What started this whole crazy trip was that my uncle, a resident of Singapore, asked if I wanted to take a motorcycle trip from Thailand to Cambodia. Those plans fell through but it got my interest peaked to really explore this part of Asia. And by flying Emirates Air, I was able to work in a 24 hour layover in Dubai to bookmark both ends of my trip. How did I decide on each country? Well, I wanted a balanced mix of city life and nature.
Singapore and Dubai fulfilled my desires to see cities on the cutting edge. The entire country of Singapore is only 14 miles by 26 miles. The British influence is still felt in its schooling, the subtle British accent that accompanies Singaporean English, and driving on the left side of the road. However, there is also a heavy Chinese and Malay influence as well given that Malaysia is a short jaunt by car from Singapore across a bridge. It is becoming a hub for Western businesses in the Asian market and in many ways is almost a utopia given the low levels of violent crime and drugs and high standard of living (albeit expensive). I guess it helps to curb bad behavior when violent crimes and drug trafficking are followed by swift punishments and often times with mandatory death sentences. I haven't posted any shots of Singapore because it is the least interesting visually - which is not to discount the city at all because it has much to offer - and many of the photos I took were family shots.
Dubai on the other hand felt like a city under construction and feels a bit like Las Vegas with a Muslim influence. It will undoubtedly continue to rise in power as money seems to be pouring in for more and more state of the art buildings which include the world's tallest, Burj Khalifa, an indoor ski resort, and an artificial island in the shape of a palm tree with houses and a beach resort at the top of the "palm". I noticed that Arabs seemed to be the minority when walking around. When I took rides on their efficient and spotless Metro system I was often surrounded by Indians and Filipinos. I suspect because they are the ones brought in to do all of construction and lower level jobs. I didn't have enough time to leave the downtown area but I would imagine that the shangri la feeling of this area drops off when you get into the real desert and into the poorer areas where the workers live. I have to admit that I was drawn to Dubai to see Media City (approx 2 million sq feet of entertainment and media companies) because the lure of being able to work in television (my profession) and not have to pay taxes in Dubai is very tempting. Dubai is definitely a paradise for shoppers from the world's largest Dubai Mall to the gold and spice souks.
Aside from the temples, I was touched by the kind nature of the Cambodian people. From our tuk tuk driver to the workers in our humble bed and breakfast. And I would also have to say that they have an innate bravery given their history and also the fact that an entire family (mother, father, 2 kids, and a grandmother) can all balance on a motorcycle! I have to mention that I ate my first fried cricket but I was not brave enough for snake or tarantula. I'm not sure I'll ever be ready to try those. Siem Reap has a fun downtown area with bars and restaurants and a night market where you can negotiate cheap textiles and other gifts.
Siem Reap photos/video:
I'll end the post with some footage of one of the largest male orangutans in Semenggoh Wildlife Center/Orang Preserve in Borneo. Sorry for getting my finger in the shot! This time of year the orangs may not come to the twice daily feedings because they are able to get their own fruit off of the trees within the forest but I lucked out and saw three males. The orangs are extremely endangered so please consider donating a small amount to Orangutan Foundation International. You are never quite the same after you see them in person.