Phased – A Series: Two

Torrential downpour. What. The. Fuck.

Really? Isn’t it June? Boston, $#&^@!!! New England weather.

I try to figure my way to work. Charliecards, I still know how to work them. Train or bus? Which will it be? Let’s go for bus; it’ll be quicker.

Big mistake. Traffic was bad, but not as bad as Manila or Bangkok so I’m not even going to complain. I watch the numbers on the clock at the front of the bus. Minutes after minutes after minutes passed. I stood, of course, soaked on a crowded bus filled with wet people. I couldn’t even enjoy the view out the rain-covered windows of the 1 bus. All I could think of; the day can’t get any worse than this.

I walk straight to the office, sheepishly stared at the bosses. Over an hour late, my first day back.

“Umm.. yeah.”

Michael, my travel partner/former-roommate/co-worker/friend forever, just as late as I was shakes his disapproval at me; soaking wet, disheveled. But there was that smirk. Nothing really changes.

I work through my shift. Easy. I don’t bother remembering the new people that were introduced to me. Are you kidding? I get caught up with the gossip. Who broke up. Who got together. Who quit. Who got fired. Say what? Guy came to work drunk then walked out with a guests’ credit card? Fantastic. What else?

Close to midnight and I get phased.

The end of the night finally came and that’s when it really began. Everyone’s going to the party, right? Hurried nods, and shouts of confirmation from across halls as most everyone rushes through the final details of the last minute things to do. Fuckin’ sidework. If you don’t already understand,  you never will. I hurriedly paint my face, threw off my uniform, undid my pony, and make my way over to the bar. I’d never been here before. It looked cute. Mini-bar it was called. How perfect. One section was closed off for our use, but we overflowed every which way. The waitress kept the Martini’s in my hand coming. I meet new people. I see the old ones. Everyone was mad, mad drunk, mad rolling, mad high, mad happy. There was a theme, but I didn’t get the memo. Most everyone at least paid attention to it and at least half of them stuck to the black and white dress code.

There he was, the belle of the ball. Phillips had a black vest and a short black veil. He goes and he comes. Center of attention and he’s loving it.

I keep mostly quiet, stick with my favorite people. The music’s good, the drinks even better. Six months I hadn’t been with this crowd. I think I must have forgotten. I feel almost a stranger, but not quite. Everyone knew me, but did they? Then there’s that whole thing with Michael. Maybe be doesn’t feel weird. But I do. That confession was brutal. Vulnerability is not something I’m comfortable with. Thank all the gods for the liquid miracle in my hand. Thank god, there’s always too many of us. Eye-contact with him was practically impossible.

Who was I staying with tonight? Melissa, wasn’t it? She’d been disappearing now and again, screaming about her keys.

“She had too much vodka,” Lohan explains. Nothing further.

Well, shit.

Night was young, I’ll figure out where I’m staying when the time comes. Boston felt fresh from the rain. I step out for a quick smoke and meet interesting new characters. Conversations move from and about tattoos, work shit and Florida. Of course. I had stopped paying attention to the words and I didn’t notice most had gone back inside. I stared at the wet asphalt, the blurred glimmer of lights, the twinkling of streetlamps. Small groups of people, walk up and down. Lost in their own little worlds, having their own fun. Every now and then, drunken obscenities are screamed. God, I love this city. A group of my friends, stumble out of the bar, and down into the club in the basement next door. Loud, laughing, obnoxious. The best people you’ll ever meet.

When the music stopped, I grab a ride with Melissa’s roommate and I meet his girlfriend. But I apparently we’d already met before. We drive down Storrow Drive, right along the river, I look at the dark, peaceful shimmering water and I get a message; Melissa went home with another friend. I guess, I’ll have her bed for myself.

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Phased – A Series: One

So, I was back. After all the here and there that I have gone to the last 6 months, returning to my home base is almost a big deal. Almost, if I hadn’t done it several times before. This time, I didn’t bother with the news but I sure hoped someone had a couch for me somewhere.

The city was eerily quiet and I wondered briefly if it had anything to do with the Marathon Bombing only two months back. More than likely it was just that short period where everyone and their mother was too excited about Summer and left to go back to their hometowns or what-have-yous. They’ll be back.

The time was a little after nine in the morning and I had a lot of it. It almost felt like I was still in the middle of my travels and I had just arrived at a new city I was just about to explore. The sense of freedom was still there. I had no plans. I had no commitments. I had nowhere to go, nothing to do and no one knew I was here. I could do whatever I damn well please.

After a bagel and coffee I figure I’d best find out if I still had a job so I walked over to the restaurant. There it was in all its shinning glory. Soldiers in white scuttling about. It didn’t take long before the giddy screams came, tight hugs, wet kisses, right along with the inappropriateness I didn’t realize I had missed and the familiar faces and laughter that I hadn’t heard in so long.

Questions then answers. Then it begins:

Birthday. Tomorrow night. Come.

Absolutely, I reply.

I take care of the necessary paperwork and wouldn’t you know it? I could start the next day. After that, I searched for old friends, found them and before long we had fired up the shisha. Here, in the tree-covered backyards of Porter Square, I felt the unmistakable familiarity of home. Smelled fantastic. I had been gone for so long, there wasn’t enough time for all the catching up that needed to be done. So, we just talked. About nothing and everything.

I’m still not sure why I came back to Boston. I left, six months ago, off to travel with my friend, Michael. On a whim, I threw most everything I owned into large, black, garbage bags, left them on the curb and drove away. I’m not sure why, maybe I hoped I’d leave and keep on going.

Philippines > Malaysia > Cambodia > Thailand > Vegas > Boston.

Funny how life happens.

Now, I had nothing. I even still had to figure out that thing called “home,” but I had plenty of people, that’s worth more than anything in the world.

That night I stayed at my friends’ neighbors home. Conveniently, her neighbor was away for a week. Sketch? Whatever. There was my roof and shelter for that night. Before I drifted off to sleep, in this strangers’ bed I had one recurring thought: “I’m back. This is going to be interesting.”

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Sin City: beyond the lights

It’s all laid out for the whole world to see: the glamour, the lights, the luxury, the excess, the money, the spectacles. I’ve been to Las Vegas more than a dozen times. I’ve stayed in beautiful hotels that smell like perfume. I’ve spent many nights fed by the dancing beats and gave myself to the music. I’ve walked the hot streets on Vegas, tall blended martinis melting in my themed container. I’ve seen amazing shows; full of illusion and drama and song and dance.

But this time around, I saw Las Vegas’ sweat, dirt, and waste.

I lived there for reasons less interesting than any. I worked at a restaurant at Caesar’s Palace and sure, that led to the acquaintance of some fascinating people. People who’s past and future is anyone’s guess. Vegas does that to you. In the middle of the scorched desert, the city is a not a refuge but it is a getaway. A place where most people leave the lives they had to have a few moments of insanity, of overindulgence, of insurmountable risks. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Remember?

The bright, flashing neon lights of the infamous strip was the background to the darkness I felt I saw during my time there. The homeless are found all over. On bridges, on walkways, curled up and hiding from the sun underneath the weak shades of some tall bushes. The streets litter with calling cards of escorts, and since I wasn’t one of them; I saw the drunks, shamelessly parading up and down Las Vegas Boulevard.

I’m sure I could have seen the better side of Vegas more prominently but I was in a bad place (mentally). So, all I saw was that. I see the families, wrecked by obesity or starved by hunger; in the city designed to bring out your worst. A city that takes your weakest points and exploits it. A city known for restaurants that allows you to fill your belly until it aches for $10. A city with a ‘payday loan’ at every corner, all they want is feed your gambling addiction. Money is dispensed recklessly and in joyous amounts, and so the homeless population grows. The gambling addicts’ numbers surge.

Maybe because I didn’t live in the nice, sprawling suburbs loaded with ticky-tacky boxes, but in a moblie home community so all I saw was poverty and painful truth of time in the faces of the ‘retired.’ But thank the gods for that, i’ll take trailer homes over an excessively enormous house in the suburb, that lacks depth, emotion and character; each house no different from the next.

But the world is generous, and beyond the city limits the mountains stand tall and majestic. Mountains that burn red with the sunset, the desert can be gorgeous. Too bad the world only comes here for everything but the nature. They come to play; to play until they tire.

Maybe that’s why I didn’t love it, couldn’t love it there. Vegas holds a certain meaning to me: Indulge!!! That’s what the city screams in every corner. There’s drugs, there’s alcohol, and sex. 24 hours, 7 days a week. Who does that, and stays sane? Tyrion Lannister said it best: “It’s not easy being drunk all the time.” Best of all no one here will judge you for it, no one can judge you for it; so sin away!

I think I’ll take my sinning in smaller doses. I’m sorry Vegas, we just weren’t meant to be.


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Southeast Asian Soundtrack

Every adventure has a soundtrack.

On this trip, we did karaoke more than a couple of times, we danced to unnecessarily loud music at bars, we listened to music in the car, watched several live bands play, sat around while someone played the guitar, we even saw a musical. The music for this part of my life had a lot to do with the memories they are connected with. So, here are the songs and what they remind me of when I hear them.

1. Payphone by Maroon 5 – I annoyed Pat for weeks singing this song over and over and over again, from the time that I woke up to the end of the night. I hadn’t cared too much for the song at first, until I saw the music video and saw Adam Levine sexily leaning on a payphone surrounded by debris and chaos. It was then that I knew who I would choose to marry.

2. Locked Out of Heaven by Bruno Mars – watching the replay of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show we watched Bruno Mars perform this song, and since then I found it irresistible, along with any Bruno Mars song I came upon. I would also always bring up that he’s part-Filipino.

3. Danza Kuduro by Don Omar – I’ve loved this song since last summer living in Jamaica Plain and listening to my Puerto Rican neighbors blast it from their cars from Thursday night through Sunday nights. Turned out its just as loved in the Philippine islands and it was guaranteed to play any where we went to.

4. Gangnam Style by Psy – I don’t really think this needs any explanation. The Philippines was not immune to the Korean pop song domination and every child and every shameless adult danced this all day long.

5. All Star by Smashmouth – On some nights in my hometown,when we didn’t do anything except sit and be there, Chris would bring out his guitar and start playing. This was the song that we sang often and surprisingly knew the lyrics to very well. Who doesn’t know the words to this song?

6. Die Young by Kesha – haha I didn’t even know this was by Kesha until I looked it up right now. This song was so fun to dance to in the Philippines, Thailand and Cambodia. Oh man, memories. Really fit the whole “seize the day” thing we tried to live by but often failed at.

7. Good Time by Owl City and Call Me Maybe Girl – I started hearing this song several weeks before getting to Southeast Asia and its great to know that the music I rocked to on Boylston Street are some of the same ones I would dance to on Khao San Road.

8. All the Small Things by Blink 182 – just another song we sang loudly and obnoxiously at home with Chris’ guitar. You can always rely on Blink 182 for a good jam.

9. One More Night by Maroon 5 – What can I say? Adam Levine has stolen my heart. This song just feels really raw and fantastic for the dance floor. Made me wish I had a dysfunctional relationship to get lost in.

10. Price Tag by Jessie J. – My cousin Gerry kept singing “it ain’t about the money, money, money” and at first I thought he was just cool being able to come up with a tune like that until one night at Karaoke with my friends and someone chose this song, and I realized how this is the perfect song for my entire trip; I was on a very small budget in spite of which I still managed to have the most amazing time of my life (the second one) and I truly re-learned from my experiences that it really is not about the money.

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The Characters of Las Vegas

It might not exactly come across your mind to head out into the real world and become a street performer or portray characters on the sidewalks of any major city, but it turns out, it’s a legitimate job.

I had intended to post this several days ago, and I was planning on posting daily, however, I had forgotten that I am a most excellent procrastinator that I really shouldn’t have bothered indicating when I would post and what I would post about because if you really knew who I am, you’d know I do everything wrong. (Potential employers: disregard last paragraph)

First I met Spiderman. I walked out of the Forum Shops at Caesars and saw him sitting down on the job, I was almost tempted to shriek and step on him and squish him like the bug he is, then I remembered he’s not a real spider.




Around the corner, I ran into The Joker and Batman.




We chatted for a bit and this was when I found out that apparently you can make “bank” doing what they do. I’m not sure exactly how much but from the sound of it at least more than $100 a day. Rumor also had it that Chewbacca definitely made a lot of money, and so did some guy who dresses up in red, acting like Sinatra (I didn’t see him that afternoon).



Further down, I met a dance crew that is originally from Boston. They were all resting near Bally’s and I noticed they were wearing “Boston Strong” t-shirts so I struck up a conversation. They came to Vegas for a few weeks and will start heading back at the end of May. So, I’ll be looking for them when I get back to Boston and see if I can catch them at Fanueil Hall.

There was also Mario and Luigi.


And of course, I also ran into these guys:


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Las Vegas: How did we get here?

After Southeast Asia happened, what I failed to mention was how broke I was at the end of it. So, what’s the best place to go to when you are at your all time low?

Las Vegas.

I came here to strike it rich!

Just kidding. I came here because my mom lives here and I needed a place to crash. Though my stay here is going to be temporary, I’m heading out eastwards in a few weeks, I thought I’d try a Las Vegas mini-series with my blog.

Having been here a little over a month now, and unable to indulge in the usual Vegasery such as gambling, the nightlife and amazing shows due to Insufficient Funds, I’ve been able to find some bits and pieces of Vegas that’s often unseen or unnoticed.

Since I work at Caesar’s Palace, I’m at Las Vegas Boulevard quite often, and there are some things that catch my attention. On most mornings as my bus stops at light at the corner of Flamingo and Las Vegas boulevard I always see Chewbacca and Bumblebee standing around having a chat with each other while waiting for tourists to wake up. Later after my shift, I’ll see their costumes  tucked away in a grocery cart tied up, hidden underneath a stairwell or behind bushes.

There’s this guy in a wheelchair on the pedestrian bridge crossing from Flamingo towards Bally’s who has a sign that says Kindness Helps always playing the chords to Somewhere Over the Rainbow, when I pass by him everyday. At the bottom of the stairwell is a man who is fundraising for Penis Enlargement, and at the other side of the bridge are men who need beer.

Catch tomorrow’s blog about panhandlers and Street performers at The Strip.


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My trip to Southeast Asia was over a while ago, and Angkor Wat had been the last ‘place of interest’ that I had seen, though there were still many amazing things that happened afterwards. But the end of that chapter has come and it feels appropriate to seal it with the things that I have taken away from it. It is not always necessary to travel to learn some lessons; but often lessons about life are much easier to learn when you are traveling.

Be grateful – there are many moments along the road that will show you how much you have to be thankful for. The opportunity to travel in itself is already one of the most precious things in life, and then there are those quiet instances of recognizing the poverty and hardship that is often witnessed when you travel. But sometimes, you see one too many gorgeous beaches and breathtaking landscapes that you forget. So, it’s important to stop and take a moment to be grateful, for all that you have, and all that you’ve seen.

Let go gracefully – those who travel often eventually become experts at letting go. When you are on a journey, you learn fast that you cannot take everything with you. Whether it is your intention or not, you will end up leaving behind a lot of things. At times, you have to give up some of your possession to make room in your bag for new things. Sometimes, a copy of your favorite F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book is left behind on a plane (thanks a lot Michael!) or your friend drunkenly tosses away your souvenir hat (thanks a lot Michael!) Then also there’s just the simple truth that you are a traveler, you are not meant for permanence, and letting go includes saying goodbye; even to people and places.

Bring a book – it is refreshing to take a secondary trip into another world while you are presently exploring the one you’re in. There’s nothing like taking a break from Thai culture and immersing yourself in the glamour of 1920s America for an hour and two, coming back from it riveted and motivated to seize life. You can never truly know what a book can show you, and what it can teach you.

Don’t be stupid – the world isn’t perfect. There are those who will trick you, and sometimes even harm you, so it’s very important to be smart about things. I think the secret to this is to trust yourself. Know what you’re capable of and what you’re not, and only take risks if you’re willing to accept the worst possible consequences.  Maybe it’s ok to accept a ride from strangers, but not ok to smoke meth on the stairwell of a hotel with strangers, but then again maybe it is. There’s a clear line between being daring and being dumb; but it’s up to you to make the call.

Show kindness – life is suffering. As one of the noble truths it resonates quite clearly to travelers. Traveling is simply the fast-forward version of life. Suffering is clear, and plenty. Be kind to the service people that you encounter, don’t throw a tantrum because you didn’t get what you want. Share some food to those who are hungry. Help the blind cross the street. Offer to carry an old woman’s bag for her. Life was never meant to be easy, so do what you can to alleviate it for others, and in time someone may do it for you.

Talk to strangers – I am far from the “people person” I sometimes seem to be. While I do love the company of others, I’m not quick to be friendly to everyone. In fact, I am usually a giant snob. I do try to be better, and it helps that for whatever reason, most strangers come to me and for this I am very grateful. But talking to strangers has led to amazing experiences; from getting extremely drunk on one fun night in a small village on an island to making friends to travel with or to engaging in eye-opening conversations about life. So, talk to strangers, especially those who do not speak your language, and even those who can’t talk all. On my most recent trip, I’ve had many memorable conversations in sign language, and I don’t even know a thing about it. The people in this world are here for you, whether you believe that or not, how you let them affect your life is your choice. You can simply let them pass you by without a word, or you can invite them in.

Speak your truth – when you do find yourself talking to strangers tell the truth; about yourself or about anything. If you mean them no harm, most people can feel it and they’ll return the same favor. You’ll discover kindness and honesty from the strangers you meet; and you’ll find they are more than happy to share their life and their world with you if you let them.

Listen – take the time to listen. The stories that people will share with you are often unique, and there’s always something to take away with you. Don’t just wait for what you want to hear, listen to everything. It’ll usually remind you that there are many things we have in common with each other.  This will make it easier for you to be kind and honest. When you really listen, you’ll find something you like eventually.

Open your eyes – I can often be guilty with taking an infinite number of photographs and excitedly posting them on Facebook that sometimes I forget to really look around, and truly see what’s around me. Open your eyes, notice the old woman stitching in the corner of the temple, see the genuine smile of the children, and notice the various shades of colors.

Live free – the last few years of my life have been atypical; I’ve been to so many heres and so many theres and have done so many wonderful things I had never even thought of before.  For this, I feel I have a very full and blessed life. I have done this all because I stopped planning my life and stopped having expectations on what it is supposed to be. I took my chances and made numerous mistakes and from that I learned that thing they used to tell us a long time ago: life is what you make it. Everything that is in your life that you think is stopping you from reaching your dreams are all excuses. Find what you love, and chase it. It may not be travel, whatever it is, be free of plans on how to get it.

It’s not about the money… forget about the price tag.” – Jessie J 

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People are strange, when you’re a stranger

What’s the best thing about traveling?


Whether they are the company you keep, travelers you meet on the road, or the local connections you manage to make on your short visit.

As I mentioned earlier in It’s About the Journey, we befriended a couple of the bus. They were Pawel and Carolina from G’dansk, Poland. What started out as simply sharing a cab, turned into sharing a hotel room, to exploring Siam Reap and Angkor Wat together.

Carolina and Joya
IMG_1128 - Copy
Michael and Pawel

It’s quite easy to meet people while traveling, but not always easy to keep them as friends. You already know that you immediately share the same interest in travel and have found, without much effort, a common ground. However, there are many types of travelers that often these connections won’t go beyond the first meet and greet, but other times you get lucky enough and become friends.

Local beer
Local beer

The second night, after a long day of tomb raiding, we bonded over more beers, specifically “happy hour drinks.” There were a lot of jokes and stories exchanged between 4 people from completely different background. We told them about Boston, about its unforgiving winter and its gorgeous summers. It turned out, G’dansk was quite similar. The nights didn’t lead to any spectacular discoveries about ourselves or each other but it was an extreme sense of camaraderie. We so easily slipped into a friendship, that will always only be 2 nights and 2 days spent in a country far away from all our homes, yet I know I will never forget them.

There were other people I met on this trip, in other cities. I did not form any lasting friendships with any of them but I remember the conversations. I’m always foggy with the names and the faces, but I always remember the words. I remember the watcher of the tower in one of the temples in Angkor Wat who at first thought I was Cambodian and struck a conversation with me about my tattoo. He told me about the lightning that struck the temple and how its the reason there was a hole in the ceiling, he told me that if it had been a clear day, I would be able to see the mountains, he also refused to believe I was American. I remember the waitress from the restaurant. The one that Michael had relentlessly teased. The one who blushed and smiled shyly when we asked her to sit down with us. I remember that she told us she went to university at Siam Reap and lived with her sister, and told Michael a few times that “Thank you, but I have a boyfriend.” I remember that each time she found one of Michael’s question to be ridiculous, she would turn to me as if to say “Can you believe this guy?” The look was a familiar one I saw from my closest friends, and it was an extremely good feeling for this stranger to give me a look, one that carried trust somehow, maybe a connection?
This is my favorite part about travel. Meeting people so different from who I am and where I am from and always coming back to the conclusion that no matter who I meet I always walk away feeling richer than ever.

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To Boston with Love

I knew nothing beyond the borders of California that when I was preparing to move to Boston, I first went to New York City where a family friend had offered to let me stay with her while I searched for an apartment. I had no idea that Boston was 4 hours away and that searching for an apartment in Boston from the Bronx was not the best idea.

After a week or so, I finally arrived in Boston on a Greyhound Bus that turned a 4 hour trip to 9 hours due to engine problems. I went straight to an apartment listed at $350 a month, I met my future roommate, glanced at a room the size of a walk-in closet, and shook her hand. With only a little over $500 to my name, I was in no position to negotiate.

photo (9)

My first apartment

When I moved to Boston in 2005 at 19, I had nothing and knew nobody. I had one cousin who was 448 miles away in Virginia, a few were 3,131 miles away in California, the rest were too far away in the Philippines that Google Maps couldn’t even tell me what the distance was.

Yet somehow I found home.

I don’t doubt that thousands or maybe even millions of people find themselves “belonging” to Boston no matter where they are from, or where they find themselves afterwards. A city with a university or a college at every corner, it is always full of eager, bright, young minds who spend their most trans-formative years discovering their potential in Boston. I was one of them.

Scattered all over the city are institutions that are among the best in their field; whether it’s science, computer technology, research, government, culinary, law, politics, art, sports, medicine, academia, theater, music or something else that I can’t think of; there is never a moment of living in Boston that I was not inspired. Everyone around me were walking reminders of the best that I could possibly be. Even the Boston Marathon that took place every April is a true testament of  sheer will and determination.


Functioning like an enormous college campus, through work and school, Boston gave me lifelong friends that has literally followed me around the world. The people in Boston are amazing. The experiences I’ve shared with them have been amazing. I love Boston. I love life even more when I am wandering its streets, barhopping on St. Patty’s, being crammed in subway cars on game nights, getting drunk on an apartment rooftop on a beautiful summer night, going for a late night drive to grab burgers at Kelly’s, celebrating the Fourth of July at the Esplanade, kayaking on the Charles, people watching on Halloween, listening to the coolest jazz and even just grabbing a beer at the pub down the street for a night cap. I love this city. I love this city so much that while I have been to a hell of a lot of cities in the world, I keep coming back to Boston. Even now, though I “live” in Vegas, I’m just trying to make my way back home.

It made me who I am.

More than that, it’s breathtakingly beautiful.

So, that when I found out at my beloved Boston had been attacked and was hurting, on a day of celebration no less, I was heartbroken. I worried about my friends who worked just one block away from all the chaos, and everyone I knew who might have just been there and might have been hurt. I was terrified there would be more reports of explosions and more tragic stories than I was already absorbing from every news source available to me. I was glued to my Facebook Newsfeed just waiting for friends to post that they were all right. I felt utterly helpless.  But good news started coming in.


Then there were the countless stories of heroism and goodwill. I saw posts of people opening their homes to runners who had nowhere to stay, people rushing to help, the Red Cross rejecting blood donors because they had too much, and beautiful thoughts and prayers being sent from all corners of the world.

Then thought, you lost. Whoever you are that did this. You lost. You come with hate but generated more love than you could even imagine. You tried to destroy but instead you brought people together. You gave out fear, well Boston just showed you strength.

So, go fuck yourself.

That's right, motherfuckers!

That’s right, motherfuckers!

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Angkor Wat

I learned about Angkor Wat in the same way millions of people learned about it; I saw it on the big screen watching Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Books and movies are our windows to the world and until I started seeing the world for myself, I relied heavily on these two mediums. It was the movie, The Motorcycle Diaries that convinced me I needed to see Machu Picchu for myself, and it was The Mummy that sparked my interest in the Pyramids of Giza.

There is something about old ruins and the past that I simply love. I can”t quite explain it but there is a reason why I live (well, usually) in one of the oldest cities of the United States. It’s possibly the same reason I studied the very impractical subject of history at university.

My own personal adventure at Angkor Wat was more or less the same as everyone else’s, maybe with a bit of a twist in the end.

It turns out Pawel was a master negotiator so we left him in charge with haggling for the best prices. We hired a driver named Toem to take us around the massive complex of Angkor Wat which is comprised of many, many temples and we began where most people begin, Angkor Wat itself.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

I was immediately awe-struck. The scale alone blew my mind, it was a lot larger than I had ever imagined, and extremely more impressive than I ever thought it could be. The name itself gives away its vastness; Angkor is the word in Khmer for ‘city’ and Wat, the word for ‘temple,’ leading to the loose translation of ‘city of temples.’

The structure has existed since the 12th century when it was first created to be the largest Hindu temple complex it the world. Its use would later move to Trevada Buddhism which continues today. All around the temples are carvings, reliefs and murals telling the stories from the epic tales of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. There are large scenes of warfare between humans and apes that as the four of us stared at this impressive artwork, every single one of us was thinking about The Planet of the Apes.


A bas-relief on column inside Angkor Wat


A scene from the Ramayana

Due to its popularity there were a great number of tourists swarming the temple, but the city must have been so large that it was not that difficult to escape the crowd and find moments of solitude.


Angkor Wat was only one of the temples and we had many more to explore. My favorite of all of them was the Bayon temple. In comparison to Angkor Wat the Bayon was not as well-restored, there were still many large piles of rubble laying about, it was still clearly being put together.

Bayon Temple

Bayon Temple


Among its more popular attractions is the temple of Preah Khan where evidence of the power of time is strongly illustrated by the large trees and tree roots that had cover many parts of the temples. It also perfectly paints the constant struggle of nature vs man.


At Praeh Khan


Tree at Praeh Khan

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I thoroughly enjoyed exploring as many nook and cranny that I was able to get to. Much to the annoyance of my friends, I often disappeared inside the temples and force them to wait for me with Toem our driver.

Near the end of our third day, I went back to Angkor Wat. Walking the eight kilometers from the town center of Siam Reap as I had run out of money by then. I had a lot of time to kill that day as I waited for the bus that would take us back to the border. I only meant to explore Siam Reap and I did not mean to go back to temple, but as I walked and wandered I found myself headed back towards Angkor Wat. When I reached the temple the sun was setting, there were significantly fewer people than before. I walked around barefoot, my slippers had broken a kilometer before I reached the temple walls. Towards the back of the complex, I climbed the set of stairs and sat on a ledge and watched as the sky changed colors. Before I lost all light, I took out my notebook and wrote the following:

The sun has set and world grows dark and I am sitting on a ledge on Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I am an extremely fortunate person. A little over a year ago I was sitting on the ledge of a different temple of a different ancient city and the thought of that makes me feel more connected to this world. It is because I am in a place that many hundreds of years ago a different kind of people has been before. Their imprints are still here, invisible but strong. Maybe because I think about the stories they have left behind and how rich and full they must be but that I would never truly know. The tourists are all but gone. The temple is quiet, peacefully quiet and beautiful. There is a steady, clear humming of insects from the surrounding woods. The temple stands majestic and powerful somehow. There is an incredible sense of mystery. A sense of strength. A sense of humanity. Here is a magnificent structure, a wondrous creation of human hands but it has fallen. It has been abandoned, taken back by the Earth and unearthed by humans again. It feels to be a testament of humanity, of our height and our downfall, that we as a human race will go on. We persist. We’ll build magnificent empires, and enormous symbols of our ingenuity and prowess but we are human so we will err, we will be conquered, destroyed, forgotten at times, but we persist. We are still here. We move, we fight, we run away and we take back. This is what these ancient beauties say to me when I walk through their halls. Because like us, they are still here.

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