Mahalo, SE Asia

Nearly a month and a half later, I’m set for another journey (working for the next 2 months on the Sunshine Coast as a camp counsellor) and come across a Word document that has been tucked away in the clutter of my computer. So, I bid you farewell, and leave you with the essence of SE Asia, of which I’m still relishing and day-dreaming about in the midst of this dreery West Coast weather. Happy reading!

Hello from the Starbucks of Cambodia, Blue Pumpkin, friends.

I write not only on just any day, but the final day of my travels (other than airport hopping over the span of 2 days). I’ll create another post regarding my final thoughts while I’m chillin’ in Incheon airport, deep in the bowels of South Korea, where I will be spending a splendirous 10 hours awaiting my flight home (yes, I could go out, but no, I’m broke).

So in between Vang Vieng, Laos, and here in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, quite a bit of exciting events have been brewing. Oh! And would you look at that: I’m not in Thailand as originally planned. I think I can get drunk on a beach back in Canada. Seeing Angkor Wat at sunrise? Only in Cambodia.

Final moments in Laos:

  • Took a bus from Vang Vieng to Vientiane. PS: tubing in Vang Vieng? Not my forte, but I did indeed survive it. For those who haven’t read a review online, or cracked open a travel guide about Vang Vieng, let me fill you in: it’s pretty much the Cancun of Laos. Heaps of drunk Western antics stir up in their tubing scene, which essentially calls for tubers to stop at every bar along the way. You’ll see some travellers with their arms covered in string (each bar gives you a bracelet), and others with a wimpy set of two (that’d be me!). Unfortunately, drowning is a frequency, and many tourists cut their trip short because of this.
  • Upon arrival in Vientiane, my initial impression was that it was too quaint and tranquil to be a capital city. The night market by the Mekong River is incredibly chill, and everyone engages in exercise or good game of hacky-sack while the sun sleeps.
  • Went to Buddha Park the next morning, which is home to the most bizarre array of statues I have ever seen in my life – I loved it. There I met some ballers from France and Singapore. Got my hopes high for meeting up with them in Singapore, until I realized that plan does not agree with my itinerary.
  • Got a train from Vientiane to Bangkok.
  • From Bangkok I got a train to Aranya Prathet border where my Cambodian adventure begins…

But wait! You may (or may not) be wondering: “why the hell did you go through Bangkok, and not just head further south of Laos, crossing into Cambodia from there?”. Well, time and money were simply of the essence, and a night in Bangkok managed to dodge those two faults, allowing me to extend my time hither in Cambodia.

Getting to Cambodia:

  • Wanna know my route to arrive here? Caught a train from Hualompong train station in Bangkok at 6:00 AM, which only took 6 hours to arrive in Aranya Prathet. Took a tuk-tuk to the nototrious Aranya Prather-Poipet border and did all the visa shenanigans. After that process, got a bus to Siem Reap with a German girl I chased after in Thailand to split a tuk-tuk ride.
  • Wanna know something cool? The German girl ended up being one of my travel companions in Siem Reap.

Beautiful Cambodia:

  • Spent 5 nights in Siem Reap – this is monumental, folks: the longest time I’ve spent in one area since Makassar.
  • Went to Angkor Wat at sunrise, which is not at all an intimate experience. You really go in with that mind set – regardless of what others tell you – that it’ll just be you and Angkor Wat. Nope! There’s a whole bunch of other tourists and travelers alike, wanting to see the 3 tear drops in front of a creamy pink and purple sky (dude, I’m melting).
  • Enjoyed a bike ride in the country side out side of Siem Reap. So much, infact, that we went on a second one.
  • One of the guys who guided us on one of our bike expeditions, was actually a refugee in Indonesia because of Pol Pot’s regime. It’s spooky how Khmer Rogue activtity was still alive and kicking well into the 90’s.
  • Had happy pizza…
  • Ended up exploring Siem Reap’s nightlife with the girl from Germany, and two other ladies, one from Japan, and the other for Montreal. And to top off the night: made a Pringles run. Yee haw!
  • For bike ride #2, me and my new Japanese pal hit up a local restaurant, where the man recognized us from the night before. Why is this so important? Only so I could mention he had the most stellar smile ever. Do I have pictures to portray this? Nope.
  • Made my way solo to Phnom Penh, where I explored the horrors of the Killing Fields and S-21. Absolutely disgusting, tragic and above all: an event that should never have happened in history, or be repeated in the future. It’s impossible for me to grasp my mind around how such a mind-set could be attainable.
  • Dodged a few accidents here and there on my way to “The Russian Market” as they call it. Hey! I survived riding a bike in a capital city in SE Asia! I deserve a few gold stars.
  • Went to the weekend night market with a gal I met from Poland. Here, we got dirt cheap delicious grub and met a girl from Australia who was hosting a benefit concert to raise awareness about sex-trafficking amongst children in Cambodia.
  • How could you resist an invitation like that? We went the following evening and had a blast. All proceeds went to the organization, and everyone was having a solid time – got home at 4:00 AM just in time to get some clothes clean for free! Woo hoo.
  • The following night, we tried to catch a film at one of the malls, since it was the very last night of my travels, but to no surprise (especially at a late hour), there were no good movies screening, so we called it a night. However, the elevators were shut down, so we walked down 6 flights of stairs. Again, to our surprise, the door at the bottom was locked – and so was the one we entered in. “Shit,” I thought, “I have a flight to Singapore the next morning”… but I’ll just cut the suspense, and just give you the boring ending: 3 flights of stairs up, and we found an unlocked door. Phew.
  • We then came across a Cambodian wedding ceremony being held outside on the streets. Other than eyeballing the delicious food, I believe I speak for all of us when I say: those Cambodians know how to groove.

So… I love you SE Asia. Mahalo.

One night lay-over in Bangkok before heading to Cambodia.

ImageBlurry photo of Angkor Wat at sunrise.

Angkor Thom.

The Killing Fields.

Victims of S-21.

Night market.