48 hours of land travel, 16 days, 4 cities, 2 countries, 1 Cupcake Girl

I am very fond of lists.

So what do I do now that I have recapped my first ever solo trip out of the country? Make one!

The most common question I got asked when I told people that I will be traveling/has traveled alone is if I am on a soul-searching journey or I wanted to go off and “find myself”. I honestly have no idea why I still pushed through with this trip solo, but what I do know now is that I learned a lot from it. It was actually a bit hard to think of a title for this post because I didn’t know what direction to take in making a summary of sorts. I don’t think a “things you will learn from traveling solo” approach will apply to everyone since we all have different priorities and personalities. I also am did not plan on a “why you should travel solo” list because I’m not gonna lie, I find traveling with a companion cheaper haha (but if I did nudge you towards that direction, let me know and I am so excited for you! :D). I decided to simply write about what I think I got the most out of from this trip: learning more about myself.

Here are the 15 things I learned from traveling solo..

I can survive with a limited number of clothes (and things in general).

I decided that since I was solo, it would be more efficient for me to have my hands free while navigating my way through a foreign city. Also, there are two things you should know about me: when I buy things, I usually am a hoarder and when I travel with a suitcase, I have enough clothes to last me up to twice the duration of the trip. I live with the mentality that if I can’t pick between two (or three) items, I’ll just get all of them, which eventually results in wastage (didn’t really get to wear that outfit, only used this shade of blush once cos I bought all six shades). Traveling with a backpack and one small handbag has made me realize that I can survive with just the basics. I had to plan my bottoms to coordinate with at least two tops, so I can use it repeatedly. I didn’t even have space to put in my flat iron, my excessive makeup bag, the third pair of sandals and an array of accessories. I didn’t go crazy buying souvenir items I am going to forget about in a few months because I didn’t have space for it. It made deciding what to wear or whether to buy something easier. Surprisingly, when I got home I noticed the practice sticking to my everyday life: do I really need to buy all three colors of the same top/I already have a similar lipstick shade/I don’t think I can use this pair of shoes beyond this event. It doesn’t really mean that I will be traveling with a backpack for the rest of my life, but it has made me realize that I really do not need a lot of things to make me happy. 🙂


Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

I love traveling with C! He is my favorite travel buddy, primarily because he lets me take the reins in the planning. He’ll simply tell me the places he wants to go to, or the things he wanna try and I get to plan the rest. Going without him has given me moments where I see something interesting and I wish I can just nudge him so we can have the moment together. The physical distance made us feel closer than ever because our Facetime calls in bed are more meaningful, filled with more details about our days and we learned to truly enjoy each other’s company (albeit virtually). This solo trip just proved that I do not need him in my life, but I really want him to be. 🙂


I like not having to wait for anyone.

Missing C aside, I loved not thinking about anyone else. Traveling with my family meant sleeping in the same bed as my siblings (my little sister plays with people’s hair when she sleeps), we only tend to go to family-friendly places, and there are four other people to contest your food choices. With C, I do have more freedom to do whatever I want, but it comes with a price. Literally, a hefty price tag because this guy likes staying in comfortable places and shopping. There are also differences when it comes to pocket money when vacationing with friends, which leads to different priorities on where to spend it. When it’s just me, I do not have to wake earlier than my siblings to get first dibs in the shower, spend 30 minutes just rousing C from his sleep, or argue on where to go/eat. I get to decide on my own pace. 😛


It’s fairly easy to engage with the locals even if you do not speak the same language.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but when traveling in a pack (or as a couple), we tend to rely on each other. Are we lost? We can do this together! But when you’re solo, you rely on the help of friendly strangers. I personally was more open to engage with locals – would I have accepted that invite to get coffee with a local I met on the train if I was with C? No one would probably approach us. Or would I have hanged out with the cool girls from Saigon Hotpot on my last night in Ho Chi Minh? My mom would have insisted that I stay in and get some sleep so I can get up early. Again, I love traveling with family/friends/C, but it’s more likely for me to grab an opportunity to know people when I’m in an unfamiliar place by myself. Even when we have to rely on Google Translate to converse.


It’s very easy to make friends.

Not only with the locals but with the Pinoys as well! There are A LOT of Filipino backpackers, and I never thought I’d say this but one week in, I missed speaking to someone who can understand what I’m saying. Whenever I hear someone speaking in Tagalog, I immediately strike up a conversation with them (or have a 7-hour one, like the one I had with the Pinay I met on the bus to Cambodia).

It’s okay to spend your hard earned money on experiences.

I’m a practical person, and admittedly, frugal on some things. I, unfortunately, have never been rich but I realized that with experiences, you never know when the chance to do something will come up again. So I paid for the experiences that seemed exciting, booked a 4-star hotel room for my last nights on vacation, and ate like a queen as much as I can. (How luxurious is it to bathe in a tub while watching television after a long day, right?)

The world is huge and yet small at the same time.

It goes without saying that we never really run out of places to see or adventures to try. But no matter how different the culture, we all live almost the same lives. We go through the same struggles: will I ever get what I want out of life? Do I get to pursue my goals someday? Is someday today? What about the bills I have to pay? I got to talk to so many people of varying races, from opposite parts of the world, only to find out that we are asking ourselves an alternate form of the same question.

Going home is as exciting as leaving.

Sure, I do not anticipate the work load I eventually have to tackle. But there is familiarity in routine that you just cannot get out of vacations.. Knowing what you know now when you get back and applying it to your life is invigorating in a weird kind of way.


I am more than I give myself credit for.

When I got on the plane to Vietnam, I couldn’t sleep. I was going through another level of anxiety that I don’t normally experience because I didn’t know if I could actually do it. I was raised to believe that whatever I put my mind into, I can achieve. But I rarely ever get to test my limits – how long can I walk with a 12-kilo backpack in high heat, can I sleep with seven other people in the room, I can’t eat a frog right?? And I did it all! 🙂

I rarely get enough alone time.

Growing up in a family-oriented household, we were expected to share and ensure that everyone has got a share of everything. Working with teams, you are expected to be one harmonious unit. Being part of a couple meant constant attuning to your partner. By yourself, you can be selfish – and it’s okay. 🙂

It truly is about the small things in life.

May it be that hole-in-the-wall with the amazing pho, or little acts of kindness (men drinking coffee in the street walks you to your destination, two guys stopping on their tracks because you looked lost and helped you, I have endless examples!) – it is easy to find joy in the small things. My daily life is spent chasing down career opportunities, wanting better clothes, rushing to get to the office before rush hour.. but there is a different kind of satisfaction in eating a bit of grilled frog, running to catch your train and finding out you got in a few minutes before it leaves, a flat surface I can put my camera in to take photos during the golden hour or catching magnificent sunrises.

It’s okay to make mistakes (within reason).

There is a negative stigma attached to failure. Nobody’s perfect and we slip up from time to time in making those life decisions, the small ones such as where to eat or life changing ones like “WTF I’M TRAPPED IN A TAXI IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY AT 2 AM”. Some people had to chop off their arms because of these mistakes, but as unfortunate it is at the moment – we have to admit that it’s a learning moment. I forgot to bring my sunscreen and suffered from sunburns because I thought it would be okay not to buy one.. now I learned to ensure that sunblock is always in my things to pack list. I made the mistake of not doing the smart thing such as insisting that the hostel send me a car to pick me up from the airport, and I learned to always confirm before I arrive at my destination that I will get picked up. You know what they say, experience is the best teacher. 😛

The world may be a dangerous place, but you got your instincts to get by (again, within reason).

Everyone who knew I was traveling solo was very worried because (I have to quote Jab We Met again) “a girl traveling alone is like an open treasure chest”. Even my mom agrees with that, but the stubborn person that I am believed that if all the other solo female travelers can do it, I can as well. With this experience, I learned how to prepare by doing lots of research and trust my instincts: if something feels off, remove yourself in the situation and always be alert. I was lucky to not go through anything traumatic that could discourage me from going on another solo trip. In fact, I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

I should not care about what people think of me.

It is significantly different when you are aware that no one you know is watching your every move. I am very conscious of taking food photos in restaurants, posing in public, or being spontaneous. When I was solo, I couldn’t care less if they choose to stare when I sit down on museum floors, stand up to take nice food photos for my blog, or do math problems in cafe. I was so afraid of judgment from people I actually know that I have limited myself to do what I considered where “acceptable” behavior. Now, I dyed my hair the color I wanted to, sang in public karaokes and take wacky ass photos.

There is something very liberating knowing that you can go anywhere by yourself.

Funny story: I had no plans of buying souvenir sleeveless tops from the night market, but when I saw this top I knew from the depths of my heart that I had to buy it! Backpack + glasses + selfie = so me! Only the caption is untrue because even though I was alone, I wasn’t lonely. My self-confidence even increased with the knowledge that I got my own back. I can trust myself and I can take care of me. I spent my own money, carried my own things, and even washed my own clothes. This may not seem like a feat to a lot of people, but it is for me. 🙂

Who else here has traveled alone? Share in the comments below the things you have learned while doing solo travel and let’s celebrate our independence together! 🙂

Siem Reap 2015 || Angkor WHAT NOW?

My last recap post for this trip! I literally gave out a huge sigh of relief while typing the first sentence because I did it!!! I finally finished this series. :p Blue Pumpkin is always included on the lists of where to eat in Siem Reap, so I indulged and had my lunch at their branch in front of Angkor Wat. There is another branch near Pub Street which is usually the one they refer to in said lists, but at this point, I was hungry and missing something more familiar to my taste buds. Burger it is!

This burger is a mouthful!

My last stop in Angkor Archaeological Park is.. Angkor Wat, of course. I have asked so many friends on what to do in Cambodia and the first thing they tell me is “see Angkor Wat in Siem Reap”. It is also on the Cambodian flag – so really, I saved the best for last.

There was a couple doing their engagement photos donned in traditional Khmer attire. They will seriously owe their bridesmaids and groomsmen after this because it was done at around 2 PM in the afternoon. Those clothes do not seem to be very sweat-absorbent..

It was quite a long walk crossing the moat to the temple, although I do think I may be biased because I am not a fan of this kind of heat at all. I could almost hear my skin sizzling from being exposed to the sun like this.

I would complain about the stairs, but at this point, I was just grateful there was a wooden one on top of the brick one since those are really steep.

Among all the temples, Angkor Wat is the most preserved and still has an existing moat. There are no signs of the jungle taking over (but that would be so cool in my opinion since it is also the biggest), so I’m unsure if this was even that neglected.

What I find fascinating about this temple is that it seems symmetric. While walking in the middle hallway, you see the similarities in both sides – very classic.

I think that the towers in this temple are the highest among the other temples.

Can you just imagine people from the 12th century climbing up this steep set of stairs? For this temple to even be built during a time where the people are only starting to master the use of different materials is a feat in itself.


I was in Angkor Wat for more than an hour. I wish I really had a guide so I could have learned more. 🙂 Once I was done with the tour, I went back to the hotel and took a quick shower before I went out for the night.

I asked to be dropped off at the Angkor Night Market. There were a lot of great finds in there, and I got to flex and stretch my negotiation muscles. I applied the same principle I learned in Vietnam – never pay for more than half the original asking price. “Oh this magnet is $2 – can I get two for $1?” *smiles and bats my eyelashes*

$1 fruit shakes! I look for a stall where there are not much flies because I saw one of the stalls with flies *gasp* where they keep their knives and other utensils. Thank goodness for my iron stomach.

The famous Pub Street –  I didn’t take a lot of photos because traveling with blonde hair alone tends to get a lot of unwanted attention from peddlers, and I was scared someone will make a run for my phone (it happens here in the PH, so I’m not taking chances)..

I found this quaint vegetarian restaurant sandwiched between Khmer barbecue places and decided to try it out. The serving at Chamkar is good for two people that I had all the excess packed (with utensils) and gave it to one of the beggars near the night market.

A few blocks away from Angkor Night Market is Siem Reap Art Center Night Market. It is the bigger one of the two and has so much more choices. Of course, it will cost more because ~*tourists*~, but I did get those $15 souvenir shirts for $5 (look for the quirky ones – it’s only available in two stalls when I was there and didn’t look like the typical souvenir shirts with good quality fabric), the $5 snow globe for $2, $5 tops for $2, etc. You know the drill. 😛

I went to The Angkor What? Bar because the name made me chuckle when I passed by it. I proceeded to spend the rest of the night people watching while drinking. A few glasses in, I went back to the hotel and slept like a baby.

I actually had the idea of renting a bike and going to the temples by cycling (in a skirt, no less, because that is how I roll) and already mapped out my route from the hotel. While I was loading up on breakfast, I started feeling lazy (typical, right) and decided to spend the day in a relaxed manner.

I saw so many tourists with a scarf on their head while touring, and decided to watch Youtube videos on how to do the same. I failed. 😦

I asked one of the hotel staff where to go and she directed me to one of the local markets, where everything is cheaper compared to the stores near Pub Street. I had lunch in Khmer Kitchen and tried out the fish amok. They also offer unlimited rice which I found out when they filled my plate with rice when I was already done eating. Hahaha!

Siem Reap River

After dilly-dallying some more, I went back to the hotel late in the afternoon and hung out by the pool. Again, I got complimentary banana chips and passion fruit juice. If I ever find myself back in Siem Reap, I will definitely be staying in Cambana d’Angkor Suites again.

My flight was late in the evening, and after taking a quick shower in the hotel, I availed of the free drop off to the airport.

There was a Blue Pumpkin in the airport and it was a pleasant surprise to find that all my loose change combined together is more than enough to buy me dinner. Yay for loose change!

I got back in the wee hours of the morning to my welcoming committee for the past seven years holding a bouquet of flowers with his arms wide open to embrace me. There really is no place like home. 🙂

So.. what now? 🙂 I will be posting a summary of sorts in a few days, the vlog I promised, and back to blogging about the random things inside my head, the mundane happenings of my everyday life and food! Hope you guys enjoyed this series. 🙂

Siem Reap 2015 || Ta Keo & Ta Prohm

I can’t believe that this week is nearing its end – and with it, my VN+KHM posts as well. I genuinely hope that the few people who went through this journey with me via reading enjoyed it thoroughly. 🙂 Again, please do drop me a message for any typos or grammar errors because, as C could attest, once all the photos are already uploaded for a post, it only takes me about 30 minutes to whip up a post (an hour if it’s lengthy). I’m crazy talkative in real life, which I guess is part of the reason why I can write so fast – as I just write down stuff the way I would talk.. of course in a more refined manner. Haha. Okay, enough about that, I’m veering off topic yet again. Aren’t you guys/girls/people used to it by now? 😉

We passed by the Victory Gate again and instead of asking Tet (who usually indulges me when I ask to stop, i.e., the monkeys with a warning to keep my distance unless I want my stuff nicked) to stop, I just snapped a quick photo from our moving tuktuk.

Again with the missing heads.

We arrived at Ta Keo, and it was a case of deja vu as it looks like one of the missing siblings of Pre Rup and East Mebon. The height of the base is leading me to the conclusion that a moat may have surrounded it as well, similar to the two other temples.

It is arguably more stone-ish and less decorative than the previous two, but it is also higher. I say that because there was an imposing number of steps to get to the top that you have to scale.. which may be making me biased because of my lack of upper body strength (yeah yeah here we go again).

I didn’t know it at first because of the wooden stairs in the entrance..

But dun dun dun (that’s a dramatic sound effect in case you were wondering)!

On our way to our next stop, we passed by another temple that had a fruit shake peddler. I asked Tet to make a stopover so I can buy one. Again, invest in a big bottle of water when touring here because not only is it expensive (they sell it to tourists for $2-3) but the heat is going to kill you.

$1 fruit shakes!

When we got to Ta Prohm, I have already been to a number of temples that my initial impression was underwhelmed. It had a wooden walkway in the gopura and a monster of a tree blocking the temple in sight.

I honestly thought that this was it because unlike the other temples, no one can enter directly via the enclosure.

I went all the way to the back and didn’t see anyone..

I was ready to turn back until I saw a group of tourists exit from an area I haven’t reached yet, and with renewed vigor (it’s not a waste of time yay!), walked from where they came from.

It quickly became my favorite temple because the one word I could associate with it is ethereal.

I have always been told that I’m a whimsical person once you get to know me since I’m more Luna than Hermione. And I loved how this place was a splash of multicolored bricks, and my thought process immediately went to “this is the kind of setting a dream takes place in”. At that moment, that description felt so weird but strangely accurate. Scratch that, it still feels the same way while I’m writing this.

For some strange reason, it is this temple which I have a sincere belief of it being dedicated or modeled for a woman or for one’s family. It just gives off that wise nurturing vibe, the kind that helps mothers put their children to sleep.

Do forgive me for the curious write up about Ta Prohm – there is something about nature taking over ruins that inspire me to write oddly. Maybe that is the real power of Ta Prohm, the picturesque state of ruin, neglect and [surprisingly] growth, that you just cannot manufacture.

Siem Reap 2015 || Angkor Thom

Hello, again! 🙂 I’m writing this fresh from the shower, with a towel still wrapped around my head, and feeling significantly more refreshed than when I went in for a quick bath. I am now a very recent believer that water cleans us all – literally and metaphorically. Maybe that’s why Archimedes screamed eureka while in the tub or why a lot of people go through their life decisions while showering, because the dirt and the doubts all go down the drain. When everything else is washed away, and if you’re lucky, you are left standing with your clearer thoughts.

The map I tried to follow (‘tried’ is the operative word)

The Angkor Thom is the last standing city of the Khmer empire which is why it had an entire complex with numerous structures. One of those is Baphuon Temple. It had the usual Khmer architecture – which I only even distinguished because of the high tower-like roof that is still present up this day, albeit those have adapted to the modern times.

The temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva (quick Google search: she is one of the trinity deities, hence, a very important god).

Near the pathway to the temple is a map for the tourist flow which I took a photo of as a guide on where to go next. It led me to Phimeanakas, the ‘celestial temple’ (thanks, Wiki!).

I didn’t see any signs outside the temple, aside from the one that cautions people to use the wooden stairs instead of the original one. It may not seem too high in photos but the stairs were really steep.

If you have a bit of acrophobia, I suggest to not attempt the climb though because I had no fear of heights but I had to admit that the tallness of the structure had a part of me that was terrified.

Nearby was the pool for the royal palace. There were a number of pools, and there were designations on who can use each one of them. If I remember correctly, the pool that the current ruler uses is different for those of the concubines.

I got super lost looking for my way back as I was relying on the photo of the tourist flow and got me into the ‘woods’ part of the complex. I did get to Preah Palilay and Tep Pranam (I even bought a can of Pepsi in a store nearby, breaking my no soft-drink diet) but got a bit scared because once again, I got hoarded by unofficial tourist guides! Ugh. I was so thankful when I got to the Leper King Terrace and Elephant Terrace, where my driver, Tet, was waiting for me. The one for the leper king was a U-shaped structure with a lot of carvings – are they lepers? I do not know.

From this photo, you can see the elephant carvings in the Elephant Terrace (well, duh). However, it was being restored at that time and off limits to tourists (orange cones hinder entering).

Across both terraces were more ruins. I went to one of them, the Preah Pithu Group.

A deity may have once been there..

There were other ruins as well, the North Khleang and South Khleang.

Across the ruins are a lot of peddlers, souvenir shops, and fruit shake stands. It is also where most of the tuktuks are parked. It is a pet peeve of mine to be followed by people who are trying to sell you something, but I guess it’s something inevitable in a tourist spot as popular as this – and yeah, people have got to make a
living. It’s just me being me.. 😛 So this wasn’t as exciting as the other posts, but I have more coming up this week. Woo! 🙂

Siem Reap 2015 || Bayon

Hello I’m back and I’m gushing and you can just imagine me talking in a single breath because our internet connection finally cooperated and I’M BACK BITCHES.

Forgive me for calling all you female dogs, but it truly has been a while since I last wrote anything that had a significant word count that wasn’t some draggy work mail or an angry message for all the Voldemorts out there whose nose can be found in my business. I guess it’s pretty hard to understand where I’m at right now – my days are for working (and I try to slay at it) and my nights are partially for sleeping and tending to mom. The same goes for both my siblings, and it has set the three of us constantly on edge. Being in between jobs (for two days now haha) has given me a teensy bitsy bit of a breathing room – although I’m still all sorts of exhausted (physically, mentally, psychologically, emotionally, you name it) because both our helpers are on vacation – and had allowed me to turn down my rage mode a notch lower.

Writing about the early morning tour I spent in Bayon is refreshing in a way. A lot has changed over the course of six months. My hair is not this color anymore, the bags under my eyes have been promoted to series regular for this season, and I have had a thrilling/terrifying roller coaster ride of emotions. No complaints there, though, because I have learned to just suck it up and adapt the “do no harm but take no shit” attitude.

Since it was early, I had first dibs on taking photos inside the temple. Aside from the occasional sighting of temple staff, I had the place to myself. The sad thing about it was no tour groups with tour guides I can listen in on, but TOURIST FREE PHOTOS FOR THE WIN. I identify myself as a travel enthusiast, a mix between tourist and traveler, so I can’t judge the array of people flocking to tourist sites. Hey, I went on one myself! But it’s so much easier not having to deal with people who photobomb you (or whatever you have your camera pointed at) at every corner.

Bayon is located in the Angkor Thom complex, the capital city of the Khmer Empire.

It had hundreds of stone faces of Lokesvara facing in all four directions.

It was an imposing structure with a LOT of stairs. I made the mistake of wearing an extra long maxi skirt that day and I had to tie it up to scale uneven stairs to some of the areas. One of the guards told me the view is fantastic up one of the “towers” in the first level of the temple, so I used my entire body climbing up (some of the steps were missing), and literally held on for my dear life, while he watched me from his post.

I was exhilarated when I got to the top and it wasn’t even that high, maybe fifteen feet tops, but the effort it took to get there made the view worthwhile (read: lack of upper body strength). I have no photo because I had my camera in my bag when I climbed and was more concerned that I’d drop it if I take it out. I need that camera contact lenses they have in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (that scene in Burj Khalifa where they have a printer in the briefcase… okay, I have started rambling. Put a lid on it, self!).

Spotted: the occasional staff I mentioned earlier.

I would like to argue that I am not vain and I’m only here for the size reference.. but I totally am so there.

Found wooden stairs – hallelujah!

I’m not sure if this is an active temple, but there were freshly burned incense so I will move on from the thought by assuming that it is.

It was truly a morning well spent. I wish I could write more about this temple like I did with the previous posts, but you guys know I gain my information by freeloading over paying tourists with guides. I prefer writing from memory (this is a test for myself, okay) and not search for information from the internet because if that’s the case, everyone can just do that. Right? :p

I am posting this without proofreading due to the eagerness of getting out a blog post so leave a comment below if you find any boo boos. I also have queued posts for the entire month of November and I’m so excited about the possibility of cleaning out my backlog. I swear, if you can see me right now, I am actually smiling to that thought. 🙂 Bye-on. (I’ll show myself out now)

Siem Reap 2015 || Angkor Wat Sunrise

“Better to see something once than hear about it a thousand times.”

I have heard so many people I know rave about witnessing the sunrise at Angkor Wat, and it truly was magnificent so I decided to make a separate post for it. 🙂

I had my alarm set for 4 AM so I can get my ass going by 5.. but I woke up 15 minutes before 5 AM and I jumped in the shower and just grabbed my things. Unfortunately, no complimentary breakfast from the hotel that day. I arrived before 6 in the morning, but look at all the tourists! They flocked to that spot because I heard you can take the best shot from there, due to the reflection of the sunrise in the water.

I literally had goosebumps all over when I finally saw the Angkor Wat. It is an amazing view but ~*all the feelz*~ came mostly because I just cannot believe that I am actually standing there, by myself, after almost two weeks of traveling.

I was sitting on the grass, and then I started getting really emotional because I can’t believe I finally did it. I went on the trip I have spontaneously booked and obsessively planned for two months (only 10% of that plan went through). I haven’t thought about work or what I plan to do when I get back because I had time to think about the mundane things I never give myself time to think about when I’m home. I did not make plans for the future nor did I “find myself” because I’m still me.. it just brought out other qualities to the forefront.

(The moment was ruined when a peddler suddenly approached me to sell coffee)

It was a learning experience – on how I react to pressure (bag packing!!) and problems (like getting scammed), that the person I like the most is myself because when only left to my thoughts I did not get bored, that everyone is interesting if you actually listen to what they are saying, how nice it is to be disconnected (I swear I freed up a lot of time when I did not have mobile data and there were no “pressure” to respond to messages, or no notifications popping up every now and then etc) and a lot more. So yes, I got crazy emotional and may have shed some tears – but it’s for the travel companions I wish could have seen the things I saw (like my mom) and for the confirmation that yes, I can do this.

And I think that’s the biggest thing I took away from this experience. “I can.”

Breakfast bahn mi (of some sort)

Siem Reap 2015 || Banteay Kdei & Phnom Bakheng Sunset

Hi, guys! Sorry, it took four separate posts just to cover the Grand Circuit – imagine what I could have written if I had a guide with me. Haha! But anyway, this is the last post on the Grand Circuit then I’ll start with the Small Circuit. Before we all know it, I will be scrambling over here in my small corner of the world to try and find out what else I can write about. 🙂

We entered Banteay Kdei via the East Gopura Fourth Enclosure. This entrance is across Srah Srang. I have no photos of the lake, but it’s populated by so many souvenir stalls and peddlers will hound you when all you want is to stare at the lake and think about your life.

The third enclosure. Banteay Kdei also used to be a temple city but no one has any idea about its actual function.


There were a lot of Apsara dancers sculpted on the columns so I’ll be taking a wild guess and say this is the dancing hall.

It was already the golden hour when I went and I swear, it looks more whimsical in real life. It felt like I was in a scene straight from a movie.

I actually do not have a lot to say about Banteay Kdei.. and not a lot of photos as well. At this point, I was taking breaks like crazy. My legs are tired and covered in a sheet of sweat.

Nature meddling with thousand-year-old structures by growing within.

West gopura and another pillared structure.

After exploring Banteay Kdei, the tuktuk driver, Tet, brought me to Phnom Bakheng for the sunset. If you’re not wearing a shirt, you can buy from any of the souvenir shops at the bottom of the hill where the temple is located. Tet settled for a bottle of water while I had my nth cup of $1 fruit shake. I think I spent so much on fruit shakes while in Siem Reap. It was just so hot!

You can opt to climb up the hill by an elephant for $20/person.

I swear I weighed my options. $20 is equivalent to a fancy meal back home and I would burn it for a 15-minute ride. I have also read somewhere on the *~internetzzz~* that riding an elephant is supporting animal abuse. I was mulling over these thoughts while waiting for another tourist to book an elephant ride (I wasn’t willing to pay $40 to go solo), but the lady told me I could go on a solo ride as long as I tell anyone who asks me that I paid full price.

I swear I had a bunch of mini heart attacks while riding the elephant up the hill. Since I was alone, I was left to balance on the seat by myself and I could feel the chair tilting sideways a couple of times. We encountered around four elephants on their way down and the elephant I was on had to walk near the edge of the road. I had to mentally berate myself when I looked down my possible cause of death after chanting “don’t look down, don’t look down” for the past 10 minutes.

But the scenery when we got to higher ground was so worth it. You can see Angkor Wat from here!

The queue to the temple for the sunset was crazy! Only a limited number of people can go up and you need to get an ID, which they collect from the visitors who are leaving the temple. All of us tourists had the brilliant idea to climb early to wait for the sunset so it’s best to come an hour before sunset. I got in because the woman manning the elephant booth tipped me that I would need a shirt to enter the temple, so do buy/wear one when you go. I have no photos of the sunset, though.. well I do, but it’s really something you have to see for yourself (because I took crappy photos that do not do it justice). Sitting cross-legged on thousand-year-old bricks of a temple above the hill in Siem Reap, watching a sunset that would probably fetch a lot of money if it was a painting, have made me very grateful. Whatever has happened, is happening and would happen, I am fortunate enough to live through and witness so many sunrises and sunsets in one lifetime.

This is Tet who drove me around the whole day

Hello, OOTD on my way up to my room at Cambana d’Angkor Suites.

I ordered room service for dinner because no matter how hard I tried to push myself, there was nothing more I wanted that evening than to watch CSI while in a tub.

So there you have it! I foresee 4-5 posts to go before I finish this series! 🙂

Siem Reap 2015 || East Mebon & Pre Rup

I have always been the type of person who has a hard time letting things go. I can hold a grudge like my life depended on it. Half of my teenage years were spent trying to make a dysfunctional relationship work out. Dust gathered over the uneven stack of chocolate boxes I have accumulated on the bottom left corner of my three-door wardrobe. I have a box full of letters, movie tickets, faded receipts, and heck, even bits and pieces of dried petals that had been crumbled by time.

I had lunch at Khmer Angkor Kitchen. I still have the receipt and everything on the photo cost me $10. I guess that’s why I fell in love with Vietnam. For about the same amount, I would already be dead from food coma.

East Mebon is smaller than the previous temples I went to, and because I didn’t chance upon any guides or any of the details they put up at the entrances of every temple, I don’t have anything but photos. 😦 Based from the map though, this is the east entrance.

There were a lot of moss at the lower parts of the temple, which is curious because the area seems dry for moss. Hmm.

I had to climb so many stairs, at around 1:30 in the afternoon. You can just imagine how sweaty I got.

I actually went and did a quick search while writing this post to at least find out why it looks significantly different than the previous temples I have been to.. Apparently, East Mebon is a bit older and from a different reign. It also used to be surrounded by water which explains the moss! (now you guys see how I come up with blog content haha)

It still did not explain why the chambers smelled like they burned something in there.

How to take portraits of yourself without a monopod/tripod? What I do is find a surface I can put my camera on. It does not even have to be super flat, as long as my camera won’t fall off. There are a lot of these surfaces in the archaeological park, so don’t worry about that. Anyway, I take a photo after placing my camera to ensure that it’s taking the angle I want, so I know how I should adjust it (placing camera straps under the lens to tilt it upwards etc) and where I should stand. Here’s the product! It only took one test shot and one final shot to get my photo. When I’m satisfied, I don’t take more photos – which saves memory space but could be awful when you get home from the trip and discover it was a crappy photo all along. Haha!

The next temple was also designed similarly to East Mebon. I entered Pre Rup via the east entrance and I went, “hmm this looks familiar. I’m not very knowledgeable about architecture, so I’m not going to yammer on about it. 🙂

They placed wooden stairs on top of the actual stairs. When I went, not all the stairs had a new one on top of it, and you can see the state of ruin it is in with the steepness and the missing steps.

The brick chambers are there as well, similar to East Mebon. I still don’t know what it is for.

The World Monuments Fund has been working on restoring the temples in Angkor. To spot a restored one, you just have to find a structure with different colored bricks.

From the highest tier, you can view the different enclosures as well as the courtyards.

Placed my camera on a narrow surface and prayed to the heavens above that the strong wind does not contribute to it falling to the ground.

The chambers/towers are all sealed up. I’m really curious what it’s for.

Narrow hallways.

A photo of me with the stairs – primarily because I’m vain, and size comparison to how high one tier is.

And yes, it was very windy. The heat and the wind combined, and I swore I could almost hear my skin crackling as it burned.

The thought that I have to let go of certain things is like that one dark cloud hanging over clear blue skies. I have always had a fear of not knowing what’s in store for me, which is probably why I fear dying, and the fear is here, as I part ways with what was my comfort zone, but not enough to cripple me. Let’s keep moving forward, yes? 🙂

Siem Reap 2015 || Preah Neak Pean & Ta Som

Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken always resonate with me. On good days, overthinking has helped me avoid making stupid decisions. It’s the worst on bad days – second guessing yourself is no fun at all. I had a traditional upbringing: take on a challenging course (engineering) from a reputable university, graduate and get your diploma, work for a big company, earn money, and everything else will follow. In deciding on what to do with my future, there are so many factors affecting the decision-making process, and I couldn’t help but lie in bed at night and wonder which path I will take.

The path to Preah Neak Pean.

An artificial lake surrounds Neak Pean, as it is used as a reservoir to irrigate rice fields during the dry season.

It’s so easy to chase after what is tangible: money, title, stability. But what about the “follow your heart” sayings, if you don’t even know where your heart is headed?

Our next stop was the Temple of Ta Som which was constructed between the end of the twelfth century and the beginning of the thirteenth; it was begun during the reign of King Jayavarman VII. I entered via the Third Enclosure West Gopura.

West inner gopura

The temple features three enclosures with monumental gateways known as gopuras and a central shrine decorated with intricate carvings.

The temple was likely purposefully destroyed in the fifteenth or sixteenth century and lay in a state of ruin for many centuries.

Southwest inner courtyard.

East outer gopura

But when you’re pressed for a decision, you find out which one you’re leaning towards. Stability, money, and convenience be damned. And you realize that a seed once planted, have the power to grow, take root, and wedge it’s way through bricks and stones that have stood the test of time. 

The inner enclosure from the east gopura.

So you take the leap and hope for the best. It may have been a hard decision to make, but at least you made the decision to act. Despite the fear, the uncertainty, and the unknown.

Exited via the west gopura again. Did a bit of research because I was curious why this familiar face is so significant and found out that this is actually Lokesvara. Oooohhhhhhhh.

They say your 20s are the time to be selfish and make mistakes. On the contrary, it’s also the time to build foundations for the future. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same priorities, the freedom to make selfish decisions, and life situations are not always easy. So I say – I’m not sure yet, but I guess I’ll figure it out someday. 🙂

Siem Reap 2015 || Preah Khan

First things first, I just had to say that Tumblr has made writing this post very very annoying. I used to scan my head for words while writing a blog post but as it is my third attempt to write this one down, I have now known this by heart. It is a bit frustrating that the previous attempts to save this have led me to an error message, but you know what they say, third time’s the charm.

I woke up on my first day of the tour a bit late (9 AM), and I’m blaming my bed in Cambana d’Angkor Suites because it is too sleep-inducing. Haha! I had my complimentary breakfast at the restaurant downstairs in preparation for the long day ahead.

My lens got foggy because of moisture and shit (I really don’t know how to explain this).

I paid $40 for a 3-day pass to the Angkor Archaeological Park. It is valid for a week and I highly suggest that if you have a week in Siem Reap, you space out your temple visits. There are so many things you can do and sights to see in Siem Reap besides Angkor Wat. Unfortunately, I only had three days to explore. Oh well, a reason to come back then!

I did the Grand Circuit and my first stop was Preah Khan. I entered via the Fourth Enclosure West Gopura. Take note that none of the photos I’m posting for this trip have been post processed – and yes, it really looked this way. Amazing, isn’t it?

I was listening in on one of the tour guides from another tour group, and he told the people that some of the heads have been chopped off either by thieves who sell it to collectors, or when the Hindus occupied this Buddhist temple. Hmm..

See that man in green in the photo below? He approached me while I was taking photos and proceeded to tell me which angles to take it so it looks like a postcard photo. I thanked him and started walking away, but he followed me to ask me for $5 for his “tip”. I politely declined, and yet he followed, saying that for $5 he will tour me around Preah Khan as well. I completely ignored him and was about to start brisk walking when another man popped out from the trees to tell me he can do it for $4. The first man then lowered his asking price to $3. I nope-d the hell out of there and kept on walking. Ugh.

Entering the Third Enclosure (I am basing this from the photo I took of the map)

Jayavarman VII, a king from the Khmer Empire,  dedicated the temple of Preah Khan to his father, Dharanindra, in 1191.

The amount of detail that went into making this fascinates me. Actual people had to make this by hand in the 12th century!

The antechamber connected to the central shrine for Vishnu. (I learn so much from other people’s tour guides, I would have probably gotten a very knowledgeable one if I had someone else to share the cost with haha)

I have a crappy photo of where Vishnu’s shrine once was erected, but.. it’s crap so here’s another photo for you guys (of something that’s not Vishnu’s shrine lol).

Preah Khan is one of the few monuments to have kept its original name. The founding stele is written entirely in Sanskrit with the name of the temple expressed as Jayasri, meaning “sacred sword”.

More than a single temple, the monument was in its time a real city with a whole population divided according to their functions. Oh, the things you can do with 56 hectares. My original home is being renovated? I’ll live in my huge temple city.

I am honestly not well informed which of the images are Buddhist or Hindu, and this temple has housed both images.

Some of the statues were destroyed.

Some of the niches are empty.. so maybe they were destroyed or removed?

The Hall of Dancers.

The temple was also a site of Buddhist studies with its retinue of spiritual masters and their disciples. During the Middle Period, a stupa was erected in place of Lokesvara in the central sanctuary, symbolizing Buddhism in all its forms. The holes used to hold bronze plates which of course became victim to temple looters.

There are several stand-alone places like this one that may have been small shrines (I have no guide, just an eavesdropper!).

Third Enclosure East Gopura with a giant cotton tree that grew on the architecture itself.

House of Fire


Fourth Enclosure East Gopura. There are so many kids who will hound you chanting “$1, please! For my education!”. I don’t know if living in a third world country myself has made me wary of beggars. Some of the kids will try to sell you overpriced postcards/magnets/scarfs/and other merchandise. Do not ask to take a photo of them and not buy anything because they might throw mud at you. I saw it happen firsthand with an elderly male tourist who asked them to pose for a photo for free.

East exit.. so I had to make my way back where the tuktuk was waiting.

So yay, my first temple post! I have too many photos in this post but I will try to keep it to a minimum for the remaining ones. 🙂