Holiday in Cambodia

My short-stay in Siem Reap, Cambodia, was a dream come true.

To start, my main purpose of going there was to see Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is a place I’ve been longing to visit since I was in high school, reading about the sprawling temple complexes, imagining what it must have looked like when it was first constructed in the 12th century.

After a decade since I first learned about it, I finally made it to Cambodia to explore.

A fun little aside– I wasn’t alone on this adventure. My dear friend, Muhammad, joined me, from Singapore. Well, actually, he’s originally from Singapore, but is studying linguistics in Wales, but was back in Singapore to renew his student visa, so he hopped over to Siem Reap to see me and explore.

Oh, and we hadn’t met in person before this– I’ve known Muhammad for roughly 10 years via the Internet, and we became good friends about 2 years ago. You know me, nothing like making epic trips with people I only know from online to test friendships.

I really enjoyed taking photos of him when he wasn’t aware of it– his jungle-explorer get-up was especially fitting for our temple adventures.

It was seriously one of the best things I have ever done. I think I’ve mentioned a bunch of times in previous drabbles that I wanted to be an archaeologist, but ended up as a photographer (which is also an amazing profession, if I do say so!) Learning about all of the temples in the complex and climbing over rocks and cooing over the little monkeys was about as close as I could get to being an archaeologist, but hey, I’ll take it.

After we visited the main temple complex, we then scooted over to Ta Phrom to see the famous trees overtaking the temple structure. Some of you may recognize it from Lara Croft’s Tomb Raider (the older one with Jolie, not the newest one,) and the fun fact about that photo is we had to wait in line to take it.

Ah, tourism.

From Ta Phrom we dragged ourselves because I was low on caffeine skipped on over to the Angkor Thom complex, to see Bayon Temple. Bayon is famous for it’s carved stone faces, which, if you’re a 90s-kid-in-America like me, you’d recognize the Legends of the Hidden Temple vibes coming from here.

I really enjoyed this temple, almost as much as Angkor Wat herself, because we were able to walk around in the ruins. It felt like an ancient maze, and if I get the opportunity to skip around and pretend like I’m an explorer with my little point-and-shoot camera, well, I’m a happy tourist.

We also got iced coffee from a stand nearby, but the vote is out on whether or not that had anything to do with my excitement.

We ended our adventures at the temple complexes by climbing up to Pre Rup, which was situated at the top of a tall hill. Our guide basically pushed us to go watch the sunset from there, but after walking up the hill and waiting about 45 minutes in line to get to the top, Muhammad and I saw all of the people, realized the sun was setting behind the jungle, and decided to leave and go get dinner instead.

The view was still nice though, so I recommend checking it out, but maybe not for sunset because everyone and their mother will be there.

The city of Siem Reap was a different treat. Muhammad and I ended up walking around all over to find the mosque one evening, and then another evening we walked to go get dinner because it was only 3 kilometers away and why not right?

We totally hailed a ride back.

But during our stay, we walked along the river, stumbled into a fruits and vegetable market, found shopping stalls and out-of-place stores. Just a few of my favorite things.

Admittedly, I was easily exhausted in Cambodia. It was probably a combination of the heat and the fact I’d been adventuring for 1.5 months ahead of this, but Muhammad and I spend about half the time we were in Siem Reap napping and watching movies. It was fun. 10/10, highly recommend having a low-energy friend.

If you’re planning on going to Siem Reap (which you should totally do,) make sure you have your shots and your malaria pills, to stay safe and healthy. I recommend getting them before you leave the country– I made the mistake of not doing that and couldn’t get any in Bangkok, so I walked around covered in insect repellent wearing long sleeves and high socks in 100 degree heat. 0/10 do not recommend do not be a dumb ass like me.

As always, Safe Travels and Happy Shooting!

 

Adventures in Thailand: Taking Tours Solo Pt. 2 (Ayutthaya)

My second adventure as a solo-traveler-gone-rogue was a bike tour through Ayutthaya, the old capitol of Thailand when it used to be the Kingdom of Siam. It’s a gorgeous ancient city, and my older cousin (the awesome one who lives in the Philippines,) insisted I check it out. Ancient history and adventure? Don’t have to tell me twice.

He recommended that I go there and rent a bike and explore the city. However, after looking into taking the train, looking at maps, and just psyching myself out, I decided going by myself maybe wasn’t the best idea. So, I signed up for a guided bike tour. It wasn’t as smooth-sailing as the Damnoen Saduak tour, because apparently no one wanted to go on a bike-tour during some of the hottest months of the year, so my tour was almost cancelled. But, at the last minute, a group decided they wanted to go, so I was added.

This time I was adopted by three lovely people from Brazil, who were in Bangkok on a business trip, and had a free day. So, I met them, and instantly became a part of their group photos and they bought me a beer. It was awesome.

 

The bike tour was almost all-day, from bright and early until the sun went down. We took a van to the heart of the City, and started our ride from there. We visited

 

My favs from this part of our day was the Doraemon hanging out with the icons, and the school group that was on a field trip to the complex. I was also completely FLOORED when I saw the Buddha head in the bayan roots– it was something that I only ever saw pictures of, and I actually got to see it in real life. It was surreal and amazing.

One of the things I noticed when exploring the ancient wats was how most of the Buddha heads were… non-existent. They were just gone. When I asked, our tour guide explained that when Ayutthaya was ransacked by the Burmese, they would remove the heads of the Buddhas to see if they were gold inside, and therefore valuable. In other instances, people looted the temples and sold the heads to westerners. Yeah, it’s pretty fucked.

We had a brief lunch of fruit, chips, and protein bars (soda was also available– but that was a HARD pass, considering I was sweating buckets,) and carried on into the rural countryside. It was very pretty and picturesque, and we came across a couple of fun things– like a group of kids on bicycles who wanted their picture with us, but then got too shy so just settled for staring and giggling at us, and a village partying-hard and celebrating a man who was to become a monk.The celebrators offered us beer and wanted to dance with us– I opted for the dancing but not the beer, because again, it was like 110 degrees Fahrenheit outside and I was riding a bike and that just sounded like a bad combo.

 

It was totally gorgeous and an amazing time. I was really lucky to be put with such a friendly group of people who wanted to include me, and at the end of our bike ride we enjoyed Thai food and the beer my new friends generously provided me with.

We were done with the bike rides, but we had another stop before heading home: the Bang Pa-In Royal Palace. It used to be a popular summer-residence for the kings of Thailand, but in recent years it is mostly a tourist site with a very strict dress code. Visiting temples usually requires modest dress and covering your shoulders, but here, men had to wear pants and women had to have their shoulders and legs covered.

I got an amazing photo of my get-up with one of my new friends:

By the way, we had to rent those adorable clothes– not buy. There was a stand outside of the palace for this specific purpose!

We wandered around the palace grounds, and of course I took a lot of pictures. We learned a little bit about the place, like how former King Bhumibol Adulyadej loved the summer palace and tried to spend as much time there as he could, and how the Chinese gifted an entire pavilion to the royal family.

 

After visiting the palace and eating some ice cream, we headed back to Bangkok and I slept for 16 hours. Bike riding during monsoon season is no joke.

Safe Travels and Happy Shooting!