Report by somebody who was there with an intro by Welf Herfurth
Finally, here is a report about the National Anarchist Asia Tour 2008. The report was written by one of the participants, and it is purposely written as an eye witness account, without too many political statements. The aim of the report is to give a personal account of the trip.
One of the aims that we tried to achieve with this tour was to show the participants how the native people live. Two of the guys who came with us had never been in Asia and one can say that it was a real eye opener for them. Not only did we see the most amazing cultural sights and landscapes, but we mixed with the people as much as we could: we ate their local food, travelled in their buses and experienced the life they lead.
And by the end of the trip it was very clear to us that the people in Lao, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia have the same needs and wants as we have here in Australia, namely the need for financial security, preservation of their culture against the never-ending tsunami of American influence and the preservation of their community’s identity and survival.
From the beginning of this trip we were aware that it would cause controversy in the nationalistic and ‘lefty’ circles here in Australia. We expected that the ‘left’ would just palm the trip off as a smokescreen and the ‘right’ would ask the question, “Why would a nationalist want to visit these countries?”
Well, for the ‘left’ we have one message and that is that we believe that every culture has the right of self-determination, cultural identity and preservation of its way of life. We believe that we don’t have the right to tell them how to life and what form of political system they have to have. I know that certain elements of the ‘left’ want to change the whole world into a liberal democratic paradise and label every nation that doesn’t want to be part of this utopia a racist or fascist state. They are unable to understand that not everyone feels the same fuzzy feeling about liberal democracy as they do. This attempt of social engineering is nothing short of cultural imperialism and reminds me of the politics of the English in the old times where they tried to bring the English way of life to their colonies. And we all know how that ended up.
What the ‘left’ fails to understand that most cultures in this world have a tribal way of thinking, a way of life that is based on strong community feelings and respect for their elders. The whole concept of ‘elections’ is foreign to them and in forcing ‘Democracy’ onto them they create nothing but chaos and social suffering on these people. Just have a look at what is happening in Iraq. Nobody can tell me that liberal democracy is working for the good of the Iraqi people.
And we as members of the New Right Australia New Zealand are more than happy to visit other countries and see for ourselves how these people live and what their culture is like. We are not snobs who think that we are better than them and who try to force our way of life onto them. And as long as we are in their country, living within their community, we obey by their rules.
In return we expect nothing else when they are in our country.
Now, the reaction of the ‘right’ was everything that we expected – and more. Everything from shaking heads, wondering why one wants to visit Asia (“Why don’t you go to Cabramatta?”) and pointing out that as Australians we have the duty to holiday in our own country to pure hatred towards us. In one online forum we were called race traitors, sex tourists, naïve fools, going over to Asia for the lady boys, etc., etc. All said in some very immature and idiotic statements. But then we had to sit back and think about WHO made these statements and then we came to the conclusion that they did us a great favour in calling us these things. Why? Very simply – they displayed their ignorance by showing that they are not able to think outside their political cage; everything that is new is poison to them. It is they, through their rambling, who isolate themselves in a politically rubber-padded cell.
I had a lot of calls and e-mails from people who asked me about this Asia Tour, and so far I have not had one person who was hostile towards us after we talked about it. They might not agree with it, but each one was man/woman enough to respect our point of view. No two people agree with each other 100% and that has to be expected. To agree to disagree and work together on issues one agrees on: That is the mature approach and the only way forward.
So to all the people who called us these names, hidden behind usernames so we don’t know who they are; thank you for showing the world how ignorant and stupid you are. Thank you for proving to the world that lateral thinking is not something that you practise. I hope that you all feel warm and cosy in your Forum world that is like ‘Second Life’ to you, where you can abuse people all day long. Stay there, feel important and save the world, well the internet world anyway. As long as you stay there we in the real world don’t have to deal with brain dead people like you. And that is a good thing.
To all the people who tried to defend our tour and myself a big thank you for sticking up for us and me personally. I know that many of you don’t agree with what the New Right and National Anarchists are doing, but nevertheless you defended our right to be different. And that has to be commended.
Last but not least, I would like to thank the people who went on tour with us. Not only did we all have a great time, saw some amazing places, had lots of adventures and drank many beers, we also cemented our friendship and comradeship, and that is something that nobody can take away from us.
As for next year – yes, there will be another tour. So if you are interested, drop us a line.
Across South East Asia
(I went on the trip in order to see for myself how an alien culture, but of a more natural society, contrasted with the technocratic-dogmatic thinking that is enforced on my beloved homeland. I discovered how complete the imprisonment of the great masses is. May every one of my countrymen and women’s minds break free!)
After much wrangling with my local post office, my passport arrived two weeks ahead of the plane trip. I flicked through it standing outside the post office. Its cover was dark blue, made of some stiff card with a fabric face; inside was a holographic photo of myself. Of interest, and different from my previous passport, was the addition of an imbedded chip in a page towards the back, presumably holding my personal file for the benefit of the authorities. I’d like to know what is on it.
I work in a factory at a trade. My last day at work was actually a send off; I would not be coming back. Therefore I was treated by all and sundry, and made to promise to send post cards. A few chaps from the factory floor decided to spring a good natured trap and in a meat pie they gave to me, had surreptitiously inserted into the filling a chopped up chilli! However, I had been training myself for the past months to eat chilli, and the addition on one chilli improved the taste of the pie. They stood surprised as I pulled another chilli from my lunchbox and ate it raw. Then the rough fellows slapped me on the back and hooted with applause. I had impressed them.
I did not want to have to pay rent for five weeks while away, so I packed everything I owned into my car. The student accommodation where I live is easy to get, and I planned to reapply when I returned. Therefore I needed to store my possessions while away. Previously, I had sorted out to store them at a friend’s garage, and now I drove over there. Not everything could fit in the car; therefore everything I did not want to keep, various odds and ends, books and the like, I simply distributed to the other tenants or discarded. I had an interesting ride, with my car full of things, receiving many an odd look from other motorists. At one point the car’s suspension, already overburdened, bottomed out over a speed bump with an awkward grind. I gripped the wheel tightly, thinking I was stranded. Fortunately the downhill momentum carried the car over.
After returning to my residence I collected the bond from my landlord. He was happy at the state of my room, and we parted friends. Then I drove my now empty car over to Welf’s. My other comrades greeted me at the door excitedly, everyone was in high sprirts. After a while Allan said to me: ‘Look here, I’m staving. Let’s go and get a kebab’. We quietly left and drove up and got a kebab. It was our last taste of a kebab for five weeks.
That night I could not sleep much. Going overseas excites because it is seeing things one has never seen before. My mind was continually playing over what I read about or seen in photographs many times before, and I tried to imagine what it would be like once we touched down. Would it be the same? Or would it be different? This guessing kept me up for a long time. Finally I dropped off in a restless slumber.
We awoke at some time past four am. It was a clear cloudless sky: those mornings are the coldest. A cloudy morning acts as an insulating blanket. Rainy weather is even better. After a few cups of coffee we lumbered our packs into the car. Another comrade arrived. More greetings. Then we left for the station.
Here we did not intend to catch the train. The line to Sydney Airport is owned by a private company and the fare is prohibitive. It is cheaper and more reliable to catch a taxi. We selected one and got in, however at that moment its engine died. A poor start. The driver looked at us apologetically. I felt sorry for the fellow; he seemed a decent enough chap. He called for a friend over his radio to come and pick us up.
On the way to the airport we got stuck in the traffic coming through the M5 tunnel under the airport itself. This is a major bottleneck in Sydney’s traffic ring road system, especially in the mornings and afternoons during peak hours. The driver cursed and grumbled at the Government. All of us comrades laugh at the various corruptions in the NSW State Government, and incompetence with which it deals with the endless scandals when the media uncovers them. In a way I am glad that we have a corrupt government: it throws out the sham of liberal-democracy into sharp relief, something we can use in our own outreach.
The taxi pulled up at International at about seven am. We changed our money into Thai Bant, and read our last emails till touch down in Bangkok. After check in we passed into the huge shopping area that all passengers navigate. Then we went through the much vaunted airport security. This checkpoint was manned by an obese woman with three chins. She grunted at me once and I passed through the metal detector. We went straight to our plane and boarded within a few minutes.
The plane trip was uneventful. It simply felt as we had got into a tube and then got out again eight hours later – but the scenery was different. Most people watched movies or slept. My first recollection of Bangkok was a great poster of the Thai Monarch, with the slogan, ‘Long Live the King’, facing the disembarking passengers at the airport. It was literally the first thing we saw of Thailand. Presumably this was to remind newcomers or returning Thais who was boss. Not that I minded: I’d rather a king as head of State anyday, over some lacklustre politician. Not that I stand for old Lizzy though.
The reception hall at Bangkok Airport is a huge modern steel and glass hanger-like structure. We passed through customs and security without incident. After we retrieved our packs from the baggage carrousel we went outside to get a taxi to the city and a hostel. Immediately outside a heavy, smoggy, windy heat descended on us. Our shirts began to stick to our backs. Past the glass doors a large pack of tour and accommodation guides gathered; now they gathered around us, offering various deals. We selected one and hopped into a car. It was a sort of homemade taxi. To the driver’s credit the ride was smooth.
The drive to Bangkok’s Chinatown is along massive freeways and overpasses that are not ten years old. Magnificent bronze statues of traditional Thai figures adorn the side. Out beyond that lies Bangkok: a metropolis that reaches as far as the eye can see, vast and glistening and spreading. Soaring office and residential towers glint silver and white in the slanting afternoon sun against a brown smog; their number is countless, and they stretch to the horizon in all directions. Between them as a floor lies the green foliage of neighbourhood trees, like a carpet between teeth. This is the home of the common people.
From a sweeping exit we descended into the neighbourhoods of Chinatown. Here tuk tuk’s – small motorcycles with a passenger cart attached – and sedans wrestled with numerous scooters and a considerable amount of bicycles, for possession of the road space. Thais drive on the left, but that is the only similarity to Sydney. The nature of driving and road rules, or lack of, was a topic of much discussion among my comrades, and a whole treatise could probably on that subject be written.
The important point for the traveller to remember is that here drivers and riders have an uncanny unspoken understanding with one another (undoubtedly born of close folkish community), and possess a hidden capacity to adjudicate right of way among themselves with ease, in a traffic without a legally set ‘right of way’ as in Western countries. The communicate subtlety to one another their intentions: a raised eyebrow, a slight nod, a minor movement of the finger; which, owing to their slightness of motion, the average tourist misses and mistakes for an almost telepathic communication (as mentioned before, this can only come about through an intense knowledge of common ‘modes of understanding’ held only within a folkish community).
What this amounts to on the roads is that rules are often flouted, because they don’t need them. For example, off the freeways, one can forget entirely the lane markings. We learnt over the trip to trust implicitly in our drivers and riders, and their ability to judge distance and speed in often chaotic situations, as well as communicate effectively to other drivers and riders. We became confident and our earlier apprehension was dispelled. After this, riding on a motor scooter through a crowded five way intersection became a peculiar joy.
But I digress. The hotel in Chinatown was unremarkable and Western-like. We ventured out after a shower into the streets. Bangkok’s streets are always remarkable – so much living is done on them! When outside one is continually engaged by the strange smells, sounds, and exotic sights that press in on foreign senses. Every inch is occupied, yet if you need room then space is made. Sellers flogging food clutter the footpaths and lanes; tuk tuks crowd the road; cycles navigate precariously close but safely the edges of whizzing traffics. There is an order here, but it is another order: a more natural order to the West; here each man follows what his own mind thinks best – instead of what he is told is best.
This is in contrast to the West, where advertising has changed way the average man thinks: instead of what comes instinctively, what would be common sense, what is inherently logical, Western man has unnatural rules, ‘responsibilities’, technocratic dogma, fashionableness, ‘correct political attitudes’, etc., etc., to consider when confronted by a problem and in framing his solution. Mostly he applies these stipulations subconsciously, but once in a while he wonders at their illogical. Here, this attitude of mindless conformity was thrown into sharp contrast with the more logical mode and independence of thinking of the native people. Why not set up a barbecue on the street? There is room, and money to be made, so why not? Another though occurred to me. As I became gradually conscious of the enormous effect advertising has over the great masses and their thinking, I realised the enormous problem that confronts anyone who seeks to establish the forces of national resistance against the whole international movement.
And finally let no one say that modern society needs these ‘rules’ to operate: Bangkok is a modern city of over twenty millions which operates with minimal violent crime or social disturbances – and its preserves its folkish community.
The next morning we visited the famed Bangkok floating markets. The idea was to get into a motor canoe and visit numerous stalls by the side of the canal. The edged of the canals are concrete, the stalls themselves timber and reed roofs, the hawkers selling mass-produced, but locally made Thai souvenirs. It is purely a tourist market. That said, I had no problem with the outfit because the items obviously were of decent quality and made by local people.
We ended up buying little though. We left lunch and drove up to the bridge on River Kwai. One end of the bridge is a small town, with again lots of tourist wares. The planking on the bridge is rather slipshod, and many boards rattle when stepped on. We did witness a Buddhist monk being carried on the shoulders of others in a religious parade. Then we drove over to a famous cutting, the infamous ‘Hellfire Pass’, of the Japanese Thailand-Burma Railway built by forced labour during the last war. Here Allied soldiers, mainly British, Australian and New Zealanders, and Dutch, were used as forced labour by their Japanese to build the railway through the jungle, as well as numerous Chinese, Malay, and Tamil labourers. All suffered greatly under the Japanese.
It must have been a very difficult project to be labouring on. It was very remote from any major town and the lack of metal hand tools meant workers were often using sticks as makeshift digging tools. Workers were often required to work eighteen hour days in the humid climate, and this coupled with the lack of hygiene, poor health care, and small, poor quality rations, resulted in cases of cholera, dysentery, starvation, and exhaustion among the working parties. To increase production, extra strain was placed on the still healthy workers, with the Japanese using bamboo canes to beat slow workers. In the six weeks it took to cut the pass, guards beat to death sixty-eight in total, or about eleven men a week.
There is a bronze plaque dedicated to these poor souls at the beginning of the pass. Here we stood in silent contemplation of the pain that happened here years ago. Men our own age here had suffered horrible fates, maybe their ghosts lingered here still. It was a solemn moment.
On the 13th of April we spent the day browsing the bazaars and street markets of Bangkok. I brought a sturdy bracelet of Afghan make made of a silver alloy of low quality. The moist air affected the copper in the mix and slowly turned it a darken yellow in the weeks to come. I decided then to only buy four souvenirs, one from each country we visited.
That evening all agreed we were looking forwards to leaving Bangkok. The humidity was oppressive, and the air was polluted with smog. We previously had bought tickets on an overnight train to Vientiane, capital of Laos, a country to the north of Thailand.
Now we went to the grand central railway station of Bangkok from our hotel in a tuk tuk. We boarded at about 8PM, but the train left not at the 8.30PM timetable start, but instead at about 10PM – reason unknown. We shared out the bottles of beers we had brought with us and made merry. Then we were rocked us to sleep by the train, racing over the rails.
We arrived at the end of the line and crossed into Laos. Here the communist authorities and their bureaucracy became apparent: it took about an hour to cross the boarder. A tuk tuk took us into Vientiane. It was a small city and had everything in pleasing proportion. We checked into a hostel and went over to a well known venue, The Scandinavian Bakery, for lunch. Then we prepared for the Hash House Harrier (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hash_House_Harriers) run being held that afternoon.
It was held at a large house inside a compound on the edge of town. Like most of the runners, the host was an American from New York. We all got on fine. Then we ran the hash, through the streets, up into the poorer suburbs, out into the ramshackle slums, and along the main roads. It was great fun, and I remembered the thrill of pushing the body from my days competing in school middle distance running. Dogs yapped and barked at our heels and God knows what the locals thought of these red faced foreigners. After the run our generous host showered us with beer and conducted a hash circle, which is really a badly disguised drinking game for adults. Then, all for the grand price of US$5, we ate and drank to our hearts content at a nearby restaurant.
The next day was spent in sightseeing in Vientiane. We trawled the markets for deals on rare items back home, and for souvenirs. I bought a handsome silver dragon headed bracelet. That night we travelled north to Vanvieng in a minivan. Along the way an accident had just occurred, and a man was groaning on the ground, clutching a bloody head with his hands. He did not appear seriously injured though.
We arrived in Vanvieng past dusk. The streets had a Wild West feel. It was a free and easy atmosphere. There are a large amount of backpackers and European tourists in Vanvieng, and therefore drugs. One can order with food all sorts of concoctions.
The next day the others went tubing on a nearby river. I wandered the immense airstrip that runs through the town. Today its surface has deteriorated to a gravelly surface, and it serves a sort of large empty square. In the Vietnam War era this was the CIA’s base of operations for its ‘Air America’ service, an outfit transport aid and training to the anti-communist hill tribes. It was unlike how I’d imagined it. I had expected to see plane wrecks and mournful faces, but the people here seem to have already forgotten the war.
Vanvieng is a testament to the hedonism of today. Stoned backpackers stumble along the streets and periodically someone will fall over in a drug induced fit. This is common, and the person is simply carried to a padded bench to recover. It seemed to me like the end of the world, a denial of reality, of the future, a simple living for the moment feeling.
The day after the next we returned to Vientiane. The next morning, I left my companions and took a bus to across Laos heading for Danang in Vietnam. The bus travelled on through the night, and the music was never turned off for very long. I did not sleep for more than three hours all up.
In the pale blue dawn we stopped at a busy roadside café on the edge of a misty mountain. The coffee was Vietnamese style, condensed milk, hot dark liquid and ice. Stirring it up mixed the ingredients into a sweet and strong brew.
We went through the Vietnamese boarder at about 9AM. Because I was the only Westerner in the office I was delayed, and my passport was not approved until the last minute. However my bus passenger waited patiently, and even cheered me when I walked under the red and white boom gate.
Danang was a whistlestop. At about 2PM I quickly disembarked from the bus and found another going south almost immediately. We left Danang in record time, and this time I made certain beyond all doubt that the bus had air conditioning. Also the seats had clean fabric, not dirty lino covers. A pure luxury, in a contrast with the last twenty four hours. Not even the music would stop me from enjoying an adequate rest.
All that day and night we drove on, small fry on the roads dodging our rushing mass. In the morning we navigated through the outer suburbs of Saigon, which is still commonly called that name by locals. Once off the bus, I found a map. I correctly guessed the tourist precinct to be District 1. A local bus took me across town. Here I found in the agreed hostel a note detailing a change to another hostel around the corner. I fumbled around the long way, rejecting many offers of tuk tuks and restaurants. Finally I found it, well hidden in a back lane. The boys greeted me, and I explained my adventure on the busses.
I was in Saigon, the opulent faded jewel of France’s colonial empire. The influence could be seen in the art deco and French provincial architecture and street layout. Welf had the good luck to run into an old acquaintance from his previous trip, Johnny, an experienced local guide. Throughout our stay in Vietnam the friendliness of the local people surprised us, not least because being Australians our country had been fighting here less than thirty years ago. Perhaps the better treatment the Australians gave the Vietnamese back then, and their more professional training, accounted for some of this.
However I am inclined to venture that the natural spirit of the Vietnamese is friendly toward any stranger. A good example of this was Johnny, who insisted that we visit his home and eat there at least once. Similarly he was an honest and good natured guide we could not fault. After the day was over, and the obligation to guide these clumsy Westerners was done, still he would on his own free time insist on staying with us to help out and point out the better eating and drinking places. Undoubtable some of this was due to following shear good business acumen of not letting a customer out of site until safely in hostel, but it was hard to ascribe it entirely to this. There was a genuine and friendly side to his nature that was undeniable.
Johnny himself was a former South Vietnamese soldier in ARVN. After the war these men where barred from other professions’, and so today make up the large labouring and taxi driving class of Saigon and the South.
The next morning we visited the memorial to the Australians at Long Tan, about an hour north west of Saigon. Again the heat was oppressive. The red soil was dusty in a horrid way, getting everywhere in the car. The memorial, which is a simple concrete cross painted white, stands in an unremarkable field of rubber trees. Here we stood for a moment of sombre silence. The birds twittered in the trees above.
Here on the 18th of August 1966 a ‘D’ Company 6RAR (Australian infantry) encountered forward elements of a VC regiment. The battle developed until the VC were continually assaulting and attempting to flank the Australians, however heavy artillery from a nearby base and ammunition resupply from helicopters allowed the Australians, who where widely dispersed in excellent defensive positions, to hold them off. Also heavy rain hampered assault attempts. This situation lasted for some hours until a counter attack by another company, ‘B’, staged in APC’s drove off the attackers.
Most of the Australian soldiers fighting in both companies were in their early twenties and conscripted. The parallels to my own age were again, like Hellfire Pass, uncanny, and gave me pause for reflection.
Two hundred metres or so to the right of the cross lay the battlefield itself, a cleared patch of red soil, furrowed for planting. It is said that this is the only memorial to foreign soldiers Vietnam has permitted to be erected on its soil. I wondered why this was. We also visited the unremarkable remnants of the Australian and New Zealander Base, now dismantled and grown over.
On the 24th we travelled to Mui Ne which is a beachside town north of Saigon by four hours. It is a simple and pretty place, clean sand and water against a warm blue sky. It did not rain once.
It is often said that when things are dangerous, or unpleasant, they make good reading and can fill many pages; but that happier days, of rest and sunshine can be soon told.
We spent the days lazing about the beach or floating in the warm ocean swells. In the evenings we would gather at our favourite restaurant and feast like kings for a pittance. And at dusk the cloudless red sky gave way to a full moon, which we toasted with our drinks in the gentle surf.
But we had adventures there too. One day we hired motor scooters and rode bravely through the foreign traffic, out along a coast road to a sea of immense dunes. Here we climb for hours among the hills of sand, sliding down the steep and shear faces, to come to rest in little valleys of dune grass and old drift wood – and then climb out again. Sand got into everything, my pockets and my under clothes included.
Among the dunes lay a round blue lake, ringed with green weed, and there stood a herd of miniature ponies, grazing in the shallows. The ponies had no owners in sight and seemed free beasts. They seemed unaware of our presence, and we left them to their food.
Later that day I lent my motor scooter to another backpacker. She fell into a corner, cutting her leg in places, and was taken to a local hospital. I was roused by Allan who raced back to the hostel. I was required to bring back the motorcycles of Welf and the injured backpacker. Allan took me to hospital and in turns we got back the other bikes, riding separately back and then together to the hospital. I must admit that the speed and confidence of Allan’s riding surprised me, but I counselled myself that he was an experienced rider of many years. On the return journey’s, when I was in control, I pushed my abilities to stay with Allan, and he commended me afterward. The sheer thrill of riding a bike at high speeds along chaotic road cannot be matched, and is almost delicious in its appeal. It feels like you have cheated death. The closure of this unfortunate incident was the complete recovery of the injured backpacker.
A sad parting of ways occurred then also, with Michael starting on the long journey home. During a special midnight toast in the South China Sea we declared eternal friendship.
Then after a few days, with heavy hearts, we turned and left the Mui Ne beach and returned to Saigon. Back into the smog and dirt and bustle of the city. The day after we caught a bus bound for Phonm Penh. We arrived late in the afternoon.
Cambodia struck me immediately as being a few degrees poorer than Vietnam. My first memory after crossing the boarder was the profusion of street sellers of crisp fried insects. I am told that these are a good source of protein. Eating them undoubtable was a practice that sprung up during Pol Pots time. The people here seem more reserved than Vietnam, more irrational, more genuine.
The next day I wandered along the foreshore of the Mekong, and here was a festival taking place in a very public manner. A small public temple was surrounded and crowded with reverent Buddhists, graced with flowers and incense. Across the road a large open air market spread. The living pulse of Asia is overwhelming, the sheer unconsciousness of how the people go about their very public lives amazes. There is not the least shred of self-consciousness here.
On the 29th of April I visited the huge Russian markets; perhaps it refers to the aid this country received from the USSR at one time. There I brought a small number of the red check traditional Khmer scarves. That night we lazed about the foreign correspondents club, famous for the patronage of journalists during Pol Pot time.
The next day Allen departed. We had the now customary last drinks. Then the net morning we boarded a bus to Sinnahokville, a beach town on the south coast of Cambodia. There was nothing extremely remarkable about this place in contrast to the beach at Mui Ne. In fact I found it dirtier and more crowded. There was not much to recommend it. However it could have been we stayed in a bad area or saw the wrong beach.
After a few days here we returned to Phenon Penh and to the same guest house. Then after a night we travelled north to Siem Riep. This is a town just south of the temples of Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s best know landmark. Here Welf left to join up with his better half in an upmarket hotel. I choose a budget hostel instead. The rooms were $5 without aircon which suited me fine.
I spent the next week travelling up to Angkor Wat and wandering around their massive bulk. This place is simply amazing and if a visitor does not visit it while in Asia then they are missing an extraordinary spectacle. These mightily temples, build between 800 and 1200 AC are the remnants of a once powerful Hindu empire in this now Buddhist land. The immense carved faces stare out at one impassively, confident and incumbent in their long gone power.
The temples take most of their themes directly from the mythology of the Hindu: the complex is laid out to represent holy Mount Meru in India; the temple is dedicated to Vishnu; and the orientation is to the West, from whence the Gods originated in Hindu myths.
Impressive stone scenes are depicted in bas relief and statues adore most other structures. Here one can see the great extent of Indian – and by default Aryan – influence, on South East Asian culture. This influence does not wash over the mountain chain that divides Vietnam from Laos and Cambodia, and this has acted as a dividing line between the Indianite and Sino influenced cultures of Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam respectively.
I left Siem Riep on the 9th of May. I took a bus to the boarder of Thailand along a highway that was in a poor state. I am told this is as an airline company is paying the government bribes to not repair the road. And thus the trip is slow and rough.
At the boarder transferred to a different bus. Thailand is a very modern efficient State, and the crossing was easy. The new bus was far more comfortable and we made good progress, arriving in Bangkok at 8.30PM.
I found the cheapest room I could (about $2) in a dormitory. Then I caught a taxi with two New Zealanders to the airport in the morning. It all went like clockwork. I meet Welf at the airport with his partner; they’d been staying on the idyllic south coast of Thailand for the better part of a week. Unfortunately it had rained a lot. However they had a happy time, including many massages and facials – Welf’s partner that is.
On the flight home I watched an old version of ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’. I was reminded that the world still holds much mystery, even now. Witnessing Asian culture shows one what is important in our own European culture.
In seeking to understand and respect other cultures, perhaps we can find some keys to building our own.