It’s exciting to be able to write a blog on memories so fresh for my second H&D post. I’ve been back in Sydney two weeks today (as I write this) after spending the previous two weeks in Thailand & Cambodia.
This was my first time to South East Asia, but one I had anticipated for many years.. being a huge fan of the food.. and being Buddhist. I have always romanticized about a trip there, so what better reason to be going than for a wedding.
The first stop was Bangkok.. ‘hollor.. city of squalor’ as so famously put by Mr Chow in the Hangover II. And while there is no doubt about some of the ‘nightlife’, there is so much more to this Asian hub than that.
From temples, to shopping, to food…this is a most vibrant city and shares something I personally both adore and miss in all but the most captivating cities in the world – it has what I can only describe as a ‘buzz’. London has it, New York has it and Bangkok has it. You can feel it breathe. Its alive…and its infectious.
It is also a city of extremes – from one extreme to the other – the peace and tranquility of the temples to the hedonistic debauchery of Patpong & Sukhumvit Soi 23.
One of my best memories of Bangkok is watching the sunset from the cities highest bar – Vertigo Moon Bar – situated 61 floors up on the top of the Banyon Tree hotel, where in a little over 2 hours we spent over $100 on margaritas before heading back for some street food dinner which filled us splendidly for less $3 between us.
One final call out for Bangkok is Happy Bar, hidden away yet just off of the main strip of Khao San. It has a superb atmosphere – a definite reggae vibe – that makes this somewhere I definitely recommend if you are in the area.
Our next stop was Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. A completely different city to Bangkok, still madly busy but much less developed. We spent a quick night here before heading to the Cambodian coast to Sihanoukville (named after the recently deceased former king). This has to be one of my all time favorite beach resorts and I’ve been lucky enough to have been to some stunning beaches (for another blog)…
I won’t say too much and will let the pictures speak for themselves, however I will add that being present for a wedding ceremony and beach party afterwards in such a stunning location was definitely one of the trips highlights.
After a few days we headed back to Phnom Penh for the second wedding ceremony – this time a traditional Cambodian wedding – and as we drove the 4 hours back (a $65 cab ride!) I was very much reminded of Africa as we travelled through this developing country. It did amaze me how countries so far apart all still seem to develop in a similar fashion.
Here’s one of my friends Tani in a traditional wedding outfit.
The traditional wedding in Phnom Penh was beautiful, with an early start (7am) its something I feel hugely privileged to have experienced… though the break in the afternoon was very welcome and gave me time to fit in one final Cambodian massage ($8 for 90 minutes!!) before heading back for the evening reception.
I’m afraid I can’t re-collect too much, but a ride home at 3am after a night out clubbing in Phnom Penh on the back of a moped through the darkened streets was definitely a surreal and memorable experience.
Unwisely, we flew out the next day back to Koh Samui in Thailand and the Cambodian border guards summed up the Cambodian people beautifully – hugely friendly and welcoming, even to a severely hungover Englishman.
Our last stop was the Melati Hotel & Spa in Northern Samui for a few days rest & relaxation before heading home to Sydney.
Not often my favorite pastime while traveling, we spent our last few days lying in the sun by the pool, having massages.. and generally not exploring at all.. and after an amazing 10 days exploring it, this R&R was very well received.
To sum up the trip, South East Asia is everything I dreamed.. and I can’t wait to return
Standout points include amazing yet cheap massages, incredible mango smoothies (and food in general), and a hugely friendly and welcoming population. I will also add being in predominantly Buddhist cultures is always a soul-warming experience for me.
Any disappointments? Only one really – not having the time to explore the immense cultural (while difficult) past of Cambodia. However, I definitely plan on returning to do this.. and more of South East Asia as soon as possible.
If you’ve travelled to SE Asia, then share some of your favorite experiences – sights, sounds, food, locations – with us by leaving your comments below.