The Travel Fatigue Is Real

Last night, after not being able to sleep for a while I hit the travel blog circuit and found out there’s a name for this funk I’m in! Thank god its not just me! Turns out its called travel fatigue and its very common amongst backpackers. There are a myriad of ways to solve it but unfortunately, due our compressed time frame most of them won’t work (ex. slowing the pace of travel down, finding places to volunteer at for months). But, one seems to have worked (this one is probably my favourite) – SPLURGE. I took this one a little bit too far – a little bit is a lie. A lot too far. But, it comes with a challenge for me.

After re-arranging my flight back from Singapore (I now get back to Bangkok at 4pm as opposed to midnight and having to head straight to the other airport), I decided it would be fun to celebrate my last night in Asia in style. So, with my new found travel fatigue information in hand, went guns blazing to the Shangri-La’s website and booked a room (also a limo to the airport because at this point, I really don’t care). This is where I went a TEENSY bit overboard, I cancelled my hostel booking in Singapore (thank god has free cancellation) and switched it to the Parkroyal on Pickering. Oops.

Now this morning, I woke up in one of those “what the F**k did I just do?” moods. And realized that I spent a little bit more in my hotel frenzy than I wanted to. But at this point, looking at those pictures online are helping me push through the weary end of the trip. Before we left this morning I set a challenge for myself $30 a day for food, activities and lodging for every day until August 15th. If I can do it, amazing. If I can’t, well thank god I have a job interview coming up. I’ve also set some discretionary funds aside for other things. It’s not like I’m running out of money, its that I’d like to come home with a teensy bit of money in my bank account as opposed to nothing. Its amazing, I thought we had been doing things cheaply but it turns out that you can always go cheaper (at least in SE Asia)

With this challenge in mind we headed out to the mean streets of Vientiane. Our first stop was a french bakery for breakfast (so worth it) and then we headed off to the Presidential Palace. Finding a map of Vientiane has been like finding a map of Buenos Aires – we have found a few but all the scales are so different we don’t know where anything is.

On the way we found a Wat (no idea what its called, the translation of the name was nowhere to be found) and decided to make it the only one for the day (we are VERY tired of temples). It was on the smaller side but quirky enough to make it a well earned stop.

After the wat, we stumbled upon the Presidential Palace and were significantly underwhelmed. It turns out we were looking at the back side of it. A+ for us.

We then set off to conquer 2 more of Vientiane’s top tourist attractions (aka the only 5 things to do) – these happened to be 2 more Wats. But, the first one was closed for renovations and the second was closed for lunch. We were able to walk around the courtyard of the second but not enter. Oh well.

By this time we had only been gone for 30 mins and decided to take on a few more things to make the day worth it (I’ve been feeling guilty for not seeing things lately so this factored in a bit). Our first stop was the Patuxay Arch. Its a 60ft tall archway made of concrete that stands as a big middle finger to the Americans (legend has it that they donated the concrete used to make the arch to re-do the runway at the airport).  We paid less than $1 to head up to the top and were surprised with a great view of the city. It was pretty funny to see the inside as each floor had been turned into a giant souvenir shop, typical SE Asia.

After that we decided to go to Pha That Luang which is one of the symbols of the country. We wanted to stop at a pagoda called That Dum Pagoda on the way as the name sums up how I feel about pagodas right now. But we had read the map wrong and gave up on that quickly.  Upon arriving at Pha That Luang we were significantly underwhelmed at its state (the gold was black in many places and it had lots of cracks) for being so important to the country. We decided that it just didn’t seem worth the cash to go in because it looked so decrepit.

We then headed off to our last stop of the day – the COPE Centre. This was a bit of a hike from where we were but we felt that it was pretty important to see. It took us about 35 minutes to get there (water break not included) and we finished the small museum in less time than that. Oh well.

The COPE centre is run by an organization that provides Prosthetics and Orthotics to those that need them in Laos. It is the number one source of artificial limbs in the country and their exhibit was fascinating to me. It showed why there are so many unexploded ordinances in Laos (#1 bombed country in the world). I found it fascinating that people made everyday items out of scrap metal from the Vietnam War. It also showed that while UXO (Unexploded Ordinances) numbers are dropping, the number of traffic accidents is increasing leading to people needing the centre to help them after their accidents.

We got back to the hostel and rested for a bit (we had done literally all the tourist attractions in the city) before dinner. For dinner we found a Vietnamese restaurant (ironic) that had cheap rice and I managed finish the day 5 cents under budget! For including a bus ticket to Vang Vieng, lunch, dinner, water and admission tickets – I’m pretty impressed.

This evening doesnt have too much planned as we’re off to Vang Vieng tomorrow and want to play some pool at the hostel before we leave!

Sabaidee, Laos!

Again, I apologize for the lack of blogging the last few days. I couldn’t shake a sinus infection and I was laid up in bed.

Tuesday was a bit of a let down as again we couldn’t get a cruise in Halong bay, just an excuse to come back I guess! We both used the day to rest as it was much needed.

Wednesday I woke up covered in what I think was heat rash, with a migraine and a sinus infection. I decided it wasn’t worth fighting and told Katelyn to carry on without me. She had a great day exploring Hanoi, while I rested the whole day. Although I’m not sure if my body could handle the excitement she endured!

This brings us to today, we woke up early this morning and flew from Hanoi, Vietnam to Vientiane, Laos. We went for lunch then checked in at our hostel, and are now resting (early mornings and I don’t mix). Vientiane seems like a lazy city, from what we’ve seen… and the fact that today is a public holiday isn’t helping that vision out.

The plan for this afternoon is to walk along the Mekong River and then dinner and potentially some pool at the hostel. I’m hoping being able to get out and do things will help me shake this illness and it’s associated mental funk.

The Beauty of Having No Plans

Well, today ended up vastly different than how we had planned it.

We woke up fairly early and ate breakfast before we met our van to take us to Halong Bay. As soon as the bus came, we hopped on and (thought) we were on our way to an amazing adventure.

We passed the compulsory tourist take down shake down and were in the van for about 10 minutes before we noticed it pull over. My first thought was that we had a flat tire, or had made a wrong turn. However, the tour company rep turned around and told us that the cruise had been cancelled due to inclement weather. It was a little bit tough to take as we had already travelled about 2 hours out of Hanoi. But, we’re incredibly lucky that we were able to rebook for tomorrow. Stuff like this happens, getting bent out of shape about it won’t do anything. While it sucks, it just comes with the territory.

We got back to Hanoi, arranged the cruise for tomorrow, prayed for good weather and then went off for lunch. We ended up finding two really good and really cheap places to eat today!

After lunch we decided to walk to the Temple of Literature as it was one of 2 things open today. I’m honestly very surprised at the amount of temples/meeting halls in this country due to the political situation. The grounds were immaculately kept, and added to the neat vibe of the city. I’m really enjoying Hanoi as there’s lots of green space which makes the city feel a lot smaller.

We finished up at the temple and decided to visit the other tourist attraction that was open today (they must hate Mondays as much as I do) – the Fine Arts Museum. This was definitely a highlight for me as over the past few years my appreciation of art has increased dramatically. My favourite pieces at this museum date from the 1950s on as I have a fascination with propaganda and art that relates to it!

Our next stop was the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum – this imposing structure was built to commemorate the first president of Vietnam. It was in the middle of a giant square which made it all the more imposing. Another thing that added to the interesting feeling of the place was the giant hammer and sickle flags that were flying. This was probably the only place on the trip that has given me culture shock as I find the whole political system quite foreign and to see flags like those up close was a little eerie.

After that we stumbled upon the One Pillared Pagoda – which dates from 1045. This was really cool to see, and also quite small so we didn’t venture in.

After finishing up we walked back through the chaotic streets of Hanoi to the hotel. I honestly can’t count the number of times that I’ve almost been run over by mopeds. They’re everywhere and pop out of nowhere. Its insane.

Ok, back to hoping for good weather tomorrow. Well, not even good weather. Just not bad enough that our cruise gets cancelled again because that would suck.

Hammer and SICKle

Seems like I’ve done a lot of apologizing for not blogging over the last two days… and here’s another. The Wifi here is even worse than in Myanmar and I couldn’t even upload my blog yesterday. Also I’m still sick… so thats another reason.

Yesterday was a bit of a long day, we flew from Da Nang (the closest airport to Hoi An) to Ha Noi. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity for our bags, we were on our way to the Hotel. We ended up arranging a car to pick us up as we had heard horror stories about brutal cabbies from the airport.

As soon as we dropped our bags we noticed that the beds had been pushed together, and as we had shared a very tiny bed in Hoi An promptly asked for them to be separated, much to the confusion of the front desk staff (“oh, are you brother and sister?”).

We got organized for the day and decided to take a walk down to Hoan Kiem which is a lake close to our hotel. It kind of reminded me a little of Central Park although not as isolated from the city. We ended up walking from there to the Vietnamese History Museum which was a little misleading to me as it glossed over the period from French Colonialism to the present. Don’t get me wrong, I love learning about ancient history but theres only so many pots you can look at.

After that we (I) decided to find a Starbucks to fill up my mug collection. I ended up finding the Ho Chi Minh City mug here, and bought that along with the Hanoi and Vietnam ones to fill my collection. The lady working the cash surprised me as they were “celebrating Starbucks coming to Hanoi” and gave me a tumbler for free (well, almost free..she charged me for it instead of a mug)!

After that we ditched the mugs and chilled for a bit at the hotel as we had had a late lunch and weren’t exactly hungry. We ended up going for Pho later which was much needed.

This morning we ended up getting up a tad late and spent the morning organizing our budgets and the like. It was a little scary looking at how much I had spent, and ended up putting myself on a budget for the rest of the trip (although that was to be blown out of the water by the cruise we’re headed on in Halong Bay).

We ended up hitting a few of the major tourist attractions in the city, and I managed to stay under my $50 CAD budget for the day. The first stop was the Vietnamese Women’s museum which was really cool. It was interesting to see the traditional roles of women in Vietnamese society, along with their roles within the traditional cultures of the country. Within the museum there was a cool exhibit on vietnamese religious beliefs (they believe in the Mother Goddess) and an interesting movie on female street vendors in Hanoi. It really put my funds situation in perspective. Some of these ladies were making $20USD every 12 days – making my situation absolutely trivial.

After the museum we headed to the Toa Lo Prison – infamously called the Hanoi Hilton. This was definitely more of a prison compared to Tuol Sleng in Phnom Penh – although I’m not sure if a valid comparison can be made between the two. It was really interesting to see the positioning of the Vietnamese with respect to the history of the prison (and the Vietnam War). I won’t get into too much detail here (as this is probably being monitored… Hello Vietnamese Government!) but you can ask me all you want in 5 days!

After that we headed back to the hotel and stopped for a quick snack along the way. We found a cool café and I had a passionfruit yogurt, pain au chocolate and a fresh pressed juice. So much for that budget.

Feeling full we made it back to the hotel and relaxed (and bitched about the Wifi) for a bit before dinner. We had decided to eat at a place that was billed as “cheap and cheelful [sic]” but upon seeing no tourists there immediately changed our minds. We ended up eating at 69 restaurant, and I had the “69 Style Fried Rice” (no comments from the peanut gallery).

Now, we’re back at the hotel and headed off to bed. Our bus to take us to the boat in Halong Bay will be here at 8:30 am… pray for my soul please. I haven’t gotten up before 9 this trip (except for that one day in Angkor).

I Made Pho, and it was Pho-king wonderful

I apologize for not blogging yesterday, I was super under the weather and stayed in bed and watched Celebrity Big Brother all day. Luckily, I had brought antibiotics with me and am starting to feel better!

Today was a pretty relaxing day, we went to the Thuan Tinh Island Cooking school to learn how to make some Vietnamese food. We booked the afternoon tour, and so slept in a little bit. At 11:30, our guide Thuy picked us up from our hotel and took us to the local market. We walked around the market and bought everything we would need for our cooking class later. After the market tour, Thuy told us that we would be the only 2 people at the cooking school for the afternoon which was awesome.

We went down to the dock to wait for our boat. Thuy told us that it was “broken” and needed to be fixed – which didn’t bother either of us as it was a beautiful day and the scenery was beautiful. Thuy was an absolute gem and surprised us with vegetable graters because she felt bad that the boat was taking so long.

The boat showed up and we were soon off to the cooking school! Upon arrival, we were shown how to make rice milk and each got to try using the mortar. Its easy to see why the Vietnamese ladies are so strong!

As soon as we got to our station, we were given passionfruit juice (the first of many of the day) and were soon learning how to make fresh spring rolls! They were definitely easier than I thought they would be, and I’ll definitely have to make them when I get home. Also, the peanut sauce was incredible. Just saying.

Next up was Vietnamese Pancakes or Bahn Xai. These were a little bit intimidating for me due to the flipping of the pancake (I’m an absolute Klutz in the kitchen) but they came off without a hitch! My only gripe with these was the amount of oil used to fry them (but we’ll chalk this one up to the fact that my parents are the the cleanest eaters around).

We then tackled Beef Noodle Soup – a simple yet super tasty dish. This one was definitely the toughest for me as the chef (Tuy) wanted us to decorate our plates with vegetables. Not my cup of tea. Hell, I can’t even draw a stick person how do you expect me to make something with vegetables.

Finally, we made some Pho. This was by far the highlight of my day and was easier than I thought it would be! The most difficult part was by far getting the spices just right for the broth! Everything was downhill after that.

After a long day we were taken back to the hotel, and we immediately crashed for a bit. After that we headed out for “dinner” (as we were still quite full from earlier) and ice cream. I finally tried White Rose – a local specialty, its a type of pork dumpling, and it was so good! I also had a Banana Pancake which was supposed to come with Nutella but didn’t, oh well. I finished it off with Pineapple and Passionfruit Sorbet. All in all it was great.

Now, I’m off to pack as we’re off to Hanoi tomorrow. I don’t think its set in that we only have a little over 3 weeks left as it still feels like an eternity, but will go by so quickly.

Good Morning Vietnam

Forgive the pun – I had to make it at least once.

After a long travel day yesterday (Phnom Penh, Cambodia –> Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam –> Da Nang, Vietnam then a short drive to Hoi An) we slept in a little and then hit the streets to explore the Ancient City of Hoi An. By the time we headed out, it was already very hot, thank god the hotel has a pool.

We spent the morning wandering around and hit a few of the museums in town (ex. The Pottery Museum) and a few gathering halls/pagodas. By noon we were both starving and headed to the Mermaid Restaurant for some Pho. It was arguably the best Pho I’ve had but the portion size was probably the smallest I’ve seen.

After lunch, we headed to a few of the old houses in town that I can’t remember the names of because they’ve all blended together in my brain. We also went to the Japanese covered bridge and walked down by the river. The highlight of my day was finding a store that sold vintage Vietnamese propaganda posters. I probably bought way too many (they’re postcard sized) but I’m over it. They’ll make cool decorations.

We were both pretty wiped from the heat so we headed back for a nap. On the way we stopped at a tailors beside our hotel. Hoi An is famous for its tailor shops so we figured we’d see what the fuss is all about. While I would love get a suit, I just don’t have the room for it.

After our nap we headed for dinner. We had read about a place called the Secret Garden and decided to try there. The food was excellent (we had beef and betel leaf) and the setting was really quite serene. After dinner, we walked around town to see it all lit up at night. It was really beautiful and reminded me of a town on the French/Italian Riviera.

We stopped at a mini mart for snacks (I’ve probably eaten by body weight in Coconut Oreos over the last 2 days) and Katelyn popped into a tailor to get a dress made. While she was doing that I headed back to the hotel to relax and work on my scrapbook.

I’m thoroughly exhausted, and these hard beds are killing me. As much as I hate to say it – I’m almost ready to come home. Watch me backpedal when I actually start heading  home…

An Emotional Day in Phnom Penh

On our last full day in Cambodia, we decided to take on two of the most important attractions in Phnom Penh – the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Choeng Ek Killing Fields. We knew we were in for an emotional day but were unsure of what to expect at either.

After a quick breakfast at our hotel we headed off to the Tuol Sleng Museum. We tried to barter with the Tuk Tuk driver but he wouldn’t budge – a common theme here. We bought our tickets at the entrance and were soon in the midst of Cambodian history.

In a sense, the museum “eases” you into the difficult subject matter that it discusses by showing you the rooms where the “higher-ups” were kept when they were in the prison. The prison is an old high school and each classroom has been retrofitted for one macabre purpose or another.  Each room had the same things  – shackles, a bed and a box for personal effects. Even these were difficult to see as each room had stains on the walls and the floors.

We went up a floor to a few exhibits that had recently been launched. The one that I found the most interesting was about a group of Swedish Khmer Rouge supporters that had visited the Pol Pot regime during it’s heyday. They received a very prescribed tour (similar to the ones in current day North Korea) and reported back to the Western world on the excellent situation in the country (unbeknownst to them was the existence of the prisons and multiple killing fields across the country). As this was one of the only reports coming out of the country it was believed at face value and it seems that it was one of the contributing factors in the massive failure of the international community over the next few years.

After the exhibit we headed to the main part of the museum, the real nitty gritty part as it were. Spanning across multiple rooms on the main floor of one of the buildings were pictures of many of the victims of the S-21 (the former name) Prison. The Khmer Rouge were similar to the Nazis in that they took impeccable records – they photographed and wrote biographies for each person that entered the prison. The pictures were heartbreaking as you could sense the confusion and hopelessness in the facial expressions. Interspersed in the images of the victims (almost all forced to confess to crimes they did not commit) were images of the instruments of torture and how they were used. These only added to the lump in my throat. Reading the victims (11 out of 6000+ survived) testimonies to the horrors of the prison opened the waterworks for me.

Katelyn and I had a really tough time in the last building – containing the cells of the prisoners. The living conditions were horrifying , many cells had no light and very little space. We both entered one to see how much space there was ( I couldn’t lie down) and were both reduced to tears.

After gathering our thoughts we moved through the rest of museum and got our taste of the horrors that were to come at Choeng Ek. Someone had taken a glass case with skulls and laid a map of the movements of people over it.

I’ll break here for a little bit of a history lesson as it is needed to give context. In 1975 Cambodia was in the midst of a civil war and Pol Pot come to prominence as the commander of the rebel Army. On April 17th, 1975 the city of Phnom Penh was captured and Pol Pot was installed as head of government. Within 3 days all forms of money, personal possessions and property had been banned and the cities had been empty. Pol Pot’s mission was to create an egalitarian society based on agriculture and thus forced all citizens to work in the fields. Although he was teacher, he arrested and imprisoned anyone with any form of education, anyone who could speak a foreign language, anyone with glasses and anyone with soft hands. Over the 3 years that the regime was in power over 2 million (out of 8 million) were executed and many more died due to starvation and lack of proper medicine. In 1979 the Vietnamese army moved in and deposed the government. However due to the political climate at the time, many western countries did not believe in the legitimacy of the Vietnamese installed government and treated the Khmer Rouge regime as the government in exile (they were forced to a small area around the Thai Border). Eventually, the political situation returned to normal and the ECCC (a tribunal to investigate the crimes against humanity by the Khmer Rouge) was created. However, by the time it was created Pol Pot and many superior leaders had died. It has still tried a few of the leaders, but to me the sentences for the crimes are nowhere near enough.

After the museum, we met our wonderful friend Sonia for the trip to Choeung Ek. We had met her on the bus and decided it would be a great idea for all of us to go together. We met some spanish girls while we were haggling for a Tuk Tuk and the 5 of us were on our way.

At the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, we were given Audioguides upon our arrival. This is the one time I’ve actually enjoyed having an audioguide as it really helped bring the area to life, as not much remains from the time period (destroyed during the period of Vietnamese rule as people were trying to re-establish normalcy).

I don’t want to delve into the horrors here as I don’t really feel it is the place. I do encourage you to do a little bit of research as it is very important to understand the importance of this place. If you’re interested in learning about the atrocities committed across the country I can recommend 2 books – Cambodge Année Zero by François Ponchaud (in French but I’m assuming an English Translation exists) and First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung.

The most moving part of the Killing Fields to me was the Memorial Stupa which contains the skulls and long bones of many of the victims killed at Choeung Ek.

After a wholly moving experience Katelyn, Sonia and I headed back to the city for lunch. We ate at a place called Happiness Pizza. Which was a wholly misleading name as they completely forgot to cook my lunch. Not so happy when you’re very hungry.

After lunch we headed off for Dairy Queen (Katelyn had a bad craving) and to find a vintage store that I had read about online. I love collecting vintage travel posters and my dad likes old maps, so it was killing 2 birds with one stone.

We made it back to Sisowath Quay and said our goodbyes to the wonderful Sonia. Emotionally and mentally taxed, we went back to the hotel and have rested for a bit and prepared for Vietnam.

The biggest thing I’ve learned today was how strong people can be. Yes, the theme song of the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt sings about it, but experiencing first hand really drives it home. Most of the people we’ve encountered during our stay in Cambodia have been affected by the horrific Khmer Rouge regime one way or another and the fact that they are as happy and warm as they are is a true testament to their spirit. Many people have lost siblings, parents and even children but the fact that they were able to persevere and to come out the other side stronger than they were is truly inspirational to me.

Sean Penn, Cambodia is Wonderful

If you don’t get the title – go watch The Amazing Race…

Today was a little bit of a lazy day, but we did see a lot!

We ended up getting up late and left the hotel around noon. We went for lunch at a local cafe and then set off for the day. We first went to the Cambodian National Museum and saw lots of artifacts from the Pre-Angkorian era. It was interesting to see the amount of Hindu statues there. Although, there were also lots of Buddha statues there too! Katelyn battled a bit of dehydration while we were there, but with some rehydration salts she was all good in a short amount of time.

We finished off the museum and headed to the Royal Palace. On the way it started to rain, but we pulled out our Rain Jackets and were invincible (much to the chagrin of the other tourists). To me, it was incredibly surprising to see such opulence and grandeur in such a poor nation. The architecture was very beautiful, and to me felt a little more on the human scale when compared to the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

On the grounds of the Royal Palace was the Silver Pagoda, which seemed to be a cheap knock off of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok. But, we are in Cambodia so. I mean it is kind of expected (I can get you Bvberry and Channel Purses 5 minutes from my hotel).

After we were done at the Palace we set off for Wat Phnom – the name sake of the city. We didn’t stay too long as we were pretty templed out, and my coffee hadn’t kicked in yet. We tried to see the Old Market but it was closed, so we set off for the Foreign Correspondents Club – a Phnom Penh staple.

We originally planned to only stay for drinks ( I had the FCC Tranfusion..amazing!) but both got very hungry so ordered food. While a little bit on the pricey side the food was good and the ambiance was better. Set on the second story of an old colonial building, the view over the Ton Le Sap and Mekong rivers was beautiful. My highlight though was when the older lady working the bar came over with a free drink and said “here. for you. happy hour”. I really couldn’t say no to that.

It was getting dark when we finished dinner, so we booked it back to the hotel as it was eerily quiet on the street near our hotel.

We made it back alive. But now its off to mentally prepare myself for the Tuol Sleng Museum and Killing Fields tomorrow.

Sunrise at Angkor

I apologize for the lack of originality in the title of this post, but the fact that I was up to see sunrise at Angkor is a feat in and of itself.

We were up this morning at 4 am – which is when I normally go to bed, quickly grabbed breakfast and met our Tuk Tuk driver at 4:45 and were off to Angkor Wat for sunrise. We got there before the Chinese tour groups and were able to get a spot at the ponds before the crowds piled in.

The sun didn’t rise until 5:45, but the best part of the sunrise was as the clouds in the sky. The light scattering off the clouds was mesmerizing. But alas, any zen thoughts I had were interrupted by the hundreds of tourists there.

As soon as the sun was up (and the hawkers were out), we were back in the Tuk Tuk and off to Banteay Srei. This temple is about 40km away from the main Archaeological park and it took us about an hour to get there by Tuk Tuk. Plenty of time to ponder my life (and listen to Lana Del Rey).

We managed to get to Banteay Srei before the masses did. It was amazing to see how the Sandstone has withstood the test of time – this temple predates Angkor and the carvings there were pretty amazing. We climbed into the Tuk Tuk, waited for our driver to finish his breakfast and then we were off to Beng Melea.

It took us about an hour to get to Beng Melea and by the time we got there it was getting steamy outside. This was one of my favourite temples as it wasn’t as conserved as the others and the piles of rocks, and the trees that had grown around them were stunning. This one also had lots of lush greenery around to make it magical. Alas, our incredible time was interrupted on more than one occasion by the multiple asians taking selfies. It was tough to navigate the steps and the ever present selfie sticks but we got on like pros. The signs around the boardwalk weren’t clearly marked and on the way out we got sketched out as we had to climb down a set of stairs into a dark hallway. As soon as we got to the top a local started following us and we quickly bailed on that idea. We decided to head to a viewpoint that overlooked the main gate of the temple and then tried again – with success (and no sketchy guys following us).

We found our way back to the main path, and ran into about 7 buses full of tour groups. Perfect timing. We waited for our driver (who was exploring the temple) and then were off to the Roluos Group of temples – the oldest ones in the area.

By this time, we were both pretty exhausted and listened to our music for the hour ride. It was a great time to get lots of thinking done – but I definitely confused myself about what I want to do after I graduate.

We got to the first temple of the group – Preah Ko and walked around it. Although, there wasn’t much there to see. I ended up having to go into the jungle around it to water the plants – which was a little unnerving because we had seen a sign and Beng Melea advertising the amount of land mines they had removed from the area.

We climbed back in the Tuk Tuk (both still alive) and were off to Bakong. It was really neat to explore this temple as it dates from the 9th century. It was definitely a great way to end the day.

We came back to the hotel to go for lunch – I had amok curry and it was amazing. We then took the longest nap ever and slept through dinner. I was a little peckish so I headed off to a corner store to get some snacks for the bus tomorrow and to nosh on tonight. I miraculously found Nature Valley Granola Bars and Protein Bars. There is some sort of higher being.

I’m off to back my bag. Hopefully its easier with the bigger bag I bought (thanks for having a North Face outlet Siem Reap!) – but I doubt it.

Splurging in Siem Reap

Well, today was a wonderful day. It cost me a little more than I was expecting but it was well worth it.

We got up a little later as we were going to hire bikes, but bailed on that as Katelyn wasn’t feeling so hot. We hired a Tuk Tuk to take us to Angkor Wat to climb to the top and then on the “Grand Circuit” as it is called here. Interestingly, this one was cheaper than the one yesterday but it was for longer distance. The things that make you go hmm.

Katelyn still wasn’t feeling 100% and I didn’t want her to feel worse so I climbed the Angkor Wat summit myself. All in all, it was so cool to be that close to the spires but I don’t think that the view was anything to write home about.

We were back in the Tuk Tuk and off to Preah Khan in no time. This one was very similar to Ta Prom. But, I liked it better as there was much more visitor information. It was also the only spot I’ve seen cylindrical support columns in the entire Angkor Archaeological Park.

We ate lunch, and I had Amok with Chicken. Basically Thai green curry but the Cambodian version. It was still wonderful, and much needed after the morning we had!

After lunch we headed to Neak Peah, or the Royal Baths. Well, we were told they were baths. It was just a spire in a green field, still pretty cool though. We then went to East Mabon, which we climbed. This one was similar in style to Angkor, although on a much smaller scale. After that we hit up Pre Rap, another temple similar to East Mabon and Angkor but this one was better preserved than East Mabon. It also featured a little more visiual interest in terms of ruins at the base (lots of little buildings that we couldn’t guess what they were).

We decided we wanted to hike up Phnom Bakeng (with all the chinese tour groups). The hike through the jungle was great, but the restoration efforts at the top kind of hampered the view. It was still pretty cool to see how big Angkor is from a distance!

After no time at all we were back in town for dinner (Lok Lak for me!) and cheap beer ($1 for 1L, yes please). We wanted ice cream after so found a neat spot called the Blue Pumpkin and I had 3 scoops – Cinnamon/Speculoos, Jackfruit and Khmer Fruits. All were quite great.

I was feeling a little tired but we stumbled upon a really nice spa near our hotel and I decided I needed a massage. While a bit of a splurge it was cheap compared to home and definitely worth it! My shoulders have been acting up because of my backpack so it was definitely needed!

After meeting the little Cambodian lady who would be my masseuse, she took me upstairs through the massive spa! She pointed to a couch and told me to sit down.. I was a little confused but complied. Out of nowhere a bowl filled with lemongrass, limes, water and mangoes appeared. She put my feet in then proceeded to massage and scrub them with salt (side note: any future mate/suitor will be required to do this once a week).

She then led me to the massage room, I got changed and we were off to the races. It got a little awkward as I didn’t take off my shorts (#protectingmycash) so she, without warning, proceeded to move my shorts halfway down my butt and start massaging. A little warning would have been nice but I’m over it.

90 minutes later I was done and feeling tired. Which is good as we’re getting up at 4am to watch the sunrise at Angkor tomorrow. Pray for us.