I looked out of my taxi's window and took in the city. There were few cars and thousands of motorcycles. Lane markers meant nothing, but there was so much traffic, it was impossible to drive quickly or aggressively. Filth and poverty were all around me. Many foreigners, too. Like the locals, they drove motorcycles, and squeezed between other bikes whenever a tiny space opened. They wore shorts, muscle shirts and flip-flops in the sweltering heat. One motorcycle passenger leaned back and clenched the seat behind him. His hair was pulled into a bun behind his head. His driver wore a helmet, but he didn't. He looked happy as the breeze whipped against his unprotected face. This was Phnom Penh, the sprawling capital of Cambodia. It was my first day in Southeast Asia.
I biked to the top of a hill, then pedaled full speed ahead down the other side. Suddenly, something caught my eye in the road. It was a snake! I barely swerved in time to avoid it, and that was a good thing for both of us – this snake was a venomous dugite. There were no cars and few bicycles, so it wasn't a surprise that the reptile could sunbathe without being turned into expensive boots.
I have a special podcast for you today. Liese Alsen is a high school history teacher from Berlin, Germany. We sat down in her kitchen for a long chat. She starts with a great summary of Germany's separation after World War II and the Berlin Wall's construction 1961. Then she tells the story of where she was when the wall fell. Later, we discuss how she spent part of her childhood in Lesotho, her years living in the United States and her recent teaching stint in Guatemala. I learned a lot during our talk. Let me know what you think.
I met Kevin Lamb a few years ago in Madison, Wisconsin. We've reconnected several times since then, usually at some random time and place. Thus, our last meeting was typical: by coincidence, we were both in Berlin, Germany at the same time. Since I last had seen Kevin, he had ridden his bicycle across the United States, using his curly mustache as his map. We sat down in Victoria Park to discuss “Mustache Across America,” as well as his future ambitions and philosophy on travel.
When we reached the resort, we were led to the reception desk, where we met Rucky, our guide for the day. Relaxing music was playing from speakers hidden in the rafters of the open-air veranda. The three of us shared a cup of steaming green tea while Rucky explained the resort's facilities and goals. Every morning there were meditation and yoga classes. There was also a fasting program, with daily detox drinks and healthy broths. And of course, no resort would be complete without a massage therapy program. For those who wanted to be healthy in all aspects of life, there was a “boot camp.” The week-long seminar combined all of the resort's activities: exercise, healthy eating, meditation, yoga and massage.
The idea of riding a train across Australia might bore some people to tears, but it got me excited. I would have loved to have taken the Indian Pacific train all the way from Sydney to Perth, but with my flight to Cambodia quickly approaching, I didn't have the time. Luckily, I could still do a large portion of that trip. I would catch the train as it passed through Adelaide, and ride it all the way to Perth.
It was time for me to leave Melbourne for good. My flight to Cambodia was coming up, and it left from Perth, on the opposite side of the country. Australia is huge, and there was still a lot for me to see and do. Maybe I'll come back one day and spend a year traveling around the country. But for now, I only had time to travel to Adelaide and figure out how to get to Perth.
I met up with Craig in downtown Melbourne and we headed to the airport to pick up his Korean friend Oksoo. She was visiting Australia for the first time, and Craig had some big plans for her. Instead of taking her on a tour of the city, he drove us a few hours inland, to his family's ranch.
The next day was Australia Day, a holiday that celebrates the arrival of the British in 1788. Louise, Ben and I drove to Torquay to celebrate on the beach, Australia-style. Among the thousands of beach-goers, a huge group was attempting to break a world record: most giant, inflatable thongs (sandals) in the water at once.
When I bought my ticket for MONA, I was given an iPod and a set of headphones. The reason for this quickly became obvious: there were no titles or captions on any of the art. Instead, the iPod had all of the museum's information. This sounded like a cool way to use new technology.
But I quickly grew frustrated.