E: Cambodia, the real life temple run!

IMG_5185

Phnom Penh

Our journey in Cambodia spring bolted into action instantly upon arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport. After obtaining our visa and having our all of our fingerprints scanned and saved by the government, we hurried into a tuk tuk and within minutes were free to roam amongst the Khmer people. ‘Phnom Penh’ usually isn’t regarded as being the most interesting, beautiful or fascinating spot in the country, yet due to it’s capital status it tends to be much cheaper to fly into as opposed to Siam Reap. Upon setting foot into our first tuk tuk the first thing out driver did was warn us not to hold our phones out for photographs due to snatching theft, a great welcome.

The roads were somewhat reminiscent of Vietnam, crowded, messy and alive. The noise is always such a refreshment when visiting any town in south-east Asia that’s not Singapore. The locals on the street consistently seem to be happier in the poorer Asian countries. Unfortunately due to the lack of time, a quick walk and some lunch was all we could manage before proceeding to board our night bus.

The window frame beside me throughout the bus journey exhibited a soothing image of transition from city to countryside masked in the colours radiating from the sunset over the Mekong River. The underlying excitement of the atmosphere may have been slightly dampened by the Swedish girl two seats behind us violently throwing up. Thankfully she dozed off after a couple of hours had passed, allowing us to do the same once night fell. A few random stops later and allowing some questionable faces aboard our bus, we seemed to stop moving. Upon exiting the bus we were greeted with the information that we were apparently at Siam Reap, when all that was visible were some motor vehicles and a shabby building dimly lit by the street-lights.   After a rather unnecessary (and scammy) 10 minute drive to our hostel (The Mad Monkey) we checked in and got a good nights rest.

Siam Reap – Floating Villages and Angkor Watt

The following day we decided to let the anticipation of the temples build a little, so instead we opted to go see the nearby floating villages. It was an eye-opening day and a good thing to see but the whole thing seems like a bit of a scam. Firstly the government collects a huge amount of the money produced from selling the boat tickets to see the village and it doesn’t seem to benefit the local people at all. Secondly we got scammed into buying ‘rice for the orphanage’ only to find out later online that the rice we bought was simply shipped back to the store to fool more tourists. Everyone you speak to seems to be a volunteer or do gooder, but then it makes you think, why don’t they just give all the food they have in the store to the kids if it’s there?

Right around 4am the next day was when we woke to go catch a glimpse of the sunrise over Angkor Watt. Our next tuk tuk driver was named Mr.Roth (kruta.roth@yahoo.com) he was around twenty-two years old and definitely my favourite driver we had the pleasure of meeting from all of my trips. We met him the day before on a random street where we agreed on around 20 USD  for one day around the temples and that all seven of us (stingy students) would fit into one tuk tuk. As we all climbed into the back it was apparent that our combined weight was causing a bit of a strain on the tuk tuk and difficulty for Mr Roth driving. We made a quick stop to call for support which arrived in the form of Mr.Roth’s brother on a motorbike, two of us would take turns to ride on the motorbike. They were very kind as they didn’t charge us any extra for Mr.Roth’s brother to help out. I remember that morning quite clearly despite my brain being almost entirely non functional. Despite the head the air felt fresh and although the atmosphere seemed quiet at first, tuk tuks and cars would flash by intermittently all heading towards the same direction. Passing the outlines of buildings and trees carved by the moon to get to the legendary archaeological site was quite magical in itself. (Probably would have been even more magical if I didn’t have Lola and Philicia’s legs crammed into mine).

Upon finally arriving, in the dark Mr Roth pointed us towards the temple and we passed under silhouette after silhouette of ancient entry gates. The moat around the temples emitted a mesmerizing faint glow and whispers of the excited tourists occupied your ears . After fleeing from a man dressed in a starbucks T-shirt begging us to have breakfast at his stall we squeezed into place alongside numerous other Brits, Germans and Americans and lingered. We waited for a good half hour or so before we began to see the distinct figure of Angkor Watt. It was a beautiful moment, while bizarre to witness all the photographs being taken constantly by the tourists. We joked that if aliens were to study humans this would be a scene that would probably be used in a documentary on human behaviour. The sun rose and due to my stomach’s ability to override my brain for the majority of the daylight hours we gave in to breakfast served by the man in the starbucks shirt. All of the temples we got to see were incredible, especially since I had never laid eyes on anything like them.

Ta Prohm and Bayon were my two favourites of the larger temples. Unfortunately though the sad truth is that the mystical vibe is completely extinguished by the masses of tourists at these larger temples. I would recommend attempting to see them during early post sunrise hours when there is a good probability there will be less people. I’d definitely recommend the second larger temple route suggested by drivers for a second day of temple seeing as it takes you around the smaller temples which are equally as impressive in terms of detail. The key difference is they just feel so much more special due to the reduced crowds and you were pretty much free to adventure inside them at your own pace undisturbed. The main sunset spot was also a bit of a disappointment, again due to the mass tourists and I’d strongly advise finding your own spot for sunset, I imagine that the ‘Pre Rup’ temple would be a nice non crowded environment to see the sunset from. The people working in all of the restaurants and shop stalls at the temples were the friendliest I had met in Asia at this point, there was very little pressure to buy which felt quite nice and I was comfortable taking a look around. One of my favourite moments from the trip was sitting down for lunch with out tuk tuk drivers and attempting a bit of communication.

When the night falls on Siam Reap you can spend your time along Pub street and the market located right next to it, regrettably we ran out of time and energy to spend enough time here to write about it but the atmosphere seemed quite fun! (Much better than Phuket for example)

Sihanoukville and Koh Rong

One of my travel partners Kate, the most organised and efficient person I have ever met did some research previously on bus routes from Siam Reap to Sihanoukville. The majority of comments she found were horror stories on delays, stolen property and break downs and these were all related to the only bus company doing the route we wanted to undertake (Virak Buntham Bus Co). Collectively we agreed on getting tickets from our hostel instead of booking this ‘nightmare’ bus. As we exchanged our money for the tickets we opened the envelope to find that the tickets were from the same bus company. Keeping calm we reassured each other all would be fine and ultimately the road was not too bad. Apart from being in very close uncomfortable proximity to a sweaty Cambodian man for the duration of the trip we eventually arrived well. Be careful however as we had friends who took the same bus company the week after and there were stories of stolen phones and tablets from the front row passengers, it turns out we were simply lucky.

We enjoyed breakfast by the beach and took a small ferry over to Koh Rong which had been recommended to me by some Bulgarians back in Singapore. We stayed at the White Rose Guest House which was basic but filled with friendly western faces. We really enjoyed ourselves during breakfast there, completely disobeying our malaria pills instructions to avoid dairy and gorging on muesli smothered in fresh fruit and yoghurt. (Always follow the instructions provided on medication!). Howie left his glasses at the restaurant back in Sihanoukville meaning our group had to split up as him and Lola went back in an attempt to find them. The remainder of us began our hike up through a mountain/hill covered in dense tropical forest.

Usually when hearing about beaches in Asia, ‘Cambodia’ usually isn’t the first country that gets mentioned. After seeing the coast at Sihanoukville I wasn’t expecting anything special to appear past the dense foliage. Thankfully to my surprise as the sound of the waves came closer and gaps between the branches became larger we discovered the most superb five kilometres of the most beautiful pristine and untouched coastline that I had ever seen in my life. This beach was far better than the screen savers I gazed endlessly at as a child. Being there presented a task in itself, to actually process and believe the image in front of us. Even until now the memory seems to perfect to have been real. The water was so clear and glimmered bright turquoise. The best thing was, we only had to share it with roughly another thirty people!. Howie and Lola made it back from Sihanoukville in time for the most breathtaking sunset I’d witnessed in my life. It was confusing not being able to decide which direction was more beautiful to look to.

As the night fell we departed in pitch black on a hike through a patch of forest in an attempt to find a dark spot to observe luminescent plankton that we were told existed in waters nearby. This was a complete failure, firstly because all the way through I was terrified we would be attacked by snakes as we couldn’t see and being at the front of the line I would clearly get attacked first, and secondly because we didn’t know that we were required to swim in the plankton for it to fluoresce. It was fun nevertheless and we proceeded to eat at a small barbecue place which was a little overpriced and the food was slightly disappointing. Our time in Cambodia essentially came to a close with a very fun boozy night across the 4 bars on the beach and playing some drinking games with my beloved ‘herd’. As we came back to our room I passed out on the bed, Kate cut herself somehow and searched in the dark for a plaster and a mysterious puppy decided it wanted to sleep with us. I had some of the best times in my life on this trip and these memories will hopefully stay with me for a long time, thanks to my beautiful ‘herd’ who accompanied me, this trip would not have been the same without them!

Advertisements

E: Just got back from HK!

IMG_2342

Saying the last few weeks have consisted of regular ups and downs wouldn’t quite cover it. The last few weeks have been a heavy, energy depleting and demanding test of who I think I am a person and more spiritual bullshit continued…  within this recent time period I have undergone the hardest examination weeks of my life, (thanks again to Singapore’s education system for the joy that was), witnessed some of the most beautiful landscapes I will ever have the privilege of seeing and shamelessly devoured platefuls of dirt cheap, heavenly, world class foods.

Does the stress I endured during university time equal the enjoyment from travelling afterwards? I think I can just fold that page corner and add it to my binder of all of life’s complications that I cannot, will not and will never be able to solve. Hopefully however in the near future, just like what my hopeless memory has retained of my first year of studying in York, my mind will be vacant of everything but the pictures left behind and the simply the best memories. The only problem being as time stands is, I’m doubtful as to whether I can handle another semester in this strange bubble of a campus.

IMG_2168

What to say now about Hong Kong? The alpha+ city which first introduced the world to the concept of east meets west? The city is a loud, vertical, Cantonese speaking mess stuck in the 80’s, that makes it a rather fun mess too. The old housing blocks have aged beautifully into these captivating towers of unevenly shaded decaying paint jobs.

The contrast between the clean business towers and the slums, homes of everyday ‘rats’ caught in this city race cannot be see in any more clarity in the places I’ve been than in Hong Kong. The bustling night markets live up to everything they appear to be in photos and videos I witnessed as a child and the skyline with its gorgeous mountainous backdrop deserves every number 1 position it continues to earn in numerous rankings within prestigious publications.

IMG_2293

For a Londoner who now lives in Singapore unfortunately there isn’t much new to experience as Hong Kong. To me HK feels like a mashup of  Paris, London, New York and Singapore. Every corner I turned I couldn’t escape the Chanel, Marks and Sparks, Louis Vuitton, Pret a Manger, Apple Store, McDonalds, Starbucks and I could go on. So although not an en-lighting new place for me a pleasant weekend of interesting remotely familiar sights instead. If you’ve never been to the cities listed above Hong Kong is a great place to explore, for me, for now however the weekend was enough. Met up with some friends while I was there and really enjoyed some company and good food, Hong Kong has left me with little questions about the space unfortunately. If I ever visit again I’ll try to look at the place with a fresh pair of eyes.

Keep your eyes peeled on this space, I have a ridiculous amount of posting to catch up on. I’ll schedule the posts  for the next few weeks, sorry I haven’t been posting directly which would probably have been the best thing to do but as you can probably imagine I’ve been a bit caught up in living it haha! New posts soon!
IMG_2241Towers

IMG_2438Weather was miserable the whole time I was there!
IMG_2310

IMG_2331Rooftops

IMG_2413The Nunnery and gardens, my favourite place in HK

IMG_2398The view from the front door of my hostel building

IMG_2443Kasper, Gustav, Sharon, Joacim and Me. I will never forget the street karaoke in the rain!

IMG_2175

E: Submerged in a View

IMG_9891Honestly it’s difficult to describe the kind of high being at the marina bay sands infinity pool gives you. The view, so condensed in detail will literally leave you questioning whether your eyes are working at some new resolution. It is a picture which is very difficult to get bored of. Swimming next to this picture adds a whole new level of awe to the experience.

There really is something different about having nothing separating you and a view compared to views witnessed behind a glass pane. It feels so close, like the whole city is exposed for your viewing.

IMG_9930Cliché’s aside being up there really made me think about the future. Is this a glance at the sort of life I’d like to have one day? Who are the guests who can afford to come here on a regular basis? Do I want to be one of them? Surprisingly I came to a conclusion rather quickly. No, not really. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that they’ve all worked really hard to get where they are; to be able afford this life regularly, I just think to myself, isn’t this now, the excitement and rarity of the opportunity so much better?

Some people will want that constant luxury lifestyle and that’s absolutely fine and logical. It’s just simply put, it ‘ain’t my thing’. I will always feel satisfaction and pride of your work to a certain degree will always outweigh the importance of the amount of money you earn. I don’t know how the future will affect my views yet but for now at least this is how I feel.

IMG_0030

It’s not easy being out here but I can honestly say I appreciate every perk to the fullest when it comes. Honestly speaking if I could experience all of it, it all of the time I don’t think I would.  So I’ll have a blast while and whenever I can. I feel like I constantly prove it doesn’t have to cost anything if you get a bit of luck and help.

IMG_9986

Thank you so much to Alex’s parents for inviting us all up as guests for her birthday. We were spoilt rotten and treated so kindly for people they barely knew!

IMG_9885IMG_9826IMG_9936IMG_9966IMG_0026

E: Chinatown Lanterns

IMG_9235

Here in Asia there are numerous ‘mooncake festivities’ that go around the indochina countries, one of them is the lighting of about 20,000 lanterns in Singapore’s Chinatown. I went here on the seventh and had a really nice time, the place really livens up after sunset. We grabbed dinner at a food court just outside the area and I got some really tasty seafood noodles for about two quid which were surprisingly filling.

The rest of the evening was spent devouring a 1 dollar (roughly 50p) ice cream, drinking some strawberry kiwi juice and walking around the night markets. As I’ve mentioned before the work load is a bit hectic. Especially trying to keep in line with the Asian mentality here. Although I’m desperate to be travelling, when there’s plenty to see in Singapore, doesn’t it make sense to actually experience the country you’re in? It makes running around between assignments and exams much less stressful. Why not save the travelling for when I’m actually free and will be able to do it properly? That’s how I see it at least.IMG_9233

One of the temples we walked byIMG_9269The food court we ate atIMG_9326IMG_9305An example of the night markets

E: Pulau Ubin

IMG_7141

The first thing I did once I touched down here was grab a water taxi and head to the little island called ‘Pulau Ubin’. It’s an island where the typical sort of Singaporean building isn’t allowed. People have called it a window into the old Singapore. When you first set foot on the island you arrive at this bustling village full of tourists, restaurants and bike rental stores. However the buildings are like shanty houses. The contrast between this island and the city is quite beautiful. I got a better feeling about this part of the world when having a look round Pulau Ubin.

My Dad was actually with me for this trip and we rented out bikes, he said the trees and the rainforest was much like when he visited the Seychelles. The first 10 minutes of the bike ride were my favourite, you leave the village through a little back street and end up next to this quarry (shown above) then 3 minutes later you’re surrounded by these tall coconut palms.

IMG_7292

I got the chance to see some wild boar, which didn’t seem to wild when the tourist buses came to feed them. I also saw some monkeys scurrying along the road, it was really exciting because it’s the first time I’d seen wildlife like this in its native habitat. It’s the sort of thing you see in a documentary.

I also had my first experience drinking coconut water. It’s so refreshing it can’t be put into words. Because the coconut was fresh though, the actual white flesh of the fruit was a bit like jelly. Different from the imported coconuts we get at home. I think a return visit will be appropriate in the next coming weeks to escape some lab report stress.

IMG_7153IMG_7110IMG_7131IMG_7407IMG_7420IMG_7300IMG_7174IMG_7267IMG_7309 IMG_7327 IMG_7368IMG_7436IMG_7448

E: Jaw Dropping Sri Lanka

IMG_7001On my trip over to the other side of the world where I optionally decided to banish myself to for a year, I got the option to get a stop over at a country along the way. My Dad suggested Sri Lanka and this suggestion I liked. I hadn’t heard much on Sri Lanka apart from the stories on the civil war and the odd picture of a beautiful palm forest in the travel brochures.

Since I was going to be there it made sense to get off and see the place. From the moment the plane started descending I could tell Sri Lanka was a beautiful country. From the window I could see dense forest, endless palms and beautiful rivers embedded within the countryside. Being my first time in a Tropical climate my mouth felt like it had literally fallen to the floor and would not close. It was astonishingly beautiful.

Due to the short nature of the stay (16 hours to be exact) there wasn’t many options on where to go. So we went to the closest place of notable interest to the airport, which was the capital ‘Colombo’. Now initially the capital didn’t strike me as the place to be as from what I had just previewed in the plane I wanted to be out in the countryside. The taxi drive to the city proved to me there was a lot to see cultural wise in the capital. (My mouth had still not closed at this point).

The thing about Colombo is, although it may function like a city it feels a lot more like a town. The people on the streets don’t seem like city folk, they appeared much more practical. I liked the vibes from the people in Sri Lanka. The people did seem very friendly, obviously my time there was short but generally walking around I felt quite safe.

What I was surprised was that the food was very good. Some things were very spicy, but others were a lot milder than expected. Even the ‘sri lankan’ food provided by sri lankan airlines was really tasty. What we’re really missing out on in the UK is all these Indian influenced breads they have available. The short trip has definitely been enough to entice me to come back one day. My next stop though would definitely be the countryside.

IMG_6910 IMG_6922 IMG_6781

The building above is a gift from China, that’s all I’ll say
IMG_6908 IMG_6960 IMG_7022Nice and drenched by the Ocean mist
IMG_6821IMG_6835It’s crazy the Orchids just grow on the trees
IMG_6947IMG_7014IMG_7036

E: National Day In Singapore

IMG_7798

Big news everyone, I’m currently on the other side of the world. Scared as hell and alone but not having too bad a time. In case you didn’t know I’ve moved to Singapore for my second year of studies. It’s a pretty big culture shock and though things are pretty much just how I expected them here (a lot cloudier though) I’m handling it a bit worse than I thought I would.

I guess my first year at university was far more than I ever expected so naturally I’m missing course friends and flatmates and hating the fact I’ll be missing out on plans with them back home. Each day spent here gets a bit better. Yesterday me and some other exchange students went to see the fireworks because it was the Singaporean national day.

They were pretty impressive. I’ll be posting some catch up posts later on, it’s been pretty busy but hopefully I’ll have some more time to be posting photos. IMG_7735Waiting for celebrations to start
IMG_7754The first few fireworks had big gaps in between and it got quite frustrating with the camera
IMG_7856But as usual the Asians didn’t disappoint there was a massive display at the end
IMG_7593On our way there, we passed these gardens with pretty elaborate Singaporean flag colouring
IMG_7600Malls are pretty much the replacement for any type of high street here
IMG_7671This little number was a little intimidating to a non-local such as myself

IMG_7597

Pretty cool crowd if I say so myself.IMG_7684Little similar to the Red Arrows back home?
IMG_7713 IMG_7606 IMG_7612 IMG_7619These coloured clouds were quite funky
IMG_7807 IMG_7846

No more posts.