THE CONTINUING SAGA OF OSCAR JACOBY
From: Oscar Jacoby
Sat Feb 10 19:38:40 2007
Hey guys! hope you are still well and having a great adventure! I'm afraid to say things have gone down hill again for me...
we caught a bus up to bangkok last night, and during the trip the staff went through all our bags (with padlocks on them and everything!) and stole all my money... AGAIN! by the time i realised, liz and han had already caught their bus to cambodia, so i was totally stranded without money, but i thought i'd be okay because i have a new bank card waiting for my at the australian embassy. unfortunately, when i got there (spending my last little bit of money on a taxi) i found out that the embassy is not open on the weekend!!! so i'm stuck here with nothing until monday. Fortunately there are some nice people in thailand, and the taxi driver is letting me stay at his place and giving me food until monday, when i can get my new bank card and a new passport. After that though, i'm afraid i think i might head for home- i'm kinda over travelling hey!
ONce again, sorry for screwing you round. I'll keep in touch to let you know my movements in case they change. Either way, have a great time and i'll talk to / see you soon!
THE CONTINUING SAGA OF OSCAR JACOBY
We love Oscar. We could try describing what happened in the continuing saga of Oscar Jacoby, but it might be best illustrated by himself, in a series of emails we've recieved over the past weeks, since he left to meet up with some friends in Koh Pha Nang.
From: Oscar Jacoby
Tue Jan 30 16:28:48 2007
Hope you are well and having a good time. Things have been a bit crazy for me the past few days. Firstly, I'm fine, and everything will be ok, but, two nights ago my small bag was stolen while I was dancing on the beach on koh phangang, which contained my passport, my cards, and a fair bit of money.
I'll be able to sort everything out, but it's a bit annoying.
Also, I finally caught up with liza and hannah that night, and am having a
great time with them. In fact, despite my better judgement, liz and i have
quickly become quite caught up in each other. I am also still loving the
islands, and there is more i want to do around here (aside from sorting out
getting new cards, passport, etc). For these reasons, and also because i feel our trip around thailand was far too ambitious for us to really appreciate any one place before we had to move on to the next, I have decided to spend more time in and around the islands, and meet up with you again in vietnam. Judging by how hard it was for me to catch up with the girls (and i had a phone back then too!), i think this will be easier on everyone than trying to catch up with you somewhere in cambodia too.
So... what are your latest plans with respect to when and where you'll arrive in vietnam and how long you'll be there? At this stage, I'm thinking of booking a flight from bangkok to ho chi minn on the 10th.
Oh, my bag also contained my sim card and my diary, so could you give me your number again for when I sort out getting a new phone?
Location: Saigon, Vietnam
For those who don't know, Tet is the lunar New Year, celebrated all over Asia. During Tet everyone goes home and hangs out with their families for a week or so, which means that HCMC is creepily empty. Also nothing is open, apart from on the most touristed and expensive roads in the city. It's even hard to find a moto driver - make that impossible if you want a sober one. There are flowers everywhere and the lights are pretty, and it's cool to see the people dancing and banging drums everywhere to drive out the evil spirits for the new year. Also, because 2007 is the Year of the Pig, the city is covered in pigs - pig postcards, balloons, lights, plush pigs, plastic pigs, clay pigs, stuffed pigs, cooked pigs, pig t-shirts - and all these pigs are smiling which i've never seen a pig do before.
On the night of the 17th we went into Le Loi, one of the main streets near the waterfront. This was the centre of celebrations for the first night of Tet, which officially starts at midnight. The place was packed.
What was originally streets crowded with cars and motos became crowded with people as everyone jostled to get a photo next to their favourite piggy. There were street vendors everywhere offering everything from balloons to ice cream to dried fish, and for once they didn't have to hassle anyone because they already couldn't keep up with demand.
This was certainly not New Year's Eve as we know it in the west. Tet is far closer to a western Christmas in sentiment and the visitors to the displays were usually families. Among the dragon dancing and flowers and the many, many pigs (I know we've said it before, but there were heaps of them!) there was a real atmosphere of togetherness. Most notably, I didn't see one person drinking or drunk despite alcohol being freely available in any beverage dispensary.
We tried to learn how to say 'Happy New Year' (Chup Mung Nam Moi) , but we kept getting blank looks from people, so we can only assume we got the intonations wrong and actually were asking for fried tofu or something. Either way, people were so friendly they all stopped us to shake hands or have photos, despite not having any fried tofu to give us.
There are countless traditions during Tet, from flowers and pigs, to lucky money (which we have seen being handed to people like Christmas cards) to having the annual major cleanup. The first visitor of the new year is also a strong omen for families here. Wealthy and successful people, strong community members and priests are all lucky. Strangers, bereaved, accident prone people and pregnant women are unlucky. Go figure.
We will be back home soon, looking forward to seeing our family and pets.
Jac and Jay
Location: Saigon / Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Saigon. Here goes.
Saigon is a lovely city. It has the energy of Bangkok without the craziness. It has wide French boulevards covered in industrious Asian street markets. It has also had a steady flow of foreigners for centuries, meaning that here you are greeted as a person rather than a walking wallet. Which is nice. Saigon's strange fusion of east and west presented us with a montage of giant fluorescent signs, crazy moto-dominated traffic, high-rises, covered markets, ao dais, designer jeans, cyclos, BMWs, and smiling, relaxed people everywhere.
I've spoken to people who can't stand Saigon, and people who adore it. Even after all the inconvenience this city's put us through, I still think I'm one of the latter. Jegar's had food poisoning on and off since we arrived, which makes us both cranky and tired (or that might be the cable tv in our room; it discourages sleeping). Our hotel manager is a crazy Vietnamese guy who doesn't speak any english except "hello" and "thank you". Whenever we appear he yells the former, and subjects us to several minutes of loud, insistent Vietnamese, complete with large gestures and frequent pointing and grabbing. Occasionally we are told to sit down, in which case Jegar reluctantly gets a cigarette and I get a cup of tea, and we have long conversations with him yelling in Vietnamese and us speaking in English. We know we are dismissed when he starts yelling Tang Keu! Tang Keu! (thank you) and waving his arms wildly. This experience is repeated every time we enter or leave the hotel.
Actually, its very difficult to tell what Vietnamese people are saying. Ok, I know that sounds impossibly inane, but hear me out. In Cambodia, although we spoke no Khmer, it was reasonably easy to distinguish certain phrases by the way they were said hows it going, look at that, these tourists will make us easy money, and so on. Even in conversation, you could generally get some indication from tone of voice or posture. But in Vietnam, where the language is tonal, you just cant tell what mood theyre in! I watched one man yelling at another for a good five minutes, looking like he was delivering the biggest tirade, only to be told that he was asking him what hed been doing that day. Its scary to have someone screaming at you while smiling.
Saigon is lovely. For every two assholes on a motorcycle, there are at least twenty people concerned and willing to help out afterwards. I witnessed this first hand two days ago, when my wallet was literally ripped out of my hands by a man riding behind another man on a motorcycle. I was walking down a wide, open street covered with people, on the pavement, in the middle of the day, and they blatantly swerved over, ripped the wallet from me, and continued on their way. Reacting like a calm, self-possessed adult, I immediately threw a tantrum, running after them and screaming abuse while waving my arms. I soon realised that of course Id never catch them, so sunk down on the pavement and had a little panic, wondering how Id get back with no money, phone, credit cards or address of the hotel. I stood up totally unsure what to do next, turned around and to my surprise saw a semicircle of about 20 or 30 locals gathered around the scene, looking concerned and surprised whether this was about the robbery or my subsequent tantrum Im not sure. Either way, they were brilliant.
Even through the language barrier they managed to calm me down a bit, and then one lovely, lovely man took me on his motorcycle to the police station which, by the grace of whoever is watching over me, was four doors down from our hotel explained the situation to the police, who also didnt speak English, and filed a statement as a witness to the crime. Then a beautiful interpreter helped me make my statement out to the police, and also informed me that shed had her purse stolen in the same way only the day before, so it happened to locals as well as tourists. This made me feel better. In fact, the person who probably suffered the most was Jegar, who was at the hotel resting (hes sick, remember) when our crazy hotel manager rushed in waving his arms and yelling at the top of his voice. Unable to distinguish this from his normal behaviour, Jegar was quite bewildered as he was led outside, until he saw the police van, at which point he panicked because he realised that if something had happened to me my father would hunt him down and kill him. Also he was concerned for my safety.
PS all my wallet had in it was $10. I hope they bought some bad fish with it and got terribly sick. I also hope the next person they try to pull that stunt on is Jackie Chan.
I should really tell you about Tet, but Im hungry.
Location: Angkor, Cambodia
How can Angkor be explained? Big doesnt really cover it. Thats like saying the sky is big.
The Angkor region contains innumerable temples, which in their day doubled as cities and strongholds. You have to take breaks if you want to circumnavigate Angkor Wat, and even using a bicycle youd be lucky to see more than two temples a day.
Every one of the monuments could absorb a lifetime of study. Not just in how the hell did they pull this off? but also in why and what were they really trying to prove? The stories they tell are more imaginitive and meaningful than most I have heard. The carvings and statues are more intricate, provocative and inspiring than anything in Greece, Rome or Egypt. The sheer magnitude of Angkor Wat, the primary temple in the region, humbles St. Pauls or St. Peters
I suppose the best way to put it is that Angkor was the centre of the world, and as such the monuments that mark this are as spectacular as the cosmos they pay homage to. Not only was Angkor a spiritual centre, it was also an administrative and strategic centre. The Khmer Empire once rivalled Rome or Mongolia in size and power, and the empire needed its bodies and souls to be protected and fed. The temples of Angkor served this purpose over the thousand or so years in which they were constructed and used.
Each of the temples probably deserves its own entry, so this will happen in the next few weeks as we are finally able to sift through the hundreds of photos and remember all the stories. We will even let you explorers in on our own favoured itinerary, specially designed to let you appreciate the magnificence of this area without getting templed out (the single biggest danger to visitors of the park) as well as avoiding the package tourists (the single biggest annoyance).
Let it suffice that three lifetimes, let alone three days, is not enough to explore and truly understand this Wonder of the World. Everyone should visit this place before it is gone forever.
Stay safe cyberbunnies, the Apsaras are dancing over us all.
Love and Peace,
Location: Phnom Penh - S21, Cambodia
I did modern history in High school. I was taught about both World Wars, The Cold War and The American War in Vietnam. But in this time, I neither heard mention of Pol Pot nor the genocide he carried out on his own people. Why? This happened on Australias doorstep, surely someone knew what was happening?
Tuol Sleng (which translates to poisonous hill in Khmer) is now a museum that records and portrays the mass murder of which the Cambodian people were victims.
It is difficult to walk through the fourteen rooms, each of which had a body shackled to a bed and beaten to death.
Were were brought to the edge of tears as we walked through room after room of photographs of the victims. Each of them men, women and children had been accused of being lackeys of American Imperialism and traitors to the revolution despite many being no older than ten. To stare into their eyes, to realise that each of the two million victims of the Khmer Rouge were not numbers or statistics but humans with families, jobs, lives and perspectives was almost too much.
As we walked through the classrooms that had been mutated into death-row jail cells, my thoughts were not of Pol Pot and his psychopathic rules. Nor could I really begin to empathise with the victims; their fate was almost too horrible to imagine.
All I could think as I left the museum was that we did nothing. The West sat by as these people were tortured and sent to their deaths, each one of them wondering what it was they did to incur the wrath of the Angkar.
Australians said nothing along with the silent United Nations, even recognising the Khmer Rouge on their council. While the once great Khmer people find their feet once again, their plight is deservedly the guilt of the world.
We cannot let this happen again. In a time when the world is once again in conflict, we must remember that the consequences of war spread far wider and further into the future than any electoral term or generation.
See you soon,
Love and Peace Cyberhippies,