A Fun Night Out in Siem Reap

It took me an extra minute to orientate myself in the situation when I got off the bus at Siem Reap. It was 7 PM. People tried to find their luggages and bargain with tuk-tuk drivers. I had no plan except the name of my hotel, and I had no idea where I was. Someone picked up my suitcase and asked where I wanted to go. That’s how I met “Sakun,” the tuk-tuk driver.
During the 10-minute ride to the hotel, Sakun gave a me quote for hiring him for an entire day. I bargained and re-designed the itinerary to my satisfaction. A deal was made. He would pick me up at 5 AM the next morning to see the ruins and the lake.
When I checked in at the hotel, the manager came out to talk to Sakun. The manager returned to me shortly, winked and said, “Sakun is okay. I know his mother. He won’t cheat you.” That is reassuring.
Here I was. Siem Reap. Lonely Planet calls it “the epicenter of the New Cambodia and the life-support system for the one and only temples of Angkor.” It was of course very happening on a Saturday night.
My hotel, Secret Pavilion Boutique Villa is located in a very secretive but centralized location. If you know the secret (alley), it was so convenient to get to the major night markets. This was the view from the balcony outside my room. These inviting lights of fun looked so close, right? But, oh my dear, it wasn’t easy to get to if you got lost in the dark like I did.
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From Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

On that Friday night I landed in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, somewhere between my dinner, fireworks and the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, I learned that traveling by boat from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap wasn’t possible.  The boat wasn’t in operation at that time. Something to do with the low water level and not enough business because most people opt for cheaper bus rides. Bummer.

“Kurt,” a young boy, a huge fan of “Glee,” and the receptionist at the guesthouse I stayed at Phnom Penh, emphasized to me the importance to choose the right bus company. With the tip from him, I booked my seat and got on this luxury bus. With air conditioning, (spotty) wifi, non-stop screening of Hollywood movies (well, I only saw “Grown Ups,” twice; I fell asleep when the others were on) and most importably, functioning seat-belts,  it was pleasant enough 6.5 hours on the country roads in Cambodia.

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Phnom Penh in Daylight

I woke up at this villa-like guesthouse feeling refreshed on this sunny Saturday in November 2012. Poolside breakfast with fresh fruit and strong coffee was modest but lovely.

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It was 83°F/28°C before 10 AM in Phnom Penh. In two hours I had to get on a bus for Siem Reap. I knew I could’ve just laid low and enjoyed the pool but I was curious about what this capital city would look like in daylight because I only landed around sunset the day before. Wouldn’t you be curious, too, about how people go about their lives here after sunrise?

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That Evening I arrived at Phnom Penh, Cambodia

After two nights and one day in Bangkok, I flew Air Asia from Don Muang Airport in Bangkok to Phnom Penh, Cambodia on a Friday in November, 2012. This rest area with beanbag chairs in Don Muang Airport was too cute to resist. Launching in one there, I finally read up about Cambodia, but at that time I had no idea that it would be SO GOOD.
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Sightseeing in Bangkok

How would you want to experience when you visit Bangkok, a city where there are absolutely too many to see? it can be undoubtedly overwhelming if you am ambitious/adventurous. I spent 4 nights but only 2 full days in Bangkok in November 2012. In addition to what I have previously shared, I, of course, did some pretty standard sightseeing and duly exercise my curiosity.

So, how would you want to experience Bangkok? What would you want to see?

Gleaming Wat Phra Kaew?

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Getting Around in Bangkok

How many kinds of local transportation could a person experience in Bangkok? How many have you tried, my friend?

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Bangkok: First Impressions

What I left behind in New York City in that November was a gloomy, cold weather. I spent many hours flying over to Asia, lost a day while crossing the International Date Line, connected to another flight in Taipei, and arrived in Bangkok, Thailand around noon on a Wednesday.

Bangkok has been a popular, easy destination for all sorts of vacationing. And yet, I was just catching up and visiting it for the very first time. I paid extra 200 baht to see how fast I could get a visa on arrival. 3 minutes! Totally pain free. The taxi ride into the city, though, was another story. The notoriety of traffic in Bangkok I’ve heard for years was all true. When I checked in at my hotel at Sukhumvit, I was beat. CNN was showing President Obama’s victorious speech after winning his second term. I was happy for that. Honestly though, I was happier after a nice shower and one-hour long full body massage.

Then I was all set for my mission to explore. I did what I typically do. Wander on foot.

The heat. Sweat. All those smells and noises. Tastes of spicy, salty, sour, and sweet. Movements and hiatuses embedded in the eternal crowdedness. This vibrant, buzzling City of Angles was a jolt of primal, awakening energy to all your senses.

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