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Far Away Temples

Banteay Srei


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I ended the first day with a trip out to Banteay Srei, a temple to the north of the greater complex. Although this temple is outside the Angkor Wat area, it was well worth the 45 minute TukTuk ride I took (and fell asleep during!). This temple had the most beautiful and intricate carvings in the stones, and the details were absolutely amazing.

Banteay Srei is built largely of red sandstone, a medium that lends itself to the elaborate decorative wall carvings which are still observable today. The buildings themselves are miniature in scale, unusually so when measured by the standards of Angkorian construction. These factors have made the temple extremely popular with tourists, and have led to its being widely praised as a "precious gem", or the "jewel of Khmer art."

It's hard to believe this temple was created over a thousand years ago, and I can still go see carvings that look like they are new. This temple was absolutely breathtaking, and I'm glad I ventured out to see it even after a long day.

Posted by Cassi 16:47 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

TaProham and Trees

A Different World


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Picture a temple in ruins: trees overgrowing the walkways and the walls, and even causing the ceilings to crumble. Hundreds of bricks lay around the grounds, walls are missing, and trees stretch into the sky. This is TaProham: it looks like a movie set - and it is! This temple was used in the movie Tomb Raider, and it is simply amazing.

Unlike most Angkorian temples, Ta Prohm has been left in much the same condition in which it was found: the photogenic and atmospheric combination of trees growing out of the ruins and the jungle surroundings have made it one of Angkor's most popular temples with visitors. UNESCO inscribed Ta Prohm on the World Heritage List in 1992. Today, it is one of the most visited complexes in Cambodia’s Angkor region.

Like I stated in a previous post, these temples allow visitors to climb on everything: the fallen blocks, the huge trees, everything. This temple looked like something that was just discovered and was still being cleared of the jungle that had taken it over. And that made this temple truely a special sight, so much so that I went back both days that I visited the Angkor Temples!

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Posted by Cassi 16:48 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Angkor Wat and The Little Circut

Biking around Angkor


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Day two at the Angkor Temples I decided to ride a bike instead of taking a TukTuk (Yes, a real bicycle, not a motorbike). Although this sounded like a good idea around 8am, it was a lot of work and by sunset I was ready to be home. I started off by exploring the grand Angkor Wat temples. Although I had watched sunrise here the day before, I didn't climb inside the temples and explore on my own. And for the next three hours, this is where I stayed.

Angkor Wat is surrounded by an outer wall, 1024 by 802 m and 4.5 m high, then is surrounded by a 30 m apron of open ground, and lastly a moat 190 m wide. The size of this area is much bigger than it looks on the map - Remember, this is just ONE temple shown. Once inside the temple, there are various different levels within the center core, and in the middle on the top there is the Wat.

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This is the biggest temple within the complex, the busiest temple, and the most well known. Being able to climb to the top of this temple was an amazing experience. From Angkor Wat I biked around the complex along the smaller loop, and saw various other temples and of course went back to TaProhm for a second day.

For the end of my second day, I hiked up the mountain in the middle of the Angkor Temples to Phnom Bakheng. This is where I decided to watch the sunset from on my second day in the temples. Two full days of climbing up temples, biking everywhere, hiking a mountain and taking in the views was the highlight of my time in Asia.

Note: the little circuit is Siem Reap - Angkor Wat west gate, Bayon, Victory Gate, Takeo, Ta Prohm, Sra Srang, Angkor Wat east entrance - Siem Reap with a Distance of 30+ km. I was ready for sleep by the end of this.

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Posted by Cassi 16:49 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Pub Street with Paul

Meeting another new "Cousin"


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Downtown Siem Reap has several different areas: Markets, Restaurants and of course, Pub Street. Pub Street is one road full of all the best nightlife, restaurants, clubs and bars. After my second day exploring the temples, I took my bike into downtown Siem Reap and met up with Paul. He is another one of those distant, not quite related to me "cousins" I met while in Asia, through my actual cousin and his wife.

Pub street is filled with shops open throughout the day, but after people start heading home from the temples around sunset, this street really fills up. It has several bars, including the famous Angkor Wat? bar (which is an awesome name in my opinion) and Xbar, where I spent my night.

First, Paul and I went out to dinner at an amazing Mexican Restaurant (yes, an amazing Mexican restaurant in the middle of Cambodia). Since leaving the US in July, I had only had Mexican one time and that was when my parents came to visit and we went out the Holland Village in Singapore. This was such a treat, after biking around the temples all morning I was ready for all the comfort food I could find, Mexican was perfect.

Getting to talk to an American who grew up outside of the States was a very interesting experience. Having such a different background and such different world views proved for exciting conversation. But at the same time we found we had a lot in common too. Paul said he had always wanted to travel to Vermont for the snowboarding and winter season, we both liked similar movies and of course we talked about traveling Southeast Asia. However a big difference between us: Paul can speak Cambodian just like James could, and once again I had to laugh when I heard the transition from English to Cambodian without any hesitation.

After dinner, Paul's band was playing at Xbar. This bar was all open air on the third story, and even had a half pipe for skate boarding on the roof! Just like all of my travels, I met people from all over the world at this place, with some amazing stories. Overall it was a great night, and I'm glad I got to meet Paul and see the town with him.

Posted by Cassi 16:50 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Goodbye Cambodia, Back to Singapore

One last time...

My third and last day in Cambodia was spent riding my bike around Siem Reap, getting breakfast, hitting a few markets for some souvenirs and getting packed up to end my two week journey. In just two weeks I had seen ladyboys in Phuket, rode an elephant and petted a live tiger in Chiang Mai, toured the streets of Bangkok, and explored countless hours at Angkor Wat. If I could choose one way to end my time in Asia, I would say I picked the best for last and ended perfectly.

While in Singapore I flew on 15 flights - on Lao Airlines, Vietnam Airlines, Air Asia, Tiger Airlines, Bangkok Air, JetStar, KLM and probably some I am forgetting. And this was the last time I would be flying back to Singapore. Because of this experience, I now know baggage restrictions in terms of kg, not pounds, and that's a sign I have been away from home for too long. It was time to go to Singapore for one last day.

I had planned this trip out to end on the 15th, spend the 16th in Singapore and fly out at 2am on the 17th back to the USofA. And it was finally all coming to an end...

Posted by Cassi 16:51 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Nights in Boat Quay

Prince of Wales Hostel

Back in Singapore I didn’t have a place to stay. I had moved out of my dorm, and my suitcases were being held by my NUS Buddy JD. So rather than go back out to Clementi and campus, I decided to stay at the Prince of Wales Hostel downtown in Boat Quay. JD came over for a last goodbye, and dropped off all of my stuff. I had one night left in Singapore, but none of my friends from school were left in the city, so I made some new friends in the Hostel.

The thing about Singapore is that unless you take the time to explore the city, it can seem like an overly expensive place without much to do. The guys staying in my hostel had been there two days, and hated every second of it. They didn’t know what to do with their time, and they didn’t know about all the places I found to love while living there.

I helped them make up an itinerary for the next week (they had 5 more days there before flying on to Australia) by mapping out places like Chinatown, Arab Street, and Little India. Telling them where to take the subway to, walking them around the City Center and showing them Clarke Quay was enough to get them started loving the city.

We went out to Clarke Quay our first night, and we made a plan to go to Sentosa in the morning. The last thing I wanted to do was go to Universal Studios, and I had one day left to make that happen.

Posted by Cassi 16:52 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Universal Studios

Goodbye Sentosa, its been fun...


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My last day in Singapore came too fast, and there were a few things I never got a chance to do. However, with one day left I did manage to fit in a trip to Universal Studios on Sentosa.

I woke up in the morning, took the MRT from Boat Quay to Sentosa with John, a guy I met staying at the hostel with me, and spent all afternoon riding rides. A brand new Transformers ride had just opened, and the line was over an hour long, but it was AMAZING. Similar to the Spiderman ride in Universal Studios in Orlando this ride wasn't a roller coaster, but a 3D action adventure that was amazing. They also had two roller coasters like dueling dragons in Orlando, but it was Battelstar Galatica: Humans vs. Cylon. The park was separated into several areas: New York, Hollywood, Sci-Fi City, Ancient Egypt, The Lost World, Far Far Away and Madagascar. In the Lost World there was Jurassic Park themed rides, Far Far Away was Shrek and Madagascar was all the animals from the movie. Overall it was a great day in the park- and luckily it was cloudy so it wasn't too hot!

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After Universal we walked through Sentosa one last time- it was hard to say goodbye after all the days and nights we spent on that island. Wandering along the paths of multicolored tiled fountains, past the Merlion statue and down to the beach one last time brought back the memories from the last 6 months.

Posted by Cassi 16:53 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Goodbye Singapore

Flying around the world


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Bailey was back in Singapore for our final goodbye dinner. We met up in Boat Quay after she returned from Vietnam and I returned from Universal Studios, and we went out to Clarke Quay for one final night. We grabbed some dinner, wandered through the crowds of people going out to the clubs, and we talked about everything had happened since July.

Her flight was the next day as well, so we both were ending our time in Singapore.

After leaving Clarke Quay, we went to the waterfront to watch one more Laser Light show from the top of Marina Bay Sands, got some ice cream and took a few more pictures of the Merlion. Walking away from downtown for the last time was hard. I loved my time in Singapore and couldn't believe I would be on the other side of the world in less than a day.

Dragging all my bags out of the hostel and to the main road required me, Bailey and the guys from the hostel to help. It was around midnight when I caught a taxi to Changi. I said goodbye to a my new friends, and of course said a long goodbye to Bailey. Got in the taxi, and cried on the way to the airport as we wove through the downtown traffic.

Posted by Cassi 16:54 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Airport Adventures

What is considered excess baggage?

Chiangi Airport, Singapore:

Of all of the crazy stories I arrived home with from Asia, the one that gets the most laughs occurred on December 17th, in the lobby of Changi Airport. I had come to Singapore in July with two full checked bags, a carry on bag, a backpack with my squash racket, my stuffed moose and a pillow. When I was leaving Singapore, I had much more. I threw away my backpack, but bought a much larger travel backpack while I was there.

1. My new travel backpack was filled with dirty clothes from the past two weeks in Thailand and Cambodia, and a few presents.
2 & 3. I filled my big giant suitcase and a second smaller wheelie suitcase with everything from my dorm (clothes, pictures, tapestries, shoes, jackets, sheets, etc.)
4. I had a huge duffel bag which had souvenirs: both for me as well as Christmas presents for others. This bag also had my computer, books and binders.
5. I had my side bag, with my tickets, passport, wallet, camera, headphones and iPod for the flights and books.
6. I also had my moose, squash racket, pillow and paintings with me that I could not pack (these were to be carried free from my other bags).

According to Qatar's Website, Regulations are:
Check Baggage: 2 pieces, not to exceed 23 kg and a maximum dimension of 158 cm each
Carry Ons: One piece, not to exceed 7 kg and 50 x 37 x 25 cm
If in person at the airport I was to add a Third Piece of Checked Luggage, it would be $200 USD, and for each piece over the 23 kg limit, a $65 USD charge is applied.

Now it's 1am, my flights leaves at 2am. I show up to the counter, and my two "checked" bags are both well over 23kg (around 40 kg each). This should be an automatic $130 charge, but I get them to wave the fee as an international student. They print my boarding passes and I start to walk away... Then the trouble begins.

The checker noticed I still have a large backpack, a huge duffel bag, a side bag, a stuffed moose, a pillow, a squash racket, and two paintings. She yells to me that I cannot carry on all of this stuff, and will have to check another bag. Here comes the $200 charge I've been dreading, only I don't give up so easy.

In my duffle bag I have my computer, which I will not be checking. In my travel backpack I have a few Christmas presents, and in my side bag I have my important things I don't want to lose. I can't check a racket, my paintings, moose or pillows. Which leads me to the argument that I cannot possibly check any of my extra bags. She says she must weigh everything to see if it is under 7 kg.... my duffel bag alone was 25 kg! (Note: this should have had an extra fee even as a check bag). My backpack was another 13 kg, and she never even asked to weight the miscellaneous items I was carting around...

So what now? I have less than an hour to my flight and they tell me I cannot go. I am starting to cry at the airport. I can only imagine what my parents will say when I miss my flight home from Singapore, the week of Christmas, all because I bought too much stuff in Asia and don't want to pay the fee.

So the checker calls her manager over and they have this silent conversation. He is a HUGE person, tall and wide, arms folded and not smiling. He looks at me, looks at my pile of things, and looks at the two bags I have already checked, and without saying a single work gives a nod OK. The checker looks back at me and says, "If you can carry it all, my manager says it is ok." I was SO relieved.
I go through security, board my flight and take up an entire overhead compartment for myself. I fall asleep on the plane, next stop: Doha, Qatar.

Doha, Qatar:

Assuming I am all done with airport troubles I arrive in Doha. Next flight to JFK leaves from Gate 18.... which is nowhere to be found. I can see gate 14, 15, 16 and then 21, 22, 23 etc. But where are the missing numbers? One sign that says "All Flights to the United States this way" has an arrow pointing down a hall way, so I follow it, and sure enough there is Gate 18... behind all new security lines.

Now, in my time in Asia I flew an average of 3 or 4 times a month, and never had to go through crazy security. No body scanners, no taking off my shoes, no removing laptops from my backpack. I had forgotten how crazy and intrusive our airport security is. So I get in line, and this airport worker comes rushing over to me. "Are you traveling alone?" I respond with yes, very confused. "Please, follow me right away" and he brings me straight to the front of the line. With the 40 kg of stuff I am carrying this was greatly appreciated. I am rushed through security, and brought to the gate area. Without thinking much of it I sit down. Next someone comes and asks me which seat number I have, and they make a note of it.

A solo female in most of the Middle East is simply an unusual sight, and a female traveling alone is even more rare. In their culture it just doesn't happen. And when they see a female alone, some places even separate them from the bigger groups - such as having separate seating areas in restaurants and on buses. I was able to take the first bus from the gate to our plane, along with other women and children traveling.

In the middle of all that happening, one other thing happened too. According to flight standards in the US, rackets are considered weapons, and therefore I could not carry on my squash racket with me. So that got added to my checked luggage.

JFK, New York City:

I landed in JFK, carried my bags to the luggage claim and looked for my checked bags to go through customs. However, I can’t find my squash racket anywhere. It’s not with my bags, it’s not in the pile of small checked items, it is gone, and I am mad. Then I see an airport official giving directions to a family, and using a bright orange squash racket to point them in the right direction. Knowing I have another connection to make, I run over to him and ask for it back. Now, carting around about 100 kg of stuff, I have to go from the international terminal to domestic, recheck my bags, re-go through security, and find my final gate of my journey.

And once again, I forget how terrible US security really is. The lines were long, and I forgot to take out my laptop from inside my duffle bag so they take me aside and search everything before making me retry the metal detectors. At the end of 24 hours, I did not want to deal with this. I just wanted to get home.

Luckily I found my gate, grabbed a big slice of pizza (for the first time in over a month!) and was almost done my journey.

Posted by Cassi 16:56 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Around the World in 145 Days

Circumnavigating the Whole World

I touched down in Burlington, VT on December 17th: 24 hours after I left Singapore, and 145 days after I took off from Burlington the first time. I had circled the whole world, something most people don't get the chance to do in a lifetime.

Waiting for me at the gate was my family, who I hadn't seen in months, with my winter jacket so I wouldn't freeze when I walked outside. I left Singapore in 90 degree weather, spending the day at a Theme Park, and I landed in a Vermont Winter and all the wind chills that come with it. And then it was all over.

That is the end of my story in Southeast Asia. It was the most fun I've ever had, I will never forget the memories, and I would love to go back one day and do it all again.

Thank you to everyone who kept up with my story. Hopefully there are more adventures to come in my life!

Posted by Cassi 16:57 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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