Tuesday, July 31, 2018


Well, a certain someone made it home yesterday, and we're finally reunited as a family once again. Olga was delivered to us by the kennel in the late morning, and she raced inside, thundered around the house and out into the back yard, and spent the whole day lying in the sun and snoozing and being petted and eating special little pork chop scraps left over from our dinner. Safe to say she's a happy dog, back where she belongs.

I'm sure she's looking forward to being walked, too, but I can't take her out yet because it's raining the proverbial cats and dogs at the moment. And it rained a lot last night. So nice to see after our recent dry spell!

In fact, while Dave and I were traveling we must have had a bit of rain here, because I actually had to mow the lawn yesterday. I spent the morning tidying up the garden in general, staking and trimming and weeding and I think it's finally whipped into shape.

I haven't missed all the blackberries, either, for which I am happy. The bushes are loaded with ripe ones, and there are plenty more coming along so I think I'll have them at least for the next week -- until I leave again!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Style and a Sunflower

Somehow I managed to stay awake all day yesterday, despite only dozing on the plane. Then, last night, I went to bed and slept seven hours, and now I feel pretty much normal. I'm sure it will take a few days to completely reset my system -- just in time to go to Florida -- but I feel like I'm doing pretty well so far.

Speaking of Florida, I forgot to mention that while standing in the passport and immigration queue at Heathrow yesterday, I saw a guy wearing a University of South Florida t-shirt. (That's my alma mater, in Tampa.) This happens every once in a while in London, but it's not that common, so I said hi, told him I was also a USF Bull and asked him what he studied there. He reacted monosyllabically, just enough to not be completely rude, but it was obvious he had no interest talking to me. We walked away and Dave said, "He seems like a pretty dim bulb."

Good old USF, churning out new generations of scintillating conversationalists.

I staked up a lot of our crazily leaning plants yesterday. I also reset all our mouse traps because I noticed some nibbly marks on Olga's dog food bowl, which we'd sealed in her absence with a plastic cover. Last night we caught two mice. Which brings the grand total since our crackdown in the spring up to, what, fourteen?

I wonder if this is just going to be the new normal? I suppose we could have an exterminator come and crawl around under the house (because I'm definitely not doing that) and try to figure out how they're getting in. Or I could just accept that we live in a 100-year-old house and we're going to kill one or two every now and then. Fortunately they're staying out of our food, which is the main thing.

I watched the John Hughes movie "Weird Science" yesterday. Totally silly, but nostalgic fun. I miss the '80s -- and when I was in them, they seemed so uninteresting and characterless compared to, say, the '60s. Just Ronald Reagan and bad synth music. I remember thinking the '80s had no distinctive style, which in retrospect is of course completely untrue. I guess it's not always easy to see that sort of thing up close.

I feel like our time period now is pretty indistinct, style-wise. All my clothes look pretty much just like they did at the turn of the millennium. (In fact, I'm still wearing some of them from back then!) I remember reading an article years ago that debated the rise of Banana Republic "good taste," the uniforms of khakis and black t-shirts, and how they were robbing us of individuality and a sense of a distinctly stylish time period. What do you think? Will someone ever look back at the clothes we're wearing now and think, "Oh, that's so 2018?"

(Photo: One of the sunflowers we bought from the herb man at the Jester Festival in July. They're both blooming now.)

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Back Home Again

Well, we're back home in London, where we returned to rain (yay!) and a rather beaten-down garden. We seem to have had some windstorms that left the top-heavy zinnias standing on their heads and knocked around some other plants, too. I can tell already that tomorrow we'll be out there staking things up!

The trip home went smoothly enough, but it was LONG. (I feel like I say that every time I fly, but in this case, it's true!) We left our hotel in Nha Trang at 6 p.m. (12 p.m. London time) yesterday and got to our flat at 9:45 this morning. So that's just about 22 hours of traveling.

The hardest part was getting through immigration at Heathrow. There must have been multiple large flights coming in from Asia because it was packed. We stood in line for about an hour.

Somebody asked whether I kept that mask I found on the beach in Nha Trang. The answer is, yes. I propped it up on a windowsill with our Zimbabwean bead creatures for now. Not sure I'll leave it there. It's a little creepy, isn't it?!

Olga, meanwhile, is spending her last evening in her luxury pet hotel, which is a good thing. I pulled up this picture a few days ago and it looked like she'd literally been knocking her head against the door:

We're looking forward to getting her back tomorrow!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Communist Coffee and a Rocky Swim

Yesterday was my "adventure tour," a trip to a waterfall outside Nha Trang with some stops along the way, arranged through our hotel. My guide was a young guy named David who hauled me around on the back of a Vespa, and was ever-patient with my periodic requests to pull over for a photo.

We started the tour at a coffee shop in town called Cong, which is not pronounced quite like it looks -- more like "Cowm," or something like that. Anyway, it means "people," and the cafe is a stylish Communist Chic place with decor reminiscent of North Vietnam back in the '60s. David suggested he order for me, and he chose a coconut frappuccino sort of drink unlike anything I would have ordered for myself, but it was very good. (Also full of blended ice, but I drank it anyway. What the heck.)

I seriously doubt one could get a coconut frappuccino in North Vietnam in the '60s, by the way.

(And yes, I was fully conscious of the irony of me, an American, being brought to a place celebrating Vietnam's Communist roots.)

From there we hopped on the Vespa (yes, I did get a helmet) and rode north out of town. David stopped in a photogenic fishing village where we got some shots of the boats, drying fish and someone's colorful laundry.

Our eventual destination was the Ba Ho waterfalls, a series of cascades on this river. We turned off the main road onto a smaller track, wound through a village full of chickens and tiny pastel houses, parked the bike, walked a lengthy wooded path and then clambered over some rocks to get there. The rocky part was fairly strenuous -- hence the adventure in my "adventure tour," I suppose.

The tour promised swimming "in the cool, clear water."

The coolness wasn't in doubt, but the clarity was debatable. Apparently there's not a whole lot of water moving through the falls at the moment so the levels are a bit low. (I guess this part of Vietnam hasn't been seeing the rains that have struck the north.) There are actually three sets of falls, but we didn't go above the first one.

Still, I swam, along with several other groups of visitors, Vietnamese and European alike. It did feel good to get in the water after that hot Vespa ride. Lots of little minnows nibbled my feet, just like those fish pedicures that were all the rage a few years ago.

We walked back up the path to a cafe for lunch, where David ordered ridiculous quantities of food (this tour outfit certainly doesn't scrimp on feeding its patrons). We saw some interesting butterflies along the way, including this one that took off just as I clicked my shutter.

And from there we were back on the Vespa and headed toward town, where David dropped me off in mid-afternoon to catch the shuttle bus back to my hotel.

Some of you asked what Dave (my spouse, as opposed to the guide) does while I am out on my sightseeing adventures. Dave is just not into sightseeing -- he much prefers to stay at the resort, go to the spa, and hang out in our air-conditioned room. (In terms of pure animal comfort I can't blame him at all -- our room is pretty amazing.) It's basically the same pattern we follow in London. I am much more an out-and-about kind of guy.

Last night Dave and I celebrated our final night in Vietnam with a fancy dinner at one of the hotel restaurants, and this evening we fly back to Hanoi and then to London. So my next post, hopefully, will be coming to you from home sweet home! (We don't get Olga back until Monday, though. And yes, I have been checking on her with the dog-cam every day throughout our visit!)

Friday, July 27, 2018

Buddha on a Hill

I went into the town of Nha Trang yesterday. It's bigger than I'd imagined -- a city, really, with a coastline dominated by high-rise hotels. But on the side streets were colorful and interesting sights, buildings with sherbet-hued paint jobs and interesting shops and blooming trees.


(Apparently Trump's Miss Universe pageant has been held in Nha Trang, so they know who he is around here. I wonder how he feels about this tiny hostel borrowing his name? He doesn't like to be associated with tiny anything.)

I walked through the city and over some bridges, which gave me a good view of the harbor and its uniformly blue fishing boats. If you look on the second boat from the left you'll see a cluster of people -- most wearing their traditional straw hats -- mending nets beneath the shade of those tarps.

Nha Trang has sidewalks, but outside the city center apparently no one uses them for walking, because they are wildly uneven and packed with parked motorbikes. Seriously, they are largely impassable. From what I could tell, in those areas I was pretty much the only pedestrian! Everyone else was on some kind of wheeled conveyance.

This was my first destination -- the Po Ngar Cham towers. The Cham people, who were Hindu, built the towers beginning in the eighth century. They are now used as Buddhist shrines.

Inside the large one is a statue of the goddess Bharagati, allegedly carved in 1050. As you can see she is surrounded by incense and various offerings. The interior of the tower is entirely black, I suppose from smoke, which gives it a weird feeling of infinite space.

From there I went to the Long Son Pagoda, situated on a hill to the northwest of town. (I didn't want to brave walking again, so I took a taxi, though in order to make the driver understand where I wanted to go I had to pull up pictures of the pagoda on my phone. Apparently I don't pronounce "Long Son" the way a Vietnamese person would.)

At the entrance to the temple was this statue, vividly commemorating the monks who immolated themselves near the beginning of the Vietnam War.

I didn't go into the temple itself, which was zealously guarded by a very particular doorman who turned away several tourists wearing knee-length shorts. (Modest attire is a must in Buddhist temples, but usually knee-length seems OK.) My own shorts came to just below my knees, but I didn't want to risk rejection. Something told me I shouldn't cross that guy. Instead, I started up the steps leading up the hill behind the pagoda.

There I found a large reclining Buddha, surrounded by carved praying monks.

On a nearby wall, people had left numerous little carvings, incense sticks and other religious trinkets.

And at the top of the hill sat this 80-foot-high statue of the Buddha, on a pedestal surrounded by images of (again) the immolated monks. According to my guidebook it's "an important symbol of Nha Trang," and it was certainly impressive and beautiful.

Visitors can actually enter the statue through a door at the back, and the doorman here wasn't as scary so I did go inside. There's a small shrine, and at the doorman's insistence I lit some incense and placed it on the altar -- in exchange for a modest donation, of course.

By this time it was early afternoon, so I caught a taxi back to the town center. (The driver tried to charge me a flat rate but I insisted he use the meter, and my fare turned out to be about half of what he'd originally wanted!) I grabbed a sandwich at a seaside restaurant across from this park before catching the 3:30 p.m. shuttle bus back to our hotel.

It was fun to get back into the hum of Vietnamese society and see some sights!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Green Eyes

This spectacular little fly was stuck in our hotel room yesterday, clinging to the curtains. Check out those eyes! I'm not sure I've ever seen a fly quite like that. I took its picture and then caught it in my hand, took it to the door and watched it fly off into the afternoon.

Later I tried to look up what kind of fly it was, and I'm not sure, but it seems like it might be a type of horsefly. Which is the "sad trombone" ending to my fly story, because I'm sure I've smacked the hell out of many horseflies in my lifetime, and liberating one seems a little silly.

Then again, it didn't bite me, so who knows.

Ho seems to have lessened his grip on my gut, which is much appreciated. I still didn't feel 100 percent yesterday, but this morning I feel better. I'm going to go to town today, although it is freaking hot out there. I walked the beach this morning, a bit later than in previous days, and the heat made my limbs heavy and my head as light as a balloon.

Let's talk about this crazy Vietnamese money. The currency here is called the dong, and there are lots of superfluous zeros attached to it. That 200,000 dong note above is worth about $8.65, or £6.55. The other notes are basically small change -- the top one is worth less than a quarter.

Consequently using dong can be a little cumbersome. For example, I signed up for a guided excursion to a waterfall and some other local sights tomorrow, and the cost was 2.36 MILLION dong (roughly $100 or £77). Seeing it on a bill can be a little scary, but you soon learn to disregard all those extra digits. (Of course, this is true only when you're lucky enough to be converting foreign currency -- I'm sure to the Vietnamese 5,000 dong actually means something.)

In Cambodia, we barely even saw the local money. All our transactions were in US dollars, the currency of choice in Siem Reap and the touristy Angkor area. Occasionally when we were due less than a dollar in change, we'd get a Cambodian bill instead, but I usually just gave it right back. I'm doing my duty to boost the local economy!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Ho's Revenge

Another day, another sunrise walk along the beach. This one was a bit of a challenge, actually, because I've been struck by a malady I'm calling Ho Chi Minh's Revenge -- I'll spare you the details but let's just say my intestines are not happy.

I'm surprised, because I'm very careful about what I eat when I travel -- no iced drinks, no salad, no unpeeled fruit, no street food. But something got through my defenses. Was it the fruit juice "welcome drink" at one of our hotels, perhaps cut with tap water? The Thai basil I stirred into my hot chicken noodle soup at an airport cafe? My martini from Monday night, no doubt shaken with ice? Who knows.

Fortunately, I think the worst of it has passed, and I suppose overall it hasn't been that severe. But I've felt pretty knotted up for the past 24 hours.

This morning I collected these plastic objects on the beach -- I think they're floats from fishing nets, but I'm not 100 percent sure. They're kind of cool, though. I think I'll keep them.

Some of you remarked on the amount of plastic on the beach in my photos yesterday. There is indeed a lot, at least in the areas that are not routinely swept by the hotels. It looks to me like about 75 percent of it is either single-use plastic bottles or fishing gear.

We're going to have to move toward a world where single-use bottles will either be made illegal or will be better managed (reused or redeemed for deposit), because something's got to give. Plastic bags, same thing. The question is, how much time is going to elapse, and how much environmental damage will we allow, before we take those steps?

(I wrestle with a sense of personal responsibility for this problem, because Dave and I have gone through countless plastic bottles of water since we've been here. And I still got Ho's Revenge!)

Things are not all doom and gloom, though. I found this beautiful purple shell on the beach this morning, and I found several bright striped snail shells that still had critters in them. (I threw those back.) I also saw numerous jellyfish and lots of crabs. So there is plenty of life out there.

In terms of seabirds I've seen one sandpiper, but otherwise nothing -- not even a gull. This part of the world just doesn't seem to have many.

So the plan for today is to lie around, finish my Ian Rankin book, have a beer or two on the beach in the shade of an umbrella, and take it easy in general. Tomorrow I hope to motivate myself to get into the city of Nha Trang.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Resort Life in Nha Trang

Dave and I flew yesterday to Nha Trang, a beach town in southern Vietnam. We're staying at a ridiculously plush resort south of the city on the South China Sea.

A driver picked us up at the airport, along with another British couple who clearly bought the same holiday we did, as they've been on every leg of our trip so far, staying in all the same hotels. We've befriended them and had dinner together a few nights.

On the ride in from the airport, we listened to a Muzak version of "House of the Rising Sun" as we swept past one gigantic resort hotel after another. Clearly this part of the country is being developed to suck up the tourist dollars. (I found the music poignant, as that is a Vietnam War-era song that no doubt rode the airwaves here during the conflict.)

I am not really a plush resort kind of person, but I gotta say, this is pretty darn comfortable. Our hotel is called "L'Anam," which was the French name for this part of Vietnam, and it has a colonial motif, with lots of dark wood and ceiling fans. Above was the view last night from the hotel bar, were I had a martini that contained too much vermouth but still satisfied.

This morning I woke up early and took a sunrise walk along the beach. I went from our resort southward toward a public beach where there were lots of Vietnamese out swimming.

The beach in front of our hotel is clearly swept regularly, as it is pristine and litter-free. But farther south, lots of interesting stuff has washed up, like this trap -- for crab or lobster, I'm guessing?

There was also some Vietnamese "Not Allowed Area" tape, hopefully not meant to apply to me...

...as well as a curious face mask.

I'm taking a day to lounge around and rest, and then I hope to get into Nha Trang proper and check out the town. We're staying here for five nights, and before long I'm going to need to get out and see some real life.

Meanwhile, Dave and I have massages included as part of our package, and we're scheduled for those this afternoon!

Monday, July 23, 2018


The old French Quarter in Hanoi is full of this architecture — a little bit European, with its wrought iron balconies and shuttered windows, much of it streaked with mildew and carpeted with a jungly overgrowth of plant life. I find it beautiful, lush and evocative.

I finally got a chance to look around this morning. I went out at 6 a.m., thinking I’d find the city empty and I’d take photos of quiet shopfronts and desolate streets before our early afternoon flight to Nha Trang.


But no! Hanoi is an early-rising and apparently very energetic city. People were out in the parks and green spaces playing badminton, doing tai chi, dancing in big groups to music pouring from speakers, playing soccer. It was incredible! I compiled a video of it all, because I couldn’t believe how much activity I was seeing. I mean, teenagers playing football at 6:30 in the morning?!

I even saw some old ladies doing tai chi on a traffic island in the middle of a very, very busy intersection.

It was wonderful. Watch that video. You won’t believe it either.

I passed this little coffee shop and that guy in the door waved me in when I stopped to take a photo. The place was plastered with little post-it notes bearing various messages, from “Mango is the best fruit ever” to “There’s no time to be bored in a world as beautiful as this.”

I ordered a strong espresso-like Vietnamese coffee (which I badly needed at that hour) and drank it walking around the lake in the nearby park. The lake had a small weathered temple on an island in its center.

To take on a somber subject: Some of you in the comments have mentioned the Vietnam War. I too have been struggling to reconcile what I’m seeing in Vietnam today with what I know of that conflict and its aftermath. Understandably, it’s still the lens through which most Americans see this part of the world.

In fact, Dave and I were talking about it last night at dinner — we were sitting in a beautiful restaurant with a courtyard, the trees strung with lights. The place was mobbed with Vietnamese customers. I was having a glass of Chilean white wine, waiting for my order of fried rice with chicken, and thinking, less than 50 years ago our country was dropping bombs on this very city.

It’s surreal. There’s a Prada around the corner from our hotel, and a Starbucks across the street. And we lost! What on earth were we fighting for?

I suppose some would argue that our opposition to the Communists in Vietnam — along with the Cold War in general — helped lead to the overall collapse of Soviet-style Communism in the late 1980s, paving the way for the more market-friendly version we see now in China and other parts of Asia.

But I can’t help but wonder whether Vietnam would have gotten here anyway. Was it worth the deaths of 60,000 American military personnel and more than a million Vietnamese? I never understood that war, and I understand it even less now.

All I know is, despite our defeat in a conflict that was supposed to ensure their freedom, people here seem happy. I see them out in restaurants and working in shops, smiling with their babies, taking family cruises on Halong Bay and dancing in the park. I don’t know how their government works, or how representative it is, but many of them seem to have money and enjoy some luxuries. Most of them are too young to have been adults then, and many weren’t even born. The world, I suppose, has moved on.

And I feel very comfortable and welcome as a visitor, though I'm shadowed by the same sense I’ve had my whole life — that we had no business fighting here.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Halong Bay

So this is where we’ve been the past two days — floating among the bizarre, steep-sided limestone islands of Halong Bay.

After our brief overnight in Hanoi, we caught a bus early Saturday morning and rode 3 1/2 hours to the coast. We passed through small towns and villages, and saw lots of people wearing the traditional conical straw hats that so defined Vietnam for earlier generations:

I’d thought they were a thing of the past, but no — they’re still in widespread use.

There’s a huge overnight cruise industry in Halong City devoted to ferrying foreign tourists and Vietnamese visitors alike out on the famous bay, which is another UNESCO World Heritage site and was featured in the terrific Catherine Deneuve movie “Indochine.” Our boat was an old-fashioned wooden vessel with two decks and cabins paneled in dark wood — it seemed like the kind of craft the colonial French would have traveled on 75 years ago.

Look at our fancy toilet!

Each cabin was equipped with a fire extinguisher and a hammer to break the window in case of emergency. (“But the boat is very safe,” our guide reassured us. Ummm…OK.) Dave and I had a room with a rear-facing balcony, but overall everything was more rustic than plush. The shower was cold-water only and the water from the sink ran out onto the floor and into a floor drain. The diesel fumes from the engine were strong enough that the balcony was pretty much unusable if the boat was running. I likened it to a cross between cruising and camping. (We did have air conditioning, thank God.)

I asked how old the boat was, but no one would give me a straight answer. Either they didn’t know or they didn’t want to say. I’m thinking fifty years at least.

So now I know what they mean by rainy season in Vietnam! Holy cow, did it rain. It basically poured all of Saturday, as you can see in the top photo. We had a couple of little excursions — one to a cave on an island and one (Sunday morning, when the rain had lessened) to go kayaking.

See all that rain?

The cave wasn’t going to fill with rainwater, a la Thailand, we were repeatedly assured — and in fact it was HUGE and the openings were large and numerous, so I don’t think it would have been possible. We were advised to wear shoes rather than sandals, which I did, but many of the cave’s internal paths were rushing torrents — so now my shoes are soaked.

But despite this near-constant state of personal damp, it was worthwhile to see such a famous beauty spot. There are 1,969 islands in Halong Bay, according to our guide — he said it was easy to remember because 1969 is also the year Ho Chi Minh died.

On the boat they fed us like crazy — family-style plates of rice, noodles, seafood, chicken curry and other dishes. (I completely failed to take pictures of the food, for which I apologize!) At this point I seriously feel like I don’t want to eat ever again. But ask again tomorrow.

And now we're back in Hanoi, where -- today at least -- the sun is shining!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Passport Problems

Well, we made it to Vietnam last night, but I haven't taken any photos here so you're getting a few more shots from Cambodia. Hanoi is a big ol' city, which really isn't a surprise, but I haven't seen anything in daylight yet. Our hotel room, although nice enough, has a window covered on the outside by a black tarpaulin! And this morning we're off early to Halong Bay, so Hanoi photos may not happen at all.

Our journey north ultimately went well, but it almost went badly wrong. Blame paperwork and poor planning on our part.

Dave and I needed visas to get into Vietnam. We applied for them ahead of time, as you're supposed to do, and we brought the required money and passport photos to pick them up at the airport.

A visa is basically an immigration sticker that goes in your passport saying you have permission to be in the country. In the case of Vietnam and Cambodia, the stickers are big enough that they require a full passport page.

In my case, that wasn't a problem. But Dave's passport, which is five years older than mine, is so chock-a-block with stamps and visas from previous trips that there was literally no empty page for the Vietnamese visa. (Or the Cambodian one, for that matter.)

We had to show all our visa information at the airport before boarding the flight to Hanoi. Well, Dave's full passport caused some consternation. We pointed out that Cambodia had simply put their visa sticker atop some earlier stamps from Dave's previous trips, but apparently Vietnam wasn't willing to do that. The airline staff had to call up the chain of command and ultimately had to contact Vietnamese immigration to make sure he'd be allowed into the country.

While all this was going on, I stood at the counter quietly running worst-case scenarios in my mind. The U.S. government no longer allows expansion of existing passports with extra pages -- something about security. So if Vietnam said Dave needed more blank pages to enter the country, he'd have to stay in Cambodia, travel to Phnom Penh (the capital) and apply at the U.S. embassy for an emergency replacement passport.

Realistically, I supposed, I would have to stay, too. It would be pretty heartless of me to continue the trip (nor would I want to) while he was wrangling with bureaucracy.

And of course all this was happening on a Friday evening, which meant we'd probably be unable to do anything until next week. Which made it seem unlikely that we could get everything sorted in time to rejoin our itinerary for more than a day or two before having to return to London.

Fortunately, thank God, it all ultimately worked out. Vietnam agreed to issue Dave a visa in the form of a letter, which he must carry with his passport. No need for a sticker. Whew! Crisis averted!

And we're going to get that passport replaced the minute we get back to London. I sure don't want to go through that again.

(Photos: Paintings for sale in Siem Reap; an amazing dragonfly, Rhyothemis variegata, at Angkor.)

Friday, July 20, 2018

Battling Butterflies and a Fox Hat

Yesterday we had a leisurely day in Siem Reap. It started off rather strangely, when we were rousted from bed by loud music and cheering. I thought maybe there was a wedding or some other party nearby, but it turned out to be a passing political parade on the road outside our hotel. Apparently elections are scheduled in a week or so, and this was one political party's efforts to drum up some votes:

Cambodians certainly seem happy about their politics, don't they? Unlike Americans at the moment.

I spent the morning reading by the pool, and then Dave and I went to lunch at a restaurant called the Butterflies Garden, featuring dozens and dozens of colorful butterflies in a screened-in garden enclosure. There's also a fish pond, somewhere between the size of a big bathtub and a small swimming pool. The food was excellent.

Here's something I never knew: Apparently butterflies fight each other. We saw a few that looked rather tattered, and then I saw one land on another in a way that seemed aggressive. Sure enough, it's all about defending territory. I suppose in the tiny environment of a screened enclosure a little aggression is understandable. It's "Lord of the Flies" -- for real!

Then Dave went back to the room and I took a walk through town. I passed this guy serving as a dual locksmith and shoe repairman, and I asked him if I could take his picture. Why is it that locksmithing and shoe repair go hand-in-hand? We often see the same combination in London.

My goal was to walk all the way back to the hotel, and I almost made it, despite having only a fuzzy map of Siem Reap in my head. I just walked and walked, figuring I could always get a tuk-tuk if I got hopelessly lost. As it turns out, I was pretty close to our hotel by the time I got tired and caught a ride.

I passed a lot of curious places along the way. This bar, for example. I wondered if "wearing a fox hat" had some kind of significance? And sure enough, there's a picture of a guy on the sign, wearing a tuxedo and, yes, a fox hat:

I was extremely bewildered.

Then I came home and Googled it, and apparently it's a pun, relating back to this 1999 Miller Beer commercial. File this under "moments in popular culture that I have missed."

(I had to travel to Cambodia to learn this?!)

Last night, we went to dinner at the Embassy Restaurant, an elegant place near the river. We had a six-course meal with wine pairings for me (herbal tea for Dave, who has sworn off alcohol because of his Crohn's) and it was very good. The chefs are two women with the same name who call themselves "twins," and Dave noticed that every employee we saw was a woman. Sisters are doin' it for themselves!

Most of today we're relaxing in Siem Reap, and then this evening we're on a plane to Hanoi. Coming to you tomorrow from Vietnam!