A Very Dragon Christmas!

The Dragon
The Dragon Royal Apartments have recently been renamed La Lune (The Moon) Angkor Condominiums. Everyone still calls the seven story building “The Dragon.” I am The Dragon’s newest resident in Room 310.
The Dragon is in the village of Treang. “Village” here does not mean the same thing as it does in New England or India. There are many so-called villages that are part of the city of Siem Reap. Most of us would more likely refer to these as urban neighborhoods.
Things are about to improve drastically on the health and relaxation fronts now that I have moved into The Dragon. There is less traffic, noise, and air pollution here than in downtown. What there is of it has a chance to dissipate a bit before it gets to the third floor. Treang Village has a narrow river running through it. The river runs right in front of the apartment building. It is just wide enough to foster tree growth. Trees are a great complement to human respiratory systems. They eat carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Hot air brings that oxygen from the top of the second floor, where much of the tree canopy is, up to my third-floor window.
From the seventh floor roof top swimming pool, the view makes it obvious that there are more trees in this neighborhood than the main downtown has seen in at least fifty years. I finally find a market where lettuce, tomatoes, and red bell peppers are available. There is hot water in the building.
In general, more things work in this neighborhood than in the short-term tourist area. Folks here rent by the month and often stay for years. They are less likely to be satisfied with amenities that aren’t amenities than someone in a hurry to see Angkor Wat for the last time before rushing to catch a plane back to Europe.
Looking out my new kitchen window from the angle I’m sitting at, all I can see is thick green jungle, half a stucco house, its red ceramic roof tiles, and hundreds of dragonflies zipping around in helter-skelter patterns while they snap small bugs out of the air. Their organized chaos reminds me of Grand Central Station. Their flight patterns may look schizophrenic to the casual observer, but these guys know where they are going and what they are doing.

My First Full Day In The Dragon Neighborhood
Early Morning Exercise On The Dragon Roof
In early morning the breeze is still cool enough to send the dragonflies scurrying for sunny spots. Days will average eighty-five to ninety-five degrees for the next three months of “cool” season, but nights occasionally get down to what seems like a very chilly sixty.
There is a bustling city beneath and on all sides that came to life hours ago, but that is hard to tell from this angle. From this birds eye view, trees varying from ten to fifty feet high seem to make parts of the city disappear under dense jungle. Several pagoda shaped roofs manage to poke their curved tiles and pointy spires through the lush vegetation. Some are houses. Some are schools. Others are businesses and temples. A few radio towers join them. A loudspeaker to the left blares lilting Asian music. Straight ahead are the voices of fifty or so young school children chanting a recitation in unity. The traffic noise is apparent, as are clouds of smoke from the trash burns.
Main Street
The new neighborhood’s Main Street is called River Road and aptly runs on either side of the Siem Reap River. The river is narrow, shallow, and muddy with stone bridges about thirty yards in length running across it. The bridges are about a quarter mile apart from each other. Some are very ornately carved on either flank in the shape of a singular red cobra or dragon that runs for their entire length! Some are plain off-white concrete structures.
One of the cleanest and most beautiful bits of jungle in the neighborhood is the Peace Café. It sits about a half mile up the road and across the river from The Dragon. The restaurant is set back off the street a bit and composed of seating areas on either side of the concrete walkway that runs through it. The walkway is defined by a row of thirty foot tall palm trees on either side of it. The right side seating area is Asian style, with two foot elevated platforms and four comfy looking cushions around a table elevated two feet higher than, and sitting centered on, the platform. The left side seating area has standard comfortable Western tables and chairs. Gorgeous exotic fresh flowers of various purples and oranges grace each table. The place is spotless and the servers are in uniforms. As soon as a customer sits down, the server arrives with a smiling face and a cold, wet, mentholated towel to refresh that customer.
The food is some of the best in Southeast Asia or anywhere else. The Peace Café it strictly vegetarian. They don’t even use eggs. But they can make a vegetable dish taste like anything, including a version of the nationally famous Amok fish that rivals the original. They also offer meditation classes.
If this sounds more like a fancy uptown restaurant than an ordinary mom-and-pop place, you are right. The prices reflect it. But that only means that a two dollar meal costs four dollars. It is worth it. Their atmosphere, as well as their food, reflect the value of the place.
There is a card displaying a wisdom saying on each table at the Peace Café. Here is a sampling.
If you are depressed, you are a living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.
There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.
If you want peace, stop fighting. If you want peace of mind, stop fighting with your thought.
Death Defying Dragon Drivers
I grew up in New York City and have since been in major metropolitan areas all over the world. Cambodian drivers are by far and away the craziest and bravest I have ever seen. The fact that half the population doesn’t die daily in traffic accidents is a miracle. Tuk-tuks, motorbikes, some cars and the occasional truck weave in and out of each other with a very reckless abandon. It is common to see someone driving on the wrong side of the road as if it is their personal one-way street and the opposing traffic is part of a video game obstacle course. Like Grand Theft Auto, they seem to treat the driving process as a serious form of entertainment as opposed to a potentially dangerous form of transportation. Rules are fluid. Folks have no trouble bending them. I have seen tuk-tuks going north while motorbikes go south in the same lane as a car tries to use the same space to go from east to west. The situation is comparatively tame but still prevalent in the urban neighborhood I have just moved into. Downtown is flat-out batshit crazy. Looking both ways before crossing may not be enough.
Laughing Girl
A few blocks walk from the Peace Café is a free standing hut restaurant with seventy-five cent coconuts. They chop the top off and stick a straw in one for me. A few blocks past that is a stand with a dozen kinds of natural juices, Half of them are made from fruits I have never heard of before. I get the Aloe Vera.
Downing both juices gives a vitamin rush.
I have been taking heavy vitamins and supplements for decades and am concerned about not being able to continue them. Again, all the money in the world doesn’t help if you are in a place that doesn’t stock what you want to buy. But it is becoming obvious that there’s almost no reason for concern. Much of the (unfried) food here is medicine. There is a lot of turmeric to substitute for my usual Curcumin. There are fruit drinks with giant chunks of Aloe Vera in them that will not only substitute for but improve upon the spoonfuls of it I was taking daily in America from plastic bottles. Many other mushrooms, fruits, and vegetables with medicinal effects are a regular part of the Khmer diet. Everything grows all the time. Freshness is not a problem. After a little more local education, I should be able to stop looking far afield for things that are right under my nose.
On a side street several blocks past the Peace Café, I spy a thirty foot tall, ornately carved, stone gateway. This is usually a sign that there is a temple, probably with an elementary school attached to it, behind that gateway. Getting closer affords a view of three orange-robed monks walking in the distance behind a hundred screaming children at play in a schoolyard. The gate itself is an incredible piece of art containing a lot of carved scroll work as well as figures of goddesses, elephants, and crocodiles. If a singular craftsman of his day did this, it may have taken a whole lifetime to finish.
I wander past a hectic schoolyard full of the sweet, noisy chaos of happy children into the serene silence of the temple/monk residence section. Wandering into a small side temple gives a big surprise. Half of it is cordoned off into sections of orange robes hung over rope lines acting as room dividers. Three or four monks are actually living in this shrine!
The main temple was bigger but still spotless and beautiful, as most are. It is considered a blessing to clean the temple. Monks and locals alike take care of the area. After a half hour of meditating and assorted mind wandering in the temple, I go back to the school area to write up some notes. There are a few stone steps behind a woman selling ice cream from a cart. She has a crying three-year-old daughter with her.
Many times, all that children need is to be distracted from their crying for just a minute in order to completely forget what they were crying about in the first place. (It can work with whining adults too.) I stroke the child’s hand while giggling and smiling at her. She starts giggling back. Giggles turn into uproarious laughter and the kid is on a roll. I’m ready to play and start laughing and smiling right back at her. A half-dozen kids waiting for ice cream think this is hilarious. They start laughing along with us. This goes on for a full twenty minutes while I sit on the steps making notes. Every few minutes the baby takes break. As soon as she catches her breath and starts laughing again, I give her a big smile and laugh back, and whoever is waiting for ice cream breaks into laughter as well.
At six feet and two inches tall, I may be the biggest, whitest thing this kid has ever seen. She may be one of the sweetest people I have ever met.
Local Market
The local neighborhood market is a miniature version of the downtown Night Market, but with a very noticeable lack of bars and massage parlors. There is a lot more concentration on food, clothing, and cosmetics. Cosmetics are a big thing in Cambodia.
This is a neighborhood venue that caters to some long-term tourists, but mostly to locals with families. It is only a few blocks from the school. Very fresh produce, meat, and live fish are available. The live fish sit on wet tables until someone buys them. At one of these fish tables, two live ones jump off the table and onto the floor right in front of me—and start walking down the floor! I shit you not. The fish has feet! There are no toes but where a dog or cat’s front legs would be, there are flipper/feet type appendages that allow the fish to actually walk.
After my short trip through the market for some footless fish, noodles, and greens, a tuk-tuk takes me back to The Dragon. I pull the former tenant’s sealing tape off the window and open it for some air circulation. Through the open window I hear a familiar chanting. There are orange robes hanging on a clothesline a few buildings away. The way the streets curve and squirrel around in this neighborhood, it may take a while to find the place, but it seems there may be a temple near my back yard.
Up On The Roof
I have been sitting next to the swimming pool on the roof, looking out over the jungle while writing up today’s happenings. I can’t fuggin believe how gorgeous everything is! It can be dirty, strange, polluted, hotter than the devil’s nut sack, and certainly not for the faint of heart—but it is absolutely beautiful and the people are wonderful.
I am drinking my first pumpkin juice. It’s a real thing here! I’m up on the roof watching a beautiful red sunset. The sun spreads crimson through the trees on one side of the sky as the full moon glows on the already darker side. The sun is losing ground to the city lights below. It is understandably tired. It shed a lot of light today.
WHAT I HAVE LEARNED SO FAR
This trip has, so far, brought me almost exactly half way around the world from where I started. It has been great fun, adventure, experience, and offered wonderful insights into different cultures. But it hasn’t taught me much about humanity that I didn’t already know. It has confirmed a lot that I already suspected.
People everywhere and anywhere are a lot more similar than different. Most are trying to be decent and happy, but all have different definitions of what “decent” and “happy” mean. There are a small number of seriously self-centered assholes, but even they are also just hunting happiness in their own warped fashion.
The nice people can be awfully cruel at times. Cruel people are occasionally nice.
No one gets out alive but most folks act as if death only happens to other people. There is very little real consciousness of mortality going on.
Actually, there is precious little consciousness going on at all. Folks seem to do a lot of life habitually and without any deep awareness of their thoughts or actions. Very few realize how many choices they have. Many folks seem busier strangling life’s opportunities with irrelevant and often inaccurate historical misinformation than are actually taking advantage of those opportunities. They don’t realize that a lot of what is called tradition turns out to be no more than peer pressure from dead people, and that it lacks any valuable or even real substance. They seem swept away by the current of life, like a body trapped in the current of a wide river. They don’t realize that there are banks on both sides of any river that we can swim to, climb ashore, and find golden new possibilities waiting for us.
Most people have been hypnotized by the commercial, religious, and political nuances of their culture into believing that their remedy is somewhere outside of themselves. Those misleading nuances, like the people themselves, are more similar than different no matter what culture they travel through.
Many folks get trapped for a lifetime in these external pursuits of well-being. Few realize that all solutions are within. Many are aware that there is something wrong but just can’t figure out what that something is.
The historical Buddha is often misquoted as having said that “Life is suffering.” But the word “dukkha” that he used is more accurately translated as “dislocated” or “out of joint,” in the manner of a dislocated shoulder or collarbone. Many folks give lip service to the well-known fact that love is the answer. They mouth it often. They feel it a little more on Sundays and at Christmas, but have trouble putting it into consistent application during the rest of their week—and the rest of their living. They know where the best stuff is but are disjointed, dislocated from it.
Pain will happen in life but suffering is often optional, or at least adjustable. Reconnecting with The Bigger Thing eliminates the dislocation from it. That re-established connection often supersedes and modifies the previous connection to suffering. It doesn’t matter whether one tags the “Bigger Thing” as Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Xenon the Invader, The Field, The Force, or Self. Drive any car you want that will get you to the destination. Regardless of which teacher or system is used, the quality of attention paid by the student is a good deal more important than who the teacher is. Consciousness needs to be intentionally tuned in to and is therefore, on several levels, self-consciousness.
More people every day are starting to realize that we are at a crucial point in history. They can figure out later that those tag systems were almost all symbolic and very little was literal. They can wait just a bit to come to grips with the fact that they have to do the internal work in order to enjoy more humane qualities, not wait for someone or something supernatural to do it for them. But Earth is very near immediate-crisis mode. Even paying serious attention to a truly positive “belief” can do nicely as a vehicle on the road to improving life right now, saving the environment as soon as possible, and an objectively sound wisdom in the future.
That wisdom in the future will include the courage to simply say, “I don’t know.” Admitting that we don’t know a lot of things will eliminate the need for blindly believing in unfounded, unrealistic stories that dead people made up a long time ago. Believing in fairytales can give us a false sense of an actually nonexistent security. It disfigures objective reality.
Many of these stories were control devices designed to tame and civilize, or intimidate and rule, unruly populations. Others may well have been meant symbolically and are still brilliant metaphorical lessons. But history shows that over a period of centuries, a lot of material that was meant to be metaphorical got concretized, bent to individual purposes, and sloppily translated. Look what happens in three minutes to a message running through a chain of ten kids playing Telephone! Give that process a couple of dozen centuries, or even months, and what fragments of the original message remain may no longer have any resemblance to the actual original message. It gets even worse in some cases. Add a narcissistic monarch of the world’s biggest empire to a sexual identity crisis accompanying a bad attitude toward women, multiplied by millennia of elapsed time since the original message. One has to wonder how much of the actual spirit of the Judeo and especially the Christian message King James got into his bible translation.
The good part is that everybody wants to get love and life right, even if they are not consciously aware of it. That desire may see very little practical application in the modern world at times, but an increasing number of folks are realizing that they do want to be improved, happier, nicer versions of themselves. Many are searching. There is hope.
Every day, I see more people waking up. But also every day, another poor jackass is born and hypnotized from birth to think his life is so important that yours doesn’t matter at all. These are the guys who manufacture the separations that keep humanity from becoming itself. Things like sexual, religious, national, and ethnic differences are given such great importance in the physical/material world! There is nothing, in mundane existence, wrong with the pleasures that these differences afford. There is not much wrong with the limited feeling of inclusion that these little clubs we belong to can give us—as long as they’re not at the expense and degradation of any other little club. But these likes, dislikes, preferences, accidents of birth, and so on have no place in the world of consciousness, and it is insane to let them overpower the total inclusiveness that pure consciousness entails.
I have seen a lot of human inconsistency everywhere while traveling around the world. There doesn’t seem any sense in being an optimist or a pessimist. I’m a realist. It appears that we can go either way. Everything can work out just fine or humanity can become extinct in short order. Most folks are nice. Everything depends on whether those nice folks can muster the inspiration, power, and intelligence to make the few nastier people see reason. That’s going to take some doing because in order to help anyone else do that job efficiently, the nice folks will first have to do a version of it on themselves. The mechanics of The Bigger Thing dictate that things work the way Gandhi did.
A mother came to The Mahatma and asked him to get her sugar-addicted child off the sugar. Gandhi told her to come back in two weeks with the boy. She did. Mahatma talked to the boy and the child stopped eating sugar from that day on. The mother asked, “Why did you have me wait two weeks?” Gandhi answered, “Two weeks ago, I was on sugar!”
The nice folks will also have to be careful to not become just like those nasty people. It happens sometimes. People have often killed tyrants and then become tyrants. Revolution, by dictionary definition, means you end up back where you started from. Evolution, on the other hand, puts your way of living somewhere else.”Somewhere else” would, in almost every nonphysical sense, be a good place for all of humanity to move to—especially that nastier fraction of humanity.
We are a unit. Whether you are basically nice or nasty, like man or woman ass, are born black or white, or are from the Eastern or Western hemisphere, we now have no functional choice but to realize the depth of what the American patriot Patrick Henry said in the 1770s. Regarding action against England, he advised his compatriots that “we must hang together or we will surely hang separately.” Now that we are facing the extinction of the human species on so many fronts—environmental, warrior/political/nuclear, a potentially fatal overpopulation and draining of resources, and more, Patrick Henry’s words are more important to live by than ever.
***If you missed the Intro to this third book (that the above piece is from) and would like to see it, go to the Puppy website blog section, or WordPress, or send an email request to jahbuddha13@hotmail.com This is a book in progress. You are seeing it here as I write it! And as it says in the Intro, it is a totally true story and may be the only book ever written by a corpse!***The books Fearless Puppy On American Road and Reincarnation Through Common Sense by this same author, as well as sample chapters by, very entertaining tv/radio interviews with, and newspaper articles about him are available at http://www.fearlesspuppy.info

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED SO FAR

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED SO FAR
This trip has, so far, brought me almost exactly half way around the world from where I started. It has been great fun, adventure, experience, and offered wonderful insights into different cultures. But it hasn’t taught me much about humanity that I didn’t already know. It has confirmed a lot that I already suspected.
People everywhere and anywhere are a lot more similar than different. Most are trying to be decent and happy, but all have different definitions of what “decent” and “happy” mean. There are a small number of seriously self-centered assholes, but even they are also just hunting happiness in their own warped fashion.
The nice people can be awfully cruel at times. Cruel people are occasionally nice.
No one gets out alive but most folks act as if death only happens to other people. There is very little real consciousness of mortality going on.
Actually, there is precious little consciousness going on at all. Folks seem to do a lot of life habitually and without any deep awareness of their thoughts or actions. Very few realize how many choices they have. Many folks seem busier strangling life’s opportunities with irrelevant and often inaccurate historical misinformation than are actually taking advantage of those opportunities. They don’t realize that a lot of what is called tradition turns out to be no more than peer pressure from dead people, and that it lacks any valuable or even real substance. They seem swept away by the current of life, like a body trapped in the current of a wide river. They don’t realize that there are banks on both sides of any river that we can swim to, climb ashore, and find golden new possibilities waiting for us.
Most people have been hypnotized by the commercial and political nuances of their culture into believing that their remedy is somewhere outside of themselves. Those misleading nuances, like the people themselves, are more similar than different no matter what culture they travel through.
Many folks get trapped for a lifetime in these external pursuits of well-being. Few realize that all solutions are within. Many are aware that there is something wrong but just can’t figure out what that something is.
The historical Buddha is often misquoted as having said that “Life is suffering.” But the word “dukkha” that he used is more accurately translated as “dislocated” or “out of joint,” in the manner of a dislocated shoulder or collarbone. Many folks give lip service to the well-known fact that love is the answer. They mouth it often. They feel it a little more on Sundays and at Christmas, but have trouble putting it into consistent application during the rest of their week—and the rest of their living. They know where the best stuff is but are disjointed, dislocated from it.
Pain will happen in life but suffering is often optional, or at least adjustable. Reconnecting with The Bigger Thing eliminates the dislocation from it. That re-established connection often supersedes and modifies the previous connection to suffering. It doesn’t matter whether one tags the “Bigger Thing” as Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Xenon the Invader, The Field, The Force, or Self. Drive any car you want that will get you to the destination. Regardless of which teacher or system is used, the quality of attention paid by the student is a good deal more important than who the teacher is. Consciousness needs to be intentionally tuned in to and is therefore, on several levels, self-consciousness.
More people every day are starting to realize we are at a crucial point in history. They can figure out later that those tag systems were almost all symbolic and very little was literal. They can wait just a bit to come to grips with the fact that they have to do the internal work in order to enjoy more humane qualities, not wait for someone or something supernatural to do it for them. But Earth is very near immediate crisis mode. Even paying serious attention to a truly positive “belief” can do nicely as a vehicle on the road to improving life right now, saving the environment as soon as possible, and an objectively sound wisdom in the future.
That wisdom in the future will include the courage to simply say, “I don’t know.” Admitting that we don’t know a lot of things will eliminate the need for blindly believing in unfounded, unrealistic stories that dead people just flat-out made up a long time ago. Believing in fairytales can give us a false sense of an actually nonexistent security. It disfigures objective reality.
Many of these stories were control devices designed to tame and civilize, or intimidate and rule, unruly populations. Others may well have been meant symbolically and are still brilliant metaphorical lessons. But history shows that over a period of centuries, a lot of material that was meant to be metaphorical got concretized, bent to individual purposes, and sloppily translated. Look what happens in three minutes to a message running through a chain of ten kids playing Telephone! Give that process a couple of dozen centuries, or even months, and what fragments of the original message remain may no longer have any resemblance to the actual original message.
The good part is that everybody wants to get love and life right, even if they are not consciously aware of it. That desire may see very little practical application in the modern world at times, but an increasing number of folks are realizing that they do want to be improved, happier, nicer versions of themselves. Many are searching. There is hope.
Every day, I see more people waking up. But also every day, another poor jackass is born and hypnotized from birth to think his life is so important that yours doesn’t matter at all. These are the guys who manufacture the separations that keep humanity from becoming itself. Things like sexual, religious, national, and ethnic differences are given such great importance in the physical/material world! There is nothing, in mundane existence, wrong with the pleasures that these differences afford. There is not much wrong with the limited feeling of inclusion that these little clubs we belong to can give us—as long as they’re not at the expense and degradation of any other little club. But these likes, dislikes, preferences, accidents of birth, and so on have no place in the world of consciousness, and it is insane to let them overpower the total inclusiveness that pure consciousness entails.
I have seen a lot of human inconsistency everywhere while traveling around the world. There doesn’t seem any sense in being an optimist or a pessimist. I’m a realist. It appears that we can go either way. Everything can work out just fine or humanity can become extinct in short order. Most folks are nice. Everything depends on whether those nice folks can muster the inspiration, power, and intelligence to make the few nastier people see reason. That’s going to take some doing because in order to help anyone else do that job efficiently, the nice folks will first have to do a version of it on themselves. The mechanics of The Bigger Thing dictate that things work the way Gandhi did. A mother came to The Mahatma and asked him to get her sugar-addicted child off the sugar. Gandhi told her to come back in two weeks with the boy. She did. Mahatma talked to the boy and the child stopped eating sugar from that day on. The mother asked, “Why did you have me wait two weeks?” Gandhi answered, “Two weeks ago, I was on sugar!”
The nice folks will also have to be careful to not become just like those nasty people. It happens sometimes. People have often killed tyrants and then become tyrants. Revolution, by dictionary definition, means you end up back where you started from. Evolution, on the other hand, puts your way of living somewhere else.”Somewhere else” would, in almost every nonphysical sense, be a good place for all of humanity to move to—especially that nastier fraction of humanity.
We are a unit. Whether you are basically nice or nasty, like man or woman ass, are born black or white, or are from the Eastern or Western hemisphere, we now have no functional choice but to realize the depth of what the American patriot Patrick Henry said in the 1770s. Regarding the revolution against England, he advised his compatriots that “we must hang together or we will surely hang separately.” Now that we are facing the extinction of the human species on so many fronts—environmental, warrior/political/nuclear, a potentially fatal overpopulation and draining of resources, and more, Patrick Henry’s words are more important to live by than ever.
***If you missed the Intro to this third book (that the above piece is from) and would like to see it, go to the Puppy website blog section, or WordPress, or send an email request to jahbuddha13@hotmail.com This is a book in progress. You are seeing it here as I write it! And as it says in the Intro, it is a totally true story and may be the only book ever written by a corpse!***The books Fearless Puppy On American Road and Reincarnation Through Common Sense by this same author, as well as sample chapters by, very entertaining tv/radio interviews with, and newspaper articles about him are available at http://www.fearlesspuppy.info

Cambodia Rocks! A Message From Beyond

These few pages are from the new book in progress. As said in the previously posted Intro to it, it is a totally true story and may be the only book ever written by a corpse! You are seeing it as I write it! ***If you missed the Intro to this third book and would like to see it, just  go to the blog at the website, look right here at WordPress, or send an email request to jahbuddha13@hotmail.com ***The books Fearless Puppy On American Road and Reincarnation Through Common Sense by this same author, as well as sample chapters by, very entertaining tv/radio interviews with, and newspaper articles about him are available at http://www.fearlesspuppy.info   

OUT OF AMERICA/Welcome To Cambodia
I hadn’t had anything edible on an American airplane in forty years, so the spiced chicken and fish on the China Eastern Airlines flight from Honolulu to Shanghai was a very pleasant surprise. The flight was a smooth ride on a large Airbus with happy, pleasant flight attendants.
The puddle jumper flight from Shanghai to Cambodia offered less. Part of the problem was that the plane was small, rickety, turbulent, and the flight attendants were bitchy. Part of it was me. That first eleven hour link to Shanghai was an exciting adventure. On the four hour flight to Cambodia I felt more like a factory worker who had just put in a triple shift and needed sleep worse than oxygen. My best efforts couldn’t altogether calm the frayed nerves.
Having landed in Cambodia, life will be very much in the present tense from now on. So will the writing.
The first thing I notice is as surreal as any Disney cartoon. It’s 11 PM. It’s seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit on November twenty-third. The air is so steamy that palm leaves thirty feet in the sky give the appearance of dancing in clouds. As if in a Twilight Zone episode, it seems more like a hallucination seen through an airplane window.
The second thing I notice here is that people are smiling a lot more than they do in most other places I have been. Life in Southeast Asia is good in many ways.
The Tanei Boutique Villa Hotel looks like it was a French governor’s palace a hundred and fifty years ago. Beautiful marble floors, heavily sculpted wood work, and interior fountains and gardens are obviously worn down but still beautiful. There is a sizable swimming pool of aged tile and the first cold water jacuzzi I have ever seen. Right near it is a row of thirty foot tall palm trees. The one nearest the jacuzzi has a gorgeous purple and white orchid growing out of it. On the other side of the swimming pool is another row of a dozen palm trees. They grow right through a shade awning with lounge chairs under it.
Geckos are everywhere. None of them are selling insurance.
Right behind the pool is the restaurant where guests enjoy a buffet breakfast including scrambled and hard boiled eggs, vegetable combo, stir-fried noodles, potatoes, various sugared juice drinks, coffee, tea, and a few other choices.
Many European countries are represented by visitors here in the city of Siem Reap, as are Japan, China, Korea, and other Asian countries. There are Indians, a few Muslims, Abercrombie and Fitch Americans, various hippies, and many other internationals dodging the naked little Cambodian children that dance in the spray of garden hoses as their families tend shops. There are camera toting people of nearly all races and many national origins.
The Wi-Fi and most other things available here work somewhat, kind of, maybe, much of the time. No matter where in the world you are, nothing works all the time. This fact is a lot more pronounced in a third world nation. The Tanei does a good job considering they are working with the limited modern technological resources of the region. There’s a Catch 22 about countries like this, it being that your money goes a long way—but you can’t buy what they don’t have. Regardless, at twenty dollars a night, the Tanei doesn’t hear many complaints.
For me, the best part of the hotel is the smiling, friendly, amenable staff. I have recently spent a lot of time in hotels in America that provide shit accommodations and snarling staffs at expensive prices, and then expect the customers to be grateful for the screwing they are getting. The Tanei is a much welcomed change from that, even though “hot water” means it’s just a little bit less cold than the cold water, things like TVs and telephones don’t always work, and the Internet is questionable.
The food in the tourist district is delicious, but a lot of it is heavily fried, salted, or sugared. It would be a safe guess that they don’t use the health food store kind of oil when frying. Oddly enough, the food from the street vendors may be among the healthiest around—and the tastiest. Much of it is grilled right in front of the customer and uses no oil or apparent additives. There has to be a salad and other altogether healthy food in this country somewhere, but I have yet to find it—except for one bowl of vegetable noodle soup from a street shack restaurant that was magically medicinal!
The bread here is mostly industrial cafeteria white and looks like cardboard. It makes Wonder Bread seem like real food. The diet, as well as the rural poverty, lack of medical facilities and sanitation, and the hot wet weather that bacteria love are largely to blame for urban Cambodia’s small health risks to tourists and natives alike. It’s not as bad as it sounds at first. A little care, awareness, hydration, and moderation keeps most folks healthy.
Stepping out of the hotel brings one in to a whole different world. I will find a much quieter apartment very soon, but am now in an area close to Pub Street and the Night Market. This section of town is the Times Square of the city and is designed for tourists, but hosts everyone. It has small markets, massage emporiums, bars, travel agents and tour guides, clothing stores, and restaurants. Traffic is heavy. The dust and pollution causes many locals to wear surgical masks while walking in the street or riding on their vehicles. I have followed their lead.
The traffic is made up mostly of motorbikes and tuk-tuks. A tuk-tuk is a glorified motorbike taxi with a cart attached to the back capable of carrying four passengers. At least eight or ten tuk-tuk drivers will hit on you during a three block walk, offering rides, tours, girls, or weed. They can be aggressive, as can everyone trying to make a living around here. Massage girls, barkers in front of restaurants and tour places, and anyone selling anything will get up in your face about it.
I find ganja here on the first day. My twenty dollar bag from a tuk-tuk driver named Mister Khompat works pretty well for brown stuff. It is going to take some research to find anything green to smoke around here. Life will be okay until I find it. They have Happy Pizza here. The same decent-for-brown type weed as Mr. Khompat’s is a regular ingredient in Khmer (Cambodian) cooking. It is not a tripping type experience like my Green Mountain Green Monster Bud cookies in Vermont, but I certainly am relaxed and happy after doing half of an apple pie sized pizza. Just to give you an idea of what the prices are like around here, that buzz cost three dollars and the full fish dinner I had after it cost two and a half.
The fruit is delicious. The high temperatures are consistently ninety degrees Fahrenheit with heavy humidity during the “cool season” of December through February, so plant growth is not a problem all year. There are the regular papayas and bananas and pineapples that one might expect to be growing in a climate like this. There are also fruits so exotic that they look manufactured to many Westerners. The dragonfruit is about the size of a grapefruit. It has red, jagged, multilayered skin that houses a white fruit containing thousands of tiny black dots that resemble poppy seeds. It looks spooky but tastes delicious.
Buddhist temples are everywhere. Many contain the area’s public primary and high schools. The grounds of the temple can cover anywhere from a square block to a square acre. Any temple grounds’ central feature is always the main temple itself. I go into several to see the artwork and icons, meditate, and feel the vibe. Interior artwork often includes paintings depicting episodes in the life of the historical Buddha. The stories are partly literal but mostly metaphorical. There are some museum quality images of Buddha’s birth, Buddha climbing down from a higher heaven to help in lower heavens and on Earth, and so on. There are many statues and images of the historical Buddha in each temple. These are designed to be a focal point, working as an inspiration for people to instill Buddha-like qualities within themselves. Buddha is widely known as having been an enlightened man, not a god. He was, among other things, the world’s greatest psychologist. Folks with their finger on the pulse of Buddhism don’t actually pray to him so much as aspire to become like him. The Buddha himself was famous for saying that no one should blindly believe anything he ever said, but should rather examine everything on their own to determine if it is gold or bullshit. (Likely not his exact wording.) This is not a religion like others where a God or Messiah is going to come save everyone. It starts with personal growth and saving oneself. A truly realized self always radiates such a quality out into the world, and simply by its presence does its part to save everyone. No coercion or conversion of another is necessary, or encouraged. It could be said that this is not a religion at all, but much more so a spiritual practice or a school of thought.
In a form of self programming, constant repetition of and focused meditation on phrases referring to positive qualities (love, compassion, strength, etc.) eventually instill these qualities in the person that practices focusing on them. Do enough of this meditation, and the neurons in your brain start wiring and firing on these ideal sentiments consistently. This is only one form of meditation. There are many.
Any person with eyes in their heart, or at least a little bit of sensitivity, that walks onto any temple grounds can immediately feel the difference in atmosphere from that of the outside world. This feeling may be best described by the animals. The many wandering dogs and cats on the downtown streets get little respect from, and scurry nervously around, most humans. But dogs and cats on temple grounds lie down or saunter around comfortably wherever they damn well please. They seem to be in a meditative state of their own and have no fear of humans. They usually pay little to no attention to human passers-by. Temple animals act like they own the place and in theory, as fellow living sentient beings, it is considered by all that to some extent they do own the place as much as anyone else does! Buddhism uses the term “sentient beings” often. What does it mean? The words “sem chen” mean “mind possessor.” So compassion for all sentient beings means compassion for anything with a mind. What does that mean? Good question! Many would argue that most plants know enough to turn towards the sun, and that qualifies them as having a consciousness or mind. Others think not.
Among the many other buildings besides the main temple are several incredible pieces of architecture. Many include ancient carved stone columns depicting deities of compassion. Sculpture is on everything from mausoleums for the dead through a vast assortment of spiritual structures. There are also ornate and boldly colored wooden buildings that are curved and carved into shapes that resemble waves rising and falling in an ocean. Many of the other buildings, especially the schools and monks quarters, are more ordinary concrete and wood structures.
The only thing things that appear in Siem Reap, Cambodia as frequently as temples are restaurants and massage parlors. Most parlors appear legit, with girls and massage tables right out front behind the glass doors and windows. I go into one that gives this appearance but am immediately taken into a back room. The five dollar half hour massage is just a precursor to an offer for a twenty dollar hand job. The woman sits on my back and grinds her fully clothed vagina into me while rubbing my neck and shoulders. Then she flips me over and massages the abdomen right into the pubic hair. All this is obviously not a therapeutic effort but rather an attempt to give me a hard on I can’t argue with. She asks if I want the more expensive jerk off. I can’t see paying her to do something done much better myself, and tell her so. I will try a different massage parlor next time. I’m sure some of them actually focus on the massage itself—or at least offer more varied services.
I don’t know if everyone has a favorite tuk-tuk driver, but I do. Sarath picked me up at the airport. He is about an inch or two below five feet tall and might weigh a hundred pounds soaking wet. Nonetheless he can sling my awkward fifty pound duffel bag on to the cab of his tuk-tuk as if it weighed nothing at all. He speaks English very well and seems to enjoy doing it. I have the hotel desk call him whenever I need a ride because Sarath always brings a smile, good personal stories, local information, and a fair price.
On today’s trip Sarath tells me about how his leg got crushed by a car and he can’t stand on it much. This is why he became a tuk-tuk driver. He also describes the Cambodian government. They seem to have many of the same problems that the American government has, including questionable elections. What I hear from the tourists of various nations about town is that the questionable elections thing seems to be an ever increasing international happening.
The hotel I am in is great, but in the middle of way too much traffic and pollution. Today’s tuk-tuk trip is about finding an apartment that is a little bit out of the main downtown area. Sarath, as always, is a great help. He knows a place. It turns out to be a very good place and I will move in there within a few days. Two hundred fifty dollars a month for a one bedroom with air conditioner, wi-Fi, TV, furnished, combination kitchen/living room, and hot water. The water and the gas for the stove cost extra. It also has a gorgeous swimming pool on the roof and an even more gorgeous view to accompany it. There is a small gym with a bit of weight lifting equipment near the pool. It seems to be an odd and eccentric tendency around here that luxuries often come before the basics. You may move into a place with a Beverly Hills looking swimming pool but no hot water in your room. You may have a bed that feels like concrete and has only a bottom sheet, walls and floors with tile stains everywhere, but a marble fountain in the lobby to rival The Ritz.
The apartment building is on a relatively quiet street facing a river that’s not very pretty, but a river nonetheless. The place is far enough out of town to be breathable, but close enough so that a two or three dollar tuk-tuk ride gets you right back into the middle of the action.
In the heart of that action where I still live for the next few days, adjoining Pub Street, is the famous Angkor Night Market. No one seems to sleep around here! Tourists are bending the clock into manic shapes while trying to see every sight available within the week or two they have in Cambodia. The locals are up at the crack of dawn and heading to work, but won’t be denied their evening party. The Night Market and Pub Street is where everyone converges.
The main part of the Siem Reap Night Market contains several rows of stores. Each row houses around thirty stores separated by metal dividers under a single tin roof structure. Some of the items available in the stores are: clothing, fabric, watches, jewelry, preserved bug and bat skeletons, artwork, Buddhist icons and meditation beads, cigarettes, baskets and assorted crafts, stuffed and carved animals, and bottles of whiskey with a dead scorpion and cobra floating in each. I shit you not! The lady says, “It give energy.”
From the main pavilion, the market spills over into the outlying streets. Rows of restaurants, bars, clothing stores and massage parlors as well as food booths are everywhere. The two most interesting food booths are right next to each other. The first serves deep-fried snakes, scorpions, silk worms, cockroaches, grasshoppers, and other assorted tasty critters. The booth next to it sells fried ice cream. They call it that, but it is actually milk and fruit being continually blended together in a large baking pan with a refrigerator unit below it that must hold liquid nitrogen. After five to ten minutes of blending and flattening and rolling and flipping, the fruit and milk became one blended thin layer of frozen confection that is rolled up in sheets to be stuffed in a cup.
The Night Market nearly runs right into Pub Street. The combination creates a very big, lively, and loud entertainment district.
Sohk
I am suffering severe cramps all over my body. They are a result of hauling too many duffel bags around the world in ninety degree humid heat, badly aggravating a decades long history of skeletal/muscular problems. The change in diet probably has something to do with it too. A legit massage has become a major necessity. I walk into a place so out in the open that it seems sure to not be another hand job palace disguised as a massage therapist castle.
Sohk is the name of my massage lady. She is thirty-nine years old, very cute, and gave me the best hour-long foot rub I have had since the privilege of being reflexologized by the legendary Shelby Shue of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Sohk cannot speak any English, but the other two ladies in the establishment can. I call them both “sister,” which they like a lot, and we carry on a friendly conversation. Part of that conversation makes it clear to them, and they make it clear to Sohk, that I need my back and legs done after the feet. All the time I keep looking back at Sohk while talking to the sisters. You must’ve heard the expression, “she has a smile that would light up a room.” Sohk had it, kept it on her face the whole time, and I couldn’t look away from it. The sisters noticed.
“You like her. She likes you. Take her back to your room for the back and legs massage! She can be your girlfriend. You take care of her and she will take care of you. Massage you every day.”
They say something to Sohk in Cambodian that makes her giggle like a schoolgirl and give me a little pinch. I give her a smile and nod, and we’re off to my room.
I strip down into nothing but massage-able skin and lay on my stomach to begin the back rub. After about ten minutes of beautiful rub, the rising heat coming from behind me as well as within me can no longer be ignored. I roll over and start undressing Sohk, with her cooperation, as we kiss. Our lips separate to nibble at each others’ necks. My way has always been “ladies first, whenever possible.” I move on to caress and lick her torso until my tongue reaches between her legs. Imagine my surprise as she pushes me away! I’ve never known anyone to not like oral sex, at least not when it is being done to them. Maybe “ladies first” is an unusual concept in Asia? Testing that theory, I reposition myself for some oral sex from her. She nibbles reluctantly for a minute and then pulls away.
The romance is there, but the techniques are from two different planets. She tries to missionary position me into entry, but I am so taken aback by the whole situation that I lose my inspiration.
This is a completely novel and shocking experience to me. All evidence points to the fact that they just don’t do oral sex around here—whether it is with a soon to be serious lover who is really interested in the person they are with or just a passing massage parlor acquaintance making a living.
I continue to enjoy the rest of the massage, and Miss Sohk’s continuing playful, smiling company. We tickle each other and laugh. We continue to bring up good feelings for each other and the warmth remains between us. I may still go back for legit massages, but am certainly saddened by the stillbirth of what might have been a beautiful long term romance. I look at certain things as essential in a romantic relationship. Oral sex is just one of them. It seems so bizarre that in a country with comfortably relaxed, liberal sexual customs—and occupied for a century or two by the French, no less— that isn’t one of them!
I guess I’ll just have to keep knocking at that door until I find a woman who enjoys my walking through it.
There is another piece of knowledge about relationship essentials that has been reinforced in spades from this experience. It is about how important communication figures into any union. The next woman I attempt a relationship with will have to speak at least a bit of English or Spanish. I am going to start studying Cambodian. Certain things just need to be spoken about. What are your feelings about tomorrow’s plans, where would you like to go for dinner, and who the hell doesn’t like oral sex and why, all fall into that category. A mutual respect, a chemistry that can’t be denied, and a warm loving smile may be the backbone of intimate relationship, but communication is the muscle structure that holds that backbone upright and prevents it from collapsing into dust.
A bit more of a shocking revelation to me about my personal relationship essentials is that I may need to give and receive simple affectionate attention as much, if not more so, than complex sexual activity. I feel strangely satisfied for someone left unsatisfied. Mutual feelings of love and kindness stemming from honest affection are obviously responsible.
Affection, at times, seems even more important than food or water. Maybe it always is. Maybe it’s not just me. Maybe that’s true for everyone.
***NEXT—?THE RUINS OF ANGKOR WAT, THE LARGEST TEMPLE EVER CONSTRUCTED ON EARTH?, and ?THE DRAGON NEIGHBORHOOD?, and—?WELL, I DON’T KNOW YET, EITHER! ***If you missed the Intro to this third book that the above piece is from and would like to see it, just check a post back on WordPress, or see the Fearless Puppy website blog, or send an email request to jahbuddha13@hotmail.com This is a book in progress. You are seeing it here as I write it! And as it says in the Intro, it is a totally true story and may be the only book ever written by a corpse!***The books Fearless Puppy On American Road and Reincarnation Through Common Sense by this same author, as well as sample chapters by, very entertaining tv/radio interviews with, and newspaper articles about him are available at http://www.fearlesspuppy.info p.s. Titles being kicked around for this new book are Racing Death Around The Planet and Voices Of Reason From The End(s) Of The World