Christmas at The Farm

The Farm has been a part of my life since I can remember.  A gathering place for family Christmas’ and other celebrations over the years.  Where every kid in the family has spent at least one school holiday.  A place that welcomes anyone, and everyone has the opportunity to contribute to the daily workings of the farm; whether it be shoveling and bagging sheep wool, moving cattle, installing fences, collecting eggs from the chicken coop, or helping in the kitchen.  There was even time to have a little fun riding the motorbikes or the old horses, Anzac and Brownie.

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Christmas eve had us making our way to Te Kuiti (the sheep sharing capital of New Zealand!) to my aunty Pam and Uncle John’s farm.  This marked my first visit back since I left New Zealand in 2000.  We began the three-hour journey by stopping for supplies along the way (booze) and for a what was meant to be a quick stop for diesel.  Our fearless leader, being a little eager to reunite with his brothers and sisters, attempted to navigate the process with the same speeds he uses to attack the open road.  It was a simple shake of the left hand, slide of the right.  As the gas attendant stepped away for just a moment, dad took over the process and mistakenly topped off one of the diesel run campers with petrol.  After a few well deserved comments from everyone, we came to the realization that we could very well be stranded at the petrol station for an unknown amount of time.  Waiting on AA to come from who-knows-where, to empty our gas tank.  Thankfully the Christmas spirit and luck were in full force.  While we were standing around trying to figure out our next move, in rolls a local diesel mechanic to top off his truck before his holiday.

Drew, always being on the ball, made his way over to the mechanic to see if he could help us out.  He was a nice guy who was more than willing to help us out on Christmas Eve.  Luckily dad had only put a few litres (24) of petrol in with the diesel, so it was a simple matter of siphoning out the petrol and refilling with diesel.  Half an hour or so later we were on our way.

IMG_7668Pulling up the driveway to the farm brought back so many memories.  It was great to be back after so long.  The first night back on the farm was a good one – I was reintroduced to a few cousins and met a handful of second cousins for the first time.  One particular memory from the farm was the awesome food.  And this night was no exception, the Easton’s put on an awesome feast of steak and salads.  Bret had to force feed himself the remaining steak after being told that the working dogs would be fed the amazing leftovers.

IMG_2102Christmas day was the big family reunion.  Bret and I kicked it off with a long run along the country roads.  Trying to justify the inevitable day of overeating and drinking.  As the day progressed, more and more family members arrived and more and more empty beer and wine bottles stacked up.  Uncle John kept himself busy throughout the day by showing all the first time guests (and a few of the seasoned veterans) around the property.

IMG_2101As always we were all treated to a delicious feed, consisting of mutton, ham and a new one for me, hammed mutton with all the trimmings and some good old kiwi deserts.  After our tummies were filled, the “reuniting” (drinking) continued.  With a reputation at stake, Bret and I helped usher in Boxing day with a handful of worthy participants.  Before we knew it, 4am rolled around and it was time to call it a night.  Christmas 2012 was one to remember.  Catching up with cousins, aunties, uncles and meeting a few new ones.

P1040093Christmas at The Farm Photos

After a slow start to Boxing day we continued the Great New Zealand Road Trip (North Island) and made our way to Taupo.  Along the way we stopped by the Waitomo Caves, a once in a lifetime event.  Viewing the glow worms that line the inside of the cave is an amazing experience and the $48 price tag ensures you will be sitting in the cafe if you ever find yourself visiting the area again.

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The Great New Zealand Road Trip (North Island) Part 2

You can learn a lot about a community by reading the local newspaper.  Or in my case, glancing at the front page headlines and occasionally checking my horoscope.  For instance, the first day we arrived in Jamaica the front page showed a large amount of confiscated weed and read “Police Crack Down”.  It was a devastating way to start our vacation to say the least.  In New Zealand it took me only a week to realize what kind of country we are currently exploring.  The local paper posted the photographs of the areas most wanted criminals and a brief summary of what horrendous crimes they had committed.  We snapped a couple of photos of the front page to share with you.  It gave us a strong indication of how safe we should feel when stumbling our way down a dark ally.

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After a quick three-day tour of the northern part of NZ, we picked up the second camper van and the rest of the posse.  Once we were two campers deep, Sally and I made a quick b-line to Kaylene’s camper, as Richard’s driving had us on our last pair of clean underwear.  I equate Richard’s driving to being in the back of a C-130.  It only takes a few short minutes of being bounced aroundin the back to make you want to race towards the door and jump the fuck out.

The first few days we traveled as a complete group it felt like we were a swarm of locust.  Making our way from various friends and family’s houses, devouring food and alcohol like Pac-Man chasing pellets.  It is one of the great benefits of traveling the country with some locals.  Everyone that wants to catch up insists on putting on a feed.  Though we just scheduled a second round and were informed that alcohol would no longer be provided (doesn’t take long for us to make an impression).  Besides helping me fit into my baggy shorts a little better, the meals have been helping Sally and I avoid our scheduled cooking night.  Knowing only three dishes to serve up to the family (knocked down to two after Nat and Drew served up pasta), it seems difficult to stand proudly next to your packet stir-fry after Drew catches and serves up some ridiculously bomb-ass Snapper.

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New Zealand’s weather seems to have the same weather pattern as Seattle.  Raining and overcast any time you want to do an outdoor activity and beaming down sunshine when you are trapped indoors, or in our case, stuck in the back of a camper van making our way to the next town.  We did manage to find a few breaks in the rain to explore Cathedral Cove and Mount Maunganui.

Cathedral Cove is an awesome worn out cave in the rocks that separates two beaches.

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The Mount is a great little beach town with a nice group of restaurants, cafes, and bars.  It is appropriately named for the rather large hill (mount) at the end of town that separates the bay and the ocean.

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We also stayed a night at Hot Water Beach.  Whose slogged is “The Only Fucking Way You’ll Ever Want To Get In The Ocean”.  During low tide, flocks of tourists and locals make their way to the beach and dig their way a few inches to a few feet down.  The hot water from a nearby spring is easily brought to the surface and makes for a great natural hot-tub.  It doesn’t take long for the soak to make you feel like a lobster being prepped for consumption and its then a mad dash for the cool ocean water.

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With the groups tolerance reaching peaks that would enable us to drink an entire group of AA members under the table, we made our way to “The Farm” for the Christmas reunion.

North Island Part Two Photos

*At this time we would like to thank one of our sponsors of the trip, ASUS.  They contributed our over priced tablet that finds a new way each day to frustrate the shit out of us.  We have already had to ship it back to the states (and have it shipped back) for more than what we initially paid for the hot garbage piece of “technology”.  In its most recent attempt to conduct “suicide through owners”, its charging cable decided it no longer wanted to function correctly.  Due to the fact that most people are smarter than the average ‘Round-The-World-Tripper’, not a single store in New Zealand carries ANY ASUS accessories.  Thus we find ourselves behind by several weeks and finding it easier to put our energy into being pissed off then trying to recall what we did two weeks ago, and for that (ASUS) we thank you.*

The Great New Zealand Road Trip (North Island)

The Great New Zealand Road Trip (North Island); eight family members, two camper vans, three weeks, and countless miles/kilometers.  It sounds like the making of either a hilarious comedy or a gory horror flick.

I know what your thinking, spending hours on the road with your in-laws, waiting excitedly for your hemroids to flare up, sounds like an amazing way to spend the holidays.  But the in-laws passed the cool test and from what I hear, there is no better place to have a slimy asshole full of Preparation H then in the beautiful country of New Zealand.

The idea to test the family’s tolerance and patience for one another was put forth by Sally’s parents (Richard and Kaylene – aka ‘The Olds’).  The inescapability of the close quarters and unavoidable stress of integrating the various personalities and preferences (vehicle speed, cleanliness, whose turn it is to do dishes or cook, choice of route, activity, and music to name a few) will surely have us walking that fine line between the most memorable family trip ever and a front page spread depicting a homicidal family feud.  Regardless, I am sure we can squeeze at least one entertaining blog post out of the next 21 days.

Once we stepped off the plane it only took the Kiwis ten minutes to dethrone the Canadians as the friendliest people on earth.  I don’t care how many more times those friendly neighbors to the north pay for the car behind them at Tim Hortons or kindly give us directions after pulling Sally over for busting a U-turn across three lanes of traffic, in the snow, while running a red light (true story).  Until they get their immigration process on par with New Zealand they will forever be the second friendliest populus, followed closely by Colombians.

Our agent was more interested in hearing our plans for our trip and giving us advice about the area we were staying in Auckland, then the standard flipping through our passport five times and doing the over exaggerated photo to face comparison.  If you really need to hold my passport in the air inline with my face and perse your lips while your squinty eyes dart back and forth several times from photo to face just to ensure the two match up, you’re in the wrong fucking profession.  The pleasantries didn’t end with immigration, when we went through security, even they took the time to smile and converse with passengers.  Realizing they’re not hording cattle but rather dealing with actual people.  Something the TSA in the States has yet to figure out.  But to TSA’s credit, I’m pretty sure the only requirement to become a member of the TSA is being able to find Waldo at least three times, throughout the entire book collection.

TSA

Sally and I flew to Auckland a couple of days ahead of The Olds to conduct a few alcohol quality control tests and to meet up with Sally’s partner in crime from back in the day (Randa).  We found a hostel in the neighborhood of Ponsonby at a backpacker that was cleverly named Ponsonby Backpackers.  The hostel was perfectly located at the top of Franklin road, intersecting with Ponsonby road.  It was a reasonably well laid out hostel with helpful staff.  But we did have a little sticker shock when we had to shell out $60 for a room that was basically just a bed. Having enjoyed ensuite, T.V., fridge, and a patio at our last hostel in Cambodia for a 1/3 the cost.

In the common area they had advertisements for backpacker specials at a couple of the local bars.  It just so happen that the time and day lined up perfectly with our arrival, lucky us!  We had a couple of drinks from our duty-free Jack Daniels (half a bottle) and headed out.  After strolling up to the bar that was offering the backpacker specials, we ordered up their ‘discounted’ jug (pitcher) of Tiger beer (cheap ass Asian beer).  I almost impulsively bitch slapped the bar tender when he said, “That’ll be $25 please”.  This fucking jug only filled three fucking pints and it was  fucking Tiger beer!  I guess they meant backpacker ‘special’, as in you must be ‘special’ (fucking retarded) to think you’re getting a deal.

We spent the next day and a half checking out Sally’s old stomping grounds and  I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between Auckland and Seattle.  Seattle has the Space Needle, Auckland the Sky Tower.  Both are on the water with a fleet of personal boats dotting the water and large shipping yards close to the city.  They are both rich with green vegetation due to similar weather patterns (shit overcast and rain) and have plenty of hills inside the city limits.  Auckland is in the land of the long white cloud (Aotearoa) and with Washington’s recent legislation there will be plenty of long white clouds in Seattle as well.  I wouldn’t go as far as to say it made me a little home sick.  But I think the similarities between the two cities made me have an instant attraction to Auckland.

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While kicking around the streets of Auckland we did manage to find what I would call the best nachos I’ve had on the trip to date, by far.  My endless search for a halfway decent attempt at this simplistic dish has been foiled by pathetic renditions and variations that make me sick to my stomach (sometimes literally).  In Australia they actually substitute salsa with sweet chili sauce. WTF?  Why don’t you just throw some greek yogurt on instead of sour cream?  Or better yet, dog shit instead of beans?

We also had a chance to catch up with Rally’s friend from way back, Sanda.  The dynamic duo wreaked havoc on the streets of Auckland with their fists pumping (sometimes with excessive force) to the idolized beats of the Beastie Boys.  The girls understood that the three white boys from Brooklyn lived, fought, and eventually would quite possibly die for their right to party.  Thus they conducted themselves in a manner that they felt upheld the Beastie Boys standard.  It was great to see them briefly revisit their glory days and finally meet Sally’s counter part from her childhood.

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Renting a camper van in New Zealand is as common place as getting a tuk tuk in Asia. There are more choices in company, size, and style then there are items on a Cheese Cake Factory menu.  The Olds shouted the camper vans and we were more than thankful to not be apart of the selection process.  They decided on two Britz campers, which I found ironic because that is the same way Sally would say my name if the vehicle belonged to me.

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The first three days of The Great New Zealand Road Trip (North Island) were conducted with just one camper, as Sally’s sister and family (Nat,Drew, Zak, Brodie) had yet to arrive.  We wasted no time getting on the road, as The Olds did a snatch and grab from outside our hostel and we hit the great open road, for about thirty minutes.  We headed just around the corner to Matakatia to one of Richard’s mates spot for a couple of drinks and a feed.

Our first night in the camper proved to be a difficult one.  After drinking excessively and eating ourselves into a food coma, we passed out around midnight.  Not less than an hour later we were awaken abruptly to a loud banging noise and the quick scampering of two teenage boys running off to the bushes.  A communal grovel about the disturbance, 30 minutes of tossing and turning, and we resumed our passed out slumber.  Five minutes later we were awaken again.  This time Richard and I exited the vehicle in attempt to assault one or both of the perpetrators.  A five-minute search of the area exhausted our motivation and we headed back to the van.  We collectively agreed that we needed to either set a trap for the young kids (Richard hide in the bushes with a table pole and myself under the camper with the tire iron) or move to a more remote location, away from the board teenagers.  If we weren’t exhausted from our late night and heavy drinking I don’t think the second option would have been on the table.

The next day we got our first true experience as passengers in the back of a camper van.  It didn’t take us long to discover that Richard drives the van like a soccer mom in a suburban, trying to race to the last available space in a Wal-Mart parking lot.  I’m surprised that with all that lead in his foot he doesn’t have more trouble getting though airport security. The swaying bounce of the vehicle combined with the excessive speeds, makes ridding in the back feel like your on a shitty carnival ride.  What initially puts a small smile on your face quickly becomes a nauseating and tiresome experience.  To Richards credit, the camper does shake and sway like a 4.0 earthquake hit every time someone so much as sneezes.  Also, Lonely Planet states that it takes about a month to a month and a half to see the north island properly.  So given our light-force speeds, I think we’ll be able to do several loops around the north island and have a couple of days to spare.  As Richard noted, “Where here for a good time, not a long time”

Once we were off the highway and weaving our way through the country side I couldn’t help but notice two things; One, the geography of the north island is very similar to that of the north-west of the United States.  Giving my Seattle Auckland comparison even more clout.  Of course New Zealand has the luxury of being surrounded by gorgeous green ocean water and has a more diverse range of plant life.

Two, I saw more camper vans then I did sheep.  Which I found quite dissapointing considering some of the Aussie ribbing.  They would have you believe that the Kiwis utlized sheep as drug sniffing dogs, substitute ottomans with sheep, and of course a few unmentionable after hours activities.  As we barreled our way through another small country town, I spotted the 312th camper van of the day and I wondered to myself, “How well recived are these traffic jam causing, parking space hording, eye sores?”.  Just as I finished the sentence in my head, I glanced out the window and made eye contact with a young Maori boy who must have been about 8 years old.  I was about to smile and wave when he flipped me the bird.  Question answered.

Great New Zealand Road Trip (North Island) – Part One

Russell Island – Mum’s 60th Birthday Celebration

There is usually little coaxing necessary to convince the two of us to indulge in a few evening drinks, mid-afternoon beverages, or even cracking open a couple (borderline late morning) before lunch.  When you’re on a year-long trip there is never really a bad time to kick back, relax, and reward yourself for all that hard work you’re not doing.  But occasionally we do actually have a justified reason to celebrate something of significance.

In this case, just under two weeks into our time in Australia we had the wonderful opportunity to celebrate my mum’s 60th birthday.  With the family being all together for the first time in four years, it was the perfect opportunity to do something special for mum. 
Our good family friends, Bruce and Lyn, graciously suggested we head to their weekend/holiday house on Russell Island.  The weekend before the celebration a group headed out to the island to stock the bar.  I don’t mean a well stocked shelf or one of those ridiculous hollow globes you buy out of Sky Mall magazine.  This was 12 feet of refrigerated beer space, granite top, liquor holding, ass kicking bar! The stage was set for the perfect birthday celebration.

Early Friday afternoon we boarded their boat and headed for the island.  Forty-five minutes later  we found ourselves picking bugs out of our teeth because our jaws had dropped to the floor.  It wasn’t so much the beautiful boat that had brought us safely to their personal jetty.  Or the gorgeous five bedroom house that comfortably slept the twelve of us.  It was the addition to the house with the infamous bar, pool table, ping-pong table, lounge, and deck that put us in shock and awe.

Bruce and Lyn bought the house six years ago.  They designed and built an entire level below the original house to include four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fully loaded bar, lounge area, games area and a large deck with a hot tub.  All overlooking Moreton Bay.

A quick set-up of sleeping quarters and it was time to relax on the deck with a few drinks.  We started out strong and as the night went on, everyone was tipping back the drinks, dancing, singing (at times with improvised microphones), enjoying the hot tub, and competing in both intense and not so intense games of pool and ping-pong.  The slow start on Saturday morning was evidence of a successful celebration of my lovely mother and her 60 years of life.

During our time at the island we did manage to do more than just drink ourselves stupid.  Though we did kill the weekends supply of beer on the first night!  We spent some time fishing, crabbing, taking the boat out to one of the many bays for a swim, and walking along the sand at low tide.   

Russell Island Photos

Brisbane

“Welcome to the land down under, where beer does flow and men chunder.”  Which by the way means vomit, I googled it.  The country’s unofficial national anthem may lead you to believe that the locals drink large quantities of cheap beer and can’t handle their alcohol.  I can assure you that neither is the case.  First of all, ‘cheap beer’ is an oxymoron in Australia.  It seems to be the only place in the world that Miller High Life’s advertisement claims come anywhere close to making any sense (Champagne of Beers my ass).  You might be wondering, “Just how expensive can the beer really be?”.  Let me put it to you this way, once we overcame the cold sweats and shaky hands that came from the sticker shock, we decided we needed to pick up a cheaper habit to supplement our beer drinking.  As of now we have it down to two finalists.  We are still trying to decide between no limit Texas hold ’em or high-grade, uncut, cocaine.  Second, with a drinking age of 18, their end of school celebrations (schoolies) make the US spring break gatherings look like square dance night at the senior center.  Thus they have a three-year jump at building their tolerance (compared to the States) and make good use of their head start.

Contrary to popular belief, the country was not founded by convicts.  Convicts were only shipped to the country from England if they possessed a trade.  Like a work-release program.  Which takes a large amount of the wind from my sails when exchanging insults with my in-laws.  England decided it would be a better alternative to pardon criminals with minor infractions and provide them with a new beginning rather than resorting to slavery to start the new colony (even less wind. . .).

Brisbane is also the last place Sally called home before I beat her over the head and dragged her back to my cave (Seattle).  She wanted me to ensure that I would mention her roots in Australia yet emphasize that she has-does-and will always consider herself a Kiwi, but always Australia over America.  Brisbane is a gorgeous river city that is incredibly well laid out and has public spaces that are nothing short of amazing.  There are endless paved trails that weave their way through and around the city, connecting countless parks with fields, dog parks, and playgrounds.  They actually have a man-made beach overlooking the river, inside the city!  How epic is that!?

Southbank Beach

We are fortunate to have Sally’s parents living in Brisbane and they have been gracious enough to provide us with accommodation, meals, and enough alcohol to help us maintain the lifestyle we have become accustomed to.  Clearly they have been keeping up with our blog!  For those of you that have not been able to tune in on a regular basis, no worries.  We understand that life is busy and reading a blog about traveling and drinking with excessive amounts of profanity, might not rank that high on your list of priorities.  So we decided to create a short three-minute fifty-four second video to help catch you up. (Summary).

The olds (as Sally calls them) wasted no time in taking us to a couple of their favorite watering holes.  This was our first introduction to the cost of living in Australia (the cost of beer) and it was an awakening one.  A single round at the Belgian Beer bar set them back a cool $65!  Normal circumstances (being on the road) would have Sally and I casually “going to the bathroom” and then slipping out the back door in an attempt to skip out on the bill (That’s just how we roll).  But the olds simply smiled, laughed, and shouted the bill.  They then proceeded to shell out another $85 at the next bar for another round of quality beer, sliders and chicken wings!

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We have three weeks in Australia (two now, one after New Zealand) and it is unfortunately going to be limited to the Queensland area in order to save as much cash as possible and spend some quality time with the family.  So no wild tales of dingoes eating our baby in the outback, spending $35 on a long island iced tea at the Opera Bar in Sydney, or getting bit by a great white while snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef.  We are just going to have to suffer through spending our days at arguably the best beaches in the country and helping the olds rid themselves of their Costco sized wine selection.

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Brisbane Photos

Cambodia Wrap

“The fate of Cambodia shocked the world when the radical communist Khmer Rouge under their leader Pol Pot seized power in 1975 after years of guerrilla warfare.  An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died during the next three years, many from exhaustion or starvation. Others were tortured and executed.  Today, Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world and relies heavily on aid. Foreign donors have urged the government to clamp down on pervasive corruption.”  BBC News 

BBC’s description of Cambodia doesn’t exactly motivate you to 86 your trip to Hawaii and jump on the first thing smoking to Siem Reap.  But thankfully, unless it’s on the back of a cereal box or is accompanied by cartoon illustrations, I find reading quite draining.  So we never got BBC’s rundown of the recovering country.  Not that it would have deterred us from making the trip anyway.  Discouraging perceptions of a country certainly didn’t stop us from visiting Colombia.  We actually found it amusing to watch people’s expressions when we told them we planned to start our trip with a hike through the Darién Gap.  For those that are not familiar with the Darien Gap, it’s a place that helps us weed out society’s mentally challenged backpackers.  Side Note: Did you know the FARC has an 800 number?  I guess that makes it easier for parents to ring them up and tell the kidnappers they can keep Corky, he’s not worth the million dollars.

I digress.

Despite Cambodia’s difficult and recent past, the corruption of its government, and its economical struggles, the country’s people have to be the most genuine in the south-east Asia region.  We got more smiles, greetings, and general friendliness than Thailand and Laos combined.  Sure they have hawkers that never quit and the tuk tuk drivers have the same moral compass as Jeffrey Skilling.  But what country doesn’t have their problems? 

Food:

Khmer food is an awesome genre of Asian cuisine.  We found Amok and Lok Lak at the top of our list.  Cambodia also houses the best variety and quality of Western dishes in south-east Asia.  Which worked out perfectly because we were becoming a little tired of rice, noodles, and fried dishes.

Top Rated For The Trip:

Cycling around the temples of Angkor Wat was awesome experience.  Not only because the temples were amazing, but not having to involve ourselves with hired transport was extremely refreshing.  Though the post may not emphasize it, we also enjoyed our beach time in Sihanoukville.

Sihanoukville

The South East Asian Circuit (SEAC) is a well-known travel path for newly liberated teenagers and 20 somethings who are looking to drink industrial amounts of booze, ingest various available drugs, and dance the night away to the top techno hits of yesterday. The not so well-kept secret Sihanoukville has worked its way into the SEAC rotation and has even began to rival its Thailand competitors just across the gulf (Koh Samui and Koh Phangan).  Not quite the buckets of booze at the FullMoon Party, but give it a couple of years. . .

The beach access and center for the debauchery is located several kilometers from the main portion of town. A strategic move by the locals, that I would equate to putting the shitter at the far end of the camp site (That is, for hygienic purposes). Referenced by its large traffic circle statues (Golden Lions), the area is dedicated to appeasing the hordes of tourists that have made their way to the southern portion of Cambodia. The three roads that line Ochheuteal Beach are packed with restaurants, bars, clubs, backpackers, and a few hotels that have tried their best to distance themselves (geographically) from the rumbling bass that lets the roosters know when it’s time to get up.

The area has several long stretching white sand beaches that are met by crystal clear waters that are warm to the touch. A short boat ride can take you to several different islands of various levels of inhabitants and a handful of companies compete to offer you snorkeling, diving, and fishing. But it seems to be the booze cruise that attracts the most attention.

As soon as you step onto Ochheuteal Beach you are greeted by the overzealous merchandisers that are offering a variety of goods. Everything from a massage to fresh seafood is there for the taking. Not interested at this very moment? Then expect to find yourself at the receiving end of an attempt to form a bond, with a pinkie swear promise, ensuring that when you do change your mind, you will dedicate your cash to (put name here). After several days of batting away solicitors we realized the best way to avoid this five-minute discussion and oath, is to actually keep your word and dedicate all of your business to a single individual. Learn her name, become her friend, and that way you can tell everyone that you already promised your business to Nai.

Choosing your beach chairs for the day is as equally challenging as ridding yourself of the ten-year old bracelet girls.  A tactic we thankfully mastered in Phnom Penh. The row of shack bars that line the beach are all offering virtually the exact same menu. Differentiating themselves by subtracting or adding a quarter to the price of a draft beer and occasionally dishing up some special seasoned pizza. Each bar has a person whose sole purpose in life is to ensure you end your exploration of the beach and kick your feet up in their section. This decision to settle in for the day could be out of attraction, but is most likely due to frustration and the inability to combat any further harassment. We found the White Dragon our first day (due to the latter) and stuck with it for most of our time in Sihanoukville. The three young Cambodian brothers were content with our small purchases and let us chill without any pressure to ‘buy more’. Not to mention they were one of the few beach-side bars that served up fruit shakes with the promise of making you happy.

It wasn’t until our third day on the beach that we decided to test out the actual “happiness” of these shakes and ordered one to split between the two of us. The young Cambodian kid plopped down a fruit shake that had what looked like scraps of weed mixed throughout. Now I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject matter. . . but I know a guy, who knows this guy. . . and he says that in order to make quality eatables you need to extract the THC in a fat soluble substance such as oil or butter. Ingesting weed in its natural form won’t get you the desired effect because the body can’t process/extract the THC. . . at least, so I’ve heard.

With that in mind, I turned to Sally and told her “What a waste of money, this-won’t-do-shit”. Two hours later it felt like my neck was a string and my head as a bowling ball. My entire body was melting into the sticky vinyl chair and my thought process was similar to Frank in Old School when he takes a tranquilizer dart to the jugular. Sally slowly turned toward me and lazily stated “I am glad we split. . . “. The next four hours were spent feeling like we took the short bus to Sihanoukville and all I really wanted out of life was my favorite juice box.

The White Dragon is just two shacks down from JJ’s, the Booze Cruise headquarters. We found it mildly amusing to watch the temporary (traveler) employees try to pump up the crowd before making their way to the boat. Drinking games and free shots are kindling for the 30 odd newcomers who are looking to rage the day away. Four to ten years earlier in life and we would have had a slight attraction to this sort of gathering. But now we just sat there baffled, as the large crowd shoved their way onto the undersized boat that was blasting techno loud enough that it could be heard in Phenom Penh.  The torturous vessel was packed to the brim, crowds hanging over the railings of the roof top deck, the boat swaying with the changing sea, shitty music piercing their ears, while paying for overpriced beers.  As it pulled away from the dock we wondered how many people would consider making another voyage once they get back on dry land. I personally believe that alcohol can help enhance anything to the point of being bearable, if not down right enjoyable. But I would rather split a warm forty with a hobo in a dumpster before I paid money to be subjected to an entire afternoon ‘Booze Cruising’.

The nightlife in Sihanoukville is there for the taking.  After a day on the beach we had an encyclopedias worth of advertisements and free drink coupons. The night echos with the competing clubs, shaking the windows of your guesthouse until the wee hours of the morning. But Sally and I didn’t find ourselves fist pumping at three in the morning even once during our ten-day stay. It seems we have reached the age were we would rather enjoy a beer watching the sunset, rather than dumping that fifth can of Redbull into some vodka as the sun raises.

During our travels we have diligently been keeping up with our early morning exercises. Our time in Asia has us up earlier than we prefer in a pathetic attempt to beat the heat and sometimes our schedule crosses paths with those who think Cambodia only gets four hours of daylight. Most just stare at us groggy eyed and opened mouthed. But a few do their best to entertain both themselves and their sober audience.

On one such morning, a young 18-year-old English kid saw us doing our warm up walk. It just so happened to be in the same direction as his hotel.

English Kid: “I’ve been up alllllllll night!!!”

Sally: “Cool”

English Kid: “Yep! . . . . . You doing some exercise?”

Sally: “Yeah, just heading for a run.”

English Kid: “I bet I could beat you in a race”

We both looked the scrawny kid over and noted that not only was he having trouble walking straight, but he didn’t have any shoes on either.

English Kid: “I’m reeeeeeally fast. I bet I could beat you in a foot race. . . . But I see your not dressed properly for the occasion. . . . Shame really, I’m super quick. But I have this cut on my foot (mumbled with a tone of deep thought) ‘might slow me down a bit’. . . . (He showed us the bottom of his foot and waited for acknowledgement.)

Sally: “Oh, ouch”

English kid: “Yeah. . . But I could still beat you!”

Not needing any prompting from us, the kid took off down the street in a very awkward running style that would make Forrest Gump (when he had the braces) look like an olympic athlete. He sprinted about fifty meters with his arms flailing to his side like a chicken trying to take flight. He then came to a sudden stop, turned around, and waved at us with a huge (I told you so) smile on his face. We gave him a congratulatory wave back and began our five-mile run.

Our time in Sihanoukville was supposed to be our final relaxing moment in SEA (South East Asia) before making the journey to Australia. A place to soak up some sun and enjoy the cheap prices that we know we will be yearning for when buying our first $18 six-pack of ‘cheap’ beer in Oz. Granted, we did get a few days of R&R on the beach.  When it wasn’t raining.  But the reality of Sihanoukville was two antsy westerners itching for the creature comforts of a first world society. Thinking about catching up with family and having some stability for the first time in 9 months (Not moving every 4 to 10 days). So rather than embracing everything the area had to offer, we found ourselves turning in circles with anticipation, like a dog waiting for someone to just throw-the-fucking-ball. Whining with agonized excitement and so transfixed on what we wanted, that we couldn’t concentrate on anything else. It’s like being at work on a Friday afternoon with a long weekend coming up. Rather than keeping busy to help pass the time we just sat there and stared at the clock. Watching each second as it slowly ticked by. We both agreed that we failed Sihanoukville. We should have gone to an island, made our way to Kep, done something other than just sit, and wait (broken up with a few afternoon drinking sessions). But the anticipation had us uninterested in anything but getting the fuck out of Asia.

We did manage to do a few things productive with our down time. We worked out, saved a little cash by not partying, ate at some good restaurants, and boosted our self-esteem by making fun of other people. Because everyone knows that all it takes to feel good about yourself is to tear down someone else. With that, may I present to you my very first DATA (Dumb Ass Traveler Award) of the trip.

And the first ever DATA goes to. . . . . (drum roll) . . . . those who choose, not to wear shoes.

I initially thought this DATA went solely to a very specific type of traveler.

The Wannabe-Hippie Traveler: This traveler wants to appear as if he has walked the earth for years and gained a lifetime of knowledge. His hair is twisted in dreadlocks and feels that bathing would wash away the spirit of the road (and deodorant would cover it up). He wears the local traditional clothing (that not even the locals wear) and his wrists are covered in various types of bracelets. In a last-ditch attempt to get someone, anyone, to give a shit and ask him to share his secrets of the world. He has decided to rid himself of shoes so that his toes can feel the spirit of mother earth.

Hey dumbshit, we see that Iphone 4 blasting indie rock into your dirty ears. Your backpack cost $400 and I know you have spent eight times that on patchouli. But you want us to believe you can’t afford a fucking $5 pair of shoes? It’s not “hippie” to walk across the oil stained, trash laced, nasty cement of a city. It’s unhygienic.  Even the poorest of poor have some kind of foot protection.  What are you trying to prove?

We had watched this disgusting act several times throughout our trip. Always the exact same look/type of person. That is until we got to Sihanoukville and we discovered the Douchebag Beach Bum

There is a way to extend your travel time by picking up a few hours of work here and there. In Sihanoukville it is the promoter gig that seems to get the most applicants. They run around and pass out flyers, hype the party, and try to keep things lively by drinking themselves stupid. I am not sure if it’s the fact that they have never been to the beach?  Or they are from the beach and they think there is a particular “style” they need to keep up?But the Douchebag Beach Bum also refuses to wear shoes.

Douchebag Beach Bum: Their hair is long and unkept, their entire outfit pays homage to the 80’s (how in the fuck fashion decided to repeat that abomination, I will never understand).  They carry themselves with an unjustified swagger, that derives from their conquest of overly intoxicated new comers.  Like a fifth year senior praying on incoming freshmen.  Their feet are also stained a deep, dark, black.

Hey tool box!  You’re wearing $200 Ray-ban sunglasses and drink at least double that amount on a weekly bases.  If the wild dogs eating trash in the middle of the street and then taking a shit on the sidewalk doesn’t give you clear indication that maybe you should splurge on some flip flops.  Then the fact that just last night you were holding back some girl’s hair as she puked her ass off in the very spot where you’re standing, should make things clear.  Use some of that suntan lotion to lube up your neck.  That way it might be easier to pull your head out of your ass.

To the Wannabe-Hippie and the Douchebag Beach Bum.  We say thank you (for making us feel better about ourselves) and please, buy some fucking shoes.

Sihanoukville Photos