Our Southeast Asian Adventure Playbook

We leave in three weeks from Wednesday for a month long vacation of a lifetime trekking through Cambodia and Thailand. I view this as our pseudo-honeymoon. We may never have this extent of time or financial resources again, so we plan to do as much as possible while making sure to have a few days to relax in there too. Chris is already concerned that my eyes and planning are more grand than our wallets or time! While we are gone, I will have very limited contact with you except through facebook and the occasional phone call. I also will not be posting blogs during this time. In case of emergency… for example if a 5 ft Cambodian or Thai person actually has the audacity to keenly attack or try to hastily kidnap me while I am with my body guard… eh hemm… I mean Chris, then you will know where I should have been and when.

Finally, I wanted to write this so you can imagine Chris and I pouncing around on the temples of Ankor Wat in Siem Reap Cambodia, bargaining at the floating market in Bangkok Thailand, bathing and riding the elephants in the mountains of Chiang Mai and chortling with drinks in hand on the luscious tropical island of Phi Phi. I will not be blogging the way I did when my mother visited, a day-by-day detailed account of our journey once we have returned; however, I will give some stories and pictures of each place. What shall follow here and now is our itinerary, or playbook you might say. We might not utilize all the plays in this mapped out game, but these are our options and what I hope to do while exploring these unique historical lands. Please join in the wanderlust.  

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Plane departs Seoul at 4 pm. Plane arrives in Siem Reap at 10 pm on Wednesday evening 7.24.2013


1. Temples

ankor 4

a) Angkor Archaeological Park– guided day tour with a 3 day pass

ankor 3 ankor 2 ankor 1

Angkor Wat (khmer for “city-temple”) – a great temple complex in Cambodia, one of the wonders of the world, and perhaps one of the most mysterious and beautiful places in the world. Built during the reign of King Suryavarman II (1113-1150), the complex was originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, and in consequence with the income of Buddhism, became the place for Buddhist rituals. Angkor Wat is the largest cult complexes that was ever built, and one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. This is where Tomb Rider with Angelina Jolie was filmed 😉

Since the complex was originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, the architecture of Angkor Wat temples are similar to the typical Hindu temple-mountains representing the mythical Mount Meru – the abode of the gods. The one fundamental difference – you will see in many temples a lot of galleries and passages. Several large and well-known temples on the Angkora territory are located, for example, Bayon, Ta Prohm, Bunsen, and so on, each with a special memorable architecture, as well as many small. In the center of the complex is Angkor Tom – the strengthened part of the ancient city, in which is located: the Royal Palace, the famous terrace and the main temples. Around Angkor Thom are ditches that symbolize the ocean, washing the foot of the Divine mountain.

Angkor is located on the territory of more than 100 temples – far more than we will be able to see during three days. The temple of Angkor Wat is probably the largest religious structure ever erected by man. It is much more than any Muslim mosque or a European cathedral. Looking at the huge towers of Angkor, it’s hard to imagine that this magnificent building has been hidden from human eyes impenetrable wall of jungle for centuries. The appearance of Angkor symbolize the sacred Mount Meru – the “center of the universe and the home of the gods” in Indian mythology. When moat around the temple is filled with water in the rainy season, five-towers temple, surrounded by a continuous water mirror, is “Mount Meru surrounded by waters of the oceans” – exactly as designed by ancient architects. It is hard to imagine how such a huge structure could be built without modern construction equipment and computer calculations.

b) Bayon Temple

bayon 2 bayon

Bayon Temple – the second largest temple in Cambodia. Construction Bayona belongs to the time of King Jayavarman VII (middle of the XII century), who managed to bring the country out of a prolonged crisis, expelled the invaders of Cambodia, and then located the war into enemy territory. At first glance it seems that this rock formed by nature, but then your eyes began to notice in this titanic pile-up rocks growing here and there, a huge stone heads, watching indifferently to the height of the surrounding world and captivating their uniqueness. Bayonne is called a miracle stone, petrified fantastic vision.

For its size Bayon is much smaller Angkor Wat, but it is guarded by the mighty stone lions with open jaws intimidating. The temple was dedicated to the Buddha, and like other Buddhist buildings, it is consisted of diminishing terraces put on each other. Bayon central tower symbolizes the world mountain, the center of the universe. Quite a unique feature of the Bayon are 52 smaller towers surrounding a central tower. These towers look like a rock from a distance because of weathering and destruction. Actually, they were designed to symbolize the wall of rocks, which, according to ancient Rouge’s beliefs surround the universe.

c) Ta Prohm– known for its tree roots

ta prohm

The Temple of Ta Prohm can be easily missed only because of this temple was abandoned until the 19th century. In addition to the architectural and historical value, the temple is also interesting because of the trees. They literally span the structure, and grow in the middle of the stones, criss-crossing back to the wall and towers. Some of them look like waterfalls because of the roots, which flow down the stone blocks. After the discovery, scientists have tried to clear the building of the temple complex, but without the structure of ingrown trees they started to break down. So they decided to leave temple for the jungle.

d) Banteay Srei

Banteay Srei 3 Banteay Srei 2 Banteay Srei 1

Until now, researchers have studied the Banteay Srei are unable to reach the common agreement on the reasons for the unusually small size of the temple. Normally, all the Hindu and Buddhist temples are quite impressive in size structure, but not really Banteay Srei. It is still a mystery why a nation accustomed to seeing Meru in a huge pyramid, the ocean in a wide moat, and the mountain ranges in the high walls of the fence, so easily taken the toy proportions of Banteay Sreya. In comparison with the scale of other monuments, the temple looks like doll houses, doors which are so small that the priest could not get inside without a bow!

e) Preah Khan

preah khan

f) Banteay Samre

Banteay Samre 2 Banteay Samre

g) Pre Rup– great picture spot, but a little out of the way, hope to see with Banteay

pre rup 1 pre rup

h) Ta Som– less touristy, large tree roots

ta som 

2. Artisans d’Angkor

Artisans Angkor developed from the ambitious belief that it is possible to revive ancient Khmer Arts & Crafts while improving the lives of thousands of people living in rural areas. Not only has Artisans Angkor become a company dedicated to the preservation of traditional Khmer skills in silk-making, stone and wood carving, lacquering and painting, but it is also an organization committed to promote the development of individuals and secure their future by the means of education and welfare

Their 1300 employees are proud to show that Cambodian handicraft is still alive and more creative than ever. By developing high quality products that express the dynamism of the Khmer culture, Artisans Angkor strives to be a timeless showcase for Cambodian crafts with pieces inspired by Angkor heritage as well as fashionable handmade clothing and decorative items that can suit contemporary lifestyles.

Artisans d'AngkorArtisans d'Angkor5 Artisans d'Angkor 7

Artisans d'Angkor 6 Artisans d'Angkor 4 Artisans d'Angkor 3 Artisans d'Angkor 2  Artisans d'Angkor 8

3. Phnom Kulen National Park-known for the water falls, sideways laying large Buddha and ruins in the water. We may hire a car for the day to visit Banteay Srei & Kbal Spean. 

Phnom Kulen National Park 3 Phnom Kulen National Park 2 Phnom Kulen National Park

 4. Kompong Phluk or Meychrey Floating Village. We may arrange to go to the Meychrey fishing village with a guide around at 7:30am, drive as far as we can down to the canals to the village and Tonle Sap Lake. It should cost us $30 in total. This is off the beaten path so we may never see another tourist the entire time.

Kompong Phluk Kompong Phluk 2 Kompong Phluk 3

5. Old market Psah Chah in Khmer

6. Cooking class at Le Tigre de Papier

Le Tigre de Papier le-tigre-de-papier-cooking Le Tigre de Papier 2 

Our place in Siem Reap: 

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We have been warned to be aware of a few scams:

1) Milk scam – Bedraggled woman with infant in arms tells you she doesn’t want money, just milk for her baby. You buy milk for her at the mini-mart. After you leave she returns the milk and splits money with the mini-mart. 

Rice scam – Tout tells you orphanage/school needs rice for kids. Takes you to market where you buy wildly overpriced rice to donate. Tout/vendor split profit. Not as common these days.

2) Blackjack scam – Friendly stranger tells you he likes your glasses, shirt, bag, etc. Casual conversation ensues. Invites you to house to meet family/have cultural experience. Friendly card game begins. Before you know it you owe hundreds or even thousands.

3) Kids/orphanages – Canby Publications supports Friends International’s campaign to end orphanage tourism. Please do not pay casual/short term visits to orphanages. It is potentially exploitive, exposes the children to risks and is a violation of the children’s rights. 

The 10 foods we want to try in Cambodia:

1. Bai sach chrouk — pork and rice

Bai sach chrouk

Served on street corners all over Cambodia early every morning, bai sach chrouk, or pork and rice, is one of the simplest and most delicious dishes that the country has to offer. Thinly sliced pork is slowly grilled over warm coals to bring out its natural sweetness. Sometimes the pork will be marinated in coconut milk or garlic — no two bai sach chrouks are ever exactly the same. The grilled pork is served over a hearty portion of broken rice, with a helping of freshly pickled cucumbers and daikon radish with plenty of ginger. On the side, you’ll often be given a bowl of chicken broth topped with scallions and fried onions. 

2. Fish amok

Fish amok

Fish amok is one of the most well-known Cambodian dishes, but you’ll find similar meals in neighboring countries. You won’t find the same enthusiasm for the dish outside of Cambodia, though, or the addition of slok ngor, a local herb that imparts a subtly bitter flavor. Fish amok is a fish mousse with fresh coconut milk and kroeung, a type of Khmer curry paste made from lemongrass, turmeric root, garlic, shallots, galangal and fingerroot, or Chinese ginger. At upscale restaurants fish amok is steamed in a banana leaf, while more local places serve a boiled version that is more like a soupy fish curry than a mousse.

3. Khmer red curry

Khmer red curry

Less spicy than the curries of neighboring Thailand, Khmer red curry is similarly coconut-milk-based, but without the overpowering chili. It’s much easier to enjoy. The dish features beef, chicken or fish, eggplant, green beans, potatoes, fresh coconut milk, lemongrass and kroeung. This delicious dish is usually served at special occasions in Cambodia such as weddings, family gatherings and religious holidays like Pchum Ben, or Ancestor’s Day, where Cambodians make the dish to share with monks in honor of their ancestors. Khmer red curry is usually served

4. Lap Khmer — lime-marinated Khmer beef salad

Lap Khmer

A refreshing dish that is more beef than salad, lap Khmer is popular with Cambodian men, who prefer the beef be nearly raw — but at restaurants it’s generally served grilled. Khmer beef salad features thinly sliced beef that is either quickly seared or “cooked” ceviche-style by marinating with lime juice. Dressed with lemongrass, shallots, garlic, fish sauce, Asian basil, mint, green beans and green pepper, the sweet and salty dish also packs a punch in the heul (spicy) department with copious amounts of fresh red chilis.

5. Nom banh chok — Khmer noodles

Nom banh chok

Nom banh chok is a beloved Cambodian dish, so much so that in English it’s called simply “Khmer noodles.” Nom banh chok is a typical breakfast food, and you’ll find it being sold in the mornings by women carrying it on baskets hanging from a pole balanced on their shoulders. The dish consists of noodles laboriously pounded out of rice, topped with a fish-based green curry gravy made from lemongrass, turmeric root and kaffir lime. Fresh mint leaves, bean sprouts, green beans, banana flower, cucumbers and other greens are heaped on top. There is also a red curry version that is usually reserved for ceremonial occasions and wedding festivities.

6. Kdam chaa — fried crab

Kdam chaa

Fried crab is a specialty of the Cambodian seaside town of Kep and its lively crab market, which is known for fried crab prepared with green, locally grown Kampot pepper. Aromatic Kampot pepper is famous among gourmands worldwide, and although it is available in its dried form internationally, you’ll only be able to sample the distinctively flavored immature green peppercorns in Cambodia. It’s worth a visit to Kep and Kampot for that alone, but Phnom Penh restaurants bring live crabs in from the coast to make their own version of this delicious dish, which includes both Kampot pepper and flavorful garlic chives.

7. Red tree ants with beef and holy basil


You’ll find all sorts of insects on the menu in Cambodia, but the dish that is most appealing to foreign palates is stir-fried red tree ants with beef and holy basil. Ants of various sizes, some barely visible and others almost an inch long are stir-fried with ginger, lemongrass, garlic, shallots and thinly sliced beef. Lots of chilies complete the aromatic dish, without overpowering the delicate sour flavor that the ants impart to the beef. This meal is served with rice, and if you’re lucky you’ll also get a portion of ant larvae in your bowl.

8. Ang dtray-meuk — grilled squid

Ang dtray-meuk

In Cambodian seaside towns like Sihanoukville and Kep, you’ll find seafood sellers carrying small charcoal-burning ovens on their shoulders, cooking the squid as they walk along the shore. The squid are brushed with either lime juice or fish sauce and then barbecued on wooden skewers and served with a popular Cambodian sauce, originally from Kampot, made from garlic, fresh chilies, fish sauce, lime juice and sugar. The summer flavor of the shore can be had even in Phnom Penh, where many restaurants bring seafood from the coast to make similar versions of this dish.

9. Cha houy teuk — jelly dessert

Cha houy teuk

After school in Phnom Penh, young people crowd around street stands serving Khmer desserts for 1,000 riel, about US$0.25. Some have sticky rice or sago drenched in coconut milk and topped with taro, red beans, pumpkin and jackfruit. One of the most refreshing is cha houy teuk, a sweet jelly dessert made with agar agar, a gelatin that is derived from seaweed. The jelly can be brightly colored in pinks and greens, making it especially popular with children. Combined with sago, bleached mung beans and coconut cream, cha houy teuk is usually served in a bowl with a scoop of shaved ice.

10. Fried fish on the fire lake

Fresh coconut milk isn’t used in every day Khmer cooking. Instead it is saved for dishes that are served at special occasions. Fried Fish on the Fire Lake is one such dish — it’s traditionally made for parties or eaten at restaurants in a special, fish-shaped dish. A whole fish is deep-fried and then finished on a hotplate at the table in a coconut curry made from yellow kroeung and chilies. Vegetables such as cauliflower and cabbage are cooked in the curry, and served with rice or rice noodles. The literal translation of this dish is trei bung kanh chhet, fish from the lake of kanh chhet, a green Cambodian water vegetable served with this dish. 

History of Cambodia‬

People have been living within the area covered by the present-day country of Cambodia at least since the 5th millennium BCE. The ancient Kingdom of Funan occupied a wider area, and it was during that period that the culture became heavily influenced by Hinduism. The state of Chenla then arose. The Khmer Empire had its golden age in the 9th to the 13th centuries, when huge temple complexes were built, most notably Angkor Wat.

Spanish and Portuguese missionaries visited from the 16th century, and Cambodia became a protectorate of France in the 19th century, being ruled as part of French Indochina. Cambodia became an independent kingdom in 1953 under Sihanouk. The Vietnam War extended into Cambodia, giving rise to the Khmer Rouge, which took Phnom Penh in 1975 and carried out a campaign of mass killing. Following an invasion by Vietnam, the Khmer Rouge were deposed and the People’s Republic of Kampuchea was established. After years of isolation, the war-ravaged nation was reunited under the monarchy in 1993 and has seen rapid economic progress while rebuilding from decades of civil war.

Khmer Empire

The golden age of Khmer civilization was the period from the 9th to the 13th centuries, when Khmer Empire, which gave Kampuchea, or Cambodia, its name, ruled large territories from its capital in the region of Angkor in western Cambodia.

Legend has it that in 802 CE, Jayavarman II, king of the Khmers, first came to the Kuhlen hills, the future site of Angkor Wat. Later, under Jayavarman VII (1181–ca. 1218), Khmer reached its zenith of political power and cultural creativity. Jayavarman VII gained power and territory in a series of successful wars. Khmer conquests were almost unstoppable as they raided home cities of powerful seafaring Chams. However, territorial expansion stopped after a defeat by Dai Viet. Following Jayavarman VII’s death, Khmer experienced a gradual decline. Important factors were the aggressiveness of neighboring peoples (especially the Thai, or Siamese), chronic interdynastic strife, and the gradual deterioration of the complex irrigation system that had ensured rice surpluses. The Angkorian monarchy survived until 1431, when the Thai captured Angkor Thom and the Cambodian king fled to the southern part of the country

Dark ages of Cambodia

The 15th to the 19th centuries were a period of continued decline and territorial loss. Cambodia enjoyed a brief period of prosperity during the 16th century because its kings, who built their capitals in the region southeast of the Tonle Sap along the Mekong River, promoted trade with other parts of Asia. This was the period when Spanish and Portuguese adventurers and missionaries first visited the country. It is known that the Portuguese visited Cambodia as early as 1555. However, the Thai conquest of the new capital at Lovek in 1594 marked a downturn in the country’s fortunes and Cambodia. Becoming a pawn in power struggles between its two increasingly powerful neighbors, Siam and Vietnam. Cambodia remained a protectorate of Siam. Vietnam’s settlement of the Mekong Delta led to its annexation of that area at the end of the 17th century. Vietnam employed a strategy similar to those of North American pilgrims and pioneers: settle and claim. Such foreign encroachments continued through the first half of the 19th century. A successful invasion by Vietnam further limited Thai protectorship in Cambodia and established the kingdom under full Vietnamese suzerainty.

French colonial period (1863–1953)

In 1863, King Norodom signed an agreement with the French to establish a protectorate over his kingdom. The state gradually came under French colonial rule. During World War II, the 1940 – 1941 Franco-Thai War left the French Indochinese colonial authorities in a position of weakness. The Vichy government signed an agreement with Japan to allow the Japanese military transit through French Indochina. Meanwhile the Thai government, under the pro-Japanese leadership of Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram, took advantage of its position and invaded Cambodia’s western provinces.

Cambodia’s situation at the end of the war was chaotic. The Free French, under General Charles de Gaulle, were determined to recover Indochina, though they offered Cambodia and the other Inchochinese protectorates a carefully circumscribed measure of self-government. Convinced that they had a “civilizing mission“, they envisioned Indochina’s participation in a French Union of former colonies that shared the common experience of French culture.

Administration of Sihanouk (1953–1970)

On 9 March 1945, during the Japanese occupation of Cambodia, young king Norodom Sihanouk proclaimed an independent Kingdom of Kampuchea, following a formal request by the Japanese. Shortly thereafter the Japanese government nominally ratified the independence of Cambodia and established a consulate in Phnom Penh.The new government did away with the romanization of the Khmer language that the French colonial administration was beginning to enforce and officially reinstated the Khmer script. This measure taken by the short-lived governmental authority would be popular and long-lasting, for since then no government in Cambodia has tried to romanize the Khmer language again. After Allied military units entered Cambodia, the Japanese military forces present in the country were disarmed and repatriated. The French were able to reimpose the colonial administration in Phnom Penh in October the same year.

Sihanouk’s “royal crusade for independence” resulted in grudging French acquiescence to his demands for a transfer of sovereignty. A partial agreement was struck in October 1953. Sihanouk then declared that independence had been achieved and returned in triumph to Phnom Penh. As a result of the Geneva Conference on Indochina, Cambodia was able to bring about the withdrawal of the Viet Minh troops from its territory and to withstand any residual impingement upon its sovereignty by external powers.

Neutrality was the central element of Cambodian foreign policy during the 1950s and 1960s. By the mid-1960s, parts of Cambodia’s eastern provinces were serving as bases for North Vietnamese Army and National Liberation Front (NVA/NLF) forces operating against South Vietnam, and the port of Sihanoukville was being used to supply them. As NVA/VC activity grew, the United States and South Vietnam became concerned, and in 1969, the United States began a 14 month long series of bombing raids targeted at NVA/VC elements, contributing to destabilization. The bombing campaign took place no further than ten, and later twenty miles (32 km) inside the Cambodian border, areas where the Cambodian population had been evicted by the NVA. Prince Sihanouk, fearing that the conflict between communist North Vietnam and South Vietnam might spill over to Cambodia, publicly opposed the idea of a bombing campaign by the United States along the Vietnam-Cambodia border and inside Cambodian territory. However Peter Rodman claimed, “Prince Sihanouk complained bitterly to us about these North Vietnamese bases in his country and invited us to attack them”.

In December 1967 Washington Post journalist Stanley Karnow was told by Sihanouk that if the US wanted to bomb the Vietnamese communist sanctuaries, he would not object, unless Cambodians were killed. The same message was conveyed to US President Johnson’s emissary Chester Bowles in January 1968. So the US had no real motivation to overthrow Sihanouk. However Prince Sihanouk wanted Cambodia to stay out of the North Vietnam-South Vietnam conflict and was very critical of the United States government and its allies (the South Vietnamese government). Prince Sihanouk, facing internal struggles of his own, due to the rise of the Khmer Rouge, did not want Cambodia to be involved in the conflict. Sihanouk wanted the United States and its allies (South Vietnam) to keep the war away from the Cambodian border. Sihanouk did not allow the United States to use Cambodian air space and airports for military purposes. This upset the United States greatly and contributed to there view that of Prince Sihanouk as a North Vietnamese sympathizer and a thorn on the United States. However, declassified documents indicate that, as late as March 1970, the Nixon administration was hoping to garner “friendly relations” with Sihanouk.

Throughout the 1960s, domestic Cambodian politics became polarized. Opposition to the government grew within the middle class and leftists including Paris-educated leaders like Son Sen, Ieng Sary, and Saloth Sar (later known as Pol Pot), who led an insurgency under the clandestine Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK). Sihanouk called these insurgents the Khmer Rouge, literally the “Red Khmer.” But the 1966 national assembly elections showed a significant swing to the right, and General Lon Nol formed a new government, which lasted until 1967. During 1968 and 1969, the insurgency worsened. However members of the government and army, who resented Sihanouk’s ruling style as well as his tilt away from the United States, did have a motivation to overthrow him.

Khmer Republic and the War (1970–1975)

While visiting Beijing in 1970 Sihanouk was ousted by a military coup led by Prime Minister General Lon Nol and Prince Sisowath Sirik Matak in the early hours of March 18, 1970. Despite Sihanouk’s allegations, there is no evidence that this coup was planned by the United States Central Intelligence Agency. However, as early as March 12, 1970, the CIA Station Chief told Washington that based on communications from Sirik Matak, Lon Nol’s cousin, that “the (Cambodian) army was ready for a coup”. Lon Nol assumed power after the military coup and immediately allied Cambodia with the United States. Son Ngoc Thanh, an opponent of Pol Pot, announced his support for the new government. On October 9, the Cambodian monarchy was abolished, and the country was renamed the Khmer Republic. The new regime immediately demanded that the Vietnamese communists leave Cambodia.

Hanoi rejected the new republic’s request for the withdrawal of NVA troops. In response, the United States moved to provide material assistance to the new government’s armed forces, which were engaged against both CPK insurgents and NVA forces. The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces, desperate to retain their sanctuaries and supply lines from North Vietnam, immediately launched armed attacks on the new government. The North Vietnamese quickly overran large parts of eastern Cambodia reaching to within 15 miles (24 km) of Phnom Penh. The North Vietnamese turned the newly won territories over to the Khmer Rouge. The king urged his followers to help in overthrowing this government, hastening the onset of civil war.

In April 1970, U.S. President Nixon announced to the American public that US and South Vietnamese ground forces had entered Cambodia in a campaign aimed at destroying NVA base areas in Cambodia (see Cambodian Incursion). The US had already been bombing Vietnamese positions in Cambodia for well over a year by that point. Although a considerable quantity of equipment was seized or destroyed by US and South Vietnamese forces, containment of North Vietnamese forces proved elusive.

The Khmer Republic’s leadership was plagued by disunity among its three principal figures: Lon Nol, Sihanouk’s cousin Sirik Matak, and National Assembly leader In Tam. Lon Nol remained in power in part because none of the others were prepared to take his place. In 1972, a constitution was adopted, a parliament elected, and Lon Nol became president. But disunity, the problems of transforming a 30,000-man army into a national combat force of more than 200,000 men, and spreading corruption weakened the civilian administration and army.

The Khmer Rouge insurgency inside Cambodia continued to grow, aided by supplies and military support from North Vietnam. Pol Pot and Ieng Sary asserted their dominance over the Vietnamese-trained communists, many of whom were purged. At the same time, the Khmer Rouge (CPK) forces became stronger and more independent of their Vietnamese patrons. By 1973, the CPK were fighting battles against government forces with little or no North Vietnamese troop support, and they controlled nearly 60% of Cambodia’s territory and 25% of its population.

The government made three unsuccessful attempts to enter into negotiations with the insurgents, but by 1974, the CPK were operating openly as divisions, and some of the NVA combat forces had moved into South Vietnam. Lon Nol’s control was reduced to small enclaves around the cities and main transportation routes. More than 2 million refugees from the war lived in Phnom Penh and other cities.

On New Year’s Day 1975, Communist troops launched an offensive which, in 117 days of the hardest fighting of the war, collapsed the Khmer Republic. Simultaneous attacks around the perimeter of Phnom Penh pinned down Republican forces, while other CPK units overran fire bases controlling the vital lower Mekong resupply route. A US-funded airlift of ammunition and rice ended when Congress refused additional aid for Cambodia. The Lon Nol government in Phnom Penh surrendered on April 17, 1975, just five (5) days after the US mission evacuated Cambodia.

The relationship between the massive carpet bombing of Cambodia by the United States and the growth of the Khmer Rouge, in terms of recruitment and popular support, has been a matter of interest to historians. Some historians have cited the U.S. intervention and bombing campaign (spanning 1965–1973) as a significant factor leading to increased support of the Khmer Rouge among the Cambodian peasantry. However, Pol Pot biographer David Chandler argues that the bombing “had the effect the Americans wanted – it broke the Communist encirclement of Phnom Penh”. Peter Rodman and Michael Lind claimed that the US intervention saved Cambodia from collapse in 1970 and 1973. Craig Etcheson agreed that it was “untenable” to assert that US intervention caused the Khmer Rouge victory while acknowledging that it may have played a small role in boosting recruitment for the insurgents. William Shawcross, however, wrote that the US bombing and ground incursion plunged Cambodia into the chaos Sihanouk had worked for years to avoid.

The Vietnamese intervention in Cambodia, launched at the request of the Khmer Rouge, has also been cited as a major factor in their eventual victory, including by Shawcross. Vietnam later admitted that it played “a decisive role” in their seizure of power. China “armed and trained” the Khmer Rouge during the civil war and continued to aid them years afterward.

Democratic Kampuchea (Khmer Rouge Era) (1975–1979)

Immediately after its victory, the CPK ordered the evacuation of all cities and towns, sending the entire urban population into the countryside to work as farmers, as the CPK was trying to reshape society into a model that Pol Pot had conceived.

The new government sought to completely restructure Cambodian society. Remnants of the old society were abolished and religion, particularly Buddhism and Catholicism, was suppressed. Agriculture was collectivized, and the surviving part of the industrial base was abandoned or placed under state control. Cambodia had neither a currency nor a banking system.

Democratic Kampuchea’s relations with Vietnam and Thailand worsened rapidly as a result of border clashes and ideological differences. While communist, the CPK was fiercely nationalistic, and most of its members who had lived in Vietnam were purged. Democratic Kampuchea established close ties with the People’s Republic of China, and the Cambodian-Vietnamese conflict became part of the Sino-Soviet rivalry, with Moscow backing Vietnam. Border clashes worsened when the Democratic Kampuchea military attacked villages in Vietnam. The regime broke off relations with Hanoi in December 1977, protesting Vietnam’s alleged attempt to create an Indochina Federation. In mid-1978, Vietnamese forces invaded Cambodia, advancing about 30 miles (48 km) before the arrival of the rainy season.

The reasons for Chinese support of the CPK was to prevent a pan-Indochina movement, and maintain Chinese military superiority in the region. The Soviet Union supported a strong Vietnam to maintain a second front against China in case of hostilities and to prevent further Chinese expansion. Since Stalin’s death, relations between Mao-controlled China and the Soviet Union had been lukewarm at best. In February to March 1979, China and Vietnam would fight the brief Sino-Vietnamese War over the issue.

In December 1978, Vietnam announced formation of the Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation (KUFNS) under Heng Samrin, a former DK division commander. It was composed of Khmer Communists who had remained in Vietnam after 1975 and officials from the eastern sector—like Heng Samrin and Hun Sen—who had fled to Vietnam from Cambodia in 1978. In late December 1978, Vietnamese forces launched a full invasion of Cambodia, capturing Phnom Penh on January 7, 1979 and driving the remnants of Democratic Kampuchea’s army westward toward Thailand.

Within the CPK, the Paris-educated leadership—Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Nuon Chea, and Son Sen—were in control. A new constitution in January 1976 established Democratic Kampuchea as a Communist People’s Republic, and a 250-member Assembly of the Representatives of the People of Kampuchea (PRA) was selected in March to choose the collective leadership of a State Presidium, the chairman of which became the head of state.

Social and cultural implications of the regime

Thousands starved or died of disease during the evacuation and its aftermath. Many of those forced to evacuate the cities were resettled in newly created villages, which lacked food, agricultural implements, and medical care. Many who lived in cities had lost the skills necessary for survival in an agrarian environment. Thousands starved before the first harvest. Hunger and malnutrition—bordering on starvation—were constant during those years. Most military and civilian leaders of the former regime who failed to disguise their pasts were executed. Some of the ethnicities in Cambodia, such as the Cham suffered specific and targeted and violent persecutions. To the point of some international source referring to it as the “Cham genocide”. Entire families and towns were targeted and attacked with the goal of significantly diminishing their numbers and eventually eliminated them. Life in ‘Democratic Kampuchea’ was strict and brutal. In many areas of the country people were rounded up and executed for speaking a foreign language, wearing glasses, scavenging for food, and even crying for dead loved ones. Former businessmen and bureaucrats were hunted down and killed along with their entire families; the Khmer Rouge feared that they held beliefs that could lead them to oppose their regime. A few Khmer Rouge loyalists were even killed for failing to find enough ‘counter-revolutionaries’ to execute.

Modern research has located 20,000 mass graves from the Khmer Rouge era all over Cambodia. Various studies have estimated the death toll at between 740,000 and 3,000,000, most commonly between 1.4 million and 2.2 million, with perhaps half of those deaths being due to executions, and the rest from starvation and disease.

The U.S. State Department-funded Yale Cambodian Genocide Project estimates approximately 1.7 million.R. J. Rummel, an analyst of historical political killings, gives a figure of 2 million.

A UN investigation reported 2–3 million dead, while UNICEF estimated 3 million had been killed.Demographic analysis by Patrick Heuveline suggests that between 1.17 and 3.42 million Cambodians were killed, while Marek Sliwinski estimates that 1.8 million is a conservative figure. Researcher Craig Etcheson of the Documentation Center of Cambodia suggests that the death toll was between 2 and 2.5 million, with a “most likely” figure of 2.2 million. After 5 years of researching grave sites, he concluded that “these mass graves contain the remains of 1,386,734 victims of execution”.

People’s Republic of Kampuchea (1979–1993)

On January 10, 1979, after the Vietnamese army and the KUFNS invaded Cambodia, the new People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) was established with Heng Samrin as head of state. Pol Pot‘s Khmer Rouge forces retreated rapidly to the Thai border. The Khmer Rouge and the PRK began a costly struggle that played into the hands of the larger powers China, the United States and the Soviet Union. A civil war was imposed on impoverished Cambodia that displaced 600,000 Cambodians to refugee camps along the border between Thailand and Cambodia. The new regime murdered tens of thousands of people.[

Peace efforts began in Paris in 1989 under the State of Cambodia, culminating two years later in October 1991 in a comprehensive peace settlement. The United Nations was given a mandate to enforce a ceasefire, and deal with refugees and disarmament known as the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC).

Modern Cambodia (1993-present)

On October 23, 1991, the Paris Conference reconvened to sign a comprehensive settlement giving the UN full authority to supervise a cease-fire, repatriate the displaced Khmer along the border with Thailand, disarm and demobilize the factional armies, and prepare the country for free and fair elections. Prince Sihanouk, President of the Supreme National Council of Cambodia (SNC), and other members of the SNC returned to Phnom Penh in November 1991, to begin the resettlement process in Cambodia. The UN Advance Mission for Cambodia (UNAMIC) was deployed at the same time to maintain liaison among the factions and begin demining operations to expedite the repatriation of approximately 370,000 Cambodians from Thailand.

On March 16, 1992, the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) arrived in Cambodia to begin implementation of the UN Settlement Plan. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees began fullscale repatriation in March 1992. UNTAC grew into a 22,000-strong civilian and military peacekeeping force to conduct free and fair elections for a constituent assembly.

Over 4 million Cambodians (about 90% of eligible voters) participated in the May 1993 elections, although the Khmer Rouge or Party of Democratic Kampuchea (PDK), whose forces were never actually disarmed or demobilized, barred some people from participating. Prince Ranariddh‘s royalist FUNCINPEC Party was the top vote recipient with 45.5% of the vote, followed by Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party and the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party, respectively. FUNCINPEC then entered into a coalition with the other parties that had participated in the election. The parties represented in the 120-member assembly proceeded to draft and approve a new constitution, which was promulgated September 24, 1993. It established a multiparty liberal democracy in the framework of a constitutional monarchy, with the former Prince Sihanouk elevated to King. Prince Ranariddh and Hun Sen became First and Second Prime Ministers, respectively, in the Royal Cambodian Government (RGC). The constitution provides for a wide range of internationally recognized human rights.

On October 4, 2004, the Cambodian National Assembly ratified an agreement with the United Nations on the establishment of a tribunal to try senior leaders responsible for the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge. Donor countries have pledged the $43 million international share of the three-year tribunal budget, while the Cambodian government’s share of the budget is $13.3 million. The tribunal started trials of senior Khmer Rouge leaders in 2008. Cambodia is also recovering from the land mines which were used heavily by the Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese; it will take approximately a decade to remove most of the land mines from Cambodia

Bangkok, Thailand

We will be commuting from Siem Reap by bus over potentially unpaved roads for up to 10 hours to reach our hotel in Bangkok on Sunday 7.28.2013.

We will be in Bangkok for less than 48 hours…on purpose. A couple reasons that (mostly I) did not want to stay longer is because I do not want to vacation in a large metropolis, being that I currently live in the 3rd largest city in the world, and also I have heard of many shady dealings with foreigners are an all to common affair in this densely populated conurbation. Even though we are only going to be there for 48 hours, it doesn’t mean that I don’t have a lot planned!!

Our place: 

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We will be arriving Sunday afternoon and first stop after checking into our hotel will be the Chatuchak Weekend Market.

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The Chatuchak Weekend Market is the biggest market in Thailand and one of the best in Asia. It boasts about 15,000 stalls in its 35 acres and flocked by approximately 200,000 visitors daily. The volume of shops opens on weekends where as few areas like the western section (J.J. Plaza) is open every day. The history of Chatuchak Weekend Market goes back decades ago by the late prime minister of Thailand (1938-1944 & 1948-1957) named Plaek Phibunsongkhram. He came up with the idea of having flea markets in every town.


It is divided into 27 fun-filled sections! 

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We hope to see Chinatown at night^^

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On Monday we will visit The Grand Palace, Wat (temple) Phra Kaew (famous for its Jade Buddha) and Wat (temple) Pho (famous for its reclining Buddha).

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Floating Market:

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We both want to, but especially Chris, wants to visit and haggle at the floating market. After that, if we have time, which I doubt, we will then visit Lumpini Park (the Central Park of Thailand).

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Plane departs Bangkok at 10 am on Tuesday 7.30.2013, arriving in Chiang Mai, Thailand at 11 am.

Our place:

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Activities Playbook:  

1) Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep 

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2) Patara Elephant Farm: Patara Elephant Farm is a Thai own and manage farm focusing on health-care and breeding management for friendly, beautiful and special elephants to produce healthy elephants to live on Earth. 

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The farm invites you to hands-on experience on participating, sharing responsibilities and taking care of an elephant. “Elephant Owner for a Day” is a special program created for everyone to learn and interact with elephants as what an owner would do daily, during which time you are trained to approach your elephant correctly, know the elephant’s temperament, feed and check its health, learn about and take care of your own elephant, bathe and brush it in the river, learn how to ride on its neck, and communicate through different spoken commands. You will get a chance to bare-back riding to visit forests, waterfalls or local temples. The program is specialized and meaningful activity to create trust and relationship between you and your elephant.

With conservation philosophy “Extinction is Forever”,  Patara Elephant Farm honored to encourage people to try, at least once in their lives, to experience this very special and sacred animal that should be treasured. Give yourself an opportunity to share once-in-a-lifetime experience with the elephants; you will be touched by their beautiful hearts and will be brought closer to their special world.

We will learn:

General knowledge and background :The differences in species of elephants in the world. Thai Elephant as sub-spicy of Asian Elephant. History back ground of Domestic Elephant in Thailand. Why elephant are so important for Thailand? Why elephant are still domesticated in Thailand? Elephant in Buddhism and the believes of the Thais relate to elephants. Situation of Domestic Elephant and Wild Elephant in Thailand and Asia. Patara Elephant Farm’s mission and conservation philosophy. Get to know our elephants individually.

Breeding program : Including heat detecting, mating management, pregnancy follow up and the delivery of baby elephants. Care taking for the new born and young elephant.

Breeding program: Including heat detecting, mating management, pregnancy follow up and the delivery of baby elephants. Care taking for the new born and young elephant.

Training includes : elephant farm management, elephant trainer’s tasks and responsibilities, tracking your elephant in the bush, how to approach and be near elephant, feeding and dietary of elephant, herbal medication for elephant, elephant anatomy, life cycle of elephant, daily activities for domestic elephant, daily health care, dunk inspection, age estimation for elephant, the differences between ordinary and special elephants. observation on elephant moods (important), Dos and don’ts for elephant, elephant’s body languages and communications, how a trainer create relationship and respectfulness with his elephant, Bathing and brushing elephant in the river, chain and unchain technique, spoken command for elephant, basic and advance riding skills, how to treat elephant to make them happy. A lot more of impressive elephant stories.

Fun activities : Elephant feeding, elephant bathing and brushing, water combat with your elephant, riding your own elephant, score hunting while riding on elephant by making your elephant to do things such as make you elephant spray water to your friend, pick up rubbish from trail or making sound to greet people. Elephant trip to waterfall, picnic lunch, swim with your elephant, riding on the same elephant with your lover on return trip, taking a lot of pictures with elephant.

3) Doi Inthananon National Park

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4) White water rafting

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5) Thai cooking class

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6) Enjoy a Traditional Khantoke Dinner

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7) Visit to the Red Karen Hill tribe 

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Due to the 2008 warnings from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees against visiting these hill tribes, we may not go. I need to do some research. There were previously allegations that the Thai government is exploiting this small community to make money off of tourists. The government then takes the revenue, leaving no money for the tribe, access to education or legal rights.

That said, here is a little history of the Kayan people. The Kayan are a subgroup of the Red Karen (Karenni) people, a Tibeto-Burman ethnic minority of Burma (Myanmar). In the late 1980s and early 1990s due to conflict with the military regime in Burma, many Kayan tribes fled to the Thai border area. Among the refugee camps set up there was a Long Neck section, which became a tourist site, self-sufficient on tourist revenue and not needing financial assistance. A 2004 estimate puts the population at approximately 130,000. About 600 Kayan reside in the three villages open to tourists in Mae Hong Son, or in the Ban Mai Nai Soi refugee camp.

Women of the various Kayan tribes identify themselves by their different form of dress. Women of the Kayan Lahwi tribe are well known for wearing neck rings, brass coils that are placed around the neck, appearing to lengthen it.

Girls first start to wear rings when they are around five years old. Over the years the coil is replaced by a longer one, and more turns are added. The weight of the brass pushes the collarbone down and compresses the rib cage. The neck itself is not lengthened; the appearance of a stretched neck is created by the deformation of the clavicle. Many ideas regarding why the coils are worn have been suggested, often formed by visiting anthropologists, who have hypothesized that the rings protected women from becoming slaves by making them less attractive to other tribes. Contrastingly it has been theorized that the coils originate from the desire to look more attractive by exaggerating sexual dimorphism, as women have more slender necks than men. It has also been suggested that the coils give the women resemblance to a dragon, an important figure in Kayan folklore. The coils might be meant to protect from tiger bites, perhaps literally, but probably symbolically.

Kayan women, when asked, acknowledge these ideas, but often say that their purpose for wearing the rings is cultural identity (one associated with beauty). The coil, once on, is seldom removed, as the coiling and uncoiling is a lengthy procedure. It is usually only removed to be replaced by a new or longer coil. The muscles covered by the coil become weakened.

Many women have removed the rings for medical examinations. Most women prefer to wear the rings once their necks have become elongated, as the area of the neck and collarbone often becomes bruised and discolored. Additionally, the collar feels like an integral part of the body after ten or more years of continuous wear.

In 2006 some of the younger women in Mae Hong Son started to remove their rings, either to give them the opportunity to continue their education, or in protest against the exploitation of their culture and the restrictions that came with it. In late 2008 most of the young women who entered the refugee camp removed their rings. One woman who had worn the rings for over 40 years also removed them. After removing the rings, women report discomfort which fades after about three days. The discoloration is more persistent.

The government of Burma began discouraging this tradition as it struggled to appear more modern to the developed world. Consequently, many women in Burma began breaking the tradition, though a few older women and some of the younger girls in remote villages continued to wear rings. In Thailand the practice has gained popularity in recent years because it draws tourists who bring revenue to the tribe and to the local businessmen who run the villages and collect an entry fee of 250B per person. The Karenni National People’s Liberation Front (KNPLF), an armed cease-fire group, have also made attempts to invite the Kayan to return to Kayah State in order to set up their own tourist villages.

In January 2008 the UNHCR expressed reservations about tourists visiting the Kayan villages in Northern Thailand due to the Provincial Government’s refusal to allow registered Kayan refugees to take up offers of resettlement in third world countries.[ It is believed this policy was linked to their economic importance to the area. This policy was relaxed in late 2008 and a small group of Kayan have left for New Zealand in August 2008. Others entered the main Karenni refugee camp (which is not open to tourists) in September 2008 and they are now eligible for resettlement.

9) Watch Mui Thai Fight

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10) Watch Ladyboy Performance  

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The term “kathoey” (lady boy) is not an equivalent of the modern Western transsexual woman. Use of the term “kathoey” suggests that the person self-identifies as a type of male, in contrast to sao praphet song (which like “trans woman” suggests a “female” gender identity) or phet thi sam (which suggests a third gender). The term phu-ying praphet thi sorng, which can be translated as “woman of the second kind”, is also used to refer to kathoey. The term can refer to males who exhibit varying degrees of femininity – many kathoeys dress as women and undergo “feminising” medical procedures such as breast implants, hormones, silicone injections, or Adam’s apple reductions.

Kathoey work in predominately female occupations, such as in shops, restaurants and beauty salons, but also in factories (a reflection of Thailand’s high proportion of female industrial workers). Kathoey also work in entertainment and tourist centers, in cabarets and as sex workers. Kathoey sex workers have high rates of HIV.

Kathoeys are more visible and more accepted in Thai culture than transgender or transsexual people are in Western countries or the Indian subcontinent. Several popular Thai models, singers and movie stars are kathoeys, and Thai newspapers often print photos of the winners of female and kathoey beauty contests side by side. The phenomenon is not restricted to urban areas; there are kathoeys in most villages, and kathoey beauty contests are commonly held as part of local fairs.

Kathoeys currently face many social and legal impediments. Families (and especially fathers) are typically disappointed if a son becomes a kathoey, and kathoeys often have to face the prospect of coming out. However, kathoey generally have greater acceptance in Thailand than most other Asian countries. Legal recognition of kathoeys and transsexuals is non-existent in Thailand: even if transsexuals have had genital reassignment surgery, they are not allowed to change their legal sex. Discrimination in employment remains rampant. Issues can also arise in regards to access to amenities and gender allocation; for example, a kathoey and a transsexual who has undergone sexual reassignment surgery would still have to stay in an all-male prison.

This covers our first 13 days. Phuket, Koh Phi Phi and our return home still to come. To be continued…

Information from this blog was collected from: cambodiawithlim.com, wikipedia, tripadvisor.com, lonelyplanet.com. 


How my Loverbear got a Job & Other Joys in June ^^

I apologize for switching sites on you loyal readers. I was having some issues with my previous site, mainly with pictures and file sizes, so here is my new official blog address: americangirlinseoul.wordpress.com. Please SAVE TO FAVORITES!!

It is surreal to have the juxtaposition of these coexistent feelings: 1) that Chris just arrived yesterday 2) that he has been here all along, since January. Chris has officially been living in Seoul for 6 weeks. Our initial living space tensions have drifted away as a tide of routine and clear expectations were established. Chris has become an excellent ‘house boyfriend.’ He makes the bed, does dishes, cleans the bathroom and does laundry. He has also been working out and becoming sexier than ever. Chris has been on 3 cooking interviews for European/American cuisine establishments over the past 3 weeks. The first two were not a good fit for him due to management style, and yesterday he showed up for the interview at a closed restaurant. Being the ‘Positive Pete’ that he his, Chris did not despair. Instead, he went window shopping and grabbed a couple beers at a local brewery and restaurant in the hip foreigner district of Itaewon. A couple beers, a cigar, plate of wings, and beer sampler later, Chris had enjoyed a great free meal and a job! He wound up meeting the owner, head chef, and bartender at the perfect time. They loved him and he starts today! His shift should be Mon-Fri 10 am- 6 pm.

I have admittedly felt a little like a chicken with my head cut off these last 6 weeks because of the successive visits of Chris and my mom followed by busy work weeks. We have also been in full planning mode for our 4 week vacation trekking through Siem Reap, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Phi Phi Island. Money has been tight, the bed situation is a total shit show, and being healthy has been a challenge when events always focus around food and drinking. I can’t complaint though, because I do really love life here- so much to do and surrounded by such magnificent support.

We have been busy so I can’t remember the exact chronological events, but here are some of the highlights:

1)   Double date night with Ben and Bri. Dance performance at Seoul Arts Center (the Seoul Broadway if you will) followed by new meal: Dak galbi. I wish we had taken more pictures of the performance, but I was not even sure if we were supposed to. It was spectacular! The dances ranged from traditional to ballet to contemperary. I was captivated and on the edge of my seat the entire 2 hours we were there! Afterwards we went out to eat dak galbi. Dakgalbi is prepared by marinating chopped chicken in spicy red pepper paste with peppery seasoning for about one day. Cabbage, green onions, sweet potatoes, and cylinder shaped rice cakes filled with cheese are then added and the ingredients are all placed in a large cast iron pan. The mixture is then typically stir-fried at the table.

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2)   Paper mache night in. Well, as you can see from the picture on the right, this was our goal. I got a wee bit closer to that goal (aka A LOT) than Chris. We stared at the directions alone for 20 minutes before asking each other if maybe we were paper folding challenged. The point is to make these ‘creatures’ without tape or glue or anything to hold them together. I won’t be joining an Oragami class anytime soon, needless to say. lol. At least we tried!

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3)   Indian food at Everest twice! Bri suggested a delicious authentic Indian restaurant which Chris and I had been craving! We went twice in one week!

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4)   Ben’s 35th birthday at Dolce in Itaewon.

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Above are my spectacular coworkers from the Apgu branch. John, me, Andra, Carly, Bri, Ellie. ♥

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Above left: Carly using Bri as a pole for a dance ;P with our boss in the background. Above right: Ellie not wanting to Salsa.

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Above: the creeper gay man with waaayyyy to much make-up that was pushing me out of the way to get to Chris alllllll evening! Below: my reaction to this crazy elder man WOW MOM (for those of you who know me, you know this means WTF).

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Above left: John hustling at darts. John uses his lack of prowess in other sports like golf and pool to trick people into thinking he is bad at darts. NOT SO! Above right: laughing and getting wayyyyy too drunk with my boss. Awk moment.


5)   Gilbert’s for burgers and shakes. The best gruyere cheese, bacon and arugala burger and Oreo shake you will find in all of Seoul.


6)   Korean cooking class to make galbi jjim and marinated lotus roots. Galbi jjim is a dish of steamed short ribs that is adored by Koreans and foreigners alike for its soft texture and rich flavor. The mouth-watering sauce is made with soy sauce and other ingredients such as green onions, sugar and sesame seeds that are poured into a pot full of vegetables including mushrooms, chestnuts, carrots, Chinese dates, gingko nuts, radish and other vegetables. The pot is then slowly brought to a boil over low heat, much like how stews are cooked in the West.

The cooking class was at 10:30 am. We left the apartment at 9:30 am to ride the subway there. Chris and I had previously each taken a class with this company and agreed upon the location. Bri was the one who signed the three of us up. When I got the confirmation email, I noted down the time and date on my planner and deleted the email. WHY GOD WHY!?!?!

10:10 am- Bri “where are you?” Me “at the cooking class, where are you?” Bri “at the cooking class. we are all waiting for you at exit 3.” Me “okayyy… we got out exit 7 and made it here just fine but we will come back down to exit 3.”

Meanwhile, the group leaves and goes to class. I call Bri from exit 3, “I’m here but I don’t see you.” Bri “I don’t see you either but I will be right down.”

10:25 am Bri “I’m here.” Me “I’m here…. wait what station are you at?” Turns out the station I need to be at is at Hondikk University. UNFORTUNATELY, I heard dongguk. How could I mistake those two you may ask. Well, add in some background traffic and my completely untrained ear for Korean and that is how.

10:40 am Exit 3 of Donguk University. “I’m here,” I say. “No you are not. I don’t see you,” Bri. “Wait, did you say Honggik or Dongguk University??” “Honggik!!!” exclaims Bri emphatically. Fuucccckkkk

10:50 am Hail cab and take 25 minute cab ride completely across town.

11:20 am Get dropped off and get lost. I text Bri and tell her we’re not going to make it. She says “I see you!” and then gives us directions.

Needless to say we missed most of the prep work of the meat and veggies, but we did get to cook and eat. I also got to meet two awesome French women who were on our team. So the lesson is, DON’T delete emails with important information. lol


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Above left: Check out Chris’s super hot inadequate apron!

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7)   Noraebang with Espirit Apgu crew. We sang our hearts out and a little of my voice too until 3 am.

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Carly showing off her dance skills, per usual.


Ellie on her phone alwayssss…

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Aleim, one of our Korean staff at Espirit, was such a fun addition for the night. She is an Ahhhmazzing singer too!

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As you can tell, I got a little tuckered out…

8)   Korean War Memorial with Carly and Chris


Even though Chris went to bed at 4 am and I had gone to bed at 5:30 am on Sunday morning, I forced us awake at 10 am to watch this amazing 3 hour documentary on the Korean War created by the History Channel. It is acclaimed for being one of the most comprehensive looks into post WWII, beginning, middle, end and aftermath of this mostly forgotten war. A few basics: After WWII a demarcation line called the 38th parallel divided the Soviet Union guarded North and the USA guarded South. In June 1950, the North began an unprovoked surge past the 38th parallel and within 3 days seized Seoul. The Soviet Union provided loans and weapons to support the war. The USA had left no weaponry or adequate support in the South. The USA responded quickly sending USA troops; however, the troops were very ‘green,’ had no idea what the fight was about, where they were, what the strategy was and was not well equipped. Within one year, the USA and ROK pushed the North back to the 38th parallel. Then under the guidance of general MacArthur, the USA and ROK proceeded past the 38th attempting to control the entire peninsula. Once they passed the parallel, China sent in hundreds of thousands of troops to fight in the mountainous snowy tundra for an extra two years to push back to the 38th. The war literally ended where it had began. It was the first time in the USA history that they had not declared victory in a war. This war also ended MacArthur’s glorious military career. North and South Korea are still technically at war.

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These murals are made out of glittery tiny tiles.

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It’s interesting to see the evolution of army head gear!

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9)   Good Read: Escape from Camp 14. I read this book in 4.5 hours in one sitting. It was such a page turner. The human rights atrocities in North Korea outlined in this book are happening RIGHT NOW!

Since it was published in March, Escape from Camp 14 has been a bestseller in the United States and around the world, including Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, Brazil, Malaysia and Singapore. It has been or will be published in 24 languages, including Chinese, Korean and Japanese. It was featured on 60 Minutes on Dec. 2, 2012, in a segment with correspondent Anderson Cooper.

North Korea’s political prison camps have existed twice as long as Stalin’s Soviet gulags and twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps. No one born and raised in these camps is known to have escaped. No one, that is, except Shin Dong-hyuk.

In Escape From Camp 14, Blaine Harden unlocks the secrets of the world’s most repressive totalitarian state through the story of Shin’s childhood in prison and his astounding getaway. Shin never knew a world that wasn’t surrounded by electrified wire —he saw his mother as a competitor for food, guards raised him to be a snitch, and he witnessed and was responsible for the execution of his own family.

Between 135,000 and 200,000 people work as slaves in North Korea’s political prison camps. They are clearly visible in satellite photographs; North Korea insists they do not exist.

“A book without parallel, Escape from Camp 14 is a riveting nightmare that bears witness to the worst inhumanity, an unbearable tragedy magnified by the fact that the horror continues at this very moment without an end in sight.” -Terry Hong