Annie and Jon left corporate America to do some world traveling. This blog chronicles their unconventional path and hopefully provides a little inspiration along the way.

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On the Kindle
  • Warrior of the Light: A Manual
    Warrior of the Light: A Manual
  • First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers (P.S.)
    First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers (P.S.)
  • Gandhi & Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age
    Gandhi & Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age
  • Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (Shambhala Library)
    Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (Shambhala Library)

reflections on cambodia

Have you every heard of the studies about the people from Africa that are extremely poor but are happier than most Americans? Their poverty frees them up from the western driven commercialism and consumption and as a result they have closer ties to family and rate much higher than many Westerners on happiness surveys. Well Cambodia is essentially one step up from Africa on a poverty level and we got to see this theory in action. If any people have a reason to be dispirited, it would be Cambodians.

Cambodia has had an incredibly rough forty years dating back to the Vietnam War when the US began bombing the country for its aiding of the Vietnamese along the Ho Chi Minh trail. This created instability in the country and left thousands of dangerous undetonated bombs along the countryside. The instability helped aid the overthrow of the government by the Khmer Rouge and their ruthless leader Pol Pot. Over the next four years the Khmer Rouge executed a mass genocide against the educated class wiping out teachers, doctors, lawyers and anyone else with an intellectual background. Over a four year span the death toll reached three million. In 1979, Vietnam stepped in and forced the Khmer Rouge out of power and to the western border near Thailand where many of the leaders of the genocide went unpunished until the day they died. I can’t imagine rebuilding a nation without any educated people and Cambodia is just now starting to gain momentum in the modern world. 

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essential gear

I just finished a post on the gear I use for creating the videos of Unmapped Life on my video site. We have received a lot of positive feedback on the videos and if you are at all interested in the behind the scenes, please check out this post. It's pretty ridiculous the amount of stuff I am lugging around but hopefully the results speak for themselves. 

In case you have missed it, we posted a fun little video from the Cambodian Bamboo Train that was a bit buried in a lot of new content as we caught up on the Daily Details. Stay tuned for some additional video recaps that are in the pipeline and should be up shortly. I have some beautiful stuff from Thailand and Cambodia and rumor has it that the New Zealand recap may see the light of day sometime soon.


potw - australian archive

We went to the archives to retrieve this photo. This was taken at the Ron Mueck Exhibit at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane. Ron used to create special effects in Hollywood and since then have moved on to sculpting incredibly lifelike figures. This was one of our favorites.

In the photo section we just added our photos from Australia. You can view the photos here.


rainy season

Annie and I just returned to Phnom Penh after four days visiting the beach town of Sihanoukville. We got some firsthand experience on what the rainy season is all about. It was probably connected to the tropical storm rampaging its way through the Philippines and Vietnam and each day in Sihanoukville was successively wetter. 

The benefit of all the rain is to our loyal reading audience since we have been able to get fully up to date with the Daily Details and have several cool things in the pipeline. I was able to put together a fun little video of our bamboo railway experience in Battambang that is up over here

Enjoy the updated content as we finish up our time in Cambodia and gear up for the second round in Thailand. As always, please send us a comment to let us know you are checking things out. This blog takes a lot of time and dedication and we really appreciate hearing from everyone. It keeps us motivated.


mistaken identity

Native: Hello, welcome to my country.

Annie: Hello!

Native: Where do you come from?

Annie: America.

Native: (looks confused and thinks to himself/herself…really? She looks like an Asian. Better ask again to make sure I understood her.) Where?

Annie: San Francisco.

Native: (in a confused tone) Oh. 

Annie: But I was born in Taiwan.

Native: (Ha…I knew it! And smiles.) 

This is a typical interaction I have with the locals in all the Asian countries we have visited so far. People don’t seem to believe that I’m from America and it puzzles them until I say I was born in Taiwan. Then there’s usually a sigh of relief that the mystery has been solved. Next time they ask I should just say I’m Taiwanese, which would lessen the confusion.

Or my favorite interaction so far is with a tour guide in Battambang. We were on the bamboo train and stopped for a break. I got food poisoning a few days ago and was still feeling the bug. My stomach was hurting and I needed to use the toilet so I asked Jon to find out where I could find one. He approached a tour guide. The tour guide looked at me and said to Jon...”but she’s Asian.” I’m not sure how being Asian had anything to do with locating a toilet. I thought it was hilarious.

I don’t usually get asked this question having grown up in the states since I was seven so I’ve never really thought much about it. Do I consider myself Taiwanese, Taiwanese American, American Taiwanese, or simply American? I don’t know. I am proud to be born in Taiwan and only when someone assumes that I am from China do I make it a point to correct them. To me there’s a difference between those two countries.  

It’s not entirely accurate to say I’m Taiwanese since I grew up in the States and have adopted many American values. Nor am I just an American as that would be denying my heritage. I guess I’ll settle for Taiwanese American if I must chose an identity as that would most accurately describe who I am. So next time someone asks me where I am from I’ll say Taimerica. That will really confuse them.


lessons learned from breaking bad

Over the past week I have immersed myself in an all out Breaking Bad marathon. During our travels, several people had recommended the series and I finally broke down to watch all three seasons. For those unfamiliar with the show, here is the description from Amazon:

Popular water-cooler drama about an unremarkable and uncharismatic chemistry teacher, Walter, who discovers new passion in his life after he learns he has terminal cancer. Once a successful chemist, Walter now teaches apathetic high school students and works part-time at a car wash to help support his family - wife Skyler, who earns a modest income buying and selling items on eBay, and son Walter, Jr., a strong-willed 17-year-old suffering from cerebral palsy. Realizing he has nothing but his family left to live for, Walter's new sense of purpose reinvigorates him into a man of action as he turns to an exciting life of crime to provide for the ones he loves.

These marathons can be trouble for me because it tends to become addictive and many of my important daily activities fall by the wayside (like updating the blog). The series proved incredibly well done and worthy of its recent Emmy nomination. While a bit off topic, I have compiled a list of the things I have learned after my 32-hour marathon. 

10. Never trust a drug addict.

 The story revolves around two main characters, Walter and Jessie. Walter has cancer and is struggling with medical bills. Jessie is Walter’s former student and is struggling with drug addiction. Walter is consistently getting Jessie out of trouble because of his drug addiction. While this trouble is what drives the story lines forward and creates the drama that brings me back, Jessie’s addiction has led to many near death encounters for both of the main characters. Jessie’s actions has led to a consistent string of disappointment. As Gus Fring, the major drug distributor tells Walter when they meet, “Never trust a drug addict.”

9. It is best not to have a brother-in-law who is a DEA agent if you are going to manufacturer large quantities of drugs. 

This one is pretty self explanatory but adds an extra level of tension to the show. 

8. Good writing is what makes this show sing.

Most movies and TV shows are pretty predictable but with Breaking Bad, there have been numerous times I have been blindsided by a dramatic event. It is refreshing. Breaking Bad was created by Vince Gilligan, who was heavily involved in the X-Files. The X-Files was one of my all time favorite shows. 

7. There is a future for all of my time lapse work.

This show is built on a few of my favorite things including wonderful writing, beautiful cinematography (including scenic time lapse), and compelling characters. The show utilizes some beautiful time lapse imagery and makes me feel better about the hours I have invested in this technique.  

6. If you are going to launder money it is good to have someone on the inside.

Walter is seeking out legit businesses to launder his money and it is important to have someone on the inside who can be trusted to look the other way. It is also important to invest in a business that isn’t way out of left field. If it is out of the ordinary, it will raise suspicions with the IRS. 

5. It is alway a good idea to have a clean up man if you lead a life of crime.

Mike is the cleaner for Saul Goodman, the corrupt lawyer for Walter and Jessie. He reminds me of the Harvey Keitel Winston “the Wolf” Wolfe character from Pulp Fiction. Mike has been instrumental in keeping Walter and Jessie safe during their steep learning curve in the drug world. Always good to have someone watching your back. 

4. I love the dynamic between the two main characters, Walter and Jessie. 

Such an odd couple but it seems to work. There are many layers to their relationship and it has been fun to see the characters develop over the three seasons to become king pins in New Mexico. So much drama. 

3. Story is king.

I am one for high production value but it ultimately comes down to the story. If I am engaged in the story, all the other details fall by the wayside. The production value of Breaking Bad is top notch but it is the engaging story that brings me back and keeps me watching. 

2. If you follow your passion, success will come.

While it can be argued that Walter isn’t passionate about drug manufacturing, he is very much passionate about science. He makes a significant amount of money and while it does ultimately come with a pretty severe cost, he does reach the pinnacle of his profession. This is one I struggle with especially as we gear up to return to the States. Do I come back and get a “safe” job with a good salary and benefits or do I follow my passion of filmmaking with no guarantees. 

1. Manufacture and sales of Crystal Meth probably isn’t the best profession.

Crime, murder, and drug manufacturing isn’t a very safe way of live but it sure makes for some fun television. 

Now that I have watched the entire series, I promise to get back to my day to day activities.  I know I can change. I won’t disappoint you this time. You can trust me. I will be more active on the blog after getting over this addiction although I do have three seasons of Dexter in my suitcase calling my name. 

When in doubt refer back to lesson number 10, never trust an addict.  


photo of the week - (angkor wat)

I took this photo while visiting the Angkor Wat temple. Siem Reap, Cambodia, has a spectacular series of temples that rival the Egyptian pyramids. Angkor is the largest and most popular. This shot was taken late in the afternoon when I spotted this Cambodian woman taking a break from collecting plastic bottles in the hot afternoon sun. I really liked her weathered skin and penetrating eyes. In typical Cambodian style, she requested a US dollar after I took the shot.


small world

I just posted this over at the Daily Details section but I thought I would post a portion on the main page. This turned out to be one of our best days of travel yet and I thought it was worthy of the main page. 

This day turned out to be a pretty epic day. We had taken an overnight bus from Krabi the prior night after having expected a more luxurious train ride. We arrived at a downtown Bangkok drop off point and unloaded from the bus at roughly 5:45am. The local cabbies engulfed us like hungry seagulls. While I was rounding up our luggage, Annie appeared with a driver she had been negotiating a fare with. They settled on 300 Baht (roughly $10 US) for transport to Chef McDang’s home. We had made it a policy to ask before getting in the cab after having been burned in Malaysia. The driver spoke limited English and we needed to provide him with our destination. We reluctantly called Chef McDang for an early wake up call and he spoke to the driver for five minutes before informing us that we should ask the driver to use a meter for the trip.  Before getting in the cab, we instructed the driver about the meter and he quickly grew agitated. We were insistent on the meter and he abruptly assigned a younger driver to take us instead. The new driver spent a moment with the original driver detailing our destination and then we were on our way. I have to admit everything happened pretty fast and both of us were disoriented due to the overnight transport. 

Bangkok was much larger than I originally anticipated. The skyline was lined with giant high rise towers. At street level we saw pockets of poverty being forcibly dragged along into modern Asian society. The cab driver was very chatty and quickly developed some rapport with us. We drove for about ten minutes through Bangkok and arrived at a one way intersection. The cabbie told us down the the one way road was the condominium complex that Chef McDang resided in. It would be easier for us to walk down the one way then have the cabbie loop around and drop us off. He then told us the fee would be $302 Baht. I was busy collecting the luggage from the trunk while Annie handled the fare. Both of us were feeling a little wary about this situation and a little off our game due to lack of sleep. We crossed the busy intersection and realized this was unlikely our planned final destination. We had been taken!

With a little humility, we called Chef McDang who had confirmed our suspicions. I rounded up a second driver and the Chef went through his directions another time. The new driver took us to the outskirts of Bangkok to a large high rise condominium complex along the Nonthaburi river. The ride took twenty minutes and cost 150 Baht. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Nan. Nan is from northern Thailand from the Chang Rie region and was Chef McDang’s assistant. Nan guided us to the third floor of the building. We greeted the Chef briefly who gave us a warm welcome and then were escorted to our room. The room turned out to be roughly as large as our apartment in San Francisco with a beautiful view of the river leading to downtown on the horizon from our balcony. It was cool and comfortable and we quickly agreed we were never going to leave. We got some rest before our lunch date with Chef McDang. 

Chef McDang owned the entire third floor of the complex and had knocked down a wall to create an adjoining production kitchen that is utilized for his weekly Thai cooking show. It is by far the nicest place we have stayed at in our travels and began to give us a sense of our adventures over the next few days. After settling in, we met the Chef and were escorted to his private limo. We went to a local restaurant along the river. The walls were lined with photos of the Princess of Thailand who had eaten here a few years ago as well as many with Chef McDang. The staff was excited to see him and swiftly brought out a large procession of Thai platters. I am very particular about my food and this meal began what would be a common theme of our time with the Chef. “Shut up and eat it,” was the affectionate phrase the Chef consistently used with me. This led to me stepping way out of my culinary comfort zone and also a few midnight runs to the toilet. The meal proved to be an adventure and allowed us to spend some time with the gregarious and chatty Chef. After the meal we visited the local markets and Chef McDang was causing quite a stir amongst the locals. We were starting to get a sense of just how popular he was in Thailand. I knew he was quite popular but didn’t realize he came from royal blood and his father was one of Thailand’s most famous figures. Chef McDang didn’t fall far from the tree and had become a Thai celebrity of his own right.

For the rest of the story, please check our our Daily Details page.


photo of the week - (koh chang)

Annie and I took an elephant ride while visiting Koh Chang Island in Thailand. Chang means Elephant in Thai and we had a very enthusiastic Burmese driver who was happy to take this photo. The elephant's name was Sunshine and she was always looking to stop for a snack. Annie eventually got a chance to ride on her head and drive the elephant. The farm we visited had 12 elephants and they were all females because they tend to be easier to control.


malaysia unmapped

Malaysia Unmapped from Jon Carr on Vimeo.

Annie and I spent three weeks in Malaysia. This is a video recap of our time in Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands, and Langkawi.