Kyoto, Japan 2017 – Day 10

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We started off our morning rather early getting ourselves to Fushimi Inari for 745AM. Fushimi Inari is free admission and is open 24/7 technically (restaurants on top of the mountain have set times). Just a reminder that Fushimi Inari is built on a mountain so wear proper shoes to climb those stairs especially if you are planning on going the entire route. The sun was out and strong already at this point but Fusihimi Inari was still rather empty. We met with Chi, Cassie & Karen here before ascending. Yes Fushimi Inari is where Memoirs of a Geisha were filmed but the main tori gates in which that magical scene was filmed is actually only a small portion of this massive temple and it only lasts about 100m and there are 2 of them (for entrance and one for exit). I guess since I’ve been there before, these tunnels didn’t phase me but everyone and I mean everyone took their time here waiting for the tunnel of tori gates to be empty and just orange in hopes there would be a gleam of light cutting through. I waited patiently as my crew took their photos before continuing our ascend.

At one point, there is a fork in the road where if you turn left, you are exiting and it is a path that leads you back to the main area or if you go right, you will be rewarded with your first view overlooking the city below us. If you continue going up, you will move onto your second view (this is slightly nicer as there is 1 tori gate and also there are benches to rest while looking at the view. Depending on time of day, there will be open restaurants and refreshments available). At this point, by the time I reached this lookout point, I was waiting diligently for Mike & ManWai who I thought were right behind me but about 30 minutes later, Karen, Chi & Cassie made it up the stairs. Luckily I waited so long because I would’ve continued my hike of the entire trail (another 40 minutes or so) and when they finally made it to that lookout point, they said they were going to see the last lookout point before heading turning back and heading back down.

They needed a moment so I decided to head up to the last lookout point #7 (the stairs to the left). It is a cluster of shrines covered in mini wooden tori gates and fox statues but once you make it to the back of this cluster, there is an open trail that takes you to where I guess a giant sign use to be and you have a the clearest of views of Kyoto’s skyline. The walk back down was quite refreshing as you still see shrines along the way but you are on the outer fringe of the temple and see a bit of the neighbourhood surrounding the temple. We met back up at the giant Tori gate then made our way through the food stalls – the pork skewers (500y) were the best. As we continued to walk back to the train station, the group stopped off and got tofu ice cream with unique flavours like ramune or yuzu (lemon).

We took the train to Gion-Shijo Station where I grabbed a Cremia ice cream cone (500y). Glenn had talked about this ice cream and how good it was. It was very creamy and delicious and the cone was great as well. We then made our way back to the surface and walked over to Nishiki Market which unlike the other fish markets, was a narrow covered street that continued a few blocks but more of a mix of places with ready to eat food as oppose to a fresh fish market with all the product sitting out and then cut up right in front of you to eat fresh. We all ended up in a store called Sugi that served no added sugar – liquid honey and fruit drink. They had samples and thats what pulled us in the first place but all of them tasted so delicious we all left with something. I grabbed myself a small packet of yuzu drink (540y). 5 cups water to 1 tube. We walked around the market for a bit before splitting off and walking the Gion district before our late lunch in the area with Mike’s Uncle and Aunt.

We met up with Mike’s uncle Cyrius and aunt Chizuka for lunch at a restaurant that was hidden in a small alley which led us to Gion Hanasaki 祇園 京料理 花咲 (Japan, 〒605-0074 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Higashiyama Ward, 祇園町南側570−17) which is located in an old traditional Kyoto home. It was absolutely an amazing meal to have experienced. Our hostesses brought us up to a private room where they served us a few courses that were elegantly displayed and before each meal, they would stop and tell us what the meal was made of. They used the freshest of ingredients and each piece was perfectly in place and just some many wonderful flavours non which overpowered the other so you can enjoy every bit of it. We even ate sushi that looked like it was actual fish but it was all actually vegetables that were placed perfectly to look like fish. We tried but auntie Chizuka paid the bill for lunch.

After lunch, we walked a bit of the Gion district before making our way down to the riverside where we strolled along the river. We even saw a capybara in the water and saw a man throwing bread in the air where falcons were swooping in to eat. After waling by the river for a bit, we saw a restaurant/cafe where the giant windows just opened wo the river and we decided to investigate what establishment this was. It is called Efish エフィッシュ (Japan, 〒600-8029 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Shimogyō-ku, Nishihashizumechō, 京都府京都市下京区木屋町通五条下ル西橋詰町798-1)  and we decides to have a seat by the open window overlooking the river for coffee and snacks. I got the blood orange smoothie. They also have a small section where you can purchase housewife and also their they had seating areas with large comfy couches.

After the snacks, we called it a night with Mike’s uncle and aunt and went back to our Airbnb to relax a bit before venturing out for some fast food dinner. We walked around looking at what options were still open and nearby and settled on this one fast food place called Nakau なか卯 河原町五条店 (Japan, 〒600-8020 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Shimogyō-ku, Mikagedōmaechō, 河原町通五条上ル御影堂前町843清水ビル1F) where you use a machine to order. I ordered the Beef bowl combo (690y) and you get a ticket that you present to the person who gets your order ready. There was also a bunch of vending machines outside that were 100y and a few surprise for 80y. I picked a orange juice for 100y and let Manwai pick a 80y and it turned out to the be the same drink but in can form.

Bangkok – Thailand – Southeast Asia – 2015 – Day 24 & 25

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We ended up switching from our 6 person dorm to a 4 person dorm on the first floor of housing. We journeyed to the Grand Palace but it’s 500baht to enter and we didn’t want to pay that to go in. SO many tourists there and also Amy and myself brought clothes to throw over our shorts and tanks but Adam wouldn’t have been allowed in with his shorts so we moved on and went to Wat Pho. It is 100baht to enter and the ticket gets you a free water. There are tons of buddhas around so you should dress modestly. The temple complex houses the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand, including a 46m long Reclining Buddha. The temple is also the earliest centre for public education in Thailand, and still houses a school of Thai medicine. It is known as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage which is still taught and practiced at the temple. Wat Pho is one of Bangkok’s oldest temples; it existed before Bangkok was established as the capital by King Rama I.

Earlier on this trip, we watched a bit of television in Koh Samui and saw this one commercial with one small yet cute ice cream parlour called Farm to Table in which we checked their Instagram and website and saved their location for later. We walked down to the Farm to Table Cafe and I grabbed a matcha tea latte – 52baht and then i picked up a little map that showed there was indeed another location – the main spot which we saw in the commercial. We walked just around the corner and found Farm to Table – Hideout and it was so adorable and the interior decor was great. Here is where the real homemade gelato is made. I grabbed a grass jelly with real grass jelly, brown sugar and jackfruit – 72baht and it was so good! The grass jelly gelato flavour was so intense and tasted better than the actual grass jelly. We walked through a food market which then brought us to the flower market.

All the blogs I’ve read had said if you want to experience what Bangkok was probably a decade ago, you need to visit Chinatown to get a picture of what the old city looked like. We walked from Farm to Table Hideout all the way to Yaowarat aka Chinatown and it was very visually stimulating. Mix of old and new and so many colours. I had read on a blog about a place that sold satay skewers dipped in coconut milk called Jay Eng but the address I saved wasn’t the right location so we ended up wandering around gun street and then walked onward to fabric street. We somehow found ours going into a huge mall complex of just fabrics ensued – Sampheng Centre. There was a food court located on the top floor and there we ate. You have to buy coupons in order to actually order from the stalls. You give them 60baht and then they give you a packet of tickets and if you have some remaining, you can return it for baht. I went to Blue-Taiwan and got myself a fried rice green curry – 45 baht and then at the corner a thai tea for 15baht – both so flavourful and delicious.

We continued to wander and eventually made our way to Yaowarat Rd and walked that street for a bit to visually capture the life that is chinatown. Adam and Amy were getting tired of walking so we hailed a cab to Siam Paragon – It was rush hour so all the cabs were off meter – we settled with 100baht. Siam Paragon is one of Asia’s largest malls and it sure was.

There are so many food courts but we ate in the enormous one on the main floor. I got a huge matcha strawberry daifuku mochi for 100 baht – Incredibly tasty from Tokyo Sweets. We had only eaten maybe an hour previous but they were hungry and got cheese gyoza from 7-time Gyoza Champion before we grabbed ramen from Nantsuttei. I got the Kara-Miso Ramen – 210baht. Not bad but not the best I’ve had – Daikokuya still wins out for me. So much selection – The main food court looked like Eaton’s Centre revamped food court but quadruple the size and that was only one of them. Each floor had it’s own food selection and I wish I had a bigger stomach.

We walked all the floors of Siam Paragon to notice that there was still another complex – Siam Centre. We tried to get over to Siam Centre but it took us a while to figure out how to get out of the mall. We also went to the basement where there is a Madame Tussade and Ocean Discovery – You can literally dive with sharks in a mall. We went over to Siam Centre and it was huge as well. We wanted to goto Siam Discovery and tried very hard to get there but it was closed for renovations. We decided that was it and we should leave. It was still rush hour so we decided to crossed over the bridge looking at the traffic to end up on another street filled with people selling merchandise to locals.

We grabbed a Tuk tuk from outside Siam Centre to Khao San Rd – bargained 150baht – fun and fast ride.

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We woke up at 4AM and went to hail a cab to take us to the airport. We had to walk down the street a bit to a busier street at 430AM to find a cab. We found one on a street nearby but as we were getting in a ladyboy came over and was propositioning Amy then Adam. The ride was fast and smooth. There were actually quite a few people out and about at that time of day either ending their day or starting it.

We flew out of BKK and the airport reminded me of Toronto YYZ which is strange because Bangkok reminds me of Downtown Toronto. Adam and myself were flying with ANA airlines in partnership with United and Amy’s flight was slightly later leaving for Hong Kong where she will be for a bit before heading to Shanghai then finally back to Toronto. After Adam and myself checked in, I had to walk to the end of the airport to get my VAT Refund forms stamped – she barely looked at them and stamped – easy enough. Once we got through the security check and what not, I followed the signs to VAT refund only to find out halfway through the walk there was another sign further down that pointed to another VAT refund on the other wing of the terminal which our gate was on. Anyways, got there and the lady didn’t even say a word to me but i got my refund in Baht. I brought the remaining baht to convert to USD and off we went.

We got onto our flight from BKK to Narita which took about 5-6 hours. Arrived and had 2-3 hours there which were well spent. We went to McDonalds and I got the Teriyaki Burger combo + 15 piece chicken McNuggets – 1240yen then went to the origami store and grabbed a few more snacks which added up to 1600yen for myself. These 2 purchases alone were roughly $30CAD which is more than what I had spent the entire week on meals in Thailand but well worth it. When I travel I come back with souvenirs in the form of consumables – coffee beans for my father and then candies especially if I get a chance to goto convenient/grocery stores. I’m still surprised how much I actually fit in my duffel bag considering I only got rid of 3 items.

Onto the next flight with United to Denver – 10 hours. Flew by quickly and watched a ton of movies. Then following flight from Denver to Chicago just felt brutal. It was only 2-3 hours but felt the most uncomfortable and also my movie screen didn’t even work. Outside was -7 degrees celsius. Arriving in Chicago was a good feeling as we were one step closer to home and also in terminal F we found Garrett’s popcorn! I bought 2 medium bags of Garrett mix and Cashew CaramelCrisp – $15USD. Our flight got delayed by 30 minutes because the flight attendant was on another flight and couldn’t come over until the people left the other aircraft and after doing post flight protocol. We got in the air and just went. We actually landed on time. The plane quite small ( single window seat or 2 chairs together).

Overview of my trip:

23 days of non-stop travelling is great when things are planned out. I find that when places or tours are booked and planned ahead of time, things go smoothly but when nothing is confirmed we end up wasting more time than anything trying to figure out what to do. Crocs are the preferred footwear or similar sandal/croc imitations. Deet and tiger balm will be your best friends. Toilet paper roll will save you in Lao & Cambodia. Recycling isn’t something they really do out there unless it’s a person going through the trash and removing the bottles themselves. Garbage cans don’t really exist either (Vietnam had some though) but you kind of just make a pile when you see an open garbage/plastic bag as you walk around. They also have a large assortment of plastic bags and plastic furniture is plentiful here. Plastic chairs/stool/tables are prime tools of people’s trades as they can set up and clean up pretty easy anywhere. Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are more reserved – women stay covered in long sleeve and pants. Thailand – more likely to see tatted people, tank tops on local women but also the whole long sleeve cover up but booty shorts. Also tons of pretty ladyboys everywhere. Get use to smog and smell of diesel as well as dirt/dust. I’ve heard stories of people on motorbikes snatching phones and purses by the side of the road but never saw it happen – just be vigilant and keep your purse on the opposite side away from the road. Otherwise, I felt safe everywhere I went. I had my camera attached to my hand but otherwise everything was out of sight. Ho Chi Minh is very populated so just be cautious when in big crowds or when people are too close. The men there will just keep looking at you though especially if you are wearing tank top and shorts. Siem Reap – same thing, big crowds especially in the night market just be cautious. Bangkok – the only real place we really saw any homeless people – they will leave you alone for the most part… ladyboys will be more aggressive than them.

Chiang Mai – Thailand – Southeast Asia – 2015 – Day 20 & 21

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Woke up and had complimentary breakfast – toast, fruit and juice. We booked Blue Elephant tours – 5500 Baht – One Day Chiang Mai Elephant bathing & riding bareback + Whitewater rafting + Longneck Tribe.

Muang Kued Valley – where we went.

Mr Ek and Mr Od picked us up for our private tour. We stopped by a local fruit market to pick up a few things for our trip and then another stop at Orchid restaurant to look at butterflies and orchids. From there, we drove to Wangnumyard resort – to visit the Karen Longneck tribe. Considering it is called a resort, I don’t know how well the people are treated and unfortunately it feels a little exploitive. We gave out little treats to the children (our guide purchased them and gave them to us to give to his “little friends”). I fully respect different cultures and traditions but it looked like we were just going from station to station to take photos with these women. Mind you, each one was in their own hut where they were selling products – some of which they made and some you can purchase in any market. Nonetheless, very interesting experience to say the least and beautiful tradition that is a sacred ritual which has been modernized. Mothers can choose for their daughters to either undergo the process at age 5 with a starter necklace that is 2 piece that can be taken off and on with ease OR if they decide that they don’t want their daughters to continue that tradition and go pursue academics and whatnot. Mr Ek was very knowledgable and sassy but told us that it’s not impossible for them to reconsider late in life they don’t want to continue wearing the necklaces but that there will be leftover scarring and their necks may feel uncomfortable and weak. The village itself is pretty but once you get to the bottom, its is ‘all catered to the visitors. Ethical or not, its a beautiful tradition and there were so many people still continuing it. But don’t be “that” tourist who doesn’t acknowledge the women as humans and treat them like animals – acknowledge the person and ask permission to take a photo with them.

We drove a bit more into the mountain area so we were at a higher elevation of the Mae Tang River for our white water rafting. The rapids weren’t too bad and easy to sail through. My whitewater tubing experience was more intense even in low tide season. When we arrived at the bottom, we got out and climbed up to a buffet lunch – tasty food – the fried chicken was so tasty! We changed into our mahout blue elephant outfits (XL) with our swim suits under. We had to wait a bit as there was a backlog with people and the elephants so we played ping pong on a cement table with a deflated ball. When it was our turn, we hopped back into the van and off we went to Makha Elephant Village. We arrived and Mr Ek was teaching us the basic words we should know to ride the elephants.

Pai – forward

Sai – left

Qua – right

how – stop

yea – don’t do that

bonbon – treats!

dede- good boy/girl

We all got a chance to get familiar with the proper way of getting on an elephant and riding an elephant – either bend your knees and tuck them on the ears or straight legged behind the ears with both hands on the top of the head. That way you can balance and after saying a command you can pat the elephant on the head and say dede – good boy/girl. It is also good to call them by their name so they get familiar with your voice. We made sure to choose a place where the elephants are treated well and are ethically riden (as ethical as it can be for riding an elephant) which this place showed signs of both. We had to wait until 2 people on one elephant to come back because we needed one more elephant for us. We rode individually on each elephant but the group before us had 2 women on one but at least no harness/seat apparatus like we saw earlier with 4 grown men a top of a elephant in a seat. Also, getting on a elephant when they are bowing puts strain on their knees when they get up so you should technically climb on from a higher height. My elephant is the oldest elephant in this sanctuary and her name is Mec-Ham. They add “Mec” in front of the female’s names which means mother to show respect. For a bit she would stop listening but for the most part, very chill, very hungry pulling at vines but listened. The ride was fun and the mahouts are great with them. Elephants don’t like cars and get frightened by them as we found out on our hike with a car passing through. Once we arrived back from our little hike in the jungle with them, we got to feed them bananas then Mec-Ham went back out immediately with another group. Luckily, Mec-Ham didn’t throw mud on herself when I was riding her but she did with this new girl and she was basically given a mud bath. We got to bathe them as well and it was really sweet. Mr Ek prepared some food for us and so we ate and talked a bit before our adventure back home in rush hour.

We all showered and then decided on dinner options. Andrew had looked up a place with a food market – Chang Phueak (ช้างเผือก) that had 30 baht pad thai and we literally walked on Salmon all the way north gate of the old city. We got there and couldn’t read all the menus but we settled on one place and I got myself chicken khao soy – 60 baht and it was so delicious but that spice hits the back of your throat and lingers. I also grabbed a passionfruit shake – 30 baht. Along the way there, there was one stall we passed that sold fried ice cream for 20 baht; we returned and I got the lemon with the strawberry sauce, whipped cream and sprinkles, it reminded me of a donut.

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I asked Stella if there were any places around we could play some volleyball and she said there wasn’t any. The schools have volleyball courts but I doubt we can use them especially seeing some of them we saw yesterday with armed soldiers at the gate. So sad.

I couldn’t go the rest of the trip without a DSLR so I decided I need to purchase a new one here. Denchai is the #1 camera store here in Chiang Mai although, they do not stock all camera models. They do however do repairs. I called them and unfortunately they don’t stock the Nikon D610 and only the D600. Instead, we walked over to Central Plaza – Chiangmai Airport mall. The mall opens at 11AM. It took about 20-25 minute walking south of our hostel. When we got in, I went to information and got a tourist discount card which I applied for earlier in the morning online. This mall is 4 floors and has a Uniqlo. I purchased the new DSLR camera at Photobug but had to wait 30 minutes as they had to deliver it from their other location so we all wandered the mall to met back up at Uniqlo. 

I feel better knowing I have a DSLR in my hand. We ended up going down to the Northern Village side of the mall where there is a food court that is indoors, clean with tons of stalls selling food cheap like the night market stalls. I ended up at one place where I got a fried egg on rice with chicken thigh in oyster sauce which was 50baht and delicious. There was also a ice cream stall called Paton Ice Cream which serves you 3 scoops for only 20baht – they also add coconut jelly to the bottom and any toppings you want.

We ended up sharing a tuktuk back to our hostel with a family visiting from Malaysia and one guy actually lived in Toronto back in the day near Dundas Station. Amy & Adam were so wiped and in a food coma that they napped for a bit. After their nap, we went to Akha Ama Coffee (Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai) so I could pick up coffee beans. I’ve read online about it and I love the story behind it and all the effort it is in sourcing locally. The name comes from the Akha village of Maejantai. Ama means mother in Akha language and it is that face that graces the logo as she convinced her village to combine strengths and produce, process and market their own coffee. The beans are grown in Northern Thailand and the proceeds of the coffee beans sold here go back to that community. I grabbed a small bag of italian roast for only 180baht and a green tea latte 50 baht.

We then proceeded to do a temple run today starting off with วัดพระสิงห์วรมหาวิหาร Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District then continuing on to Phonon Rachadamnoen Alley stopping by some smaller ones and watching sunset at Wat Chedi Luang before making our way to Wat Phantao (which was closed until 730PM) so we continued and made our way to the 3 Kings Monument Si Phum which was once city hall but is now serves as a cultural centre. The city is getting decorated for the festival as the bigger ceremonies and festivities are in full swing the 25th & 26th. We returned to the North Gate market on Manee Nopparat Road – Chang Phueak (ช้างเผือก). The cheapest and best pork is served here by the Thai cowgirl – she is known for her Khao Kha Moo – pork served with rice and a hard boiled egg for only 30baht! I got shrimp pad thai beside it for 50 baht as Amy and Andrew both got Khao Kha Moo. After dinner, we continued walking and made our way to the Ping river near the US Consulate where people were lighting floating krathong (boats made out of bamboo and flowers) and sending them down the river with their wishes and bad luck. It was pretty and tons of people were there. There was one man I thought was saving the drowning boats and re-lighting them but he was actually taking the money in them. We watched for a bit but the smoke got intense so we continued on down the river which brought us to Warorot Market then continued walking and made our way back to Wat Phantao and it was perfect timing. You enter to see a row of lanterns and people purchasing candles with wishes or blessings on them. They bring them to one of the larger monuments where they hand it off to monks to place higher up – that in itself is visually stunning. At the back corner you see giant trees with lanterns lit up and young monks sitting on the ground surrounded by candles as an elder reads off something in thai. There is a bridge made out of bamboo which we are not to suppose to stand on but of course chinese tourists “can’t read signs” and proceed to do so. The crowd got huge and somehow I got my way in front row to watch. The young monks got up and together lit paper lanterns and tied it to a string so they could make it float but not release them into the sky as they are saving that for tomorrow so they can do it all together. It was absolutely stunning. 

Siem Reap – Cambodia – Southeast Asia – 2015 – Day 14

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Temples today. The hotel provided us with a take away breakfast which was amazing and full of protein (2 hard boiled eggs, toast, bananas, watermelon, dragon fruit). We found that the overnight attendants here in Asia end up setting up a tent or hammock so they can also sleep and be awaken if needed. 445AM pickup by Mr Dany and first stop was to purchase a 1 day pass for $20USD which also has your photo on it. We slightly beat the tourist buses in and then drove through and walked into Angkor Wat and positioned ourselves with majority on the left side by the pond so we can get the reflection as the sun started to rise. Even at 5AM, the air was thick and humidity was already picking up. The sunrise was pretty nice and we explored Angkor Wat until about 7-730AM? then met up with Mr Dany and he took us on our way to the next temple – Banteay Kdei. This was my favourite that we went through as it wasn’t too big but very intricate and beautiful patterns and designs etched into the stone walls. Phimeanakas has one main building that can’t be climbed but has a giant land which takes you to another section that has a huge catwalk to get to the main building that you can climb to the top. Ta Phrom has the overgrown trees that have taken over the temples which is quite beautiful but not for long when there are huge Korean and Chinese tour groups going through. Tomb raider was filmed in this area with Angelina Jolie. We ended up exiting from the other end and instead of just going back through, we decided to walk around the side which ended up being a long long journey in the heat to get to Mr Dany. NOTE- walk back through to get back to the front.

We all suffered a little bit of heat exhaustion and walking around temples at 11-noon is so difficult. Angkor Flower for lunch because of the aircon. I had the fried noodle with seafood and a Cambodian tea with milk. And finally Angkor Thom because we were all suffering from heat exhaustion, we were to walk over to the area near Angkor Thom to meet Mr Dany but there are  few temples in the surrounding area. Bayon was a beauty to be seen although we didn’t actually go into it as we were so exhausted. I really wish we had the energy to explore it. Those faces everywhere make it so picturesque and in my opinion is a much more photogenic place to explore than Angkor Wat. I really wish we had visited Bayon instead of Phimeanakas and Angkor Thom. It is outside Bayon that we saw this group of Korean tourists taking a group photo with a very stoic look by also with peace signs. This started an epidemic with my group for photos.

We all took a dip in the pool then Adam and Amy decided to nap and Andrew and myself found ourselves at Nice Cool for drinks – You just can’t beat a nice atmosphere with $.75USD giant drinks. Ice coffee with milk to go and of course the green tea with milk. We came back and Andrew joined them in a nap for 30 minutes before we had to get ready to leave for dinner. We chose Damnak Lounge Fine DiningRoad 6, Kruos Village at the Lotus Blanc Resort, It was a 4 course menu $25USD + tax.

Adam chose the degustation menu ($35 – 3 course) and we chose the Khmer tasting menu ($25 – 4 course). I got the Noam Makak to start – Makak fruit, dried smoked fish dried shrimps and roasted coconut with fish sauce. Followed by the Sailor Machu Teer – duck with lemongrass and marker leaf soup. For my main course, I got the Sach Ko Ang Dot Kul Slockkrey – grilled beef with lemon grass skewers with tomato, onion and garlic kalian. Then dessert was chek chhoeng – assorted fruits and banana glazed in palm sugar – similar to banana fosters. All very tasty and a little salty compared to all the meals we’ve had here.We got the Lotus Resort tuktuk to drive us home but he literally drove to the night market and we had to ask him to let us off so he didn’t go all the way in. NOTE: Tuktuks don’t know addresses but general areas so if you want to goto a specific area, they need a number of the place so they can call and confirm a location. $2USD for the ride home.

Siem Reap – Cambodia – Southeast Asia – 2015 – Day 13

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Woke up around 6AM hearing some Cambodian music flowing in the air. The mornings are slightly cool outside but you can sense the humidity already rising. We ate breakfast which has a decent selection of variations with eggs and baguette. We went to front desk to think of ideas for what to do during the day. I also asked if they could recommend any places we can play volleyball with locals and then Mr Dany came and said he knows a place. After that, we ended up heading back up to our room to figure out what we were going to do for the day. It took us 1-2 hours to figure out what to do. We stopped by a tour agency and booked our tickets for tonight to watch the Phare Cambodian Circus. We ended up going to the Landmine museum and Mr Dany took us by tuktuk about 40 minutes out of the city past all the temples. It costs $5USD entry to visit the Landmine museum and the proceeds of the entry, purchases and donations go towards the support and aid of the family of landmine victims and orphans. The main museum was closer in the city but got moved further out to build a larger area to accommodate the orphans. The museum was started by Aki Ra who was a rouge Khmer soldier who defected and joined the Vietnam and Cambodian army. Aki himself during his time in the Rouge Khmer form, planted thousands of mines and after he defected, he continued to disarm thousands upon thousands of mines and all the mines shown in the museum are ones he disarmed. The whole aim of this museum is to educate and make aware of the harm that was caused by al the mines and fighting that has folded Cambodia to what it is today. Even to this day, especially in Northern Cambodia, there are still thousands of active mines still buried. Mr Dany drove us back and we stopped over at Khmer Angkor Kitchen for lunch which was recommended by Mr Dany unfortunately it is a definite tourist trap (that cost double of what we paid at Nice Cool the day before) because it is so close in proximity to the temples. I guess he didn’t expect us to invite him to lunch and pay for it. I ended up getting Khmer Amok which consists of fish, chicken, shut leaf with coconut ($7.50USD) which is a popular Khmer dish. Mr Dany has been a tuktuk driver for over 14 years and has 4 children – 16,14,10,4 – 2 boys and 2 girls.

During lunch Mr Dany was on his phone and called up his tuktuk friends and organized it so we can play some volleyball today. We got back and at 3PM and had an hour before we were to meet him again to head to volleyball. When we came down, Mr Dany greeted us and introduced us to another tuktuk name Mr Ry who would be taking us to play volleyball and also playing with us. We got back around 3PM and we were to meet back at 4PM to play volleyball. Mr Ry ended up taking us to volleyball as Dany doesn’t play and Ry does. He drove us not too far from our hotel to TST Sport Club (ផ្លូវផ្សាក្រោម, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia) which could full out be a men’s club as Amy and myself were the only females minus on lady we think was the drink server. We played with Mr Ry and a few of his fellow tuktuk drivers joined us as well as other random guys who were there already playing. The facility is similar to North Beach in Toronto as it starts around 3PM and goes late into the night (until there is no light). There were 4 courts, 2 of which are dirt courts (not soft enough like beach but not hard enough like concrete or indoor) and then 2 courts that have a mat/vinyl pads placed down. They usually play 4 vs 4 here and similar to 9-man if the serve touches the net there is reserve. We played for about 2 hours and dominated at one point. The ball is a hard ball but not as heavy as the ones we played with in Hanoi. In the end, it cost us $5USD all together to play. From there, Mr Ry drove us back to the hotel to shower and then off we went to Phare Circus. So for the amount of driving today (Mr Dany & Mr Ry) it cost us $25USD including mileage.

The tickets we purchased were for C-Section which was $18USD and it was great. Section A gets popcorn and water and straight on viewing and B just straight on viewing but its in a small round tent so its fine just as long as you aren’t to infant of the columns. Only thing about C section tickets is its open seating so arrive early to get good seats. We arrived early and sat down to eat in their restaurant/cafe. We got chicken skewers with peanut sauce, fried spring rolls, teriyaki and lime egg noodle. I got an Angkor beer (much tastier than Laobeer for my tastebuds) then passionfruit and coconut ice cream / gelato.

Phare artists are students and graduates from Phare Ponleu Selpak Artistic Center in Battambang. The association was formed 20 years ago by 8 young men coming home from a refugee camp after the Khmer Rouge regime. They were greatly helped by art therapy and wanted to share this new skill among the poor, socially deprived and troubled youngsters in Battambang. They founded an art school and public school followed to offer free education. A music school and theatre school were next and finally, for the kids who wanted more, the circus school. Today more than 1,200 pupils attend the public school daily and 500 attend the alternative schools. Phare Ponleu Selpak also has extensive outreach programs, trying to help with the problems highlighted in their own tales.

Phare The Cambodian Circus offers these students and graduates somewhere to hone their skills and a place to earn a decent wage. Money that will take them out of poverty and give them self-respect and freedom. The smaller guy in the white shirt and red shorts who just flies through the air was by far my favourite. The storyline was well done as well with subtitles in the beginning playing on the 2 screens. Its a smaller Cambodian version of Cirque du Soleil and a few of the people who go through the circus school have actually gone international. We had an absolutely wonderful time here!

We sent Mr Ry home for the night we so walked back on our own which wasn’t bad at at. We ended up back in the Night market once more and grabbed $.75USD fruit shakes; I grabbed myself a carrot + sweet milk shake. Then walked around a bit so Andrew could get an elephant tank and Adam could exchange his tank for a larger size. Then we were done for the night as we have to get up early for sunrise at Angkor Wat.