lombok, Indonesia

Ooops crackers, Lombok, Indonesia

Oops! I ate those crackers again! (And…fugu?)

October 3, 2009

Cheeky monkeys, Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Cheeky monkeys, Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Things got a little funky at the Monkey Forest, when the monkeys started to pull at–and then go under–my skirt.

October 1, 2009

T-shirts for sale, New Legend Hostel, Makassar, Sulawesi, Indonesia

T-shirts for sale, New Legend Hostel, Makassar, Sulawesi, Indonesia

I have to say, I think my ‘No moto, No tuk tuk, No thank you’ t-shirt idea for Laos/Cambodia was infinitely more polite! (Interestingly, though, to note which finger he’s holding up. I’m assuming that was a mistake on the part of the presumably Asian artist.) I do, however, love that the guy on the t-shirt is wearing a ‘Hello Mister’ t-shirt. Now that’s good. I get ‘Hello Mister’d about 10 times a day. ‘Hello Mrs.’ too. It’s about even by now, I’d say.

September 29, 2009

Jacob's crackers, Lombok, Indonesia

Jacob's crackers, Lombok, Indonesia

Even though in this case, ‘cal’ means calcium (Asia seems to be obsessed with biscuits and crackers fortified with calcium), there is just no way you’d ever have a snack food called ‘hi-cal’ in the west.

September 27, 2009

Bemo (minibus) door, Maumere, Flores, Indonesia

Bemo (minibus) door, Maumere, Flores, Indonesia

The door of one of the many bemos (minibuses) I took in Flores. Not sure what the take-home message here is supposed to be… (That is a gun and bullet holes on the ‘BLACK’ logo (whatever that is), in case your screen is too small to see.)

September 25, 2009

Graffiti, Ruteng, Flores, Indonesia

Graffiti, Ruteng, Flores, Indonesia

Random graffiti. Nice, eh? (And no, I don’t think ‘Hitller’ with the two ‘l’s means anything in Indonesian.)

September 24, 2009

Bemo guy, Flores, Indonesia

Bemo guy, Flores, Indonesia

How great is this shirt (which obviously was meant to be a converse ripoff)? Oops.

September 21, 2009

Coffee roaster, Ruteng, Flores, Indonesia

Coffee roaster, Ruteng, Flores, Indonesia

This is a gas-fired coffee-roasting machine in back of a restaurant in Ruteng on the East Indonesian island of Flores. The Lonely Planet guide says you should ask to go in the back and see their machine. It never would have occurred to me to actually do so (I went for the cake, which turned out to be nonexistent), but a foreign couple was there at the same time as me and told me I really must go back and have a look. The photo doesn’t really do it justice, as the immediate thought I had upon seeing this monster was: Willie Wonka!

September 19, 2009

Toilet, Borneo Global Backpackers Hostel, Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, Malaysia

Toilet, Borneo Global Backpackers Hostel, Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, Malaysia

Best toilet brand name EVER!

September 18, 2009

T-shirts, Denpasar airport, Bali, Indonesia

T-shirts, Denpasar airport, Bali, Indonesia

These were for sale in the airport in Denpasar, Bali, and, frankly, I found that pretty damned surprising.

September 17, 2009

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Potato chip bag, Bali, Indonesia

Ever wondered where your potato chips come from…?

September 16, 2009

Sign, Mall, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Sign, Mall, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I’m from a town called Spring Valley. Which, being home (at the time, anyway) to many Jews of my family’s type (ie non-religious or temple-on-high-holidays-only religious), was of course also home to many Chinese restaurants. None of which, to my knowledge, was called Spring Valley Chinese Restaurant (which would, frankly, have rendered it pretty unappealing to the residents of Spring Valley, I think).

September 14, 2009

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Parking dude, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

This guy works at Kafe, a popular-with-foreigners health-food joint in Ubud, Bali. This is clearly the owner’s (who is clearly a foreigner his or herself) idea of a joke. And yeah, one that I, as a fellow foreigner, clearly appreciated.

September 12, 2009

Street sign, Bali, Indonesia

Street sign, Bali, Indonesia

Um…hunchback crossing? (These are the street crossing signs in Bali, but I can assure you that I’ve yet to see a Balinese shaped like this guy.)

September 11, 2009

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Mia Cashews, Bali, Indonesia

Some of you may not be aware that I am actually the head of a cashew nut empire…

September 10, 2009

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Store sign, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Please don’t ask me. I couldn’t figure it out. And I actually tried…

September 9, 2009

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Kacang Disco, Bali, Indonesia

Just what everyone needs: disco nuts!

September 3, 2009

Sign, Ende, Flores, Indonesia

Sign, Ende, Flores, Indonesia

Bintang is the name of Indonesia’s national beer…as well as, apparently, a political party. (The word means ‘star,’ as it took me 6 weeks to find out.) I saw this sign before I knew that and my first thought was, ‘Now there’s a reform I can get behind!’ (Notice too that its initials are PBR. Too perfect!)

September 1, 2009

Truck, Ende, Flores, Indonesia

Truck, Ende, Flores, Indonesia

In Flores (and all of East Indonesia I’ve seen thus far), almost all the trucks, buses and bemos (minivans or minibuses used for local and often long distance transport) have decals such as this one blazed across the front, sometimes two. The photo I wanted but didn’t get: top decal—FERNANDO. bottom—STONER. (And yes, when there are two I really wonder how on earth the driver can see…)

August 31, 2009

Nosy motorbike shampoo, Bajawa, Flores, Indonesia

Nosy motorbike shampoo, Bajawa, Flores, Indonesia

Is your motorcycle limp, dry and lifeless? (And perhaps too interested in what other motorcycles are doing?) Well then, you need nosy motorcycle shampoo!

August 30, 2009

Cement, Ende, Flores, Indonesia

Cement, Ende, Flores, Indonesia

Many words in Indonesian (and Malaysian, as it’s virtually the same language) are English words but spelled phonetically to match their own alphabet sounds (‘c’ is pronounced ‘ch,’ for example, so ‘central’ is ‘sentral’), as well as the way the words are pronounced—such as without ‘t’s on the end (ie ‘restaurant’ is ‘restoran’). All of this makes for a very unfortunate spelling of cement.

August 28, 2009

My hand, Ende, Flores, Indonesia

My hand, Ende, Flores, Indonesia

This is my hair (not pictured). This is the dirt on the roads and in the air of Flores, Indonesia (not pictured). This is my hand after running it repeatedly through my hair (to get the knots out) before a clearly much-needed washing! (About five years ago I took a similar photo in Vietnam, as I was so shocked to see my hands. Now I’m used to it, but this is even dirtier than back then. Wow.)

August 26, 2009

Nasa toilet paper, Ruteng, Flores, IndonesiaNasa toilet paper, Ruteng, Flores, Indonesia

I can’t attest to whether this is, in fact, NASA quality. It looked too rough so I bought a nicer-looking roll, whose brand name was, in fact, ‘Nice.’

August 12, 2009

Brochure, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Brochure, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Hmmmm….

August 11, 2009

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According to a friend of mine, Pocari Sweat actually tastes lemony and quite good, but…yeah. Not going there. Also, apparently it is Japanese drink and the word pocari means ‘lightly, e.g. a cloud floated across the sky.’ Hmmm.

August 10, 2009

Art, Tourist market, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Art, Tourist market, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Saw this in the market (the one that sells only handicrafts and souvenirs for tourists) in Ubud, Bali. Guess it was just a matter of time. Also, note that Michael has taken his place next to (and above!) Buddha.

August 9, 2009

Tourism agency sign, Jalan Bisma, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Bali Bulan Tourist Service, Jalan Bisma, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

I saw this and thought ‘Oh my god…personal daily couch tour! *That’s* what I’ve been doing the last two months.’ Clearly I should apply for a job as a tour guide! Also, please enjoy the tour description at the bottom…Lets go joint us!!!

August 8, 2009

Crazy graffiti scooter, Goutema Street, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Crazy graffiti scooter, Goutema Street, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

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I think the dog face on the handlebars is *such* a nice touch!

August 7, 2009

Ego Intellect biscuits, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Ego Intellect biscuits, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

I’m not sure these biscuits did anything for my intellect, or my ego for that matter. Actually, they weren’t very good at all. Also not sure what it is with ‘milk’ flavor in Asia. I’d thought it was just what they called the flavor of the white filling in Oreo-style cookies, but apparently there is more to it than that…

August 6, 2009

Polly under desk, Andong Road, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Polly under desk, Andong Road, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Ended up house- and dogsitting in Bali for friends of my cousin’s husband. This is Polly’s I-know-I’m-not-supposed-to-be-in-the-house-but-what-if-I-just-sit-quietly-right-here-under-the-desk-huh?-prettyplease? look. She was sooo sweet. I miss her!

August 5, 2009

Fountain, Hanoman Road, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Fountain, Hanoman Road, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

I call this one ‘peeing Buddha boy, detail’ (from a fountain full of peeing Buddha boys).

August 4, 2009

Cafe, Monkey Forest Road, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Cafe, Monkey Forest Road, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Um, I’ll have one Japanese, please. Or perhaps a Japanese fax?

August 2, 2009

Gloves, Indonesia
Tasty foot gloves, Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Thanks goes to my friend Rob Murray for this one!

August 1, 2009

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Bedaulu, ARMA museum, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Bedaulu, ARMA museum, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Sick and tired of that unsightly acne, that receding hairline, that unwanted flab? Here’s a great new (well, ancient) solution! Kill anyone who looks at you! (This website tells the story quite a bit differently, however.)

July 30, 2009

Sign, Kuching, Borneo, Malaysia
Fence, Kuching, Borneo, Malaysia

No, really, whose fence is it? (I should mention here that ‘MY’ is sometimes an abbreviation for Malaysia (on the www, for instance), and so if—and it is quite a big if—this is indeed a play on that, well, then it’s not as funny. But I told you anyway. To be fair to MyFence.

July 29, 2009

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Had my laundry done in Bali… In addition to the incredibly funny English, I enjoyed the realization that that this is, literally, a laundry list. Don’t think I’d ever actually seen one before!

July 28, 2009

Grumpy garden gnome, Rose Centre, Camerob Highlands, Malaysia

Gruupy garden gnome, Rose Centre, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

So do you think Grumpy gets even grumpier when his name is spelled wrong? I know Iwould. Come to think of it, he is something of a Snow White groupie…

July 27, 2009

Buddhalicious cocktail list, Menu, Laughing Buddha, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Buddhalicious cocktail list, Menu, Laughing Buddha, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

I believe I have found, without question the best-named drink in the entire world, ever. (For those who need to know, it contains arak, cranberry juice and mint. And no, sorry, I didn’t order one. I opted instead for the arak mojo (mojito). As it turns out, I should not have ordered any of those drinks, as several tourists have died recently of bad arak. Someone’s mixing methanol into it and apparently even a sealed bottle from the store isn’t even safe. Talk about arak attack… So, no more araktails for me.)

July 26, 2009

Vegetable biscuits (highclass), Bali, Indonesia
Vegetable biscuits (highclass), Bali, Indonesia

That’s what I like about Indonesia. Their biscuits are so highclass.

July 25, 2009

Lizard poo, Long Beach, Pehrentian Islands, Malaysia
Lizard poo, Long Beach, Pehrentian Islands, Malaysia

Remember those little brown pellets I used to find on my desk in Phnom Penh that I realized must be lizard poo? Well, this is what you get when you have BIG lizards. Big lizard poo. (There was one guy that hung out around our guesthouse—presumably because of the swamp-like conditions in what was basically a sewer right in front of our bungalow—that was about two yards long. I unfortunately could never hobble out of my chair fast enough to catch sight of him. I did see the one in our bathroom that I’m pretty sure was the bearer of these gifts. He had a blue and red pattern and was really much more attractive than his poo (sorry, no pic).

July 24, 2009

Dinner on the beach, Long Beach, Pehrentian Islands, Malaysia
Dinner on the beach, Long Beach, Pehrentian Islands, Malaysia

Before we even got our beers from selling-cans-out-of-a-styrofoam-cooler-on-the-beach guy, we tried to order dinner from our waiter who was, quite literally, falling-down drunk.

July 23, 2009

D'lagoon, Pehrentian Islands, Malaysia


Sign at D’lagoon, the first guest house I stayed in on Pehrentian Islands. They actually made their own ‘noise’ the night I was there, with some of the worst ‘music’ ever. I believe it was the driver of our boat ferry who had the most godawful voice. Accompanied by a somewhat competent drummer and a group of completely incompetent clappers, if you can believe it. It was seriously painful, and even the beer didn’t help. (Beer, by the way, which we thought they didn’t sell, since it wasn’t on the menu. We didn’t learn about the ‘under the table’ beer selling until after dinner—and after I’d already schlepped several large bottles from the mainland, having been warned ahead of time by my friend Sven who’d arrived first and had, he thought, already scoped out the beer situation, or lack thereof.)

July 22, 2009

Long Beach, Peherentian Islands, Malaysia
Long Beach, Peherentian Islands, Malaysia

From the same snorkel place. Like I said, they really take their snorkeling seriously. Or take it to, shall we say, a whole new level…

July 21, 2009

Long Beach, Pehrentian Islands, Malaysia
Long Beach, Pehrentian Islands, Malaysia

Now there are some folks serious about their snorkeling. Note also that this is Malaysia, a Muslim country, and Pehrentian Islands, where none of the restuarants actually sell alcohol and even the bars do so somewhat illegally (they sell it but it’s not listed on the menus). Note, too, that their version of ‘same same but different’ enlists the use of the ‘squared’ sign. Way to make do with limited space!

June 19, 2009

Cornae American Corn Snack, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Cornae American Corn Snack, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Ingredient list
Ingredient list

How could I resist a Bugle-like ‘American Corn Snack’? Totally cornae, I know, but I’ve always been a sucker for Bugles. Why anyone would ever have thought of making a snack food shaped like a bugle is beyond me—though, strangely, that question had never occurred to me before contemplating Cornae (which are, in case you were wondering, far inferior tastewise to Bugles). Clean, hygienic, brittle, attractive, passes the muster of meticulous selection…like I said, how could I resist?

June 16, 2009

Ant attack, my bedroom, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Ant attack, my bedroom, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

I opened the bag of these mangosteen chewy candies I’d been giving out at the end of class to find it swarming with ants, the double plastic bagging I’d protected them with all for naught. Apparently one of the candy wrappers was open and thus came the swarm. I emptied them out onto the bed, separated the candy from the ants, and as I crushed the lot of them methodically, with brisk, efficient sweeps along invisible vertical lines on the sheet with the side of my palm, which I then flung onto the floor, I told them: ‘Live by the candy, die by the candy.’

Served ‘em right, I say. (Sorry. I used to be live-and-let-live when it came to bugs, but Cambodia turned me into a merciless killer.)

June 10, 2009

A cat walks into a hospital...
A cat walks into a hospital…

In a wholly unglamorous move, I slipped and fell in my hotel room and fractured my kneecap. Being unable to walk and having no one to look after me, my doctor suggested I spend the night at the hospital. This hospital, as it turned out, had no air conditioning, no screens on the windows (so therefore mosquitoes) and, yes…a cat. It wandered in at some point and the only reason one of the nurses finally shooed it out the back door was because I started taking pictures of it (while trying not to read any superstitious implications into the fact that it was black…).

June 8, 2009

T-shirt, Dataran Pahlawan Mega Mall, Melaka, Malaysia
T-shirt, Dataran Pahlawan Mega Mall, Melaka, Malaysia

Most of the English signs and t-shirts in Malaysia are perfectly (or slightly imperfectly) comprehensible. But I have managed to find a few notable exceptions…

June 7, 2009

Bathroom stall sign, Dataran Pahlawan Mega Mall, Melaka, Malaysia
Bathroom stall sign, Dataran Pahlawan Mega Mall, Melaka, Malaysia

This in inside the stall of a bathroom in a mall in Melaka. Do they really think once you’ve gotten that far you are going to change your mind and decide to hold it in until later? Wacky.

June 6, 2009

Rx-Water promotional jacket, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Rx-Water promotional jacket, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I find this slogan pretty threatening. Strange way to sell your product, no?

June 5, 2009

Sign, Merdeka Square, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Sign, Merdeka Square, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Rain, rain go away…over there!

June 4, 2009

Disney Baby Land, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Disney Baby Land, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

It’s not just a store, it’s a shopping castle. Very Malaysian.

June 3, 2009

Loo sign, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Loo sign, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

This sign was not actually in a restaurant or any other public place, but in the bathroom of my first couchsurfing host in Kuala Lumpur. Hopes for the best!

June 2, 2009

McCurry Restoran, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

McCurry Restoran, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I guess it was bound to happen, eh? (Note also that it’s called a ‘restoran.’ More on this later…)

June 1, 2009

Public service ad, LRT train, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Public service ad, LRT train, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Hey, Pregnant lady, AREN’T WE COURTEOUS?

May 31, 2009

Smelly No More deodorant, Malaysia

Smelly No More deodorant, Malaysia

In searching for a non-aluminum chlorohydrate-based deodorant, I came across this. At first I didn’t buy it, as it was quite pricey. The name, however, was priceless. After finding no other alternative, I purchased it. No word on whether it lives up to the promise of its name, as I haven’t used it yet. Watch this space for updates.

Follow Me deodorant, Malaysia

Follow Me deodorant, Malaysia

And the runner-up in my new favorite deodorant brand category is…

May 27, 2009

Baby restaurant, Saigon, Vietnam

Baby restaurant, Saigon, Vietnam

Just so you can see the fat baby upclose...

Just so you can see the fat baby upclose...

Fat baby soup, anyone?

Fat baby soup, anyone?

Ah, the Baby restaurant. I literally spent an entire day trying to get photos of this place, which I had seen from the window on a bus on my previous trip to Saigon and was dying to get a picture of. It’s way out of town and I had no reason to go there this time, but I got back on the same bus route just to find it again and take these photos. The first time I tried it poured and I didn’t see the sign and didn’t want to get out of the bus anyway, so I stayed on until the route ended and then waited for the bus to turn around and go back. Didn’t see on the way back either.

So later in the day I went again (clearly I had nothing to do) when it was almost dark (hence the poor quality of these photos) and snapped about 50 photos, making the people on the street (not to mention those at the restaurant, but I was across the street so I hoped they wouldn’t notice me) think I was nuts. But really, how could I resist?

More importantly, who could resist a piping hot bowl of fat baby soup?

May 21, 2009

Urinal, Unisex Bathroom, Freebird Bar, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Urinal, Unisex Bathroom, Freebird Bar, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

This is your urinal.

Urinal, Unisex Bathroom, Freebird Bar, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Urinal, Unisex Bathroom, Freebird Bar, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

This is your urinal on pineapple. Better than moth balls, I say.

May 20, 2009

Note left in hotel room safe, Le Meridien Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Note left in hotel room safe, Le Meridien Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Yes, I really did this. I know it’s crazy, but…what else to do? Someone on staff at the fanciest hotel in town stole $20 out of my money belt (I only knew because I’d just counted it when I arrived.). From inside a locked safe. I didn’t want to make a fuss but I did want my money back. So I wrote this and put it in the safe and…voila! Next day, my missing $20 was back. I actually couldn’t believe it. I counted and recounted, as I’d done the day before when I realized it was missing, thinking mabye I’d just gone crazy. Nope. I may be crazy for other reasons, but that $20 was gone. And then it wasn’t. No doubt about it.

Note left the next day, Le Meridien Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Note left the next day, Le Meridien Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia

OK, I admit it was ridiculous for me to then start moralizing. But the catlady in me won out and I left this note locked in the safe the next day. Unfortunately, it was the day I was leaving, and while I was in the process of checking out, duh, the staff went to check the room for me (I’m used to more backpacker-type guest houses where you leave something behind, well, that’s your problem.). Someone came and told me I’d left the safe locked. Obviously they could open it and reset the code (or otherwise figure out my code, as the staff person with the sticky fingers had clearly done previously), but their concern was that I’d left something in there. I reassured them that I was certain I hadn’t and they were free to open it. I can’t imagine what the person who did so (presuming it was not Mr. or Ms. Sticky Fingers his- or herself) thought when they saw the note.

Right before I left, the hotel manager came over to chat and ask if my stay was OK. He handed me his card along with a very kind offer to assist me with anything I might need during my stay in Cambodia since it was not, in his estimation, an easy place for a foreigner. I wavered about telling him what had happened, but ended up keeping my promise to the thief. So to this day I don’t know if whoever found the note just threw it away or figured out what it meant and turned it over to someone. I suspect the former.

May 20, 2009

God's tuk tuk, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

God

Who knew God drove a tuk tuk? A personalized tuk tuk at that. Or perhaps this is more one of those cases of ‘God is my co-tuk-tuk-pilot.’

May 10, 2009

Shop, Kratie, Cambodia

Shop, Kratie, Cambodia

My first encounter with, yes, Black Panther beer, was in Kratie, my first stop in Cambodia. I actually tried it a few weeks later. It’s black, yes. Definitely not revolutionary. It’s stout. And it’s sweet. And it’s gross. Also, Klang is super-cheap beer that I’ve actually only ever seen served at one or two places (and never tasted). The local joke is that ‘klang’ is what your head feels like in the morning…

May 6, 2009

Good bean vermicelli, Old Market, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Good bean vermicelli, Old Market, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

OK, I admit it. Last week I bought a small bag of New York steak flavored potato chips. Because, you know, I just had to. They weren’t too bad, even. But while I’m sure the Good bean vermicelli is just that (Good), and while you could argue that ‘artificial spareribs flavour’ is really no different from New York steak flavor, I won’t be running out to purchase these. I guess I prefer the ‘artificial’ in my artificial flavor to be implied rather than invoked as a selling point. (Also, note the Dunkin’ Munchkins/Happy Meal box design. Love it.)

May 5, 2009

Durios, Old Market, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Durios, Old Market, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

I guess it was bound to happen. Still, I haven’t quite stopped marveling at the genius of it yet. For the uninitiated, durian is probably the stinkiest fruit in existence. It doesn’t actually taste that bad (though most people claim to hate it…yet it’s sold everywhere so *someone’s* buying and eating it, now, aren’t they?), but the smell is truly so revolting that in some countries it is banned from being taken in shops, on airplanes, etc. Just what you want as an alternative to the traditional ‘white’ flavor in the middle of your favorite sandwich cookie, right? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: the Durio.

May 4, 2009

T-shirt, Boueng Keng Kong market, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

T-shirt, Boueng Keng Kong market, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

CHERRY COKE: eshable of litess jns or cherry in the wear no of litbus. Cabual food good nutritive value tue…I defy any of you to find meaning in any of this. I used to joke that in Asia it seemed that people sometimes just put random English words together to make a t-shirt or to name a store or something. But this, well… No of litbus. Need I say more?

May 2, 2009

Copy shop, Dalat, Vietnam

Copy shop, Dalat, Vietnam

OK, of course this makes sense enough, especially to us, as native english speakers. But as many of you know, pho is Vietnamese noodle soup, so…I can imagine some confusion ensuing. I’d love to be able to copy a good pho, frankly. Recipes, anyone?

May 1, 2009

Food vendor, Senmonorom, Cambodia

Food vendor, Senmonorom, Cambodia

It isn’t copyright infringement if your Mickey Mouse doesn’t actually look like Mickey Mouse, right? Genius!

April 30, 2009

Humpy Head fish food, Rest stop, Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia

Humpy Head fish food, Rest stop, Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia

Humpy Head fish food: Increase Head-Growth and Shape!

“I’m so jealous! How did you get yours fish’s head so humpy, Louise?”

“Well, Margaret, let me tell you my secret…”

(Or perhaps email is the best way to market this product. Can’t you just see the spam subjects now?)

April 29, 2009

Nature Lodge bar/restaurant, Senmonorom, Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia

Nature Lodge bar/restaurant, Senmonorom, Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia

A horse walks into a bar…

Nature Lodge bar/restaurant, Senmonorom, Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia

Nature Lodge bar/restaurant, Senmonorom, Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia

Two horses walk into a bar…

At least they appear intent on following the rules and ordering at the counter. Unfortunately, they were chased out by staff before being able to do so. I, however, was able to learn from Ginger (the lighter, ginger-colored one, above) that she wanted a coffee. I asked and she responded with a stomp of her hoof. It’s one for yes, right?

April 27, 2009

Street sweeping, Saigon, Vietnam

Street sweeping, Saigon, Vietnam

Uniformed street sweepers are a regular sight in Vietnam.

Dumspter lady, Saigon, Vietnam

Dumspter lady, Saigon, Vietnam

She and her fellow sweepers push their dumspters around all day, sweeping up, so while you still do see garbage on the street, it’s clearly not much as it would be if we didn’t have the dumpster ladies.

April 26, 2009

Street leading to Linh Phouc temple, Trai Mat, Vietnam

Street leading to Linh Phouc temple, Trai Mat, Vietnam

This arch is on the street leading to the Linh Phuoc temple in Trai Mat, Vietnam–which is one crazy-looking temple (see future photos of the day). I like to think of it as a special ‘Thanks for visiting…Y’all come back now, y’hear?’ buddha.

April 25, 2009

ABC Bakery snack, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

ABC Bakery snack, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

I found a new bus company to go to Saigon with this time around. And while you might think I love them for their ‘finest gentle taste’ (this is the breakfast they give you—basically a sweeter hot-dog-bun-type bread with some sweet green bean paste at the bottom) or their wide comfy seats with only three across the aisle so if you sit on right, as I did for both legs of the trip, you get to sit by yourself.

No. What I love most about RAC Express Bus is that when I forgot something at home in the morning and was asking if I would have enough time to hop on a moto and go home, get it and come back, and was in negotiations with two fellow passengers to watch my backpack and not let the bus leave without me (it was ten minutes until departure time but the bus was nowhere in sight, so I was sure I would have enough time), the uniformed bus company employee—the one whom I’d assumed was the bus driver and who’d given us the gentle bread and water upon arrival at the sidewalk booth (no bus stations here)—insisted on driving me himself. In the company minivan. He actually came over and got me as I was about to get on a moto, opened the passenger side door for me and that was that. Now that is above-and-beyond customer service I dare you to match…anywhere!

The upshot: We were gone not more than 10 minutes, but when we arrived almost everyone was already on the bus—everyone Except the young couple faithfully watching my backpack on the sidewalk. And I learned I wasn’t with the bus driver at all (which I’d seen as my safety valve). But…a happy ending.

(Please note I am refraining from commenting on the ad on the sidewalk cafe table on which the gentle bread was placed, but have no doubt I placed it there on purpose.)

April 24, 2009

Shop Dolla, Saigon, Vietnam

Shop Dolla, Saigon, Vietnam

Clearly this is not the Vietnamese version of New York City’s ‘dollar’ or ’99 cent’ stores, but…clearly they are trying to get all ghetto chic on us, no?

April 23, 2009

Thanh Tin Laptop store, Saigon, Vietnam

Thanh Tin Laptop store, Saigon, Vietnam

I like to think of this as the Vietnamese version of Crazy Eddie. (Also note the web address. Potential trademark infringement problem with Best Buy…?)

April 22, 2009

Rooster manpurse, Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia

Rooster manpurse, Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia

World’s most interesting manpurse: roosterpurse!

April 21, 2009

ABC Driving School, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

ABC Driving School, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Is it me or does the ABC Driving School’s logo look like Colonel Sanders in blackface?

April 20, 2009

Gas 'station, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Gas

In Cambodia, gasoline is sold from bottles, often old Pepsi ones, at the side of the road.

Gas 'station,' Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Gas

Is that actual water being sold in those bottles next to the petrol Pepsi and Coke? I wouldn’t chance it.

April 19, 2009

Burning foliage/trash, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Burning foliage/trash, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Yes, this is a pile of flower petals and leaves being set on fire in front of someone’s house (the man who was doing it let me take the photo, in fact). These must have been the sweepings from his front courtyard. The flowers and leaves in my front courtyard get swept up each day too (but not by me or my housemates. All foreigners in Cambodia have ‘help.’ It seems to be required.), but as far as I know we don’t burn them. They go to some huge trashpile somewhere and *then* they get burned. The worst part about this for me personally, is that as I was crouching down in the street snapping this photo, a tuk-tuk full of girls from my class, which had just ended down the block, drove by and they were calling, ‘Teacher! Goodbye, teacher!’ All i could think was, ‘Great, now they *really* think I am a fucking crazy white lady.’

April 16, 2009

Feather duster vendor, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Feather duster vendor, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Southeast Asia: where the feather dusters are made of actual feathers. And sold on the street from bicycles or pushcarts.

April 15, 2009

Unfortunate frog, Ban Lung, Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia

Unfortunate frog, Ban Lung, Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia

No frogs were harmed in the taking of this photo. Before the taking, well, yeah. Apologies on behalf of our fellow human beings, froggie. The ones with the big vehicles.

April 11, 2009

Menu, Guitar D'amour Restaurant, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Menu, Guitar D

Fried crap with curry, anyone? It’s actually quite expensive by Cambodian standards! And, come to think of it, it’s kind of boldly honest of them, given that at some places whatever you order ends up being crap anyway.

April 10, 2009

Poo on the wall, my room, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Poo on the wall, my room, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

After wondering if the extra-large-sized poo left for me on my desk every day belonged to mice or lizards, I got confirmation. This one is on the wall. Verdict: lizard poo.

April 9, 2009

Mia's glasses + monkey's teeth = broken glasses

post-monkey-attack sunglasses

OK, you all remember ‘Dingo ate my baby!’? Well, ‘Monkey ate my sunglasses!’ I literally had to fight this little guy to get them back, as he was chewing on them something fierce. And, of course, two days later, my $3 sunglasses broke.

April 8, 2009

T-shirt, O'Russey Market, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

T-shirt, O

The t-shirt for when you’re just too shy to say your true feelings out loud. Also available in neon green.

April 6, 2009

T-shirt, O'Russey Market, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

T-shirt, O

A mini-series of funny t-shirts for the next few days (yes, because they’re easy and I’m busy). For t-shirt number one, please note the fine print: ‘I’m really know how to make your happy.’ WTF, right? A lot of t-shirts, bedsheets, graffiti, etc here tend to say ‘I love you’ or variants thereof.

April 3, 2009

Bathrooms, rest stop on the road from Ban Lung to Kratie, Ratankiri Province, Cambodia

Bathrooms, rest stop on the road from Ban Lung to Kratie, Ratankiri Province, Cambodia

“Les’t keep our bathroom”…Yes, les’t! Lest we lose it, eh? I love the added drawing on the second one. It’s nice they want to ‘keep’ the girl’s bathroom, too.

April 2, 2009

Sunset on the Mekong, Kratie, Cambodia

Sunset on the Mekong, Kratie, Cambodia

My third time in Kratie was clearly the charm. No, this is not a planet. Yes, this is what it really looked like.

April 1, 2009

Trash bins, Ban Lung, Ratankiri Province, Cambodia

Trash bins, Ban Lung, Ratankiri Province, Cambodia

Something about the juxtaposition here really struck me…

March 31, 2009

Fatso and friend, Ratankiri Province, Cambodia

Fatso and friend, Ratankiri Province, Cambodia

At the end of a trek I did through the jungle near Ban Lung in Ratanakiri province, we stayed in a local village, where we made the acquaintance of the fattest pig I’d ever seen. I immediately christened her Fatso and took a series of photos of her. Then this kid decided he had to be in not just this but all of my photos. He was adorable, and more of a ham (Oh wow….seriously, that pun was NOT intended!) than anyone I’ve met here thus far. In general, Cambodians, especially children, tend to shy away from cameras.

March 30, 2009

Ka Tieng waterfall, Ban Lung, Cambodia

Ka Tieng waterfall, Ban Lung, Cambodia

After several members of this picture-happy family insisted I pose in photographs with them, I decided to request a photo of my own. Group shot: Mia and random Cambodian family in whose photographs she now also appears. It even looks like we dressed to match each other! (But note I am the only one with dry clothing.)

March 29, 2009

My foot, Ka Tieng waterall, Ban Lung, Cambodia

My foot, Ka Tieng waterall, Ban Lung, Cambodia

I believe I mentioned in passing in one of my previous photos that Ban Lung was ‘dusty.’ I was, perhaps, feeling sentimental, as using that word is being way too kind. The fact is, the red dirt in both Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri provinces (where I just spent two weeks) is so ubiquitous—not to mention just plain sticky, not to mention just a plain huge pain in the ass—that I still haven’t managed to get the last remnants of it off my feet. Don’t even ask about my backpack, which fell out onto a dirt road from the back of a moving minivan… Anyway, this photo shows what my foot and leg looked like after biking from one waterfall, Kinchaan, to another, Ka Tieng—about 3.5 km away. All told, we biked between 15 and 20 kilometers from town to the falls and back. It was lovely. And damned dirty.

March 28, 2009

Ka Tieng waterfall, Ban Lung, Cambodia

Ka Tieng waterfall, Ban Lung, Cambodia

My friend Raphael decided to go under the second waterfall, Ka Tieng. I decided to stay behind and just be official photographer. We’d been told the water was too deep to stand and harder coming down than the previous one, Kinchaan, which actually hurt when I stood under it. The look on his face definitely did not make me question my decision. In fact, the water was falling so hard that in several of the photos I took you couldn’t even see Raphael at all!

March 27, 2009

Kinchaan waterfall, Ban Lung, Cambodia

Kinchaan waterfall, Ban Lung, Cambodia

Me at, and then under, Kinchaan waterfall in Ban Lung, Ratanakiri province, Cambodia. Refreshing!

March 26, 2009

Appeton vitamins ad, Ban Lung, Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia

Appeton vitamins ad, Ban Lung, Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia

Yes, I am now collecting these ads (does two a collection make?). “Kid doesn’t want to eat breakfast? No problem. Give him a vitamin…this one’s got lysine!” So…lysine is a major nutrient found in pork products—along with saturated fat, cholesterol and nitrates…yay! I have to say, I don’t blame that kid for not wanting to eat that entire plate of dodgy-looking breakfast meat. Next thing he’d need would be anti-cholesterol pills! [And now I must mention here that when I googled that, trying to remember the brand name of those pills, I found this most intriguing article. Perhaps I was not that far off, then. Of course, that's American-brand insanity, not Cambodian.]

March 25, 2009

Bungalow bathroom wall, Tree Top Lodge, Ban Lung, Cambodia

Bungalow bathroom wall, Tree Top Lodge, Ban Lung, Cambodia

This frog was my favorite of all the uninvited guests at my bungalow in the dusty mountains of Ban Lung in Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia. Usually you just get geckos and various other types of lizards (cute), ants (less cute and, when they’re on your bed, damned annoying) and mosquitoes (Must. Die.).

March 24, 2009

Boeng Yeak Loam, Ban Lung, Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia

Boeng Yeak Loam, Ban Lung, Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia

I was hoping this monk would go swimming, but…no such luck. This crater lake was quite lovely, however, and I most certainly did go swimming. Along with all of the Cambodians with their clothes on. Which is how everyone swims here. No such thing as bathing suits; you just go in wearing whatever you’re wearing. One fully clothed woman sitting on the dock next to me put her brown arm next to my lily-white thigh—which never sees the sun except when I’m swimming (for which I don board shorts and a yoga top…trying to dress in attire slightly more modest than your average Western bathing suit but still not diving in in my street clothes)—and just laughed and laughed.

March 23, 2008

Electricity, Tree Tops Lodge, Ban Lung, Cambodia

Electricity, Tree Tops Lodge, Ban Lung, Cambodia

I believe I’ve previously mentioned how useful rubber bands can be when traveling in the developing world. Here is one example: keeping the plug in sockets that are often mysteriously too big, causing the plug to literally just fall right out. I have relied on some variation of this trick many times throughout my trip so far. This particular plug is connected to my laptop, thereby allowing me to sit and write in the hammock on the veranda of my bungalow in beautiful Ban Lung, in the northeastern province of Ratanakiri in Cambodia. I love rubber bands.
March 14, 2008

posh edition shopping bag, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

posh edition shopping bag, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Yes, not only is there a store called ‘posh edition’ in Phnom Penh, apparently my housemate even shops there. And why not? She is quite posh, after all. Unlike me. I live in the maid’s quarters, after all…
March 13, 2008

Perfect USA Hotel, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Perfect USA Hotel, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

This is a hotel right smack in the middle of Saigon. Ironic, don’tcha think?

March 12, 2008

Nuoc mia (sugarcane juice) cart, Saigon, Vietnam

Nuoc mia (sugarcane juice) cart, Saigon, Vietnam

One of the things I forgot before going back to Vietnam is that mia means sugarcane in Vietnamese. So sugarcane juice—which is sold on the street pretty much everywhere—is nouc mia (literally sugarcane water). This cart even has it’s very own ‘Mia’ pictured on it.

March 11, 2008

Cabinet Medical Pra thna, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Cabinet Medical Pra thna, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

I was walking down the street and the word ‘urine’ caught my eye (an interesting twist to the usual, which is the smell of urine catching my nose). The fact that ‘cancer’ is on this list deserves comment but at the moment I can’t think of anything to say beyond that. Oh, except that I have no desire to know what ‘crachat’ is.

March 10, 2008

laundry or second-hand clothes for sale?

laundry or second-hand clothes for sale?

One of the many mysteries of Cambodia for me has been that of the laundry hanging on the sidewalk, which you see everywhere. For weeks I wondered, ‘Is it someone selling second-hand clothes or is it laundry?’ And if it’s the latter, why not just dry it *inside* the walls of their homes? I think, however, I solved the mystery several days after taking this photo. I started to discover that near some of the racks of clothes (never close enough by for it to be obvious) was a home or shop with a small sign saying, simply, ‘Laundry.’ So…creative and free advertising is what these clothes are doing here. I think…

March 9, 2008

Happy Internet, Norodom Boulevard, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Happy Internet, Norodom Boulevard, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

In this case, I’m pretty sure ‘happy’ here is unrelated to my previous description of ‘happy’ food and drink (see previous two photos of the day). My theory about Happy Internet service, which is right across the main road from my house, is that the staff that work there are happy because it is never open. And I mean never. I’ve not once seen it without the metal gate shut. Then again, perhaps they are so happy because they are consuming happy pizza and happy shakes all the time. That would certainly make you too high to come to work. ps Ecstatic Pizza is almost right across the street. Hmmm. Perhaps it’s time to rethink my theories…

March 8, 2008

Ecstatic Pizza, Norodom Boulevard, Phnom Penh

Ecstatic Pizza, Norodom Boulevard, Phnom Penh

Now that you learned yesterday about happy cake, pizza etc., this photo will make more sense to you. There is a pretty well-known place in the touristy part of Phnom Penh called Happy Pizza. I’m pretty sure there was a Happy Pizza in at least one place I visited in Laos as well (again, see previous photo of the day). So this place, which is right in the neighborhood in which I live, Boeung Keng Kang (aka BKK, not to be confused with the BKK that is Bangkok), clearly felt that had to do one better. Really, though, they probably were just seeking something similar so that people might confuse them with the original. (Think Ray’s Famous Original Pizza. Or Duvacell in Central America. Or the three restaurants called Boat Noodle(s) also right in my neighborhood, all within just a few blocks of each other.) I personally just like to think someone either used an English thesaurus or asked an English speaker (perhaps native, perhaps not) what another word for happy was—presumably so they could be the same as the original, but… And here arises yet another instance in which one can use the ubiquitous (and yes, damned annoying) Southeast Asian phrase: same same but different.

March 6, 2008

Restaurant sign, Don Deht Island, Laos

Restaurant sign, Don Deht Island, Laos

Want to know why the ‘Happy Cake Birth Day’ is measured in kilograms? Perhaps so you can gauge correctly whether there will be enough cake for all your birthday party attendees? Think again. ‘Happy’ on Don Deht and in Laos and I think most of Southeast Asia in general means that the food item in question is served with an added kick: marijuana. I’m not sure where the birthday part of this cake figures in. Usually you just see happy shakes and happy pizza on offer. So if you develop a hankerin’ for any of the above, just contrack them!

March 6, 2008

Sign, Don Deht Island, Laos

Sign, Don Deht Island, Laos

What reassurance! Isn’t it nice to know if you have no money or friends someone will come to your rescue for just 80,000 kip ($10 dollars)? Which means you really do have to have money after all, of course… (Also, JVC card? Did someone invent a VCR that also dispenses money? After all, if any machine needs to be finding another way to make itself useful right about now…)

March 5, 2008

Wall décor, Vannas Guest House, Kep, Cambodia

Wall décor, Vanna's Guest House, Kep, Cambodia

World’s most bizarre guest house room décor. When I arrived in Kep, who was there to greet me but John Taylor (of Duran Duran, for those of you not in my age range…)! Brooke was next door in the room of my neighbors, who were gracious enough to allow me in to snap this photo. I never did carry out my plan of asking the rest of the guests who they had on their walls, but I really do wish i had.

March 4, 2008

Mattress, Rabbit Island, Cambodia

Mattress, Rabbit Island, Cambodia

Spent a night on Rabbit Island (no, no rabbits there…but photos of adorable puppies coming soon!), near Kep in southern Cambodia. This is the print on the mattress I slept on when in my little hut. Not the sheets. The mattress. Fall in love forerer…or forer—whichever you prefer!

March 3, 2008

Nam. O. Primary School, Luang Nam Tha Province, Laos

Nam. O. Primary School, Luang Nam Tha Province, Laos

The story behind this photo is that during a motorbike ride through some villages in Luang Nam Tha Province I really had to go to the bathroom and this was the place we decided to stop. I walked over and found a woman who I assumed worked there and asked, ‘Toilet?’ She didn’t understand. Just as I was contemplating embarrassing myself by making a squatting motion, I decided to try the Thai word for bathroom and was relieved to find it was indeed the same in Lao. (There are a lot of similarities in the two languages, which I was aware of.) The woman then took me back to where a few people (presumably other staff, though they were pretty young) were eating lunch at a small table and called out a short sentence which included the words ‘hong nam’ and ‘farang.’ So I knew it was basically, ‘Can the farang (foreigner) use the bathroom?’ They nodded their assent. I walked in the direction they ¬pointed me and: mission accomplished. I was one grateful (and, yes, relieved) farang. ‘Hong nam,’ by the way, is literally ‘water room’ (and thus similar to w.c., which is the alternative English ‘word’ used—’toilet’ is more common—in Southeast Asian signage indicating where you can find what we Americans still insist on calling the ‘bathroom.’

March 2, 2008

Shop elephant, Luang Prabang, Laos

Shop elephant, Luang Prabang, Laos

Elephants abound in Asia, and this one is a sort of random statue in front of a shop on the main tourist street of Luang Prabang in Laos—one which I guess someone is afraid may get stolen. Either that or they are making a political statement about the enslavement of elephants for human use/abuse/entertainment/exploitation (Did you know elephants are used here to detect land mines and often have their legs blown off…or worse?)—which I highly doubt…and not really due to the presence of the lock.

February 26, 2008

O'Russey Market, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

O

Now *there’s* a slogan. I have another: ‘Love beer? So do we!’ (I’ve never once seen Love beer sold, though. Black Panther beer, yes. Oral drinking water, yes. Love beer, no. I ask you: where is the Love?)

February 25, 2008

Beauty saloon, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Beauty saloon, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Don’t you just want to strut in with your holstered gun at your hip and say, ‘Howdy, pardner. Gimme a beer and a blowdry!’

February 24, 2008

Sunset on the Tonle Sap river, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Sunset on the Tonle Sap river, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The gorgeous ‘striped’ sky as seen from the balcony of my favorite bar in Phnom Penh, Snow’s (aka Maxine’s). The bar is actually across the river from the main part of the city, so the view is of Phnom Penh (as opposed to ‘from’ it). (Which is not as beautiful to look at as, say, Manhattan, but…hey, it’s a gorgeous sunset.)

February 23, 2008

Street planter, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Street planter, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Dr. Scholl’s styrofoam-coated street planter? Yeah. This I have to file under ‘Just don’t even bother asking.’

February 22, 2008

Street planter, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Street planter, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Dr. Scholl’s styrofoam-coated street planter? Yeah. This I have to file under ‘Just don’t even bother asking.’

February 21, 2008

Cosmetics ad, drugstore window, Phonm Penh, Cambodia

Cosmetics ad, drugstore window, Phonm Penh, Cambodia

I’m not really sure where to begin here…Bourjois? (That cannot possibly be a real French brand name, could it?) The eye makeup? (You know all French women do their eyes up like that.) The odd angel and devil creatures presumably representing the eye makeup? Ombre stretch?

February 20, 2008

Sidewalk scene, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Sidewalk scene, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

A sleeping motodup (motorbike taxi) driver, asleep on his moto. Not a very unusual sight, actually, but less usual than a tuk-tuk driver asleep in his tuk-tuk (much more comfortable for sleeping, after all).

¬February 19, 2008

Tuk-tuk, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Tuk-tuk, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Kind of a sweet message for the back of a tuk-tuk, no? The main purpose of which is, in case it wasn’t otherwise clear, tourism (the tuk-tuk, not the message).

February 18, 2008

PediaSure ad outside drug store, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

PediaSure ad outside drug store, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Is your child annoyed by having to eat all those pesky vegetables? We have your answer: Just give him PediaSure instead!

February 17, 2008

Funiture shop, Sothearos Boulevard, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Funiture shop, Sothearos Boulevard, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Discovered a new part of Phnom Penh last week, and thought, ‘So this is where you go when you want to buy woven chairs and tables for your bar or restaurant.’ Little did I know I would also find where you can buy FUNiture!

February 16, 2008

Bus, Sothearos Boulevard, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Bus, Sothearos Boulevard, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

“PASSENGER LIABILITY INSURANCE INCLUDED.” Need I say more? Well, of course I could. Six words more, at least.

February 15, 2008

Street pickles, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Street pickles, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

They sell pickled foodstuffs on the street here. If you want some, it will be weighed and measured and given to you in a little plastic bag. Everything you buy on the street is given to you in a ¬
little plastic bag. Have I mentioned my greatly decreased hope for the future of the planet after spending time in Southeast Asia?

February 14, 2008

Loading up the minivan, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Loading up the minivan, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Remember the clowns and the Volkswagen? Well, if you ask me, they got nothin’ on the cooking oil and the minivan.

February 13, 2008

Raid mosquito coils, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Raid mosquito coils, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The reason this photo is upside down is because I took it that way. The reason I took it that way is because of the reason I took it at all, which was the ‘No. 1 in USA.’ Yet another brilliant slogan. ‘If they keep away American mosquitoes, hey, imagine what they can do for you…’ This in the land of malaria and dengue fever, after all. (Oy.)

February 12, 2008

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

With a name like Rock, this brand of men’s underwear has all the advertising slogan it needs, no?

February 11, 2008

smoking areaNot sure if this might have anything to do with yesterday’s cancer-god-altar photo, but…all I could think when I happened upon this was, ‘What the…???!’

February 10, 2008

altar to the cancer god.

altar to the cancer god.

By popular demand: worshiping the cancer gods.

Sorry to do this, but the best way to elaborate on this is to post my Facebook thread about it:

February 3
Mia is watching a cigarette burn on an altar of cigarettes. Seriously. And it just burned out so now it’s all butts on sticks.

AW: “Is there some bizarre cancer god that I’m not aware of?”

DO: “Post picture? I wanna see.”

AR: “think I saw Butts on Sticks opening for Concrete Blonde back in Worcester in ’89.”

JT: “That’s funnier than my joke – I was thinking that Butts on Sticks would be the worst frozen dessert ever”

And after I posted the pic, my brilliant ¬
friend Andrew wrote on my wall:

As advertised. But shouldn’t you have gotten our attention by saying “Hey, Kh’mer and look at this?” :)

First runner-up was Jeremy: “Butts on Sticks’ first album cover”

Thanks, guys. You all made it much funnier than I ever could have.

February 9, 2008

Miaow Miaow chicken crackers, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Miaow Miaow chicken crackers, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The first time I went to the Lucky Supermarket in Phnom Penh I got in trouble for using my camera (will post evidence of that apparently illegal activity in a photo album soon). So the next time I was there, despite the fact that a Japanese family was taking pictures of themselves seemingly without reproach, I purchased the item in question instead. I mean, how could I not? You know, I’m still looking for a more permanent logo for the blog. Hmmm….)

February 8, 2008

Donation box, Bakong temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Donation box, Bakong temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia

‘MONEY FOR MONK HAVE THE SICK’ (I had to donate after taking this picture, of course.)

February 7, 2008

Conical Hat Software, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Conical Hat Software, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Is it me, or is there some serious irony here? (Or at least oxymorony?)

February 6, 2008

Big A Super Store, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Big A Super Store, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

‘Yo. All kinds of shoes sell here. Get yo’ ass in.’

This sign is actually outside of one of the saddest supermarkets I’ve been in for a while, the Big A, which bills itself as a superstore. PS they sell no shoes. The entire second floor of the building is empty.) *Addendum: in the time since I scheduled this for posting (several days ago) the entire store has shut down, including all of the happy signs on the outside wall.

¬February 4, 2008

Sign from a photo exhibit on royal dancers, Le Meridien Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Sign from a photo exhibit, Le Meridien Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia

‘They were the most beautiful in their villages, the whitest;’ See my previous commentary on the December 21 photo of the day. Also notice that these girls were taken from their families, never to see them again, apparently. Thankfully they were comforted by beautiful gardens and the presence of fried cake vendors. Whew!

February 3, 2008

Side of van, Phnom Pehn, Cambodia

Side of van, Phnom Pehn, Cambodia

You can really shake your booty at this bootigue, I know. Or is bootigue perhaps what happens when you’ve been to one too many boutiques? boutique fatigue =====> bootigue?

February 2, 2008

Bathroom floor drain, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Bathroom floor drain, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Yes, this is a drain full of dead roaches. If I’d noticed this was what was in the floor drain at the internet place I was at, I would probably have opted not to use the bathroom a second time.

January 31, 2008

Burly Guest House, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Burly Guest House, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

For when you just can’t take those wimpy guest houses anymore. (There is also a ‘Man’ hotel of some sort I’ve seen advertised on the backs of tuk-tuks but…sorry, no photo yet.)

January 30, 2008

Mean Leap Phone Shop, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Mean Leap Phone Shop, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

So glad I got my SIM card at the nice phone shop!

January 29, 2008

Light switch, Friendly Guest House, Houay Xai, Laos

Another, um…view?…of the slow boat… Seriously, I don’t know. Cheap ad space, I guess.

January 28, 2008

Boat on the Mekong, Northern Laos

This one is from a two-day ‘slow boat’ trip I did on the Mekong from Luang Prabang to Houay Xai.

January 27, 2008

Combing, Houay Xai, Laos

Combing, Houay Xai, Laos

Thanks to the zoom on my new camera, I was able to capture this wonderful image.

January 26, 2008

Gas station décor, Luang Nam Tha, Laos

Yes, those are eggshells. Quite decorative, no?

January 25, 2008

photo girls

Luang Nam Tha, Laos

The best picture I got of these two girls (because the others are all posed) was them looking at photos of themselves on my friend’s camera.

January 24, 2008

Fish brand sugar cubes

 I don’t know about you, but for me, nothing says sweet like ‘fish.’

January 23, 2008

Monks with umbrellas, Luang Prabang, Laos

Monks with umbrellas, Luang Prabang, Laos

In Laos there are monks pretty much everywhere, especially in Luang Prabang, where there are so many wats where so many novices are studying. Their gorgeous robes make it very hard to resist taking surreptitious photos.

January 22, 2008

Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos

…Bed spelling! (Lao lao, by the way, is fairly dangerous rice whiskey. You can buy it homemade from a jug or just go for the bottled version–which I assume is what this bar has on offer.)

January 21, 2008

Planter, Wat Phra That Chomsi, Luang Prabang, Laos

Planter, Wat Phra That Chomsi, Luang Prabang, Laos

The day after my Vietnamese friend, Tien, told me how people back home used old American warheads as vases and planters, we saw several being used as décor at Wat Phra That Chomsi, the main temple in Luang Prabang, at the top of Mount Phousi.

January 20, 2008

Minibus to Anywhere,  ¬ Luang Prabang, Laos

Minibus to Anywhere, Luang Prabang, Laos

Now that’s what we all need, right?

January 19, 2008

Boat Schedule, Luang Prabang, Laos

Boat Schedule, Luang Prabang, Laos

I am thinking perhaps of a new game show: Name That River!

January 18, 2008

Tattoo shop, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Tattoo shop, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Tattoo emergency? I don’t know about you, but access and reliability are the top two qualities I look for when choosing a tattoo artist.

January 17, 2008

T-shirt, Old Market (Psar Chars), Siem Reap, Cambodia

T-shirt, Old Market (Psar Chars), Siem Reap, Cambodia

Today is my birthday so this is a contest: first person to explain this one (that is definitely an ‘h,’ so I believe it says ‘house girl’) wins a prize–-a prize to be determined.

January 16, 2008

Bomb potato chips, Original Flavour, Cambodia

Bomb potato chips, Original Flavour, Cambodia

When I first saw these I immediately thought of the perfect slogan, ‘These potato chips are the bomb!’ Then I tasted them and found out not only were they pretty gross, they were not actually potato chips. They were square-edged tubular ziti-shaped potato-flake snacks flavored with salt, sugar and the requisite MSG. Do not, trust me, taken along with your friends to make anytime, everywhere fun and exciting party.

January 15, 2008

Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos

Talk about one-stop shopping!

January 14, 2008

Magazine stand, Bus station, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Magazine stand, Bus station, Chiang Mai, Thailand

‘LIVESTOCK INSIDE MAGAZINE’ Take that however you wish…I did not open the magazine to investigate further.

January 8, 2008

Houay Xai, Laos

Houay Xai, Laos

Took a bunch of photos walking around the town of Houay Xai a few days ago, but this was my favorite.

January 7, 2008

Houay Xai, Laos

Houay Xai, Laos

The inclusion of the phone number is actually my favorite part.

January 6, 2008

Sign, Friendship Guest House, Houay Xai, Laos

On the wall in my room at the Friendship Guest House, Houay Xai, Laos

OK, I know I’m a grammar nazi, but even *I’m* not this bad. Come on, Ed, get a life!

January 5, 2008

Bus from Houay Xai to Luang Nam Tha, Laos

Bus from Houay Xai to Luang Nam Tha, Laos

I thought at first the driver of this bus might have placed flowers on his dashboard for luck. Upon closer examination, I saw it was balls of sticky rice. The more I cities and towns I visited in Laos, the more similar ones I would see placed randomly about.

¬January 4, 2008

Rambo Fusion restaurant, Luang Nam Tha, Laos

Rambo Fusion restaurant, Luang Nam Tha, Laos

Rambo Fusion: first I had to take a picture of it. Then I had to eat there. It turned out to be Korean barbecue and was quite tasty!

January 3, 2008

Luang Nam Tha, Laos

Luang Nam Tha, Laos

Every town should have a people’s complain letter box, don’t you think?

December 23, 2008

Diaper selection at the Tesco Lotus, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Diaper selection at the Tesco Lotus, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Choosy mothers choose Mamy Poko.

December 22, 2008

Pointing the way to the Mormon Church, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Pointing the way to the Mormon Church, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Look, I stumbled upon the Mormon church in Chiang Mai!

December 21, 2008

Ad in front of a drugstore (or was it a 7-11) in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Ad in front of a drugstore (or was it a 7-11?) in Chiang Mai, Thailand

One of the more disturbing things I’ve seen in Thailand is the proliferation of ‘whitening’ skin products. Even deodorant claims to contain some kind of whitening ingredient! Possible ad slogan: ‘Underarms too dark? You don’t have to be embarrassed any longer!’

December 20, 2008

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand

This joins the ranks of Duvacell batteries in Central America and other amusing imitation brands I’ve managed to forget along the way. Finger-lickin’ good!

December 19, 2008

Second-hand clothing shop, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Second-hand clothing shop, Chiang Mai, Thailand

I think this one speaks for itself.

December 18, 2008

Child's drawing at the Tribal Museum, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Child

Kids say/write the darnedest things! Spotted this at the Tribal Museum in Chiang Mai, where drawings by kids who’d visited were hung on the wall. Clearly some of these new drawings weren’t going to make the cut—and with good reason.

December 14, 2008

Harvest celebration, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Harvest celebration, Chiang Mai, Thailand

¬Every once in a while I happen upon a procession of some sort. This one appeared to be a harvest celebration. Everyone parades through the streets in traditional dress and it’s really quite lovely.

December 10, 2008

Charoen Optical, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Charoen Optical, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Eyewear for warmth?? This has to be one of the most bizarre slogans ever…not to mention offers!

December 8, 2008

Payon Dental Clinic, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Payon Dental Clinic, Chiang Mai, Thailand

They use pigs here to advertise the most random things. This sign is just crying out for a slogan, no? Perhaps something like:

A pig’s first choice!

Number one with pigs!
Because pigs know good dental care!

Because nothing says good oral hygiene like pigs!

December 4, 2008

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand

When you’re sick of Thai food but are just too embarrassed to admit it…here is where you can get your pizza on the down-low!

December 2, 2008

cat on a hot tin roof ------------------> cat in hat

cat on a hot tin roof ----------------> cat in hat

On a visit to a local temple (wat) last week, I coaxed a kitty into jumping off the roof and into my hat. Catlady strikes again!

December 1, 2008

Wat Pa Sak, Chiang Saen, Thailand

Wat Pa Sak, Chiang Saen, Thailand

Ever wonder just how those paying their respects to the buddha actually get the little gold leaves to stick? Well, wonder no more, all has been revealed: Vaseline. And proudly displayed, at that.

November 26, 2008

off Nimmanhemin Road, Chiang Mai, Thailand

off Nimmanhemin Road, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Descriptive, isn’t it? No, I haven’t been there…yet.

November 24, 2008

Loi Kroh Road, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Loi Kroh Road, Chiang Mai, Thailand

I still have no explanation for this one, but saw another sign on the same street that looked like a typical ‘FOR RENT’ sign but said ‘FOR HEMP.’ Really, no idea.