Goodness. I hope you like photos.
Take this as a good sign. I’m a person who lives for pictures. When I’m sad or sick, my desire to record and create images just about vanishes. Which is why this blog was text only for so many months.
When I’m well, I start looking at things again. And planning and plotting things. So herewith, one almighty image dump.
Firstly, where am I?
I’m on a trip that I’ve dubbed “the bucket list tour”.
Last year, when I got my diagnosis in June and everything just sort of stopped, a rather lovely holiday fell by the wayside. Charlie and I were planning to head to Venice for the Architecture Biennale, and to Hawaii for a friend’s wedding. Surgery, and IVF, and chemo, and all other unpleasant things took precedence. Of course they did.
Rather than lovely holidays, I had months and months as a virtual prisoner in my own house or various hospital rooms. I believe I wrote a blog post at some point about skipping the country. It wasn’t the right time, but of course it was the starting point for plotting my next trip.
It’s a strange one. Don’t expect logic or order here, because it’s a “bucket list” trip. I connected the places I wanted to go and the people I wanted to see, and went for it.
Our journey starts in Cambodia. Two dear friends, Eva and Loris, are living the most remarkable life in Phnom Penh right now. However, they’re soon to pack up their wonderful apartment and move back to Australia. So we simply had to visit them before the time ran out.
In no particular order, here are some mementos of our time in Phnom Penh.
First up, lady boy feet in animal slippers at a regional food fair in Phnom Penh. This was a big night out Phnom Penh Style. There was a rather intense moment where I sipped snail porridge in front of an adoring crowd of regional Cambodians*. There were a whole lot of young fellows with amazing sweeping K-Pop coifs. We learned how to dance anti-clockwise around a fruit table half-Khmer half-Hip Hop style (that’s our dancing posse in the next photo down- note a couple of regional Cambodian fellows who took it upon themselves to teach the dorky white folk to dance). It was an awesome night.
*There may have been two rather explosive cases of food poisoning following the snail porridge experience. Or was it the deep fried crickets at the market the next day? Impossible to say for sure.
These rather lovely tiles are inside a once grand hotel which is now occupied by squatters and slowly crumbling away. Apparently the film City of Ghosts was shot partially in this building. I haven’t seen it as yet but if the building is anything to go by it’s pretty atmospheric.
Fishy delights at the Phnom Penh Central Market. Post food poisoning, the dried seafood display now looks to me like neatly laid out micro-organisms of the gut churning variety. At the time they just looked pretty.
Lovely, lovely mangosteens. The rest of the world deserves mangosteens.
Cambodia is a survivor of some really horrendous stuff. It feels incredibly crass to draw a parallel between my own recent experiences and Cambodia’s slow healing process post- Khmer Rouge, but the country really spoke to me in a way I don’t think it would have pre-cancer. The humility, dignity and quiet acknowledgment of terrible wrongs in the too recent past was inspiring if saddening. The people of Cambodia want us all to bear witness to the terrible wrongs, and so we travelled to the Killing Fields on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. The memorial stupa contains around 9000 skulls, most showing serious head wounds. The ground still holds slivers of bone and rags of torn clothing. What terrible wrongs are inflicted, human being on human being. Shall we ever learn to just live and let live?
In a rather alarming twist, a tourist guide sheet hanging in a Tuk Tuk offers “shopping and shooting”, “malls and machine guns”.
Another faded colonial gem. Squats with satellite dishes?
Next stop, Malaysia. We were here to attend the wedding of an old family friend, and to catch up with my brother who I hadn’t seen in several years. First, a motor bike wall mural inside a bunker in Fort Cornwallis in Penang.
Random kitsch in the old Fort.
Creepy china dolls and other oddities in the Peranakan Heritage Museum.
Random vistas in Old Penang.
A short trip to Malacca, between bouts of food poisoning. The upside of the Snail Porridge Amoeba Incident was that I got to meet a wonderful Chinese doctor. He not only quickly prescribed a quick solution to the food poisoning, but he gave me a spontaneous character sketch (frighteningly accurate) based on my blood group, with diet suggestions with a view to managing my “chronic illness”. I stayed away from alternative medical advice during my treatment but I’m now open to suggestions and may try a little of what my new doctor friend recommended.
It’s now 24 hours until we leave South East Asia and I’m sitting by the poolside watching torrential tropical rain thunder down. I am truly content and so, so happy to be here writing this post in happier times.
Love to you all.