Piles Of The Past Splendor

Cambodia – one of the countries that I have written in my bucketlist. I don’t know why? Maybe because of their culture, food, or history… The land travel from Ho Chi Minh to Siem Reap took us for almost 12 hours. That was the longest 12 hours of my life so far.

The next day, we had a 5:30AM wake up call to visit the temples of Angkor. We were expecting to snap a perfect sunrise photo, but the weather did not cooperate (it was a bit cloudy that day). The entrance for a one-day pass will cost 20USD. The most convenient way to roam around the complex was to rent a tuktuk that will cost 10USD-15USD.

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Angkor Wat is known to be the largest religious monument in the world. It was a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag. I was in awe by the magnificent architecture of the temple, as if it brought me back hundreds of years before. I kept on asking myself “How did the people from those times built such an extremely beautiful temple like this without any modern reinforcement that we have nowadays?“. Until I’ve read that the temple was made by the combination of elephants, pulleys and bamboo scaffolding (now that’s more impressive).

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Oldies but goodies (Cambodia, 2015)

Angkor Wat became a major tourist destination. It was also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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All of its columns and surfaces and even the roofs are carved. The labor force to carve and install the sandstones must have run into the thousands including many highly skilled artisans. I couldn’t imagine that there were already good artisans those days, because the carvings were really exceptional and very detailed. Their skills must have been developed hundreds of years earlier.

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Columns of Angkor Wat (Cambodia, 2015)

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Carvings of an apsara dancers (Cambodia, 2015)

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Another carvings of apsara dancers inside the temple (Cambodia, 2015)

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A look of the inner part of Angkor Wat (Cambodia, 2015)

Bayon Temple‘s most distinctive feature was the massive stone faces. This temple was my personal favorite because of the famous face towers at the upper terrace. The architecture of the temple exudes grandness in every aspect. I also noticed the absence of an enclosing wall in this temple – this allowed enough sunlight for capturing perfect photos.

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Picture perfect (c) Menche Lazarte (Cambodia, 2015)

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Confined by the walls of Bayon Temple (Cambodia, 2015)

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The face towers at the upper terrace of the temple (Cambodia, 2015)

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Trying to get closer to the ‘curious smiling face’ of Bayon Temple (Cambodia, 2015)

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Bayon is a Buddhist temple but it incorporates elements of Hindu cosmology (Cambodia, 2015)

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The Terrace of the Elephants is said to be used by the Angkor’s king as a platform from which to view his victorious returning army (Cambodia, 2015)

Ta Prohm was used as a location in the film Tomb Raider. The trees growing out of the ruins added more drama to the ambiance of this temple. The surrounding of the temple was a vast area for vegetation. Apparently, the temple was abandoned and neglected for centuries, until they decided to restore and conserve the said temple just recently.

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An eerie feeling of the past (Cambodia, 2015)

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A tree that began to sprout out of the ruins (Cambodia, 2015)

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Tomb Raider-ing (cambodia, 2015)

Including the temples of Angkor in our itinerary was a good decision. The 12 hour bus ride, the sweat and all the energy exerted was all worth it. I may not have all the guts and time to stay and visit the remaining temples of Angkor, but I think I already had a taste of their rich history just by seeing the major temples.

These were just part of my world history subject during my high school days, but now, it is a part of my own journey as a young and aspiring traveler.

‘Viand’ My Expectation

You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food. ~Paul Prudhomme

One of the reason why I like to visit Vietnam is to see the fine architecture of its buildings, experience their rich culture and primarily to pig out and try almost any dish that is new to my naked eyes.

My friends kept on telling me, “Vietnam has the best coffee ever…”. Honestly, I am not a coffee lover, but then I decided to take a cup or two every other day (a couple of weeks) before my trip. And so, I googled on everything, as in everything about their local food.

One of my favorite is Banh mi. The Vietnamese term refers to all kinds of bread. It is usually more airy. This Vietnamese sandwich is made by combining cucumber, cilantro, pickled carrots, head cheese, sliced pork and some with pork bellies. I had Banh mi every breakfast with either a hot or an iced milk coffee during my stay in Saigon.

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Banh mi and iced milk coffee from a Banh mi stall at District 1 (Ho Chi Minh, 2015)

On our way to Mui Ne, vendors are selling this porridge called Chao Ga similar to our local arroz caldo. It has chicken, hard boiled egg; but the difference is that, they have this herb or pepper that made the dish very distinct from our local arroz caldo. The price is cheaper from the restaurants in Saigon, I only paid for the amount of  40,000vdn.

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Morning booster – Chao Ga w/ hard boiled egg (c) Menche Lazarte (Mui Ne, 2015)

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Chicken rice x Thin crust seafood pizza x bottle of beer (Mui Ne, 2015)

   Another Vietnamese dish that captured my heart is their Pho Ga. We found a restaurant in District 1 and the place was quite good. I am a huge fan of soup and noodles, so I think this one is really my favorite. The chicken soup is made with thick rice noodles. I ordered a Pho Ga (chicken) and a fresh Dau shake (strawberry) which I paid for only 200,000vdn.

What the Pho (Ho Chi Minh, 2015)

After taking our lunch, we searched for this cafe along Dong Khoi St. right in the heart of Saigon, it is called L’Usine. The place was really a contemporary experience and very cozy. It is a great place to have some light meal and for a little retail therapy. I ordered for their lemon tart and an iced milk coffee. There is another branch of the loft cafe along Le Loi St, on the strip between Rex Hotel and Ben Thanh Market.

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The original L’Usine branch in the heart of the city (Ho Chi Minh, 2015)

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L’Usine menu (Ho Chi Minh, 2015)

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Lemon tart x Iced milk coffee (Ho Chi Minh, 2015)

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A hot body is nice but so are those cupcakes over there (c) Menche Lazarte (Ho Chi Minh, 2015)

The Fault In Our Stars feels (Ho Chi Minh, 2015)

The Fault In Our Stars feels (Ho Chi Minh, 2015)

What I love about the Vietnamese is that they have this strong compassion for what they are doing. Every cent that you are going to pay for their food is really worth it. I would love to visit Vietnam again to try another Vietnamese cuisines.

Royal Visit

Who wouldn’t love to have a little break from the hustle and bustle of the city? Good thing, there is an interesting province near Bangkok city. Known to be one of Thailand’s previous capital, Ayutthaya is located in the valley of Chao Phraya River. We decided to take a van going to the province of Ayutthaya and it only took us an hour and a half to get there. The first thing in our itinerary is to visit the Bang Pa-In Royal Palace. It is a huge palace complex formerly used by the Thai kings. The extensive gardens, a pavilion in the middle of a pond, and a colorful lookout tower are some of the things that you might want to see inside the palace complex.

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Aisawan Dhiphya-Asana Pavilion (Ayyuthaya, 2014)

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The Old Watergate inside the palace complex (Ayutthaya, 2014)

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Ho Withun Thasana or Sages’ Lookout (Ayutthaya, 2014)

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Wehart Chamrunt or Heavenly Light (Ayutthaya, 2014)

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Phra Thinang Utthayan Phumisathian or The Royal Residence (Ayutthaya, 2014)

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One of the places of interest in the inner zone of Bang Pa-In Royal Palace (Ayutthaya, 2014)

The palace remains open to tourists, as the king and his family use it only rarely for special occasions.

Last in our list is the Ayutthaya Historical Park. It is recognized internationally as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ruins found within the area characterized the magnificent and splendid history of the city. The city was once the center for global diplomacy and commerce, and now the city is an archaeological ruin, with a distinct features of tall prang or reliquary towers and Buddhist monasteries.

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The splendor of its architecture (Ayutthaya, 2014)

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Wat Phra Mahthat – Buddha’s head firmly lodged (Ayuttahaya, 2014)

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“My beautiful proof lies all in ruins.” ~Georg Cantor

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Ancient ruins of the Ayutthaya historical park (Ayutthaya, 2014)

When In Bangkok

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.~Saint Augustine

Last year I was able to make another life-switch. Exploring the world outside my comfort zone was a very rewarding one. I decided to visit Thailand to take some break from my very exhausting life at work.

Bangkok is among the world’s top tourists destinations. The city’s vibrant street life and cultural landmarks, as well as its notorious red-light districts, have given it an exotic appeal. The city has so much in store for those who want to experience a different side of Asia. Aside from the busy streets, sinful nightlife, delectable cuisines, and great shopping experience – the majestic temples should be included in your itinerary.

Old and gold

Wat Trimitr houses the 700 year old golden Buddha (Bangkok, 2014)

Wat Benchamabophit (Bangkok, 2014)

Wat Benchamabophit (Bangkok, 2014)

Wat Arun from the Chao Phraya River Sun Cruise (Bangkok, 2014)

Wat Arun from the Chao Phraya River Sun Cruise (Bangkok, 2014)

Thailand is known for its ‘Wats’ or temples. The fine architecture of each temple is simply breathtaking. The most convenient way to explore these temples is by taking the Chao Phraya Express Boat. The Buddhist temples stand in contrast with other tourist attractions such as the nightlife scenes of Khaosan Road and Patpong. With regards to temple hopping, you must also pay respect to their beliefs and religion, Thai consider these temples a sacred a place to worship Buddha.

After a long day of visiting the temples, we headed straight to the Siam Discovery to see the wax figures at Madame Tussauds Museum. We consumed the whole afternoon inside the wax museum.

Diana, Princess of Wales

Diana, Princess of Wales

All the single ladies put your hands up - Queen B

Put your hands up – Queen B

To end the day with a big smile, we went to Siam Paragon (just across the Siam Discovery). It is considered as one of the biggest shopping centers in Asia. Siam Paragon was designed by J+H Boiffils. Direct access to the complex via the Siam skytrain station. You can also find the Oceanarium, Gourmet Paradise, The Luxury, The Fashion Venue, Paragon Passage and IT World and The Global Entertainment inside the Siam Paragon.

Siam Center (Bangkok, 2014)

Siam Center (Bangkok, 2014)

For more shopping options, you may also visit Asiatique The Riverfront. We took a ferry from Taksin Bridge (Saphan Taksin) for free. There is a schedule for each ferry going to several destinations. I scored dresses for my parent and aunts in a very cheap price. You can also find love locks in Juliet’s Garden. We got a free entrance to the garden because a Korean guy sponsored for our entrance fee. He just took a video of us inside the garden where the love locks are located. He said it is a documentary for a Korean local TV station.

Asiatique The Riverfront (Bangkok, 2014)

Asiatique The Riverfront (Bangkok, 2014)

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Shop Hitz Weekend

Juliet's Garden (Bangkok, 2014)

Juliet’s Garden (Bangkok, 2014)

The statue was a souvenir from Verona, Italy.

The statue was a souvenir from Verona, Italy.