The reason that Siem Reap, Cambodia exists as a tourist destination is because of the sprawling Angkor Temple complex and the world famous Angkor Wat. That’s why everyone travels there, and we were no exception. We had so much fun during our three days at Angkor that I couldn’t even squeeze it all into one post. But there were many other things to see and do, and we had no trouble filling the two weeks we spent there.
After visiting Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom on day 1, we took a few days off before returning to the role of part time explorers. Getting up early to climb temples all day in the Cambodian heat can be pretty tiring, so it’s nice to get a break. This is one of the reasons the 3 day (or 7 day) Angkor Pass is great, as it allows for visits on non-consecutive days. Fully rested, we headed back into the jungle.
Most people are familiar with Angkor Wat, but that’s only one of dozens of temples within the enormous Angkor Temple complex. While nearly everyone who visits Siem Reap will set foot inside Angkor Wat, there are plenty of others that are worth visiting as well. Bayon, Ta Prohm, Preah Khan, Banteay Kdei, and more are all worthy stops. These temples and others throughout the sprawling jungle site range from amazing old buildings to piles of rubble where your imagination is required, sometimes even within the same grounds.
Foreign travel is nothing if not a continual learning experience. Travel in Thailand specifically, and Asia in general, is particularly different from Europe or Latin America. While I had been to Asia once before, it was a whirlwind trip of only ten days. Katie and I visited Hong Kong and Vietnam in February as our last official vacation before retiring. Therefore, the following learning experiences are from the perspective of someone who is mostly a novice to Asian travel and a complete newcomer to travel in Thailand. I had a lot to learn.
After our week enjoying some non-beach activity in Phuket Town, we spent our last week on Phuket and our final week in Thailand at Kata Beach. If you’re counting at home, that’s 5 out of the last 6 weeks at a beach. What can I say? There are just a lot of nice beaches throughout this country and Kata Beach was the nicest one yet. Clear water, ample soft sand, great swimming, and gorgeous sunsets are a few of the things that draw tourists like ourselves to the west side of Phuket.
The last stop on our two month Thailand visit was the island of Phuket. Since we had just spent a month being beach bums on Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, we opted to start our last two weeks in Thailand where there isn’t a beach in sight. We stayed for a week in Phuket Town, sometimes called Old Town in reference to the downtown area. Here we found some gorgeous buildings, delicious food, and some wild animals that would want to steal it.
There’s a Thai tourist slogan that applies to nearly everything. The catch phrase Same Same But Different can be seen on t-shirts and other items in any souvenir store. We even stayed near a restaurant named after the saying on Koh Phangan. While I haven’t actually heard it spoken yet, it’s clearly part of the culture, at least in tourist areas. The idea is that they have whatever you’re looking for, but it might be just a little different. You want a Louis Vuitton bag? They have those. Is it authentic? Yes, same same but different. (So that means no, but it’s a good fake and you can’t tell. Plus, it’s priced right.)
In contrast to our activity packed days in Bangkok, living on Koh Phangan in the Gulf of Thailand was highlighted mostly by relaxation. I might even go so far as to call it a bit boring. Not that I’m bothered by that. I enjoy the idea of having nothing to do nor anyone to answer to. In fact, I’m getting really, really good at the leisurely breakfast. I have been waking up around 8:00am and putting on a baseball game from the night before. (Sometimes this baseball game from the night before is happening live. Time zones are weird.) During the game I drink a few cups of tea and eat some amazing fresh fruit. It’s a pretty stellar way to start the day and I highly recommend it.
We just spent two weeks in Bangkok, Thailand to kick off our early retirement travels. The plan was to spend 15 nights, but our flights were delayed due to weather in the US, so we arrived a day late. Nevertheless, we did a lot of exploring around the city, including seeing many markets, neighborhoods, temples, and parks. Below I’ll share the highlights of our time there, where we stayed, and how much money we spent.
Bangkok is a great place to visit, but you’ll rarely forget you’re in a city. The expansive urban area doesn’t have a whole lot of green space. There’s hardly even a bench for when you need a break from walking in the heat. One exception to that is Lumphini Park. This 142 acre park a little east of downtown provides a pleasant oasis from the hectic city. There are running and biking paths, cardio and weight lifting machines for public use, tons of benches and places to sit, and lots of wildlife. The highlight is the giant monitor lizards that can be found everywhere.