Siem Reip Cambodia

Siem Reip is a city in Cambodia with a lot to offer.  By the river, there is a shopping district with hundreds of shops selling just about anything you can imagine.  Across the river in the Pub-street district, you will find hundreds of bars, restaurants and street vendors selling just about any cuisine you can imagine.  Shopping by day and plenty of night life too….but that’s not all.  There are seven temple sites in the area too.

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Our journey began at the state park ticket office.  There are different tickets available depending on your plans.  They have anything from one-temple one-day tickets to all-temples seven-day tickets and anything in between.  We chose the All-Temple one day ticket.  We decided to see the most popular three temples and discussed the schedule with our driver.

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Our Temple tour started at Angkor Wat.  This is the largest religious monument in the world.

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Built in the early 12th century, the architecture and carvings are quite impressive.

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This is a picture of the outer wall and the courtyard inside.

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These pictures are of the entrance to the inner courtyard.

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Inside are hallways and buildings surrounding the inner courtyard.  Many of these contain Buddha statues and intricate carvings.

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Pictured above is one of four pits used for bathing prior to entering the inner most courtyard and inner temple.

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Though constantly under repair and maintenance, the inner-most courtyard is even more elaborate with its buildings and carvings.

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Pictured above is the inner-most temple and pictures below are views of the temple site from inside the temple.

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Angkor Don or Angkor Thom was the next temple on our tour. Maybe there is some confusion with our guide but I thought we were at Thom.  After researching the temple site online, I see this temple called many things including Prasat Bayon.  Either way, this is the temple with many faces.  It was very cool to be there in person.

 

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The last Temple on our tour was Ta Prohm (the Tomb Raider temple).  This temple was also built in the 12th century but was abandoned and neglected in the 17th century.  It is quite impressive to realize that the trees growing through the walls are hundreds of years old.

 

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Pictured above is the famous tree pictured in Indiana Jones Temple of Doom and Tomb Raider movies.  The camera just doesn’t capture the scale of this tree.

 

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This picture is from the other side and still doesn’t capture the whole tree.

 

 

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Organizations are restoring portions of the temple and securing portions that in jeopardy of falling.

 

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Seeing these temples is a very powerful experience.  For me, the sheer scope and detail is amazing.

 

 

 

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At the end of our day, our Tuk-Tuk tour guide was waiting for us.  We were very relieved to see him after a long day of walking.

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The end of the day was nice too.  Apparently, we were not the only people with sore feet.  There are dozens of foot massage places around Pub-Street.  Our one hour foot massage came with a cold beer for $3!

 

 

Thailand to Cambodia via Aranyaprathet, Thailand / Poipet, Cambodia border crossing

Transport from Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia is pretty simple.  Follow the signs to the bus stop on the arrivals side of the airport.  Catch the next bus to Morochit station and buy your ticket to Aranyaprathet, Thailand there.  Prices are approximately $16 per person.  This was an “express bus” (16 passenger van) that departs when full.  From my experience, they depart every 15-20 minutes during business hours. There is one stop along the way prior to arrival at the border. My trip took about 2.5 hours because the driver was going pretty fast.  Some drivers may take longer.

The van will stop in front of a business that offers an expedited visa service.  I am not so sure it is necessary but I chose this option because their service was not much more than the visa cost.  In my case, the company helped with the paperwork and hand carried my passport through the process.  Their total time was about 20 minutes but they advised me of an hour wait in line for people who were not using a service.

Once you get your passport back, the company walked me the 100 yards to the boarder and shortly thereafter I was in Cambodia.

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On the Cambodian side, there are swarms of people trying to provide taxi service to Siem Reap.  Ignore them and take the shuttle to the bus transport station for $1 or $2.  From there, the buses depart at regular intervals and cost under $9 for the 4 hour ride.

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Many people advise that Cambodia does not use other currency.  Not true!  Avoid the poor exchange rates by making exchanges in Siem Reap at banks or other reputable companies.  US Dollars will work just fine until you get there.  As pictured, the currency is in small denominations and looks like a lot for under $100.

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I hope this helps with your boarder crossing.  If you need any additional information, just ask your question in the comment box below.

Fish Spa in Thailand

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It was raining and I was curious….you see these Fish Spa  places all over Asia.  So, for 100Baht (about $3) why not.

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They start by cleaning your feet with a solution.  I think it’s to balance the Ph to make sure the fish will be ok.

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Next, you sit on the bench and put your feet in the water.  It takes a minute or two but soon the fish will swarm you.

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It feels pretty strange when they start eating the dead skin…hundreds of fish swarming kind of tickles.

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As you can see above, they get quite attached to you.

All in all it wasn’t a bad experience but I’m not sure they really did anything.  Seems like a gimmick to me.  They are supposed to eat the callouses and make your feet soft but I didn’t notice much difference afterwards.  For $3, it wasn’t bad but I doubt I will do it again.

Pai Northern Thailand

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Pai is a very cool town North of Chiang-Mai.  You can get there by bus, bike, scooter or even cab.  All modes of transport should prove to be an adventure since the route takes to you over a mountain with hundreds of curves.  Once there, you will find a cute little town with a hippy vibe.  There are lots of shops selling local art, clothes and local crafts. There are also tons of street vendors and restaurants to keep you fueled up while walking the streets.

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The night-life in Pai is very active.  You will find many restaurants and bars filled with tourists and locals alike.

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The Pad-Thai here was very good.

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On the route, we found a lover’s lookout point where people bring their sweeties for rose tea and bananas.

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Another near-by attraction is a waterfall.

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It was off-season when we visited (late August 2013) but we found the accommodations to be quite reasonable. We stayed in a little bungalow about 1/4 mile away from the strip for $8 per night.

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Pai is a great town with friendly people, inexpensive prices and wonderful atmosphere.

Chiang Mai

DSC01811We arrived in Chiang Mai and were greeted by our friends Sean, Kate and her daughter Coniga (monkey).  Our stay at Kate’s house is where the Chiang Mai adventures began.

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Our first visit was to the Doi Suthep temple on the outskirts of  town.  This is a very active Buddhist  temple with many monks offering prayer and blessings to the visitors.

DSC01828The golden inner temple has a bone from Buddha inside as all large Buddhist temples do.    DSC01852 Outside, you will find many street vendors selling local treats.  We passed on the Worms and Crickets today though.  DSC01849

I’m not sure why the dog had eyebrows painted on but I’m sure it was for tips of some sort.  DSC01848

On the way up, we chose to take the cable car but walked down the many stairs on the way out.  This temple is quite elaborate and I would recommend a visit to anyone who travels to the area.

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Our next adventure took us to the city of Pai.  This was a great stop covered in another post.  The motorbike ride to Pai is a great road trip.  762 curves up and down the mountain provides a fun ride.  There are lots of roadside stores that sell food, snacks and fuel.  They make perfect stops for when you get the “numb bum”.

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After our Pai adventure, we visited Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai.

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This was a hands-on place where you could either walk around and see the tigers or have the option to pay $40 to go inside the pens with a trainer for a more personal meeting with them.

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Our trainer advised us not to pet their heads and paws or approach them from the front otherwise they will think we are trying to play with them…and they play rough :)

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We were able to pet them and cuddle with the ones napping.

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This little one seemed to like the contact.

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It was well worth the money and a highlight of the trip.  I highly recommend a visit to Tiger Kingdom to anyone who is looking for something to do around Chiang Mai.

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Another local attraction is the Chiang Mai waterfall.  It is a great place to pack a lunch and hang out with your friends.  People slide down the waterfall for an 8 foot drop into a deep pool of water.  There is also a rope and tree next to the pool where people swing or jump in from the higher branches.

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After many adventures, it was laundry time.  The traditional way of doing this is by hand in a couple of pans.

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Chiang Mai has a very active night life.  There are many restaurants and bars who cater to tourists and locals too.  We had a nice dinner at a roof-top restaurant overlooking the canal and one of the many bar districts.

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There are also many local markets throughout the city.  These markets have everything from fresh meat and produce to household products and souvenirs.

 

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After visiting Kate’s house and seeing the local sites, it was time to catch a flight to Bangkok to get a bus to Cambodia

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Where did the Navigation App go on my Galaxy 3 Tablet?

So, I bought the Samsung Galaxy 3,  7″ tablet and was checking out the applications. The following day, I could no longer find the blue arrow icon for navigation.  I searched everywhere with no luck.  Turns out I am running Android 4.1.2 Jellybean with Google maps installed.  When the system updated, the navigation app is now in Google Maps.  This feature is actually pretty cool once you get used to it.  Google Maps now gives the option to enter locations and choose icons for driving, walking, bicycle and bus.  I was quite impressed when I selected the bus icon and got directions with bus numbers and schedules…pretty cool!  So, if you are running Jellybean Android 4.1.2 and your navigation icon disappears then have no fear; it’s just a cool update.

Phi Phi Island

 

DSC01649Absolute was true to their word and a driver picked us up at 7 am from the hotel to take us to the port.  Once there, we were directed to a three story boat that carried hundreds of passengers.  The boat ride took a couple of hours but we made some scenic stops along the way.  Once at Phi Phi, passengers who were going snorkeling were loaded onto a smaller dive boat.  This boat took us to one of the many coral reefs around the island were we were able to swim in the crystal clear tropical water and observe the hundreds of brightly colored fish who call the reef home.  It was a great experience and well worth the time.

About an hour later, we boarded the dive boat and were taken to the dock at Phi Phi Island where we were then led to the free lunch location.  They had quite a variety of local dishes prepared on a lazy susan in the middle of each table.  Each table held 12 people and refills of dishes were provided so that no one went hungry.

The traditional cruse is a 12 hour one where people visit the island for a few hours and return to Phuket the same day.  We made arrangements during our booking to return three days later so our next mission was to find inexpensive accommodations.  Phi Phi Island has no shortage of luxury beach front bungalows that cost over $100 but we had lower prices in mind.

DSC01703After talking to a local dive instructor, I found the Gypsy II bungalows for $8 per night.  They are simple thatch huts with plenty of ventilation. :) I worried a bit about security since you could break into the place with a pair of scissors…but everything turned out just fine…except for the mosquitos!DSC01705

As you can see, the interior is just basic.  It’s just a step above camping because of electricity and running water.

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Though I did not stay up for the festivities, I understand the full moon parties on the island are world renowned.

DSC01692I witnessed the preparation for this party as many vendors were setting up tables full of buckets with fifths of all types of liquor and mixers.  the early evening fire dancing shows were a lot of fun to watch.

The next day, we booked a beach front bungalow on the other side of the island on Rantee Bay.  We stayed at the Phi Phi Rantee Resort.

They met us at the dock with their longboat but were two hours late.

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Like the reviews mention, the hotel is on a secluded part of the island with only two restaurants and no night life.  The “resort” offers very basic accommodations.

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If you are in a hurry, into night life or need luxury accommodations; this part of the island is not for you.  However, if you don’t mind roughing it a bit and like a quiet beach to snorkel and swim; you might like this place.

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My only complaint was the steep price hike for food and drinks compared to the rest of the island.  I suppose everything has to be brought in by boat so it’s somewhat expected.

They have a great trail leading to the highest point on Phi Phi Island where you may see monkeys along the way.  Some sections of this trail are pretty steep but the view from the top more than makes up for the effort.  It takes about an hour each direction so plan accordingly if you do this because I do not think it would be much fun in the dark.

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