Angkor Temples | Journey With Me Through Banteay Kdei

Thursday, 22 September 2016
When I started writing my initial post about the Angkor Temples, I found it incredibly difficult to select just one or two photos from each of the temples. In total, I took over 3,000 photos over two days. For some, this is not a high number of photos, but for me...this is an incredibly huge volume of photos. I tend to take a second to see the shot I want, focus the lens, and snap the picture. I allow myself one, maybe two chances to get the capture when travelling with others (I'm aware to non-photography hobbyists, it can be quite dull waiting around for them to capture the perfect shot). Instead of stressing over which photos to chose from, I decided it was best to share my photo journey with everyone! Join me as we journey through Banteay Kdei...

Before even coming close to the actual entrance of the temple, you're greeted by a giant wall and a smiling Buddha head. It reminded me of Olmec from Legends of the Hidden Temple (I made sure to keep an eye out for temple guards). Upon arrival you get the impression that you are entering the temple itself. Once walking through the gateway, you travel quite a distance, seeing smaller ruins before approaching the actual temple.

The temple was actually a number of temples which all served various purposes. I found it rather interesting that to enter the temples your legs and your shoulders must be covered, but a low cut top is perfectly fine. I realise that my choice of lightweight dress might not have been the best when seeing the temples but I was in such a rush I did not want to change. Walking through each area, I couldn’t help but be completely overwhelmed by the intricacy of the carvings.

Each of the temples were intricately connected via pathways. There were visible courtyards that would appear in between the corridors of each temple. While some of the temple had started to undergo renovations, most had not. It was incredible to walk amongst the ruins trying to envision what it looked like in its glory days.

Every step I took was met with something new. I was constantly wondering how in the heck was this all possible. Here are temples that have survived for almost 1,000 years and buildings now a days crumble quickly when abandoned. The architectural design was exquisite, showing how strong these buildings are. Could it be alien technology?

I knew that if I was this amazed by one temple the rest of my trip in Angkor was going to be life altering. We could have spent a longer period of time at Banteay Kadei. But not wanting to miss a thing, we quickly headed to the the next temple... Ta Phrom. If you've ever traveled to the Angkor Temples (specifically Banteay Kdei), what were your impressions? Share your stories below!

And until next time...
Stay Curious!

Keep up with all the adventures by following along on social media:


Vietnam | Vung Tau: The Holiday Within A Holiday

Monday, 19 September 2016
After the adventurous start to our trip in Vietnam, I was looking forwards to a few relaxing beach days. I know many will think this side trip is ill-advised. There are many beautiful places to explore on Vietnam that probably trump Vung Tau. But for those who know me, they understand that my life revolves around the ocean. In times of high stress, the ocean brings me peace. As we didn't have a chance to take the 5ish hour trip to Mui Ne, we opted for the closest option.

Turns out, Vung Tau is basically a mini Australia. There were heaps of retired Aussie expats living/holidaying here. It was apparent of the Aussie influence as most restaurants catered to Australian foods and even the buildings reflected modern Australian architecture. As my Crohn’s decided it wanted to say hello at this point of the journey, it was good to be able to eat familiar foods that were not going to hurt me in the long run.

Straight flowin' on a boat in the deep blue sea

Most of the trip was spent relaxing at the beach. While it was probably not the most glamorous of the Vietnamese beaches, there still were decent waves, beautiful sand, and warm ocean waters. The downside to coming to Vung Tau during the off season, we were met with a burst of rain around 2 pm each day. I'm not talking light sprinkles, I'm talking it's raining sideways, and I can no longer see the other side of the street rain. The positives, there weren’t many tourists around which meant plenty of prime beach location.

Beach walk

We spent a lot of time walking around the island, hopping from one bar to the next. On our second day, we went to visit the enormous Jesus statue. Definitely, a must see in Vung Tau. From there we walked along the far side of the peninsula. It is clear that Vung Tau is an up and coming tourist area in Vietnam due to the massive amount of new hotels being built. While many new hotels are being built, I still feel like Vung Tau will hold onto its smaller town feel.

Can I live there please? 

As per usual, we got stuck in the rain which meant popping into another Aussie bar to eat and drink until the storm died down (we were not too keen on cab drivers yet). It was on this day we noticed a massive shopping centre and what appeared to be an amusement park. Unfortunately, we did not have the time to explore these new discoveries.

Fishing boats along the shore

I would be interested to see how different Vung Tau is outside of offseason. I feel like the locals may not be as aggressive towards the tourists regarding selling things. Before leaving, we made one more stop at Century Fish and Chips for their all you can eat buffet. For about $5AUD, it was definitely worth to eat ourselves sick before the long travel day we had that day. We took the bus back to Ho Chi Minh before catching a flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Have you ever been to Vietnam? Share your favourite places in the comments below!

And until next time...
Stay Curious!

Keep up with all my adventures by following along on social media:

Vietnam | Vung Tau: Going to See Jesus

Thursday, 15 September 2016

The first day whilst walking around Vung Tau, we were frequently asked if/when we were going to see the Jesus Statue. At first, I wasn’t sure what they were talking about. Outside of the one in Rio, I did not think there were any others. Apparently there are these statues all over the world (learning something new every day). On our second day in Vung Tau, we decided to hike to see Jesus.

For those who think a massive Jesus statue is an incredibly random thing to find in Vietnam, you're slightly correct. Due to the French occupying Vietnam and America’s aid there are strong Christian and Catholic ties throughout Vietnam. I'm not sure why this shocked me so much when I arrived in Vietnam. I remember seeing many Vietnamese Catholic Churches in Southern California. One of the schools I went to growing held Sunday mass in Vietnamese. It probably should have dawned on me sooner. But didn't until we started the walk to the statue.
Pretty nice scenery

We started the walk to the base of the 811 step journey. Fortunately it wasn’t too far of a walk from our hotel. We did have to endure the endless honking and “madam where do you go?”; “motorbike”; “I take you” while we walked to the statue. Interesting side fact, I probably would have taken a cab in Vung Tau that did not honk at us. Unfortunately, this never happened. After a scenic walk down the peninsula, we started our ascent to the Jesus statue.

It was an incredibly hot and humid day so 811 stairs seemed like an eternity. After the first 250, I was drenched in sweat, extremely thankful that I remembered to bring a bottle of water. We decided to not be superheros whilst ascending the stairs but instead would leisurely stroll up and take a break when needed. This seemed to be a wise choice. There were quite a few people who were drenched in sweat by the time they got to the top.

One of the many flights of stairs
Once at the top you have the option of climbing up to the top of Jesus. Unfortunately, if you’re wearing shorts you will not be allowed to enter Jesus. Sadly, we found this out after we reached the top. But considering how hot and humid it was, I’m not sure climbing in Jesus would have been a fun time. Claustrophobia may have set in around mid-thigh.  We did however, get some amazing shots from where we were.

After the 811 step hike, you are greeted with an amazing view of the ocean. As tiring as the hike was, it was well worth it. If you're ever in Vung Tau, do yourself a favour and make the journey. With the myriad of temples littering Vietnam, it was incredibly interesting to see such a large Christian influence scattered throughout a mostly Buddhist terrain.

Finally made it!

Did you miss my other adventures in the Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City? Click the links to catch up on my holiday adventures! Have you ever been to Vung Tau? What was your favourite part?

And until next time...

Stay Curious!

Never miss an adventure by following along on social media:

Vietnam | Mekong Delta: An Intriguing Insight to Smaller Vietnamese Villages

Sunday, 11 September 2016
For our next day in Vietnam, we decided to book a tour to the Mekong Delta. This came highly recommended from various friends who had previously visited Vietnam. For 200,000 dong (roughly $10.92 Aussie), the tour was well worth it!

First stop... Happy House!

The driver and tour guide picked us up from our hotel promptly in the morning. We made the rounds picking up various guests from other hotels before heading off to the Mekong Delta. Our tour guide was incredibly enthusiastic and full of knowledge, as he grew up in a small village in the Delta. A good chunk of our journey was spent explaining the various activities we would participate in, the foods we would try, and tidbits about the area.

Pondering life at the Happy House

We made a quick stop at the place our guide deemed the 'Happy House' (basically a toilet and a gift shop) before heading to a local temple, Vinh Trang. It was originally built as a Buddhist temple. Once the French occupied the area, their influence began to creep into the temple's facade. It was destroyed multiple times but was quickly rebuilt by the locals, each time incorporating new influences. There are Buddhist, Chinese, and French influences all throughout the temple which is made obvious though the designs that you see when you visit.

Giant Buddhas 

From there we made our way to the delta. We hopped on a boat before being taken to Turtle Island. Here we learned how to make coconut candy, took a horse drawn carriage ride to a local restaurant, tried various foods, and relaxed in some hammocks.

Hammock naps before the storm

We made our way to another boat before being led to Unicorn Island. In the Mekong Delta, there are 4 islands, each holding names of animals significant to Vietnamese culture. Unicorns in Vietnamese culture differ from the unicorn you and I would think of. These animals are similar to deer with massive antlers. On this island we tasted local honey from a bee farm, took a traditional boat like the ones used in the floating markets down the river, and ate local fruits whilst listening to traditional Vietnamese music.

Paddling down the Mekong Delta

Overall, the trip to Mekong Delta was worth it! It was nice getting out of the bustling city for a day, and having the opportunity to see some of the rich cultural history in Vietnam. I did feel, at times, like I was on a Disneyland trip where they shuffle you from one experience to another with a cute little gift shop at the end in hopes you spend more money. But despite this I would definitely recommend all travellers make a trip down to the Mekong Delta. Having the opportunity to see locals go about their everyday, a manner that differs to those who live in the city, gave me a deeper understanding of the Vietnamese people and the Vietnamese culture.

And until next time...

Stay Curious!

Want to see more photos from my adventures? Be sure to follow me on social media:

Vietnam | Ho Chi Minh City: The Real Adventure

Tuesday, 6 September 2016
We finally made it to our hotel. At this point, I was trying to get the sour taste out of my mouth. I didn’t want one experience to ruin Ho Chi Minh City for me (If you haven't read about our rocky start, click here). I was determined to fall in love with Vietnam.

Vietnam | Ho Chi Minh City: A Rocky Adventure

Saturday, 3 September 2016
I had done my research. I would not let another incident like the taxi one I had in Bali happen whilst in Vietnam. Recently, many of my friends had visited Vietnam and had wonderful, colourful stories to share upon their return. I was excited, and honestly a little nervous, to explore this fascinating country.

But what would adventure be without a colourful, daring story? We got that in spades within the first 30 minutes of landing in Ho Chi Minh City. We queued in line for one of the two reputable taxis in Ho Chi Minh and were quickly whisked into the next taxi cab. Our cabbie quickly pulled over before queueing for the exit toll at the airport. “1” is all he said to us. I handed him over a 500,000 dong note knowing this would more than cover the fair, expecting changing in return.

No! No! Too much! 1” he proceeded to yell whilst shoving the note back into my hand. My friend hands him a 10,000 dong note only to have him throw it back at her. We’re looking at each other incredibly confused. I offer him the 500k note again stating I will be given change and it was ok.

From there the cabbie proceeded to grab my purse and tried to reach for my money. Thankfully, being the paranoid traveller I am, I do not keep all my money in my purse. He grabbed a 10 baht note and threw it at me whilst trying to grab the dong I had in my hand. Clinging to the notes, I firmly said “No. Let go now!”

We handed him the 10,000 dong note which was the amount needed to exit the toll. Starting to feel like we were about to ripped off, I mentioned to my mate that we should be careful. The cabbie proceeded to pretend the car had stopped working and pulled to the side of the road.

We grabbed our belongings, quickly exiting the cab as he yell at us to pay the fair whilst trying to usher us into the next cab. “Absolutely not. We have another ride” my friend calmly said. Thankfully she was around because I was struggling to contain my anger at this point.

Thankfully, we used the Grab app to catch us a safe taxi to our hotel. If you're traveling in SE Asia I highly recommend downloading this app. It works similarly to Uber, but is heaps cheaper and allows you to see exactly how much you will be paying for the fair (I am not being sponsored to promote Grab. This app simply saved my skin in a stressful, scary situation).

Lessons I've learned on this trip: 1. Always keep your wits about you. 2. Make sure one person in your travel party coughs up the $5 USD for a new SIM card so that you have access to the Internet in case of an emergency. 3. All the research in the world can still lead to what will be hilarious anecdotes to tell your friends and family for years to come. 4. And above all, remember that if you're uncomfortable in a situation at home or while travelling to always trust your gut instinct!

And until next time...

Stay Curious!

Never miss an adventure by following along on social media: