Category Archives: Cambodia

Thanks For The Memories

This is it guys. My last post here in Southeast Asia before I set off for the next half of this extraordinary adventure around the world. I can also finally say that I have accomplished something that most backpackers traveling throughout Southeast Asia for a long period of time have not done. And that is, not getting sick! I got motion sick a few times but I can’t really help that. I’m talking no colds, no coughs, no fevers, no vomiting, no stuffy noses, none of that! I had a great run in Asia. Here’s how I spent my last couple of days…

The day after Rob and I went biking, we didn’t do too much besides relax and eat all day. Us, along with Lulu, Schunk, and Toni went out to a Mexican restaurant near pub street that night. Leticia was supposed to meet us but unfortunately she was stuck at her volunteering organization. I have been craving some good Mexican food ever since I left the States and this restaurant didn’t disappoint! Afterwards, Rob went back to the hostel but the rest of us stayed and enjoyed 50 cent draft beers and pizza. I taught them how to play a fun card game I learned in South Africa last year called $hithead, which they caught onto quick and even beat me in a few times. Soon, we called it a night and went back.

The next night, as Lulu and Toni went to Angkor Wat, Rob, Schunk, and I pretty much ate, played cards, and lounged all day. It was exhausting! ;). Once the girls came back, we all went upstairs to the Sandbar for one final night of fun before everyone departed in the morning.

Rob was supposed to leave two days ago, but never could time his buses and flights properly, but this morning he would be leaving for sure. I never met any other person in Southeast Asia or even at home that could eat as much as I can! Whenever we both finished off a meal at a restaurant, we always decided it was a great idea to both order another full dinner! It was easy to be a pig when I had a buddy who was a pig just like me. And ever since we’ve met in Phnom Penh, we have been on the same page with everything. He’s been a really great traveling buddy and someone I know I’ll visit in the future. He was on his way back to Holland for a couple of weeks before he started up a year of Uni in London. Safe travels home Sean Connery! I say that because every word that started with an “s” he pronounced with a “sh”, sounding like Sean Connery. Next, I said goodbye to the three German siblings. I literally only met them a couple of days ago but we all hit it off very fast. They were on their way to Bangkok and straight to the southern islands. I’ve already traveled that route so I was able to give them some useful tips. They are frequent visitors of Oktoberfest so they told me whenever I’m up there, to let them know! This is a picture of Lulu, Schunk, and Toni below.

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All of my friends were gone and I was now by myself. I could easily meet more people around but I chose to recluse myself because I had a few things I needed to do. Respond to emails, laundry, and most importantly, catch up on my blogs. For my Facebook friends, you may have noticed that I have been posting more frequently the last few days than usual. Thats because I wanted to be entirely caught up before I start the next phase of this trip in Africa.

I’ve met tons of unique and awesome people in each of the four main countries (Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia) that I’ve been to. Even though I left home alone, I was never, ever alone here. Lucy, the volunteers, teachers, and students in Saigon. Kimmie and Ibriham in Hanoi. Alison, Abbie, Tristan, Megan, Claire, Alys, Josephine, Si, Meg, and Lauryn in Laos. All the crazy Brits in Chiang Mai. Björn, Kevin, and Viola in Pai. Clint in Bangkok. Leonoor, Thom, Jack, Kevin, and the two German friends in the islands. Rob, Leticia, Luke, Schunk, Lulu, Toni, Djoeke, Lianne, and Other Dan in Cambodia. It was them and a host of other random zany backpackers and locals alike that made this trip even better than what I could have imagined! I’m sorry if I’m forgetting anyone significant. I met SO many people out here!

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And to my main traveling buddies that were there with me through the long haul: Lucy, Björn, Kevin, Viola, and Rob. You guys are all great! Thanks for sharing in the memories.

Initially, Malaysia and Indonesia were supposed to be a part of the Southeast Asian excursion, but I spent so much time in each country I visited that I couldn’t fit those two in. I’d have to save them for a different trip in the future. I spent my last two days completely resetting myself in preparation for the next three months where I will cross continents and go back to Africa.

🙂

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Ride Away

About 13km away there is a river filled with floating homes and markets. Instead of taking a tuk-tuk or bus, Rob thought it would be better if we rented a mountain bike for 24 hours and explore the area on our own. Sounded great! But before we did that, we had to take care of a little problem.

My bed in our dorm is on the top bunk and Robs is directly across me but on the bottom bunk. The morning before Angkor when I woke up around 8 am, I remember looking down and staring directly at Robs camera which was sitting right on top of his red bag. I must of been deep in thought while I just stared at the thing for no reason whatsoever. I snapped out of my trance and turned over in my bed. The guy above Rob woke up and started packing. He was running late so he rushed out of there. Soon, Rob woke up and noticed his camera was wasn’t there. “No, I saw it right on top of your bag.” I told him. “I was staring right at it.” “It’s not here!” he said. He kept looking around and we came to the conclusion that the guy above him has stole it. As a traveller, arguably the worst item you can lose is your camera. Not necessarily the camera, but the memory card inside the camera, full of photos and memories. Passports, credit cards, phones, cameras – those are all replaceable. But a memory card with photos is not. Fortunately, Rob backed up most of his pictures onto his tablet the day before. He also has traveler’s insurance so he would be able to make a claim. He just had to get a police report which proved to be more of a hassle than anything.

We rented our bikes which costed $5 for 24 hours, and rode to the tourist police station, about 7km away. The “officer” who was dressed in regular local clothes gave Rob an annoyingly hard time. He told Rob he would need to question all of the people in the room at the time which was impractical and impossible because most of the people, including the guy we think stole the camera, has already checked out and left. “Well what do you expect me to do then?” asked the officer. How about a different career…“The chance of me getting my camera back is almost impossible.” said Rob. “I just need a police report to show my insurance.” The officer treated this stolen camera like it was a murder case, to the point where he asked me to wait outside so they could talk in private. It was laughable at how serious the officer was over a simple camera. After more than an hour, Rob was finally let go and he would have to wait to get a police report later while the officer thought about it. It wasn’t even my camera and I was frustrated. It took so long at the station that we postponed our bike trip for the next day, which was better because the weather proved to be much more clear…and hot!

We left around 11 am and first went to grab food. We found a nice Indian restaurant where Leticia joined us for a quick bite. Soon after we headed down the road towards the floating villages. After a few kilometers, it turned from a busy city to a more of a village through a jungle. As usual, I was sweating my face off from how intensely hot it was. A few more kilometers and the road went from paved to unpaved and the surroundings became more rustic.

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Soon, the jungle started to disappear and we came to an open field, flooded with water. We could see the floating village in the distance. We were getting closer!

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As we rode along, we saw numerous tourists getting an easy ride on tuk-tuks and tour buses. I was so tempted to latch onto the back of one of the buses and get pulled along on my bike. I was literally drenched in sweat. Fortunately we didn’t have much longer to go and then finally we made it to the floating villages.

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I’ve seen other floating villages and markets before, so we decided to roll along further to the boat station and see what it had to offer. We looked around and saw the route of the little boats for tours. It went in a giant circle and most of the tourists were older. You know, the iPad welding, fanny-pack kind of crowd. Nay a backpacker in sight. It also would cost us $15 per person for a ride. We’ve both been on these types of boats before (me during the Mekong trip in Vietnam) so we weren’t really bent up on going. Instead we chilled out at the boat station on comfy lounge chairs and gazed along the river. And I have to mention, the clouds in the horizon were as big as mountains! I’m a big fan of clouds!

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We decided to hit the road back to Siem Reap but along the way, stopped at a restaurant made of bamboo, elevated above the river. What caught our eyes were the hammocks which were practically calling our names. We knew we had a long haul ahead of us in the hot temperature, and we were in no rush, so this became the perfect place to wind down for a little while.

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We remembered we had to return our bikes by 4 pm. So before we could of easily fallen asleep on the hammocks, we decided it was best to head back through the villages, back to town.

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We returned our bikes and went back to our hostel. After a much needed shower, I went out in the lobby to catch up on blogging. There, I overheard three backpackers booking a tour for Angkor Wat the next day. They came to sit down and I asked them how much they paid so they didn’t get ripped off. They paid a bit more because they had a tour and were going for two days instead of one. From there we introduced ourselves and made chit-chat. They are three siblings from Germany traveling together; two older sisters, Lulu and Toni, and their younger brother Schunk. We became fast friends so I invited them to come upstairs to the sandbar later for some fun and games, along with Rob. It seemed like most of the backpackers in the hostel were up there that night and we all had a really, really great time!

Before I knew it, I realized I only had a few more days left here in Siem Reap before I left Asia to begin the next phase of my trip. The bittersweet end was just ahead. Time has flown by so fast!

Angkor Wat: The City of Temples

I had the privilege of visiting many temples and palaces all over the mainland of Southeast Asia, but out of all the ones I’ve seen, none of them holds a candle to the biggest of them all, Angkor Wat. This is where Rob and I were headed to next.

We had the choice of leaving early to witness the sunrise or leaving a little later to see the sunset. We both chose the sunrise and woke up at 4 am and got ready, while trying to remain quiet so we wouldn’t wake the other people in our dorm. Yesterday, we hired a tuk-tuk driver to pick us up this morning to drive us all around the temples all day. You’d be crazy to attempt to visit Angkor Wat by foot! Angkor Wat isn’t just one temple, it’s actually a series, or a city of complex temples
spread over around 400 square kilometers of forests and land! That’s huge! Actually, Angkor Wat is the name of the biggest, main temple within the complex. It was there where we would see the sunrise. It was pitch dark when our driver picked us up, but before we set out, we asked the driver if he could make a quick stop at the local store nearby so we could pick up some water and snacks for the day. It’d be cheaper here than buying within the complex. After about twenty mintues, we arrived to Angkor, where we crossed over a bridge spanning about 350 meters long, past the moat that surrounded Angkor. Rob and I found the perfect spot, right in front of iPad welding tourists and waited. Soon enough around 5:20 am, the sun began to show, and we marveled at how absolutely stunning the landscape revealed itself to us. We went camera crazy.

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As soon as we got enough photos, we made away further along the bridge, inside the actual temple. We decided not to get a tour guide and just explore on our own. You guys know how I get with tour guides. Yawn fest! Instead, we wanted to take some great shots without pesky iPad tourists in our way. Just like in Buddha Park in Laos, all of the ancient buildings and statues looked “climbable” and very “accessible”. Breaking the rules always makes for a fun day and Rob was more than happy to be on board. Yes there were signs saying you can’t climb this, you can’t access that, you can’t sit there, don’t touch that, blah blah blah, but…I just couldn’t help myself. We went to the highest point we could get to, pass the barricades and snapped away. Guys, you won’t see any Angkor photos anywhere else on the web like this.

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Tourists looked at us and couldn’t help but laugh. Some even started to follow our bad example! A lot of times, guards would tell us to get down or stop what we’re doing. From then, we would just move on and keep on. And of course there were other areas that we were allowed to go in that were equally impressive.

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I suppose I should go ahead and tell you a little about this place. Angkor Wat means “City of Temples”. Angkor was built during the 12th Century under the rule of a king by the name of Suryavarman. It’s an extremely symbolic Hindu (and then later Buddhist) site that’s been cherished for years, even still to this day. The temples functioned as a place of worship, with some of the temples being built as mausoleums solely for the burial of one of their kings or lords. After the 16th century, Angkor was neglected but never completely abandoned. Part of its preservation is due to the moat that surrounds it which impedes growth from the jungles of the outer boundaries. It’s quite religious and locals of today go here to pray and worship to the many scattered statues amongst the city. To explain the grand magnificence of Angkor Wat in words is almost impossible. To see it with your own eyes is the only true way to experience how far back in time you feel you’ve traveled. I’ll try my best to explain with photos.

Whenever we were finished exploring a temple, our driver would be waiting for us to take us to another. Along one of the routes, our driver stopped the tuk-tuk for a bit where suddenly wild ravaging monkeys attacked our ride!

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🙂 Actually, these monkeys were mighty friendly, were used to people, and were harmless. They just wanted some attention! Just don’t touch their babies or things could get ugly! It was little unexpected situations like these that made this trip extra special. Whenever we left a temple to and drove to another one was like a much needed break. As usual, it was super hot and the sun was showing us no mercy, so the rides on the tuk-tuk were nice cool down sessions. But the sun wasn’t a big deal because each and every temple was different from each other. Eventually, we reached Ta Prohm, more famously known as the “Tomb Raider” temple. It’s famous because it’s instantly recognizable from the movie that was filmed here on location.

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Rob and I were fortunate enough to avoid the packs of tourists by skipping out on breakfast at the beginning and going straight for the temples. We had our snacks to hold us over until lunch later on which for me was stir-fry rice and a coke. After that, more awesome temples!

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In some temples, there was no other people in sight and at times I felt like an explorer, lost in an ancient tomb, unraveling the mystery of a much sought after treasure. What that treasure was? I don’t know but I was willing to find it! Snap back to reality Daniel.

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It was nearly 2 pm and we were worn out. We’ve been up trekking through these massive temples since five in the morning, so we decided to call it a day. We went back to our hostel, I took a shower because I was smelly from the day, and we both passed out! It was a much needed nap, because that night we planned on meeting up with Kevin and Björn and hitting up pub street. It was going to be their last night in Siem Reap before they headed back home to Germany, after four months of some serious traveling. Impressive. Their bus would come pick them up at 7 am the next morning, but I told them I will wake up by then to give them a proper send off. If you don’t remember, I met these two way back in Pai, Thailand. We stuck together there and then split up afterwards, but then regrouped back for the majority of Cambodia. I know I will see them again because (spoiler alert), part of my trip I have planned for next year will lead me to Germany. At least thats the plan anyways. You guys take care of yourself and I can’t wait to try your country’s Brot. I hope it’s as good as you guys say it is or else… 🙂 Auf wiedersehen!

Most people do the Angkor thing for two or three days, because it’s so massive. Rob and I felt like one day was enough. We didn’t have a tour guide and were constantly on the go, so we packed a lot in. Besides, we only had a few days in Siem Reap and wanted to do other things as well. So tomorrow, we shall rent mountain bikes and do a little exploring!

Mad Monkeys

With just half a day left here on Koh Rong, I could not wait to leave this place! But why Dan? it sounded like you loved it? While I did love the beaches, the bars, and the people, I hated my bungalow. I’m a pretty easy going, go-with-the-flow guy; I’ll sleep on a cement floor if I had to. But I can’t really handle sleeping when it’s blazing hot at night with no fan or air conditioning around. Not only dripping in sweat, but dripping in sweat under a moldy mosquito net, on a mattress that smells like wet dog, and barking dogs, crying babies, and an obnoxious rooster belting out right outside my hut every morning at 6 am. I got little sleep each night there, which resulted in a crabby Mr. Sellers. The others were fine though. Kevin said that Germans don’t really have air con in their homes, so they’re used to it and Rob…well, he sleeps like a brick no matter where he is! My net was the only one with black mold all over it so when I went to ask the front desk if they could change it, they simply replied with “Oh sorry sir. We have no more.” Great.

Our ferry finally arrived and Rob, Kevin, Björn, Leticia, and I hit the sea. I was thrilled! Luke stayed behind as he still had to make up his mind of where he was going. The sun began to set which was a fitting end to our time on the island.

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Once we arrived in Sihanoukville, we immediately took a bus to our next destination, Siem Reap! Siem Reap is one of the more popular cities in Cambodia thanks to it’s energetic Pub Street, loads of outdoor night markets, and of course, the mother of all temples, Angkor Wat! Also here is one of the most popular hostels in the country, The Mad Monkey. If you recall, I stayed in the one in Phnom Penh and loved it so we all decided to stay at the location in Siem Reap as well. It was a great choice because this one was same, same, but different. On the roof of this hostel was a chilled out bar where the floor was covered with sand. My dorm room was shared with 12 other backpackers, including Rob (the others opted to get private rooms). The hostel staff initially gave me a bed in the center of the room, but I asked to move to another vacant bed right underneath the air conditioning :). Best choice. For our first night in Siem Reap, I didn’t really do much. I was tired and had to catch up on blogging. The next night, Rob, Leticia, her friend Lianne, and I decided to see what the famous Pub Street had to offer. But first, we went to an Angkor Night Market in the middle of town. I didn’t buy anything here because things here were a little bit pricier than what they were at the Old Market right across the street. Instead, we went to a restaurant right in the middle of the market where I conformed to a typical westerner and had a burger with fries. Once in awhile, I like to enjoy the comforts of western style food to keep my belly full, because sometimes all of these rice and noodle concoctions weren’t cutting it! Afterwards, we hit up pub street and found that almost every bar offered 50 cent draft beers all night long. You really cannot beat that! So we decided to chill there for awhile.

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I noticed there were a few children walking around the busy streets trying to sell things to all of the tourists, mostly bracelets and roses. Whats worse than a local adult trying to heckle you to buy things you don’t need, are children who try to heckle you to buy things you don’t need! One, their English is usually much better than adults, so it’s harder to play stupid with them. Also, kids are cuter and it’s not as easy to say no to a cute kid working hard in the middle of the night. One little girl came up to us, chatted up a storm, getting to know us and then offered her bracelets for us to buy. Her tactics worked. We all ended up getting one.

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After a couple of hours, we went right across the street to a happening place called The Temple Club where we played a couple of games of pool and tore up the dance floor! Then, right back across the street to a place called The Angkor Wat. Not the real Angkor Wat, but a club version I guess. We all had a pretty great time!

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The next night, Rob and I took it easy because we planned on waking up at 4 am to visit the insanely massive temple of all temples in the Kingdom of Cambodia…

Angkor Wat!

Exploration Island

I’ve been on this island for a few days now and haven’t really seen much besides the area where my bungalows were. Today that would all change when Rob, Leticia, Luke, and I decided to take a boat around the island and enjoy a few leisurely activities along the way. A local who owned his own boat offered to take us exploring around the island for the small fee of $5 per person, which included lunch and snorkeling. Deal! So in the morning, we grouped up and met the guy (I forget his name but I’ll refer to him as the Captain) at his dock. His boat was small, but big enough to hold a few people, so it did the trick. Thankfully, the weather was amazing and the waters today were extremely calm which was great for my stomach. 🙂 With everything in our favor, we set a course across the blue to a small island that had a buddhist temple at the top of it’s hill.

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The captain threw the anchor overboard and said that we could snorkel here. It’s been years since I’ve snorkeled but was pretty keen to just swim around the small island. This was a great place to snorkel because the water was deep enough where I wouldn’t touch or scrape anything, and there were still loads of coral and fish to see. It was a bit choppy though along the coast and we kept bumping into each other which made for great laughs!

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On that small islet, we took off our flippers and went up the flight of steps to the buddhist temple which looked like it had been abandoned for a bit. There wasn’t much to see here, so we went back to snorkeling. About fifteen minutes or so, the captain summoned us to return to the boat and set a course around the bend of the main island of Koh Rong. The sun was shining bright so the others decided to lay on the deck and get their tan on while I decided to stay cool under the covering since my tan is already so great ;). We got a great synopsis of the island coast as we cruised along. Most of the island is uninhabited, with acres of jungle spilling over into the coast. Along patches of water were small fishing boats, with locals fishing for their dinner for the night; which brings us to our next stop. The captain steered the boat near some of the other fishing boats and dropped anchor. He let us know that we would try our hand at line fishing. Line fishing is fishing in the simplest of ways. Basically you have a a spindle with a few dozen meters of fishing line attached to it, with a hook on the end. Just attach the bait and unravel the line into the ocean and once you feel a tug, just start spinning the line back up. Sounds simple. The captain gave us small shrimp to use as bait. None of us were successful in catching a fish except for Luke who caught a little guy. What our captain didn’t mention to us at the beginning was that the fish we caught would be our “free” lunch for the day. If we didn’t catch any fish, we would have to pay a very small price for fish that’s already been caught. Even if I caught my own fish, I still would not have eaten it. Blah! And if I did catch one, someone else is going to have to take it off the hook. I’m not touching that slimy thing. Spiders, snakes, bugs…no problem. Fish? Take it away!

So since we were mostly unsuccessful, we rose anchor and boated to a small village nearby. The village was risen above the waters via a series of wooden polls and planks. There were wooden boats everywhere, and the rickety bridges that connected the village huts were the “main avenues” of the community.

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It was a completely different world compared to the other side of the island we stayed at. The locals here were pleasant and were in a peaceful state. Even so nice, one of the local woman caught a big fish right in front of our eyes, descaled it, cut it, and prepared it for us. You couldn’t get fish any fresher than this.

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The cook told us the fish would be served with rice. I politely asked her if I could just have the rice without the fish. I told her I didn’t really like fish. She didn’t really understand why but was worried that I would starve. I’d be okay! I’ll just eat when I get back to the bungalows later. Afterwards, the captain summoned us and gave us directions for a hike over a hill to the opposite side of the island. He told us on the other side, we would find a hidden beach where we would find no other people called Coconut Beach, one of the best beaches in Cambodia. We made the hot hike over the hill. The sun was beaming! It was so hot that the captain declared we carry the sole female of the group, Leticia over the hill!

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As we trekked closer the captain told us he would go back and command the boat around the island to pick us up in about an hour or so, and we’d have free time to explore what the beach had to offer on our own. We soon found that everything the captain said was true. We arrived to a beach, barely touched by man with ivory sand and waters as clear and blue as the afternoon sky.

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I’ve been to many beaches on this planet, and I can say without a doubt that this particular beach is one of the best beaches I have ever been to! The water was a perfect temperature, not too cold, yet not grossly hot. The visibility underwater was clear as day. Their was a smooth, gentle current that brushed the milky coast. Palm trees, as tall as skyscrapers served as the backdrop for this prodigious setting. This was the life. The others agreed. We ended up staying here for more than an hour, constantly reminding each other how stunning this beach was.

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After awhile, we saw the captain steering our boat towards us. It was time to go. We hit the sea and cruised back around the island towards our main dock. Along the way, we each took turns guiding the boat along the route, much to the amusement of the captain.

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It’s been a fascinating day, exploring mostly unseen parts of the island and as simple as the day was, it was one of my favorite days in Cambodia so far. That beach, Coconut Beach, was just something special. We finally made it back to the bungalows where I immediately took a nap in my bungalow. My time here on the island was coming to a satisfactory close.

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