It’s 2015…already? #You’veBeenWarned

สวัสดี
S̄wạs̄dī-ha  (Thai)

ជំរាបសួរ
chomreabsuor (Khmer)

Beautiful greetings from two beautiful counties and peoples.

Happy New Year to all! We certainly had the most memorable Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s to date. We missed family and celebrating this time of year with people we love and if if makes you feel better…it didn’t really feel like the holidays? We went to a Christmas gala-complete with Trees, santa, etc…but it was hot. That’s weird. New Year’s was ok…that’s always spent with friends or with just us, but Christmas. That was weird. It kind of feels like I skipped the holiday almost…even though it was all around. That’s ok. I’ll save that one for my family 🙂

We made it home safely from our 15 day vacation. We are very fortunate to have these opportunities, and I am thankful that I am able to experience, and report, on our travels. Now that that’s out of the way… the good stuff!

I have no idea how to write this entry. It will be way too long to try to do in one write. Luckily I kept my journal with me and every couple days wrote down information that I could write about since I figured I’d forget something along the way. December 23 feels like a lifetime ago already.

So, for now, I will outline our trip and see where the wind takes me!

We left Nagoya on December 23 and after a wonderful 6 hour plane ride (though I will say my ears have never popped sooo badly before) we arrived in Bangkok. We then connected via plane to Phuket island where we secured ferry travel for the next day, and a taxi to our hotel for the night. The next morning, we are picked up by ferry transfer and begin our 2 hour boat ride through the Andaman Sea from Phuket to Phi Phi island. From there, we caught the 10 minute long boat (courtesy of the hotel) to our villa on Long Beach.
We stayed here for 2 days, caught the longboat back to the ferry, took the ferry back to Phuket, and stayed there for 2 more nights at the same hotel from the first night.

After Phuket, we flew back to Bangkok to ring in the New Year. We stayed in one area of town, called udumsuk 58-a chic little area for 2 nights in a brand new condo we found on airbnb. Then, we went closer into downtown right near the skytrain and about 4 stops from the river, in a place for 3 nights…although we found new lodging after night 1. More on that later. We spent two more nights up the street a bit in a better (for us) area where we rang in the new year with old and new friends!

On 2 January, we left Bangkok for Siem Reap, Cambodia. We were picked up by the hotel and stayed in this amazing new hotel for one night (should have been all 3) and then transferred to another guesthouse via airbnb for the next 2 nights. We left Siem Reap, headed back to Bangkok to catch our flight back to Nagoya…arriving home safely at 6am on 7 January!

So, that was our trip 🙂

For now…Sayanara!

Ok, not really. You would kill me if that’s where I left it! I know better. I think from here I will do a post for each country…maybe city? Eeek!!!

I will start with a map. That’s a good place to start.
The first is Bangkok to Phuket and then you see Phuket to Koh Phi Phi Don islands. The second map is a larger version of Phuket to Phi Phi. Tiny blip of islands on the grand scheme…but oooh so worth it. We took the ferry to and from the islands. It’s amazing…the view, not the ferry.
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It’s a bird…no, it’s a plane…it’s…a plane. 

Traveling by plane in Asia is really great. The airlines are wonderful and I have to go on a moment about food service, and service in general. Japan is as always amazing in efficiency, service, and quality. Japan airlines is no different from others I have experienced to and from Japan recently. You can generally count on your plane not being delayed, and if it is, I am sure it’s because of another country. But, the airport isn’t my discussion point. It’s the plane, and service on the plane. When you get on a plane, they immediately bring by warm (washed, scented) hand towels. It’s refreshing, smells good, and cleans your hands. Japan is keen on this last part. It’s lovely. Then, your entertainment can start immediately…where others you have to wait to be in the air. Good movie selection, music, and games if that’s your interest. Me, it’s movies. All the way. I enjoy finding popular Hollywood movies (and a part of me is looking for movies that I can’t find in Japan) and some not Hollywood brand movies. The leg space is more as well. This might just be an international thing, but the legroom is a big deal. Paul has long legs and he appreciates the extra space…me, I like to cross my legs or prop them up some how and that’s doable on these. Beverage service is quick and varied as well. And food. Did you know, that on every flight we had…even the 45 min -1 hr flights…we had a full meal? They were good too. I love having real food! On the flight to and from Japan we had immediate service with rice snacks and drinks and a full meal half-way through. Dinner there, breakfast back. They also walk up and down the aisles with hot coffee and tea to pour you throughout your flight. They are welcoming and helpful. I love flying in Asia! Did I mention that?

Customs and immigration were all really breezy. No problems or delays. Thankful for that! We had to print out our Cambodian visas in Bangkok, but again, easy breezy. The longest wait we had was leaving Cambodia. They couldn’t check us in early (well, we did get there at 12 for a 730 flight) so we waited in the small check-in area for 5.5 hours. We had ac, food, toilets and wifi, so we were good. With Bangkok airways you get boutique lounge service so once we checked in, we waited out the remaining time in the lounge with snacks and drinks. Comfy chairs, and quiet. All planes in this airport and walk-on planes, meaning walking onto the tarmac (no buses) and climbing up and down stairs to get in. Kind of liked that. Seeing the planes up close.

On the way back to Japan we had a new plane, and it was high tech! Improved headrests include a pillow-ish head rest that is bent on the sides so you have a place to prop your head. Genius! And, instead of a pull-down screen for the window….they had buttons for a tinted window. That was unique. Just overall enjoyed the newness and cleanliness of a new plane. The view was also amazing. Flying at night, the full moon was just outside my window. It was a clear night, so seeing the stars above, ground below…the lighting just right…I felt like I was in space. I have always wanted to travel into space, even toyed with the idea of being an astronaut just to go about it. This is the closest feeling I have of what it would be like. It looked so surreal. Beautiful and of course, couldn’t get a picture to come out 😦
I have posted pictures to do with anything about planes!

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welcome to Bangkok!                                             Very full meal on Japan Airlines

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Lunch on the plane to Phuket                               Our plane from Cambodia
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Swanky new plane…with cool headrests and the window tint button.
Don’t get me started on the bathrooms!

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port, Aboard this tiny ship.

Well, some were tiny, others not. Traveling by water. I love it. From ferry to longboat, this section is all about boats!
The Ferry:  We had two different ferry rides, the first being the better. It was a bit nicer, and the crew came around offering coffee, tea, and muffins. The seats weren’t as comfortable and we were packed in, but again. Nicer, newer looking. We spent about 2.5 hours on this boat, and I didn’t venture outside as it was windy and wet. We sat next to a large group of Asians…not sure from where who took a gazillion selfies. Including Paul and I…several times. We are gracing someone’s facebook page as we speak. The ferry on the way back from PhiPhi was older and bigger, but we had a row of seats to ourselves and they were more comfy. It was a bit scary at first because as we depart PhiPhi we realize how close we are to another ferry boat. We weren’t going very fast but still…closer closer…what’s happening? Why aren’t one of the boats turning away? As I clutch the seat rest…and maybe Paul’s arm…we see men on deck with ropes…and realize oh, they meant to do that. The other boat must be having problems because they tied our boats together, anchored, and moved everyone from their boat, onto ours. Interesting.

Long tail boats: These are lovely rides! They are hybrid canoes that are wooden, really long, and have this strange motor. The motor and propeller are about 6-10 feet long and they have handles and cords to manoeuvre the motor. They take it completely out of water to slow down and turn. And it moves in about 270 degrees in both directions. They can be bumpy, but you are really close to the water. It was beautiful riding in one from the dock to our hotel as the water was crystal clear and it was breezy. Equally beautiful but slightly more terrifying was the 3 hour tour we took across the Adaman sea to another island. This water, was dark blue (meaning deep!) and choppy. Really choppy. I was equally nervous and exhilarated on this ride. Each little bay/cove we went in I was able to jump off and snorkel my day away. Paul stayed on board and took pictures. He’s not the snorkeling type. Doesn’t like the salt water in his eyes/nose. I totally don’t mind it. And, it’s a bit different than the Atlantic or the Gulf coast. Can’t explain it. This tour gave us lovely views of an island that’s uninhabited except for tourists. I believe Maya Bay, the most populated beach of the tour, is where they filmed The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio. There are caves to snorkel in (wow) and reefs to explore (again, wow)-I was very much at home in this ethereal water world. Can’t wait to explore more islands!

We took a very different long boat ride down a river in Bangkok. Here, the water was dirty and I was terrified to get some on me! It was a great place to see temples and the way people lived. Some nice places, some shacks. People throwing trash into the river…literally, as we sat there. Emptying a bucket of trash, like their own personal service. Floating markets, where women on canoes filled to the brim with cheap wares to sell. I told Paul I felt like we were on a Greek quest…and these women reminded me of some siren or monster to purchase from before we were allowed to cross. They came out of the shadows, clung on to the boat with expertise..”lady you buy this, real cheap, real nice. Man, you need fan? You need hat?…” I can keep going. This also was a terrifying experience not only in going down a dirty river, but when we got off the boat at the pier by the palace, we pulled right up to the dock…which was about 4 feet higher than our boat. It was really choppy here too as it was a main river and not a canal and barges were going by. They told us to get off…and I am like, here? Paul managed to get off first and pulled me up where I landed on my knees and nearly lost my shoes! It was breezy though and we saw more of the city and life in that hour than we would have walking. The public ferry was another, cheaper option but glad we didn’t attempt that. They were packed like sardines and it looked hot and crowded. Not for us. Private boat (with 2 other couples) was the way to go!

Please see pictures below of all things water and boat!

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The ferry to Phi Phi                            on the ferry…here we go!
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You can see the “captains” of our long tail in the back….hello gorgeous! The water I mean.

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The above pictures are all on the way from the dock to our “hotel” on long beach. Our villa is the last one on right…at the top most.
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Pictures of the docking area, and welcome to Phi Phi, and other boats.
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another gorgeous photo/view of our stretch of beach on the tip of the island
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The above pictures are all from our private tour around the island. Our tour guide was great and the water, jungle, sky, it was all just more than I can describe. I saw so many animals on the reef-ones I had only seen in pictures and some in person, but never in a natural habitat. 

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These pictures start our tour in Bangkok.

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Shacks on the left. We saw a LOT of these on our canal trip, and this wasn’t even a fraction of the river. Floating market on the right.
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We saw loads of temples from the river which is a great way to see them. There are too many to see in a trip anyway, and even though they are all very special, they are similar. These temples are old, but all are currently practicing temples. It was nice to get a glimpse of them. This last picture os one of the packed ferries we could have taken for cheaper. Not worth it to me!

Tuk Tuk and Taxi

I don’t have much to say about these other than tuk tuk’s in cambodia are much easier to use than in Bangkok. In Thailand they hassle and hustle you. They try to really overcharge, then take you places you didn’t ask to go. Though they are easier to use in the city…they can go around other cars for example…not worth it to me in Bangkok. In Cambodia, they offer a fair price and are very nice. One driver helped me into the tuk tuk and said, “Thank you for visiting my country and for giving me work, I hope you enjoy my people.” He was great and even if it was a ploy, he got a large tip. I don’t think it was…the people in Cambodia were amazing and some of the most genuine and helpful people I have ever met. They live in poverty, but are so very gracious. Over all, tuk tuk’s are fun to ride in. They can go around cars and pass slow traffic. They can be bumpy, but are quite quick. In Cambodia the side roads and and paths along the paved roads are dusty so sometimes scarves are necessary to cover your nose! Paul has some great video of our rides in both Bangkok and Siem Reap. You may have to ask him to send you a video link, or check his vines if you want to see those.
Taxis were good and mostly cheap as well. In Phuket the hotel people called and negotiated taxis for us when we wanted to tour or go downtown. We used them a lot in Bangkok as it was preferable to tuk tuks-though you have to secure a price ahead of time (like on the way to the airport we agreed to 400 baht) or make sure they turn the meter on. We didn’t have anyone cabby try to cheat us, which is nice. But, as stories go, they will pretend to turn on the meter, then charge you whatever they want. No worries for us. The same goes for tuk tuks, though they don’t have a meter. You should agree on a price before hand. Easy peasy.

Trains-we did take the trains in Bangkok. That was handy to go several blocks rather than sit in traffic…because, the traffic there is terrible. Picture to follow!

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Tuk Tuk in Bangkok who tried to take us where we didn’t want to go…then didn’t take us to the train station like we agreed…so we got out and attempted to find a taxi. Seems like on this particular block they were all used! Oh well, finally made it back. This type of tuk tuk is all attached. In Cambodia, they were more like chariots pulled by motorcycles or scooters.
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Tuk tuk in Siem Reap. Paul has more photos as I deleted most of mine. Going to fast for a good photo anyway.

What’s for dinner?

This was pretty much uttered at couple hours…replace dinner with breakfast, lunch, snacks…your choice. It’s not surprise…we like to EAT and this part of the world serves up delicious eats. I will mostly just post pictures of food…so at least they have a place to belong. There are some memorable moments though.
1) Christmas Eve gala-HUGE amounts of buffet food- freshly cooked meats and seafood which we all appreciate. Salads, pastas, desserts, fruit, bread, land and sea meats, drinks-it was amazing. This gala dinner was on Christmas eve at our villa in Phi Phi. They went all out with shows, games, music, traditional dance and modern as well. Our service was smart, gifts grand (wonderful smelling elephant candles), and just very doted on. We had better be for what we paid for two nights…won’t go there. But, it was very much worth it. The Beach villas was worth it and I will elaborate more later. Back to food.
2) The Blue Elephant-Bangkok-Thai born but grew up in Paris chef creates fusion and traditional Thai dishes. Elaborate and delish! A bit pricy…lunch was about 75 US but worth it! People kept saying “just eat the street food” but honestly…not for us. Some smelled wonderful, others disgusting. Some were clean looking, others, I think it was there for 2 days. Some were in clean areas, others, a pile of trash with rats crawling around was the scenery next to the stand. We ate at maybe 2 the whole time…opting for 711 sandwiches over unidentifiable smells when necessary.  Anyway, Blue Elephant has a cooking school as well, but they wanted waay too much money per person for a class, so we just ate, had drinks, and went on our way. A beautiful old home was the setting, and high class was the style. So worth it!
3) Cooking class in Cambodia-this Khmer class was exciting as it was personal too. Our chef took us through the local market, which was an experience on its own. Similar is awe factor as the fish market in Tokyo, submerging in this daily part of life leaves an impression. Women sitting on tables shucking things, scaling fish, chopping off fish heads, making fresh fish paste and curry pastes…there were live seafood, dead seafood, chickens, and fruit, veggies…flowers. This was just the food stalls. Narrow, smelly (in some areas, others the food prepared was delightful), and wet. I had a mind to wash my feet afterwards because I had no clue what was splashing around. Kids running through the stalls-and I said narrow. So narrow, that the vendors  (mostly women), hop barefoot (After kicking off their shoes) onto the table and sit on small stools in the table center with their wares spread around them. Back to back with other vendors. It was intense. After the market, we went back to the restaurant where we began cooking the dishes we each requested to prepare. I made fresh chicken spring rolls and a traditional Khmer chicken dish with bok choy. Paul made Banana leaf salad and fried chicken. The poor chef tried talking him out of the fried chicken, but you know Paul. It was the easiest dish, so she gave in. LOL.

Overall the food in all places was really good. Paul had some questionable moments with chicken from time to time, but that’s part of the culinary journey in new countries. Pictures below!
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First night in Phuket. The hotel recommended this place down the street. Very fresh-
amazing rice and woooee the spicy basil rice! 


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Ate lunch here a couple times on Phi Phi by our hotel. Blue Moon restaurant was delightful.
The pad thai was a little bland, but it was still good. The drink is called a Buddha Bay and it’s
amazing! Coconut creme/milk, Kelly’s (which is like Baileys), white rum, and maybe something else?
These were cheap and I had too many to count in 2 days. I miss them. Best drink I have EVER had.
Lots of fresh fruit to eat too and dining on the beach is nice.

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Not even all of the buffet food pictures. I tried to take more, but I was too hungry! From the Christmas Gala.

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Curry, coconut juice (straight from the source)-another Blue Moon Lunch.

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Back at Phuket-we went down town to the old town and had dinner and drinks. Ribs and weird apple and shrimp salad (not a fan) and I had cashew chicken. This is a pina colada…and it’s not very good. But, it had alcohol so it worked. LOL.
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One of the best ice coffees Phuket had to offer!

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Dinner and drinks in Bangkok now! Went to a mall for shopping (found shoes for Paul!!!), a movie and dinner. Malls are really the place to be for all entertainment lol. Wine I love you is a restaurant we found and it was so good. I had a lovely ginger, apple juice and red wine drink. Can’t recall it’s name. And a thai/mexican style quesadilla.

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This cider is the BEST I have ever had. SO, on this trip two of the best beverages I have ever had. It’s toffee apple from England and I have already emailed them to inquire about international shipping.

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Another place, called Hemmingway’s in Bangkok-opposite end of town from our first 2 nights. Delish food. We shared fajitas and I also had a trio of dips and vegetable chips (hummus, tzatziki, and olive tapenade). And some love faces from Paul.

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pina colada-better than the last one.

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Complementary appetizer- corn salad and a crispy rice chip with minced chicken. Yum.
Our ordered appetizer…chicken and beef satay. Oh yea.

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Vegetable Pad thai and massaman curry with lamb. What I didn’t realize is that you should put sugar, not salt, on your pad thai. Here, I always wondered why sugar kept coming out with hot sauce, and oils. Huh. It was good!

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Dessert sampler. Coconut ice cream was the star. Bananas were ok, the coconut flan was perfect, the cheesecake was gross (thanks to some fruit we hate)…and the restaurant from the train station

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Cambodia fruit and food! Spiky red is a rambuten. Very good! Kind of like a grape. Khmer salad with pork from our hotel our first night. We had a complementary dinner which included salad, two dinners, and dessert. 

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Cocktails are only 3.00 US here, so we enjoyed these yummy banana chips as we enjoyed the breeze outside.
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Hamburger at yellow submarine on pub street in siem reap 
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Banana leaf salad at Angkor kitchen during our tour of Angkor wat (wat means temple).

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The pictures from our cooking class. Dessert was a banana and passion fruit flambe with whiskey as well as a selection of local fruit we picked up from the market. The only thing here to really mention other than food was great was using the mortar and pestle to grind up everything you see on the chopping board to make our curry paste. Didn’t even realize that the lemon grass is what really makes this bind for a paste.

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A cute cappuccino from the airport in Cambodia.

Sleep, eat, sleep some more!

We stayed at a variety of hotels and guest rooms. Some brilliant, some-well, not for us.

Phuket: We landed in Phuket and were guided to Sleep Room which I thought was someone’s spare bedroom, but ended up being a small cluster of rooms owned by a travel agency. It was a large room, great AC and a bathroom that was clean. It was funny though because the toilet and shower were the same stall! No breakfast or transfers to this place, but when we arrived late the little old man who was sleeping on the sofa was there to show us our room and give us the keys. Very kind. We were up and out early as we had to catch the shuttle to the ferry.

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Phi Phi: We accidentally booked a hotel on booking.com for $500 a night for 2 nights…ya, do the math. It was totally worth it though! We had shuttle via long tail boat from the ferry dock. When we arrived, we were a bit early to check in so they kept our bags and we went to Blue Moon for lunch. By the time we finished eating, our room was ready. The small area was full in swing for dinner gala preparations which were included in our hotel room fee. The villas were up a steep hill, like, 3 steep hills, so we had to take the truck to get there. When we entered our room, it was like a little honeymoon suite. Cute, all wood, great views. There was an outdoor shower with views looking into the jungle and the ocean. The toilet was in it’s own room this time 🙂 The bed was beautifully decorated and very comfortable. And the balcony with lounge chairs…the best part. Stunning views! We were at the top of the cliff on the end. Instead of neighbors on both sides, one side was jungle. Lovely birds and monkey sounds helped keep the peaceful mood. There were snacks and drinks in the fridge that were included in our price. We quickly changed into swimming things and called the truck to come take us down-and we spent the afternoon drinking on the beach. I got snorkeling gear and spent a couple hours in my own world exploring the gorgeous reef and rocks at our beach. Dinner started at 7, so we came back around 4 for a needed nap. We had this lovely little message in a bottle as our ticket into the gala as others on the island could show up and pay to get in. When we arrived, it was warm and breezy. The perfect night to be outside. We turned in our bottle and got two cute elephant candles as a thank you. They now adorn our bookshelves! We were ushered in and found a table, near the food of course! There was music pumping and a huge stage set up and decorated. It was a great atmosphere! We had so much to drink…literally. Our ticket included 4 beers and wine or something like that-we didn’t drink it all. Food was too good! We stayed until about 10:30-eating, watching a magic show, traditional Thai dances, and other silly and interesting things. It was a lovely evening and glad we were able to attend. The next morning we had breakfast (included) and hung out on the beach for a while. I tried to get scuba diving certification but one group was booked and the other heading on vacation…next time! We had lunch at the Blue Moon again, I got a wonderful massage while Paul napped. Around 3 we signed up for the private long tail boat tour around another island. You’ve seen those pictures already if you looked up top! It was a perfect afternoon. That night we had room service and just relaxed. We sadly checked out the next morning, were given another gift-post cards from the beach! Grabbed our long tail back to the pier, took the ferry back to Phuket, and went back to sleep room, the first hotel we stayed in.

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Phuket-Sleep Room-nothing really interesting happened for the next two days. We walked around our little rural area. Had some yummy street food noodles, grabbed a milkshake and a sandwich made by an Estonian family who has been living there for 2 years. Decided to move to the tropics and they sell food out of their home via little tables on their stoop. The kids make the milkshake right there for you. It was cute. Great conversation. It was sooo hot though-not near enough the water and just, hot. Didn’t stay outside much.That night we took another arranged taxi into the old town for dinner. We walked to a night market but the area smelled so bad that we left. Next day Hotel people arranged a private taxi for us-I think a friend of theirs as we had a sweet ride that was most definitely not a taxi…but it had ac and the guy, Chang, was nice. He took us to the Wat Chalong, an important temple on the island. It was hot, but gorgeous. The temples in Thailand are glittery. There will be more about temples later. We then went to a large mall-shopped, ate, explored-hung out in the ac…important cultural things! That night a shuttle picked us up for our Fantasea night. It was considered a cultural theme park-after arrival we could walk around, buy things of course, they had a silly tour where you walked through a store, went behind some rocks, walked around a corner, saw a glittery fairy thing, walked up a staircase and into a gallery with real white tigers. Interesting…the tigers looked sad 😦 I hope they get outdoors sometime. Then we went to take pictures with the elephants, got to play and feed two smaller young ones. Very cute and curious. And their trunk hair is like facial whiskers. Not as soft as I thought they would be!
We could have taken an elephant ride…but I had reservations. Not about actually riding one, it would have been amazing, but more or less concerned if it’s “right” to ride elephants. Mixed reviews and emotions, so I opted to just feed them. After that we had our buffet dinner, which was just ok. It was food and had ac, so it worked. My favorite thing about the night was dressing up in the traditional royal outfits and taking pictures! It was cheap too, and I stood there while 5 or 6 ladies put jewellery one me, crows, skirts, everything. I loved playing dress-up!!! I wish Paul would have done it too, but he was too hot. The show was silly, but had great pyro effects, dancing, music, elephant show-they even stood on each other’s back in a row! Trapeze artists did a cool black light dance above our heads…neat night. Next day we were out early again to catch a plane to Bangkok.

Bangkok-Condo-we stayed for 2 nights at a condo near Sukhumvit area, called Udomsuk 58. Our condo had a great pool, washing machine (day 7…time to do laundry-after all, we both only took one bookbag for our whole trip!)…comfortable bed and living area. Close by we were able to have drinks at this neat outdoor bar area with several choices, great music, and the temperature went breezy again. Found breakfast the next morning, walked around a bit to see the area, spent time at the pool while Paul did laundry-that night, went to the big mall nearby for dinner, shopping and a movie. We ate at Wine I love You-very good food and atmosphere. We had drinks at Beerosophy101 where Paul drank a beer at 21% alcohol and I had the best Toffee apple cider ever. We shopped, finding Paul 2 pairs of shoes! WooHoo!!! That’s a big deal since we have been looking everywhere in Japan with no luck. We then saw Night at the Museum. Cute movie. Wanted to see Hunger Games movie but it’s banned in Thailand. Bummer 😦 Tell you why later. Next day, grabbed a taxi to our next guest room.

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Bangkok-WoodHouse-Meh! We stayed here for one night, supposed to be 3 nights. It was in an ok location near the skytrain, but not walking distance to anything else we were interested in, which was a problem. It was also down an ally street that was far from the main road, no problem accept it was hot and it was a long walk. There were street venders there too, and the food smelled. It was also a muslim neighborhood, which really only is a problem because of the loud speakers on the poles blaring prayer mostly all day and into the night…and early morning. The house itself was like a hostel I guess…common room for everyone but maybe about 4 or 5 private rooms (unlike most hostels). The bed was hard, the pillows were harder, the ac worked well, it was too dark-and the bathroom. Ugh, it was like someone crappily enclosed the small balcony and turned it into a bathroom. The toilet was underneath the shower head, and it was hot…and it smelled like sewage and the dirty river. We went out that day and night, touring, eating, boat tour, Blue elephant, tuk tuk, gorgeous temple…and we got home around midnight and already had booked a hotel for the next 2 nights. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been….but not for us. So, we checked out early…even though it was paid for already ($30 a night or something)-oh well.

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Bangkok-Windsor Suites-Great! We booked here 1) because our friend Sylvia and her hubby were there, and 2) they had space for new years eve and day. It had a pool. And, it was in a better area for us. We checked in early, and luckily they let us up early if we took the twin bed room, which they pushed together. Worked for me! Took a legit shower in a huge bathroom, sprawled out on the lovely bed for a few minutes, then hit the pool. We had lunch at Hemingways,  went shopping and walked around a bit. That night we had dinner at a gastropub called “No Idea”-for real. Great food and drinks. We then went to Denny’s bar where we met up with Sylvia and crew. I will make a separate NYE post later. Next day we slept in, ate, spent time by the pool, ate some more (I honestly can’t remember…). I think we walked to a place for brunch, but it was closed so found another yummy place. Maybe shopped some more. That night went to a German restaurant which was delightful.  Met Sylvia and them for breakfast the next morning and then headed to the airport with a race car taxi driver-Record time he says. OOKKK Paul approved which meant he was going fast. On to Cambodia!

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Cambodia-Siem Reap-Diamond D’Angkor-OMG-this was an amazing hotel! They emailed me a couple days before to make sure they had my arrival time. We were greeted by our driver-he had a sign with our name and everything) and escorted to our car. I was shocked…it was an American style! I have gotten so used already to driving on the right side of the car, on the left lane and in Cambodia, where US$ is King, traveling is also American style. It was weird, Paul claims it felt normal. Anyway, when we got to the car we both had a gorgeous bouquet of lotus flowers and a bottle of water waiting for us. We arrived at the hotel, and was greeted out front by the staff. We checked in, paid our bill (thank you Booking.com), and were escorted to our room. We were also given a cell phone with various numbers in case we needed them! Here, we had fresh fruit waiting and a full fridge, again included in price. We scheduled our dinner, which was included in the room price as well (that was a surprise!). Dinner was delish. It was late, so we went to bed early…but the room was amazing. The shower head was a full sun burst…star burst type shower head. It streamed right down and was heavenly. The hotel is new-a boutique hotel. One of 200 something in the tiny town. They are popping up like crazy! We had our included breakfast which was also nom nom. Then, we had our personal car, courtesy of the hotel, to take us around the temples. We spent 7 hours driving and hiking and getting bits of information from our driver. They did our laundry while we were gone…and even though we had sadly checked out…they even insisted on giving us a room to shower and driving us to our next hotel. They were amazing! I wish we had stayed there…

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Siem Reap-Pool and Palm-This place seemed like an old family house-quite a bit of land that was all fenced in by a large stone fence. There was a lovely pool, and it was cheap. This is what pulled us in I am sure. Another airbnb with good reviews…our room was another wooden room within a small house. We had a living room area and our bedroom, which was next to another bedroom. No one was in there their first 2 nights. The pool and bar/restaurant was behind our room. The room itself had a double bed and a twin bed, a good ac, a terrible tv-and the bathroom, though large, was hot and had a terrible shower drizzle. The room had a small window above the shower that had a screen on it, but mosquitoes still came in. We kept the bathroom door shut all the time. Other than that, the place was fine. We kept talking about going to another hotel, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the other one we did leave. The family who owns the place is kind and kept making sure we were satisfied. We had a tuk tuk to take us into town when we wanted, but had to get one to take us back. It was just far enough that we needed a ride not walk. We went into town and had burgers at the rooftop of the yellow submarine (and more drinks….at 3.00 a pop)…walked around town and went back. Spent time at the pool the next day, did more shopping, did the cooking class, and found dinner and drinks at an Irish Pub. Our last day we spent time at the pool again, more visiting town, and a sunset visit of Angkor Wat, dinner in our room and a great night for our last one. We were up the next morning and at the airport where we spent 7 hours waiting to leave!

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Happy New Year! It’s 2015!

We are used to spending NYE just the two of us and most of our friends had kids and stayed in, and we opted not to spend a ton of money and adventure downtown ATL. Everyone now and then we would spend time with friends, but mostly, we rang in the new year just us. This year we thought it would be the same, just us, but downtown BKK. I was pleasantly surprised when Sylvia, a friend from work, invited us out to meet them at Denny’s bar. See, this is their 3rd year in BKK for NYE and they have traditionally spent time at Denny’s. It worked for us! It wasn’t quite on the beaten path, so it wasn’t nearly as crowded as other bars would have been. After dinner, we made our way there and got a great table. Waited a few minutes and the rest of the crew showed up. Along with Sylvia and Scot, were their friends from days in Cairo Georgie, Pete and Lawrence. IT was great getting to know them and we really enjoyed the night! Around midnight a man comes over asking if we were a flight crew (apparently that’s the area they are put up by airlines) since we were a large group. Nope we said, teachers. He was a pilot born in South Africa but living in Australia. We parted ways until Sylvia decided to extend the conversation on her own. Of course he was there with his copilot and through the talk asked where, when, blah blah blah…the usual conversation we have as international teachers. But this time…the difference is this guy’s family has a lot to do with NIS…it was a strange turn of events! They came over to join our table-we chatted, shared stories and drinks-the staff brought over noise makers and we 2, turned 7, turned 9 rang in the New Year together. It was a most outstanding evening as I had more fun making new friends than I would have thought perhaps. After that we ventured over to the nearest red light district (Street) which was way more fun than we were up for at 1 am…so after a quick walk through (and felling sorry for the sad old guys who stared hopefully at the young ladyboys (do they know they have men on their laps?) we went back to our room and passed out.

Thanks sylvia for some of the pictures and a top night!!!
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Wats (Temples)

I think I will just post pictures, and explain here and there. From http://www.phuket.com…
Wats – or Buddhist temples – are among the most important symbols of Thailand, partly because the majority of Thais are Buddhist and partly because they are so beautiful.

In Phuket alone, there are 29 Buddhist temples spread around the island. Wat Chalong has been extending a warm welcome to visitors for over a century.

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In the distance of this photo ^ you can see the big buddha. We didn’t go visit, but it kind of reminded me of the big Christ statue in Rio. Just a bit. It’s a new construction anyway…we like old!

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The temple glittered. Everything, like this three headed dragon/snake is covered in colored glass which makes it sparkle! And, this is a really cool bulstrade!
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Wat Pho-Bangkok

This is a huge compound with spires of glass and stones everywhere. Plus, the giant reclining buddha. We wanted to visit them wat inside the grand palace as well, but we never made it back. Too far from where we were staying and rather hot out too. I hear it is also amazing. Check out this link for detailed info about this wat:
http://bangkokforvisitors.com/ratanakosin/wat-po/

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Another small temple we stumbled upon…
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This is apparently a long boat used on the river for trade many a year ago…

Here is the palace walls and a giant standing buddha at night! It was massive. These old constructions are impressive!
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Now, the temples in Thailand were gorgeous. But the wats in Cambodia…the ancient ruins…those are also impressive. I loved that we could just wander through the temple grounds. Unless there was a don’t enter sign, and those were rare and due to reconstruction or dangerous something, we could walk anywhere. It was so cool just walking down the halls wondering what was there or what life was like. That’s one thing that I love so much about history. Walking through a sacred place, or an old place, and wondering what happened there. Who walked there before me? What was life like? Sometimes I wish that I had a superpower that allowed me to see what happened where I was in any time period I chose…kind of like what they did in the Guardians of the Galaxy if you’ve seen it. Anyway-we spent about 7 hours hiking that day. I can’t even count the number of sites we visited, but the area is huge and we spent about 20 minutes in one area, and 2 hours in another area, about 3o in another and 1 hour in the final. There is a lot to see. And oh the stairs! We got to climb up many towers but the stairs are narrow. And in some cases, we used the actual stone steps where were steep and worn away which made sliding easy. It was also hot! To be respectful I needed to be covered from knee to shoulder so that made it extra warm. I ended up wearing a scarf around my neck which actually cooled things off a bit. Go figure. We stopped for a snack after the 2nd hour and lunch after that. There were lots of venders offering food and souvenirs. The saddest part was all the children chasing cars and climbing into vans and tour buses trying to sell goods from their baskets. We came away with some goodies, but it’s heartbreaking seeing the poverty there and having to turn away from these kids. On to the pictures, because facebook only had a smattering of them! We went back to angkor wat the last day for sunset pictures. It was pretty incredible!
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Found pictures on Paul’s phone 🙂 These ok and thumbs up mean we survived our 7 hr journey in time 🙂
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The temples with all the vines is where Tomb Raider was filmed. Here is some info!
Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. Stretching over some 400 km2, including forested area, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. They include the famous Temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations. UNESCO has set up a wide-ranging programme to safeguard this symbolic site and its surroundings.

This info is from this link http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/668  visit to read more about the ancient Khmer empire and these temples!

I forgot to mention the King…Thais love their King…apparently at 8am and 6 pm daily they play the national anthem and take a moment of silence to revere and thank the King. Then, in the movie theatre after the long previews were over, and just when we think we can see the movie…finally…it says-please rise to honor his royal magesty, the King. Then, the national anthem starts playing and images on screen appear of the king, the queen, mostly the king…in action. During war, handing out food, all kids of things. Everyone stood, watched and/or sang, then bowed when it was over. The movie finally started.
Hunger games is apparently banned because they didn’t want to give the people an idea of rebellion? Some college students were arrested for giving the 3 finger salute in front of theaters when word came out it was banned. I think they were going to show it…then something happened and they yanked it. Not sure, but it’s certainly interesting. There are pictures and statures and glamour toward the king/queen everywhere. Interesting indeed! Cambodia has a king as well apparently, but no one mentioned him where we were.
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Well, this is certainly a long one and I’m sorry! I was afraid if I broke it up into several posts you would miss something! We certainly packed a lot into 15 days and I am so glad we went. We will definitely like to return to the beaches and islands of Thailand…and even some underrated beaches in Cambodia. Bangkok, it was nice, we shall not meet again. I hear Chang Mai is worth a visit. We shall see if northern Thailand makes the list. What’s next we are asked…who knows! We have some ski trips in mind to northern Japan in the future and then not sure where to next. All I know is I am so grateful for the chance to visit places and be able to say there is a next time and new adventure ahead. 2014 was a great year, and hoping 2015 is just as good, maybe better.

I leave you with random pictures and bid you farewell! Oh, and it’s good to be home! I missed Japan!

Until next time,
Sayonara
K + P

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The lower island is where we took our longboat tour

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Sunset at the bar on Phi Phi-the drivers of the boats were all playing hacky sack with some tourists. 

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Cat’s were all over the island. This one joined our breakfast table. Dogs ran wild all over Thailand and Cambodia. I mean, everywhere.

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Sweet elephants and those are a million koi fish.
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Glorious traditional food massage at the airport. Great use of 30 minutes and 15$. Strange flowers I keep seeing and my view of Paul from laying out on the ground.
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Just some things we brought home to decorate with 🙂
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One of a million or so King alters.
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Oreo flavors in Cambodia. Peanut butter, strawberry and blueberry ice cream. I’ll pass!
Welcome home sunrise from the train in Nagoya.
And nothing better than coming home to a mailbox full of Christmas cards! 🙂

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