Strangers in a Play

1. Why Is Everybody Going to Cambodia?
“Foreign visitors are flooding in – 690,987 paid entrance fees last year, up from 451,046 in 2004. And while there are no official figures as to how much each spends in Siem Reap, the town’s dizzying array of luxury hotels – at least 10 by my count, ranging from the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor to quirky boutiques like Hôtel de la Paix – testifies to the emergence of a new generation of high-end travelers, who not only demand round-the-clock Khmer massage but are also willing to pay $400 a day to hire a BMW L7 or $1,375 an hour for a helicopter tour.

Cambodia is not alone in its luxury revolution. Since the mid-1990’s, the former French colonies of Southeast Asia have made enormous leaps in catering to tourists who prefer plunge pools to bucket showers. From the forests of Laos to the beaches of Vietnam to the ruins of Cambodia, you can find well-conceived, well-outfitted, well-run hotels that will sleep you in style for hundreds of dollars a night.

Change has come at an amazing pace. Take Luang Prabang, in Laos. This tidy hill town feels like a Hollywood set, with painted lamps glowing in French restaurants and brick walkways brightened by a yellow glow emanating from knee-high terra-cotta pots. Even the bare fluorescent tubes draped over lonely late-night streets do their part to make visitors feel as if they’ve arrived at the end of the world.

But it’s not mere atmospherics they’ve found: Luang Prabang has high-end hotels to house a legion of W-worshipers, with enough bistros and boutiques to keep their credit cards on the verge of meltdown. There are spa treatments to succumb to, and Veuve Clicquot to toast with. This town of just 60,000 people is, almost all of a sudden, a luxury getaway.”
New York Times

2. How To Write About Africa
Some tips: sunsets and starvation are good

“Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title. Subtitles may include the words ‘Zanzibar’, ‘Masai’, ‘Zulu’, ‘Zambezi’, ‘Congo’, ‘Nile’, ‘Big’, ‘Sky’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Drum’, ‘Sun’ or ‘Bygone’. Also useful are words such as ‘Guerrillas’, ‘Timeless’, ‘Primordial’ and ‘Tribal’. Note that ‘People’ means Africans who are not black, while ‘The People’ means black Africans.”
–Binyavanga Wainaina, Granta (via RileyDog

3. From “Questions of Travel”

Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
what childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?

Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one’s room?

Continent city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there . . . No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?
—Elizabeth Bishop

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