Tammy’s Asia Tour: Part 1

She’s finally here! My mom arrived to Bangkok late, so I went to check in before a night on Khao San to celebrate Cam’s departure. I tried to make it there before dark which didn’t quite happen. Soon, I found myself wandering alley ways. My map was telling me I was there when I clearly wasn’t. I saw a little stand and asked a motor-taxi driver as I figured he would be of assistance.He wasn’t sure, so next thing I knew there were 7 locals surrounding me offering help and to call the hotel for me. IMG_2531Around 2am, she finally arrived and it was time for bed, except we had a small issue. We couldn’t figure out how to turn to lights off without the AC going off too, which is a total necessity. We were left to sleep with the lights on, which wasn’t too bad for Tam since she had a sleep mask.

The next morning, we woke up early to try and beat the heat and check out The Grande Palace, a must see while in Bangkok. I had been putting off going, so we could enjoy it together for the first time. It was truly amazing. It was a sensory overload of glittering gold and bold colors. Everything was crafted with such ornate detail. Soon, we were ready for a nap! After several attempts at find a meter cab, we finally found the most precious old man who was willing to take us. *Sidenote: You ALWAYS want to ask for meter over set price. If not you will be exponentially ripped off*

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Our cab driver was quite the chatter box, but he had great English. All of which he learned from old western movies and music. He even whipped out a Hank Williams bootleg of his to show us. When we finally arrived in Bang Yai, I had a few errands to run, so we went to the HUGE mall by my house and had dinner at a staple of ours with my teacher friend, Hannah.

We woke up extra early the next morning for our flight to Siem Reap! I am so happy I choose to bring her here. It blew all my expectations out of the water. The people, the service, the sitesall of it was impeccable. IMG_2786I know, when I told her I was dragging her to Cambodia, she was apprehensive, but down for anything! I had a quick scare thinking I lost my wallet 15 minutes before boarding. After frantically running through the airport, it was under my seat the entire time. Whew!

The visa/customs process was super quick and easy. We were greeted by our absolutely amazing hotel staff with traditional Cambodian scarves, cold towels and drinks. Every second of our experience at The Golden Temple Villa was filled with excellence, class, kindness, and detail. That afternoon we enjoyed time by the pool, an early dinner and spa treatments. We hit the hay as we had a super early wake up call the next morning. I told you traveling is all about early mornings!

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This, unfortunately, was a very sad day for me as I learned one of the most influential people in my life had passed away, my Papa. I felt many emotions, but mostly guilt that my mom was all they way out here and not at home with my dad. I feel guilty that I am essentially on vacation while the rest of my family is back home taking care of everything. Luckily, she was able to be home in time for the celebration of his life and that my brother read my sentiments which meant the world to me. It will hurt me everyday that he is gone, but he was the most selfless man I’ve ever known. The last thing he would want is me crying over him. He would want to be celebrated and that is exactly what I tried to do.

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The next morning, 4:45am to be exact, we made our way to Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world dating back to 12th century.  Sunrise is the best time to visit as the view is spectacular. You stand and watch the sun glide its away over the pillars and settle into its position for the day. The colors evolve from warm to cool hues. There were hoards of people and it was difficult at times to get a photo without a posse in it. *Reality of traveling. And this was the uncrowded spot*

There were tons of kids walking around begging over you to buy their tourist trinkets which is always so sad. That is one thing I noticed in the parks and sites we went to in Cambodia. There is much heckling in Cambodia than in Thailand. In Thailand, you obviously have to bargain the price down, but you don’t have people chasing you down or bothering you while you shop.

Angkor Wat was amazing, as it should have been, I just wish it was a little less crowded. Our driver later told us March is high tourism season in Cambodia. There was this extremely awful smell walking into the front gates though. It reeked of just decay, which I guess is appropriate for something so old.

As we walked out of our first temple of the day, there was a man outside selling boiled peanuts. So crazy! I thought this only existed where I come from, since you can barely find them outside the southeast. IMG_2766This moment immediately put me at ease because I felt like it was a sign from my Papa. Anyone who knew him knew he boiled peanuts by the bushel. As we made our way to the next temple, there was a big colorful “gamecock”. I see you up there dropping hints at me and making me smile!

My favorite temples we visited was Angor Thom where Tomb Raider with Angelina Jole was filmed. I loved it because it was so intertwined with nature. There where sturdy roots and whimsical trees, wrapped and twisted through the ancient stone. After, we had made our rounds and sweat out a gallon of water, we made our way back to the hotel for some R & R. We enjoyed some pool time, a quiet dinner and composed our plans for the next few days.

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The next day we set out to the explore the markets of the Old Quarter where Tammy had her first rolled ice cream, Nutella and Banana mix. Best flavor I’ve had to date. I will miss these stands being on every corner when I go home. We had big plans later that evening, tickets to the Cambodian Circus followed by an hour couples massage (lol). Did I mention this came complimentary with our $48 a night hotel room?

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Not only were the performers at the circus extremely talented and energetic, but the premise behind the entire act was for a great cause. The school where they trained takes under privileged children and gives them an outlet in the arts. A chance to channel their talents into a better life off the streets. The funniest part was the whole crowd was over 65. I just don’t see this many people at that age saying, “Honey, why don’t we got to Cambodia where its 100 degrees and filled with 20 year old backpackers.” It was so cute after the show concluded they all piled back onto their tour bus. I hope to be them when I’m older.

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I had booked a painting class for us the next day, but in typical Kara fashion it is rare that everything goes smoothly. The weeks here run Monday-Sunday, so I wasn’t paying attention to the number date just the position. Naturally, I had chosen the wrong date and immediately contacted the host the morning of our intended appointment when I realized my mistake. When we arrived back from our morning facials with no reply, I figured we would have to make new plans for the day. Just has we had given up hope, they had told us we most certainly could still come today, and I am so glad this was the case, as it was one of my favorite experiences I shared with my mom.

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Our tuk-tuk driver did not seem to have a clue where he was going even though it was set up by our host. We road down rocky roads into a village and down a drive way to a big sign that read “The People’s Democractic Party”. It kind of had a creepy vibe, I won’t lie and my mom immediately shot me a “what the hell did you sign us up for” look. It was just us two not a full class and it was set up right outside his house on his studio/porch. He had us a stack of photos to choose from and said go for it. The class was based around a spoon painting technic that is used to created many traditional Cambodian pieces. He was so kind, warm-hearted and helpful. It was a truly authentic experience.

That evening we boarded our flight back to Bangkok. We said our goodbyes to our favorite hotel staff and were sent off with more gifts and love from our favorite place! We even had a personal ride to the airport in a brand-new Range Rover, once again included in the cost of our room. Truly a sad moment to leave Cambodia, but super excited for the next leg of our journey!

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Music this week!! I’m super into this new band I discovered call “The Districts”. Kinda like low-key California indie rock. Anyways, this song just reminds me of what its like to keep up with all your relationships that are at a distance and the difficulties that come with that. Being away from home is beautiful, but strange. It is nice to get away, but that comes with its own obstacles. So is it easier to runaway or face up to what’s ahead?

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