Sunday, August 3, 2014

Siem Reap, Cambodia 26 - 29 July 2014

Took advantage of the Hari Raya holidays to go on a 3 nigths 4 days holiday to Siam Reap, Cambodia. Purchased the air tics and hotel stay at Angkor Heritage Boutique Hotel through AirAsia Go.

It is a 2 hours direct flight from KLIA2 to Siem Reap. The world reknown UNESCO World Heritage Site Angkor Temples is located just a few kilometres away, easily reached by the ubiquitous tuk-tuk. 

Siem Reap is a thriving tourist town mainly because of the Angkor temples. Tourist from all over pour in by the plane loads and you have the usual hotels, restaurants, pubs, health spas, shopping, souvenir shops, etc mainly to cater to  tourists. The plus point is it is not as seedy as Phuket or Koh Samui with their night life entertainment.

 Angkor Wat was first a Hindu then subsequently a Buddhist temple complex in Cambodia  and the largest religious monument in the world. The temple was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century in Angkor the capital of the Khmer Empire as his state temple and eventual mausoleum. The modern name, Angkor Wat, means "Temple City" or "City of Temples" in Khmer Angkor, meaning "city" or "capital city".

26 July 2014, Saturday

Hired a tuk-tuk for the day to Tonle Sap from the Airport for USD15. We dropped off our luggage and freshen at the hotel before proceeding to the lakes.

The Tonlé Sap, "Large Fresh Water River", but more commonly translated as "Great Lake" is a combined lake and river system of major importance to Cambodia. The Tonlé Sap is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and is an ecological hot spot that was designated as a UNESCO  biosphere in 1997.

The Tonlé Sap is unusual for two reasons: its flow changes direction twice a year, and the portion that forms the lake expands and shrinks dramatically with the seasons. From November to May, Cambodia's dry season, the Tonlé Sap drains into the Mekong River at Phnom Penh. However, when the year's heavy rains begin in June, the Tonlé Sap backs up to form an enormous lake.

Tuk-tuk. It is found everywhere withn the town area. You need to bargain on the price. Short distances $1. To our hotel which was about 3.5 km from the main tourist spot Pub Street in town was $2 per trip.

It is very dusty. Advisable to bring along face mask.

The main pier to Tonle Sap. Boat tour is $20 pp lasting approx 2.5 hrs. We think it is worth the price.

You will pass through a small village along the river
The open lake
The driver took us back to the hotel and later in the evening he took us to the Angkor grounds to purchase the 1 day entry ticket  to the Angkor Temples at $20 pp which was valid for the next day. It is advisable to do it in this manner as it gives you the opportunity to visit the grounds outside the Angkor Wat the day before at your leisure for free before it closes at 5.30pm.

The driver subsequently dropped us off at Pub Street. We had dinner at the 'Blue Pumpkin' and foot  massage for our tired feet at the night market at $4 an hour with a short neck and shoulder rub thrown in for free.

27 July 2014, Sunday

It is a one complete day of exploring the temples in the small tour circuit of Angkor vicinity. It covers Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm Temple and Phnom Bakheng.

Angkor Wat:
Exhibits the most unique religious architecture in the world and is the best preserved temple in Angkor complex. It spans 1,950,000 sq metres. The temple was orignally dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu then modified later as a Buddhist temple.

Buy from one and the rest come rushing!

Within the temple grounds

Bayon Temple:
One of the largest Mahayana Buddhist temple in the Angkor complex. The Bayon was built in the heart of Angkor Thom (a great city spanning 9 sq km). The Bayon's most distinctive feature is the multitude of massive, serene stone faces that grace its many towers.

The stone faces are all depicted with their eyes closed and with a smile

She's literally jumping with joy
 Ta Prohm Temple
It is one of the most picturesque tree temples in the Angkor complex. Originally named Rajavihara, Ta Prohm temple was commissioned 1186 AD by King Jayavarman VII and was dedicated to his mother in honour of Prajnaparamita (the goddess of wisdom in Mahayana Buddhism).

Phnom Bakheng

This is a temple up on a hill to view the surrounding Angkor complex and beautiful sunsets. Alas, after walking about 1.5 km up the hill, it started to rain. We were in the middle of the monsoon season and it rained every afternoon.

The storm clouds blowing towards us

28 July 2014, Monday

The third day being a free day started with a visit to the local market.

The gold shops are located in the market itself.

 The rest of the day was spent shopping for souvenirs and another round of foot indulgence for me and pedicure and manicure for the ladies. The cost? $4 pp.

All in all, it was a good and adventurous holiday. The family agreed 3 nights 4 days visit for Siem Reap is ideal with one day pass to Angkor temples.

Food prices was reasonable with a bowl of Khmer curry (highly recommended) with a plate of rice going for $5. Angkor beer at the cafes is really cheap averaging between $0.45 and $0.50. Even cheaper than mineral water at $1 or $2!

Plane tickets plus accomodation pp was RM1,200. The air ticket was more expensive than the average because it was a peak holiday period.

See Tomb Raider: The Temple Run for more photos of the Angkor temples.

Mom's Rating: 7/10.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Bali, Indonesia 7 to 11 June 2014

Our first overseas trip for 2014 as I had been busy with work. Our destination was Bali, the 'Island of Gods'.

To put it in perspective, Bali is about 19 times the size of Penang island. You need at least 3 full days to cover the essential places of interest.

Kuta is only a few kilometres from Ngurah Rai International Airport. It is about 95,000 rupiah by airport taxi and just 48,000 rupiah return. Many hotels and tourist amenities are located here. It is popular with surfers.
Our hotel for the duration of our stay was Best Western Premier on Sunset Road which is just at the edge of Kuta. The hotel was alright but the location is not ideal with limited shuttle service to Kuta.

Denpasar is the administrative capital of Bali province. Ubud is the artistical and cultural centre while Bedugul is the mountainous region at the northern part of the island. Other notable places are Jimbaran, Legian, Sanur, Mt Batur, etc.

Day 1
Uluwatu temple, silver and gold gallery, batik gallery, Tirta Empul temple and Luwak Coffee.

The famous Uluwatu Temple on a steep cliff with the ocean below

Pura Luhur Uluwatu
Be careful of your belongings. That's my RM300 plus RayBan. You've been warned!

Ibu Oka's famous babi guling. 5.5/10.

Sexy right in my sarong?

Tirta Empul Temple

Cleansing ritual

Coffe Sampling. Luwak Coffee at 50,000 rupiah a cup

Dinner at Naughty Nuri's in Ubud. Famous for its pork ribs and chops. Sadly, pork ribs finished for the evening. 7/10.

 Day 2
 Taman Ayun Temple, Ulun Danu Beratan and Tanah Lot.

Taman Ayun Temple

Ulun Danu Beratan Temple. It is actually quite small in real live.  

Tanah Lot. At low tide you can actually walk across to the temple.

View from afar

Long coastline. 
Day 3
The famous Kuta beach.

Sun, Surf and Sea

Main Street

Ground zero where the bomb went off
Total cost:
Air tics & hotel - RM2,076.70 2 pax
MPV rental per day - 450,000 rupiah/RM128
Entrance Fee to Temples - ranges from 20,000 to 60,000 rupiah incl of sarongs
Nuri's Pork Chops - 95,000 rupiah/RM27
Ibu Oka Babi Guling - 45,000 rupiah/RM12.69
Airport Exit Tax - 200,000 rupiah/RM56  Make sure you have this amount in cash remaining.