Southeast Asia trip… photos October 22nd, 2013


So you’ve seen the video, but I’d be an idiot if I didn’t upload some of the trip pics and recall some of the stories too. It’s a month later, but in my book that’s right on time. Here goes:

   


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whooshing down the alleys of Bangkok. always remember to raise that blue tarp on the sides of the boats to keep the nasty water from spraying in your face..


   

When we first arrived in Bangkok, we took a ride on the Saen Saep Express Boat, which basically goes down the back alley canals of Bangkok. We were standing on the platform on the narrow bank, waiting to board, sweat rolling down our faces, when some Thai kids came up to us and began to interview us with their video camera. “Is this the dirtiest place you’ve ever been?” they asked. It WAS, in fact, THE dirtiest, smelliest place I’d ever been, but I didn’t want to offend them, so I said no. I think they were actually making a video about trying to clean up polluted waterways, but I only realized that later, and that they probably could have used some good footage of Westerners comfirming the grossness of the water. Instead, I think all they got was some video of me sweating profusely while trying not to be rude to foreigners.


   

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Wat Pho

   

We spent the rest of the day wandering around the city in the on-again off-again rain. We explored the temples of Wat Pho, the offerings of the Chatuchak market, took the BTS Skytrain, and tasted some Chang beer. We also stopped in for some cocktails at the famous Bamboo Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

   

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banananananana boat!

   

On Day 2, we took an epic tour to see The Floating Markets, the Bridge over the River Kwai, and to ride elephants in the river. It was incredible, all of it. My favorite, besides the elephant An-Chung that we rode, were the two tiny baby elephants that we got to pet and feed. Their skin is so tough and rough and prickly, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. I want to play with the elephants forever.


   

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i’m including this photo as part of my application to the circus. we should be shoe-ins.

   

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the freshest Thai food..

   

Our bike tour began on Day 3 of the trip, near a Thai beach just an hour or so outside of Bangkok. We met our soon-to-be-friends Neil and Di from Dubai, Jane from London, and Spencer from Toronto and got all set up with our bikes, water bottles, and helmets. The six of us, plus our two tour guides, had a delicious meal before departing on our first 17 miles…

   

We biked through some rolling hills, past some Thai shrimp farms, along a beautiful blue irrigation canal, and stopped for a water break and snacks by some rubber tree groves. We ended the biking segment near the beautiful shore and had some time to check out the fishies at the local aquarium. That night, we stayed at the Soi Dao Golf Club and Resort — it was off-season, so we had the place to ourselves — with lizards everywhere (which we named Stu for the rest of the trip) and beautiful views of the fog rolling in over the mountains.

   

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God knows where we are here… somewhere bumbling along the roads of Cambodia.

   

On Day 4, we rode through the countryside in the morning until we got to the Cambodian border and went through the crossings. It was pretty painless, and we easily met up with our two new guides, new bikes, and new shuttle van on the other side. Cambodia somehow felt different than Thailand – a little slower and a little friendlier. As we rolled onward, the terrain got hillier as we passed by the Cardamom foothills. We saw lots of rural roadside homes, livestock, bikes and motorcycles, and friendly children waving and yelling ‘HALLO!!!” at us. Di was riding her own recumbent bike the entire trip, and this was just the beginning of the stares and smiles she got the entire way.

   

That afternoon, after 26 miles on the bikes, we arrived in Pailin, to stay at the Memoria Palace Hotel. It was one of my favorite places of the trip — very remote, lush and green, with beautiful stone artwork, colorful walls, and amazing Thai food. And Angkor beers, which were so well earned after biking. Later that evening, before dinner, we went into town with our guide to climb the steps of the Buddhist Temple Wat Phnom Yat. We enjoyed watching the young monks beating a drum, and of course taking pictures of all the ornate and colorful parts of the temple.

   

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Buddha

   

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monk

   

Biking is one of the best ways to experience a place. You can cover lots of distance quickly, but still get the close-up picture. The smiles on the faces of the people you pass by, the smells of chicken cooking on the roadside, the sounds of the road rushing by, and the feel of the humidity that comes with the hot, wet rain drops.

   

The next day, I set a new personal biking record with a distance of 61.5 miles. It was hot, it was long, but it was awesome!! There were plenty of sights to take in along the way, and well placed pit stops to refill the Camel Packs with water. At one point, I started riding with my arms flipped upside down to help alleviate the sunburn I was getting no matter how much sunscreen I put on. We had lunch at a legit roadside open-air restaurant. There is nothing quite like eating crazy spicy Cambodian food with questionable meats when you know you have 30 miles left to go on your bike. Now that’s living!!

   

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Cambodians are masters at stacking and carrying everything on bikes, tractors, carts, motorcycles…

   

When we finally rolled into Battambang, it was suddenly chaos. For Cambodia, it was a “crowded” city, and there were no traffic rules. The best you could do was just go and try not to crash into anyone else while crossing the intersections. Or, if you were Di on the recumbent bike, just keep pedaling and yelling “I’M GOING, I’M GOING!” and hoping everyone understood that you couldn’t stop easily. We stayed that evening at the Khemara I Hotel. While it lacked the remote charm of our other stays, it made up for it with the availability of cheap massages. Matt and I had some little Cambodian ladies walk all over our backs for an hour for the grand total of $8. It was AHHMAZING after a long day of riding. After that, the power went out in our hotel. This was a seemingly common occurance… so went we out to explore the streets. We stopped into someone’s house, or rather their living room, to enjoy two Angkor beers… as you do in Cambodia.

   


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Battambang nights…

   

We travelled from Battambang to Siem Reap by boat. The Tonle Sap, or “Great Lake,” is actually a river and lake that is constantly changing, even reversing direction twice a year depending on the rainy season. For me, it was the highlight of the trip. There was something really sad but beautiful about the Cambodian people living on the river. Sad for the amount of poverty we witnessed, but beautiful for the simplicity of living, the natural wonder of the setting, and the perceived romance of having a home or boat on the water.

   

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leaning, living

   

Siem Reap felt like a return to civilzation, of sorts. It’s a cute little tourist town, with tons of bars and shops and markets and cheap stuff for sale. We got bombarded, as did all the tourists, with “you need a tuk tuk ride?” and “lady, buy this!” and “massage for you?” It got a little old by the third night there. But we did enjoy being able to settle into our hotel for three consecutive nights and not have to pack up smelly bike gear each morning as we had done before.

   


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Siem Reap Market choas

   

It rained most nights and turned Pub Street into a shiny, glowing wonder. We had dinner and cocktails one evening while sitting on the floor in this “reggae loft.” That’s really the best description I could give it. We all shared travel stories, family stories, thoughts, dreams, ideas. There was a lot of booze.

   

While staying in Siem Reap, we had three full days to explore the temples of Angkor. It’s hard to write about the massive scale and also the minute detail contained within the nearly 1,000 year old ruins and feel as though I’ve done it justice. To say it’s impressive is an understatement; the entire time we were there, I felt like a tiny ant exploring the most grandiose palaces, some perfectly reconstructed, some undergoing reconstruction, and some left completely untouched. Ta Phrom was one of the untouched sites, and also my favorite of them all. Enormous and intrictate tree roots twisted their way around the stones like serpents tentacles, while the branches went skyward for what seemed like forever. It felt like a magical forest that you’d find within the pages of Dr. Seuss, like it shouldn’t exist anywhere on this earth. Absolutely amazing. I was also in awe of the amount of detail that went into the Hindu, then Buddhist, carvings. Not ever more than an inch of stone was un-designed, and we attempted to take photographs of it all.

   


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you know that scene in Princess Bride where Fezzik is stuck in the crowd and yells, “EVERYBODY MOVE.” –yeah.

   

One monsoon-y morning, we postponed biking and went for a rainy hike at Kbal Spean, the River of 1,000 Lingas. At the top of the climb was a magnificent waterfall and several riverbed carvings, right there in the gushing currents. It was a memorable walk because of the terrain — I am used to forest floors covered in leaves and debris, but this path was nearly all bare stone and twisting tree roots. The starkness of the stone below our feet, combined with the rain and the mud, made the pathway almost look like a brown, flowing river, but it was surprisingly not very slippery. I enjoyed putting my hood up, my head down, and getting lost in my thoughts.

   

That afternoon, the rain cleared up enough to bike, and a crazy ride it was. Red dirt roads, bumpy as all hell, flooded in places, constant swerving in and out of potholes and puddles. Very sore wrists. Hanging on for dear life. Or at least hanging on in hopes that I wouldn’t go over the handlebars. It felt like some sort of X-games competition. We were mud-covered and laughing at the end though, in that sort of Ican’tbelieveImadeitthroughthat sort of way.

   

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Ta Phrom trees

   

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our gang

   

The next day, and final day of the bike trip, was spent doing an easy ride to the remaining temples, with a stop at the small village of Kro Bey Real. The market here felt like the most legitimate view of Cambodia that we’d seen. We were the only Westerners there, everyone else was there shopping for their groceries and just going about daily life. There were incredible fresh veggies in baskets all over the ground, eggs so fresh they will still covered in dirt, chickens, fish… everything. The only turn-off for me was that the muddy, dirty ground upon which everything sat, including all the people, seemed to seep it’s way into everything with a bad smell. It was unlike any market I’ve ever seen or will see again.

   


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i love the expression on her face. and all these fresh veggies.

   

ONWARD! We said our goodbyes to our bike gang and guides, and took a quick flight to Phnom Penh in the evening. We stayed with the Holben family and it was nice to spend a day relaxing in the company of friends from DC home. We took our first tuk-tuk rides, did a bit of wandering around the city, and stopped in at the National Museum of Cambodia. There were a bunch of protests and riots going on, with police and razor wire everywhere, so we didn’t do a whole lot of adventuring. Instead, Matt and Lorenzo had a great lightsaber battle, while Poppy tried to restore their injuries with her magical potions. We went out to an amazing sushi dinner that night. It was good fun.

   


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this is what happens when you take a tuk-tuk

   

The following morning I shall call the Morning of The Great Tuk-Tuk Incident/Misadventure. We had an 8:30am bus to catch to Ho Chi Minh City. We got in a tuk-tuk to the market/bus station around 7:20. It should have been about 15 minutes away. We BARELY made the bus. The tuk-tuk driver took us all over the city, partially due to language miscommunication, partially due to I think he was drunk, and partially due to us being viwed as typical lost tourists. Somewhere midway through the bumpy ride, I threw up. I couldn’t take it anymore. We went down some crazy street and I saw some fish heads lying by the side of the road and up came the one bite of papaya I had for breakfast. It was not pretty. All I could see as I leaned out of the tuk-tuk was some Cambodian guy’s foot like 3 inches away from my mouth, as his motorcycle was zooming by.

   

In Ho Chi Minh City we completed our adventure. We were thrilled to be staying at the Hotel Continental, which was right in the mix of everything. We saw the AO Show at the Opera House, wandered into Notre Dame and the Saigon Central Post Office, ate an amazing French dinner complete with moules, visited the Reunification Palace, saw the Emporer Jade Pagoda or as I call it the turtle temple, had more massages and more massages, shopped at the markets, tried some authentic pho, took skyline photos of the city from the overlook at the Bitexco Tower, took a cooking class, and Matt had a custom-tailored suit made.

   

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market flowers

   

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authentic pho! look at those chopstick skillz

   

   

By the last day, the non-stop traffic and whizzing of motorcycles, the endless markets, the harsh sounds of Vietnamese, and the throngs of people selling things kind of got to me, and I was ready to return home… With so many great memories.

   

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rat race, this is the essence of HCM


   

total miles biked — 180 !!

   

sawatdee – goodbye in Thai
   
leah seun hai – goobye in Khmer
   
Xin chào – goodbye in Vietnam
   

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tags: bicycle, Food, People, travel




2 Responses




  1. DIY Investor Says:

    Wow. Awesome trip. Great photos and description!



  2. lil sis waz Says:

    amazing post!!!!
    loved reading even more stories.
    i want to go now — much more even than before!!! : )



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