Thursday, May 21, 2015

Angkor Wat. Siem Reap, Cambodia

Angkor Wat

4AM. Even with just a few hours sleep, all three of us woke up and got ready for a full day of temple hopping. With very limited time in Siem Reap, we wanted to see all the Temples in just one day. We already booked a tuktuk before arriving in Cambodia (see previous post for our tuktuk's details) and had already discussed with our driver, Mr. Kim, our most ambitious itinerary. I thought he would say no and that it was impossible but he said yes to sunrise in Angkor Wat to lunch in a far away temple and another one even farther and back to Angkor Wat for sunset. We were up for some serious Temple Run... Tuktuk version.

First Stop: ANGKOR WAT.

Mr. Kim picked us up at 5am from our hotel Banyan Leaf. It was still quite dark when we left but Mr. Kim told us that the earlier we got there the better since we would be waiting for sunrise with a lot of tourists. Angkor Wat is just 6km away from the town so it's not that far out of a ride. We would pass by backpackers in bicycles (wanted to do that) and tour groups in buses, vans, and cars. It's cheapest to go by bicycle if you have the time to slow things down, you can rent one for a day at 1 to 2 US dollars. Getting a car is lot more expensive.

Angkor 1 Day Pass

Before going in the the main complex, we had to get our Angkor Pass for USD20 at the tourist center. Long lines but fast and easy. You pay, they take a photo of how glorious you look like early in the morning at the booth, and voila you have a pass. Two to three day passes cost USD40 and a weeks worth is USD60. NEVER LOSE YOUR ANGKOR PASS as guards would sometimes check this before going in a temple. You also don't wanna go back to the tourist centre ro get a new one. Waste of precious time.

Going in.

After securing our Angkor Passes, we drove in to Angkor Heritage Park. Light was starting to peek through trees lined along the streets headed towards the moat of Angkor Wat.

The sky was a lovely gradient of pink and blue and silhouettes the biggest religious site in the world starting to reveal before our eyes.

Hundreds of tourists waiting for sunrise. Add in some hawkers, too.

I honestly imagined tourists would be scattered around the grounds sitting and waiting but no. Everyone wanted to have that money shot of Angkor Wat's silhouette reflecting on one of the ponds so everybody was in one area. It didn't feel cramped though. It was still alright. My fantasy peace and quiet sunrise with an amazing view just wasn't near reality. :)) 

It was around 5:45am and we heard the sun was gonna come up behind Angkor Wat at around 6:15am. So, we decided to eat at one of the food stalls inside the complex. Two girls have been following us around asking us to eat at their stalls.  Maybe we looked that hungry. Haha By the way, we ate at Lady Gaga's stall. Yes that was her name. We had two omelettes and a coke. :)

Kids selling souvenirs will also test your patience. Just don't give in. You are stronger than that. One boy asked where we were from and when we said we were Filipinos he went on and on about Manny Pacquiao. We still didn't buy his goods though. Lol Anyway, it's a bit more pricey to eat and buy stuff inside the complex so bring your own food if you can and buy souvenirs outaide for cheaper prices. But buying from the locals inside is not bad at all if you have the extra moolah.

After a pleasant gastronomic performance by Lady Gaga, the main event was right on time.

And then... THIS!



After taking photos from all angles of this gorgeous sight and when everyone else was still busy with the sunrise, we immediately went inside the temple to explore. And of course take more photos.

Going in.
One of the many ornate walls of Angkor Wat.


Huge. View from atop a mini temple inside.

I was up there. :)

Up to the peak! Restorations are non stop, too.


Met some new friends too. I like their sense of style. Hehe Choose to wear comfy clothes and shoes by the way. Getting around involves a lot of walking and the weather will get hotter as the day goes by.

Also, we were a bit unsure if we could wear tank tops and all but we chose to be safe and wore clothes that didn't show too much skin as some temples are still being actively used by monks to pray. Regardless, it's a religious site so might as well wear proper clothes so not to show any disrespect.

Enjoying the morning sun with Ynah beh. Haha

Ynah and Judy Joy ♥
Ipad pa more! Yung shotabmels pagodacoldwave lotion na meym!

Judy Joy taking more photos.
Huge galleries inside the temple.

One can climb steep staircases and see an even better view of Angkor Wat and it's surroundings.

Monk about to go in and pray. Politely asked if I could take a photo and he said yes with a smile! :)

As we left Angkor Wat to visit more temples at Angkor Thom and even outside the archeological complex, I thought, what more can Siem Reap offer after that? We've all seen postcards and photos of how beautiful Angkor Wat is but once you get to see it in person, it is beyond compare. It's bigger than you imagine. The details of the Khmer people's history on its walls are just incredible. It's structure is mindblowingly out of this world. It is very symmetrical and intricate. Yet, despite the grandeur there's still that mystery and delicateness of an ancient treasure found hidden under a forest several years ago.

You will never regret a single step and a single minute when you experience Angkor Wat. 

Just ah.maze.zingg.

So, Angkor Wat is now a big ass check on the bucket list. On to more yet distinct temples in Siem Reap. Back to our tuktuk.

Let me know what you think of this post. You may comment below. :)
(Next post: Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm, The Pink Temples, and Beng Mealea)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Touchdown. Siem Reap, Cambodia.

It was somewhat last minute that my friends and I decided to push through with this trip. We were initially and supposedly a crazy group of 8 going after buying Seat Sale tickets from Cebu Pacific in 2014. The airline suddenly emailed us a few weeks before the trip that they changed the freaking schedule! We were all somehow pissed and the group was now down to a lonely 3 who sat beside vacant seats on the plane that were supposed to be for our friends. :( Sad but Ynah, Judy, and I decided to have fun and make the most out of our 2 full days in Siem Reap. Yes, just 2 days because of that schedule mishap. 

So, what to do and where to go in Siem Reap with such cramped time? Believe me, A LOT! We felt like we were there for a week and awesomely spent around a little bit more than 6,000 Philippine Pesos (Php) but definitely less than Php 7,000 each during the trip! :D

My money was around 224 USD or Php 10,000 and that's inclusive of the plane ticket because I had promised to pay my friend (who paid for the seat sale tickets in advance) during the trip.

Later Manila!

We took a direct flight from Manila at around 8pm and arrived at Siem Reap International Airport at 930pm. The flight was pretty smooth and we just slept throughout after eating our packed sandwiches and chips (inflight food was not an option for the barat travellers that we are).

When we arrived, I noticed the pretty architecture of Siem Reap's International Airport. Yeah it wasn't huge and extremely modern but it was quaint and quiet. Maybe because we arrived bit late in the night. We got to immigration and swiflty went out of arrivals to meet the tuktuk driver that our hotel has arranged pick us up. (Visas can be obtained upon arrival but Filipinos and other ASEAN nationals do not need a visa and may stay for uo to 30 days.)

If you don't have a driver waiting for you, there are lots of tuktuks outside the airport that can take you to town for about USD5. The drivers will also definitely offer you tours but I suggest it's better to book a tuktuk through your hotel or in advance before your trip like we did. 

Also, US Dollar is the currency widely used in Siem Reap. Better have wads of ones and fives to pay for everything from food to drinks to postcards to souvenirs. Establishments would also tend to give you change in Riels (the local currency) which you can still use to pay especially if you wanna pay the exact amount. 

Moving on, on the way to the hotel, i noticed how Siem Reap resembled Naga City of Camarines Sur. It was flat, the highway from the airport was wide and the atmosphere was almost the same. Kinda felt like home actually. :)

Banyan Leaf Hotel's view of the Front Desk from the mini bar.

We stayed at the Banyan Leaf Boutique Hotel near the town center. The hotel is just a few minutes walk away from Night Market, Old Market, Pub Street, and all other attractions in town. We booked a Family Room with A/C that's good for 3 pax for 2 nights at USD33 per night. The room rate was inclusive of daily breakfasts, coffee, tea, and water inside the room, wifi, and the sights to behold and surprise you in the form other guests and tourists (mga behh!) lounging at the receiving area or at the minibar near the pool. ;D

We barely rested and immediately went off to Pub Street to have our first authentic Khmer dinner! We. Were. Extremely. Hungry!

Pub Street

Hello Pub Street! Where people come to eat and party and lose it! Lol But it was not as crowded as I expected it to be; maybe because it was only Wednesday night. If you're in Siem Reap, you definitely won't miss where this is - not hard to find at all. Some tourists were dancing on the street and one was breakdancing with a girl selling bracelets just outside Angkor What Bar. I would have joined in but we had to look for Fish Amok first. :) Plus I wanted to taste local beer already!

Fish Amok!!!! I was in Khmer Heaven! SOO GOOD!

Most of the kitchens were already closing up so we ended up eating at World Lounge Restaurant. We wanted to have a taste of local food as much as we can but this restaurant mainly served pizzas as it is a pizzeria. However and luckily, their Fish Amok was quite good!!! We ordered 3 differents kinds at 4USD each if I remember correctly. Not bad for our first meal. World Lounge Restaurant is almost right across to Red Piano, the bar Angelina Jolie frequented when she was filming Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.  They even a cocktail named after the movie! The staff were also nice. They were very accommodating and I even learned how to say Thank You in Khmer! AKUN! :)

More Amok.

Local beer at 50 cents. 👍🍺

After our late dinner, probably almost 1am already, we walked around and along Pub Street and took photos since the 2 ladies I'm with hardly drink and parrrtey.

Bright neon lights on a sleepy long night. ♥
With Meym Ynah

Hello new friends. LOL
Me and my Coke! ♥

I also needed to find a bottle of coke and wanted to see how the package looks like in another country with my Coca-Cola addiction. I think I spent a lot of one dallahs for Cokes and it made most of my expenses. Hehe

We walked back to the hotel utterly satisfied with delicious food to take some rest and wake up at 5am to catch the sunrise at Angkor WatThat's when the magic begins.

P.S. Thank you Ynah Morco and Judy Joy Nuñez for providing some of the photos.

(Next post: Siem Reap from Sunrise til Sundown)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Little Boy Wanderer

I always liked seeing my name on PAL's tickets with the prefix 'Master' when I was a little boy. We would fly to Manila from Bicol to visit my dad. I liked to look out the plane's window and chew gum my mom would give me as the plane took off. I loved the feel of the airport and see airplanes and flight attendants and people just waiting to fly away.

When I was in Grade School, being the boy who had all the sizes of Mickey Mouse stuffed toy was promised that if I maintained my good grades my mom and uncle would take me to Hong Kong and go to Disneyland. I was up for the challenge! Sadly, that trip never happened.

Come high school, my mom and I was to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land for a week and finally get to Hong Kong as promised when I was a boy. 

The Holy Land was indeed beautiful and the sights of Jerusalem, its people, and the Dead Sea was just amazing! All according to my mom because I never got there. Sadly, that part of my life again never happened. I was on a pilgrimage of my own, knocking my brains out for final exams.

College wasn't so bad. Had a few trips but it was not until recently that I felt really good about packing my bags and be somewhere wandering about.

Last year, 7 of my friends and I booked tickets to Siem Reap. All was good until a month before the trip, the airline fucked up our lives - flight dates were changed! It comes in threes as they say so I thought that was it. I booked a ticket to Kuala Lumpur with my cousin thinking Siem Reap was a no go. Apparently, it was a go. Two of my girl friends decided to push through so we ended up having a threesome (in the most wholesome way, believe me) in Cambodia. You'll know why on my next post. :)

I was thinking how in the world will I manage two trips in the span of a month. I also thought how funny it was that when I was young, two trips I was super looking forward to didn't even say 'booked'.

So despite worrying about financing both trips with my meager earnings, I packed my backpack, went on, and came home with a lot of photos. Photos I have nowhere to put and thoughts I want to share. Thus, this little blog.

Travelling is one thing I've always liked to do. Now that I'm old enough I'd really love to do more of it and tell people to do the same thing. There's that different feeling that comes when you get to your destination. Being somewhat lost in unfamiliar places is exhilarating and the little boy from way back then craves nothing more than to wander.

Hoping to fill this tiny corner with as much travel photos and posts (and things in between) as much as possible. Cheers and live life!

Little Boy Wanderer

(Next Post: Trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia)