Laos Trip – And Cambodia or Not?

Posted in cambodia, holidays, Izzy, laos, work by expatatlarge on November 13, 2011

Early next year The Croatia Backpacking Team (TCBT) (+1) are planning on a reunion tour of Cambodia and Laos. Izzy and The Tall Man will be crashing at E@LGHQ over New Years Eve.

I am concerned about the timing of this however, as it means I will be out town for close to 6 weeks, from the week before Xmas in Australia (at home with the FLOs), OK, NYE in Singapore (yawn), then there is the Indochine trip, and finally I am booked (and paid up) for a ski trip to Sapporo over Chinese New Year.

Yes, I hear you crying for me. Life’s a bitch for Expats.

In order not to upset the people who pay me so outrageously, I have been thinking that I really should be available at least sometime in that period, so I was pushing lips close together, scrunching up my shoulders and 99% decided to be somewhere near the office in the first week of the year. This means that I would be forced (by my own decision) to skip the Cambodia section of the tour and only meet up with the TCBT in Luang Prabang in southern Laos on the 10th. Have never been to Laos, so…

Part of my reasoning for not being too concerned about missing Angkor Wat, etc… is that I had a holiday in Cambodia 11 years ago. We (my friend Homey and I) had a mildly happy pizza, stayed at the Sharaton[sic] hotel and I paid way to much for a worker in the AEI from the ‘Disco Club’ in the basement (immensely gross and amusing story about this), and we had a great time overall. Got a $5 shopping bag of dope, looked for AK-47s in the market but didn’t see any, were stunned into silence by the horror, the horror of the Tuol Sleng museum.

At Siem Reap we were hijacked from the airport by a taxi-driver called No-one (his parents were killed in the Killing Fields, no reason to dispute this, and he was never named), and I say hijacked as I saw, as we drove away, three other cardboard greeting signs with my name on them. This was back in 2000, just as the new tourist hotels were under construction. We did the usual circuit of temples with No-name as a guide, stared the Bayon faces, stood next to the wall swallowing roots of the giant figs. In those days elephants were walking across the bricks of certain temples, you had to clamber up muddy slopes and grasp at exposed tree roots to get up to the Wat across the way from Angkor, the road across the river was only partly restored and Angeline Jolie hadn’t yet raced through the non-existent water-market on a jet-ski (or whatever)…

But I’m having second thoughts about my conscientious inclinations, my loyal employee guilts. This is because I have been re-reading the notes from a friend of mine who did an extensive trip into Cambodia and Vietnam in August. Due to work commitments (new product cross-training, couldn’t avoid it!) I missed his 50th birthday party in Sihanoukville. He had a great time, met his current girlfriend in Vietnam, and did some fascinating travel writing – he loves his food in case you don’t notice – and this has whet my appetite for repeating the trip to Cambodia after all. (As has looking back at the astoundingly poor quality of my old photos – nts: bring the good camera this time!) And then there’s something about the prospect of 50c beers and $1 massages…

So, sigh, thinking seriously of dropping the idea of the lone week at work after all and taking the entire month off for a trip with my dearly beloved TCBT.


The Flatmate And The Bookshelf

Posted in books, Izzy by expatatlarge on June 29, 2009

When you see a picture of someone with a bookshelf in the background, do you always try to figure what the titles and who the authors are? Yeah, I do, but you knew that, right?

So when someone shows me a nice picture of my flatmate Izzy (formerly famous sex person) featured in the current edition of Singapore’s Cleo magazine, the first thing I notice is that is she sitting next to one of MY bookshelves! I guess the idea was to reinforce her depiction as a serious writer, which would imply therefore that she is a big reader. Well, she certainly is, but not necessarily of THESE* exact books!

(Thinks: I can pretty much date the photo from the layout of books on the shelves. It’s recent. Ah, she says three months ago.)

The bookshelf itself is interesting, being made from railway sleepers and the timber of demolished Indonesian railway stations. No forests were demolished for the making of this shelf. At least that’s how the people in Scanteak marketed it to me and justified its exorbitant price. This is the bookshelf that they put together so shoddily that it started doing a Leaning Tower of Pisa thing almost immediately. The design was pretty, but the load-bearing and support were pretty well unthought-out ad required some E@L work to reinforce. I think I posted last year about the difficulties of finding a decent handyman store in Singapore, that’s when I was looking for something to use to restore the shelf’s verticality. It is now about 98% up and down. It’ll never lean over any further, trust me!

The books on display include a biography of DaVinci, not because of the Brown abomination, but because he is left-handed and a genius, therefore like me. (“I have so often seen how people come by the name of genius; in the same way, that is, as certain insects come by the name of millipede — not because they have that number of feet, but because most people won’t count up to fourteen.” — Georg Christoph Lichtenberg) Further along my literary bio shelf, there’s some stuff on Kafka visible, bios of Anthony Burgess, Proust, Kerouac, PK Dick, George Johnston, Malcolm Lowry, C.S. Lewis (a present from my religious sister), Dorothy Parker, Orwell, Proust, Marlowe, Frank Moorhouse’s wonderful wonderful book on the Martini (sort of autobiographical), Rilke and Lou Andreas Salome, Swinbourne, Tolkien and finally Van Gogh (about the women in his life).

Down below, the next shelf is a bit mixed between history, science and food. Peter Gay’s books on the Enlightenment (overlit) on the left, then a book on the Dodo (about species extinction), some kitchen science (love it!), Harold Bloom out of place with his explication on the essential Westen reading list, a coupla Tim Flannery’s books on global warming etc, then behind Izzy, Fast Food Nation, across to Omnivore Dilemma and Ian Banks on whiskey on the far left (our right) of Iz.

Bottom shelf (actually the floor) there is a misfiled Roald Dahl, as this is meant to be the health section, with Plague Race (about the determining the plague vector to be fleas – research done in Hong Kong only 100 years ago), Susan Sontag on Illness as Metaphor, Roy Porter on the history of medicine, then a mix-up: a book on The Australian Labor Party in the 60’s (definitely not something Izzy would read), Zusak’s Book thief (what’s fiction doing on this bookshelf? – see I do have author’s starting with Z), some social history by John Raulston Saul and behind Izzy’s bum, appropriately enough, are two well-thumbed volumes of de Sade.

Not a bad representation of my interests. Now I need to get famous so it can be ME posing in front of them!


* I take that back. She is currently reading Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita, which I see now (I have the magazine here) is on the shelf next to the DaVinci books! And I dont mean to imply that she doesn’t read such heavy books, it’s just she is more into film, architecture ahd global politics and economics, most of which which she keeps on the shelf in her room That is all I meant.