Sunrise over Angkor Wat

To see the sunrise one has to get up at 5 am in the morning. Not very good when you only fell asleep around 3 am.. But I did manage to get up and get on a motorcycle taxi to tale me to Angkor Wat. Angkor gets really crowded in the early hours and everyone gathers at the pool on the left side of the temple as this is the most scenic one with lots of pink water lillies and a nice palmtree to cover that big green grid thats right in the middle of Angkor Wat, covering ongoing reconstruction work.

I remember they used to have the same kind of green grid for years in Venice on the Marcus Square, but eventually used a fabric that with a picture of the building printed on it. The Cambodian Goverment should do the same here in Angkor Wat, for 20 Dollars a day entrance fee it should be coverd ;-). But I don’t want to complain, Angkor Wat is probably the cleanest placed all over South East Asia, like an ancient Disneyland. There is no rubbish whatsoever on the ground as guards constantly sweep the ground and collect all sorts of garbage, left behind by not so thoughtful tourists.

After about 1,5 hours at Angkor Wat, the temple has a completely different atmosphere when you come in the morning, I continued to go to Ta Prohm, one of the temples that the jungle has reclaimed and which is now preserved in that state to show tourists what the temples looked like when they where discovered by Europeans. I have to say it is my favorite temple and after the initial 45 minutes that I walked around I knew I had come back and take a little more time to enjoy this amazing scenery. It’s also the Temple where Angelina Jolie aka Lara Croft walked around to fight some bad ass Tomb Raiders. Finally my need for sleep took over; I returned to the hostel and decided to resume my exploration of the temples in the afternoon. Around 2 pm I once again cycled to Angkor and took good look at Preah Khan before returning to Ankors favorite Sunset Spot: Phnom Bakheng. When I hiked up the previous day, there were three people walking around the temples, but for sunset it was slightly different, with easily up to 300 people watching the sun set over the Tonle Sap Lake. Again I had to cycle back in the dark, but this time I was prepared and had brought a flashlight to not be run over by some frenetic Tuk Tuk driver. At night I joined the Irish guys that shared the room with me for a stroll down Pub Street, the party lane of Siam Reap.

Siam Reap, Angkor Wat by bycicle

Ok my first full day in Cambodia and Siam Reap. The hostel is really cool, but there is not much going on in this place. I had the entire room to myself because the Irish guys that are staying with me only got home around 9 am, which was when I intended to get up anyway… At first I thought about a Tuk Tuk, but then a French girl advised me to cycle around the area. Renting a bicycle is about 5 Dollars per Week, whereas a Tuk Tuk is about 12 to 20 Dollars per day depending on how far you want to go. .
The ride to Angkor Wat was very smooth and took only about 30 minutes, but it got hotter during the day so the cycling eventually became a bit enduring, especially since I as a bit too tall for that bicycle. So if you rent a bike in Siam Reap, make sure it has the proper size!
My first stop was Angkor Wat, I got there around 11 am and walked around this massive temple for about 2 hours. Two hours means not paying attention to every detail of this massive religious building. At my lunch I met Pom, a 10 year Cambodian girl that was selling postcards to tourists. At first she wanted to sell me 2 postcards for 1 Dollar, but as I first declined she offered me 10 for 4 Dollars. I just could not resist buying something of her. Most of the other kids offered the 10 postcars for just 1 Dollar, so she got really lucky. I just hope most of the money dose not go to the police, as she told me but rather to her family.
She later wants to become a stewardess to serve people (and see the world) cold drinks. I hope her dream comes true. Apparently young kids up to 12 years old sell postcards and little souvenirs, as they get older they move on to books, cold water and food. I think tourism does bring in a lot of money and creates a lot of jobs, it will be interesting to see this place 10 years from now. There is no 7 Eleven like in Thailand, or Mc Donalds, it still has a different vibe, but that is going to change for sure. After a hike up to Phnom Bakhen which took me about an hour, I went on to Angkor Thom trough the South gate and first stopped at Bayon, a pyramid like shaped temple famous for its many faces carved out of stone. Most of the temples are surrounded by moats which is a great opportunity to take pictures of the temples as they mirror in the water.
Before I returned to an astonishing sunset to Angkor Wat I visited the temple of the Leper King and Bayhong, another huge temple shaped like a pyramid. The Sunset at Angor At is fantastic and I am really looking forward to seeing the sunrise. One thing that’s not so funny about sunsets is that you have to ride back home in the dark, and bicycles rarely have lights or even reflectors on them around here. But I made it back to the hostel in one piece. Finally I treated myself with another relaxing massage, which was badly needed a full day on the bicycle.

Angkor Wat, Bycicle Tour

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Siam Square Bangkok… A shopaholic heaven!

Another great day in Bangkok, at first taxi ride to the train station after which I and my English travel companions tested the brand new underground (just over 4 years old) called MRT. There is heavy security on every entrance. It’s cheaper to take a taxi if more than two people are travelling together so it came to no surprise that the underground was nearly empty.  Initially James, Matt and I wanted to go for a fish massage – small fish nibbling away on your feet, but unfortunately we could not find the place. So back to the MRT where I said Good bye to Matt and James and made my way to Siam Square to go to a tailor (Rajawongse) and get myself a nice suit. Siam Square is the main shopping area with lots of international brands and a couple of cinemas. I guess it’s a place for tourists to do shopping, because I wonder what Thais would do with the latest winter fashion such as warm coats and scarfs…

After I got measured I went back by skytrain, also one of the newer transportation systems built in Bangkok over the last few years. After an attempt to climb the Golden Mountain (closes at 5:30 pm) I walked back to the hostel and joined an international group of backpackers for dinner and again – the roof terrace at the hostel till 4:30 am in the morning.

Fortunately, I did manage to catch my flight to Siam Reap the next day, where I am currently residing at the Sieam Reap Hostel. On my first day I just took it easy and went for a massage at the Bodie Spa, which was very relaxing after all the walking I did the past few days.

Wat Pho, Wat Arun, What a day!

Another two days have passed and I am sitting in the Siam Reap Hostel in Cambodia, having just received a superb Khmer massage… But on to what has happened lately. on the 17th I joined Matt and James, two guys from England on a sightseeing tour around Bangkok. We first walked to the main train station, which, considering the polluted air and the heat wasn’t a very good idea. of course, distances sometimes seem a lot shorter on the map then in reality.

So we walked about an hour to get there. The train station itself has not changed that much, but the underground that was being built in 2001 is now fished and leaves right next to the train station. Outside the train station people still try to lure you into one of the travel agencies. While Matt and James booked a train ride to Chiang Mai, I visited Richly, the travel agency I booked most of the tours with, back in 2001. All the people that used to work there have left the company, some going back to other cities across Bangkok, the friendly old guy that greeted everyone at the entrance back then has become a monk, but the daughter of the owner has apparently taken over her father’s business and could remember everyone on the picture.

After my short visit to Richly I met up with James and matt and we decided to continue to our next destination by taxi. 15 minutes with air condition and 50 Baht later we arrived at Wat Poh and walked around the Temple for about 2 hours, including taking a look at the amazing Reclining Buddha, about 25 meters long and painted with gold. After Wat Pho we walked over to the Grand Palace. Since it was already 3 pm and the grand palace closes at 3:30 pm. I decided to stay outside and wait for my companions to take a look. After that we went down to the river and took a ferry across to Wat Arun, a Giant Khmer temple, with a very funny decoration: smashed china, plates, which makes it a very colorful building. We finished the day across the river at a place called “the deck” with a superb dinner and went to back to the hostel for round of beers on the rooftop terrace.

Back in Bangkok (again!)

I finally did it, I returned to Bangkok, after 8 long years travelling other countries and continents I am back where my “career” as a backpacker initially started… I had a very good start so far, I arrived at the airport in Munich, asked for an Emergency Exit seat and without any hesitation the desk officer managed to secure one for me. Perfect! The time on the plane passed by quickly as a couple from Austria was sitting next to me and we had a lot to talk about. The first surprise was the new Airport in Bangkok, wow, the made a real effort here. Its spotless and immigration was done quickly. Also, unlike my first time here, my luggage travelled on the plane with me and I managed to get on the right bus, get of at the right stop and made my way to the Hostel (Niro Bankoc) without any hassle. On the way into the city I realized how much the city has changed over the years. Back in 2001 it was all abandoned construction sites, now it’s all shiny new skyscrapers and clean roads.

The hostel (Nira Bankoc) is spotless and the rooms are very pretty. The staff is amazing and the reviews at hostelworld where not exaggerating. My first task was to walk around the city, through Khao San Road (which is still a mad place and has not changed that much). At the entrance of Khao San Road there was a a guy preaching about the end of days and that Armageddon was coming, sure, the way he was dressed (long trousers, long shirt, socks (!) and black shoes he must have been overheated. I also purchased my first kilo of mangosteen, thank good there are available this time of the year. At night I joined two English guys for a stroll down Khao San Road for some Thai Red curry and a couple of beers.

So long, more to come soon!

9 days to go to Thailand!

Back to Thailand, after about 8 years and two months I am going to return to Thailand, to take another look at this Gem of South-East-Asia. Thailand was my first backpacking adventure made me fall in love with cheap hostels, bonding with stranges and exploring 7 continents on my own (but never alone)! This time I am going to bring a camera that actually works, along with a lot of gadgets that I did not have back in 2001. Thailand was my first experience with “Internet Cafes”, back then with 56 kb cable modem. Everyone was playing “Counter Strike” and terms like “facebook” twitter or even Google Adwords where not heard off.

Bangkok Photo Gallery

Budget for my South East Asia Trip:

Flight from Munich to Bangkok with Thai Airways: 650 Euros (booked 2 months before departure)
Flight from Bangkok to Sieam Reap: 180 Euros (booked 3 weeks before departure)
Flight from Bangkok to Krabi with Air Aisa: 100 Euros (booked 2 days before departure)

Accomondation: Price per night
Nirca Bangkok: 500 Baht for Dormiotry – Highly recommendet
The Siam Reap Hostel: 8 US Dollar – for Dormitory Highly recommendet
Bangkok YHA Internationl: 450 Baht for Private room – Highly recommendet
Ao Nang YHA: 390 Baht for dormitory – Good Quality, for from the beach
Ko Phi Phi: 800 Bahnt for Privat room with AC: Good Quality, bring earplugs!
Ko Lanta: New Coral Resort: Privat Hut: 500 Baht, basic but very nice staff

Public Holidays Thailand