(Vietnam) Hoi An >>> (Cambodia) Siem Reap >>> (Thailand) Bangkok >>> (South Korea) Seoul >>> (USA) Honolulu
8/27- Travel back to Da Nang and Fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia
8/28- Driving through the Cambodian countryside and exploring Beng Melea
8/29- Tiny Temple Tour and Visiting the Phare Circus
8/30- Grand Circuit tour of Angkor Park and Aspara Dance Show
8/31- Sunrise to Sunset Tour of Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, and Bayon!
9/1- 10.5 hour bus ride to Bangkok and Flight to South Korea!
9/2- Free Day Tour around Seoul and Enjoying the wonderful Incheon Airport!
9/2 (again)- Arriving in Honolulu, Hawaii and Meeting Odie!
Travel back to Da Nang and Fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia
+ During our last Vietnamese breakfast, we finished slurping down our yummy bowls of Pho, along with the other 20 breakfast items we ate! Then we returned to our room where we packed up and checked out.
+ We only had a few hours until we needed to catch a ride up to the Da Nang airport, and we weren’t entirely sure what to do. Ultimately, we decided against renting a motorbike for 3 hours just to see the beach (we are from Florida, ya know) and instead relax in a cafe.
+ Enjoying the air conditioning, we knocked off a few to do items and read up on the destinations we wanted to visit in Cambodia.
+ Before we knew it, our relaxing time was up so we hurriedly left, printed our airline tickets from a nearby hostel, ate some Bahn Mi sandwiches for lunch, and walked back to the hotel.
+ For some unknown reason, Uber prices had more than quadrupled since we’d checked yesterday so in the end we just ordered a taxi from the hotel and said our goodbyes to the friendly staff. They were so nice they even gave us some souvenirs as a goodbye!
+ The ride to the airport was only about 45 minutes but we got some good beach views along the way. Then we checked in, made it through security, and were forced to sit in the waiting area along with everyone else since this airport didn’t have a lounge we could access. Ugh! Why even fly! lol
+ Our propeller plane did a great job despite the down pouring of rain that was happening as we boarded and took off. We both researched and read about Cambodia for the entirety of the journey and after landing and making it through immigration, we were greeted by someone from our hotel to pick us up! We loved this celebrity treatment!
+ We actually had to stay in a different hotel than the one we’d booked since there was a problem with our room. But we were told it was just for tonight and we could move tomorrow.
+ Since we were very hungry, we headed down the road to a restaurant the staff referred us to called Tuk Tuk tacos. The Mexican food was delicious and a welcomed break from the local food we’d been eating the past bunch of meals.
+ From there we made a quick stop at the grocery store to check out Cambodian prices and were happy to find everything was still super cheap! (We’d been told otherwise). Then we picked up some drinks and headed back to our room to shower and pass out.
Driving through the Cambodian countryside and exploring Beng Melea
+ In the morning we headed across the street to Bella Mia Angkor Villa, the hotel we were meant to be staying at, and up to the roof for breakfast. We enjoyed some nice french toast and a big banana pancake while overlooking Siem Reap!
+ Went back and checked out, then moved our stuff across the street and into our new, big room. It had 2 queen beds again, but also a ton of extra floor space and a bathroom with a big shower and big separate tub!
+ Reviewed our notes for Cambodia and all of the nearby temples to come up with a game plan for the next few days on what we wanted to do.
+ Went downstairs and decided to rent a motorbike instead of hiring a tuk tuk driver.
+ Instead of purchasing the Angkor Wat pass and essentially wasting 1 of the 3 days on this afternoon, we instead chose to make the journey out into the countryside and visit Beng Melea temple instead.
+ Our 90+ minute journey out there felt as if we were driving through a National Geographic photo shoot! There were naked kids running around, old ladies with no teeth, and random cows standing all over the road.
+ We also saw kids riding around on ancient bikes, families carrying bundles of sticks, even more random animals on the road, and yes, more naked children. Plus 1/2 of the journey was on really bumpy and muddy dirt roads which made it even more of an adventure!
+ Beng Melea was really interesting and completely in ruins! It looked as if practically nothing had been restored or been given the proper precautions (i.e. wooden support beams) to ensure it would not crumble soon like the rest of the temple.
+ There was a nice wooden walkway that suspended us up above many of the ruins and gave us a nice overview of the layout as we walked around inside the temple.
+ At one point we walked through a 50 meter long tunnel/hallway which was neat.
+ Since it was later in the day and the temple was beginning to close, there were less and less tourists to be found. Thus, we began to get really nervous anytime a group of teenage locals were approaching as we feared a repeat of Colombia.
+ Mostly because of that, we kept our exploring off of the pathways to a minimum and eventually headed back out towards the parking lot after we’d seen all we could. It was especially nice at the end when the large Chinese tour groups had finished up and we weren’t competing for space and photo opportunities.
+ On our way back to the bike, we gave a group of young kids the rest of our Oreo packet which they jumped on like a wild pack of monkeys!
+ Instead of taking the scenic dirt road back, we instead chose to drive the highway since it would be getting dark. As we’ve also learned from experience, pot holes and eroding concrete are not fun when driving a motorbike at night.
+ We made it about halfway back before the daylight ran out and we were forced to rely on our headlight the rest of the way. Eventually the bugs hitting us in the face gave way to lots of dust and debris kicked up on the road from cars around us. It was not the most fun drive back in the world, but we made pretty good time with all things considered.
+ Showered off and set off on foot to get dinner and walk around Siem Reap.
+ Ate dinner at Burger King! The food didn’t quite satisfy our craving for Western food. Oh well, guess we’ll have to wait until Hawaii!
+ Walked around Pub Street and watched all the crazy party people and even some lady boys getting down with their bad selves. There were tons of street food carts, loud clubs, and even small carts that were nothing but a tiny bar and a thumping music system. The whole scene reminded us of Khao San road in Bangkok.
+ Stopped at a tour office and figured out what activities we were most interested in. Then we headed over to a massage parlor Liz had read about and we each got some spa treatments for super cheap! Liz got a half hour body massage and then a pedicure while Corey got a 1 hour body massage! These were the best!
+ Eventually ended up back at our hotel where we found out the wifi would be down until morning. Being resourceful, we walked around to the back of the block to a neighboring hotel and pretended to think about ordering drinks just to get their wifi password! That way we could still connect in our room! Yes, we might as well become international spies! 😃
+ Then we relaxed in the room while enjoying some cheap Cambodian beers and watched some Brooklyn 99 before bed.
Tiny Temple Tour and Visiting the Phare Circus
+ Since we still had use of our motorbike for the remaining 24-hour allotted rental period, we set off to go do a few temples in the Angkor complex we knew we wouldn’t get to otherwise.
+ First we visited Banteay Kdei Temple. It was a cool temple with an impressive entrance featuring the 4-faced Buddha. We enjoyed exploring that on our own and took some neat pictures of the decaying architecture.
+ Then we walked across the street and checked out Srah Sarang which was mainly just a large lake. It wasn’t too interesting and we certainly weren’t about to walk 5+ km around it in the sweltering heat so we moved on.
+ The last temple was hardly a temple at all. More like 1 single tower building that had been completely eroded away. We couldn’t find it at first but some really young local kids showed us the way so we gave them each a little bit of money (equivalent to about 25 cents each) as a thank you which really really excited them! The two boys rode away on their rusty old bike smiling and waving goodbye to us.
+ Drove back into town on our scooter. On the drive we actually passed our friends Rosie and Luka whom we’d met in Vang Vieng, Laos. We did a quick U-Turn, chatted for a bit and then agreed to meet up later on at night.
+ Went into the town center area, parked the bike and then grabbed some lunch from a cheap Cambodian restaurant. Liz ordered the traditional fish amok. From there, we walked around the block checking out the sights and popped into a few tour offices.
+ Eventually we found the one we were looking for and booked some upcoming day trips into Angkor park as well as our bus ticket to Bangkok.
+ After riding back to our hotel, we hung out in our room for an hour or so until it was time to leave for our next activity. So we set out on foot for the 20 minute walk West through a new part of town.
+ The Phare Circus was our destination and we arrived just in time to get a spot at the front of the line. We’d paid for the cheap tickets so it was first come first served for our side seats. Luckily we managed to grab some good ones that still offered a great view of the stage.
+ The performance was really good and the entertainers were obviously super athletic and talented, but it was not really a circus. More like an artistic dance performance illustrating some very serious subjects like war and death. So although it was a neat experience, it wasn’t our favorite activity.
+ Headed back to Tuk Tuk tacos for dinner but it was much more disappointing this time. Since we were running late for our meetup, we took a Tuk Tuk to get there!
+ Met up with Luka and Rosie at a restaurant on the night market street. We hung out and had some 50 cent beers until it was time for the place to close down. It was great to see them again!
+ After showering and packing our day bag for tomorrow, we finally laid down to relax. Fun day!
Grand Circuit tour of Angkor Park and Aspara Dance Show
+ We were going on a group tour today of the Grand Circuit. This consisted of visiting 6 different temples that were very nice but not part of the most popular “Big 3”.
+ In order, we visited:
+ Pre Roup (an ancestor temple), East Mebon, Ta Som (had a cool multi-head statue. This was Liz’s favorite today), Neak Pean (had to walk across a big lake on a tiny patch of ground to see it), Preah Khan, and Banteay Srei (referred to as the Lady temple).
+ Before the last temple, we were all starving so we had a late lunch at a restaurant that was pretty expensive, especially for Siem Reap. But we didn’t have a choice and at least they served huge portions.
+ Banteay Srei was made out of pink/yellow sandstone and it had a different look from the rest of them. Also the carvings were much more well preserved.
+ Our group was only 6 people large and our tour guide was pretty decent, but kind of came across as doing the job for too long and not caring too much about some of the poorer kids in the community. Even mocking one of them at one point.
+ Still, it was nice to have someone explain all of the history and meanings to us. That was the reason why we chose to do this route with a tour guide as opposed to driving it ourselves on the motorbike.
+ It was interesting to hear from the tour guide how the temples had been converted from Buddhism to Hinduism and sometimes back again.
+ When the tour was over, we quickly showered and changed and caught a tuk tuk to the North part of town.
+ Next up for our jam packed Cambodian experience in Siem Reap was watching a Apsara Dance performance at night at the Koulen restaurant. Our $12 ticket included an AYCE buffet beforehand so we made sure to arrive early so we could stuff ourselves before the good food was gone!
+ Predictably, none of the food was amazing, but it was pretty decent. The dance performance was about the same. It wasn’t even close to as good as the similar ones we’d seen in Bali and Ubud, but interesting nonetheless.
+ Before we got back to the hotel, Corey stopped and got a Cambodian-style body massage from a very strong woman! He was even a little sore the next day!
+ Liz had gone back to the hotel to relax a little and when Corey got back, we relaxed in bed watching some Brooklyn 99 before bed.
Sunrise to Sunset Tour of Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, and Bayon!
+ We really wanted to make the most out of our last day in Siem Reap so we, maybe foolhardily, decided to see both sunrise and sunset at the temples in the same day!
+ This meant waking up before 5 am and meeting our tuk tuk driver who drove us to the gates of Angkor Wat in time to walk the remaining 1 km to the viewpoint before sunrise. Then we positioned ourselves for a great view of the sun lighting up the famous temple and the beautiful colors it created in the sky surrounding it.
+ It was fun being there so early when everyone had such a sense of energy and excitement to see the sunrise! Many people, including us, were seeing this world-famous monument for the first time ever!
+ When we’d snapped a million pictures, we hiked back out and the driver took us back to the hostel where we showered off and tried to get a quick 30 minute nap in.
+ Before we knew it, it was time to wake up again and eat breakfast before the shuttle bus for our “Small Circuit” tour picked us up.
+ In contrast with yesterday’s “Large Circuit” tour which visited 6 temples, this one only visited the big 3, but included the sunset at the end.
+ We liked our guide better this time but his strength was also his weakness. He loved taking creative pictures of tourists in some of the areas in the temples. These made for creative photos and it was nice to have someone taking pictures of the both of us, but when you were in a group of 12, this meant a 10+ minute stop every time there was a photo opportunity. Ugh.
+ Still, he was a good tour guide and we enjoyed his sense of humor and info sessions more than the tour guide from yesterday.
+ The other thing that bothered us was the incredibly slow speed we were moving at! Way slower than yesterday! Despite getting picked up at about 8:15 am, we did not actually enter our first temple (Angkor Wat) until almost 11 am! Crazy!
+ Angkor Wat was nice and offered some nice pictures from the inside, but it was clear the main draw were the photo opportunities on the outside.
+ Lunch at expensive restaurant. Split a meal.
+ Next up, we visited the Ta Prohm temple. It was widely known as the Tomb Raider temple! Really awesome photos at about every turn with giant trees and tree roots growing around, over, and through different parts of the temple. It truly looked amazing!
+ This was Corey’s favorite one by far because it was such a cool place to run around and explore, ducking in and out of little doorways that were almost hidden due to the roots growing all around them.
+ Bayon was the next temple. Really neat and had lots of different levels to explore. After taking a picture ourselves, Liz was asked to take some photos with an Asian girl who wanted her picture with a blonde beauty!
+ When we finished that, we realized we’d lost our tour group so we hurriedly went all around the temple checking the different levels and searching for our guide. In the end, we couldn’t find him or the group and one of the workers had to call him on the radio and tell him where we were! Embarrassing!
+ Now we went a short distance over to the Phnom Bakheng hill where we hiked to the top and grabbed a spot to watch the sunset. The only problem was it was only about 4:15 pm which meant we still had a full 2 hours before the sun set! Arghhhh!
+ Hung out and read some Lonely Planet articles. Then Liz talked with our guide, Sok, and one of the other tour group members while Corey tried to take a nap leaning up against the stone wall. It ended up being the worst nap ever because of the noise and unbearable heat causing him to sweat profusely the entire time!
+ By the time the sun actually set, many members of our group had already retreated downhill back to the cold shuttle bus to relax until it was time to go back to the hotel.
+ We fought off our sleepiness and stayed through sunset, taking pictures of the pretty colors spreading across the sky. We both thought sunset was better than the sunrise!
+ We were both kind of upset he had gotten there so crazy early with absolutely nothing to do except wait around. Would’ve been much better to just start the tour later and have less time at the top!
+ Rode the van back into town, asked to be dropped off at the Fresh Fruit Factory that Liz had wanted to visit before we left.
+ We split a mango and passion fruit ice tower which was as heavenly as it sounds!
+ Got a tuk tuk back to our hotel and showered and changed.
+ Headed out to walk to a popular restaurant down the road which had nice cheap food and 50 cent draft beers. It was a family run restaurant and while eating we watched the young boy and girl play and fight with each other and act silly. We thought the kids were funny and the family was very nice to us. Liz got a curry dish served in a coconut! All for only 2 dollars! So delicious!
+ Later that night as we were walking back to the hotel, the family drove by in their tuk tuk and excitedly waved hello to us!
+ From there, we went to a massage parlor where Liz enjoyed a foot massage and had her nails re-touched with a much lighter (and better) pedicure. Corey had a back/neck/shoulders massage first and then the foot massage. It was great to get one last one in before we left SE Asia!
+ Went back to our room and packed up the bags and knocked out a very last minute to-do items we had on our checklist before we left Cambodia tomorrow! Then went to sleep around 2 am! It gets so late so fast!
10.5 hour bus ride to Bangkok and Flight to South Korea!
+ Although we were exhausted, we forced ourselves out of bed before 7 am once again to check out of our room and eat some breakfast. Maude and the guy at the hotel had been nice enough to agree to wake up and serve us breakfast early so we’d be finished eating in time to be picked up.
+ After we’d eaten, the shuttle truck picked us up and took us to the bus station. Then we boarded and were on our way to Bangkok by 8 am.
+ The leg space we had with our seats was enormous! The most space we’d had on a bus ever! Plus we had unlimited free water. Oh, the luxuries! We were glad we’d paid the extra $2/person for the “VIP” bus!
+ Everything went smoothly until we reached the border to cross into Cambodia. Then the huge delay combined with the unexpectedly long distance we’d have to walk put a damper on things. In Central and South America, we’d crossed borders overland many times and knew what to expect and were organized and ready.
+ Somehow, this was the first time we’d cross any borders overland in Asia and we had our bags in the travel sacks so they didn’t get dirty/messed up underneath the bus. Unfortunately we ended up having to walk almost a mile through the scorching sun while weaving around people, carts, animals, and cars in the street and sidewalk. Carrying the bags this way was much, much worse. By the time we arrived at the customs office, we were both drenched with sweat!
+ Thankfully the large immigration room had nice cold A/C blasting. Unfortunately, there was a crazy long line that we ended up waiting in for over 90 minutes. To make matters worse, when we finally exited, there was a torrential downpour outside that soaked us on the way to the bus. Oh, the joys of traveling cheaply!
+ Back on the bus, we completed the journey (mostly), with only a quick 20 minute break for lunch along the way.
+ Since the bus dropped us off on the side of the highway (literally!), we had to split a taxi with another girl to get the rest of the way to the airport. That was a fun surprise. But Corey is an expert haggler so he got the taxi driver down to a good price.
+ At the airport, we hung out for a few hours waiting for the check-in gate to open. To our dismay, there were no priority pass lounges on the land side at this airport so we had to pay for food! It was ok though because the Korean fried chicken we got (in honor of our upcoming flight) was delicious!
+ When we’d made it past the excruciatingly slow woman running our security checkpoint line, we headed to the lounge where we relaxed and enjoyed some free food and drinks until it was time to board the flight to Seoul, South Korea.
+ Finally departed Southeast Asia about 10 minutes after midnight.
+ On the flight, Liz went to sleep while Corey watched the movie “Arrival” and then got a few precious hours of sleep himself.
Free Day Tour around Seoul and Enjoying the wonderful Incheon Airport!
+ Arrived at Incheon airport in Seoul, South Korea at 7:30 am. We were both very tired due to another night of very little sleep.
+ Booked a free (!) transit tour and ate some Krispy Kremes donuts downstairs for breakfast!
+ Met our tour guide and our surprisingly large group (25 people!) headed outside to the bus.
+ Rode 1 hour into downtown Seoul. Our guide’s name was Nikki and she was really (sometimes inadvertently) funny!
+ Went to Changdeokgung Palace. Pretty palace that served important roles in history.
+ Lots of ladies walking around in traditional Korean dresses that were very unique and pretty. This really made the Asian atmosphere real!
+ Next we went to Insa-dong Street where there were fun shops and street food.
+ Saw a performance from a bunch of drummers dancing in a circle. They had the funniest hats we’ve ever seen! Huge poof balls on some and others had really long ribbons that they expertly twirled around in circles!
+ Ate some authentic Korean lunch. Liz had bulgogi and Corey had kimchi.
+ Then we walked around for 45 minutes and saw lots of funny things. Met a group of students doing a survey about traditional games. We were really skeptical at first because of SE Asia and thinking they’d want money, but no! They were just friendly and we all took a picture together afterwards!
+ Took a look at a food stall making “Honey Sweet Dragon Beard” desserts. Made with honey and corn starch and twisted over and over again into really thin fibers, just like cotton candy! They started with 1 strand and twisted it until it was 16,000 strands! We got to try a free sample!
+ We all boarded back onto the bus and rode the 90 minutes back to the airport. Corey asked Nikki lots of questions and using the bus microphone, she answered them and told us lots of funny stories about her personal life and Koreans in general!
+ We both took a small nap on the ride back. Back at the airport, we opted against going on another free tour to visit a cave since it involved 2.5 hours of driving and only 20 minutes of actually being inside of the cave!
+ Turned out to be the best decision ever because the Incheon airport is amazing! There were so many cool things to do!
+ First we watched a K-Pop Boy Band perform live on stage doing a bunch of break dancing and even beat-boxing! A fun experience that we were looking to see but not quite as exciting as the ones we’d seen on TV and Youtube! One of the dancers was even named Jamez!!! Literally!
+ Upstairs we got to try 3 different virtual reality machines! One was a drumming experience where Corey rocked out like a beast! The next was being in the front row at a Psy concert! And the last was going around in a car and hot air balloon at the Korean island of Jeju! So awesome!
+ This floor of the airport even had a free sleeping lounge and place you could shower for free too! Plus a ton of free charging stations located all around the airport! How neat!
+ Now starving, we both headed into an airport lounge to get some free food and drinks! They had a pretty good selection of everything and for the next few hours, we enjoyed the yummy eats and even the free soda fountain and draft beer we could pour ourselves!
+ Finally around 7:50pm we left the lounge and headed downstairs to our gate and boarded the flight to Honolulu, Hawaii! We were super excited to not only visit a place we’d always dreamed about going to, but to be back on U.S. soil for the first time since 2015!!!
+ On the flight Liz watched Zookeeper’s Wife and Corey watched the movie Sleepless (pretty ironic considering how sleepless we’d been the past few days)! Then we ate the free meal from Asiana Airlines and went to sleep!
9/2 – Again (second time after crossing the international date line!)
Arriving in Honolulu, Hawaii and Meeting Odie!
+ For some reason, the stewardesses woke us up more than 2 hours before touching down to eat breakfast. Then we were unable to go back to sleep. The stewardesses eventually came around with moisturizing sheet masks for our faces. We applied these to our face and then the stewardess had a small bowl of water and a paint brush which they used to make the mask stick. After about 15 minutes of wearing these, the crew was coming around and taking pictures of some passengers smiling happily with their face masks. We were more than happy to oblige!
+ Another benefit of waking up early was we got to watch the incredible scenery outside of the plane as we approached the islands! We were even allowed to move to the other side of the plane before landing to see the descent into O’ahu!
+ Despite leaving Korea at 8:30 pm on the 2nd and flying for 8 and a half hours, when we landed in Honolulu at 10:30 am on the 2nd! How is that possible! Mind-blowing! (Hint: We know it’s because we crossed the international dateline, but it’s more fun to pretend it’s magic!).
+ For the first time in over 20 months, we were back in the United States! Crazy!
+ Thankfully our bags made it as well and after putting our SIM cards in our phones for the first time since we’d left home, we contacted Carol, the homeowner we would be housesitting for.
+ Carol picked us up at the airport with Odie in the backseat! On the way back to her house, we made a pit stop at McDonalds and grabbed some food. We ordered the dollar sodas and were handed these mammoth sized cups! We both giggled. It was comical since everyone always jokes about the portion sizes in America and here it was smacking us in the face in the very first hour of being in the country! It was great though since Liz got to fulfill her Dr. Pepper fountain soda craving she’d had for so long!
+ At the house, Carol showed us all around the property and gardens and we moved our stuff into the condo unit we would be staying in. We also got to meet the cute little jack russell/bulldog mix we’d be watching over named Odie!
+ We thought we’d be staying in their house, but it turned out they were moving us into one of their rental units that was unoccupied. Although it was still very, very nice, we were both a little bummed we wouldn’t be in their place that had some nicer features (like A/C, an oven, and incredible balcony views!). It was still extremely nice though so we focused on the positive: A free place to stay in Hawaii for a month!
+ We had the afternoon to ourselves so Liz took a nap while Corey watched the first half of the FSU vs. Alabama game. We’d made it into America and in front of a cable television just in time for football season to start! Hooray!
+ Once John got back to the house, he showed us some more stuff to do with the property and then we all piled into the car so they could drive us around to some different areas nearby. First we saw a really pretty state park that offered a great hiking trai, and then some different areas around town.
+ For dinner, they took us to an Italian restaurant that was delicious and served huge portions. Thankfully they were nice enough to pay for us since I think Liz and I were both a little shell-shocked at the price difference compared to where we’d just come from! Were we in Switzerland again!?
+ Back at the house,we said goodnight and retreated back to our room where we each promptly passed out into bed. Horizontal sleep for the first time in about 72 hours! And more than 4 hours straight for the first time in about 5 or 6 days! Wow!