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Diary Entries

Sunday, 25 February 2007

THE CONTINUING SAGA OF OSCAR JACOBY
PART II

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!

Peace,
Oscar

Saturday, 24 February 2007

Location: Vietnam

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
Subject: Re:

Hey guys,

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?

Oscar

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Location: Saigon, Vietnam

TET

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.
Take care,
Love
Jac and Jay

Saturday, 17 February 2007

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, it’s 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 – “how’s 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 can’t tell what mood they’re 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 he’d been doing that day. It’s 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 I’d never catch them, so sunk down on the pavement and had a little panic, wondering how I’d 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 I’m 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 didn’t 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 she’d 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 (he’s 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 I’m hungry.

Love always,

Jac

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Location: Angkor, Cambodia

How can Angkor be explained? Big doesn’t really cover it. That’s 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 you’d 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. Paul’s or St. Peter’s
Cathedrals.

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,
Jegar

Monday, 12 February 2007

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 Australia’s 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,
Jegar


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Recent Messages

From Saul-Boy
NB: Written on 22 February
Re: Entries from 24 and 25 Feb

Hey guys, how did you travel into the future like that? If you're not at liberty to say, can you just tell me (assuming you can bend space as well) what's on in my lecture on Monday so I can sleep in? Also, are there any important messages from several days into the future? Should I save any cheerleaders? Or the world or something?
Alrighty, keep the good times a-rollin, and let me know if either of you gains the ability to fly.
(NB: Also written at 00:06)
From Nik
Hey, I only just figured out that the messages we write in this here little box end up being shown below... I thought they were being sucked silently into cyber heaven...

In that case, I have a question for you: What is the cheapest thing you've managed to buy with a note of a ridiculously high demomination? I did once see someone try to get a ticket on a local bus in NZ with a $100 bill...
Response: That's a tough one... US 50 is the largest we've had, the smallest thing we've bought is a can of coke worth 25 cents (1000 riel) in Cambodia. We needed change.
From Kerrie
Hi Jac and Jay - check this out:

http://www.news.qut.edu.au/cg i-bin/WebObjects/News.woa/wa/goNewsPage?newsEventI
D=11413

Where are you? Send an email or txt to say hello when you can.
Love you. Mum
Response: we're in siem reap! more about this later. we have a bossy tuk tuk driver.
From Sally
I like the vision of the little fish cleaning the shark. !! Hope you are enjoying it all-even coping with free enterprise.Take care and looking forward to hearing about Angor Wat.Are you still planning to ride the bamboo rafts??Love M
Response: We rode the rafts in Chiang Mai! No photos thanks tothe water.
Angkor is the most incredible series of structures either of us has seen.We have been trying to portray it through a lens, but it is just too big!
From Kerrie
Thanks for the verbal postcards - they are very evocative. I was laughing one minute and teary the next (yes, I know I cry at Disney... I was really only teary at the thought of you leaving those Bailey shakes, duped by an American who owns a whole town when you'd avoided all those Thai cousins).
Sounds like your trip is thought-provoking as well as great fun - what more can you ask of travel?
Hope your rash is improving.

Love you. Missing you lots.
Mum.

ps - Mary, Stephen and Dom say hello - they are here for Damian's graduation. Damian's jealous of your trip, but he has to get in line.
Response: ha ha damian!
From Gerard
Photos and prose are great. You guys should write your own travel books. Snowing here in Scotland.
Love D.
From Nik
HELLO MOTO!

I always wondered what the Motorola tagline actually meant...

Keep up the adventuring and the blogging.

Love Nik
Response: you have no idea.
From Tanya and Andy
Sounds amazing - love hearing how they treat the children!
Sally staying with us now- have been bonding but not painted each others nails. Yet. Looking at real estate. Of course.

Love us xxxxx
From Tanya and Andy
Sounds amazing - love hearing how they treat the children!
Sally staying with us now- have been bonding but not painted each others nails. Yet. Looking at real estate. Of course.

Love us xxxxx
Response: Not all of them are treated like that. We had a bad experience with a family of beggars on our last night. Word of advice, ignore all begging. Buy postcards (ten for wan dahlar) instead.
From Kerrie
Ok, we're on the next plane over - sounds wonderful! A. Wendy said she'd reluctantly swap with you - it was 47 degrees at WC and will be hotter tomorrow! I am sorry to hear that you had to race back for your towel Jac - is it because of your water-contagious rash? (oh sorry, I guess you haven't told the locals about that...).

Thanks for the texts and site - it's lovely to hear from you.
Love you, Mum.
Response: Why do mothers always have to bring up your rash in front of everyone?
From Natalie
Dear Jac and friends,

I'm so jealous... it looks and sounds as if your having the most awesome time. However I'm going to Bangkok in mid semester break for a few weeks so thanks to your pics and blogs I'm so much more excited now. I hope I remember all your lessons. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

Natalie
From Kerrie
Gday - love the piccies and news. We all crowded around the laptop this morning with our cereal to read/watch before Dad headed to the US/UK for two weeks. He went with a smile on his lips, although he did mutter, 'what's in the cushions'!
Have fun! Stay healthy and safe. (how's your cold Jac?)

Love you. Mum
From Sally
Keep the log entries coming. Loved the photos of one night/day in Bangkok. HAppy scootering but don't try it in Bangkok!!
Response: We wouldn't dare! Mainly because if the traffic didn't kill us our mothers would!
From Kerrie
Gday there! Missing you here but it's good to know you're having a good time. Thanks again for texts - I appreciate you keeping in touch.
Thought you might like this bit of news: a Pom has just skateboarded from Perth to Brisbane - took him 9 months - said he took up skateboarding at 25 and it changed his life - he realised he didn't like his job and wanted a change so he did this. (I'm NOT suggesting this as your next adventure, but it might put travel delays/frustrations in perspective...)
Love you
Mum
Response: We're skateboarding to Vietnam! Thanks for the inspiration!
From Gabbi and Aunty Jani
ha ha ha ha. We're feeling so sorry for you that you are missing out on this Brisbane weather and all the fun things to do, and instead you are just riding elephants and visiting markets (Aunty Janice has gone pale with envy).
Mum got a stump for her birthday from Aunty Janice. Can you take a photo of a Cambodian and a Thai and a Vietnamese stump?
We've just been in the pool. And it's raining. And I'm (Gab) having a movie sleepover with ALL my friends tomorrow. Are you jealous yet? Ready to come home? (We don't think so...).
Thinking of you. Sometimes.

Avagoodone
avagoodonut
avagoodonu

Response: Tell Aunty Janice she hasn't lived till she's had all her leg hairs pulled out by a Cambodian girl using only her teeth and a piece of string.
From andy and tans
Hi there,

Have been reading about some stuff to do in Nga Trang (the beach) in Vietnam. If you get there apparently there is a cafe- Crazy Kim's- where they teach English to kids at 10am evach day except Sundays. If you swing in there then they love it!
Also there's a spa there where you can get mud baths and walk on pebbles with jet streams of water...

Response: Will do. We will get some video while we're there to prove we did it. Apparently you can do the same in Cambodia, so we might do that here, too.
From Tanya
Make sure you eat some of those deep fried grass hoppers before you leave Thailand- just to say you've done it!! xx
From sean & matt
Hey just checking up on you. sounds like you're having a great time so far. we want some free foot massage action!!!! (any plain fabrics, classy, stylish, not too much pattern for sean, eg. black, grey, navy, ice, white) thanks. brisbanes stinky hot but we're sure its worse there. sean is having australia day shindig at his place for fun in the sun and other exciting diseases. bring us back some tropical freak show diseases for our collection. love lovelys
Response: Don't worry about us, the massage is not just for feet here, but about 1 dollar for 1 hour, full body...
Look at the Chiang Mai photos for some fabric ideas...
From Nik
Jac & Jay,
Sabai dee rue? (Poot passat Thai mai dai...)
I guess you're struggling to find an internet connection on your bamboo raft!
Show us some pictures and watch out for the jungle curry...
Nik
Response: Not too much Thai in our vocab yet, but Suasi-dai, and Aw khon for your message. Khmer is easier to learn....
From Sally
Can you get email at fugudrift.com -not sure whether you can get email overseas at that address. Let me know if you register for hotmail. Love M
Response: Yes, I can, so keep sending them!
From Andy B
Mate, challange number 2:
Whilst in Singapore find a New Zealander. Interview them until you find something in common or indeed something they have in common with other kiwis you know. Discovey Travel has a show called six degrees of seperation lets see if you can prove that in Singapore! Have fun looking forward to the next report.
Take care.
From Sally
Love the site. Will be looking forward to the updates!!
From matt
bon voyage!