Happy New Year everyone! I can’t believe the year is over! I haven’t decided yet if I will do a 2014 re-cap this year, as I see so many people are doing, but in the meantime, I will continue with my new monthly recaps:
Nov 28 – Dec 10: Koh Chang, Thailand
Over the past several months of travel, I’ve fallen in love with many places. When that happens, it’s sad to have to leave, but for the most part, I’ve been happy to travel on, knowing more amazing places are waiting. However, I truly left a piece of myself behind on Koh Chang.
Let’s see… how can I make you understand Koh Chang? Aside from being a gorgeous island with lush tropical rainforests and beautiful beaches, Koh Chang was a place where I felt happy and carefree. We stayed on the less developed side and I believe that made a huge difference in our experience. We swam in warm turquoise waters and laid on smooth white sands. We rode our scooter up and down windy mountain roads. We spent hours in the kitchen cooking and experimenting with local Thai ingredients, trying to replicate our favorite restaurant dishes. I even found my new favorite Thai dish there at a little roadside restaurant.
But more than that, it was a place where I felt like I was the best version of myself. You may remember that we spent our first week there without internet. In this internet-obsessed age, it could have easily been a catastrophe. But instead, I felt relief. I used that time to rediscover myself and to reconnect with D. I woke up everyday happy and energized, excited for the day to come.
I didn’t want that girl to disappear again once I’d left the island.
But I did leave bits and pieces of her behind on the island: her carefree laugh scattered by the winds, her joyful footprints washed away by the waves, and most of all, a little bit of her heart tucked away in that little cottage.
Not gonna lie: I’m tearing up slightly as I write this. Those 12 days spent on the island were some do my happiest travel days to date. And then, much too soon, we were headed into the big city once again.
We were only in Bangkok for 2 nights before flying to:
Dec 12 – 29: Siem Reap, Cambodia
How do I even start to write about Cambodia? How do I write about a country that has known so much recent suffering?
Before coming, I’ve never really thought about visiting Cambodia…. well, because I guess I didn’t know too much about it. And now, after 2+ weeks in Siem reap, I’m still trying to coherently gather my thoughts. But I can go ahead and tell you that Cambodia surprised me at every turn.
There are the cultural things: the US dollar is the most common form of currency (did you know?), traffic laws are practically non-existent, which made for a few heart-stopping tuk-tuk rides, and the French-influenced Christmas dinner. But above all, what surprised me the most is the genuine kindness of the people.
Like everyone else visiting Siem Reap, we came for the Angkor Wat ruins. We spent three days climbing the ancient temples. When we booked our stay here, we thought that the old temples were the only worthwhile things about the city. And other people even asked why we’re in Siem Reap for so long, when tourists usually only come for a few days. We wanted to get to know the city in other ways. And indeed, as amazing as the temples were, it was the no-plans days that I enjoyed the most. It’s strange, because there is really not much to do in Siem Reap at all. There’s no movie theaters, or shopping centers, etc. But there’s something nice about the slow, rural life.
I hope to share a bit soon about life in Siem Reap when not temple climbing!
One thing I was excited about: exploring Khmer cuisine. I knew absolutely nothing about it, so the first thing we did was splurge on a Siem Reap food tour in order to familiarize ourselves with the cuisine. It was certainly a wise decision as we were introduced to some really good locals-only type places that we otherwise would never have found on our own. We loved one of them so much that we returned again and again for the remainder of our stay.
At multiple points, we even wondered if we could really come back and settle down here for a while. But one thing wasn’t jiving so well: our health seemed to be suffering. Almost the entire time there, we were both plagued with exhaustion and headaches (and even stomach troubles for D). I have a sneaky suspicion this is because of the yard of A HUNDRED ROOSTERS RIGHT NEXT DOOR, who seem to think that the middle of the night is a perfectly acceptable time to crow. Damn those creatures.
So in the end, as much as we were loving Siem Reap, it was time to go and try to heal elsewhere.
I can’t wait to share more about Cambodia in general, so stay tuned!
Dec 30 – present: back to Bangkok
Coming back to Bangkok for the FOURTH time in under two months almost felt like coming back home.
“We’re home!” I exclaimed as we walked into our apartment on the 30th floor just after midnight, flopping my beat body on the sofa.
We’re also staying in the same apartment as the previous two times, so it really did feel like coming back to somewhere familiar. I’ve never exactly warmed up to this city, but I admit it’s nice to come back to the land of fast wifi, dirty cheap street food, and abundant Seven Elevens. I’m also hoping this will be the trip I learn to understand it more.
So, the main reason we flew back here is because we wanted to celebrate New Years Eve somewhere in style. And let me tell you, New Years in Bangkok was….
Coming up in January
After we finish up our Bangkok stay (on Jan 9), we’re headed to Vietnam! I’m SO excited about this because D and I both LOVE Vietnamese food. I think we will eat very very well there. :D We’re headed first to Hanoi for two weeks, with a weekend trip to Halong Bay thrown in. And then we’re going south to Ho Chi Ming City for another two weeks.
As always, any recommendations/tips for Vietnam will be great appreciated!
Happy New Year everyone! How was your December, and what are your plans for this month?
This post is linked up to Travel Tuesday with adventurings.