A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Drifters

Temples, Temples and More Temples

Plus a few animals and lots of hiking in the tropical heat!

sunny 32 °C
View 2012 RTW on Drifters's travel map.

When we last left off with the blog, we were enjoying our very cheap accommodations and pool in Aranyaprathet Thailand. After a couple relaxing days there we headed off to the border and on to Siem Reap in Cambodia. We left Aranyaprathet early in the morning prepared to fight off people at the border. From everything we had read and what we had heard, this border crossing is one of the most infamous in the world for scams and ripoffs. True to our expectations, instead of taking us to the border crossing we were dropped off in front of a very official looking office and were told we needed to purchase our Cambodian Visa’s there. However, we weren’t duped and headed off on foot to cross the border and purchase our visas once we actually arrived into Cambodia. We were hassled by a few other people on the way, but honestly it wasn’t as bad as I expected and we were out of Thailand and into Cambodia in less than 30 minutes. Maybe, we just started looking a bit fierce after traveling for a long time, so no one wants to mess with us, ha! Plus, once we got across the border, we learned that the government provides a free shuttle to the next town, so no need for a taxi or tuk-tuk. We then boarded a relatively comfortable mini bus for a two hour ride to Siem Reap. We also got to feel like smart and savvy travelers after learning that everyone else riding on our mini bus had been scammed or overpaid for something during their border crossing adventures.

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We arrived to Siem Reap without incident, and were struck immediately by the obvious poverty in Cambodia. It is a big change from Thailand, and Siem Reap was dirtier and louder than I expected. However, all the people we meet here are always smiling and happy to chat. It is a bit off topic but I also have to add that Cambodia is listed as country # 158 in the Global Corruption Index, and we got to experience this first hand while exploring temples: a police officer actually tried to sell me his badge. (I declined, but still think it was pretty funny). Anyway, we stayed at HI Siem Reap Hostel, and enjoyed it there. We spent the next two days exploring the old Angkor temples in the area, and honestly you could spend a week here and probably not see everything. The temples and statues were amazing, and nothing like I have ever seen before. However, the heat here can be pretty exhausting, so we were forced to relax early in the evenings to enjoy some cool drinks and $3 foot massages. Plus we did see some of the nightlife in Siem Reap, (Including a lady boy show) as it is a big destination for young backpackers and can get pretty lively at night.

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After 3 nights in Siem Reap we headed down to Phnom Penh on a 6 hour bus. We were originally thinking of going back to Thailand and then further south to see the beaches there, but our plans have changed yet again. Although we are still really enjoying our travels, it looks like we will be coming back to the states in about a month. (Which is earlier than we had planned) There have been some ongoing problems with our rental houses, thanks to the negligent people we managed to hire, and at this point we have decided it's best to come back and deal with everything in person. Although we may still continue our hobo/traveling lifestyles after everything is resolved. That being said, we are excited to return home in a month and see everyone we have been missing. Plus, now that we are planning a final end date to this trip, we are making sure not to waste a moment of the time we have left in Asia. We arrived in Phnom Penh a couple days ago and really only planned to stay long enough to get our visa’s situated for our next country, Vietnam. However, it is a holiday here so everything was put on hold for a day and we just enjoyed the riverfront here in the city and did some exploring, there is not really much to do here as opposed to Bangkok. We were successful this morning at getting the visa process started at the Vietnam Embassy, and are hopeful to have our passports back tomorrow with 30 day visas included. If that is the case, we will be off to Ho Chi Minh tomorrow or the next day, and will get to spend quite a bit of time exploring Vietnam and what looks to be a very nice coastline. So even though our plans have changed yet again and we ended up spending more time in Cambodia then we had originally wanted, we have seen some really interesting sights and have found that a lot of times the unplanned places and events are the most memorable.

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Posted by Drifters 02:17 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Bangkok

semi-overcast 34 °C
View 2012 RTW on Drifters's travel map.

Hi! It has been a while since we posted anything, and even longer since I, Anastasia, did it. So, I decided to give Ryan a break on this one, and no one will need to guess who wrote this blog entry:)

We departed Korea with mixed feelings: it was great to move on to Thailand, "the land of a Thousand Buddhas", but also bitter-sweet to say good-byes to Koz - who knows how long it will be before we see him again? Our flight was at 9 in the morning, so we had to wake up super early for us (6.45 am) and hurry up to "the Worlds Best Airport" three years running - Incheon International. After boarding yet another plane we realized things were going to be different in Thailand - stewardesses were wearing "traditional" Thai dresses and it was cool! There were a lot of cool things about Thai Air, like built-in tv monitors for every seat with tons of movies to watch, not just latest flicks, comfy seats of all different colors, and, once breakfast arrived in the shape of Korean kimbap and Thai chicken curry to choose from with free wine in REAL glasses to boot, we decided this was our favorite airline ever! So, 5 and a half hours just flew by and we landed in Bangkok, the hottest capital in the world, according to our Lonely Planet source.

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It is indeed very hot here in Bangkok. Hot and humid. And sunny. But surprisingly not very busy. As a matter of fact, we suddenly discovered we could hear birds. And see them. And other different animals that live right here in the middle of the city and took us entirely by surprise.

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So, it was quite nice and we felt very peaceful and not hustled, despite all the warnings of travel periodicals. I guess, a huge part of it that we were once again in the land of affordable. Another is the attitude of Thais - quite pleasant and extremely accommodating. And the easiness of everything - almost everyone understands a bit of English and all of the signs are translated as well. Plus all the food. All the street food you can eat is here in this country. We did see fried bugs on Kaosan, but you had to pay to take the photo. Bloody tourists! Pad Thai for a dollar. I could go on forever, but I will just say - it is no wonder people come here and ... somehow, they just stay for years. We have met a few like that.
So, our first day we spent exploring things right around our hotel, that I unknowingly booked in the best spot of the old part of the city (One for me!). We walked around as usual trying to figure out how much things costs, had a lunch of spicy food and retired to our air-conditioned room promptly exhausted from the heat. Next day was predestined for big explorations of the nearby architectural and religious wonders. We started with a proper breakfast of steamed dumplings filled with shrimp, veggies and some other unknown to us substances. After that we observed the famous or infamous, depends on the traveler's prospective, Kaosan road (movie "The Beach"), and moved on to the cultural pursuits of the city.
First we stumbled upon Bangkok City Temple and witnessed a beautiful dance and drum ceremony of giving thanks to a deity.
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After marveling at all the dance moves and a song, we moved on to a temple of The Reclining Buddha, Wat Pho. This temple was just beautiful and there is not just one temple, but a few on the grounds, all paying homage to different aspects of life of the Buddha. The Reclining Buddha statue was quite impressive at 46 meters long and 15 meters high with mother of pearl incrusted feet, representing Buddha's final passage into Nirvana. Afterwards we wandered around the temple grounds, visiting various temple sites, and even got to make an offering of a gold leaf and lotus flower in one of the temples thanks to a sweet temple servant, who taught us how. We also got to do something like predicting future for ourselves - it is like this: there is can with pens with number written on each pen. You have to shake the can until just one pen falls out and then there is a shelf which contains lists of fortunes written on them according to the number you happened to shake out of the stake. It was fun and we got to keep our lists as souvenirs. After all the sights we were super tired and headed home for some lunch of Pad Thai and a nap.

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On the next day we set out to see the Grand Palace, an ex-residence of the Thai king and also home to the Emerald Buddha, one of the most famous images in the world. Temples in the Grand Palace were all beautiful, the only problem it was a lot busier and more expensive than Wat Pho. Once again we thanked the fortune that allowed us to travel and stay places without rigid limits, unlike tons of tourists on buses that are being herded through the main sights and do not have enough time to even get a flavor for a place, just get super hot and hustled.

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After being in the sun we opted for a beautiful textile exhibit of Queen Sirikit, which was fantastic because it was beautiful, because there was no one there and because there was an air conditioner working. For the travelers out there - it is included in the price of your Grand Palace tour and it is not to miss. I enjoyed it immensely and Ryan was glad to be out of the sun for a few minutes.

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Later that day we bought some Thai rum and had a few rum and cokes on the roof of our $11 a night hotel, watching the river passing by and the crimson sunset.

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We stayed in Bangkok for three more days and explored metaphysical temple of Loha Prasat (which no one suggested to visit, but it is not to miss! so glad we did), Mountain Monastery of Wat Saket and Khmer-influenced Wat Arun, took ol' rumbling city bus to a bustling Chinatown and found out another great way to cover distances in Bangkok - by Chao Phraya Express Boat ferry, which is tons more pleasant and scenic than the bus. We also crashed a free concert, had foot massages and ate all sorts of food, that neither of us will be able to tell you what it was we ate. One morning we even ended up eating spicy fish curry for breakfast!
As terrific as it was in Bangkok, we needed to get out to the nature, to the Eastern Thailand nature to be more precise, with consequent visiting of Angkor Wat. So yesterday we boarded a train and left Bangkok. It took us about 5.5 hours in 3rd class to get to Aranyaprathet (For 48 Baht, trust me that's a good deal) and once we got here we settled in a grand room in a hotel with a working pool, a king size bed, and a fantastic restaurant. The town was a meter under water just a week ago, we were told, and so far we have not seen any backpackers here. The room is $8 and I AM NOT KIDDING. So, we decided to stay here for another day in this sleepy town, in the grand 8 dollar hotel with a pool and great restaurant to write a blog and maybe get a massage. So long until Cambodia!

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Posted by Drifters 03:32 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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