The Last Century Accomplished Nothing!

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I do not think that Hillary is Hitler. One politician is about the same as the other. Some, like Hitler, are simply more successful in moving society to accomplish their aims. The aims are all the same. Control of the populace in a given geo-political area for the advancement of personal power. There is nothing more to it.

There are no Great Leaders out there.

Look at the great leaders in history.

Lincoln — He kinda freed the slaves. But not really. In order to keep the South in the Union, he prosecuted a war which claimed the lives of millions. How is he different than Hitler or Stalin or FDR or Churchill or any of the Monarchs of the 17th Century.

FDR took America to war for Democracy and to save the Free World. In the end, more people were enslaved by communism than were threatened by the madness of Hitler.

Ike, JFK, LBJ took us to war in Vietnam to stop the communist dominoes from falling. In the end, those communist dominoes fell anyway. Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia all fell to communism. Indonesia became a dictatorship.  Nixon’s “peace with honor” all but ensured the fall of Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge.  Congress’ failure to support South Vietnam or Laos after our withdrawal ensured their fall to communism.  What did we accomplish except to participate in slaughter and sacrifice our citizen soldiers to madness and arrogance.

We supported the Indonesia dictator.

How were the people of Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos better off after our War of Liberation?

In Iraq, Bush “liberated” the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein only to have Obama hand those same people over to a Shi’ite despots and the Islamic madmen of the Islamic State.  All the while, we supported the Monarchy which fuels Sunni Extremism via Dollar Diplomacy.  The Wahhabis owe everything to Saudi Arabia.  The Wahhabis are ISIS, al Qaeda, al Jihad, the Muslim Brotherhood and every other Sunni Islamic Extremists group extant.

In what war has America actually helped anyone?

We defeated Germany and Japan? They went on to become economic superpowers. This would have occurred anyway. In fact, the war with Japan was over the US and Britain keeping resources away from Japan that would have allowed them to become an economic superpower. We basically warred with Japan for five years in order to destroy them so that they could recover and become exactly what we had attempted to stop them from becoming. Millions died because FDR and his economic obstructionism. Yet, FDR is a hero and Hitler is a villain.

It was the same with Germany. Britain did not want Germany to become master of the Continent. So, we warred with them twice in conflagrations which engulfed the world in flames…so that Germany could become the economic master of the Continent.

What did we accomplish with our wars?

Asia slowly recovers with Laos and Cambodia lagging and their people suffering in poverty. Vietnam is becoming a mini-economic superpower and are loosening their economic controls so that capitalists can profit. This benefits the State and the Capitalists. There is relatively little benefit to the people.

Germany is the power of the Continent.

Britain has lost it’s empire. (I suppose that’s a plus).

America is still an economic power though we are doing our best to implode.

Russia is what it has always been. The poor man of Europe and the villain of the east.

China is a burgeoning beast with the potential to ruin or save the world as it has always been.

And history begins to repeat itself.

Is war on the horizon?

It seems that Political Leaders of the World are repeating the sins of the last century even as they preach of peace. I see no peace. I see no good coming of this next few decades. If the “Great Leaders” of this coming Century are as incompetent and arrogant as those of the last, the World is doomed to simply repeat the sins of the past.  There were be Great Leaders only because they take us into Great Wars.

Where are the visionaries?  Where is our Jesus?  Our Moses?  Our Gandhi?  Where are the leaders who not only preach peace but practice it?

Can the earth survive human war or human peace?  If we war on one another with our current technology, we may make this world uninhabitable.  If we do not war and continue “peaceably,” human being will reproduce in unsustainable numbers.

There seems to be no way out.  By War or Peace, humanity’s ignorance and lack of foresight endangers itself…ensures it’s fall.  Perhaps that is not a bad thing.

Did BushCo allow bin Laden to Succeed?

Recently, a question was asked:  “Do you really believe what you are saying or do you think FDR and Bush were begging and pleading for Japan and Bin Laden to attack us so we could enter a war? Seriously?”

On the question of Japan, undoubtedly FDR was courting an attack as justification for entering the War in Europa. Anyone who has read the history of the build up to World War II knows that FDR was looking for a way to get the American people on a war footing. Embargoes are a mother!

As for bin Laden. BushCo were strangely oblivious of bin Laden prior to 9-11. I do not put it past the Gov’t and especially one guided by the likes of Cheney and Rummy to allow an attack to occur so as to “lead” the nation to war.

Why did we NEED to go to Iraq? The answer is that we DID NOT. Yet, 9-11 and the GWOT were used as an excuse to take us into that war. They definitely “shaded the truth” to get the war that they wanted.

The Spanish American War was yet another contrived war as was the Mexican War and the Vietnam War. When one looks at the Korean War, it is a war into which we either secretly goaded North Korea or into which Truman simply blundered like a blind fool.

American spheres of influence were stated loudly to the World. South Korea lay JUUUUUUUSSSSSST outside of the line. Leading NK, China and the USSR to believe that we’d stand by and do nothing.

From the internet:

In June 1950, after Secretary of State Dean Acheson declared Korea to be outside of America’s sphere of influence, the North Koreans invaded South Korea and attempted to reunify the country under communist rule. President Truman immediately declared Korea a “global police action” and attempted to drive the North Koreans out of South Korea. In fact, the United States secret larger goal in the Korean war was to defeat North Korean communism and create a unified Korea under American domination and control. Korea was supposed to be the first major effort to rollback global communism. However, communist China, feeling threatened that aggressive American actions against North Korea would be followed by American attempts to undermine Chinese communism, entered the Korean war against the United States and its South Korean ally. The Korea war quickly proved to be a deadly stalemate between the United States and communist China. Only in 1953, after President Eisenhower secretly threatened to drop atomic bombs on China, did the Chinese agree to an end to the war, leaving North and South Korea divided just as they were at the beginning of the war.

The Korean war, as many American leader later said, seem to justify America’s global crusade against Soviet communism. It convinced many Americans of the truth of the United States governments warning that the Soviet were plotting to take over the world and impose communist domination over the free world. The Korean war would further justify American creation of the “nuclear umbrella” to shield the free world from Soviet expansion. As described by Secretary of State Dean Acheson in 1949, the nuclear umbrella was the American threat to wage nuclear war against the Soviet Union if the communists threatened any country in the free world. An attack on any member of the free world, thus, would be treated as an attack against the United States, which would lead America to wage nuclear war against the aggressor.

Also, Woodrow Wilson and Harry Truman: mission and power in American foreign policy By Anne Rice Pierce PG 248 (Google Books)

As well as the following:


After World War II, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. divided Korea into spheres of influence—the Soviets backed Communist-ruled North Korea and the U.S. backed the South Korean dictatorship. Both Koreas had threatened to invade the other. When U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson declared that South Korea was no longer part of the U.S. defense perimeter in Asia, the North invaded the South.

Do I think that a US President and/or the US Political and Military Leadership are capable of allowing an attack or incident to happen so as to lead us into war? Definitely.  It’s been done several times.

REMEMBER THE ALAMO!

REMEMBER THE MAINE!

REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR!

9-11! NEVER AGAIN!

THE LUSITAINE!

FORT SUMTER! (As Lincoln stated; “The North must not be seen as the aggressor.)

The Tonkin Gulf Incident

Leaving the Koreas outside of our “sphere of influence.”

What did Madame Ambassador say to Saddam Hussein when he asked how the US would view aggression against Kuwait?

Known faulty intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq in ’03.

The War of 1812 and lust for Canada.

Hawaii, the US Marines and Dole Fruit

Gautamala and United Fruit

Nicaragua/Panama ~ We needed a Canal passage.

Pinochet ~ Nixon and Henry Kissinger

Nixon, Cambodia and Laos

Monetary Notes of the World


Unny and I had this table custom made for our new digs out in the ‘burbs.  Cost a bit, but, not too much.  It’s made from teak wood.  I wanted something in which to display the monetary notes which I’ve collected from my travels.  I only wish that I had some of the notes that are in my storage room back in the States.

There are notes in there from China, Dubai, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, India, Iran, Bahrain, Egypt, Vietnam, North Korea and a few other countries.  As well as notes from old French Indochine.  The note with the tiger is from Vietnam during the US war era.  I actually got that one from ebay.com because I thought it was cool.

There are also coins in there from all over (Japan, Malaysia, EU, England, etc).  Some old ones but mostly newer coins.  I placed my three French Indochine Silver Dollars. They’re probably counterfeit, but, I don’t care.  That actually makes them a little more interesting to me and I paid a pittance for them.  3 or 4 bucks.  Nothing to cry over.  I knew or thought that they were fakes when I purchased them.

I also placed of couple of Greco-Bactrian coins in there.  Supposedly, they’re silver and over a thousand years old.  I don’t know.  So many fakes being sold in Afghanistan these days.  Even so, those coins are supposedly a dime a dozen over there.  Chances are they’re real.  They’re not rare, though.  At least not for anyone who’s traveled in Central Asia.  They’re all over the place there.  It is said that one can find them walking out in open ground or on fields and such.  They’re that common place.  Neat little pieces of history.

The necklace is a Kuchi piece that I purchased at a bazaar in Herat.  It’s made of brass and copper with a few worthless gems thrown in for good measure.  It has an old animist relief on it.  Looks to be an old Ganesh likeness to me. I also placed my Bamian Buddha stamps in the lower right corner and four little jewelry/snuff boxes.  The two with Camels depicted on them are from Dubai and made from silver and glazed to make the camel likenesses.  The other two I purchased in Herat.  Those two are supposed to be silver as well.  Though, I doubt it.

There you have it.  My little collection of monies (and sundry items) from around the world.

Money!

I’m not a numismatists or serious collector of coins and notes.  Not by any means.  Even so, I usually grab a few notes and/or coins when I’m traveling.  The part that is cool for me is to find old money that is still in circulation.  The old Mao notes in China.  Older notes in Thailand that have an earlier version of King Bhumipol.  The notes in Cambodia that highlighted the various peoples and ethnic minorities or have varying versions of Angkor Wat and other sites. The notes used in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion, the Civil War and the Taliban eras.

These notes convey a sense of history to me.  They’re part of the fabric of the history of these lands. That fascinates me. I’ve monies of varying sorts from nearly every country that I’ve visited plus a few other notes that were gifts from the homelands of folks whom I’ve met out on the road.

These are a collection of items from Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.  The Lao and Khmer notes, I picked up in Luang Prabang, Vieng Vang and Vientiene (Laos).  The Thai notes were given to me by Unny’s parents.  She was telling them that I had a crazy fascination with money so that brought me some from her Grandfather’s house.  Some of the notes are pretty old with the oldest dating to the 1920s.

The coins are all Thai with the exception of the old French Indochine Piastres.  They are probably fakes, but, they were too cool to pass up.  I tested them as I have been instructed.  The ring test and the obverse/reverse line test.  They actually passed those test.  Even so, they were much to cheap and felt too light to be solid silver coins of that size.  Perhaps, I’ll have them checked one day.  I don’t care if they are real or not.  They look cool and that’s all I’m interested in at this point.

Wishful Thinking and the West

As for giving peace a chance, the sentiment is nice, but it does not work when your self-appointed enemy wants to kill you. Gandhi’s campaign of non-violence (often quite violent in its reality) only worked because his opponent was willing to play along. Gandhi would not have survived very long in Nazi Germany,Stalin’s Russia , Mao’s (or today’s) China , Pol Pot’s Cambodia , or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq . Effective non-violence is contractual. Where the contract does not exist, Gandhi dies.

A few pics from a recent trip

awgreenWat Arun and Angkor Wat in dramatic repose…

plus the silhouette of my beautiful girl.

I shot the Angkor Wat photos at dawn and then took the one above and photoshopped it a bit to obtain the pink, green and blue effects.  Just thought it looked cool.

The Wat Arun photos were taken at dusk.  I spent a night at the wonderful Arun Residence.  Just across the Chao Phraya from Wat Arun and only a short walk from Wat Pho and the Grand Palace.

These are just a few shots of some of my favorite places in Asia.  Hope you enjoy.  If you like ’em, leave a note.

Water Pics from Around the World

These are a few pics that I’ve taken throughout my travels.  Thailandfriends.com sponsors a monthly photo competition.  These are a few that I considered before submitting my final selection.

It’s a decent site with some cool folks.  If you get a chance, stop by and check out the photos in the competition.  Usually some decent pics on display.  Creative folks who are fairly well traveled.

Angkor and Siem Reap: The American Guide

I had been planning and putting off going to Laos since 2005.  I’d even booked a flight boarded a plane and been diverted by a cyclone.  Wound up going to Chiang Mai instead on that trip. This trip.  I hadn’t intended to go into Laos.  My intent was to stay in Cambodia a bit longer and travel upriver to Battambang and see a bit of the countryside away from the usual tourist chatter. This time, though, I decided that it was time.  I’d waited long enough for Laos and Avin decided to go with me.  But first, Angkor…

Amy, Rey and me at Bayon Temple

On my last holiday (July 2008), I had come to Siem Reap from Phnom Penh and two of my friends from the capital city had come up with me so that I could give them a tour of the Angkor temples.  A bit of a twist there.  An American giving Cambodians a tour of their own cultural treasures.  I’ve been there 6 or 7 times by now.  So I guess I know them as well as anyone.  I’ve almost seen all of the temples around Siem Reap. On these next few trips, I plan on branching out a little further and seeing some of the sites near the Thai border.  But that’s for the future.  Amy, Rey and I toured the temples.  I took them to all of the major sites.  Angkor Wat.  Bayon.  Ta Prohm.  Bakoung.  The Elephant Terrace.  The Leper King.  By that time, the unrelenting Cambodian sun had taken it’s toll.  We returned to our hotel to rest during the heat of mid-day. During the summer months of Cambodia, you have to get out of the heat at mid-day.  That sun will cook you.  I’ve stayed out in it.  But I’ve not many Cambodians who will endure it for long by choice.  I like being out at this time because there are fewer tourists out at this time.  I can be alone in the temples.  Get great pics.  Take my time.  Afterward, we went to the Temple Club.  We watched the Apsara Dance Show and had a few drinks.

The funny part of this night came after we left the Temple Club and it’s Apsara.  We walked up Pub Street to a rooftop bar at the end of the street.  Before we went up, I noticed neon lights a little further down the street.  I asked the girls if they wanted to check it out.  They agreed to come along.  When we got inside, it turned out that the bar was a Khmer version of a strip club.  No  nudity.  But dancers on a stage in skimpy outfits.  These girls were acrobatic.  I don’t think any American girls could compete with the way these girls dance.  I sat down and ordered a drink for myself.  Amy and Rey ordered a beer.  I looked around a bit uncomfortable.  Not for myself, though.  I was fine in there.  More than fine.

I need not have worried.  Amy and Rey loved the place.  They danced to the music.  They talked about the girls.  Asking me which was sexiest and prettiest.  Compared the dancing.  They applauded at the end of each dance.  We sat there and carried on and had fun.  A little later, we invited our favorite over for a drink.  I was thinking the girl would have a beer or a whiskey and coke.  She ordered a Soy Milk.  I almost fell over laughing.

It was an interesting trip.

The girls left the next day and I met Avin…

That’s another story.

Cambodia and Thailand: Will it be War?

Is this the Thai government attempt to divert the countries attention away from the PAD protests and madness?  What is going on in the Land of Smiles?  It seems to be going insane.  Between the PAD, the Muslims in the South and the Cambodian border, Thailand has become the land of division, protest and madness.

War threat If you have your ideas about this news, share it with others, here!

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered fresh troops to the border with an ultimatum to Thailand: Pull military forces back today or the border will become a “life and death battle zone”.

Hun Sen told reporters in Phnom Penh that he had warned Thailand’s visiting Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat that without a quick pullout, Thai soldiers could face being fired upon by Cambodian troops in “large-scale armed conflict”.

“If they cannot withdraw tonight, they must withdraw tomorrow,” said Hun Sen.

“We have tried to be patient, but I told the Thai foreign minister today that the area is a life-and-death battle zone.”

His comments came after talks with Mr Sompong in Phnom Penh.

Mr Sompong also met with his counterpart Hor Namhong in a bid to resolve the dispute over the area near the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

The Cambodian foreign minister said yesterday’s talks failed to end in agreement because his Thai opposite number “could not sign anything”.

Hun Sen and Hor Namhong both told reporters that Cambodia could choose to take the border dispute before an international court if it was not resolved soon.

The comments made by the Cambodian prime minister and foreign minister surprised Mr Sompong and Thai officials, who were adamant that the meetings had not been a failure.

Mr Sompong said the tone during the meetings between the two countries had been different as the Cambodian leaders agreed that both sides had to be patient in resolving the border spat.

He said no Thai troop withdrawals would be made from the 4.6 sq km overlapping area between Kantharalak district in Si Sa Ket and Preah Vihear province of Cambodia until the dispute over ownership is cleared through negotiations in the Joint Boundary Commission that was set up to demarcate the land border.

Thailand reiterated its ownership over the area, Mr Sompong said in Bangkok and rushed to report the talks to Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat.

Suranaree Task Force commander Maj-Gen Kanok Netrakavaesana will hold talks with his Cambodian counterpart tomorrow on the border issues and the Thai and Cambodian defence ministers will meet next Tuesday , according to Mr Sompong.

Cambodian Deputy Defence Minister Gen Neang Phat said more Cambodian troops were heading to the area after up to 500 Thai soldiers had tried to cross the border near an ancient Hindu temple that is claimed by both countries.

“We are building up our troops at the border in response to Thailand, but I cannot reveal the number,” he told reporters.

Maj-Gen Srey Deok, who oversees the Cambodian military in the disputed area, said: “Thai troops have already entered the area. They are confronting our troops.”

But Maj-Gen Kanok denied that more troops had been sent to the disputed area near the Preah Vihear temple.

Thailand and Cambodia have 10 soldiers each at the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda near the Preah Vihear temple and 45 around the compound on joint patrol, according to the agreement between the two countries to ease border tension.

The two countries also have back-up troops near the border.

The number of soldiers there remained unchanged, Maj-Gen Kanok said.

Maj-Gen Kanok slammed Cambodia for distorting information and taking advantage of the political crisis in Thailand to launch an offensive move for its own political benefit.

The Suranaree chief, his patience wearing thin, called for a quick solution to the border spat and a clear direction to be provided by the government as it could become an armed conflict if it was left unsettled.

“I want the government to solve this problem and make it clear what to do. If it is left this way, nobody knows what is going to happen,” he said.

Tensions between Thailand and Cambodia first flared in July after the Preah Vihear temple was awarded World Heritage status by the World Heritage Committee.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple belongs to Cambodia, but the surrounding land remains in dispute.

Tensions escalated into a military confrontation in which up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops faced off for six weeks.

The two countries have swapped accusations of violating each other’s territory in the dispute.

(with Agency reports)

Prassat Preah Vihear

Suvarnabhumi Airport Opening Video (2005)

My gateway to Southeast Asia.

It’s the nicest, most organized Airport that I’ve experienced.  Easy in and easy out.

I don’t feel like I’m entering or leaving a Nazi concentration camp as when entering or exiting America.  There is organization and a flow to this airport that does not exist in any of the Muslim countries of the Middle East and Central Asia.  And unlike entering and exiting the Middle East there aren’t thousands with their hands out for tips and bribes.  It’s much less hectic than the European airports through which I’ve flown.

As soon as I touch down at Suvarnabhumi, a smile creeps onto my face and a lightness enters my step.  I’m happy.  I’m home.  I feel more at home in Bangkok than almost anywhere on this planet.

I am entering the land of smiles.  And the land of smiles is the gateway to the East.  The true east.  Not the dirty and violent Islamic Middle East.  This is the enchanted land of myth, silk, smiles and exotic Asian mysteries.  Angkor, Luang Prabang, Sukhothai, Saigon, Phnom Penh, Xi’an, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Mekong, Lhasa and Katmandu, the Taj Mahal and the Ganges.  Ancient histories.  A region shrouded in myst and legend.  The home of the the great conqueror Genghis Khan and the religion and philosophical enlightenment of the Buddha.

It’s also home to the most beautiful beaches and women in the world.

Every time I land at Suvarnabhumi International, these thoughts run through my head.  My next adventure awaits me.  I’ll swim the Mekong and climb the Great Wall.  Explore ancient temples or dance all night at RCA.

I love this place.  Thailand uber alles.

Prassat Preah Vihear

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This is the disputed angkorean temple called Preah Vihear on the Cambodian-Thai border.  There have been a few small clashes between Thai and Khmer forces over the land in this area.  A few Cambodians have been killed by Thai soldiers.

Next trip to Cambodia/Thailand, I am going to see this place if I can.  Look at the Temple and the area.  Magnificent.  Beautiful.

And, a bit dangerous:

In the guidebook, Adventure Cambodia, published at the end of 2000, the trek to Preah Vihear from Choam Khsan town is described as follows:-

Along the way to the mountain temple, you will notice pieces of vehicles hanging from up in the trees here and there from unfortunate souls that hit a landmine. It’s an eerie reminder in this peaceful and uninhabited forest area of the deadly devices that are still lurking about this area in big numbers. The soldiers at the base camp are a friendly lot that will allow you to park your bike at their camp while you hike up to the temple and you can figure that the bike will still be there when you return. It’s not required but it’s a real nice gesture to give these underpaid guys a few thousand riel to watch your bike – good insurance and you will make some friends. It’s a good idea to have your moto guy or a soldier lead the way on the winding upward climb to the temple. The mountain is riddled with landmines and while, if you follow the golden rule for Cambodia – always stay on worn pathways and roadways – you will be okay, there are intersecting pathways, where it’s difficult to figure out which way to go. I did the hike alone but there was some question on which path to follow at a couple of spots.

A favorite photo

I met this little gal outside of Angkor Wat in July.  She was selling bottles of water and cans of beer and coke.  I stood and talked to her and was snapping photos of everything around me.  Later.  When I got to my hotel room and downloaded the photos.  I saw this one.  She is so beautiful.  Her face is full of wonder and life.  She is Cambodia.

It is hot in Herat!

Hot as hell. Walking outside is like walking into a blast furnace. In 6 days, I will begin the journey that takes me home to my Momma and then on to Asia.  I am so so looking forward to rolling out of here. 9 Days at home to visit my Momma and some of the rest of my family.

Then…

Off to Bangkok for some real fun. Two days there to relax and become acclimated to Asia.

Next stop is Cambodia. Something about that place that I love. I want to explore a bit more. Go deeper into the place. Go a little off the beaten path. I’ll probably spend about 8 days in Cambodia. Two in Phnom Penh and 6 or so in and around Siem Reap. Must see Angkor again, of course. I want to get away and see Battambang and other places that don’t get the usual tramp of tourism. See what I can out there. Just gotta be careful. Landmines out there in the wilds of Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge were as ugly as the Soviets and Taliban when it came to emplacing landmines.

My buddy Becca will join me when I get back to Bangkok and then it’s off to India and on to Egypt. Two of the most exotic locales on the planet. Pyramids and Tah Mahals. Moghuls and Khans and Pharaohs. Perhaps, we should leave early and take a side trip into Jerusalem. I’ve been to Jerusalem before. It’s one of those places where you can feel humanity and the ages speaking to you. History wails through the cracks in the Western Wall. The legend of Christ can be felt there. His pain and his love for humanity. The oppression of both the Roman and Islamic Empire can be felt still floating through the air. The victims still cry for justice. You can smell the blood that has been spilt. Feel the rage of the rebellions and revolutions. Jerusalem is truly a special city. It’s a magnitude of “exceptionality” that one can not comprehend until one has experienced the City of Peace. Likewise, visiting the Pyramids is extraordinary. Thousands of years of history. One follows a multitude of pilgrims to Ghiza, Saqqara and Memphis. Millions of Egyptians look to the Pyramids with pride. Knowing that their country, their culture produced such wonders in antiquity. I’m sure it makes them feel as though they can rise and do so again. With leadership and true philosophy, I’m sure that they could. But Egypt, like the rest of the Muslim world, will do nothing again until they throw off the mind numbing shackles of Islam. Islam where Insha’allah prevails as the philosophy of progress.

India. Who can truly summarize the Golden Continent of Gandhi. All great Empires of the old age coveted this realm of spice and riches and magic exoticism. Beauty and uncommon wealth are ubiquitous on the subcontinent. Yet, dwelling in the house of beauty and affluence is their stepsisters poverty, famine and death. I have read much of India but have yet to experience it. I shall on this journey for the first time. Hopefully, more trips will follow and I will get to know India well.

I still can’t believe how hot it is here today. I don’t want to step outside my door. I don’t remember the Sinai being this hot. I feel like the Sun is a mere inch from my face while outside my door. Scorching my skin. Incinerating my nose and ears. Yet, January saw the worst blizzard Herat had seen in decades. 2 feet of snow. Freezing temperatures.

And I thought Kentucky weather was insane.

I read in the news that Kobe has choked again. Kobe will never be the great player. He will always be the one who could have been. The one who should have been. Too much was given to Bryant. He hasn’t learned that sometimes one has to take the prize. Reach out and make it so. He still thinks that he deserves the prize. No one deserves anything. One achieves or one does not. Kobe does not. His instinct is now and will always be to expect to win. He has not learned that he must keep fighting until the last ounce of sweat has been sacrificed. He still hasn’t learned that he can’t do it alone. He still hasn’t learned that leadership is a full time job. Not a sometimes job. He settles for the question when he should drive to certainty.

Therefore, another Kentucky boy will get a ring.

Go Rondo! Go Celtics!

The Killing Fields of Cambodia

“Chea, how come good doesn’t win over evil?” young Chanrithy Him asks her sister, after the brutal Khmer Rouge have seized power in Cambodia, but before hunger makes them too weak for philosophy. Chea answers only with a proverb: When good and evil are thrown together into the river of life, first the klok or squash (representing good) will sink, and the armbaeg or broken glass (representing evil) will float. But the broken glass, Chea assures her, never floats for long: “When good appears to lose, it is an opportunity for one to be patient, and become like God.”

from the book When Broken Glass Floats by Chanrithy Him

Cambodia. Pol Pot– Brother Number 1. The Khmer Rouge. Infamous for the “killing fields.” Brought to the notice of the West by the movie which shares the name. Cambodia is synonymous with these fields, with death, with genocide on a massive scale. The Khmer Rouge were the authors of this tragedy. Turning children into murderers. Turning the “base people” against the “new people.” Turning children against their parents. But Cambodia is more than this tragedy.

Cambodia is much more than that stretch of time dominated by the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot. Cambodia is the beauty of the Apsara. The nobility of Jayavarman VII. The majesty and antiquity of Angkor. The power of the Mekong, Tonle and Bassac rivers. The smiles of it’s carefree peoples. Jungles and forests and elephants and monkeys. Even so, a visit to Cambodia can never be complete without the reminder of the desolation and carnage that communism wrought upon the soul of the peoples of Cambodia.

The evils of Tuol Sleng. The Killing Fields. Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot. Democratic Kampuchea. The dark history that is enshrined at Cheung Ekh along with it’s victims.

Cheung Ekh is a foreboding place. It is a stroll into madness and the heart of evil. I could feel the past there . The sadness that bled into the ground with the blood of it’s victims. The blood that swells just beneath the sod. The evil that consumed the people of Cambodia under the guiding hand of Pol Pot. It’s victims caught in an eternal and silent plea for justice. A justice that will never be realized. Those skulls stare at you.  Forever questioning how such a peaceful people could be turned into the tool of genocide by a mad prophet of death and destruction.

Cambodia’s notorious Brother Number One. The leader of the evil red revolution and murderer of millions. He died before he could be brought to justice.

Walking through the killing fields of Cambodia is horrifying. Yet, it’s fascinating. As I strolled through Cheung Ehk, I read the signs posts and literature. Tears welled up in my eyes. I felt a hand wrap around my heart. My stomach knotted up. My pulse raced. Walking through those fields, one’s soul joins the millions of victims in silent protest. One can feel their screams, the pain, the anger, the outrage. Surely, justice must come. It will not.

There is no justice. It is estimated that anywhere from 1.2 to 2.2 Million Cambodians died at the hands of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. Cities, villages and families were decimated. So many lives ended. Stolen. Human history unwritten, obliterated.

The motto of the Khmer Rouge as regards the “New People”: “To keep you is no benefit. To destroy you is no loss.”

The base people were the people of the villages. The new people were city dwellers. In 1976, the Khmer Rouge evacuated all of the cities of Democratic Kampuchea. And as the Jungle reclaimed the land, the Khmer Rouge destroyed a people. Their first victims were the literate. The educated. Being in possession of glasses was enough to prove guilt. As with all of the “great proletariat” revolutions, the Khmer Rouge soon ran out of victims outside of the party and fell upon itself with equal zeal. Killing for the sake of killing. Murder became the great tool by which Pol Pot could purge the people of the evil of capitalism and turn back time. Erase history. Start from a new, pristine point without the corruptions of the West.

He would save the people by destroying them. A novel idea shared by many in the lands of Islam today. The leaders of Islam share this vision. They would set the world on fire to save us from what? Hell. Create a hell on earth to save us from hell in the afterlife. There is nothing new in this. It is the same act of the murderous tyrant and his minions throughout history.

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“Dance is our national soul”

The fine–boned young princess, clad in silk and glittering jewels, performed beneath the stars on the open pavilion within the palace walls, accompanied by the Royal dance troupe and the “pinpeat” orchestra: Gongs, drums, xylophones, horns and stringed instruments. Selected by her grandmother, Queen Sisowath Monivong Kossomak Neary Rath Vattana, to become a dancer when she was only a baby. She toured the world as the “white Apsara” or principal dancer of the classical Cambodian ballet – a stunningly graceful, 2000 year–old blend of sinuous hand gestures and sinuous body movements, all deep with meaning. Responsible for its rebirth, she became the symbol of classical Khmer dancing, dormant since the 15th Century, when the glory of Angkor faded and with it the Khmer cultural dominance of Southeast Asia. In reviving the classical dance, Queen Kossomak and Princess Buppha Devi brought the dance not only to the world but also –for the first time- to the Cambodian people. In the past, the classical dance was the Royal dance, performed only before Royalty to commemorate their dynastic ancestors and to honor the gods.

As in the old days, technical training is given in the morning and regular schooling takes place in the afternoon. Although now retired from professional dancing, today at age 53 Princess Buppha Devi continues to dazzle audiences through her work as director of the 300 dancers who belong to the modern Royal ballet. Today, Apsara-dancing performances are no longer relegated to the gods and kings. Performances can been seen at the major hotels, and at Chatomuk Theater near the Royal Palace. With the tinkling of xylophones and a euphony of gongs and drums, the Apsara dancers, dressed in their tightly fitted silk tunics embroidered in gold and silver, barefoot but with elaborate headdresses, and outstretched arms symbolizing the naga and glistening with jewelry, enter the stage to perform with incredible grace. Dancing holds great significance for the Khmer people and the government considers the Royal ballet in particular to be a national treasure. Princess Buppha Devi , along with the Ministry of Culture, helping to ensure that its traditions will flourish in the next century. As Proeung Chhieng firmly believes, “Dance is our national soul”.

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A little more about one of my favorite experiences in Asia. If you ever find yourself in Cambodia, don’t miss this. You will not be disappointed. Your heart and your soul will thank you.

The Mekong River — Life Blood of Southeast Asia

The Mekong flows an estimated 4,880 km (3,032 mi) from the Tibetan Plateau through Yunnan (China) province, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and finally Vietnam. It is the lifeblood of thousands of Asian folks who live at the mercy and benevolence of this great river. It’s name in Thai–Mae Khong–means “mother of all rivers.” Interesting note about the Mekong is that it flows backward at certain times of the year. This is because the low tide level of the river in Cambodia is lower than the high tide level out at sea. Therefore the flow of the Mekong inverts with the tides throughout its stretch in Vietnam and up to Phnom Penh. I’ve travelled the river at low tide and high tide. It’s a much more comfortable ride at high tide. I can attest to this. lol

I’ve travelled the Mekong River in both directions. The first time I floated down river to Chau Doc, Vietnam on my way to Saigon. I’ve actually done this twice. Once alone and once with a friend in the video above. I, also, took the boat up from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap two times. These are beautiful, scenic and quite peaceful journeys. Well, once you get to the point where the boat engines drone themselves out. haha Each journey lasts anywhere from 6 to 8 hours. Depending on your boats engine, river level, customs if you are taking the Phnom Penh to Vietnam route and any inconvenience such as a breakdown that might occur.

On my second trip from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, our boat stalled out in the middle of the Tonle Sap lake for about 30 minutes. We sat in the middle of this huge lake and spun in place as the boat operators worked on their engine. Finally, they got it started and we proceeded for another hours journey.

The first time I journeyed from Phnom Penh to Saigon was during the rainy season. About noon, a downpour and winds came on so strong and so swiftly that I feared our boat might not last the day. But as swiftly as it came on, it left and the sun came out and produced a series of rainbows so large and beautiful as I’ve never seen elsewhere.

Neither video nor pictures can do the Mekong justice. It is a magnificent river. A mighty river. Beauty and life abundant. Each journey is magical and unique in it’s own right.

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A restaurant in Phnom Penh overlooking the confluence of the three rivers — Mekong, Bassac, Sap. Life on the river. Many of the people along the river live in these boats. Others in stilt houses along the shore.

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From blue skies to dark clouds in seconds. The storm descended on us like a falcon after it’s prey. And as fast as it caught us, it left us with sunny skies and a rainbows promise.
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That first journey into Vietnam had me a little nervous. I was flying solo and blind. Just let out on a whim. I had visions of communist guards standing vigilant over the border keeping capitalists out and the poor Vietnamese in. The customs officials were dour little men vigilant over their papers. As far as keeping people in or out, they were concerned only that you had the proper stamp on the proper form and make sure you pay the border tax of 1,500 Viet Dong. About 13 Cents. The Vietnamese that I met seemed quite content in their conservative capitalist-socialist society and I enjoyed my stay so much that I returned a week later. Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon as the locals still defiantly refer to it is a vibrant city. It’s growing by leaps and bounds. There is a “new city” with million dollar homes. There is a fairly large ex-pat community near the Rex Hotel and Ho Chi Minh Park. The club scene is fairly raucous. You can have a great time in Saigon.

Before you get to the glorious, rockin’ funhouse that is Saigon, you have to take a 6 hour mini-bus ride. I didn’t know this was the case. Seems they glossed over this part of the torture trail. We land at Chau Doc. I get off the boat with absolutely no idea what to do next. All I have is a backpack and a Khmer shoulder bag. I just take off in the general direction of the city figuring that eventually I will see something that I recognize. I need to change money (USD to Vietnamese Dong). Eventually, I make out what is a bank. It’s got an ATM machine in front of it that only works with Vietnamese cards. That doesn’t do me a whole lot of good. I walk inside and thankfully one of the managers speaks English. I get my money exchanged and ask for directions to a decent hotel. When I walk outside, I find that one of the Sampan drivers had followed me. He tells me that he’ll take me to a good Hotel. I tell him ok. But first, I want a beer.

Next stop after the hotel is a massage. I tell the sampan dude to take me to get a massage. We drive down the road. He takes me into a store front with about ten girls sitting around. None of them taller than 5’0. One of them takes me to a semi-enclosed cubicle like space and motions for me to take off my clothes. Once I’ve got my clothes off and a towel on and am laying on the table. She jumps up on the table and on top of me and proceeds to give me the best massage I have ever had….with her feet. This little girl who looked like an angel and couldn’t have weighed more than 80 pounds walked up and down my body and had me in heaven for a good hour. All at the cost of 5 dollars US.

The next morning, I get up. Get dressed and wait for my bus to pick me up and take me to Saigon. I should have seen it coming when they gave me a motion sickness bag. I swear driving on those roads was more turbulent than flying through a hurricane at tree top level in a Huey swiflty running out of fuel. The elderly lady seated next to me spent most of the trip empty her stomach into her baggy. Finally, I handed her mine. She smiled sweetly and proceeded to fill it as well. By the time we were finished with that leg of the trip, the poor woman had to be dehydrated. We stop for lunch about two hours from the city. After lunch, we proceed on our journey.

Two hours later, we’re in the city at the central bus station. Everyone and their Momma has the perfect place for me to stay. Cheap cheap, too. Luckily, I’ve already arranged for nice digs. I jump on a moto-taxi and 20 minutes later, I”m at Thi Sach Street in front of the Mogambo Hotel. Lani greets me and it’s like coming home. Lani is like a Vietnamese mother. Telling me how to stay out of trouble. Teasing me about the girls in the bar.

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One place that every tourist in Saigon hits is Apocalypse Now. The infamous club named after the the movie. Every time I go there, I get a few drinks and then call Terry, Jonathan and Rick. It’s such a surreal experience. After you get your fill in Apocalypse Now, head out to the backpaker district and hang out til the sun comes up at the Go 2 Bar. It’s got a bar downstairs and a dance floor on the second floor. Third floor is the bathrooms and a balcony where you can watch all the drunks down on the street. There is also a Heart of Darkness Bar in Saigon. But it’s a teen hangout. Mostly ex-pat kids. The real Heart of Darkness [club] is in Phnom Penh. Complete with gunfights, gangsters and rich Khmer socialites out for a night on the town. Be advised. Don’t mix it up with the Khmer kids in Phnom Penh. You might get the upper hand at first, but, they’ll come back with guns blazing. I mixed it up with one fella in Siem Reap. The girl I was with made me leave the club. Telling me over and over. “He bring dangerous.”

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Of course, there are always the children. And if you aren’t overly sensitive, you can always put on your Vietnamese shirt and cruise down the Mekong Delta looking every bit the tourist. I’ve been to Saigon 3 times. Each time was as fun as the last. Each an adventure rife with memories.