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Monthly Archives: July 2007

Phi Phi Islands and Phang Nha Photolog

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Phi Phi Islands photolog

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The magnificence of Angkor Wat!!

It has been a long hot day. Tara and I had to take a break back at the hotel in order to recharge for our journey to the highlight of our Cambodian sidetrip: Angkor Wat. After a long day of going through the temples within Siam Reap, nothing really prepares you for the magnificence and opulence of Angkor Wat. There is a reason why the Cambodian Government put this wonder on their flag to represent the people. One could write for days about visiting the ruins, but instead, I think that pictures really do tell a story.

Finally after all the climbing and photographing, it was time for some traditional Khmer food, and our taxi driver took us to one of his favorite places on the main drag. For the life of me, I really can’t remember the name of the place but I do know what it looked like at night.

Photolog : http://rishiray.smugmug.com/gallery/3211472_yyuTv#177265658_whstz

Temple hopping tips for Siam Reap – hot, humid and holy wonderful!!! Of course I wanna kill all Japanese tourists!!

Center map
Google MapsGet Directions

So after getting into Siam Reap from Hong Kong, we checked into the Le Meridien Angkor Wat. The transport to the hotel in taxi was 7 USD and takes about 20-30 minutes. The hotel seems to be brand new and the welcoming was great. We were greeted and asked to sit down in a sofa. After handing over the passport and the credit card we got a cold cloth and a welcome drink and we didn’t even have time to finish the drinks before the papers were ready and we could be escorted to our room. The reception is very nice and stylish by the way, high ceilings, minimalistic but still not naked.

The hotel experience was definitely one of the best I have ever had. It really set the tone for all the hotels in Asia we went to. Definitely the hotel experiences I had in Asia far surpass those I have had in Europe and the Americas (Well Mexico is an exception). I think in North America, hotels don’t treat their guests as they should be treated and we are definitely not as valued (perceptually of course).

The pool area was inspired by Angkor Wat and looked great but it is not ideal if you want to use the pool for working out. It was also a bit on the warm side – believe it or not. It is also out of the main building so it is a bit of a walk to get there. Location of the hotel is not too bad. It is located on the way out of Siem Reap towards Angkor Wat. Getting around was not a problem as there were tuk-tuk’s available at any given time and getting into Old Market only took 5 minutes and cost 2 USD.  Some tips on a good temple experience:

Tip #1: When getting going to the temples, it is absolutely essential to find a reliable driver that will take you around and wait on you – the temples are not walking distance from anywhere, no matter what some people will tell you. However one secures the services of a driver is completely arbitrary, but it is essential. Relying on tuk-tuk drivers might be the forte of some, but I like air-conditioning in the middle of a jungle. A driver and car for the day, will set you back 15-20 USD, depending on one’s negotiating skills … book two days and one can easily say $25 USD with breakfast and lunch for your driver. It sounds expensive, but after two days in the sweltering heat, it will seem like a god send.

Tip #2 : Get an umbrella. Period … no discussion necessary. Oh yeah … it’s not for the rain!

Tip #3 : Don’t ignore the children who are selling stuff. Buy a trinket or two, and you could end up with some valuable tips on the town or where to go next. Additionally, if the kids say “Later” and you don’t intend to buy anything, firmly say “Not later” … the kids remember you and when you come back, the guilt and sap become even thicker. The children and parents have a very tough life, they are accustomed to rejection, be honest and they’ll be honest.

Tip #4 : If your hotel has free water and pop, obviously stock up your daypack with them. It will save you money and save you from having to haggle with any vendors. Most people are not prepared for the kids, vendors and hawkers to surround you when you want to buy something.

Tip #5 : Avoid tour buses carrying Japanese tourists at all costs. They are annoying for the following reasons :

  • They all take exactly the same pictures with the same poses – like robots.
  • They are inconsiderate to anyone else trying to take a picture
  • They are on limited time, so their tour leaders try to cram as many sights into the journey and the processions can be endless.
  • Group tourists are annoying by nature <insert snob factor>, notice the huge group in the background below.

Tip #6 : Go for lunch with your driver. Simple common sense – they know where to go, and where the food is good.

Tip #7 : Ensure that you have extra batteries or chargers for you camera. The shooting is non-stop, although most pictures might not be post worthy, one never wants to be out of charge for that one great shot!

Tip #8 : If you don’t have a spare page in your passport for the Cambodian visa, don’t despair. You can get a temporary visa to insert into your passport for $10 extra.

Tip #9 : Angkor Wat and the temples is not a one day trip. Budget two full days at least, especially if you are doing the less known temples of Beng Mealea and Koh Ker

Tip #10 : Don’t accept any guide services or advice when at the temples, without the understanding that you’re going to be pestered for a couple dollars at the end – even asking a question, will elicit a request.

Useful resources:

Walking through Kyoto

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Sanjusangendo, Kiyomizudera, Kinkakuji, Daiokuji, Kyoto Station

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Getting into Hong Kong…

Travelling from Tokyo to Hong Kong was actually pretty long.  In my mind’s eye, I thought that it would hopping the distance between Trinidad and Barbados, but the flight is about 4.5 hours, which is almost the time it would take to get from Toronto to Trinidad (which is about 5.5 hours).  Flying on an upgrade on Japan Airlines though was pretty sweet, I got to relax, get business class service, got to play some Street Fighter 2 on the game system in business class.

Its definitely the way to travel around 🙂

Then once you’re into Hong Kong, they have a very efficient shuttle from the Airport into the main city in about 24 mins.

The progress meter to show you how far along you are in your journey is also a very practical touch to the ride. (Why can’t we implement such useful things in the TTC)