Wednesday, May 27, 2015

My first ever solo trip oversea

The story of how I ended up with my first ever solo trip oversea is a stupid one. It is started off as sweet getaway with my bf. I briefly told him that we should visit Bali sometimes and he nodded yes. Came the day Airasia announced its promotion, I was online looking at flight ticket.

Sure enough, it was cheap. Less than RM270 for a return flight. Scored! So, I texted him to confirm and guess what! He took forever to reply as I need to confirm the date for travelling, my patience was wearing thin.

In the end, I did booked the flight but only for myself.

Fast forward one year later (yes, I booked my flight a year earlier), the bf still haven't book his flight and the date for my trip is drawing closer. One day I was scrolling Facebook and stumbled upon a video about things-to-do-before-settle-down and it mentions travelling solo.Link here as I have no idea how to embed the video here.

So I challenge myself to go ahead with the trip and get out of my comfort zone. I had prepared myself for this solo trip by reading tons of articles and research about Bali.

Generally Bali is a safe place for a solo female traveler but I don't want to take anything for granted. At least not my safety. I've spent hours on the net reading travelling post on Bali and even Googled-view the street of Bali.

When I touched down in Ngurah Rai International Airport and anxiously walked past the immigration counter, "I am in a new place on my own" this thought crept into my mind. The fear only came when I saw my driver from the hotel pick me up.

Lots of "what if" ran in my head. What if my driver kidnap me? What if he drove me somewhere and rape me? What if he rob and murder me? I have no data plan, I can't text my friends and family at home. Oh my God, they gonna find out about my murder on the news"

I got carried away with my what if as you can see. It was a drizzled Saturday night and the traffic was bad. We drove through some dark alleys, short cuts I supposed and my panic grew.

After what it felt like an eternity (half an hour actually) we reached the bustling city of Kuta. When my hotel came in sight, I was so relieved. That was the only panic attack that I got for my first ever solo trip. Afterward, I blend in like other tourist immersing myself with Bali.

Happy and contented

I had an awesome time on my own exploring Bali. The only time that I'm looking forward to come home was when I'm running out of Rupiah. True story, I don't even have enough Rupiah to purchase a bottle of Coke which I had to return to the counter when I realized I had no more money on me. I blame it all on the touts at the Kuta beach. But that's another story for me to tell another time.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Angkor Wat, Sieam Reap

The main activity for us when we're in Siam Reap is to explore Angkor Wat, after all that is what it is famous for. We dedicated a full whole day for Angkor Wat and all the famous Angkor around it. Our day started as early 4.30 am as we wanted to catch the sunrise and sunset. Pretty ambitious of us, eh?

We bought 3 days passes for 40USD. 

By the time we reached the ticket booth, a flock of tourists already formed a long queue. But they were super efficient because we took less than 15 minutes to get our photos and tickets done. Our hotel kindly packed breakfast for us so that we can filled our tummy while waiting for the sun rise.

Bread with jam and butter, banana and eggs. Pretty filling for me.

The only sunrise that we managed to catch.

Actually we were waiting for more than an hour for this view. My expectation for watching to sun rise is the beautiful hue of red oranges rays on the sky while the sun slowly rise. The reality hit hard because it was quite a cloudy morning and it was packed with tourist. Every photos that I took, there's a photobomber everywhere in it. 

Us having little breakfast picnic.

Couldn't be bother to crop that guy out of my photo but let's just focus on Angkor Wat. 

Angkor Wat itself is so beautiful beyond words. I'm not a history buff but the story behind it fascinates me. We hired a temporary guide to bring us around and fill us in about the story. Every piece of arts has its own story to tell. I don't remember much except for a little trivia here and there.

There is a long story of battle on the wall art. I have no idea how they carved it back then. That level of patience just wow me.

Trivia time!

Some of the sand rock or granite have holes like on the photo above because it was transported via elephant back then. The norm was to transport these rocks using river but during drought season, the elephants come to the rescue. 

A prayer ceremony was held in Angkor Wat

After done with Angkor Wat, we moved on to the  Angkor Thom. There are so many Angkor and I hope I don't get everything mixed up.  As it was getting hotter and we were sweating so much under the sun, our attention span kinda cut short when the tour guide narrating the story. So forgive my horrible memory.

Can you spot the four face Buddha at Angkor Thom entrance gate?

Some of the destroyed statues are under restoration like the one above

Up close and the details are amazing

There are 3 elephants behind me, can you see it?

In Bayon temple if I'm not mistaken

Terrace of the Leper Kings

I love our guide, Thun as he is very informative and can interact well with us. Not only he make sure that we listen when he tells us the history of each temples, he even quiz us to keep us alert. He is a very humble guy and very patience in handling us. I mean a group of sweating girls under the hot sun is not exactly easy to handle. We often ran into shaded area leaving him under the hot sun re-telling the same stories perhaps everyday. 

After several temples and when it was closed to noon, our excitement were wearing thin. I mean, we have been seeing rock temples with intricate carvings for the whole morning. It is amazing but too much of it kills the buzz, in my opinion.

In front of Bayon Temple

Climbing up the Phimeanakas

What's left at the Phimeanakas now are the ruins. Back in its glory days, it served as Hindu temple . I have lost count how many steps have I taken on that day. Lucky right now they had installed wooden stairs for our convenience. I shuddered at the thought of ancient people climbing up the steep and uneven stairs back then. One wrong step could send you to death.

At Ta Prohm which made famous by the movie Tomb Raider

This temple is easy to be recognized because it is famous with century old giant trees and roots. Also the fact that Angelina Jolie was here shooting Tomb Raider help tremendously too. Oh well, now Angelina and I stepped on the same ground. 

Most part of Ta Phrom are under restoration and we unable to access certain parts of it.

According to Thun, the restoration has been an on going project for quite some times. True enough, it took them years and years to complete the temple.To restore it to its original state is quite a mission impossible. 

With the giant roots

There are so many giant roots around the temple that sort of make it looked like the whole temple is in the roots's grasp. It was quite scary at some point. Can't possible imagine how eerie it is when the night falls.

Towards the end after late lunch, we were already tired and refused to leave the air conditioned van. We sound like spoiled brats but the heat and the dust were really too much. My white Converse turned yellow and when I wiped my forehead, the tissue turned yellow too. Gross!

Our initial plan was to catch sun rise at Angkor Wat and sunset on the Bakheng Hill, sounds like a perfect plan, isn't it? But we failed to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat because it was a cloudy morning. So we debated whether to catch sunset at Bakheng Hill or head back to Angkor Wat. Thun told us that the morning was cloudy, the chance for us to catch sunset was quite slim.

We were tired, it was hot and dusty outside of our van and the climb to the hill takes around 20 minutes. But we were already there, parked at the foot of the hill. Just one more hike to reach the top plus it's not like we will come back here again in the near future for the sunset.

Decision, decision.

It was closed to 5pm when we reached our decision to go for the hiking to Bakheng Hill. The hike was easy and we already rested for awhile in the van. I forgot to mention earlier, most of the temple here has dress code. Ladies must wear top with sleeves without showing your shoulder and definitely no shorts allowed. Some of the tourists were stopped by the guard because they were violating the dress code. There are vendors nearby selling loose pants and shawls, so you could always buy one from them if needed for quite a price. But feel free to negotiate with them.

The only hue of sunset that we got

We sat at the hill top for half an hour basking under the sun until we realized that there's not sunset for us that day. It was quite cloudy despite the heat. Another reminder if you wish to climb up to the Bakheng Temple, you better be early too because they only allowed 200 tourists to enter at a time. 

All of the disappointed tourist including us.

There's pretty much nothing left at the temple except for the ruin. On a better weather, the sunset must be stunning from up there but oh well, it was just not our day. This temple is going on restoration too as we could see lots of rocks pilling up with code waiting to be built into the temple.

Good thing we bought the 3 day pass. Originally we wanted to explore other temples like Banteay Srei which located further than Angkor Wat but we decided that we have had enough of temples. But we did go back in the evening for sunset at Angkor Wat.

We were quite persistent with the sunset-watching activity, aren't we? Call it vain or whatever but we all wanted a photo during sunset with Angkor Wat in our background because it is Instagram-worthy.
We almost missed the sunset because we were still too busy enjoying our massage. Poor Xiao S had to cut short her an hour massage to only 15 minutes because it was a race against time for us. Angkor Wat closes at 5.30pm.

Thank God they were lenient because they let us in even when I was in shorts.

The photo obviously did not do it justice. 

Angkor Wat is beautiful, no doubt about it and I'm so glad to cross it off my travel list. It is quite an overwhelming experience to be in Cambodia, getting scammed by touts, drenched in sweat from the humid weather, ate I-have-no-idea-what by the roadside, joined by cockroaches in pub, enjoyed the super yummy yogurt, learnt the history of Khmer Rouge and history of temples. It was not my typical holiday but it is something that I enjoy and a great travel story to share with others. Plus, I got to make new friends too.