Archives for September 2013

Famous for a Reason-Angkor Wat

Angkor wat, siem reap

One place we just couldn’t miss while visiting Siem Reap was Angkor Wat. By far the most famous of all the temple complexes, it’s also the most visited.

Storms over Angkor Wat

TIP: we bought our tickets for the temples the day before we wanted to go at 4:40pm when they were first available for purchase. This allowed us to enter the temple complex that night until close at around 6:30. We used this time to visit Angkor Wat and therefore saving the whole next day for the rest of the temples.

Carvings at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

We were actually planning to go to Angkor for sunset but the weather had other plans. Ominous clouds loomed over the complex as Jeremy ran to get some shots. These are not the typical rose colored shots that you typically see people capture of the temple but they have their own charm.

Silhouette at Angkor Wat

After capturing shots outside, we ran inside just in time to watch the downpour from the protection of the large stone structure. As the rain pounded outside and we wandered the inner passageways we couldn’t help but wonder what it looked like in its prime. Intricate cavings covered every wall detailing traditional Cambodian apsara dancers, headless statues decapitated during the rise of the Khmer Rouge lined the darkened hallways and the smell of incense from the many offerings wafted through the air. Surreal doesn’t even begin to describe meandering through such a historic site as this.

Quick history lesson: built in 802 and taking 30 years to complete from the work of 5,000 artisans and 50,000 laborers, this 500 acre temple complex is one of the largest ever built. Originally built by a king as a temple for the Hindu god Vishnu, the complex and city around it flourished until the 1400’s when present day Thailand invaded and the temple was abandoned only to be rediscovered in the 1800’s.

Scripture at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
The actual architecture of Angkor has significant meaning as well. The peaks in the middle of the complex are supposed to signify Mount Meru, the mountain where the Hindu gods are said to dwell at the center of the universe. The five peaks of Meru are represented by the sprouting lotus bud like towers in the middle. The surrounding walls stand for mountains and the moat stands for the ocean.
Angkor wat, siem reap

New Norm V

Sometimes living in a different country you forget that some of the very odd and different things around you are in fact…odd and different, they instead become a ‘new norm’ of sorts. So here are a few things that when I first came to Korea seemed odd but now are overlooked.

Being treated differently because we are foreigners

Now, this isn’t always a bad thing and I really can’t complain about ever being treated badly because we’re foreigners. And every once in awhile, we’ll get a special treat only available to us. Like at a local Italian restaurant, we get free drinks on certain nights with the purchase of a meal. How this is allowed and the restaurant doesn’t get in trouble for being discriminatory…I have no idea but you won’t hear me complain about it. Pass the wine please. 

There are…ahem…different snack options at the local convenience stores
I don’t know about you but when I’m hungry and we stop for food, I’ll choose the chips over the dried variety of squid any day.
 
Being called beautiful and handsome by random strangers while walking down the street. 
I’ve never been complimented so much by complete strangers. Not that I’m complaining, it’s actually quite nice. And I think the US could take notes on being so complimentary to people you just meet. There’s nothing wrong in complimenting someone you don’t know on the way they’re dressed, the way their hair is done or something of the sort. But it kind of shocks you when you walk down the street and a group of middle school girls walks by and tells you and your husband you’re good looking. Or you meet a students wife for the first time and the first thing she tells you is that you’re beautiful. 
Tour buses
Tours are so popular in Korea! The roads are always full of tour buses going to every place in Korea imaginable. You can often find them parked on the side of the road, in parking lots, or in this case, under a bridge with all the passengers sitting outside of it eating lunch.
 
Things being blurred out on television
That’s right guys. If there’s a knife…it’s blurred out. If there’s a cigarette…it’s blurred out. If there’s a gruesome wound on someone…you got it. It’s blurred out. I’m not sure what their thought process on this was, if they thought that we wouldn’t be able to figure it out or it it would be less violent to only see the blood dripping from the knife but not the knife itself. But I will say this, it adds a sometimes needed comic relief in the middle of an intense scene in a scary movie.

The Lost Temples of Cambodia-Beng Malea & Phnom Bok

Phnom Bok Temple, siem reap cambodia
Phnom Bok Temple
If you’ve been following along for awhile, you know that Jeremy and I love to experience out of the ordinary destinations while on vacation. Whether it’s swimming with whale sharks, road tripping across the country, or zip lining through the jungle, one of our favorite parts of traveling is finding places or activities not commonly stumbled upon.
That’s why we knew that once we saw all of the temples at Angkor, we also wanted to travel outside of the city to the Lost Temples of Cambodia. These temples give a true Indiana Jones feel as most of it has ben left in ruins, the forest taking back claim to what was once theirs.
 
The first temple we visited was about an hour ride outside the city of Siem Reap called Beng Malea. It was a massive complex that was almost completely destroyed and overgrown with moss and trees. You had to crawl under and climb over the rubble at certain points to make it back to the clear path that was made just for tourists such as ourselves. 
Beng Malea Temple, siem reap cambodia
Beng Malea Temple, siem reap cambodia
Along the way, we inherited a tour guide. Three to be exact, even though two were too shy to say anything. We didn’t really ask for one per say, he just immediately attached to our side once he saw us. Now, I realize that it’s somewhat of a scam but I figured what’s the harm to have a cute kid show us around for an hour or so? Even though all he did was point at all the statues and repeat the words ‘flower’ and ‘apsara dancer’. He tried.
Beng Malea Temple, siem reap cambodia
My favorite part of the temples were the trees shooting out of the stone and the intricate detailed carvings that littered every inch of the temples.
Lost Temples, siem reap cambodia
Beng Malea Temple, siem reap cambodia

The second temple, Phnom Bok, was just a short thirty minute ride outside of the city and was even more desolate than the first. We were the only tourists there exploring the grounds of the temple that sat at the top of a large hill. These are the stairs that we had to climb to get to the top…in about 90% humidity. Go early in the morning if you want to not faint on your way up!Phnom Bok Temple, siem reap cambodia

Even though this temple was the smallest that we saw, it was one of my favorites. How cool are the trees shooting up out of the rocks? I may be a little obsessed with the tree, rock combo. Just wait till you see our pictures from Ta Prohm.
Phnom Bok Temple, siem reap cambodia

Philippine Budget-How to Keep Track of a Budget on Trips

There are so many different types of travelers and traveling styles. There are people who go all out on vacation and do not spare any expense. There are the budget travelers that try to get the most bang for their buck. And there are the backpackers who try to stretch their dollar as far as it will possibly go. There’s absolutely no wrong way to travel, it’s all simply based on preference and budget.
Without a doubt, Jeremy and I fall into the budget traveler category. We like to enjoy ourselves, will splurge from time to time, and try to overall travel comfortably. But for the most part we try to just get the best deal we can and save as much as we can. We figure that the cheaper we can go, the more we can see, longer we can go for and the more often we can go. Win win right?
I have talked before how Jeremy and I have somewhat specific roles while traveling. He books everything from hotels to airline tickets, and I plan what we are going to do and keep track of the budget. I can be quite particular about this and actually have a notebook that I always carry with me while traveling. It’s to write and document but also to keep track of our spending on a day to day basis. I fill in the sheets of paper like this:
DAY OF THE WEEK
Breakfast:
Lunch:
Dinner:
Snacks:
Entertainment:
Transportation:
Extra:
Then, each time we spend something, I put it in the correct spot. It doesn’t take long and it’s a great way to keep track of your spending. If we see that we’re under our budget for that day, then we know that we have extra money to use towards something else, or do something extra on the trip.
It’s also a great reference for future trips. A lot of our trips recently have been around South East Asia. So if we save our detailed budget from Thailand (which we did) then we can pretty accurately plan our trip to any of the surrounding countries as well.
So in hopes of helping some people out in their planning and budgeting process, I’ve decided to post our spending for each trip. Obviously from what we spend, you could easily spend a lot more or a lot less depending on your personal preference. Also, it’s safe to say that depending on your starting point, plane tickets are going to fluctuate a lot. However, once you make it to South East Asia, you can stay pretty cheaply.
Here was our Philippine Budget which entails our total spending for our three day/three night trip to Moalboal, Philippines. The numbers include the price for both my husband and I.
budget for a trip to the philippines

*I just had to share the $1 bike repair in the budget because I’m still in shock at just how inexpensive things are there!