Siem Reap, Cambodia

A clear lesson learnt for me about travel writing is to write them immediately or almost immediately upon my return home. Alternatively I should make conscious efforts to jot them down as notes or something equivalent lest I risk forgetting the more intimate details of both the ordinary and extraordinary encounters throughout my journey. It helps though that I take photographs of everything I find intriguing; they help me recall my thoughts and feelings and why I found my subject captivating. If anything else, they help me render our experiences in exact chronological order.

We flew to Siem Reap, Cambodia immediately following our trip to Sydney. It was a spur of the moment decision that did not take long to deliberate. We decided not to stay in Kuala Lumpur for the rest of our holiday and felt strongly about seeing other parts of South East Asia. As we had always wanted to visit the jewel of Cambodia- the Angkor Wat- the decision came to us easily.

Siem Reap is the second gateway into Cambodia after its capital Phnom Penh. It is home to UNESCO World Heritage site Angkor Wat along with countless other spiritual temples, some of which are still in use today.

There are two airlines operating the Kuala Lumpur (KUL) – Siem Reap (REP) route: Malaysia Airlines (MH) and AirAsia (AK). At the time of writing, MH and AK operate 5 and 11 times per week respectively. The flight took us about 2 hours which gave us decent time to get a much needed shut eye after the long flight from Sydney which arrived very early the same morning.

Our sightseeing started only on our second day there (we were knocked out the first day that we spent the whole day recharging ourselves!). As is probably customary for all travellers, we initiated our excursion with the obligatory visit to Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat was originally built as a homage to the Hindu lord Vishnu during the Khmer administration. It gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple by the end of the 12th century, propelling itself as the capital of the Khmer Empire. The Angkor Wat, or Capital Temple, is a colossal temple complex that sits within a site measuring 162.6 hectares surrounded by moat and protective outer walls. Purported to be the largest religious monument in the world, it is extolled for its grandeur and the intricate bas-reliefs and devatas (Hindu deity) adorning its walls.

Angkor Wat is one of many temples contained within the premise of the Angkor Archeological Park. To enter, you are required to purchase a one day (USD 20) or 3 day (USD 40) passes which will grant you access to no less than 40 temples around the park including the Angkor Thom, Banteay Srei and Ta Prohm among others. This can be done at any of the site’s entrances. Also note that there are check points at every temple where you’ll be asked to present your ticket; so do make sure that you don’t lose yours!

It took us more than half a day to thoroughly see Angkor Wat. We spent 2 full days temple hopping after which we had had enough and opted to travel out into the Cambodian villages towards Banteay Srei and Phnom Kulen National Park.

Tuk-tuks are ubiquitous in Cambodia and we were lucky to have met one at the airport who agreed to chaperon us throughout our stay in Siem Reap. We paid about USD20 per day which may seem quite hefty but taking into account the sheer diligence of our driver and the amount of kilometres we covered everyday, it was money well spent.

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Entrance at Angkor Wat’s outer wall.

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The grand promenade leading towards the main temple of Angkor Wat.

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Headless statues victimised by looters.

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Carved pillars which are emblematic of the Khmer architecture.
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The War Gallery where you’ll find the most intact bas-relief in Angkor Wat.

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Sydney, Australia (Day 5)

On our last day in Sydney, we decided to conclude our Australian chapter by ending where we began- the Sydney Opera House and its environs.

Our flight back to KL was not until later in the evening so we had ample time to make a brief round-up of the city beginning at the Rocks, inside the great Sydney Opera House, the Royal Botanic Garden, the Art Gallery of New South Wales and finally Mrs. Macquarie’s Point.

I loved everything about that day. The glistening cobalt blue sky that seemed to follow us everywhere, the uncharacteristically strong winds (while we were around the parameters of the opera house) that had us hold on to each other tight, the calmness of the Royal Botanic Garden which held at least 2-3 beautiful garden weddings that afternoon, the sound of the violin quartet soothing through every rustle of the leaves, the chirping of the birds in between, the brilliant Jacarandas against the emerald green lawns- everything and everyone seemed to be so happy and at peace. It was as if we were all joined by a familiar kinship- one that is innately understood by each of our hearts- that celebrates and glorifies life as it is, warts and all.

I knew I loved Australia even before I arrived. In a weird but not entirely unexpected way, it felt like home.

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Back at the Rocks!
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Perfect view of the Harbour Bridge.

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The heavy interior of the Sydney Opera House.

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Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden.

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An unexpected gem on the calmer side of Sydney.
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Cafe at the NSW Gallery.

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Some of the beautiful aboriginal crafts. I love the simple geometric shapes. I’m sure each line, shape and colour tells a story. I wish I knew more.
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One of my favourite paintings there. The details are just amazing!

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We walked back into the Royal Botanic Garden to this cozy cafe just on the edge of the garden.

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As we headed back to the Opera House we came across at least two weddings around the garden. They were so beautiful and heart warming to witness. How could they not be against this spectacular backdrop? 🙂

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Party boat!

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Our favourite Jacaranda.
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Another beautiful wedding!

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We have so much love for this city. We hope we’ll return here soon!

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Weekend Wanderings: Kuala Lumpur

Ahh weekend…. I hope everyone is doing fabulously wherever you may be. For a change I had myself unshackled from my weekly routine of painting the room and got myself to Kuala Lumpur for a lovely stroll around the Central Market area.

It is always great to be able to play tourist in your own home city, discovering and rediscovering places that are unknown to you or that you may have forgotten after so long a hiatus.

The best thing about today was that I discovered an old colonial square right in the middle of KL which I never knew existed. I was as happy as I was excited because I’ve been to Central Market many times in my life but never have I come across this small pocket of wonder…

If you’re ever in KL, please do away with your maps and just wander around the city aimlessly (unless you consider wandering around aimlessly an aim in itself); you’d be surprised by all the ‘unchartered’ gems you will find scattered around the city. Try it!

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Central Market- where you can find local arts and craft. A must go venue for your souvenirs.

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The square I never knew existed. I am delighted to see old colonial buildings still standing amidst the more cosmopolitan and taller offices.

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My all time favourite cake! The Chocolate Berry Cheesecake. You can find these heavenly treats at Secret Recipe.

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Beautiful KL… I shall come back to you for more strolls and pictures with cake treats in between soon! 🙂