Kevin and I are back Stateside visiting the inlaws (the Millers) in PA and we have snow! Lots and lots of it! Guess after 2 and half years, I've sorta missed it. Unfortunately, jet lag is causing some problems for us (awake at 4am, sleepy by 2pm), but hopefully it will pass soon.
In the meantime, just wanted to wish you all a very happy holiday.
After a few days in Bangkok, Thailand, Kev and I headed on to our 2nd leg of our trip, Cambodia! We flew into Siem Reap, which has now become a major tourist hub due to its close proximity to the temples of Angkor Wat.
We were fortunate to have arranged travel from Siem Reap airport to our cute little boutique hotel (the hotel only has about 30 rooms). We stayed at the Auberge Mont Royal d'Angkor. Owned by a Cambodian man who emigrated to Montreal during the 1970's to escape the Khmer Rouge, most of the hotel guests were French or French-Canadian.
Our hotel room was clean and air-conditioned, and the hotel had a pool as well as a spa. Kevin and I received about 3 or 4 massages while we were here. After walking on your feet for several hours (believe me, the streets of Siem Reap as well as the pathways at the temples are pretty dusty), your feet really deserve a little pampering. The prices are very cheap compared to spa treatments back in the U.S, so both Kev and I felt obligated to tip about 20-30 percent.
On our first day in Siem Reap, we arrived pretty late, so we settled into our hotel room and then ventured out into the city streets to find dinner. Recommended by some friends of ours, we had a lovely dinner at the Viroth Restaurant. Part of the Viroth Hotel, this restaurant offered an outdoor dining terrace with excellent dishes ranging from fresh salads to several different kinds of khmer and amok curry.
With our bellies full, we returned to our hotel to get a good night's sleep. We were due to hit the temples at Angkor Wat the next day. Day 1 of 2.
Knowing we would have to meet our tour guide at 8am in the morning, we said good night.
Whenever Kevin and I travel to foreign countries, we usually end up stuffing our faces with amazing, ethnic, international foods and dishes. We are both foodies so we actually look forward to "eating out." While most travelers might be a bit leery of trying new things, we go off the "beaten path" to find new and interesting places to eat.
On our recent trip to Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, we were fortunate to find a few dishes that we loved!
As Alton Brown would say, we found ourselves some good eats. Here are the highlights:
Folks, I give you one of the yummiest fruit shakes EVER!~
It was a pineapple-mango, ginger shake full of deliciousness. Behold!
Notice the parrot on the side of the glass!
While in Thailand, we also visited a floating market where we enjoyed some fresh, tasty exotic Southeast Asian fruits like lychees, rambutans, and pomelo.
Then in Cambodia, we took part in fine dining at the Meric Restaurant at Hotel De La Paix in Siem Reap. This fancy restaurant offered a 5 course dinner complete with entertainment.
Finally in Vietnam, while sailing on a junk ship in Halong Bay, we had some amazing dishes of seafood. There's something to be said about dining "al fresco" aboard a beautiful teak junk ship!
Once night fell, the chef aboard our ship prepared a dinner feast. He was something of an amateur artist as well, as he created wonderful artistic pieces from fruit and vegetables.
Now I'm sure you are all thinking: how much weight did you gain on your trip?! Guess what, I'm not telling.
Since I've been remiss in posting pictures from our most recent 3 country (Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam) trip, I'm going to do my best to get this post done as quickly as possible. Keep in mind, we have hundreds of photos (yes, we really do take A LOT of photos) so instead of boring you to bits, I'm just going to pick a few of my fave photos for the sake of this post. Here it goes!
Over the Thanksgiving break, Kev and I flew to Bangkok, Thailand to kick off our travels. We flew from Naha airport into Taipei, and then took a flight from Taipei to Bangkok. Unfortunately by the time we landed in Bangkok, it was well after 10pm so we didn't get to see much as our taxi drove us to our hotel (The Landmark). So on our first night of Bangkok, we crashed....
The next day, we got up early to take advantage of the delish breakfast provided to us by the hotel and took the train to visit some of the sites, including the Grand Palace, home to the Emerald Buddha and Wat Pho, site of the world's largest reclining Buddha.
Upon riding the train, we hopped onto a ferry. Then we saw it...the Grand Palace. Grand, doesn't really describe it.
The Grand Palace is grand and then some. It is also one of Bangkok's more popular tourist destinations, serving as the home of the Thai king for over 150 years. The current Thai king no longer lives here, but still, there are many gold gilded temples and pagodas, showing off the king's wealth and affluence.
With beautiful architecture and marvelous Thai statues, the Grand Palace complex actually houses several impressive buildings including the Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), which contains the small, albeit very famous Emerald Buddha that dates back to the 14th century. The Emerald Buddha is so revered by the Thai people, that photographs are not allowed. One interesting fact I learned while visiting the Emerald Buddha is that the robes that he wears change with the weather. He wears one robe during the summer, another in the winter, and even has a special robe for when it rains. Look closely at the pic below, perhaps you can make him out!
Since the Palace is still used for official ceremonies, there are Thai guards. Kevin noticed their weapons were unloaded though....Funny....
After the Grand Palace, we headed to Wat Pho, a Buddhist temple which is also home to the giant reclining Buddha and a Thai massage school. However, on our way to Wat Pho, we stopped at local Thai jeweler.
We saw these little gold piggies outside the store...
Then it was off to see the reclining Buddha.
While most visitors come to Wat Pho to see the Buddha, others come to get a Thai massage at the Thai massage school. Thai massage actually originated here and the massage school was the very first Thai massage school in Thailand. Eager to give it a go, both Kevin and I opted to get 30 minute Thai massages. Although a little painful (they use a lot of pressure and have you turn your body in odd, awkward positions), the massages were surprisingly cheap. It cost about $16 U.S. dollars for the two of us. Don't even ask what the conversion rate is between the Thai bhat and the U.S. dollar....
That night we ate at a great Thai restaurant recommended by one of our guidebooks--Baan Khanitha. Popular with Westerners and set in an old Thai house, I was a bit surprised at how spicy our food was. Kevin loved it, but for me, it was a bit too much even despite my efforts to keep everything "mild." Note to self: If a Thai person tells you something's not spicy, don't believe it....
The next day, we had made plans with a driver (Julie's Taxi Tours) to take a day trip out of the city. Our driver came to pick us up at our hotel and drove us about 2 hours outside of Bangkok to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. Here, we boarded flat, wooden boats to take part of a daily market only open during the hours of 6am to 12pm.
Designed to resemble the canals in Venice, the canals of Damnoen Saduak are a bit narrow, congested with many boats and vendors selling everything from fruit, noodles, soup, hats, and other Thai souvenirs. Although chaotic, it was a lot of fun to see all the colorful, noisy, vendors trying to grab our attention.
I got a kick watching the old ladies paddle their way through the throng of boats and people.
After a few hours at the floating market, our driver took us to the Rose Garden. I wasn't sure what to make of the place, but the gardens were certainly beautiful. Contrary to its name, the garden did not have roses, instead they had orchids. Many different varieties and colors of orchids.
After a short walk in the garden, we ate lunch at a Thai buffet restaurant. I lucked out and was able to eat my very first fresh rambutan. Similar to lychees, rambutans can easily be found in SE Asia.
For those of you who know me well, may recall that I enjoy eating dried rambutan available at Trader Joe's. Although I like the dried variety, fresh rambutan is definitely much better! For a bit more information about rambutans, click here.
Once we finished lunch, we walked around a bit and later got the chance to see some Asian elephants before watching a Thai cultural show.
Bothered a bit by the elephants (I felt a bit sorry for them), we sat down to watch a Thai cultural show complete with traditional Thai dances. The show was entertaining, and gave Kevin and I the opportunity to see Thai traditional and cultural traditions.
This is the famous Thai "fingernail" dance.
With two full days in Bangkok, we got ready for the second leg of our trip: Cambodia!
Stay tuned for our adventures in Siem Reap, Cambodia visiting Angkor Wat!
Xmas is more or less a Western holiday, but here in Japan, it is celebrated with a twist. Of course, most of the celebrating is commercialism at its best. Japanese stores and businesses put up Xmas decorations all in the hopes it will attract shoppers.
But aside from the "merryment" of Xmas decorations, Xmas in Japan is anything but ordinary. Many Japanese families treat themselves to a special Xmas eve dinner from KFC. That's right. Colonel Sanders has made a killing here in Japan selling pre-packaged Xmas chicken dinners. I'm not really sure where this tradition comes from, some have said that Japanese eat chicken because they want to imitate Westerners who eat turkey with all the trimmings. Or perhaps KFC's popularity has grown due to the fact that Japanese homes do not have large ovens. You simply can't make a roast turkey or a roast chicken in a little toaster oven. KFC has come to the rescue bringing Japanese people pure finger-lickin' deliciousness.
So if you're inclined to eat some fried chicken on Xmas eve, keep in mind lines might be long. You might want to place your order in early.
In addition to the "grease fest" of fried chicken, Japanese also like to partake in Xmas cake. Many Japanese bakeries like Fujiya, even ice cream parlors like Blue Seal sell special Xmas cakes. The cakes are usually sponge cakes decorated with whipped cream, strawberries, and cute little edible Santa Clauses and reindeer.
I think the Japanese have something here, because these cakes are delish! The cakes aren't too sweet and are oh so pretty to look at. If you want to take a look at the Xmas cake Kev and I had last year, take a look here.
Have I mentioned how much I love Xmas in Japan?
PS: Unfortunately, this year we will not be celebrating Xmas in Japan. We're flying home to PA to celebrate with the family. However, before we leave, we plan to eat a little fried chicken and Xmas cake...
Welcome! Thank you so much for visiting. We hope this blog will give you a small glimpse of our busy lives as we travel and explore the environment around us. Please stop by and check in often. Love, Chrissy & Kevin