Bangkok and Siem Reap!
Week 3 of our vacation began in Bangkok, Thailand where we stayed right in the hustle and bustle of Kao San Road. Loads of bars, restaurants, spas and street markets lined the street where hundreds of people hung out 24/7. When we got there Saturday night, we walked around the nearby streets taking in all of the people (local and foreign), music, vendors, etc. We found some street food to split - Pad Thai, 4 spring rolls, and a 20 oz. beer all for under $4! We ventured out Sunday morning to see the Grand Palace. Instead, we stumbled upon a tuk-tuk driver that took us around town to see a few of the other temples and sights. One of my favorites was Wat Saket (The Golden Mount) which sits on a steep hill. It was a gorgeous day so it made it even better to overlook the whole city! We also saw Wat Intharawihan which is a 32 meter tall Standing Buddha, and a few others. It was a long day and although the temples were all very cool and unique, we were a bit templed out by the end, and hot. We went back to the hotel for a little while to recoop and then went to dinner across the street for some seafood.
Monday we took it easy - relaxed and hung out by the pool for most of the day. That evening we grabbed some more Pad Thai for dinner and watched the sunset by the pool on the roof before heading to Chinatown. Walking around Chinatown was pretty neat. It was very different than the parts of Bangkok we had already seen. There were street vendors all over the place, Chinese restaurants and bars and just a different vibe overall. Open containers are totally allowed in Thailand so we grabbed some beer at the nearest 7-11 and continued on our way. Being in Bangkok, we had to check out the Red Light District - all we wanted to do was walk through it and be done. There were a couple different streets, one of which was three floors high of bars and strip clubs. I was amused just people watching as we walked through the street. Bangkok was very cool, and was definitely a learning experience for us. Most of the locals would look at us and think "tourist" and try their very best to get our money. We never felt in danger but we realized that not everyone is just that friendly as we eventually discovered what they were really trying to sell.
Tuesday morning we checked out of the hotel and made our way to Siem Reap. We were running a bit late due to the fact that we wanted one last Thai foot massage (can you blame us?) but we took a taxi to the nearest train station as that was the cheapest way to the airport. However, once we arrived at the train station, Luke mentioned we double check the airport from which our flight was departing. Of course it was the wrong airport. We went in the opposite direction! We hopped back in a cab and just went straight to the airport. Fortunately we made it with plenty of time to spare as our flight was delayed about 30 minutes. We arrived in Siem Reap and took a tuk-tuk to our Boutique Hotel which was, in my opinion, the nicest place we stayed all vacation. It was nice to end the three weeks with A/C, a semi-comfortable bed, included breakfast AND a pool - man were we spoiled! The receptionists would stand and bow when they greeted us every time we walked into the hotel and all we really wanted was to tell them to please just stay seated and stop being so nice, haha!
The hotel booked a tuk-tuk driver for us all Wednesday long to take us on the Temple Tour. Although we missed the temples at sunrise, we left at the perfect time (7:30 AM) to begin our day. We fell right in between the crowds of people on the sunrise tours and the 8 AM tours so we were able to get away from the crowds enough of the time. We first saw Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world, which was unreal. It was massive and gorgeous with the moat and land all around it. As you walked through, it was easy to get lost since the temple just kept going and going. At every temple there were vendors right outside trying to sell their merchandise. We would often here, "Lady, you like? How much you like?" We would also hear the terms "sir-lady" and "lady-sir" when they didn't know who to approach first. There were even people who would yell this at us from 100 feet away because we were obviously not locals and they were trying very hard to sell their various souvenirs, artwork, refreshments, guidebooks and so on. We started out politely with many "no thank yous" and "sorry, not todays" but eventually just had to ignore them completely. We continued on our tour to Bayon and our favorite, Ta Prohm. Ta Prohm was built in the 12th and 13th centuries and abandoned in the 15th century after the fall of the Khmer Empire. In the 21st century when it was going to be restored, they decided to leave it mostly as it was since it had merged so much with the jungle. It was by far the coolest temple we saw as trees had grown in, through, and around it. Luke felt like he was in an Indiana Jones movie which seemed pretty accurate! Each of the temples had "Way of visit" signs showing you the direction to go so on a few of the crowded temples we chose the opposite in hopes of avoiding some crowds. We were able to get quite a few good pictures without a single person being in them so I'd say it was a success!
Out to Pub Street that night for some Siem Reap nightlife which was my favorite of the whole trip. It was just one street, but there was enough to do on this street for every tourist in Cambodia. It was very lively with a dance circle in the middle of the street (yes, of course I joined) and plenty of bars to choose from. Doesn't hurt that Luke and I were able to split a pitcher of beer for $3.50!
We had a lazy pool day Thursday which was much needed after our very long day of temples and dancing. Friday we woke up early, packed and checked out of our hotel, and were picked up by a tuk-tuk driver to take us to our Cambodian cooking class! Much like the Thai cooking class we took the first week, this was a last minute decision but we had loved the food there so much we just had to do it. We looked at reviews for what we wanted to be different than the last one and it was so much fun! We visited a local family with 11 children gift them with rice for our food and seeing how they live off of their land. This course was much more "do it yourself" and was more organized. We made mango salad, fish amok and sweet coconut dough balls, then sat down at the end and chatted with the group. Great course! From there, we went to the Angkor National Museum to learn a bit more about the temples and the Buddhist gods, and then back near our hotel before leaving. We got a fish foot massage - you sit on a bench and put your feet in a fish tank and let them suck on your feet!! It was $2 and we each got a free beer as well, but it tickled like crazy! I could barely keep my feet in for 20 seconds at a time, but it was pretty cool. And last but not least, we grabbed a beer and went to a rooftop view for the sunset before we headed for the airport.
We had an 8:30 and a red-eye flight and finally made it back home. Although our vacation was hands down one of if not the best vacation I've ever had, I was ready to be back home and to catch up on sleep. I had so many new experiences, gained so many stories, and had a blast doing it!