Friday, February 10, 2017

Stuff's growing onboard

We've returned to Malaysia and will be doing some big projects over the next 3 months.  Keep tuned for some good DIY information.  

In the meantime, no, we didn't have a moldy boat when we returned after spending 9 months back in the US.

One of the problems with buying local food is that there are countries with questionable water quality.  One way to solve this problem is to grow your own food.  We used to have a tomato plant but the yield is low for the effort required.  Also, customs people don't like you bringing food things into their countries.  There is a great cruiser book floating around called Sailing the Farm.  It's a handy go-to guide for growing things onboard. 

Our first project from the book was so easy.  We went to the store and bought a large mason jar.  The top was then replaced with some fly screen and that was the total extent of the hardware needed.

It all starts like this
Next, we put some seeds (we used Mung Beans) in the jar and some water for 24 hours.

Then drain and wash the beans.  Put them in a dark cool place and rinse them every 8-12 hours for the next 3 days.  We lay the jar on it's side to provide better air circulation.

After 24 hours they get little shoots
After the end of the 2nd day

After the 3rd day

After the 4th day

Ready for cooking
So in the end, we end up with safe, fresh food that we can have access to anywhere in the world.  Wish we would have known about this at the 2 week point after leaving Mexico for French Polynesia.  All our freshies were gone and we were down to just canned goods.  This would have been such a treat. 
It doesn't get any better than having freshly sprouted beans for dinner

Friday, January 6, 2017

Siem Rep and Angkor Wat

By land, Siem Rep is essentially half way on the road from Bangkok, Thailand to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  Once again, by booking a hotel in advance and not knowing the lay of the land, we were close, but not directly in the heart of the action.  I initially thought that was bad but turned out quite good since we were a one dollar Tuk Tuk ride away in a nice quiet area.  The hotel had just us and a bunch of pale white Russian tourists. 

Landmines still exist here.  These kids lost limbs and play music for money.
Siem Rep is a very touristy expat type of town like others that we have seen while cruising.  The atmosphere is one of a touring backpackers stop-off and a place with foreigners wanting to live in a fun partying place where you can get 2 beers for a dollar and live well on a pension.  Similar to places like Bali or Puerto Vallarta.   

The activity centers around 'Pub Street' and we did spend quite a bit of time there shopping and eating.  We ate twice at a great Thai restaurant, another Thai place, and a Beer Garden kind of place.  Dinners were around $15 for both of us including a bottle of wine.  Not too bad considering the level of tourism there.

Our tour group in front of Angkor Wat
We took a group tour to the Bayon, Angkor Thom, Ta Phrom, Angkor Wat, and Phnom Bahkeng temples.  We were picked up at the hotel in a minibus and had 10 others with us for the tour.

Buddhist Monks still worship here
These temples were built in:
Phnom Bakheng - 900
Angkor Wat - Late 1100's
Bayon -1200's
Angkor Thom - Late 1200's
Ta Prohm - 1300

Bas Relief Carvings are still in great condition
They were not living quarters or palaces.  They were built by the kings for themselves and the people to come from long distances to worship their gods, which were originally Hindu but later transformed to Buddhist.  The temples gradually were abandoned and covered by the jungle by the 1600's except for Angkor Wat which has a moat to help protect it from the vegetation.

Phnom Bakheng
A restored head.  Notice the arch in the background still used for traffic
At Ta Phrom
The temples were discovered by French Westerners in 1862.  Surprisingly little damage was done to them during the civil war in the '70's.  The Khmer Rouge troops camping there burned whatever wood they could find for fires, an American bomb blew up a pavilion, and there are some bullet strikes on some of the carvings.  Most of the damage was done in the 1980's and 90's by thieves chopping off and taking the heads of the statues.

Angelina Jolie in the movie 'Tomb Raider'

Booker at the same root
The movie 'Tomb Raider' starring Angelina Jolie was filmed at Ta Prohm in 2000 and now has the nickname 'Tomb Raider Temple.

Heaps of stones needing to be cataloged for restoration
Some places look like a jumble of rocks but Angkor Wat itself has 5-10 million sandstone blocks weighing up to 1.5 tons each.  They came from quarries 25 miles away using elephants only for transport.  The Egyptians only had to bring their limestone for the pyramids a quarter of a mile.

Numbered  Stones ready for placement
These temples are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and restoration is currently ongoing.  Alot of the stones were marker with numbers.  Their shapes had been 3D scanned and reconstructed on computers to put the ancient rock pile puzzles back as they were 1000 years ago.

A nice cold coconut at the end of a hot day
Cambodia, all in all, is a really great country.  The country is safe.  The people are welcoming, the cost of living is good, they speak English, and use the US dollar.  Obviously we liked it here.  What more could you want?

Saturday, December 17, 2016


Graves of the last victims killed as S-21 was being overthrown.
Just like you would imagine any holocaust museum to be, S-21 is a very interesting but sobering place.  The torture and death that happened here is on a scale and level of inhumanity that we could have never imagined existed in this world and really quite scary. 

Racks of leg irons used to restrain the victims

S-21 housed 1500 victims at any one time.  During the 4 year rule of the Khmer Rouge around 20,000 people were exterminated with only 7 survivors.  Most of the victims included soldiers, government officials, as well as academics, doctors, teachers, students, factory workers, monks, and engineers.  Even people who wore eyeglasses were determined to be intellectuals, because they must have read too much, and were brought here to be tortured.

The typewriter repair man.
 The Khmer Rouge kept well documented records and photos of the victims.  They fortunately did not have enough time to destroy all the records before being over-run by the Vietnamese Army so much historical content still exists.   

We met an old man that was detained there.  The staff discovered he knew how to fix their broken typewriters.  He was one of the 7 survivors.

Close up of the leg irons
The wire covering was to keep victims from jumping to commit suicide
Innocent people were brought to S-21 to make forced confessions for committing espionage and forced to implicate friends and family members.  The torture system was designed to make a prisoner confess to whatever claims the interrogator wanted.  They used lashings, electric shock, water boarding, suffocation with plastic bags, and whatever else they could think up.  After a victim signed the typewritten confession, they were sent away to be killed for the espionage that they never committed or used for 'medical experiments".  Many tried to commit suicide rather than live to be tortured.  To others, death was probably welcomed after their 2-3 month ordeal.

The Gallows
There was a converted children's swing set turned in to 'The Gallows'. People had their hands bound behind their backs and hauled up by their wrists to hang from the gallows until they passed out from the pain of their dislocated shoulders.  Then they were let down and had their heads plunged into the pots of urine and excrement until they were revived and then the process was repeated until they confessed to something else.

These are not some fake props of the museum.  They were real people.
We planned on visiting the famous Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, a mass burial site outside Phnom Penh but psychologically just couldn't handle it after visiting S-21.

Just like Hitler's Holocaust in Germany, the Cambodians accept this dark period of their history and having this museum to educate them about the atrocities of General Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge so that something like this will not be repeated.  30,000 Cambodians visit this museum every year. 

It's fortunate that this was such a short piece of Cambodia's history because there is so much more good about this country and it's people.  

Our next post will definitely be more upbeat.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Phnom Penh

Statues at the National Museum

We spent a few hours at the National Museum of Cambodia which houses historical culture, archaeology, and art.  It was quite impressive considering many of these artifacts could have, or were partially destroyed by the Khmer Rouge.

Hot souvenir t-shirt at the Royal Palace

It's good to be the king
We went to a few Buddhist Temples with the highlight was the Royal Palace.  It was extremely hot and Booker had to buy a t-shirt to wear over her other shirt since exposed shoulders were not allowed.  That was alot of trouble but worth the experience.  At least there were no monkeys here to steal Booker's earrings.

Buddhists only allowed
After enough great food, museums, pagodas, and temples, we took a day long bus ride to Siem Rep where our goal was to see the Temples of Angkor Wat and then fly to Hong Kong for our connection to Newark Airport.   

The bus ride took us north through plains and agricultural communities.  The people have a very subsistence living.  It was the end of the dry season and things were very brown and dry in the 100 degree heat.

It doesn't get much better than 50 cent beers

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge

The Khmer Rouge well documented their activities
The history of Cambodia is quite troublesome for us as Americans because our government was complicit in so much that happened here.

The Khmer Rouge, based in Cambodia, were supporting the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War.  The US bombed the hell out of them from 1970 - 1973 trying to disrupt the supply lines along the Ho Chi Minh trail.  This helped the Khmer gain support from the eastern rural areas and they emerged victorious from their civil war in 1975.   
Mass graves

During the time that the Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia from 1975 to 1978, they murdered 2-3 million of the roughly 7 million total population in a mass genocide of educated people and their families.  If my math is correct, that's over 1 person per minute killed 24 hours a day for 4 years straight.
Add caption

Mass grave at the Choeung Ek Killing Fields
To understand Cambodians is to understand their history.  Until we learned what happened during the Khmer Rouge, we were surprised to see so few old people.  We now know why.  90% of the population is younger than 50 years old and 50% of the population is younger than 24.  The 'kids' that we thought were hotel and store workers, were actually the owners.  This is what happens when you kill a third of the adult population 40 years ago. 
Monument at the Killing Fields
In Phnom Penh there is a High School that the Khmer Rouge converted in to an 'interrogation' prison that is now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, but more easily referred to as S-21 (Security Prison #21).  We thought we would visit it during our Tuk Tuk sightseeing tour.  After all, how many Buddhist Temples can you actually see.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Tuk Tuks and Cambodia

It's been a while since the last post and I need to catch up before returning to the boat next month.

Our Tuk Tuk transport
When we leave Malaysia by boat, we will be heading to Thailand and then across the Indian Ocean.  There are plenty of places to see in S.E. Asia that we will not be going by boat so we need to consolidate some of those trips in our travels to and from the US.

Our departure plan at the end of our 90 day visas was to take the bus to Kuala Lumpur and fly to Cambodia, tour around and continue to the US.

They have the same electrician as Honduras.
A full family Tuk Tuk
We arrived in Phnom Penh without doing any in depth research.  We were surprised at the airport when we saw we needed visas.  The good thing, unlike other countries, was that we could obtain them right there at the airport immigration office.  There were signs telling how much to pay so before as we have done so many times before when entering other countries, we went to the ATM before getting in line to get local currency.  However, the only choice for the ATM currency was US dollars.  Guess what, this country uses the US dollar as their official currency.  Amazing.  Their local currency, the Riel, is only in denominations for less than a dollar.  They are essentially like our coins except in paper.  So there are no coins only paper money.

Tuk Tuk Truck
From the airport to our hotel, we hired a TukTuk. This is a kind of motorized rickshaw powered by a motorbike,.  One thing we noticed right away was that the car drivers were much less aggressive and safer than in Malaysia.  What a nice change considering that Tuk Tuk's are ubiquitous and only go 15-20 mph.  

The Mekong River

We booked a hotel a few days prior but had no idea what part of town it was in.  Turns out, we were pretty close to the center of the action.  For future reference,  about 3 blocks away, along the road facing the Mekong River is really where the action is. 

Our included hotel breakfast.  Interesting.
While getting a feel for the area, we arranged for the following day to have a full day of personal Tuk Tuk transport to be our guide around town for the outrageous price of $20.  More to follow.

Have our blog sent directly to your INBOX