Dog Days Are Not Over

The lake in the island in the lake in the island. Sidihone is a small lake within Samosir Island, which is an island in the lake Toba in Sumatra.

Pretty Samosir is inhabited for the nowadays friendly Batak Toba (about 200 years ago they used to practice cannibalism, bule was in the menu). They have they own language and their houses a particular shape and beautiful carvings. They are a non Muslim minority and produce tuak (palm tree wine), cheap booze to bypass Indonesian overpriced beer.

Batak technology
Batak technology
Tuak
Tuak

One day looking for breakfast we asked in a local place what did they have. The lady answered “dog” pointing to some meat. I thought I misunderstood or her English was not good. – Duck? – I asked shaking my arms as if wings and making the proper onomatopoeia. – No, dog – she replied.

Breakfast
Traditional Batak breakfast

I still was surprised and used the Indonesian word for dog pointing at one in the street. – Yes, dog!. I may have eaten some dog in any soup during this time, very likely in Lao or Cambodia but this was the first time I knew it. Didn’t try the dog but I did try another local delicatessen, mushrooms. A new world.

We did some trekking to the core of the island, luckily some local kids came with us on the first day for a small amount as it the trail was of the kind you need a machete. We stayed with a family and helped them with the coffee harvest.

Bule at work
Bule at work

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Orangutans

Welcome To The Jungle!… That’s what she said (the German one).

Bukit Lawan is the places to see orangutans in Sumatra. The jungle here is extremely leafy and scenic, beating big time the ones I saw before.

On the first day I saw a gorgeous bat cave, On the second I went for a jungle trek where I saw a few orangutans and some orang bule (the term they use here for Westener, falang!). At night we slept in tents by the a river within a gorge, with a few varans (big lizards Komodo style) around.

From pretty Bukit Lawan to chaotic Medan, Sumatra biggest city. The friendly people and good food made up for the lack of views.

A lot of people in Sumatra, particularly teenagers want to take pictures with the bule. I feel overwhelmed, not that I am not used to these attentions but usually not before getting naked.

Indonesian language seems pretty easy to learn, I like.
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Monkeys II

I went in a rush to the Angkor temples afraid of getting disappointed as with the Taj Mahal. Far from that… The temples were breathtaking, probably the best ones in the world. My favorite was the “Tomb Raider” one (not very original here), though it was quite overcrowded making almost impossible to take Japanese-free pics.

Many Japaneses. Fail
Many Japaneses. Fail

I cannot say I liked Siam Reap (the nearby city) at all, despite of the $1 beds, the $0,5 beers and an interesting meat market.

While visiting the temples I had another non amiable encounter with monkeys. I was taking a break and eating some corn. Then I realized next to me a monkey opening my bag. He was taking a hob. I tried to scare him making strange movement and noises. Didn’t work. He stared at me. I was afraid and let him go. After more evil monkeys surrounded me to steal the hob in my hands. I have a limit. I stood up and when one of them grabbed my pants I hit the motherfucker on the head with my water bottle.. They got it and left. So far Monkeys 2 – Julio 1.

Criminal Monkey
Criminal Monkey

The visit to the temples and my time in SE Asia ended with another pair of chatty monks, will miss them so much.

Here Cambodia pics.

Leaving Las Cambodia

From Phnom Penh, I went to charming Kampot. There I met Cody who offered me to go with him to Otres Beach (Sihanoukville), where he has a few bungalows  and stay for free in a hammock. The word free is a magnet for me so I gladly accepted.

In the 2 hours booze cruise to our destination, he downed 10 beers. Later I would realize he was just warming up. He had built a reputation around the place been banned from a few bars. He provided me as well with a bicycle and free access to his bar. He told me to stay as long as I wanted, drink as much as I can and when leaving giving him some cash if I feel like. Very nice guy but every day he drinks till he drops. Hope one day he can stop it.

Less than $1
Less than $1

Sihanoukville is a backpackers party spot with cheap (often free) beer.Didn’t like it much tough. I should have spent my time in Koh Rong island instead. It’s a tropical paradise with plenty of gorgeous beaches with the thinnest snow white sand and the most crystal clear water I’ve ever seen. For $10 per person, it is possible to get a boatman to spend the day sailing around the island including 6 beers.

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Lost In Translation

Phnom Penh is dusty, chaotic, filthy, decadent, with plenty of prostitutes and lacking of tourist sights but authentic and full of life. I loved it.

There it is possible to check the atrocities of the Pol Pot regime at the S21 (a school used as a torture center) and the killing fields. In 3 years approx one quarter of the Cambodian population was exterminated. Recommended movie The Killing Fields.

Finally I bought a photo camera. Hunting for a bargain I found a 2nd hand Japanese touch screen one. I thought I could change the language but it is not possible for this model. My camera and I have a big communication problem so we try to keep our relation in very basic terms. I press button – camera take picture – arigato.

Sunset piggies
Sunset piggies

Flying Cows

From around $300 is possible in Phnom Penh to buy a cow and blow it up with a rocket launcher. True story, is even in the Bible. Shooting at chicken with AK-47 and grenading other animals are other popular options. Fucking sick, I would pay $1000 to shoot at the tourist who go for it.

But, of course, that’s my opinion. Some people may think that this is all right. They may tell me I should respect people freedom to blow up any creature they want. In the future it may become a tradition and a key part of Khmer culture. In that case politicians and governmental institutions may fund it, even in crisis times, as this should be clearly a priority over useless services such as education or the health system. Well, it would attract tourist leaving money in the country. It could be broadcasted on tv at prime time ensuring children grow knowing such an important part of their national tradition. Maybe they use a special breed of cows that would be extinguished otherwise and pretty sure till they meet the rocket they are having a damn good life, much better than the animals we eat.

Probably I am stupid not understanding the cow-blowing art and I should be more tolerant and respect other opinions. I hope such a gore entertainment will be banned in the future. Meanwhile I’d like to be respected as well when uncorking a champagne bottle to celebrate anytime a horn  breaks through the bullfighter flesh… Sorry!… What I was thinking about?… I mean, anytime the rocket explodes in the tourist face.

Here Northern Exposure gives a hint about humanizing savage amusements.

The Small Jump

Somehow this trip started with a 160m bridge jump and only luck keep it from ending with a much smaller one, 8m approx. Wondering why I was lately writing so much crap about Buddha, top fives… I had a lot of free time to kill. I spent 12 days in Banlung, a place in the Cambodian middle of nowhere. There I got into a routine of going to the market for food hunting, greeting regular locals, pointing at barangs (foreigners) and going to the lake for sundowners. I wasn’t able to do much more and such activities were even a challenge on the first days. Despite of this I enjoyed my time there meeting nice barangs and locals, reading, writing… It all started with a jump from a motorbike when passing a 8ish meters high bridge falling to hard earth on my back. The helmet saved me and luckily I didn’t break any bone. Don’t have any pics of me in that moment  but the look of me lying without being able to get up must have being quite  pathetic and similar to this: As the place was very remote and not close to any road my rescue was not easy. I have to thank the people with me (Alberto, Jesus and Dalila) for it and their support afterwards. Once in the hospital even I wasn’t able to walk and I was in a lot of pain the staff looked more concerned about lying on hammocks and playing volleyball in the garden. Finally I got x-rayed and comforted from the Cambodian version of doctor Nick Riviera who told me I would be fine and asked me if I have pain killers, and the most important, tiger balm. Some pics of the cursed bridge and the before/after that day: