Monday, June 28, 2010

Cambodia: Siem Reap's Night Life

Siem Reap in central Cambodia is the gateway to the ancient city of Angkor. If you plan to visit Angkor, you will need to book a hotel in Siem Reap, stay in Siem Reap, eat in Siem Reap, buy souvenirs in Siem Reap, etc. Over the years, it has become a tourist hub, a fast-developing piece of land in the heart of Cambodia.

Angkor What?

Being a fast-developing tourist hub, you can imagine that night life would be very exciting and alive as well. And it is. On our first night, after having had a very happy dinner, we went straight to the famous Pub Street.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cambodia: The Heart of Angkor

It is a little bittersweet to be writing this post. It will be my last about the temples of Angkor. Nevertheless, I find it appropriate that this set is the last one. As imposing and grand as Angkor Wat was, it was not the largest nor the most enduring of all ancient Angkor's structures. A much bigger territory was built just north of Angkor by a later Khmer king. He called it Angkor Thom, "the Great City."

Angkor Thom

Friday, June 18, 2010

Cambodia: Angkor's Royal Foundations

Then we go to the grandest of all the temples of Siem Reap, the most well-known, the most visited, the best preserved, the mere sound of which is synonymous with the country Cambodia itself. They have it on their national flag and on their bank notes. It is the source of their national pride. It is Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cambodia: Khmer Masterpieces of Carving

We have seen quite a lot of the temples of Angkor but we have yet to experience what the first European explorers felt when they first came here, when only the locals knew about these beautiful temples, when everything was still untouched for the longest time. We had a taste of that in the middle of the jungle, in Ta Phrom.

Ta Phrom

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cambodia: Angkor in the Early Period

Going into this whole Indochina experience, I knew Vietnam was just a pit stop. Saigon was rewarding in itself, but traveling to Indochina would not be complete without beholding the great temples of Angkor in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Prasat Kravan

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Vietnam: Tunnels of Cu Chi

During the Vietnam War, members of the Viet Cong guerrilla had to find safe hiding places and a way for them to go around without the American-backed South Vietnamese army detecting their every move. This necessity was what made the guerrilla army invent the now infamous Cu Chi Tunnels.

Cu Chi Tunnel Opening

Located at the outskirts of Saigon, the Cu Chi district was where the Viet Cong chose to create their highly complex network of tunnels and bunkers. That way, our guide explained, they won't be too far from Saigon's city center but far enough for them to securely establish communication channels with their North Vietnamese backers.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Vietnam: Sights in Saigon

This trip to Vietnam is the first time I ever got out of the country. So hell yes, I'm going all-touristy. What better way to do that but to walk around Saigon and see the city's history through its architecture, from communist to Roman gothic to French colonial.

Reunification Palace

Walking around Saigon to visit the more touristy sites is not that difficult. The only setback is the heat. The tropical sun can be unforgiving. So wear light clothes and comfortable shoes. Start at the center, at Ben Thanh Market, and go northeast. That will take you to three of Saigon's landmarks: the palace, the basilica and the post office.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Vietnam: Surviving Saigon

Saigon is fast, energetic, confusing, chaotic, colorful and very much an in-your-face kind of city. This was the first time I left the comforts and familiarity of my own country and I dove right in. The first thing I noticed about Saigon, or as it is now known, Ho Chi Minh City, is that every inch of every street is riddled with motorcycles. They own them. They rent them. They hire them. And they are good drivers, too. On a busy roundabout, cross the street and notice how each motorcycle will avoid you.

Saigon Chaos

Interesting, really, how different this city is, and we are literally one sea apart. What is more interesting, downright bizarre, is how even though Vietnamese and Filipinos are both Southeast Asians, you can clearly distinguish one from the other. We were walking on one side of the road and each and every motorcycle driver and passenger were eerily looking at us. They clearly knew we were not one of them.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Travel Log: Back from Saigon and Siem Reap

Just woke up 4 p.m. Tuesday in Manila. I am currently transferring the photos I took from this trip onto my notebook. On any given trip, I average at about 600 to 700 photos. For this trip, however, it totaled to almost 2,400 pictures.

Yet, I still don't feel that that figure was enough to have captured everything. Before sifting through the photos, I feel like I have to sift through all the things I saw, I learned, I felt, I heard, I smelled, I tasted. All the experiences I had during that five-day stay abroad.